Otaku come in many flavors, but one thing can be said for each and every one of them. They've each staked out their own favorite thing, and they obsess over it relentlessly. Regardless of other intelligence, an otaku will have an obsessive, unhealthy, and almost encyclopedic knowledge of their chosen topic.
There are almost as many flavors of this type of character as there are things under the sun, but a few of the major ones are:
Essentially, someone could be an otaku about just about anything: politics, sports, history, etc. When otaku is used by itself by a Westerner, 99% of the time it will mean "anime/manga otaku".
Neither Geek nor Nerd is an adequate translation. However, in modern use, both words may carry a shadow of the right connotations of obsessive interest and/or social ineptitude; see the Geek and Nerd pages for details. Think of the older, more pejorative senses of Geek and you're on the right track - the British term anorak is also a close translation. In Japan, the term Otaku does not carry a positive meaning, at all.
A semi-related term is Hikikomori, which refers to a teenager or young adult who withdraws completely from society for an extended period, typically isolating themselves within their parents' house and become psychologically fixated to particular hobbies (especially heinous to the beehive mentality of Japan); hikikomori in media are usually otaku of some sort. Hikikomori are also critically viewed as lazy and outright creepy, which doesn't help the perception of otaku much.
Otakuism is associated with men, with the notable exceptions of the Fangirls, Wrench Wench, the Cosplay Otaku Girl, and creators of a certain kind of comic. However, females seem to be either getting more common lately or becoming more relaxed about showing it.
Anime and Manga
- Graham Aker from Gundam 00 is a Japanese culture fanboy. A VERY Badass Japanese fanboy who manages to avoid being an Occidental Otaku if only by virtue of the fact he is totally serious about his passion and has hardly any traits of the Occidental version aside from the fanaticism.
- Aida Kensuke in Neon Genesis Evangelion (a military otaku).
- Many of the characters in Martian Successor Nadesico are otaku, and indeed their otaku-ness drives a few major plot points.
- Nearly the entire casts of Otakuno Video, Genshiken/Spotted Flower, and Comic Party, shows about fandom.
- Sergeant Sousuke Sagara, from Full Metal Panic!!, is described as a military otaku by Kaname before she finds out he's actually military. Shinji Kazama is however a straight-up version of the trope, specifically a military AS fan. However, Sousuke is still a military nut even though he's actually a soldier, due to the fact he's a clueless moron about anythin NON military and thinks of everything from a soldier's POV.
- It could be argued that Daidouji Tomoyo in Cardcaptor Sakura is a cosplay otaku, though she's really more of a Sakura otaku, isn't she...
- The "Two Guys from Tokyo" in Initial D Fourth Stage (car otaku).
- Sgt. Keroro, the alien frog protagonist of Keroro Gunsou, is a Gundam otaku. It's one of the reasons why he doesn't blow up the Earth when he gets the oppurtunity to do so.
- Kaoru's two male friends in Ai Yori Aoshi are a cosplay otaku and metrophile, respectively.
- Takamizawa Shuuichi in Midori no Hibi (a doll otaku).
- Yoshikawa Noboru in Great Teacher Onizuka (a gaming otaku).
- Mechanic Shiba Shigeo in Patlabor (a technology otaku), and to a lesser extent, the heroine Noa Izumi (a mecha otaku). This also applies to Ohta (Gun Otaku).
- During the "dinosaur" episode of Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai, Sasshi is briefly depicted as the ultimate negative Japanese stereotype of the otaku: solitary, overweight, bad complexion, and with the implication of poor hygiene, body odor, and paraphilia. (See image above.)
- Hare from Hare+Guu is on the borderline of being a gaming otaku.
- Paranoia Agent features an otaku who patronizes hookers that play to his cosplay fetish. (As in, he pays the hookers for sex, not treat them in a condescending manner.) It turns out to be a plot point later on.
- Several characters from Di Gi Charat, including one who is specifically a parody of American anime otaku.
- Rozen Maiden: Traumend features Micchan, a double rarity: a female otaku who isn't a Cosplay Otaku Girl, and who seems to have a "real" job as a corporate executive. The protagonist of the show is not only an occult otaku but obviously a hikikomori, although this isn't said outright.
- Houshakuji Renge in Ouran High School Host Club is so obsessed with the fictional Dating Sim videogame Ukidoki Memorial (a rather transparent allusion to the real Tokimeki Memorial games) that she decides to redesign the personalities of the Host Club members to better match the characters in the game.
- It's more insane than that. When she first saw a photo of one of the members (he bore a vary close resemblance to her favorite character), she instantly declared she was going to marry him and transfered to the school. Keep in mind the school is in Japan and she lived in Paris.
- Lucky Star:
- Konata, another exception to the Cosplay Otaku Girl rule, who seems to be primarily a gaming otaku (specifically, MMORPGs and eroges), though she also talks about anime, manga, and Collectible Card Games.
- Patricia Martin is a parody of the typical American weeaboo, knowing nothing about Japan and its culture besides what she learned from anime, manga and yaoi. She learned most of her Japanese from subbed anime, only listens to Japanese bands whose songs have been used as anime themes, and believes Akihabara is a more important cultural landmark than anything else in Japan. Needless to say, she's way geekier than even Konata.
- Yamazaki Kaoru from Welcome to The NHK. Although he comes off as slightly less severe then some of the other characters, he's treated with the same humorous objective criticism as everyone else.
- In the anime version of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, the serious and sensible Rina is given a rather ridiculous vice: she's a plasma TV otaku. This is used without fail to allow the writers to dangle a TV in front of her and ignore any situation where she would take the Idiot Ball from her friends and punt it somewhere else with her good sense.
- The main protagonist of Kekkaishi is a cake otaku. Another person lampshades this. This is made funnier when his feelings for an older childhood friend and briefly gaining a Stalker with a Crush of similar age to said childhood friend has given him a reputation for being fond of older women, which other characters have also pointed out.
- Nagi from Hayate the Combat Butler is a manga otaku, and has been drawing her own ever since she was six years old. She's also a Gamer Chick. Gotta do something with all those hours inside, right?
- Wataru (a.k.a. "Waka") works as a clerk in a video store, giving him plenty of opportunities to indulge in his hobby of action Anime.
- It's arguable that Hayate himself is one, seeing as he's been in many positions that other otaku would kill for. And the fact that he redrew Nagi's manga chapter into one that would appeal to many otaku. Then again, he might just be too dense to be one.
- Gym teacher Kaoru is given his own chapter, titled "Lost in the Path of the Otaku". He is a Gundam otaku, his room filled to overflowing with Gundam models (he built them himself), but the main focus of his character isn't about this part of his life.
- Kotetsu is shown to be this way over trains, his fascination with them is used to put the 'dark side' of Japan's outlook to a lampshade when two girls, who previously were discussing how Bishonen his looks are, are visibly Squicked when the camera he's pulling out of his bag is used to take pictures of the trains going by, and quickly leave.
- Tama and Rin in Bamboo Blade are also toku fans, and eventually become Promoted Fangirls when they get a chance to go on the set of the Blade Braver movie.
- Sakura in Penguin Musume, a Cosplay Otaku Girl and hardcore fan to the point of being loony.
- Fuu from Magic Knight Rayearth loves video games (specifically RPGs), and uses terms such as "experience points" and "treasure" when she and the other girls receive their first mission from Presea.
- Kujyou Himeka of Kamichama Karin is pretty much an insect otaku...
- ... which also applies to Nagisa Kurihara from Sketchbook.
- Codename: Sailor V (the manga that would eventually give birth to Sailor Moon) actually has a one off character called Takurou Ootaku, whose name is a pun roughly meaning "wandering otaku". He's a Game Otaku who refuses to believe a girl could be better at games than he is. He flips out at the idea of Minako even going to an arcade (which he considers a "castle for lonely boys") and accuses Minako of being a man in drag when she beats his highscore. He even demands she take off her clothes. When she tries to fight him as Sailor V he tries to look up her skirt, so she kicks him.
- Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo has a sight gag panel in which Count D turns down a stereotypical otaku's request for a Catgirl Meido.
- The titular character of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu. Being an infamous Ojou, she had to hide the fact that she's also an Anime Otaku, otherwise people will look down on her... and then the male protagonist caught her red-handed and she became completely scared that he'd use that knowledge to that advantage (turns out he didn't). This is an in-anime example where people do look down on anime Otaku, if it gets blown out of proportion... like the male protagonist's best friend, whose otakuness is shown right off bat.
- Eitarou, Professor Stein and Agaliarept in Macademi Wasshoi are all otaku in the purest sense of the word. Except they're also all powerful mages, mad scientists and hold positions of at least some power at the Magician's Academy. When magic and fandom combine, all that can be said is Hilarity Ensues.
- Winry of Fullmetal Alchemist is an automail engineer and a "mech otaku". Edward lampshades this, and is promptly accused of being an "alchemy otaku".
- Dragon Ball G.T. features a deceptive cult leader, Dolltakkii, who is creepily obsessed with dolls, even turning girls into dolls for him to coo over, and his cult revolves around bringing a giant killer doll to life by sacrificing his followers. His very name is even a pun on the term doll otaku.
- The Ascended Fanboy in High School of the Dead, Kouta Hirano is a gun/military otaku. When the Zombie Apocalypse happens the others are surprised to find that he actually knows how to use the weapons he's obsessed with. He claims he spent summer vacation with the Blackwater mercenaries. Another character finds this "too Shounen to be true".
- Fumio from Saitama Chainsaw Shoujo prefers reading Manga to insignificant things like studying, making friends, or not going Axe Crazy.
- Japan from Axis Powers Hetalia is an anime and games otaku; he has stated he prefers 2D to 3D and is a direct parody to Japan's (the country) otaku culture.
- Tashigi from One Piece could be classified as a sword otaku, among other things.
- Chiaki from NieA 7 loves investigating UFOs, and it's just her luck that aliens have landed on earth. It also makes her bond with Niea very well.
- Hiroshi Akiba of Inubaka is stated by the manga to be a pop-idol otaku turned dog otaku. He knows more about dogs than the title character.
- Keima Katsuragi, the protagonist of The World God Only Knows, is a dedicated Dating Sim otaku who gets recruited to help capture runaway spirits. He's not generally well-liked by his fellow students - which is fine with him, because he doesn't like engaging with them.
- His sidekick Elsee is an otaku too, although she's rather quieter about it than Keima. Unusually for the trope, she has two specialities: Idol Singer Kanon Nakagawa... and fire trucks.
- Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden was described by the author once as "fundamentally an otaku"...of many things presumably, given the extent of his library (has a bit of everything, not sure on his definition of a bit) and art/sculpture/weird things from the lower world collection.
- Tsutomo Sasaki from Domu: A Child's Dream: A Child's Dream failed to get into college for three consecutive years because he spends all of his time building model airplanes.
- Walker and Erika on Durarara!! are big anime/manga otaku who don't really distinguish between fiction and reality; in fact, they fit the negative stereotype that otaku are psychotic, although they're still basically "the good guys".
- Kiko from Darker than Black. In a world where murder and superhumans with insane abilities are rampart, and people have fairly normal looks, she is a pink-haired sidekick to a bad private detective.
- Megane Kakeru in Inazuma Eleven. At least he's not that bad, and can be even awesome at a time, especially when he's compared to an another soccer team made of otaku who use their traits to cheat matches.
- Emerging: Mori, the office manager for the Department of Virology in the National Institute for Infectious Diseases, is an otaku for, of all things, deadly viruses. Especially Ebola.
- Most of the cast of Kuragehime are otaku of some variety (jellyfish, dolls, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, etc). Of particular note are Kuranosuke and Hanamori, who are more-or-less obsessed with dresses and Benzes, yet avoid most of the other negative stereotypes and are generally not lumped in with the other otaku.
- Shinichi Kudo from Detective Conan is both an Amateur Sleuth and a huge fanboy of mystery and crime novels. He's sometimes referred to as a suiri otaku aka a mystery otaku. (Particularly by his "not girlfriend" Ran.)
- Touhou Fuhai from the Rosario + Vampire manga wasn't always one, but as his youth began to fade and women started to leave him, he came to the following realization:
Touhou Fuhai: 2D girls last forever! They would never betray me!
- Hanaukyo Maid Tai. Ikuyo Suzuki, head maid of the Technology department. She writes and sells her own manga.
- Cowboy Bebop: The episode "Speak Like a Child", which is about a time-capsule videotape, features an otaku with an interest in VCRs and other obsolete video equipment.
- Kung Fu Panda has a rather hilarious take on the otaku phenomenon, with Po as a Furious Five enthusiast. Not only does he know all the tales of their exploits, recognize each sacred or amazing artifact in the temple with ecstatic glee, and pour out gushing praise of Crane in his bedchamber to the point he hovers outside the door waiting for the master to speak again, but he confesses to them that he has all their action figures—which of course are much smaller than the real thing, except Mantis who is "the same size." The fact he is chosen to learn kung fu at their side and becomes the Designated Hero is probably an example of an Ascended Fanboy as well—the artifact-examining scene certainly smacks of it.
- The title character in Muriels Wedding is a hard-core marriage Otaku, who makes it a point to go to every dress boutique in Sydney with fake stories about comatose family members to score pictures of herself in various wedding dresses.
- In the Discworld novel Going Postal, Apprentice Postman Stanley Howler is an obsessive pin collector, to the point (no pun intended) that all the other collectors in Ankh-Morpork think he's "a little weird about pins". After the main character invents postage stamps, Stanley takes up stamp collecting... with pretty much the same obsessiveness he had for pins.
- Don Quixote makes this Older Than Steam. Even before he goes crazy enough to actually try to become a knight, he's arguing with his friends over which knights are the strongest, overthinking all the technical aspects of the chivalry stories, and even being tempted to write Fan Fiction of one of his favorites. Disturbingly similar to some modern-day fandoms...
- You can see this quote in Chapter I, Part I:
You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever he was at leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself up to reading books of chivalry with such ardor and avidity that he almost entirely neglected the pursuit of his field-sports, and even the management of his property.
- In World War Z, there is an Otaku of the Hikikomori type who is so obsessed with studying the Zombie Apocalypse on the Internet that he doesn't treat it as something to worry about until it reaches his apartment building. Then, he finds a sword and takes a level in badass.
- And then he gets trained by a blind swordsman, and gains a couple thousand more levels in badass.
- Annie Wilkes of Misery fame may be the best example of this trope, at least in the west. She's also an Axe Crazy Hikikomori.
Live Action TV
- Western (sort of) example: Hiro from Heroes.
- Densha Otoko centers around a group of otaku who meet over an online message board, and their attempts to get one of their number to win the heart of a lady.
- The geeks in Freaks and Geeks as well. One episode has them cosplaying for a convention as Luke Skywalker, Yoda and the Fourth Doctor.
- Kamen Rider Fourze uses the term several times, in reference to female lead Yuki Jojima (an outer space and rocketry fangirl) and Goth girl Tomoko Nozama (a fangirl of insects and the urban legend of the Kamen Rider).
- Nikolai from Luminous Arc is a witch otaku, who is in heaven when Witches start joining your group.
- Kaph from Luminous Arc 2 is the editor of a magazine about Witches and, well, pretty much loves being in the party with all the Witches around for him to create his art and took pictures of. Hell, his class is W-Otaku!
- A sidestory from Final Fantasy Tactics A2 states that Horne is an item maniac (in Japanese, in English, he's referred as an item aficionado).
- An unusually sympathetic and well-lampshaded example is Otacon from Metal Gear Solid. His nickname, of course, is derived from Otakon, the Otaku Convention. The first lines he says to the main character, Snake, are a very melancholy invocation of the trope, and sets him up for some very unusual and well-played parallels between the loneliness of a reclusive soldier and the loneliness of a reclusive otaku -
Otacon: Are you one of them?
- And again in Super Smash Bros Brawl, when Snake communicates with him while fighting R.O.B.:
Otacon: In North America, R.O.B.'s body was grey, like the NES. But in Japan, he had a white body and red arms, the color of the Japanese Famicom.
- Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes is a shameless otaku, and wears an anime t-shirt under his more traditional Badass-Anti-Hero leather outfit. He uses otaku slang terms, including Moe. Unusually, though, despite his fandom, he's an outright bruiser more than capable of winning any fight he's in; and he also lacks the gentle, shy personality associated with the stereotypical otaku, instead having been inspired by the rather violent and foul-mouthed anonymous frequenters of the anime boards on the Japanese message board Nii Channeru (2chan).
- Flonne from Disgaea is a huge Toku and anime otaku—Enough that she can be bribed into beating the crap out of people with the promise of a Super Sentai DVD box set. One of her super attacks in Disgaea 2 is called "Flonnezilla", which turns her into a cute fire-breathing, plushie-monster-wearing terror. She also has a similar attack as a secret character in Makai Kingdom.
- Almaz in Disgaea 3 is also an otaku, but focused completely on heroes. Mao is a closet hero otaku as well (he refuses to admit it).
- Francis from Super Paper Mario is a giant chameleon who kidnaps Tippi in order to take pictures of her with his new "high-technical" camera, stockpiles video games and anime, and is overall a geek of the highest order.
- In Rockman.EXE, Higure/Higsby is described as a "Battle Chip Otaku". Considering his obsession with the things, it's not hard to see why.
- In Touhou Project, The shrine maiden Sanae Kochiya is a definite surprise. First off, she started as a usual danmaku fighter and ends up as an anime otaku. Therefore,she's a good girl.
- Ashton Anchors from Star Ocean the Second Story is a barrel otaku. In the anime version, Star Ocean EX, he is able to identify not only the year and location any barrel was made, but what it's been used for, on sight.
- 9-Volt and 18-Volt of Wario Ware are massive Nintendo fanboys.
- Sal Manella from the game Phoenix Wright is a stereotypical otaku whose Japanese name is Uzai Takuya which literally translates into "annoying otaku"
- Raine from Tales of Symphonia is utterly obsessed with ancient ruins, though the game hints that that may be a result of her tragic backstory.
- The protagonist of Danball Senki needs to recruit the help of an organization of Otaku, who double as hackers. An Occidental Otaku and a group of Sentai heroes wannabes also appear as opponents in tournaments.
- Kaine in A Profile is an anime and dating sim otaku, and quite open about it. Despite this, he's even more popular than the main character.
- Takumi Nishijō, the protagonist from Chaos;Head, is a Hikikomori and a massive otaku (Dolls, Anime, and Gamer) to the point of spending all of his time in his room (a cargo container on the roof of a building) and vastly preferring the company of his anime-based dolls to any real girls; this preference exhibits itself most strongly (besides his constant exclamations to that effect) by him dreaming/hallucinating about his favorite doll being real, alive and talking to him in virtually every episode (as well as being married to him, iirc). Ironically enough, it turns out that Takumi himself is a hallucination-made-real, answering the age-old question, "Can dreams dream?" with a very emphatic "Yes." Evidently, the trouble is getting them to stop.
- Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki, which frequently parodies anime and manga tropes had an otaku as a recurring antagonist in several holiday specials.
- Piro and Largo from Megatokyo, the first a rather straight Western anime otaku, the second a videogame otaku with a feeble grasp on reality.
- Phil from Yosh!, to the point of being able to quote a specific panel from a given manga.
- Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "Collect Her" features a negative example in the from of Lenny Baxter, a fan who spent much of his spare time collecting Powerpuff memorabilia. When Lenny finds out he has obtained every known piece of merchandise, he goes insane at the prospect of not being able to add more items to his collection, leading him to steal the girls' personal belongings and, eventually, kidnapping the girls themselves.
- Shoko Nakagawa, famous blogger, cosplayer, and TV personality in Japan. You may know her for singing the opening and insert song for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
- "Seito Sakakibara" (his real identity is sealed) was a fourteen-year-old Serial Killer and otaku. In his late twenties today, he's most famous for decapitating a mentally handicapped ten year-old and spiking the child's head to his school gate. "Sakakibara" contributed a lot to the moral panic that otaku were mentally unhealthy.
- Tsutomu Miyazaki, also known as the Otaku Killer, was another Serial Killer and an alleged anime and horror film otaku who preyed on little girls. There's a lot of debate on whether or not he liked anime at all. The horror movie collection is true, though.