Have you ever wondered what “being a weeb” or “weeaboo” means? If you have spent any time on the internet, especially on Reddit or Twitter, you’re likely to have come across the terms “weeaboo” or “weeb.” You will usually see them being flung scornfully at Twitter or Facebook users posting photos of their anime figure collection.
Although “Weeaboo” certainly sounds like some fantasy character in a children’s animated show, the term actually has a long and intriguing history and baggage. I will explain everything you need to know about this popular internet slang in this article.
Here is a quick summary if you are short on time.
What does a weeaboo mean?
A “weeaboo” refers to a specific variety of nerds highly devoted to Japanese pop culture. Most of their lives revolve around anime, manga, and video games, which other people find, let’s say, not too appealing.
These people are often foreigners who are so obsessed with it all that they actually want to become Japanese. So you may see them dressing up like anime characters, misusing Japanese words, and fanatically worshipping Japan without actually knowing anything other than what they’ve seen in anime.
To put it bluntly, these people are irritating.
The origins of weeaboos
In the ’80s and ‘90s, people in the West began accessing anime such as Akira and Bubblegum Crisis via fan-made bootleg VHS tapes that they traded on the secondary market. This illegal tape trading led to the emergence of some pretty dedicated fans.
In the mid-‘90s, popular titles such as Dragonball, Pokémon, and Sailor Moon started to be translated and aired on TV in Western countries. As a result, a whole new class of fans that had grown up with anime since childhood came into existence.
With the internet slowly and steadily becoming an integral part of our everyday lives, anime began to spread digitally across the web and reached an even broader audience. Fansubs and translations became available for free from countless illegal websites and allowed anime fans to watch hundreds of titles on demand without the restrictions of domestic television.
By the early 2000s, there was no doubt left that Japanese pop culture had become extremely popular. Then, the term “wapanese” – a combination of the words white and Japanese – began to appear on internet message boards to describe such individuals. It highlighted that most of these fans were white and had an unhealthy obsession with Japan.
Soon afterward, the term “wapanese” was blacklisted as hate speech and the moderators of 4chan were forced to find a replacement for it. They decided to use “weeaboo,” a nonsense word found in the webcomic The Perry Bible Fellowship. Hence, the term came into existence and quickly spread throughout the web.
Although anime no longer boasts of the mainstream power it had in the ’90s and early 2000s, you will still find a community of highly loyal fans in the depths of Reddit.
What are modern weeaboos like?
A stereotypical weeaboo is a young, white male with abysmal social skills, poor hygiene, and a colossal collection of anime figurines. However, more and more people of color and women have been joining the weeb community. In fact, women are the target audience of Otome games and Boy’s Love manga, and their success is a clear indication of their growing audience.
You will find many of them on anonymous internet sites and social media services like Twitter, Discord, and Crunchyroll forums. Generally, you can identify a weeb by their inability to talk about anything unrelated to anime or video games for more than a few minutes. Anyone you see featuring an anime girl in their profile picture is likely a certified weeaboo.
Why do people want to become weeaboos?
At this point, you must certainly be wondering why anyone would want to become a weeaboo. Isn’t that a nerdy and weird thing, after all? But unfortunately, the answer to that question is quite a bit complicated.
Try to think about sports fans – not just people who just like sports, but the ones who fanatically worship their favorite sports teams. You often see them paint their faces with the teams’ colors before a game and cause riots if their team loses. Such hardcore sports fans are similar to weeaboos who devour the new episodes of their favorite anime as soon as they are released.
However, what differentiates these two types is the nature of their obsession. Watching sports is a socially acceptable hobby, but people will undoubtedly find you weird if you sleep with a body pillow of your favorite anime character! Moreover, the hard fact remains that anime, manga, and video games are purely fictional, making weeaboos seem out of touch with reality.
These things don’t invalidate the entire anime fandom. It isn’t anybody else’s business if anime fans want to walk around dressed as their favorite characters. I don’t feel that dedicated anime fans will find the term “weeaboo” insulting, but some people wear the term with pride. Over time, insulting words lose their sting and become an unlockable achievement.
I hope you now know well about weeaboos, their origins, and their passion. By having a good understanding of them, you will be able to relate better to them and avoid offending them unintentionally if you come across them.