Article by Hijiki Isoflavone
"I'm not currently obsessed with any particular niche. Will I ever get into something new?"
"I do have a niche I'm into, but it feels like I'm losing the passion I had during its heyday."
Have you ever had these worries? If so, you're not alone. In fact, these are perpetual concerns that loom like shadows over anyone who identifies as an otaku.
Essentially, these worries stem from a deeper question: "What happens when I stop being an otaku?" As otaku, we are in constant fear of the fragility of our identity. A sad plight indeed.
Never-ending total immersion is but a dream
I, too, am no stranger to these anxieties.
Being an otaku through and through, it's hard even to imagine what I'd be like if I weren't one. Lately, though, I’m not as deeply immersed in anime or manga, gaming isn't my forte, and I’m not particularly active in doujin circles.
My engagement with new niches is sporadic at best. I often find myself engaged in mundane activities, like gazing at the trees outside or cooking, only to be hit with a sudden wave of panic: "Wait, can I still consider myself an otaku?"
Perhaps it's time to recognize that being deeply engrossed in a niche is a unique state of being.
Imagine constantly mulling over your favorite characters, writing extensive analyses on the latest episodes, getting emotional over fan-created storylines, and being thrilled at finding your best boy or girl's image colors or motifs in commercial clothing...
Maintaining this state of MAX-level enthusiasm all the time is quite unrealistic when you think about it. Sure, some might say that our favorite characters are "nourishment for the soul," but an otaku in the throes of obsession is more like someone constantly downing energy drinks.
In other words, instead of worrying about losing your spark, it might be more constructive to see it as regaining balance or as a return to rationality.
Balancing obsession and contentment
I've long believed that otaku should be far more lenient with themselves and others as they make the transition to a more laid-back lifestyle.
The truth is that it's perfectly fine to identify as an otaku of a certain niche, even if your interest has dimmed since its peak.
It's okay if your attention has wandered to other works, or you've taken a decade-long break. Occasionally catching up and thinking, "Wow, so this is what's happening now," is still a valid way to be an otaku.
You don't need to constantly seek out and dive headfirst into new niches. If finding something new seems unlikely, going back to your roots and rediscovering what you used to love can be a good idea.
I don't want to speak for everyone, but I think that by the time we reach an age where we begin worrying about the waning of our otaku life, our memories of the niches we first fell in love with as fledgling otaku tend to have become a bit blurred.
Recently, I revisited a work I was obsessed with during my high school days and tried drawing some illustrations from it. To my surprise, I experienced both a profound sense of comfort and surprise. There were things about it that I didn't remember at all! Over time, it seems I had developed a habit of cherry-picking only the highlights of that work that resonated with me. Rediscovering aspects I had either overlooked or forgotten was a revelation: it was wonderful to discover that I could still find joy and excitement in these old favorites.
Whether you're an otaku who constantly hops from one niche to another or one who's dedicated a decade to a single niche, looking back at where you started and reflecting on your journey can be quite fulfilling.
Not putting too much pressure on yourself to remain an otaku in a certain way and revisiting old favorites with fresh eyes, rather than convincing yourself that you're 100% done with them alreadyーthat might just be the secret to being an otaku for life.