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Ōkina otomodachi (大きなお友達?) is a Japanese phrase that literally means “a big friend” or “an adult friend”.[1] Japanese otaku use it to describe themselves as adult fans of an anime, a manga, or a TV show that is originally aimed at children.[2] Note that a parent who watches such a show with his or her children is not considered as an ōkina otomodachi. An ōkina otomodachi is not a parent who buys anime DVDs for his or her children to watch.[3] Ōkina otomodachi are those who buy children’s anime for themselves. Also, if the work is obviously aimed at adults, a fan of it is not an ōkina otomodachi. Hence ōkina otomodachi and otaku are different concepts.

Connotation

Many people in Japan, both otaku themselves and non-otaku, tend to think that it is allowed but not encouraged for one to be an ōkina otomodachi, assuming that those works are for children, not for them. Adults who love children’s books such as Mary Poppins or Moomin are not usually considered as improper, but the same is not necessarily true for those who love anime or manga such as Mary Bell or The Star of Cottonland, even though they are similarly excellent fantasies.

Commercial exploitation

On the other hand, some anime that seem to be (mainly) for children are also (partly) aimed at ōkina otomodachi. Fan service in a show that is supposed to be for children is often clear indications that it is also aimed at otaku. Many anime that are aimed at children are also—from a marketing perspective—created for ōkina otomodachi, because the latter are the ones who have more money and actually buy expensive DVDs for themselves. The show may even have particular high-quality merchandise, such as figures, that is more specific to adult fans. Due to the decrease in the number of children in Japan, it is not as easy as it was to produce a show purely aimed at children, and ōkina otomodachi is getting more important as a marketing target.[4]

Footnotes

  1. When this phrase is actually pronounced, the colloquial form okkina otomodachi (おっきなお友達?) is often used. The phrase ōkii otomodachi (大きいお友達?) is also used with the same meaning.
  2. Dōjin Lingo (同人用語の基礎知識) (Japanese) Retrieved on August 4, 2006.
  3. In most cases, an otaku is unmarried and not a parent.
  4. Ōkii otomodachi (ja.wikipedia) (Japanese) Retrieved on August 4, 2006.


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