What Is a Weeb? (You Might Be One)

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Are you watching reruns of Naturo at 5 am, brushing your cosplay wig, or dusting off an insane collection of manga figurines?

You might just be a ‘weeb’. Not sure what a weeb is?

What Is a Weeb?
Weeb meaning

Read on to learn more about this potentially rude term!

What Is a Weeb?

Well…now you’ve said it! If you’re going to call someone a weeb, the chances are you’re going to offend them.

This is because the term ‘weeb’ is used to describe someone who is pretty much obsessed with all things Japan, particularly anime and manga subculture.

Weeb explained

To earn the honorific of weeb, a person has to not be Japanese, but be a Japanophile (someone who loves Japan).

Weebs desperately want to be Japanese (which is understandable because it’s a pretty cool place) and seek to live out their lives overseas as immersed in Japanese culture as possible.  

They’ll be dropping Japanese phrases like ‘kawaii’ or dropping ‘-san’ and ‘-do’ here and there in English conversation to sound authentic. Or you may spot them in a suburban mall dressed in cosplay – ALONE!

Origins of the word weeb

For the rest of the world, Japan is a pretty exotic place, so it’s no surprise that some people get a little fixated on the Land of The Rising Sun.

Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many European expats fell in love with Japan and made it their home, studying all things Japanese and even receiving Japanese names.

Cosplay outfit hair
Cosplay outfit

Earlier still the famous African Samurai Yasuke (弥助 or 弥介), was embraced by the Japanese and received the honor of being armor bearer to the daimyō Oda Nobunaga. 

However, the origins of the term weeb are a little less lofty. The term came into use with the increased availability of Japanese manga and anime in the West, initially via bootleg tapes and later via dial-up internet and message boards like 4chan.

Terms in the etymology of weeb included ‘Wapanese’, combining the words wannabe and Japanese, but this was considered offensive hence the made-up word weeaboo.

This term was much more widely used during the 1990s when cartoons like Dragon Ball Z went mainstream, but hardcore weebs remain. 

Weeb vs weeaboo

These two terms may be used on Reddit, Discord, and other dusty corners of the world wide web interchangeably, but weeaboo is a much more emphatic moniker.

A weeaboo will renounce their own identity and culture, esteeming all things Japanese as superior. 

Common traits of weebs

Weebs are considered perhaps a little nerdy or socially inept.

Here are some weeb traits
Common traits of weebs

Thankfully nowadays the term does not cut as hard and many folks are pleased to identify themselves as Weebs. Also, modern weebs are incredibly diverse, coming from just about any other background than Japan.

Here are some weeb traits:

  • Extensive manga, anime, and figurine collections
  • Comic book obsessives
  • Socially isolated – like the Japanese phenomenon of Hikikomori
  • Lots of gaming, message board activity
  • Preoccupation with the popular culture of Japan rather than the more nuanced history and tradition

And the last point is where a Weeb could potentially start to offend real Japanese people.

They are so obsessed with their own idea of Japan that they appear extremely strange to actual Japanese people.

However, remember it does work both ways – the Ganguro or G-girls tan themselves and perm their hair to immerse themselves in hip-hop culture.

Signs you might be a weeb

As I said before, there’s no shame in being a Weeb. In fact here at YouGoJapan, we are unashamedly obsessed with all things Japanese!

But it can be problematic if your love of Japan starts to interfere with your day-to-day, real-world life.

Obsessive interest in Anime and Manga
Signs you might be a weeb

Here are four signs that you might be a Weeb:

  • Obsessive interest in Anime and Manga – This is the #1 Weeb sign, if you have a deep knowledge of manga like Ghost in The Shell, Paprika, and Doraemon and are bleary-eyed from hours on message boards, Otome games, or watching obscure anime, you may be in Weeb territory.
  • Preference for all things Japanese – If you routinely opt for Japanese brands and imports from Amazon, you may be entering Weeb territory. Weebs wants everything to be Japanese and will want to keep up with fashion and trends.  
  • Incorporating Japan into every conversation – As with anyone obsessed with a specific topic, you’ll find yourself talking about weeby things like anime and Japanese movies all the time. Be honest – you’ll want to insert something Japanese into every conversation so you can talk about your favorite subject. 
  • Food preferences – As a weeb, you’re not necessarily looking for the nuanced delights of Japanese cuisine. Ramen is probably as deep as it goes. If you’re up late eating Pocky at 2 am in a chat room, you’re in weeb territory. Culinary highlights of the weeb subculture include cup noodles, leftover pizza, and warm Mountain Dew.

Why being a weeb is ok

Weebs are just one of the millions of subcultures that are found in every society.

There are always going to be people who become a little bit obsessed with sports, music, fashion, gaming, or celebrities. Weebs are doing this with Japan. 

Positives of being a weeb

Weebs are learning about a new culture, and that’s great.

Interest in aspects of the weeb subculture can lead to learning Japanese or taking the leap of traveling, working, or even living in Japan. There are loads of weeb communities online, so people don’t have to feel isolated.

Being a weeb can also be problematic

Some aspects of weeb culture may be considered cultural appropriation or stereotyping.

However, most Japanese people know that there is a perception of Japanese culture that comes from pop culture influences so aren’t readily offended. 

A big problem could be becoming isolated as a weeb, as there may be very few people in your life with similar interests. This can lead to weebs spending a lot of time online. 

Rounding up 

Not everyone gets the chance to go to Japan, so it’s no surprise that weebs put in so much effort to enjoy as much as possible of what they think Japan is like.

Of course, experiencing the real Japan is completely different from the anime and manga-heavy world that weebs inhabit, but just break it to them gently.  

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