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These publications classify distinct groups including anime, manga, camera, automobile, idol and electronics otaku.

The economic impact of otaku has been estimated to be as high as ¥2 trillion ( billion). This word is often used metaphorically, as an honorific second-person pronoun. For example, early in the anime Macross, first aired in 1982, the characters Hikaru Ichijyo and Lynn Minmay use the term this way to address one another, until they get to know each other better.

The modern slang form, which is distinguished from the older usage by being written only in hiragana (おたく), katakana (オタク or, less frequently, ヲタク) or rarely in rōmaji, first appeared in public discourse in the 1980s, through the work of humorist and essayist Akio Nakamori.

His 1983 series Research for "Otaku", printed in the lolicon magazine Manga Burikko, applied the term to unpleasant fans in caricature.

The 1989 "Otaku Murderer" case gave a negative connotation to the fandom from which it has not fully recovered.

Widespread English exposure to the term came in 1988 with the release of Gunbuster, which referred to anime fans as otaku.Positive and negative aspects, including the pejorative usage, were intermixed.Morikawa Kaichirō identifies the subculture as distinctly Japanese, a product of the school system and society.Otaku may be used as a pejorative; its negativity stems from the stereotypical view of otaku and the media's reporting on Tsutomu Miyazaki, "The Otaku Murderer", in 1989.According to studies published in 2013, the term has become less negative, and an increasing number of people now self-identify as otaku, both in Japan and elsewhere.Otaku subculture is a central theme of various anime and manga works, documentaries and academic research.

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