Shut Up and Let Me Enjoy My Otome: Elitism in the Otome Games Community

Elitism in the otome games community has been the bane of the fandom since the beginning and I’m tired of folks bashing otome game localizations and Western fans of the genre. It seems like every time a new otome game localization is announced, folks who have played these games in the original language seem to crawl out of the dark recesses of the internet to find fault with the as of yet UNRELEASED localization. As a Western otome fan who doesn’t have a working knowledge of the Japanese language these new localizations give me and others like me a chance to experience otome games that otherwise we’d never get a chance to play. 

I usually stay out of the otome discourse, because fandoms can be toxic and as a grown adult woman, I have bigger things to worry about than arguing with folks on the internet. But, with the increase in new otome game localizations the elitism that permeates the otome fandom has reached an all time high and I’m just sick of it! So, today I want to share my thoughts on elitism in the otome games fandom from the perspective of a Western fan who is fed up with all the BS. 

So first off, check your privilege at the door–I am not here to entertain trolls. If you don’t agree with me, fine; everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I will not abide by personal attacks or bullying–you will be blocked. 

To understand elitism in the otome games fandom you first have to address how these sentiments came to be and that has its roots in otome games being a niche genre. Otome games are created for a primarily Japanese female audience and let’s be real, that’s a very specific target demographic. And there was a time when the only way someone outside of Japan could enjoy an otome game would be by learning Japanese and importing titles. So, many otome fans in the West did just that. Through dedication and self study many of the OG Western otome fans taught themselves Japanese so they could enjoy the games they love.

The fandom wasn’t huge, just a few people with the knowledge and the means to consume otome games, but it was like they held the key to this magical realm that fans like me could only dream of catching the merest glimpse of… they were the gatekeepers of the otome fandom and in their benevolence they would share their knowledge with those of us either unwilling or unable to learn Japanese on our own. Detailed reviews and game breakdowns were the norm and I, like many here in the West, lived for the newest game reviews because it was  the closest I was going to get to consuming anything otome related. These early fans were ambassadors of the genre and it was through them that many Western fans were introduced to otome games in the first place. 

But as times changed and localizations made otome games much more accessible to Western audiences, the genre ceased being the exclusive club it once was—now, literally anyone who wants to can play otome games. Dedicated localization teams at companies like Aksys Games ensure that there is a steady stream of new games for Western fans to consume. I imagine it might be difficult for OG otome fans to hand over the otome torch to just anyone, especially when they feel that their beloved otome games aren’t in capable hands. And I will admit that not every otome game localization has been “perfect”, but there seems to be a disproportionate amount of hatred towards otome game localizations, especially from those claiming to be true fans that goes beyond simply being protective of the genre.

It really does feel like fans that only consume otome games in English are somehow considered less than when compared with fans who play the games in Japanese. Hell, I’ve even seen some folks saying that Western fans are ruining the genre because we just accept whatever games localization companies give us, regardless of quality–and that simply isn’t true! Every time a new otome game localization is announced it seems like half the fandom is happy about it and the other half is grumbling about how the translation is going to be bad. And what’s worse is that the folks spearheading the localization bashing are the so-called “True Otome Fans”—the folks that have ALREADY played the game in Japanese.

I’ve said this before and it begs repeating: Localizations AREN’T necessarily for folks that have played the game in its original language, rather, they’re for folks who aren’t able to consume a game in its original language. The purpose of a localization is to make games more accessible to a wider audience. More people playing localizations means greater awareness and greater awareness means more companies might take an interest in localizing more games in the West. It’s okay to be protective of something that you’re passionate about, but not to the point that it stands in the way of progress. 

It’s my right to decide how I consume my media and I don’t need anyone telling me the “best” way to do a damn thing. Just because someone is able to play an otome game in Japanese doesn’t invalidate my thoughts or feelings and I am tired of folks telling me that Western fans are just “settling” for scraps. What gives anyone else the authority to tell another person what they should or shouldn’t do with their time or their money? Not a damn thing! You are not the otome police. You don’t get to control how people consume their otome games. Instead of putting all of your energy into bashing Western fans and localization, how about you do something positive, like create a localization survey. Use your so called wealth of knowledge and years of experience to help newer fans learn how to talk with these localization companies about their grievances. Don’t just deride people for “wasting money” on “subpar” translations. 

There is this huge divide in the otome community and it’s only getting bigger everyday. Otome games are too niche a genre for us as fans to be this divided. We should be working together to make games more accessible to everyone. So, to all you folks out there that think you’re helping the fandom by flooding our social media feeds with negativity every time a new otome game localization is announced, please… SHUT UP and let me enjoy my otome games! 

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12 thoughts on “Shut Up and Let Me Enjoy My Otome: Elitism in the Otome Games Community

  1. Amazing post!! 👏👏👏
    I haven’t taught myself Japanese, I studied it in classes not only for playing games, but to be able to work with Japanese language.
    I’m a translator, I do localization sometimes and I know how hard it is for us translators to localize something. We don’t/can’t play the game, most of the companies don’t give us references, images, nothing actually. We translate the strings and that’s it! So I hate it when people come and say “bad translation”. Most of the time it’s not the translator fault.
    I can relate to the part of the post where you say “we just accept whatever games localization companies give us, regardless of quality”. And that’s not true indeed.
    I think it’s amazing that companies are localizing otome games to English.
    I live in Brazil, we speak Portuguese. Do people know how many otoges are in Portuguese? NONE!!!
    Most of Brazilians don’t speak English but they love when an otoge is localized and don’t complain.
    This is one of the reasons I decided to write otome and BL games reviews in Portuguese on my blog.
    I don’t know if I made myself understood xD
    Love your posts <3

  2. Thank you! Although I’m lucky enough to have not seen the majority of these debates (Probably because I’m not on twitter, that place terrifies me lol), I’ve had to deal with them a few times. As a student, I don’t have a lot of time or money to spend on learning Japanese, so I get localized otome. I see a lot of people complain about these translations a lot, but I’m usually not too bothered by them? Yes, we should hold companies accountable, but boycotting and trashing them won’t help, instead we just won’t get any localized games!

    Otome fandom tends to struggle with a lot of gatekeeping. Localization vs original, Japanese vs Western games, and including marginalized communities in the games (So many fights about having LGBTQIA+ characters). I’d love to hear your thoughts on more of these issues!

  3. I never understood why some people believe that they are better than others just because they have different opportunities (of course they are not worse by any means either!), we simply have different circumstances and opportunities. Not everybody has the skills, money or time to start learning Japanese. I am sure there are people who are not even interested in Japanese language at all! Which it totally fine, and I am really glad that we have more and more opportunities to play otoge (and visual novels in general) in the West.

    My mother tongue isn’t even English, so for me it was a long journey to get to the level I am in right now, but it was totally worth it and I love that I can enjoy watching movies or reading books in English without any help or preparation. Before I started to learn Japanese (I am no expert by any means, I am around level N3), my only chance to get to play any games was to understand English. That is why I can totally relate to people who cannot speak Japanese, but still want to find ways to enjoy these lovely games. It is so painful when you are so interested in something and you totally fell in love with it, yet you have no ways to enjoy it properly… 😦

    To be honest, I was really shocked to see how some people behave – instead of helping and supporting localisation so this superb genre could become available for a wider audience, they create totally unnecessary drama. I am at the point that I do not really like to post pictures of Japanese-only otoges I buy, because I
    1. do not want to seem like a snob who comes to show off her Japanese games (and the ability of playing Japanese games in general)
    2. do not want to make others fell in love with/become interested in games they might not be able to play at all

    It is not like I play or buy things to get any reaction from others, I mainly want to show/share my happiness… but I find myself feeling uncomfortable even mentioning that I understand some Japanese (really not high-level, I need to use dictionary a lot and I only progress slowly), because even my friends had some bad experience with “snobby otoge gamers”.

    As I realised lately, there are a lot of “fighting” in the otome community. Mobage vs PC/console gamers, this English vs Japanese otome gaming… Couldn’t we just be happy that we can at least play the games we want? Of course, localisations are not perfect, but this is a more complicated matter than we could just say “Western otome fans accept bad translations”.

  4. Sooo… I’ve never seen such “elitism” in otome community. I mean, are there really bloggers like that? Without clear examples and context it all sounds a bit made up. You sound like you’re just shaming these people because they do know japanese and can play games in original language, while you cannot. It’d be appreciated if you added some more thorough explanation and examples instead of falsely accusing other otome content creators.

      1. I understand the point of this comment: in fact, most of the fans who are complaining about a bad localized game just care about the genre and want other people who cannot read Japanese to enjoy it at the same level. Why should it be a bad thing?
        We can just take the example of CollarxMalice Unlimited: it’s because some fans said raised their voices to Aksys that finally everyone could have a patch.
        The “elitism” that you describe may exist for some otome gamers but I don’t think that it’s a majority. So yes, adding some context to your article should be better.

      2. Let me be perfectly clear, the point of this article is not to call out specific people or entities, rather to talk about a problem that I and many like me have experienced while being a part of the otome community.

        As to your first point. There is nothing wrong with fans of the genre demanding quality localizations–a fact that I MENTION in the article. However, my issue is with the individuals who take their “complaining” too far and bash fans of localization for just “accepting” whatever products a company puts out as if fans without a working knowledge of Japanese are somehow incapable of making sound decisions on their own. It becomes a PROBLEM when folks think that they can speak on behalf of non-Japanese speaking fans rather than letting them form their own opinions about a localization.

        Because let me be perfectly clear, by definition a localization is never going to be an exact replication of the source material. As someone who cannot play games in the original language, I won’t be able to compare a localization to the original Japanese release and that isn’t the POINT. It’s about enjoying the experience and as a reviewer, I like to think that I am able to be critical of a work while also enjoying it….

        To your second point, Collar x Malice Unlimited. I think we all are aware of just how bad that game’s localization is and there was no excuse for that game to be released with so many issues. I applaud everyone who sat down and spent hours combing through the game for errors to send to Aksys. That took a lot of hard work and dedication. However, as someone who spent MONTHS watching people bombard my feed with hate towards CxMU and Aksys, I can tell you it really put me off playing the game at all–even after the patch was released. That negative energy really puts a damper on the experience and while I can only speak for myself, the so called “helping” can seem a lot like controlling…

        I love that you put Elitism in quotation marks as if it is some imaginary concept that I made up for this article. It might not be the majority, but it is enough that it is a serious problem in our community. There are others who feel the same way I do, and they have made their sentiments known. If you still think that elitism isn’t an issue, then perhaps you need to expand your perspective and really look at the state of the otome community as a whole.

        No, I don’t need to add context to my article. I said what I said in the way that I intended to say it and calling out specific people or instances would only be counterintuitive to my message, which you seem to have missed, so I will explain it more simply for you:

        I want the ability to enjoy playing otome games without having to worry about someone judging me for playing localizations.

      3. Don’t worry I understand your point, but when I read your article I just got the feeling that people who complains about a localization are the elitists. You say that you are not calling out specific people, but it seems quite focused on people who are able to play in Japanese.

        About CollarxMalice: Unlimited, here we have people going too far, but I also think that Aksys was at fault for not immediately addressing the issue. People feared that Aksys will just ignore it (like they did for Norn9).
        But I don’t really understand what you mean by “controlling”.

        About the quotation of “Elitism”, it had no special meaning if you are wondering. Yes, some people are going too far. But in the way that you speak about this matter, I’m feeling attacked as I’m playing otome games in Japanese so I have no right to say anything about a localization as I’m not the target. But I also want to support Western localizations and replay some games in English.
        I mean we are all otome game fans, it does not matter if we are able to play in Japanese or not. And there are people who are not able to play in Japanese that are tired of bad localizations.

      4. You probably feel that way because the individuals who typically find fault with localization (as a whole) tend to be people who have played otome games in the original Japanese language. These are the people who post the comparisons online and seem to be the most vested in finding fault with new localizations.

        I’m not saying that ALL of the people who can play otome games in Japanese are necessarily elitists, because that isn’t true. However, I want to impress upon you that you occupy a unique space in which you are able to enjoy games both in Japanese and in English, which gives you a very different perspective on localization.

        At the end of the day I would like people to be mindful about how what they say affects other people. Some people take it too far with their criticism to the point of being overly hostile towards others.

        I am not trying to invalidate your thoughts and opinions because it is your right to feel the way that you do. You have every right play whatever games you’d like in the language of your choice–everyone has that choice.

        I wrote this article so that folks who occupy your unique space are mindful of how their words and actions are perceived by others in the community in hopes of creating an open dialogue among fans.

        I said this in the article and it begs repeating–the otome fandom is too niche for division like this. Again if you don’t agree with me that’s fine, that’s you prerogative. I said what I said, and I meant what I said.

      5. OK, the real question may be the definition of an elitist. Comparing the original game and the localized game, identifying typos or mistranlations: is that what make you an elitist? I don’t think so.
        But from what you said, I understand that some people think that by doing so, it tells implicitly that they are playing a “not-so-great” version of the game.

        In my point of view, it’s not really between those who can play in Japanese and only in English, but more between the people who think “it’s better than nothing” and “quality over quantity” maybe?

        Anyways, thank you for taking the time to have this discussion here.

  5. I found this a really fascinating read and though not part of the otome fandom I have over the years seen similar discourse amongst yaoi fans especially between eastern and western fans though I have also noticed less discourse in the yaoi fandom over the last few years at least. Elitism and gatekeeping are some of the worst aspects of any fandom and I just hope that like many most grow out of this kind of behaviour

  6. This is so true!! There are some games that have really confusing translations but I’m just glad to be able to actually play the game. I know some very limited Japanese and I do find that certain nuances can’t be properly translated, but that’s why I like the term ‘localization’ more, because not only is the language and culture different, but the audience wants different things from a game. The point isn’t to provide a Japanese experience to English-speaking fans, it’s to provide an English experience to a western audience. Certain tropes just aren’t as popular in the west and when they get translated in a more ‘true’ sense, the games get flamed by the fans.

    Plus the Japanese language is just SO different from English that you can’t produce a replica, so it’s better (in my opinion) to provide a game that makes sense to English-speaking fans and is enjoyable to the new target audience, rather than (as you said) providing a game targeted towards Japanese-speaking fans who understand the original Japanese version anyway. I think the point you made about the purpose of localization being making the games accessible to other language groups is super important, because the people getting mad about the translation are NOT the target audience of the localized game anyway.

    I’m glad you brought this up and talked about it. I 100% agree that gatekeeping and negativity in the community is frustrating. Like you said, we’re a niche community and it’s understandable to be protective, but being negative and overly critical just dissuades people from becoming fans and therefore supporting the companies we want to keep producing new games.

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