I thought this phenomenon was fairly well-understood already, as a sort of all-purpose ‘what things breed on the internet,’ premise. Last night, while talking with a sweet young lady, I offhandedly suggested the intersection of stream-of-consciousness critique of Atlas Shrugged and Liberterian/Bitcoin fans could be turned into a cottage religion. The trick was just finding the right number of people to start interpreting things as more meaningful than they were. I concluded this with, You know, like otakukin.
Thus, this explanation.
The Otakukin are a subset of the Otherkin online communities. What you consider them is pretty variable, but to my eyes they’re basically a sort of religion, a group with a shared belief system that determines how they choose to live their lives. The Otherkin are people who believe they are born with animal souls, or that they are reincarnated animals, or that they are animals mistakenly taking the shape of humans. Whichever interpretation you come up with, they basically believe there is something animal and mystical about themselves, and that they feel alienated and strange from a normal societal outlook. You’ve probably seen gifs making fun of a young woman claiming that she is a cat – basically the same thing. I don’t know if she identifies herself as an Otherkin or not. She might just identify herself as a cat.
This touches on a sticky issue for me, one borne out of my apostate background in my religion. See, I experienced plenty of schisms in my life, plenty of doctrinal divisions, serious and meaningful-seeming arguments held between people of great faith about things they couldn’t prove and that didn’t actually impact anything provable or testable. My sister and I were bullied at our school because our father held a different view to the principal on the subject of determinism and free will. I see the Otherkin arguing about what makes a person an Otherkin, and honestly, the only litmus test I can put to it is if the person identifies themeslves as one. This is, to my eyes, a religion; just like The John Frum Society, or Mormons, belief systems that may be recent, but are no more or less legitimate than those belief systems that predate them.
Why would Otherkin have schisms, though? Well, some Otherkin claim that it’s ‘impossible’ to be the reincarnated soul of something that ‘never’ existed – something like Dragons, or Na’Vi or Unicorns, things that, hah hah, some Otherkin claim they are. Hard to battle with that, isn’t it? “You don’t exist” is never a winning strategy in any argument. There are therefore varieties of Otherkin who embrace a certain pseudoscientific mindset – believing that most people are reincarnated animals, and just less able to hear or feel the spiritual nature of their souls, and some claim that the Otherkin are a glitch, something that shouldn’t exist, this tiny rare minority. More than a few of these religious outlooks call upon a mindset that suggests persecution – they are a minority, they can’t talk about what they believe, etcetera. It’s actually one of the most provable things about them – ask a person on the street what they think of this idea and they’d probably dismiss it in some very ableist terms.
Thing is, there are Otherkin that even the Dragon and Unicorn Otherkin are embarassed about.
Those are the Otakukin.
I wish I could still find the Livejournal links to where I first encountered this community. I wish I hadn’t fled in terror at the strangeness of the whole environment. A number of the places I learned about this phenomenon are broken or protected – complete with petulant claims of being persecuted by the Otherkin community. Therefore, the sourcing on this is a little weak.
Essentially, the Otakukin are Otherkin who do not believe themselves reincarnated animals. They believe themselves to be reincarnated anime and manga characters. They believe that their souls are the souls of these characters they’ve observed, in fiction, as all dimensions are infinite, and souls can move from world to world. I am not making this up, there are adult humans who believe this about themselves. Particularly favourite in my first research on this topic, all those years ago was this:
I’m definitely manga-universe Naruto; I don’t feel as if my soul has experienced the filler in the anime.
I have a hard time explaining why this is meaningfully different from those people who claim their souls are those of Queen Nefertiti of Egypt or the like, or that a zombie apocalypse happened in Mark. I either have to respect these worldviews, or I don’t – I can’t see any qualitive difference between this foetal religion and the more established worldviews… but my, people on the internet believe in strange things.