Japanese otaku-targeted dating app startles users with nightmarish AI-generated ads

Otakoi (jp: オタ恋), a recently launched Japanese dating app geared specifically towards otaku, has been gaining attention on Twitter for their promotional material which consists of unsettling AI-generated images of couples and attractive women. 

What is an otaku dating app in the first place? The word otaku describes a person that has a consuming interest or hobby, often but not exclusively related to anime, video games, idols etc. The term is sometimes used in a pejorative sense due to negative stereotypes associated with otakus such as unhealthy obsessiveness, underdeveloped social skills, unhealthy lifestyle, unkempt appearance etc. At the same time, the word is reclaimed in a positive sense by otaku themselves and used as an antonym for “normies”. 

As for the dating world, the stereotype of otaku, especially male otaku being undesirable is also prevalent. This is likely where the idea of Otakoi, a dating platform targeted specifically towards otaku men and women came from, with their slogan being about meeting a fellow otaku who accepts your interests entirely.  

The platform appears to have a typical matching app system where users can express interest in others based on their profiles and exchange messages if the interest is reciprocated. The platform also attempts to cater to otaku by providing profile biography templates for those who are less skilled in introducing themselves.  

Tweet translation: Let’s play a game of memory with Otakoi images

But what has grabbed the attention of users the most is no doubt the images used to promote the app – all the images used on both the official site and Twitter account appear to be AI-generated. The images are mostly of idealized attractive young women and couples, accompanied by typical AI-related errors such as blank stares, disappearing hands, clothes textures bleeding onto skin etc.  

Tweet translation: Otakoi – your first dating app

The above cited post, which was displayed to many users as a sponsored tweet, has caused particular amusement both for its content and execution. Aside from the fundamental contradiction of a dating app being advertised with generated images of non-existent people, many pointed out the irony of a platform geared specifically towards otaku using a prejudiced representation of an otaku to promote itself, with people wondering what kind of prompt the developers had used to generate the “otaku man.” The man having two right hands, the couple’s fingers fusing together, and the unidentified finger poking out from underneath the woman’s handbag only contributed to the merciless reactions from the public. 

Many described the advertisement as a blatant attempt to attract male users to the app. Perhaps it’s relevant to point out that the app charges male users for a portion of basic functions which are free of charge for female users. The app is available on the Play Store with a rating of 2.8 out of 5 stars and the App Store with a rating of 4 out of 5 stars at the time of writing. 


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