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Anime / Otaku no Video

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"Hey... are we really that depressing? Are we really that weird? Is it a crime to love anime or SFX movies? Why should it be a reason to set us apart? If you're into playing tennis, that's just fine and dandy, but if you watch anime, you're weird? Why?! I quit! No more job-hunting for me! If otaku are going to be discriminated against, then so be it. I'm gonna become a total otaku! I'm gonna be not just an Otaku but the Otaku of otaku... Otaking!"

Otaku no Video is a legendary 1991 Studio Gainax two-episode OVA telling the story of Kubo, a college student in 1982 who is drawn into a group of otaku (people with obsessive hobbies such as anime) by his old high school buddy Tanaka. He eventually becomes just as obsessed as the others, and—after being dumped by his girlfriend Ueno—sets his sights on becoming the ultimate fan: the OtaKing!

Despite the rather warped-sounding premise, this is actually a youth drama, which ends with what is either a world-changing epiphany or an uplifting Dream Sequence. Interspersed among the animated footage is a live-action mockumentary, Portrait of an Otaku, in which several different types of Otaku (Sci-Fi, anime, model guns, garage kits, etc.) are interviewed about their lifestyles.

The show itself has been dubbed by many as the "Bible of Otaku", explaining many strange concepts to anime fans who are just starting to test the waters while entertaining dedicated otaku with many Shout Outs. The animation is high-quality, and the sharp-eyed fan can spot literally dozens, maybe hundreds, of references to almost every pre-1980s anime, with a handful of early 80s shows. Despite the occasional tongue-in-cheek approach, the story is surprisingly serious, and many believe that it is a fictionalized autobiography of the key members of Gainax.

As an aside here, American anime fans call themselves "otaku" as a perverse mark of pride, and many of them are under the impression that it means "enthusiast". Well, close, but no cigar. The difference between an enthusiast and an otaku precisely lies in the obsession with the medium that reaches unhealthy levels. Thanks to some heavily publicized news reports, in Japan, the word is often used in an extremely insulting way (bordering on obscenity). Many think of "otaku" as someone who's not simply so obsessed with something that he refuses to leave his home, but someone who's actually mentally ill. By contrast, the American usage is little more than a synonym for "geek", a word that is itself also being heavily criticized for a similar appropriation amongst the mainstream American population.

However, this has been reversing itself in the past few years (see here). Otaku No Video shows both sides, but in the end, comes down on the side of otaku pride.

Either way, be advised that calling yourself an "otaku" in front of Japanese people is likely to result in spit takes or worse.

This is the OVA from which Otakon, a prolific North American anime convention, takes its name. By con tradition, it is both the first and last video shown every year.

This show provides examples of:

  • Basement-Dweller: Some of the otaku in the live-action segments are depicted as comedic, socially awkward losers who live in tiny apartments cluttered with merchandise and have no lives outside of their hobbies. Others have tried to shed this image by getting "respectable" jobs, and become defensive when confronted with evidence of their otaku pasts.
  • Converted Fanboy: Kubo was actually a typical college student, a member of his university's tennis club and kinda reluctant to get into anime at first. Once he becomes exposed to Tanaka's world, though, there's no going back for him.
  • Cosplay Otaku Girl: Yuri Satou is the cosplay specialist in Tanaka's group and enjoys cosplaying in fanservicey outfits such as Lum's Fur Bikini from Urusei Yatsura.
  • Creator Cameo: All of the otaku interviewed in Portrait of an Otaku are believed to be members and associates of Studio Gainax:
    • Hideaki Anno plays the part of the H-Game otaku who is obsessed with Noriko from GunBuster.
    • The Occidental Otaku, "Shon Hernandez," is played by Craig York, and the character's name is a combination of Shon Howell and Lea Hernandez, who—together with York—were the core of General Products USA, a western branch of Gainax's merchandising enterprise in the early 1990s.
    • Hiroshi Sato, an animator and another Gainax member, plays the garage kit otaku using the pseudonym "Sato Hiroshi".
  • Distant Finale: Complete with a mecha spaceship, launched from their sunken Otakuland theme park.
  • Failed Future Forecast: The Iron Curtain still exists and Gorbachev is still in power in 1997.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Whether unintentional or Manipulative Editing, the subtitles for the American Otaku interviewed are clearly different from the English he actually speaks.
  • Gainax Ending: Ends in a surreal yet triumphant manner when Kubo and Tanaka discover a working spaceship/Humongous Mecha in the underwater ruins of Otakuland, where they are miraculously restored to youth and reunited with their old friends so they can blast off to discover the "Planet of the Otaku".
  • Meaningful Appearance: Misty May has pink hair, reflecting how she's an anime creation. In contrast, all of the "real" characters have mundane hair colors like brown and black.
  • Mockumentary: The live action segment Portrait of an Otaku, purports to consist of interviews with real otaku but is actually a staged parody featuring cameos by members of Gainax and people who were connected with the filming.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Misty May. She is very attractive and wears a skimpy outfit.
  • Playboy Bunny: Misty May wears the classic outfit with bunny ears and a cotton tail.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The cel-thief explains that there's no security at anime studios: he just enters in broad daylight and nicks the cels without anyone noticing he's not supposed to be there.
  • Satire: The movie is a light-hearted Horatian satire of otaku culture, particularly in the Portrait of an Otaku segments where they poke fun at otaku for being uncool and having no lives outside their hobbies. There's the video collector who never watches any of the videos he's recorded, a porn otaku who's invented special glasses in an attempt to remove the mosaic censorship, a cel-thief who walks right into studios and steals cels to sell on the black market, and that's just a few of them.
  • Self-Deprecation: Studio Gainax considered themselves to be huge otaku at the time they made this OVA, and the creator cameos as otaku in Portrait of an Otaku show that they were making fun of themselves as much as anyone else.
  • Shout-Out: Crammed full of shout-outs to famous shows, to the point where it has its own page.
  • Thematic Theme Tune:
    • The opening theme, "Fight! Otaking!" is about Kubo's Hot-Blooded passion to take the world by storm and become the Otaking.
    • The ending theme, "The Lost Way of Otaku", plays at the end of both OVA episodes. In the first part the otaku's girlfriend dumps him because she can no longer tolerate his hobbies, mirroring Kubo being dumped by Ueno. In the second part he gets a new girlfriend who shares his hobbies, reflecting his Second Love with Misuzu.
  • To Be a Master: Kubo resolves to become the "Otaking" in the aftermath of losing Ueno, as seen in the page quote.
  • Tomato Surprise:
    • With a bit of a Take That!. The "historical" scenes are separated from the "interviews" by text cards listing a "real world" date and event (usually not Otaku related). The last one (before the "future sequence"), lists a "future date" (the 2nd show was made in 1991).
    September 13 1999. A nuclear waste dump on the far side of the moon explodes.
    • If you got this congrats, you're an Otaku, just like the guys you've been laughing at (or you probably were admiring them?). Note this date might have a special "impact" for 21st century viewers. Gainax are just that geeky.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Yoshiko, who becomes a Smug Snake after marrying Kanda just to spite her ex Kubo.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Downplayed. Inside the elevator, Satou pulls a Captain Harlock sticker from the chest area of her overalls.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: At the end of the video otaku's interview, the text says: "Two weeks after this interview, he went to the U.S. in search of the ultimate videocassette collection."