Somewhat based on the real story of how Gainax was founded, Otaku no Video addresses all aspects of an otaku lifestyle. Ken Kubo is a young man living an average life until he is dragged into a group of otaku. Slowly, he becomes more like them until he decides to abandon his former life to become king of otaku—the otaking!
Mixed in are live-action interviews with real otaku, addressing every aspect of hardcore otaku life. Not only are anime and manga fans included, but also sci-fi fans, military fans, and other groups of Japanese geeks.
"It's not like I'm ashamed of my past or anything!"- Former Otaku
Otaku no Video is a very insightful and introspective (with a touch of mockery) movie that contains both a slightly parodical animated version of the origins of studio Gainax, and live recorded interviews conducted by Gainax of former (and current) Otaku of the time- 1991.
Very nontraditional in many ways, it's not completely anime, and not completely live action, but a blend that presents relevant cultural information regarding the Otaku. It's broken up into two parts; one, an animated movie about a guy named Ken Kubo and his stereotypical fat, geeky otaku friend
Tanaka, and the second part is a series of the aforementioned interviews in segments called "Portrait of an Otaku".
The animation first:
Kubo and Tanaka were college friends; Kubo the typical Gary Stu kind of guy- tennis team, has a beautiful girlfriend, scholar, and everything seems right in his life, except he's rather bored. He meets up with Tanaka by chance in an elevator, and from that fateful reunion on is slowly drawn into the Otaku lifestyle of making fanfiction magazines, garage kits (modified figurines), and eventually full on anime and video games in an attempt to become the OTAKING- King of the Otakus!
After rising to the top, Kubo and Tanaka get screwed, and then have to decide what it was that was really important to them- the grubbing, hand to mouth lifestyle of being an artist and original creator, or selling out and making all the money. There's only one true path for the Otaking, and that's to take it beyond the stars.
The pacing is broken up by the interviews, but the narrative is both engaging and humorous, along with providing a very loose version of how Gainax was started, and their goals of shooting for the stars, both in animation and in business practices. It's very interesting to see how Otaku no Video inspired later works, and drew from the doujinshi (amateur produced works) that put Gainax on the map. Real life science fiction conventions Daicon 3 and 4 (1981, 1983) are explored, which Gainax also produced shorts for. Other character stylings and symbols seen in later works also make appearances, like Kamina's glasses on a building, robots from Gunbuster, and more.
Portrait of an Otaku:
Through a series of live interviews, the movie also explores the lives and disparate interests of those who call themselves Otaku. Garage Kit Otaku, Military Otaku, Anime and Manga, Fanzines, Cosplay enthusiasts, and Fan Video Otaku, and even an art thief are all shown, and asked series of questions that either mock their interests and lifestyle, or that give some insight into what it is that drives them to their obsession.
While it's believed that the people interviewed were either Gainax employees themselves (who created their studio to put a name behind their amateur original works, and thereby personifying some of these stereotypes), some of it is plainly staged. Hideaki Anno himself is shown as a Hentai-game addict, even. Typically, the faces and voices are censored, so it's still unknown who some of them are. It's interesting in that they're making fun of Otaku, and at the same time themselves, because that's how Gainax started out: geeks making their own originals to hawk at conventions.
The portrait section also provides some hilarious statistics on what Otaku are interested in, and how different groups see different themes. A foreigner was also intereviewed, and it was stated that some 50% of those surveyed come to Japan solely out of anime and manga fandom, and the other half either "like" or "are not opposed" to it. A fanzine convention survey of 100 Otaku revealed that only 15% of them had cosplayed, and an overwhelming 60% had not. Of those 15 that responded yes, the "Otaku who did cosplay tended to be repeat offenders".
Another survey included those who "talk to themselves", of which the overwhelming majority with 70% did.
There's also a deep sociological background to Otaku culture; stemming from how a more collectivist culture like Japan operates vs an intensely individualistic one like the US. "The nail that sticks out gets hammered" they say, and to a point, it's true. In a collectivist culture, the ideal person fits in with their group, their family, their society, and don't express their individualism much when around others. In private, they can be a night and day different person.
The Otaku have long been branded as "no life losers", and in a sense shunned from their culture as they're perceived "deviant", no different from the US, really. People with anime and manga obsession, people obsessed with doomsday preparation, zombie fanatics, etc.-all these groups share a common thread in that they're on the fringe of 'normative' society. In that, they find a bond together, and create their own subculture outside of the norms.
For anyone who's interested in the Otaku culture, this half mockumentary is a great video for insight into what it was like back in the day, even if it's somewhat parodical. In all honesty, what they portray satirically here is not far from the truth, neither in 1991 nor in 2015. There are tons of people out there like the ones shown in this movie, that are obsessive enthusiasts of different fandoms, and though their interests may be broad, they're all bound by a label that sets them apart- that of the Otaku.
I had heard that this was a must-see for people interested in the culture surrounding otakudom, and after finally watching it, I would have to second that proposition. It is simultaneously a humorous, introspective, and thought-provoking look at otaku, and more so than any other similarly themed production, it really covers all bases in its analytical approach to the lifestyle they lead, about the nature of shame, obsession, habitual collecting, and the way in which otaku approach other people, and the world around them. I’ll have to be brief in my comments regarding this aspect of the OVA, because there’s really enough content to write
a particularly lengthy essay about. It is comforting, and quite obvious, that everything is approached through the perspective of an otaku, so that the way the themes are explored are not heavy-handed in their ridicule or disapproval of Otaku, but rather they dispel stereotypes in exchange for an edge of realism, which gradually demonstrates a residual tone of sadness and loneliness, and cleverly deconstructs the fabricated fantasy worlds in which Otaku so often reside. The surveyed data included in the OVA was certainly very interesting, with some of the results showing some strong indications of the characteristics of an otaku. Ultimately all of the ‘portrait of an otaku’ segments worked to paint a larger portrait of Otaku, and a reflective definition of the term. The strongest facet to otaku’s personalities was their drive and passion to attain their desires, and their common reliance on fantasy and escapism as a way of life.
In terms of actual entertainment value, and story, I was quite disappointed. Although an important contribution to the OVA, the ‘portrait of an otaku’ segments really fractured the progression of the story and fragmented its pace so that it was difficult for thew show to build up momentum or excitement. I felt that the story simply not be told in such a short period of time, particularly of the characters were to be properly fleshed out and developed. As a consequence of the short, and divided time, I never felt attached to the characters, or their plight, or only occasionally did their predicament make me feel. This would have been alright if it was more of a comedy, but the fact is it was rarely very funny, the black humour of the portraits was almost entirely absent from the actual anime. This basically means that the OVA is barely worth watching unless you have a genuine interest or investment in the otaku culture in Japan; you will not find a better psycho-analysis of the otaku character.
I thought it might be proper to define "Otaku" before the actual review.
In the following case, an Otaku (if you don\'t already know), is a Japanese term for a fan/person who is obsessed with any theme/topic/hobby. (The "portraits" are about anime/manga/military/hentai Otakus).
Otaku no Video is a fairly fun video/OVA to watch. Not necessarily for the actual animation, but the Otaku interview bits(called portrait of an Otaku) in between the actual story, where they have interviews with all sorts of Otakus(Manga,Anime,Military,True,Foreign, "Garage Kit"). Of course, this OVA is fairly outdated (~24 years before time of this review). Opinion: Otaku\'s have changed over time, so the same
(Portrait of an Otaku) can\'t necessarily be applied to modern ones.
As for the Story, it only becomes worthwhile when he emerges into the Japanese anime industry(episode 2). The first part, I found fairly mediocre.
The art is outdated, but not to the point where it is distracting. GAINAX (a couple years before the Shin Seiki Evangelion.
The Opening themesong, I found quite catchy. The video\'s background music was undistracting to the point where I\'m not quite sure whether it even had background music or not.
Characters both story and portraits were mainly Otakus, some of which seem to be hard to get along with (in the portraits not the anime).
As for Enjoyment, this OVA is one of a kind, even with it\'s outdated(ness), I still managed to learn alot (and a bit about about myself), statistics & surveys "out of 100 otakus) are given so you have an idea regarding otaku.
As a result, this OVA is one to be watched. People can look into this and say.... "That\'s how Otaku were in the 1980\'s, things have changed", "Wow, I didn\'t know that", or even "Oh, I see, that\'s why I talk to myself" (you\'re not alone!!). I\'d recommend this to most Otakus, and maybe anyone who happens interested in Otaku(ism?).
The Otaku Video is a 1991 Gainax OVA that provides a parodical glance into its titular culture as well as giving a very loose and fictionalized retelling of the founding of Gainax studios. Main character Kubo is an everyday college student dissatisfied with his life and hobbies, but a chance reunion with his old high school friend Tanaka drags him into his world of the Otaku. Kubo leaves his “normal” life behind and vows to become the “Otaking”. The anime skips forward in time as it follows the two friends from fanboys, to model distributors, to independent anime creators. As well as their various odd
struggles in between, delivered in a comedic tone complete with underdog heroes and typical villains.
Dividing these chronological updates are odd live action mockumentary interviews. These are primarily staged interviews about otaku culture between Gainax employees and associates whose faces are typically obscured by mosaic with their voices digitally altered. Being made in a time when “otaku” still referred to general geek culture rather than that of anime, you even see some focus on things such as airsoft gun fanatics. Fake recording dates are given along with timely major national news, seemingly to punctuate these surprisingly self-loathing segments and their mockery of oblivious escapism and empty social lives. These interviews border on mean-spirited, and although it stems from Gainax making fun of themselves, by hiding their identities as they mean to depict broader otaku culture they end up dragging the identities of otaku fans in general through the mud as they’re portrayed as antisocial, perverted losers. For every question that genuinely probes into the minds of various subcultures and their appeals, there’s three that target the interviewee personally such as “Do you ever go outside?” or “Have you ever had sex?”. Clearly the public perspective hasn’t changed much since 1991, but for an OVA ostensibly celebrating the passion behind otaku culture it comes dangerously close to making its condemnation of the scene far more obvious than its appreciation.
It can be seen as honesty to present the optimism, solidarity, and excitement of otaku culture in an anime format complete with a comedic, melodramatic storyline and then to acknowledge the negative parts of it at the same time in reality. But not even the anime segments are free from this negativity and industry remorse, and a binary display of showing only the negativity and shame in the most realistic segments makes the bitterness much more impactful than the optimism. It’s a shame that I can’t picture The Otaku Video as being particularly made “for” anyone. Probably not otaku, for the frequent contempt it shows towards its own members’ ways of living, and the fact that the anime segments don’t focus as much on the otaku lifestyle as they do on a very brief story of rising in the industry of otaku – something almost no one watching will find relatable. The eccentric presentation and title will keep non-otaku miles away, and the depiction of the “real” otaku will make any one of them desperate to avoid that path.
Even not taking it seriously, The Otaku Video is just too sour for its own comedic purposes. Often too self-loathing, in a way that’s now particularly tired and reductionist, to set a consistent mood for laughter or joy. It’s also too heavily fictionalized to work as a reliable historic take on Gainax’s creation. There are some high-spirited moments scattered throughout as the characters stubbornly defend their interests despite being scorned by society and hope to end the prejudice, but these ideologies end up being buried by the creators’ negativity and own lack of confidence. And yet, the OVA is likable enough. In addition to crisp, colorful Blu-ray animation, this OVA’s very existence and even the contradictions about it are a testament to Gainax’s peak eccentricity and the concept and result is something that could only come from the incredible creative forces behind the studio and beyond it. It’s delightful, not for any possible attempt to capture otaku culture or Gainax’s founding, but its inherent display of the personality that made the studio so unique. In other words, this isn’t a video for otaku – it’s a video for Gainax dorks. Are you one?
The term otaku is often used in the West to refer to anyone interested in anime. But is that what otaku really means? Learn about the history behind the otaku phenomenon and how different anime have reacted to it, as well as anime fandom in general.