Otaku No Video
Special thanks to Gen Pan for recommending this one, I never would’ve known it existed, but it was a fascinating film for sure! It’s half animation, half documentary, all about life in the otaku culture.
Enter Ken Kubo, an average Japanese college student, living quite content with his girlfriend and playing tennis. That is, until he meets up with his old high school friend, Tanaka. Kubo is then dragged into Tanaka’s secret circle of Otakus that meet and handle every interest from anime and manga, to model guns and science fiction. Kubo comes to appreciate his new friends and their lifestyle and loses connection with his old life and girlfriend, eventually losing them both. Kubo then declares with new found determination that he and Tanaka will devote their lives to becoming the greatest otakus and take the world by storm. They will be the kings of all the otaku, the “Otakings”!
All the while, the film will cut at the breaks in the story to offer a “portrait of an otaku”. These segments are live interviews with real people (most of which are censored and have modified voices to conceal their identities). Arguably the most interesting part of the film, these interviews are amazingly interesting on their own. Each one has his own area of expertise like computer geek, figurine expert, or manga artist. As the film progresses, these portraits shift from men who have abandoned their otaku lifestyle for real jobs to the stereotypical shut-in who’s almost oblivious to his obsessions.
The animated portion was pretty entertaining and painted otakus as hard working and passionate individuals with lofty dreams and strong morals, but some of the interviews show a very destructive and unhealthy vantage of the lifestyle. The film is at its roots, a comedy, and upon further research, it is believed that the subjects of the interviews were connected to the studio or even employees, but the portrayals are still very true to real life. Although the story is a little unclear and really derails towards the end, the film in its entirety is really entertaining and gives and even broader look at this subculture. It does a good job of helping normal people understand the lifestyle and appreciate their passion, but also shows how far it can go. Definitely a must watch if you are at all interested in Japanese culture.