by Bamboo Dong,

Otaku no Video

1982 & 1985

Otaku no Video
What does it mean to be the Otaku of all Otaku? To be the Otaking, the one who will unite Otaku from all around the world and give them the respect and happiness they deserve? This quest forms the foundation for Gainax's classic two-episode OVA, Otaku no Video. Long seen as the "Otaku Bible," the two installments are well known among the men and women of the genre throughout the world, achieving what can almost be defined as cult status. The legendary OVA was released by a group of fanboys who, although they were already famous for their work in anime, would later become renowned for their work on Neon Genesis Evangelion, considered by many to be Gainax's most impacting work to date. Otaku no Video was their shout out to the society around them, paying respect to the fandom they dedicated themselves to, while at the same time parodying the various aspects of the members that make up that fan base. Loosely defined, the term "otaku" means house, with the moniker implying anyone that is so immersed with something that they never leave the house. It eventually evolved to mean anyone that was obsessed with something, such as military models, computers, or as the OVAs document, manga and anime.
Otaku no Video stars a young man named Kubo, who starts off as an average citizen, engrossed in the school tennis club, and happy with his girlfriend. Un/fortunately for him, his life is entirely changed by a chance meeting with an old high school classmate by the name of Tanaka (their full names don't matter, as it's their feats as Otaku that earn them my admiration and respect). After being introduced to Tanaka's circle of pop culture aficionados, Kubo is slowly inoculated with the first seeds of Otakudom, transforming into the stereotypic fanboy that the fellows at Gainax mock, and yet can probably identify with. Kubo spends his time and money on anime, letting it take over his life, until even his girlfriend is fed up with his new self. Distraught and angered by her and society's misunderstanding of anime Otaku, he vows to dedicate his life to becoming the Otaking, expanding anime to such an extent that it can no longer be made fun of. The rest of the OVAs deal with his path to success, and the tribulations he faces along the way.

Although the plot may sound anemic, it actually makes for a block of solid entertainment that would be a shame to miss. Rife with anime references, ranging from Gundam and Macross to Minky Momo and Lupin, it's a delight for both hardened Otaku and those being initiated into the club to spot all the brief mentions. It's especially amusing to watch out for any Gainax references, such as a cute lion cub named Posi-King, and many others, including the name of the corporation Kubo founds. Documenting an anime Otaku's passageway to becoming the Otaking, the OVAs take on interesting side tangents, discussing the introduction of garage kits, and the practicing of activities such as cosplay and doujinshi art; they even go as far as to show how giant studios can be built up from scratch a la Gainax. Especially notable are the vignettes that are dispersed throughout the OVAs titled "Portrait of An Otaku." Interviewing various people regarding their experience as an Otaku, the humorous shorts offer a sample platter of all the kinds of fans in the world, ranging from anime fans, to pornography fans, and everything in between. Offering insight into the distorted world of fandom, the shorts provide not only a lighthearted poke at fans, but also a disturbingly realistic realization that 'hey, believe it or not, they're actually telling the truth about us.'

As if the subject matter at hand weren't reason enough to watch Otaku no Video, I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack that accompanied it. Albeit the music in itself was mediocre, but the lyrics still make me cry out in peals of hysterics even after all these years. The two versions of the ending themes, especially, struck me with their clever humor and the ironic realization that all they had to do was tell the truth.

Even back in 1993, AnimEigo was already doing incredible work with subtitles. Everything is translated, and they even provide explanations for the subtle in-jokes in the episodes, which is an always-welcomed touch. For the fans that are having a hard time locating a copy of this elusive classic, rejoice, for AnimEigo is re-releasing both volumes on DVD. This is a definite must-have for all those anime fans that are daring enough to take that grand leap into Otakudom. Truthfully, there will be those out there who find Otaku no Video a flagrant mockery of the medium they love so much. But in all honesty, if you hang out with the same kind of house-bonded fans that I do, then you will enjoy this, even though it makes fun of your kind. The candor of the OVAs and the humor that results make it worth that special place on your shelf. Embrace your Otaku-ness and pridefully fight against the idea that anything is wrong with you. Fight, fight, Otaking!

Overall (sub) : A
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : B

+ Classic guide for all Otaku!
References are hard to catch for non-hardcore fans.

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Production Info:
Director: Takeshi Mori
Toshio Okada
Hiroyuki Yamaga
Storyboard: Shinji Higuchi
Unit Director: Yoshimi Kanda
Music: Kouhei Tanaka
Character Design: Kenichi Sonoda
Art Director: Hitoshi Nagao
Animation Director:
Takeshi Honda
Hidenori Matsubara
Director of Photography: Sadafumi Sano
Kazuhiko Inomata
Yoshimi Kanda

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Otaku no Video (OAV)

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