Otaku no Video (おたくのビデオ Otaku no Bideo?) is a 1991 comedy anime spoofing the life and culture of otaku, individuals with obsessive interests in media, particularly anime and manga, as well as the history of Gainax, its creators. It is noted for its mix of conventional documentary film styles (with actual film, no less), with a more traditional anime storytelling fashion. It is licensed in the United States by AnimEigo.
The main character is a normal Japanese male, Ken Kubo, living quite happily with his girlfriend Yoshiko and being a member of his college's tennis team, until he meets one of his former friends from high school, Tanaka. After Tanaka brings him into his circle of friends (all of them being otaku, too: a female illustrator, an information geek, a martial artist, a weapons collector...), Kubo soon makes the wish to become the Otaking, the King of all the otaku.
He manages to create his own model kits, open shops, and even build a factory in China. Later, he loses it all when one of his rivals (who's also married to Yoshiko, who never forgave Kubo for abandoning her) takes control of his enterprise, but after Kubo and Tanaka make peace, teaming up with hard-working artist Misuzu, Kubo successfully take over the anime industry with a magical girl show, "Misty May". Ken and Tanaka create Otakuland, the equivalent of Disneyland for otaku. The story suggests Otakuland to be located in the same city of Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, as the original Tokyo Disneyland. Ken and Tanaka return to Otakuland in a post-apocalyptic submerged Japan and find a robot piloted by their old otaku friends. Then they fly off to space in search of the planet of Otaku.
A Portrait of an Otaku
A controversial & humorous part of Otaku no Video was the inclusion of live-action documentary excerpts, titled "A Portrait of an Otaku". In these segments, the documentary crew would interview an anonymous otaku, typically ashamed at being a fan and whose face are censored with a mosaic and have their voices digitally masked. The mock documentary segments serve as a counterpoint to the anime: while the anime emphasizes the camaradrie, creativity, and dreams of mainstream acceptance of otaku, the mock interviews exaggerate its negative qualities. The subjects run the gamut of the otaku subculture: the interviews cover a cosplayer who now works as a computer programmer and outright denies his cosplay days, even when presented with photographic evidence, but keeps his Char Aznable helmet in his desk drawer, an airsoft otaku, a garage kit otaku, and a shut-in who videorecords television programs for trade, but has not actually watched anything he's recorded. The interviews also contain fans who engage in a range of illicit or unsavory activities, such as cel thieves, a pornography fan attempting to manufacture glasses to defeat the mosaic censorship common in Japanese porno videos and who is shown masturbating during the interview, and a computer gamer who is obsessed with a character in a hentai computer game (Noriko from Gunbuster who makes a cameo in Gainax's own hentai game: Cybernetic High School).
It is believed that all the subjects in the Portrait of An Otaku segments were Gainax employees or connected to Gainax at the time of filming. The first otaku interviewed bore a remarkable resemblance to Toshio Okada, a principal founder in Gainax, in both background and physical appearance. The gaijin otaku, Shon Hernandez, has been confirmed to have been Craig York, who with Shon Howell and Lea Hernandez, whose names were borrowed for the character", were the main staff of General Products USA, an early western branch of Gainax's merchandising in the early 1990s. The interview with "Shon Hernandez" has been a point of contention with Lea Hernandez, who, in an interview with PULP magazine, noted that the interview was unscripted and that Craig York had been fairly sincere in his thoughts and had felt that Gainax insulted their American members. In the interview, the words spoken by Shon Hernandez in the background are noticeably different from what is shown on screen via subtitle (which is based on the Japanese voiceover "translation").
At FanimeCon 2003, Hiroshi Sato, an animator and another Gainax member, mentioned that he had been in one of the interviews in Otaku no Video. In Otaku no Video, the garage kit otaku was given the pseudonym "Sato Hiroshi" for the interview.
- "Otaku no Video's story starts out, more or less, like most every anime about anime fans since then. Normal guy meets otaku and gets sucked into the world of cosplay, doujinshi and video games, and life as he knew it changes forever." http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/buried-treasure/2007-11-15
- "Urayasu City is where Tokyo Disneyland is located." http://www.animeigo.com/liner/anime/otaku-no-video
- "...the acting is particularly hammy, and each person is actually a friend or employee of Gainax..." http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/buried-treasure/2007-11-15
- "Shon Hernandez" is a combination of Shon Howell and Lea Hernandez, who, together with Craig York (the real person in this segment), were the core of General Products USA." http://www.animeigo.com/liner/anime/otaku-no-video
- Lea Hernandez, "The Curse of Urusei Yatsura", interview by PULP magazine, vol. 5, no. 8 (August 2001), pp. 28–9.
- (Japanese) Official site
- Otaku no Video (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Otaku no Video at the Internet Movie Database
- Discussion of the real people in the interviews in Otaku no Video by Lawrence Eng of the Cornell Japanese Animation Society.
- "Buried Treasure: In Praise of Nerdiness"
- Liner notes by Animeigo
- ONV review by Carl Horn