AKA: Otaku’s Video
Running Time: OVA, 2 Episodes, 45 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Comic Party, Genshiken, Dojin Work, Cosplay Complex, Bakuman, Anime-Gataris, Animation Runner Kuromi, Revenge of the Nerds, Excel Saga, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
-Otaku no Video was directed by Takeshi Mori who also directed Gunsmith Cats, Skull Man, Ruin Explorers, and Stratos 4.
-During the “Portrait of an Otaku” live-action scenes, some of the “interviewees” actually involved Gainax employees at the time. Want to know who the one otaku was that was interviewed while playing a hentai video game and obsessing about the female characters? That was confirmed to be Hideaki Anno himself. Yes, the same person responsible for Neon Genesis Evangelion, Nadia: Secret of Blue Water, and Shin Godzilla was the one doing that even if he was playing a character.
-The Otakuland theme park takes place in Urayasu, Japan which is the same location as Tokyo Disneyland was.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: It’s funny how the main character Kubo would have no clue about the Gundam cosplay and memorabilia at first because his voice actor is the late Koji Tsujitani who has played two major Gundam characters: Bernie from 0080: War in the Pocket and Seabook from F91.
-There are several cameos of numerous 80s and early 90s anime on display. Since this was made by Gainax, they do self-referential cameos such as Gunbuster, Wings of Honneamise, the Daicon short films, and Nadia: Secret of Blue Water where the title character’s pet lion named King (I’ll spare you some obvious hilarious in hindsight elements with that character until I decide to review Nadia) shows up multiple times including the opening animation.
-Folk punk band Insomniac Folklore has a song called “Otaking” which references this anime and even samples Kubo’s famous speech where he first uses that neologism.
I’m dealing with something that was considered a classic a long time ago. I’m sure older anime fans who got into that fandom in the 80s and the 90s certainly have an appreciation for this old-school project from Gainax. There’s certainly an obvious original element such as how this was the first anime that dealt with anime fans as characters long before there was a Comic Party, Genshiken, or Bakuman, so I do give credit where credit is due. Before some fans got into that studio’s works such as Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, or FLCL, Gainax made a little OVA that was an affectionate parody of otakudom.
We’re dealing with the mack daddy of anime metafiction here, everybody.
Otaku no Video takes place during the 80s and 90s and it deals with the life of Ken Kubo. He’s an average guy who’s in college while studying and practicing in the tennis club. Besides having a girlfriend Yoshiko Ueno, Kubo doesn’t have that much going for him until a chance encounter happens with one of his old friends Tanaka. They catch up in an elevator and Tanaka introduces Kubo to the rest of his crew who are hardcore otaku. Anime, video games, sci-fi, art, and other media are on full display which slowly entraps Kubo into joining their fandom-filled tribe. However, his interest in anime and manga turns off Yoshiko and he decides to find a new purpose in life. He wasn’t just going to be in a haven with other like-minded fanboys and fangirls. No sirree Bobaroonie (I can’t believe I used an Animaniacs reference), Kubo is dead-set on becoming the otaku of otaku…the Otaking.
This was a unique blast from the past of sorts. I do give major props to the creators for making an anime that was truly original especially for it’s time. Prior to Otaku no Video, a concept of an anime about anime fans was just unheard of, so this was a trailblazing concept which I do appreciate. The characters were interesting to make it work. Kubo starts out like your typical everyman blank slate lead, but he develops a much stronger personality once he discovers otaku-dom. His partner-in-crime Tanaka was also fun to watch with his rampant enthusiasm and flair for the over-dramatic. I do know that there wouldn’t be a Madarame from Genshiken or even a Taishi from Comic Party without a character like Tanaka (and this is coming from a guy who thought Taishi was the funniest character in the Comic Party anime!). Their synergy as a duo was infectious. What was also interesting was the usage of live-action footage with the “Portrait of an Otaku” scenes. They involve current or former otaku with their identities concealed and their voices altered. One funny one involved a computer programmer who denies being an otaku despite being shown pictures of his past and he eventually pulls out a Char Aznable helmet and quotes him which was too funny. The random anime references do show up a lot, but they weren’t overbearing and could certainly be an Easter Egg hunt for old-school anime fans or those who know about older anime. Going back to the main characters, I do like how they actually try to do something like making a legit business to cater to various anime/manga fans, but Kubo brings up a fascinating double standard when it comes to certain fans over others. After Yoshiko breaks up with him, he claims (this is a paraphrase): “How is it that when I was in the tennis club, everything was fine, but liking anime makes me weird?” while crying about it. That’s a legitimate point. How is it that when you have sports fans who gush about teams, players, statistics, or even wrecking stuff, no one says anything? But if someone likes anime, obscure movies, indie music (not the genre), comic books, or cartoons, how come they are freaks? Seriously, I want you to imagine what the reaction would be if people with nerdy interests did the same thing as these ruffian Philadelphia Eagles fans were after they won a Super Bowl. Freaking hypocrites…
Otaku no Video is an original anime, but not everything gets on the level as the Otaking. The animation is certainly dated which really shows. Gainax is a low-budget studio (let’s be honest, anime fans), and not everything looked as great as it could’ve been. There are also unintentional period pieces such as the VHS tapes, fashion, pop culture references, and past animation trends. Some of the “Portrait of an Otaku” segments do get unsavory like the hentai gamer, or the one otaku with the customized goggles to bypass the mosaics on the porno movies he’s watching, and the token American who talks about his anime fandom. That American was actually a real employee though one of Gainax’s subsidiaries where the voice over translation clearly mismatches his spoken dialogue where the voice over subtitles make him sound like he’s WAY too into anime than what is presented which was insulting. Most of the characters besides Kubo and Tanaka are quite underdeveloped which is a shame because some of them did have some interesting personalities.
Gainax’s OVA was a good watch and it does deserve it’s place in anime history even if elements of it didn’t age as well. The main protagonists were great characters and I wanted them to succeed in their eventual business endeavors while also trying to be the Otakings of the universe. The theme songs were quite funny and worked with the parody elements of this anime. However, some parts didn’t do anime fans any favors with some of the fake interviews or with older elements that younger anime fans wouldn’t get or appreciate (even though I’m technically one of them since I wasn’t alive when most of those anime mentioned or referenced came out). The original elements are certainly worth praising as so many anime series wouldn’t exit without it. Check it out though. You might want to be an Otaking or Otaqueen if it lets you.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-2 points if you grew up on older anime or you’re an older anime fan.
Add 1 point if you like Gainax’s work.
Subtract 1 point if you know nothing about anime prior to the 90s.
-Kubo and Tanaka are fun protagonists
-Good theme songs
-Unintentional period piece syndrome
-Some insulting aspects to otakudom
Final Score: 7/10 points
Content Warning: Otaku no Video would get a strong PG-13 if it got a real rating. There’s mild language, but that’s nothing compared to some other elements. Since this is a Gainax anime, there’s fanservice involved including their trademark “Gainax bounce” incorporated in the bunny girl Misty May character. There’s also some nudity with the hentai game footage that the fake otaku plays and the King cameo from Nadia has THAT issue involved with his design. The otaku with the custom goggles is also wanting some “alone time” even though you don’t see anything, and I’ll leave it at that.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Otaku no Video is property of Gainax and AnimEigo. The Misty May picture is from AnimEigo and is property of Gainax and AnimEigo.