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- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Central Park Media
- MSRP: 19.99
- Running time: 70
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Otaku no Video
By Luis Cruz
February 13, 2007
Release Date: March 07, 2006
What They Say
© Central Park Media
Explore the world of otaku, the devoted fans of Japanese animation. Since the introduction of Speed Racer to the U.S., these men, women and children have built a community based on their common love for this uniquely imaginative medium. Through conventions, fan clubs, online forums, and more, they have expanded otaku fandom into a highly popular cultural phenomenon.
Otaku Unite! is the first documentary to follow the evolution of this phenomenon from its humble beginnings to its current state as a major influence of pop culture today. The Review!
I've been holding off on watching Otaku Unite! for awhile now; something about the grinning Naruto cosplayer on the front cover makes the back of my brain expand the title to "You have nothing to lose but your unbearable body odor!". Finally managing to get past his cherubic visage and the unwarranted stereotypes, I found an entertaining, informative documentary inside. Otaku Unite! highlights the rise of anime's popularity in the US and touches upon the myriad opinions of the word otaku and the culture around it. The strength of the documentary lies in the people the director interviewed; from those in the industry to the common fan, they are well informed and able to articulate clearly their views on the current topic.
It is difficult though to view this documentary through an inexperienced eye. As a long time anime fan, I can easily relate to the topics covered and the terminology it uses. Much of the history is familiar to me, and the question of otaku being a derogatory term or a merely a badge of one's fondness for anime will be debated long after I've gone to dust. Does this documentary hold anything for the uninitiated other than learning that there are people who prefer to escape reality as something other than a Klingon?
The film succeeds and fails on some levels addressing this topic. It does give a decent overview of what anime is and what its fans are like, but just how are they different from the Trekkies, the Civil War re-enactors, or any other costumed fandom? This is where the documentary comes up lacking; there is little insight into what is unique about anime and its fans. The historians interviewed touch upon the more mature themes and characters of anime, but there is little follow up with the fans on if this is what drew them in or if other factors came into play.
It succeeds in airing the differing viewpoints on being an otaku and allowing the audience to determine where the middle ground lies. However, the story of Johnny Otaku tends to skew things a bit more towards the negative in my view. He cuts the oft stereotyped figure of someone whose passion for his hobby goes a bit too far; a different edit of the documentary could have balanced this out though. Otaku Unite! opens with a piece on Kaiju Big Battel, a piece that feels very misplaced. It does serve as an early introduction to the concept of cosplay, but it does not bridge smoothly into the following segment on the history of anime in the US. It could have served the documentary better as a running counterpoint to Johnny's story.
While it may be more engaging to existing anime fans, Otaku Unite! is an important and relevant introduction to the booming US anime culture. Hopefully, the director will tackle this subject again and more in depth; this is a good beginning but could have scratched the surface a bit more in examining why people embrace or shun the title of otaku and the influences on both sides.
English 2.0 Language,Director's Commentary, News Coverage, Photo Gallery of hundreds cosplayers from Otakon 2005