Otaku no Video - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: AnimEigo
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Otaku no Video

Otaku no Video

By Chris Beveridge     April 17, 2002
Release Date: April 10, 2002

Otaku no Video
© AnimEigo

What They Say
This is Gainax having a good deal of fun at their own expense. It details a "fictional" company and its meteoric rise intercut with pseudo interviews. It's way more fun than it has any right to be, and at other times, almost touching. A great film for anyone who's stayed up all night watching films they can't understand.

The Review!
With the release of Otaku no Video onto the DVD format, AnimEigo can finally be forgiven for one of its greatest sins against anime fans ? never releasing this show on laserdisc. For years I?ve been stuck with just the VHS edition and nothing more. But now my love of this show can be watched repeatedly, as we?ve ditched our VCR and have moved to digital only.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. And this being a very Japanese show, it never underwent the dubbing process, so the choice was easy. This is a pretty basic sounding stereo track produced in the early 90?s, so it sounds decent and has some minor moments of directionality across the forward soundstage. Overall it fills it up nicely and we noticed no distortions or dropouts.

Made during the good days of Gainax, the show boasts some great production values. This is one of those OVA?s that still looks great years later, but it?s starting to show its age against the digital stuff coming out these days. Jitter is minimal but in a few scenes and there?s some occasional moments of cross coloration. The most that I can find bad about it is you?re able to see the brush strokes and see bits of the dirt actually moving around on it.

AnimEigo did some fancy work with this release that may cause some issues for some people. There are segments during the live action sequences that have graphs and pie charts and the like. These chapters are made up of alternate angles, where one angle shows the original Japanese image and the other angle shows the new English translation of it. You?ll need to play around with the options to get what you want, though most people should be able to change it via their remote (I was able to on at least one system that I tested it). Where things get problematic is if you want to move around, skipping chapters brings you to where you don?t want to be, particularly if you do it between the two OVA?s as they?re on separate title tracks. If you play the disc straight through though, you?ll have no real problems.

Sticking with tradition, the cover art previously used for the VHS release makes another appearance here though with a full border to keep all the wackiness inside. It?s a nice looking cover overall, but I?m just not keen on the border. The back cover provides a few screenshots and a brief summary of what the show is about. The liner notes provided with this release are probably among the thickest set released from AnimEigo so far and is just chock full of clues and tidbits about things seen in the show. These notes are essential!

The main menu uses one of the sketch-work pieces that shows up in the animation with Kubo pointing Tanaka towards the light. Amusingly, when you change selections down the main screen, Kubo?s arm goes down with it. This provides a slight drag in moving from selection to selection based on how quickly your player can process it. Submenus are nice and simple and easy to navigate, but I dearly wish they had provided some explanations in the language selection segment so you could know whether you were getting the original graphs and charts or the translated ones.

Extras are fairly minimal but I doubt there was much extra to begin with. The trailer for the video is provided as well as a couple minutes worth of a video image gallery showcasing some never before seen pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Otaku no Video was one of the early shows that helped coin the phrase ?mockumentary?. It comes from a time when Gainax was doing quite varied projects and living up to their reputation of pushing the envelope and engaging in things nobody else would do. A combination of great animation, live action segments and humorous variant on their own history as well as showing how otaku are captured, the show is something that hasn?t been done since in any real fashion, and stands among the more unique titles ever made.

The show focuses around young college freshman student Kubo, a solid tennis player and overall nice guy. He?s experiencing some of the freshman blues, which his sorta girlfriend Yoshiko tells him when he explains how he feels. Something in his life just doesn?t feel right. But she explains that it?s normal and to be expected. She gives him the good old encouragement to keep up with the tennis club and things will turn around.

Quite possibly they may have turned around for him, but fate has another plan for Kubo. After a night out drinking with is trendy friends, he heads off a bit early to get ready for a match the next day. This leads him to an encounter in an elevator with a former high school classmate, the slightly eccentric Tanaka. Tanaka?s excited to see his old friend again and talks quickly and fondly of old times. Tanaka?s friends eye him somewhat suspiciously though, as they?ve not heard of this friend of their ?commander? before.

It?s this encounter that eventually brings Kubo to Tanaka?s residence, where the trap is sprung. As Tanaka is not exactly a babe magnet, his place is fairly cluttered but laid out like he wants it. The room is filled top to bottom with manga and the pages he?s drawing for his fanzine and doujinshi. Kubo?s fascinated by all of it, but Tanaka knows he?s got him on the hook. He takes him across the hall where his circle (a group of fans who do things together, essentially a club) operates. After getting passed the past out night owl member, Kubo is shown something of a holy land for fans. Model kits being put together, cels being painted, artwork being drawn, TV shows on tapes filling the racks and tons more.

Kubo gets introduced to the various members, such as the military otaku, the SF otaku, the anime otaku and so forth. Each of them leer at him as he tries to take it all in. They provide a small crash course in anime and how cutting edge things are when this ?takes place? in 1982. Their first real piece? The aerial dogfights from Macross with Tanaka going on about the amazing detail. AnimEigo should have spliced in their remastered version here! But Tanaka dangles even more in front of him, showing a favorite live action TV series from their youth, all on several tapes. Manga piles up in front of him and more tapes? and another otaku is born.

Kubo and Tanaka?s lives become very linked from here on out, as the two build up their circle and the projects they get involved in. When they realize that they?re outcasts of society after being insulted at the premiere showing of Nausicaa, Kubo decides he?s had enough. He forsakes all else and has decided to become the otaku of all otaku, the Otaking! With Tanaka working with him, the two give up the search for jobs and go into business for themselves and essentially kick start the legitimate Garage Kit industry.

Over the course of the next couple of years we watch their rise and fall from fame and power and shift industries from garage kits to anime to theme parks. Many parts of this do accurately parallel Gainax and spoof themselves perfectly. When they form their second company, they call it Giant X, which if said by a Japanese fast enough, sounds like Gainax. Things go into the hilarious ludicrous mode when they shift to the 2030?s, but it?s all done so well and so? well, lovingly, that you can?t help buy smile at the ultimate fate of this cast.

Otaku no Video may not resonate quite as much with fans today as it did when it was first released. There?s plenty to laugh at, but in some senses, it?s truly dated. This is good and bad, since it does portray what fandom in Japan was like at that time as well as parodying it nicely. The all nighters to get special cel?s at theatrical premiers is still a common practice today. The show also touches on other genres nicely, such as the transition from garage kits to soft vinyl kits (we?ll market the whole hobby with paints and guides!) which is being replaced by cold cast kits these days. If you end up touching on various associated hobbies to anime and manga over the years, there?s something in here for you.

One of the more amusing aspects of this release is the live action segments interspersed throughout each episode. These ?Portrait of an Otaku? segments get to the heart of the matter of fans and former fans. Their faces are mosaiced and voices altered ?by request? which only adds to the atmosphere of how bad it is to be considered an otaku. The people interviewed are from every segment, from the jack of all trades who reluctantly admits he has no friends in his adult life to the former cosplayer who demands to know where the interviewer got that picture. Of course, he denied ever cosplaying up until that point. There?s an interesting interview with a cel thief, explaining how he gets away with it and a couple of sad ones with one guy who only plays hentai games and another who built some special glasses to minimize the mosaic on adult movies.

My favorite though is the interview with American ?Shon Hernandez?. Having traveled to Japan to experience it all, he goes on about how great Japan is and everything Japanese. That is, if you read just the subtitles of the interviewer talking. You can hear Shon talking underneath and it?s somewhat different than what?s being translated, which is only more hilarious. This is an amusing pro-Japan piece that plays perfectly with things, as well as the person who it?s based on Shon Howell and Lea Hernandez of the long defunct Gainax U.S.A. extension which was named General Products USA.

If there?s any downside to the content of this show, it?s just this. When the second mascot, Misty May, is created, they reveal her ultimate selling power in the two associated animal sidekicks. After all, girls love animals. So they have the two small lions, one gray and one brown, along for the ride. So yeah, they go the silly route and basically use King from Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water. What?s bad about this?

Kings nads are here too. Dagnabit!

Otaku no Video is pure nostalgia for me, with great looking animation and character designs from one of my real favorites, Kenichi Sonoda. The style and feel of the show is spot on and cracks me up no matter how many times I?ve seen it. When it was over, all my wife said was ?I understand you better now?. Frankly, I?m not sure if that?s good or not.

Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery,Trailer

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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