Thursday, June 30, 2016

Otaku no Video: Special Edition of Otaku Generation

Otaku no Video.

Who's heard of it?

Well, if you've not, prepare to learn.

Released in 1991 by Gainax, Otaku no Video was a two-part live action/animated OVA tracing the (heavily fictionalized) story of the company's rise from a team of nerdy college kids to a major force in the anime industry. It all starts in 1982, when normal dude Kubo runs into his old friend Tanaka, who pulls Kubo into his circle of extremely geeky friends. When Kubo becomes a full-on otaku and loses everything, including his girlfriend, he and Tanaka vow to become the greatest otaku: the Otakings. The rest of the show traces their rags-to-riches rise to Otakinghood.

The live-action segments, titled 'Portrait of an Otaku,' are fictional interviews with geeks of various stripes: anime, cosplay, military, porn, etc. They're largely self-effacing, occasionally unflattering, but awkwardly accurate in many places.

In all this, it's important to remember one thing: 'otaku,' in its original usage, isn't a very nice word at all. It's derived from a second-person honorific that is both awkwardly formal and refers to someone's home. Various writers in the 80s, among them humorist Akio Nakamori, adopted the term as a derogatory name for obsessive fans -- not just of anime and manga, but of anything. 'Otaku' does not indicate what you are interested in, but how obsessed you are with it. And it carries a social stigma with it.

Many want to lay claim to 'otaku' as something more positive, and that's something of a theme of Otaku no Video: the desire to take the stigma dropped on them and morph it into something more acceptable. (The name 'Otaking' was originally bestowed on Toshio Okada, former president of Gainax and one of the people behind Otaku no Video.) In the end, the show is ridiculous and honest, but also uplifting in its own way.

In short, Otaku no Video is sort of the Trekkies of the anime world, with a few extra doses of hot blood thrown in for good measure. And 2016 marks the show's 25th anniversary, which AnimEigo decided to observe by doing a new restored release for which both the budget and the work were crowdsourced.

Who dat. Dat me.

It's no secret to my friends that I was more than a little excited to be a part of this. I originally signed on to be a subtitle editor, but apparently knowing things about a lot of anime of the era meant I ended up on the five-person research team. Which was a crazy fun time. We had a massive Google doc with text in different colours as we took turns identifying and sourcing every reference. (And seriously, there are a lot of them -- to the point that they had to do abridged notes for the DVD release.) It was rough at times -- getting some of the answers to Tanaka's five questions (if you've seen it, you know) required me consulting a former college friend who's now a librarian in Hawaii. But it was like a great big scavenger hunt, and I love knowing just how complete the notes are.

The whole release, incidentally, is beautiful.

Case, small-size artbook, and box.

The insides.

Staff and contributors have already received their copies. The video itself is restored with new subtitles and three commentary tracks. There are also the aforementioned massive liner notes (so massive you have to access the full version online), as well as Premium editions that include a chipboard case and artbook. Higher-price packages also include patches and a Misty May minifig.

Fave part for me? I also got a large-sized hardback artbook with a couple autographs in it. One from the writer, and one from the character designer, Kenichi Sonoda:

And he drew. OMG
A prized possession.

Orders are currently closed, but will open again in early July. If you'd like a copy of your own, visit the official website and keep an eye out for orders to open up again.
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