Table of Contents
Here are the translated contents of the insert included in the Japanese Blu-Ray edition of Otaku no Video.
An ordinary college student, Kubo is a member of the Tennis club and has a cute girlfriend. One day, he bumps into his high school classmate, Tanaka, and innocently stumbles into the vast worlds of the Otaku: anime, science fiction, military fandom, and many more. Initially infatuated by Otakudom, Kubo soon realizes that Otaku hobbies are not understood by the general public. Thus, he decides to take action and become the king of Otaku: the “Otaking”…
Released as an OVA in 1991, Otaku no Video (OnV) depicts the cultural ecology of the early Otaku who supported the anime movement in 1980s Japan.
The production company, Gainax, was formed by a group of university students in Osaka, many of whom had worked in the DAICON FILM production unit. Gainax consisted of 4 sections: Anime (including ANNO Hideaki), which had just completed its first TV series, Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (The Secret of Blue Water, 1990-91); Computer Games, led by AKAI Takami, which had become heroes of the PC-gaming world in Japan and created smash hits such as Dennō Gakuen (Cybernetic Hi-School) and Princess Maker; General Products, which produced and sold garage kits and organized the kit-focused Wonder Festival; and the Manga Editorial section, which produced the manga magazine Cyber Comics.
Around the time OnV was released, Gainax was planning OVAs based on original manga, such as Honō wo Tenkōsei (Blazing Transfer Student), Naki no Ryū, and //Money Wars//. They produced Nadia’s “Omake Theater” for the LD Boxset of the TV series and created the Nadia PC game. Gainax also launched the first large-scale US anime convention, AnimeCon '91, in San Jose.
Using Gainax's own history as reference material, OnV fictionalized the road to success for the oppressed Otaku minority as they capitalized on their Otaku strengths.
A distinguishing feature of OnV is the live-action “Portrait of an Otaku” segments inserted between anime chapters. Using a “mockumentary” style, they depict Otaku who are into anime, pop stars, the military, games featuring cute girls, and so on. Interestingly, all of the Otaku featured are well-aware of the fact that they are targets of persecution for the general public. The live-action sections further emphasize the Otaku's self-tormenting natures by using mosaic pixelation, vocal distortion, and narration by voice actor ŌTSUKA Akio. These scenes are precious historical records of the social status of early-stage Otaku and how they viewed themselves in relation to society.
The OnV staff included OKADA Toshio (Planning and Screenplay), who later came to call himself the Otaking; YAMAGA Hiroyuki, the current president of Gainax (and who ghostwrote the screenplay under name OKADA); and composer TANAKA Kōhei, a leading figure in anime music. Other staff included veterans from Top o Nerae (Gunbuster), and manga artist SONODA Ken’ichi (Character Design), who had been very close to General Products and Gainax since their early days in Osaka. MORI Takeshi (Director), MASUO Shōichi (Animation Effects), HIGUCHI Shinji (Storyboards, Live-action Cinematography), HONDA Takeshi (Animation Director), MATSUBARA Hidenori (Animation Director), and SATSUKAWA Akio (Editing) were all Nadia alumni. The live-action segments were structured by KANDA Yoshimi and portrayed by General Products, Cyber Comics Editorial, and Gainax staff. Special support was provided by Studio Fantasia, who made Blazing Transfer Student that same year.
These days, the entire country is pitching itself with the PR phrase “Cool Japan.” While it was an important title during its time, OnV is even more relevant today, because it depicts the origin of “Cool Japan” and correctly predicted the future.
NOTE: Please enjoy the high quality of the animation on this Blu-ray, which was created using a digital remastering from the original 35mm negatives. The live-action parts were upconverted from analog video masters. A different opening animation version was used in the DVD release, but the original LD opening animation was restored for the Blu-ray.
Column: Otaku are Blood Brothers Sharing the Same Destiny
by Cultural Critic KIRIDŌSHI Risaku
By the time Gainax had produced Otaku no Video (OnV) in the early ‘90s, the term “Otaku” had already become widely known to the Japanese public. The story in OnV was modeled after the rapid growth of Gainax and their ‘80s Otaku business model.
It all began with a jack-of-all-trades SF fan circle that attracted fans of many genres, like anime, special effects, pop stars, and the military. The circle worked on selling garage kits, only to face a wall of copyright issues. To overcome this obstacle, they came up with the solution of making their own anime.
Typically, you want to make an anime or movie first. However, the circle wanted to start with the byproducts – garage kits. This reverse-order motivation was their unique “special sauce.”
They focused their obsessive love for existing media's details on producing and reconfiguring them. Then, they moved on to making actual products. However, they did not just sell the products themselves, but also the culture associated with those products. In OnV, they clearly depict how the Otaku culture emerged and developed.
OKADA Toshio wrote in his book YUIGON (Will) that OnV was inspired by the Otaku-bashing triggered by the infamous serial-killer case in the Tokyo and Saitama regions. However, this particular case was not included in the key timeline events, which appear as typewritten screens, during OnV. This may have been deliberately done to direct attention towards the subject.
One of OnV’s unique features is its depiction of how non-Otaku view Otaku. For example, the main character, Kubo, starts as a member of a tennis club but gradually becomes Otakunized, resulting in the loss of his girlfriend, Yoshiko. In the live-action “Portrait of an Otaku” mockumentaries, subjects avoid discussing their love lives.
After OnV was made, in The End of Evangelion, the young boy Shinji chokes the girl Asuka and she tells him, “You're creepy.” The way she looks at Shinji springs from this earlier film (OnV). In Gainax titles, [the staff] are not just looking at themselves from an insider’s perspective, but also nervously depicting how they are viewed from the outside.
In OnV, the outsider’s point of view is expressed by questioning if typical excuses like “military fans are peace lovers” are really true, or by using the willingness of anime fans to buy stolen cels to show Otaku’s incompatible embrace of pure love and desire.
However, Kubo is not at all like Shinji; Kubo is passionate. He is a huge fan of older Shōwa-era anime and its stalwart heroes. Come to think of it, this is characteristic of the era in which OnV was made.
In the first episode, “1982 OnV,” the pre-Otakunized Kubo is into tennis and mercilessly defeats his friend Yōko. After, she berates him for his tenacity. In all the years since I first saw this scene, I have never forgotten it.
Otaku are passionate. The passion of Otaku is the root of Otakuness. In the ‘80s, it was cool to play and work casually. In contrast, Otaku devoted themselves to what they loved without any reservations. That is why, after all, when they decide to return to the world of their devotion, it will welcome them back with open arms.
That’s right; just as in Eight Dogs of the East, Otaku are blood brothers sharing a common destiny. Even if the Earth comes to an end before they die, they will depart together into the future.
MORI Takeshi (Director)
I first heard about Otaku no Video when the last episode of Nadia was finished. Nadia director ANNO Hideaki asked me if I was interested in directing OnV. As I recall, it was after the first half’s scenarios and storyboards had been completed. Given the limited schedule, we used the existing materials for the first half, and for latter half we decided to go wild and make the story insanely large. The Nadia alumni (talk about a top-notch staff!) joined in, so it was very pleasant project to work on. HIGUCHI Shinji did the storyboards for “Part Two”; it was his idea to make it Citizen Kane-esque, so that was why we ended up making it that way. Luckily, we got TANAKA Kōhei to do the music, and I remember I gave him a tough request: “Can we make it with ‘oldies’ music?” We were of the same generation as the main characters, so to us, the [show’s] contents were both sentimental and embarrassing. However, all in all, it is a very good memory for me. I enjoyed working with many good voice actors, such as TSUJITANI-san, SAKURAI-san, and INOUE-san.
KANDA Yoshimi (Producer)
I remember that it was my idea to insert the live-action parts into OnV. I suggested adding the Otaku as metaphors by using the so-called mockumentary style – these Otaku were all, in fact, parts of me, although I was NOT a cel thief (Laughs). We assembled a separate team to work on the live-action parts while another team worked on the anime. HIGUCHI Shinji (the live-action cinematographer) was working on another job at the same time, so we put a mosaic effect on his name in the ending credits – of course, you can easily tell who it was anyway… (Laughs). To me, “1982” and “1985” are two separate products. “1982” is the story of the youthful days of OKADA Toshio and Gainax. Using “1982” as the base story, “1985” is totally fictional. The fun part is that “1985” accidentally became a “Book of Prophecy.” The situation surrounding Otaku culture these days is pretty much what was depicted in “1985.”
INOMATA Kazuhiko (Producer)
This project originated with a suggestion from OKADA Toshio-san. In the wake of the MIYAZAKI Tsutomu case (which involved a notorious serial killer who preyed on girls and who was also into anime), a very negative image of Otaku was prevalent in Japan. We wanted to counter-attack and make an anime that let people know of the greatness of Otaku. Otaku hated being called Otaku, but we wanted them to be open and proud to be such. Looking back from today in that regard, OnV facilitated an important turning point in Japanese anime obtaining world-wide recognition. Without the people in this anime – in other words, the Gainax people who produced it – anime culture might not have become the success it is today. The fact that OnV is highly regarded outside Japan says it all. Lastly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my co-worker KUBO Misuzu, who assisted me on this project.
HIGUCHI Shinji ("1985" Live-Action Storyboard/Cinematography)
You know, in this business, sometimes you are lucky enough to run into somebody you’ve adored for years. There's a show you've watched since you were a kid, and this person was in charge of a legendary episode and did a particular scene. You have millions of questions about how the scene and the show were made, that sort of thing. Then, you hear one thing, just one thing, that crushes all of your dreams: “Huh?! I don’t remember. Were things like that?” How could he possibly forget? He did such spectacular things, and even he wouldn’t be able to reproduce that amazing scene…and then he just forgot about it?!
When this happened to me, I was totally disappointed and heartbroken, and I decided he was just another dirty, stinky-sock-wearing old man. I now truly want to apologize to that old stinky-sock man from the bottom of my heart. Because – I am so sorry – I am now the one who just cannot remember anything once I've seen the finished white box 1) of the DVD.
The only thing I remember about this project is that I did the cinematography. I didn’t even have an assistant, so I was adjusting the tripod positions up and down and up and down all day long. I touched the tripod's metal stoppers to adjust them so many times, I ended up becoming allergic to metal. Ever since then, I can't wear anything metal. Therefore, I think I should demote myself down to old stinky-sock man. This really is divine punishment.
Special Comments (from others in the industry)
Manga Artist, Aoi Honō and Blazing Transfer Student
This is a masterpiece of Gainax animation. They were trying something new while not forgetting to aim for a hit. The opening song is so exciting, and I don’t know why, but the ending development gives everyone energy. It still touches my heart. And the character designs by SONODA Ken’ichi are so cute! I still adore them. However, this story still stirs up complicated feelings. Gainax – tell me why you made this, and for whom you made it. It's still a mystery to me.
Manga Artist, Mobile Police Patlabor
It's both funny and sad, the path of the Otaku… ugh, OW! Viewing Aoi Honō made us feel uneasy, then this again! Why are you releasing it, again, on Blu-ray [this time]? Is this some kind of sadistic game? It’s truly painful!
For Otaku, the 1980s was a time replete with bittersweet memories that still shine in our hearts; a time we truly cherish.
That is all I can say.
Director, Screenwriter/Author of Kaiyōdō Sōseiki (Genesis of Kaiyōdō)
It has been a while since Otaku were called names like creepy, embarrassing, smelly, and so on, but now that I review this title, I notice that the Otaku of that time were well-aware of their creepiness and lack of style. After more than a quarter of a century, Otaku culture has grown dramatically. I think the secret of its growth was the Otaku's critical, self-tormenting spirit, how they laughed about their own issues, and their high motivation to maintain their passion, as if every day were a college festival. I think the Otaku movement was a cultural shift comparable to the Taisho Modernism Movement in Japanese history. Those Otaku who kept on fighting are still successful and on the front lines of artistic development. OnV is a precious record of the spirit of its time.