Side B – Portrait of an otaku
The “portrait of an otaku” portions of the OVA seemed to look real as, unlike other anime based OVAs before or since, it incorporates live action bits every time the anime part ends.
These “otaku no shouzou” interview segments were structured to be some kind of a documentary like interviews to the point that, sometimes, it kind felt like ambush interviews to the point that on one of the interviews, they had to ask one of the interviewees if they ever had friends or even had sex.
At first, they censored part of their faces until they got to the military otaku part wherein they didn’t even bother putting up the façade of censoring their faces but at least the kept the voices altered to “protect anonymity”, we’ll get into that.
After such interviews, there are these “surveys” showing how many did cosplay, how many are these type of otaku and more of that nature narrated by Akio Otsuka. I, for one, am not sure where did GAINAX pull up those numbers. Maybe they really did some surveys or they just pulled up the numbers up their ass or GP did their own surveys and then GAINAX used those as materials. Who know? They never cite their sources but knowing about the nature of this OVA, I think these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.
Back then, I thought that GAINAX interviewed total strangers who happened to be otaku only to find out that the people they interviewed were mostly actually GAINAX employees, at least that’s what the internet believes or believed back then until such interviews came along 10 years after More Otaku no Video got released confirming that some of the interviews were, in fact, unscripted.
Such is the example of the “Shon Hernandez” interview wherein it was totally unscripted that years later, Lea Hernandez, told us that Craig York, the person who played “Shon”, together with Lea and Shon Howell (get it?) were the main core of General Products USA, one of Gainax’s failed ventures (and more of that will come their way post-Evangelion so much so that Anno cuts ties with GAINAX out of disappointment).
The “Shon” interview was so unscripted that what comes out of Craig York’s mouth is totally different from what the GAINAX production team used to dub over York’s voice and they did a sloppy job of covering it up.
The other interview that comes out as unscripted was the garage kit interview wherein Hiroki Sato, one of the aforementioned GAINAX members involved in this project, just let his colleagues go inside his house and record and Hiroki rambled away about how garage kits are superior to other branches of anime merchandise, especially plastic models.
Mr. Sato’s intentions were pure and noble but he kind of missed the mark when it comes to his predictions that garage kits will take over plamo in years that nobody will ever buy kits from the store because the inverse of that happened as people decided that nah, creating your own kits are a pain in the ass and so the majors decided to increase production rates to the point that nobody makes their own kits anymore.
Most of the interview segments were fine and all until the last one as it went from daytime talk show to Dateline NBC as they tracked down Hidehiko Uesaka who, according to the “journos”, was outed to be a true otaku (whatever that means) as a result of almost two months’ worth of investigation, so much so that it devolved into a chase sequence when Uesaka avoided cameras and pushed the journos down just to escape. Talk about sudden change of pacing, man.
These interviews show, as the title says, the “portrait” of the then underground otaku scene in the late 80s to early 90s as being this odd, wild, mysterious underbelly of Japanese society to the point that even gaijins are coming to Japan just to get anime stuff and how much different it is from the Japanese mainstream media at the time wherein you’re bombarded with LINDBERG, B’z, Miho Nakayama, Dragon Ball Z, Music Station, Nintendo, Dragon Quest and the like 24/7 that it’s so inescapable and so that they, the otaku, had to stay away from those things just to be different.
It also showed how GAINAX was close to the community they are working with. Unlike people in major studios like Toei and Pierrot, they are unashamed to be otaku, so much so, that now, they used their connections with the fanbase to promote themselves and gain money while we’re at it.
However, it also showed why otaku, at the time and still today, are ashamed to reveal their “power level” to the rest of the society because of the negative image that was attributed to them thanks to some bad eggs in the community (cases in point: Mr. A, Osamu Akabori, and the cel thief Akira Muryama) plus the connections of the word “otaku” to one Tsutomu Miyazaki as the word “otaku” was always paired with the word “killer” because Miyazaki murdered four girls in an abandoned forest in Saitama in 1989. 1989 must have been a bad year in Japan in general with Hirohito dying, plus this and the Junko Furuta murder coming in to destroy Japanese society into the 90s plus the fact that the housing economy bubble busted heading into the Lost Deacde.
With regards to the content, this didn’t stick with my college self then when I watched this but as I rewatched this for the purposes of this review, I liked these segments more than the Ken Kubo anime plot and how, at the very least, grounded to reality the segments are as, even in the PH and US weeb circles, aren’t as glamorous as what the animated part shows.
In fact, it shows us the degeneracy and how disgusting otaku can be in real life that once you grew out of that phase, you don’t want to be associated with the community you once belonged to but at the same time, you reminisce those times of “innocence” and naivety of being a part of a community that shared for your love for anime, manga, idols, tokusatsu and the like. As Char Aznable said “Nobody ever likes to admit to mistakes due to his own youth.”