Nearly 30 years ago, Gainax released Otaku no Video as a love letter to anime fandom and a story (somewhat) about themselves. It’s the story of an “average” guy’s fall into fandom and rise into anime stardom. But it’s also a tongue-in-cheek look at fandom life, and a rags-to-riches spin on the beginning of Gainax.
Several decades later, a lot of its messages hold true. But in hindsight, how accurate is this OVA to the fan experience? We’re looking at five (out of many) things it got right about our lives, our work, and what makes us happy.
That first step is a doozy.
Normal adult man Ken Kubo is the star of Otaku no Video. He’s got a girlfriend, he’s on his college’s tennis team, and he’s generally pretty chill. But in the far-past year of 1982, he falls back in with his old friend Tanaka. And it’s Tanaka and his friends — a house full of nerds of all stripes — who drag Ken back into his fandom fervor.
No matter what you’re into, it’s true that your first plunge into fandom is going to be a crazy one. Sometimes it’s because you’re that jazzed and make yourself a massive reading list. Sometimes, well-meaning friends do that for you. Either way, there’s nothing quite like that first feverish dive into your new favorite thing. And even if it’s not all-encompassing (more on that later), it’s going to live rent free in your head.
You’ll make friends for life.
Friendship isn’t built solely on shared interests, but it’s a good place to start. In Otaku no Video, Ken and Tanaka are comrades-in-arms once again as they navigate their full nerd lifestyle. But Ken also has new friends in Tanaka’s friends. And they’re people of all sorts, with a variety of talents and personalities.
Far from being a lonely hobby, fandom can (if you’re open and friendly) lead to friendships that will last you a lifetime. And most of those close friendships will eventually transcend the hobby aspect — though you’ll never forget how you first met.
Becoming a creator is grueling, but rewarding.
Not everyone takes the step from fan to creator, but those that do know it’s both the worst and best thing ever. Otaku no Video mirrors the rise of Gainax (though it takes several liberties along the way), as a group of fans bring together their knowledge and talent to form an anime studio. It’s a lot harder than just engaging… and it’s a big decision to undertake. But when you do, and when it lands, there’s nothing quite like it.
Just as the minds behind “Giant X” made their own series, Gainax staked their claim in anime with the DAICON III and DAICON IV openings. To this day, they’re still iconic in the anime world. And more new hopefuls are popping up all the time, ready to leave their own mark on the medium.
Being an anime fan can be inspiring.
Why do we get into anime? There are a lot of reasons (many of which are outlined in Otaku no Video), but a common reason is because the stories and characters are inspiring. We can see ourselves in them, especially in shows with underdog protagonists fighting against the odds to achieve their dreams. In that respect, just watching the shows we love can inspire us to push through our own difficult times.
“Otaku” is a deceptive term.
Hey, this is relevant to the site’s title, too! “Otaku,” as you’ve probably heard to death by now, was never meant to be any sort of positive term. In fact, it refers specifically to people so obsessed with their hobbies that they never leave their houses. It’s absolutely possible you take your fandom that far, and even lose touch with your life — and Otaku no Video does demonstrate that. But fans can be, and usually are, so much more than that.
As times goes on, the idea of anime fans as basement-dwellers is becoming less and less applicable. Fandom is always getting more social, more personable, and more outgoing. Social media means fans and creators can talk. Conventions and other events give people opportunities to meet out in the world, and enjoy things together. Most of all (as the “mockumentary” segments show in spite of their comedic intent), fans are in all walks of life. And while there will always be people who fit the stereotype out their somewhere, anime fans of the 21st century are more outgoing and united than ever.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Otaku no Video and celebrate the rise of the otakings!