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AnimEigo presents
Otaku No Video (1982/1985)

"Are we really that weird? Is it a crime to love anime or SFX movies?"
- Kobo (Tsujiya Kuji)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: April 24, 2002

Stars: Kooji Tsujiya, Toshiharu Sakurai, Yuuko Kobayashi, Kikuko Inoue
Other Stars: Yuri Amano, Shigeru Nakahara, Tomoyuki Morikawa, Masami Kikuchi, Norio Tobita, Wataru Takagi, Hedeyuki Umezu, Junichi Kanemaru, Kikoyuki Someda, Rena Kurihara, Takako Kikuchi, Akio Ootsuka
Director: Mori Takeshi

Manufacturer: Vu Media
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief nudity, adult situations)
Run Time: 01h:37m:00s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B+ C+

DVD Review

How would life be without fans? For every conceivable pastime there is the enthusiast, be it sports, music, movies, literature, what have you. In Japan, an otaku is someone who is fanatical about one of their interests, sometimes to the exclusion of all else in their lives. In America, the word has been adopted as a status symbol to denote a dedicated anime fan, which doesn't have the same negative connotations associated with it as in its country of origin. Otaku No Video (literally "fan's video") is an exposé of otakudom, in a light-hearted animated story intercut with fictionalized, live action interview segments with admitted "otakus."

Kobo is your average college freshman, with a passion for tennis. One night while returning home early from drinking, Kobo runs into Tanaka, an old high school chum, who is out with a group of his friends. Tanaka is the leader of a "circle," a collection of die-hard fans with a variety of interests. When Kobo is introduced to their world of anime and science fiction, he is hooked, and begins his transition into otakudom. As his obsession with this hobby grows, he becomes less and less interested in his former lifestyle, finally succumbing to fandom. Kobo asks how an obsession with anime or special effects movies is any different than being a rabid fan of sport or any other hobby, but realizing that he is no longer accepted by society, he decides to take otakudom to its limits, as the ultimate fan.

Containing both the original 1982 OVA and its 1985 sequel, which continues Kobo and Tanaka's story, Otaku No Video is a loosely fictionalized adaptation of the history of the show's producers, GAINAX, who created anime masterworks such as FLCL, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Karekano (aka His and Her Circumstances) and Nadia, Secret of Blue Water. The animated tale, done up as a "mockumentary," does a great job poking fun at the company and the world of obsessive fans. The spirit and passion of the otaku is laid bare, in all its glory and eccentricity.

The live otaku interviews are another matter, and add another dimension to the humor, albeit not in an overtly intentional manner. The "interviewees" are incognito, using false identities, and have their faces pixelated and voices altered to protect their identities. They aren't just anime fanatics, but also are into weaponry or pornography, and the extremes of their obsessions are pretty apparent, from the former cosplayer who denies his history, to the guy with specially designed glasses to reduce the censoring of his porno films, or the one who deflects questions about having a real girlfriend by commenting on how hot the character in an animated hentai game is. As we delve into the world of the otaku, we are presented with an interesting, though sometimes frightening perspective of people for whom these interests have become all consuming.

As both its strength and its weakness, Otaku No Video is infused with in-jokes and references to early anime series (pre 1985)—Urusei Yatsura, Space Battleship Yamato, Gundam, Macross, early Ghibli and lots more—and much of the humor comes from the tie-ins or spin-offs of these shows or the early industry days, much of which would be unfamiliar to newer fans of the genre. Fortunately, there are liner notes to expose many of these details—this is one title that will grow in its enjoyment potential as the viewer's exposure to classic series is increased. Otaku No Video is a title every anime fan should have in their collection.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Video quality is quite clean, with good coloration, and solid black levels. The anime looks good, with minimal aliasing, only a hint of compression issues, and extremely limited cross-coloration. The live video segments are purposefully less spectacular, with a real home video feel to them.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseno


Audio Transfer Review: Japanese audio is presented well. The anime segments have a solid stereo soundstage, fair frequency response and limited directionality. The live episodes are purposefully degraded to enhance their authenticity. The only technical issue was a brief skipping in the audio when the "seamless" branching kicked in, but I suspect this will vary from player to player. Compare the Japanese voiceover/subs to the actual English spoken in the American otaku segment for a good laugh at the liberal translation.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Playback options
  2. Image slideshow gallery
  3. Liner notes
Extras Review: The disc opens with a fairly lengthy animated segment before going to the main menu, which in turn is presented with an animated background that changes as you select the different options. However, this feature does degrade the speed at which options are selected, and there is no going backwards from the top option to the bottom.

Some of the extras on this disc are unique due to the style of the program material. Since both versions of Otaku No Video contain both animated and live action sequences, we have the option to view the disc in normal (both animated and live action), animation only or live action (interviews) only. This is done using branching, which means each segment of the film is encoded as its own chapter, disabling the time display. While playing straight through didn't seem a problem, this may lead to some unexpected behavior when chapter skipping, depending on your player.

The setup screen has the subtitle preferences and chapter stop menu access. There are three subtitle/caption options that require a bit of explanation, since there are some features in the live action segments that change the most. The first option (subtitles, captions on) provides English subtitle translations for dialogue, plus translations of written text. This choice would be the default for most English speakers, and adds the second angle function at the end of the interview segments where the graphs are displayed in translated form. The second option (subtitles off, captions on) translates written text only. Opening titles, and written text are translated, but dialogue is not, except for a caption during the narration that is provided over the Japanese graphs at the end of the interview segments. The third option is the raw Japanese version, with no English whatsoever.

Access to the chapter menus must be preceded by setting the playback options. There are 12 animation chapters and 10 live action chapters in separate submenus. I found this a bit awkward with no overall chapter menu.

A 99-image slide show is included, and interestingly, each picture is chapter stopped. This is presented as though from an audience perspective in a theatre, with a static foreground graphic of the audience, and the screen area changing with each image.

A trailer is also included.

Last, but certainly not least, are the heart of an AnimEigo release, the liner notes, which are copious. Presented on a set of recipe sized cards, we have a cornucopia of trivia for the show, which is both welcomed and necessary. From the origins of the work "otaku" through as many of the in-jokes they were able to find, the text here covers a lot of ground, pointing out many of the series referenced, and the significance of various things seen in the show. The cards are meant to be separated, so trying to read them as packed is a somewhat bizarre task, but if you know the secret handshake you should have no problem. A complete set of song lyrics is also included in both English and romanji.

I would also mention that our review copy is plagued with a very obnoxious odor, but I haven't determined its exact cause. I don't normally go around sniffing my discs, but this is extremely offensive and nauseating, so be forewarned.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Combining anime with live video footage, Otaku No Video presents a portrait of the otaku, and as such, is an essential for any serious anime fan's collection. The multiple viewing options and thorough liner notes greatly enhance the title's enjoyability. Recommended.

 


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