Anime OVA Review: Otaku no Video

Otaku no Video is an original video animation that was released in two parts in Japan during 1991. The OVA was produced by Gainax, and it was directed by Takeshi Mori.

Otaku no Video
English Publisher: Animeigo
Format: DVD
Release Date: November 20, 2001

This OVA is a comedy anime spoof, and it spoofs such things as the culture and life of otaku, people who have obsessive interests in media, as well as the history of Gainax and its creators. What’s interesting to note is that Otaku no Video combines both a traditional anime storytelling fashion and conventional live-action documentary film styles.

In the anime portion of the first Otaku no Video OVA, which is set in 1982, the main character is a normal Japanese guy named Ken Kubo. At the beginning of the piece, he’s a member of his college’s tennis team and he’s dating a girl named Yoshiko. One day, he meets up with Tanaka, a former high school classmate who is also happens to be a geek. After Tanaka brings Ken into his circle of friends, Ken finds himself attracted to the otaku lifestyle, and he ends up quitting the tennis team and adopting the habits and lifestyle of otaku. Yoshiko ends up dumping Ken, and the first part ends with Ken declaring he’ll be the Otaking, the King of all Otaku.

In the anime portion of the second OVA, which is set in 1985 at the beginning of it, Ken and Tanaka create their own model kits and open a store. The kits become so successful that they open more stores and build a factory in China. Unfortunately, Ken loses it all when one of his rivals, who has married Yoshiko, takes over the company. The rest of the OVA shows what Ken ends up doing to try to be the Otaking.

Interspersed throughout the two OVAs are the live-action mock documentary pieces titled, “A Portrait of an Otaku.” The documentary crew interviews various anonymous otaku, and the footage is complete with blurring faces and changing people’s voices; in addition, pseudonyms are used for all of the interview subjects. Many of the interview subjects are supposedly ashamed of being otaku. There are also some fans in the mocukmentary pieces who engage illicit or unsavory activities.

I have to admit that when I first started watching Otaku no Video, the switching from the anime story to the live-action mockumentaries was a little jarring. However, as it went on, it didn’t feel nearly as jumpy; my guess is that I had come to expect it and had become so used to it that it stopped bothering me.

Overall, the anime portion of Otaku no Video tells a rather interesting story, even if the ending is a little on the strange side. The story seems rather logical in its narrative, especially since there’s a number of parodies included through both of the OVAs. When watching this piece, it was obvious that the anime portion was done in the early 1990s; you could tell by how the animation looked and the overall feel of the production. This does date Otaku no Video to some extent, but some of the humor can still hold its own today.

Now that I’ve gotten to know more about anime over the past few years, many of the early 1980s characters that the characters cosplay as make more sense to me. I noticed Char Aznable from Mobile Suit Gundam, Lum from Urusei Yatsura, Arale-chan from Dr. Slump, Captain Harlock, Cobra from Space Adventure Cobra and Susumu Kodai from Space Battleship Yamato. Having this knowledge made Otaku no Video a more enjoyable viewing experience for than it would have been otherwise. I also enjoyed seeing the various references to Super Dimension Fortress Macross that appeared throughout the two OVAs.

I think special mention should be made for the ending songs for both of the OVAs; by reading the English subtitles, I could see how funny some of the lyrics to these songs were rather funny. The opening theme song is also rather catchy.

Admittedly, a work like Otaku no Video is going to hold the strongest appeal to anime viewers who have some kind of knowledge of anime and the anime industry from the 1980s. Viewers who have gotten into anime in more recent years and really don’t have knowledge of anime in the time period this is set in probably won’t understand some of the humor in the piece.

After watching Otaku no Video, I can’t say that while it’s not a great OVA, it’s not bad, either. Since I’ve heard this OVA being referenced quite a bit by a number of long-time anime fans, I’m glad I finally saw it and now have a better understanding of the Otaku no Video references that I’ve seen. It’s definitely worth watching for the historical perspective.

When it comes to the DVD itself, there are only two bonus features included. One is an image gallery which is a slideshow that runs for about four or five minutes in length; unfortunately, the viewer has no control over when the pictures in the slideshow change. The only other feature is a trailer for the second Otaku no Video OVA. While there may not be much in the way of bonuses here, I’m not going to complain. This is probably a case where the Japanese licensor either didn’t have much to provide for extras or the licensor wasn’t willing to provide much for bonus features.

I would definitely say that Otaku no Video needs to be seen by anime viewers who want to have a better understanding of the earlier years of the anime industry, as well as by viewers who have enjoyed the work that has been created by the Gainax anime studio.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Otaku no Video that my husband and I purchased.

Additional post about works by Gainax:

One comment

  1. thefitzgeraldtimes · August 31, 2013

    I have yet to see this.

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