Part of the “Cool Japan: Otaku Strikes!” series, this program takes cues from all things otaku, Japan’s dorky subculture of poorly socialized pop culture obsessives. Not only have otaku themselves become objects of mainstream media fascination and anxiety in their homeland, the concept has since migrated overseas, giving rise to a meta-geek cargo cult of self-styled “American otaku.” Included are works that are themselves objects of otaku devotion, such as Kizuna, an adaptation of a classic yaoi (erotic gay male comics written for mainly female readers). Two segments from horror-manga artist Hideshi Hino’s live-action “Theater of Horror” series play like nerd-campy Tales From the Crypt, complete with gory humor and outré FX; one, The Boy From Hell, begins with the CGI-assisted decapitation of a schoolboy. More loosely related to fandom, quick-paced yakuza comedy GET UP! follows mobsters who abduct James Brown (played in large hairdo and blue jumpsuit by a margin-ally lookalike American actor), allowing for ample doses of martial-arts slapstick that use the Godfather of Soul as punching-bag punchline. A more direct spoof of über-fan pathology appears in Otakus in Love, a lighthearted rom-com set in the “cosplay” scene (dressing as anime or video game characters). The male lead is a particularly obsessed otaku who draws unmarketable “rock manga”—not manga about rock stars, but manga about actual rocks.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 22, 2005