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Otaku Unite! (2005) – DVD Review

Otaku Unite! DVD


Directed by Eric Bresler
Starring Steve Bennett, Carl Macek, Jonny Otaku, Fred Patten, Frederik Schodt, Scott Frazier, and Dave Merrill


  • Running audio commentary with director Bresler
  • Philly Live news spot/interview
  • Kaiju Big Battel commercials
  • Premiere featurette
  • Cosplay gallery

Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:

  • More fun than you can shake a magical girl baton at
  • Enough cat ears to choke a whale
  • Giant Domo-kun
  • Girls cuter than you are
  • The ugly truth behind Pocky additions

Released by: Central Park Media
Region: 1
Rating: Safe for all ages
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Get it if you know what “doujinshi” means.

[ad#longpost]There but by the grace of God go I. Yes, there is something terribly frightening about how these people think putting on a badly designed costume (or even a well-designed one) will make them look “just like” Sailor Moon, Ultraman, or Lum, when really they just look like a doofus with yarn on their head. But if truth were told, we all have a little bit of otaku in us, even in the sense the Japanese use the word, which is less “plain old normal fan” and more “scary, bizarre, socially inept fanboy.” Besides, there’s something endearing about people who can love something so much and love it unabashedly and publicly, even if it makes them look like a doofus with yarn on their head.

Otaku Unite is a kind of call for anime fans everywhere to band together and spread the love of this marvelous medium to all and sundry. It’s a bit of the convert by the dove or by the sword in its mentality, but every field has their apologists, so why not anime? The documentary traces the progression of anime fandom from isolated, socially marginalized groups to the sweeping, inclusive cultural phenomenon it is today. No longer will a statement such as, “I think Akane should dump Ranma for Ryoga” be met with blank glances. No, today it’s more likely to be met with someone pressing Kuno’s suit instead, and this general enlightenment is due at least in part to individuals and clubs who would not give up.

The bulk of the program is interview footage from conventions across the country. This means that anime fans unable to attend such cons or unable to dress up were pretty much unrepresented (with some notable exceptions), but such is life. The directors did a fantastic job of chasing down industry experts, such as they are, as in certain artists and celebrities. All of the interviews were handled very professionally; nowhere is there a sense of “look at these idiots.” The information presented and gleaned from these talking heads is simultaneously interesting and entertaining. There’s also a healthy does of snippets from the classic anime programs that inspired the birth of the movement.

The docu focuses rather heavily upon a perceived sense of solidarity shared by otaku everywhere. Being basically a pro-otaku piece, there is no discussion of any snobberies or rivalries that anime fans everywhere have encountered, nor is there a serious investigation of any of the “downsides” of anime, such as the pervasive presence of under-age characters engaged in a host of inappropriate situations. However, for what it intends to do, which is laud the fandom that refused to die, it does a good job. Anime fandom is a huge and complex phenomenon now, and no single documentary can really hope to encompass all of that, much less investigate what it is about anime that inspires such rabid devotion. Just sit back and appreciate the peek into the “scene.”

The entire disc has the feel of a special feature, a kind of “behind the scenes in anime fandom,” but the disc also has some features of its own. We get a director’s commentary track, some hysterical Kaiju Big Battel commercials, a featurette of the documentary’s premiere at Anime Weekend Atlanta, a cosplay gallery, and an interview with the producer/director/editor, Eric Bresler, on a Philadelphia news show. It’s interesting that a disc about anime fandom has more features than most anime releases, though clearly the disc should come with a giant box of Morinaga Milk Caramel for me.

Any anime fan will want to at least see this show and revel in the love. Parents, friends, children, and spouses of otaku will also want to watch it in order to more fully understand the attractions in fandom, if not necessarily those inherent in anime itself. Cosplay fans will particularly eat this up, as well as sociologists and others interested in contemporary culture. Add this disc to your collection today, and embrace your inner otaku!

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