Remember when “the leading manga-lifestyle entertainment company” (according to their press releases), Tokyopop, took a busload of interns across the country last summer? Now you can live the excitement, as they’ve turned it into a “weekly documentary series” called America’s Greatest Otaku, with new episodes every Thursday on Hulu.
My first thought on watching the 40-minute first episode is that Stu Levy, company founder and guiding force, doesn’t have the voice to be the host and narrator, but after watching the show for a bit, I got over that. He also seemed to relax once he was interviewing people, although the fake acting (as in the game company segment) was embarrassing.
Early on, they explain the term “otaku”, starting with the statement that if you already know what it means, you are one. Otherwise, it’s a dedicated, passionate fan of something Japanese. The eight episodes cover 20 cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Albuquerque, Phoenix, San Diego, Oklahoma, Nashville, Baltimore, Washington D.C., New York City, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Louisville, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Chicago. The final episode will name a “winner” among the nineteen fans spotlighted, with the prize of a trip to Tokyo, with highlights from the visit shown as well. Along the way, they visit otaku spots — conventions, maid cafes, and the like — and interview people involved with the culture or the customers.
It’s filmed in the same style as your typical low-budget reality show, similar to something you’d see on VH1 on a Sunday afternoon. I wanted to turn the show off at first, but once I got through the first five minutes, I found myself a lot more interested. The different clips of visiting locations and events are to-the-point, not too long, nicely diverse, and entertaining. My favorites were the cosplayers who make their own costumes. I wish I knew more about the characters they were emulating, so I could better appreciate their craft.
The post-it-style annotations explaining the geek references were helpful, and a neat visual touch. When it comes to the cast, Diana is really cute, especially in costume, but I wanted to slap the glasses off of the wannabe manga artist with the ugly orange goggles he rarely removes. I didn’t get much sense of them as personalities, though, because Stu takes up so much of the on-screen time. (That’s supposed to change in future episodes.) For another opinion on the show, Sean Kleefeld also liked what he saw.