Thoughts on America’s Greatest Otaku #5

Team Mangaloids enjoy smoking ninja food in a restaurant I would go to if I weren't terrified of people pretending to stab me while I eat- seriously, that's what they do at Ninja NYC.

Now that we’re past the halfway point, how is this show being received, anyway? I don’t see much talk about it online (other than the quasi-pathetic group that cropped up when the show started to say that it was not cool enough for them, for they must be so, so cool), yet according to analytics, a lot of the visitors to Otakusphere seem to come here looking for more about this show. Also, I do tend to avoid the corners of the internet where the comments would annoy the hell out of me, which is 99% of the internet, so I really don’t know what’s going on anyway.

This week, the show led to my pondering some interesting questions that I wasn’t expecting: namely, how important is the social aspect of being an otaku? The challenge this week was participation, because apparently, being a fan means going out and doing things and meeting people. See, in practice, aside from conventions I’m not sure being an otaku necessarily has anything to do with being social- unless you count venting on the internet after the latest episode of something. However, ideally, people would use their otaku traits to make new friends, and take us all just a tiny step closer to world peace. I think this show is talking about what otaku ideally should be, other than what they often are, which is interesting to me- but then again, it’s “Greatest Otaku”, not “Most (Sadly) Representative Otaku.”

The Otaku 6 in My Backyard

Meanwhile, on the parallel reality show known as Top Enthusiastic Bus Rider, Team D&D got stuck with a sub-par city that hampered their challenge performance. Now, don’t hate me, Washington D.C. denizens- I’m not saying it’s a bad city, I’m saying it’s kind of a terrible city when your other two alternatives are Baltimore (DURING OTAKON, which is critical) and NYC.

Of course, Team Mangaloids in the Big Apple didn’t go to any of the venues I would have expected- I was thinking they would stop by Kinokuniya NYC, a great Toy Shop called Toy Tokyo, or maybe some of the better-known comic stores that carry lots of manga, but no dice. Instead, they go to a Lewis-Caroll inspired tea-shop (which I’d heard of before and looks awesome and delicious, but I think the otaku connection might be kind of tenuous even for me) and a ninja-themed restaurant, which was amazing. It’s like the PSX Tenchu games, only they feed you.

I honestly can’t believe I’ve lived within easy commuting distance of NYC for this long and actually hadn’t heard of this awesome restaurant with ninja waiters that do tricks and light things on fire- that said, I’m probably not going to go because I’m too chicken. I’m notorious for freaking out terribly whenever anyone sneaks up behind me, so this place would be like some weird combination of Japanese-restaurant-nirvana and a hell dimension crafted just for me.

See, it's nonsense like this I just can't abide by- these people are trying to EAT.

I was also a tad disappointed with the Otakon 2010 coverage, not only because I wasn’t in it, but because they didn’t show the tremendously frightening fire alarm scare that caused thousands of cosplayers to pour out onto the street like several packs of hungry wildebeasts. Now, I’m not a filmmaker, but if I was making a documentary and that just happened to be going on, I would take note.

Your Weekly Challenge Update:

I realize I now officially care more about this stupid contest than everyone who was ever on the bus put together, but there does seem to be some method to the “challenge” business; the wins for the individual teams do count towards an overall score. Right now, Team D&D are in the lead with two challenge wins; let’s see if Levy keeps nerfing their challenge-winning powers by continually sending them to nowheresville. I know, I know, it’s supposedly random, but I’m wise to Tokyopop and their tricks.

I would call nonsense on Team S&S winning the participation challenge, since even by reality show standards, being assigned to find self-professed otaku at an event called “Otaku Convention” while your competitors have to awkwardly tiptoe across the White House lawn is kind of unfair, but- perhaps chastened by everyone’s poor performance last week- they went above and beyond the call of duty by getting what looked like every single person at the entire convention on camera. Well, except for me, but I probably wouldn’t have done it right because when they asked me “Say ‘I’m America’s Greatest Otaku!'”, I would be all like “Please define ‘greatest’ so I know whether or not I speak a falsehood.”

Go Ask Alice

This episode also had the distinction of being co-hosted by M. Alice Legrow, creator of the Bizenghast manga. While this was a good thing, I think Alice (M. Alice? Ms. Legrow?) was underutilized- she didn’t get to do anything when she met up with the Mangaloids in NYC, and we didn’t really see much of her until the end credits montage. I think this was a minor editing issue- or a major editing issue, if you’re a Bizenghast fan.

Time for a barely-relevant side story: I once worked at a Barnes and Noble that had a Bizenghast standee on display; apparently, Legrow called and requested the standee, because she hadn’t received one from Tokyopop, and she came and picked it up. And they said I wasn’t a manga-industry insider!

Best:The interview with Natsu Onoda Power, who has one of the world’s cooler cross-cultural names. Her book on Tezuka now occupies a high place on my soon-to-read list. Also, even though it was once again on the fringes of otakudom, Stephan and Sully’s visit to the Geppi Museum was fun. Actually, when Sully pointed out the Batman comic, it occurred to me that he has pretty much the perfect voice and demeanor to pull off the Robin “Holy Cattle Ranchers, Batman!” thing.

Worst: The fact that NYC and Otakon shared ONE EPISODE. I kind of admire the show for giving those two venues no more time than say, Louisville and Oklahoma City for the sake of treating the whole nation with otaku respect, but is it realistic? They could have filled an entire episode just with Otakon, and it would have been totally justified; meanwhile, I’m not psyched about the locations next week, but maybe I’ll be surprised.

New Feature: People!

This week, I’m going to do something I probably should have been doing all along and comment a bit on the actual AGO contestants. Now, before anyone gets miffed, I’m just commenting on the strength of their “otaku factors”, or rather their chances, in my eyes, of wearing the America’s Greatest Otaku crown. Or bunny ears. Or giant Luffy-hat.

This week’s contenders:

Jasmine


I think it’s interesting that one of Jasmin’s otaku facts was listed as “manga artist”, even though she explained her ideas as plans for some sort of anime/manga/ light novel empire. I guess ‘manga artist’ fit better than “fourth dimensional queen of all media” (which is totally my schtick, by the way.)

I love how all plans for future anime/manga always sound like they came from amazing fever dreams, and that’s not a knock on Jasmin because they ALWAYS, ALWAYS sound like that. If the premise for your manga sounds like it makes sense intrinsically, I don’t know what you even think you’re doing.

I think Jasmin, along with several of her fellow contestants from previous episodes, does a good job of proving she’s a creative and passionate individual, but not necessarily the height of otaku-dom. I think a lot of these folks are creative people who would have found an outlet even if they had never discovered anime, since they tend toward their own original projects- and there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever. Actually, in my personal opinion its preferable to go your own way, but the idea behind America’s Greatest Otaku is that you’re the greatest FAN, not necessarily a great creator. Being a great fan includes creativity, but you get my drift.

Chances of Winning AGO Bunny Ears: Fairly low.

Chris

Chris may be the only person who didn’t take the “Why are you America’s greatest Otaku?” prompt as a non-question. Actually, he really engaged the concept of the show, so I’m just going to quote part of it:

“In my opinion, America’s Greatest Otaku shouldn’t be how much anime you actually collect, or whatnot. It should be ‘what have you done to get more people into anime?”

I’ve pointed out my concern with assuming that otaku are social creatures by nature above. However, when you’re trying to nail down what makes someone the otaku-to-end-all-otaku, perhaps it should be the person who begats more otaku spawn on top of everything else they do- I can’t really find a problem with that.

Plus, name-dropping Captain Harlock as an early favorite puts him in a pretty elite group. Dre takes his hat off to him, and if I ever wore a hat, I would as well.

Chances of Winning AGO Bunny Ears: High. With his combination of community spirit, great-but-simple cosplay and being able to cite some perennially overlooked anime classics as his favorites, I would not be at all surprised to see him win.

Dianna

I think some of the younger contestants, like Dianna, are at a bit of a disadvantage here. Honestly, I think the only way a teenager would win would be if they went out of their way to cancel out their relative youth by watching all that obscure anime from the ’70s that even people who were around then don’t remember.

Still, the anime song-playing plus plushie-fanart is a pretty unusual and potent combination, and she seems more dedicated than some of the other young contestants we’ve seen. Besides, I try to block out all of the Hetalia stuff I see because I literally do not understand it one iota, so the fact that I was able to watch her performance through my self-induced Anti-Hetalia Field speaks well of her.

Chances of Winning the AGO Bunny Ears: Fair. I don’t think it’s likely, but she’s got a shot.

I will go back and assess the candidates’ from previous episodes chances of winning in the event that I feel like it.

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