Summary: This week’s episode had two distinct themes: traditional Japanese culture (as opposed to the more typical pop culture), and Dom getting the snot beat out of her repeatedly. Surprisingly, both were quite good.
In Which I Review Reviews
Before getting into this week’s episode, I wanted to comment briefly on this review of the show from a Los Angeles Times blog, which Diana Hsu helpfully tweeted. While I agree with some of Charles Solomon’s criticisms, some of them I take issue with. For example, this (and it’s especially relevant to this episode):
“But “America’s Greatest Otaku” loses its way at times: The popularity of sushi bars and Japanese martial arts predates the fan culture they’re supposed to be covering.”
Interest in Japanese pop-culture and pop-subculture has been fueling interest in Japanese traditional culture for decades now, and I think anyone even peripherally involved knows that. For example, I remember being aware of sushi bars even as a small child, but I had no desire to actually eat sushi until I started watching anime; multiply that tendency by several million fans, and you have Japanese culture as Americans understand it. In Japan, there may be no real connection between Otaku culture and the tea ceremony, but for Americans- and this show has made no bones about covering anything but the American otaku experience- people tend to find out about the latter through the former.
It’s such an obvious connection that the show has never once bothered to explain it; can you imagine how that would go? “Yeah, well we know that sushi isn’t exclusively related to otaku culture, but most of us became aware of it through anime, and these are places that tend to be frequented by anime fans for that same reason. Are you now clear on the relevance?”
This criticism just bugs me, because it sounds like its an intelligent criticism on the surface, but makes less and less sense the more you think about it. Also, there’s this:
“By the end of the second episode, it’s clear New Yorker Stephan Cho offers the most professional reporting.”
Probably true, but have you noticed how much reporters seem to love calling out the reporting quality of others, even when the people in question a) aren’t reporters and b)never said they were reporters? Guys? Maybe critique someone’s reporting ability when “reporter” is part of their job description.
This week’s episode starts in Elizabeth, NJ- which is weird, because it’s not like that’s one of the scheduled locations. Also, they seem to be on the wrong side of town- never having been to Elizabeth, I don’t know if there is a good side and a bad side, but I imagine there had to have been someplace they could have filmed their pre-tour pep talk that wasn’t filled with trash and grafitti. I guess it relates to Stu’s Japanese quote of the week, which is about trash piling up to form a mountain, but it’s still weird.
Speaking of venues, I stand by my statement from last time that they should have spent a whole episode at Otakon and visited fewer locations in this ep.- some of the locations were very good, such as Shofuso House and Garden, but in some instances I think they were scrounging. The Philadelphia Magic Gardens may have been interesting in their own right, but they didn’t really belong, and don’t get me started on Louisville.
Actually, do get me started on Louisville, because remember when I said a while back that if you’re going to do fake play-acting, it has to be so hilariously over the top that it’s still funny even when you know everyone’s totally faking? If nothing else, the Louisville experience proves that Sully is adept at that; his “Maybe all the otaku are DEAD?” comment actually made me laugh out loud. Otherwise, I got the impression that my fellow NY-er Stephan just felt sorry for Louisville on general principle.
Dom Does Sumo
Dom Gets Medieval
The entire segment in Shofuso Japanese House and Garden. Not only was the setting gorgeous, but this may be the first time I ever really understood the appeal of the tea ceremony. It always seemed to me like one of those quintessential Japanese things that I was too much of a crude American to ever really “get”, but Diana and Dre just looked so relaxed taking part in it, I felt more relaxed just watching them. It looked like the most relaxing thing you could possibly do, next to taking several Xanax, of course.
This week’s challenge, which was on a par with the eating contest from Ep. 2 as far as pointlessness is concerned. I can totally get behind “expertise” as an otaku theme, but there had to have been a better way to express it than have the team embark on a tedious fetch quest.
It was actually such a bad challenge that they didn’t bother showing it for 95% of the episode, leading me to believe that none of the teams had actually bothered- which would have led to an hysterical post-show pow-wow where the Otaku 6 shuffled their feet and were all like, “Stu, we thought your challenge was DUMB, that’s why none of us did it.” Unfortunately for them, the whole cast did actually bother with it, meaning I was denied that amusing scenario.
This Week’s Contender: Joey
I think Joey from Indianapolis might have fared better if he was interviewed by the guys instead of Team Mangaloids- I could be wrong, but throughout the interview I thought I sensed him thinking “how come two of the hottest chicks I’ve ever seen- in tiny shorts– are asking me to explain, in detail, what a huge geek I am?” It was a conflict of interest.
That said, Joey’s collection plus voice-acting aspirations could have made him a strong candidate, but I don’t know- we didn’t hear him attempt voice-act any anime characters. The voices he used during the interview may have been the ones he was most confident in, but if I was trying to demonstrate my zeal for anime voice acting, I would have voiced anime characters.
Also, don’t try to fool us that you watched Sailor Moon because you liked the theme song! You watched it, you loved it, you cried when everyone died at the end of Classic- don’t lie. This is not the venue to prioritize your masculinity, but then again, conflict of interest….
Chance of Winning the AGO Bunny Ears: Fair. May have the chops, but I don’t think his interview showed them to his best advantage.
Next: If I’m remembering correctly, the tour wraps up with Atlanta, New Orleans, and Chicago in episode 7, leading me to wonder what’s going on with episode 8; I really hope it’s not a clips show.