Filming or taping otaku for TV and/or documentaries is not by any means a new concept. However most of the time when its done its for 2 reasons: created as a means to show otaku as being ‘uber-strange’ or created as a project ‘for otaku by otaku’. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, but far too often this means these films/shows have limited reach and limited production. Otaku Unite! was perhaps the first production to break this mold, since Eric Bresler was able to distribute his film on a much larger scale than those who came before him. After Otaku Unite!’s release though few ventured to follow in Bresler’s footsteps. Thankfully though with the development of podcasts, vidcasts, and blogs, fans were able to still demonstrate to the world what being an ‘otaku’ really was all about. This has served us quite well these past few years. Nevertheless the absence of a highly produced view of otaku-dom remained, until Tokyopop took to develop a new show America’s Greatest Otaku.
I have been following Tokyopop’s news about America’s Greatest Otaku from the initial announcement, and to say the least I was curious but at the same time not all too optimistic. I feared the reality show format would take over, and that all the ‘content’ would be lost in the process. I was thankfully so very wrong! Instead the first episode of A.G.O. demonstrated to me that Tokyopop and Stu Levy, founder of Tokyopop and host of A.G.O., were indeed serious about making an entertaining, yet enlightening show about America’s otaku.
In the first episode of A.G.O. the audience is first introduced to ‘six’ otaku who, after submitting their vid entries detailing their ‘otaku-ness’, were picked to join the A.G.O. road crew. Together they and Stu then begin to travel across the U.S. to meet fellow otaku. Since Tokyopop is based out of California they naturally start there with Anime Expo, where they talk to a variety of attendants, cosplayers, and J-Rock fans prepping for the X-Japan show. Continuing on from there Stu, and the ‘Otaku Six’ more and more, begin to talk with owners/managers of places that represent some form of ‘otaku’. The sites they visit include an awesome hotel, very chic office, a must-visit maid cafe, and a cartoon museum. Interwoven with those interviews Stu also meets and talks with a variety of individuals that believe themselves to be America’s Greatest Otaku. Indeed many, if not all of them, put me to shame in terms of talent used and monetary investment into otaku-dom, so I think they all could easily earn the title. Of course, as with Highlander there can be only one, and the big question is which one will it be?
While only episode 1 has been put on Hulu thus far, I’ve definitely decided to watch the entire series. Essentially if you want to see a positive portrayal of otaku, while also enjoying the sites and sounds of ‘fandom’ around the U.S., then you should watch this show. Who knows perhaps you will know someone featured on the show?