Anime Fans Take Center Stage In "Otaku: The Series"
When it comes to the portrayal of anime fans in the entertainment world, there's not much to find. Yes, there are snippets here and there in The Big Bang Theory, and there was that one episode of 30 Rock where James Franco was in love with an anime body pillow, but in the long run there hasn't been a single show that focused directly on people who liked Japanese animation. Fortunately Goldie Chan wants to change that with her new web show Otaku: The Series.
Otaku follows the life and times of Coco, the anime club president at her college. She surrounds herself with the calm, collected and the just-plain creepy (the older couple who worship hentai, anyone?). The first episode, which went live on July 6, was met with warm praise by critics and anime fans alike. With the first season starting within the next couple weeks I wanted to learn more about the people behind the show, and what made the series tick. Goldie Chan -- along with David Le (who plays Ron) and Anthony Williams (Chike) -- took some time off from their schedule to answer some questions for the Boston Bastard Brigade.
When did you first discover you were an otaku?
Goldie Chan: I discovered I was Otaku when I was in high school. I had just started watching Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z and fell in love! I was also president of the Anime Club in high school, so I watched a bunch of Evangelion at the time too.
David Le: Back in high school I was flipping through channels late at night when I came across a mech cartoon that seemed dark and intense. I had no idea what it was, but it seemed so different from what I was used to. I didn't even know what it was called. I tuned in the next evening at the same time, but it was not on. It was being broadcast on PBS under a strange schedule due to a sponsorship run. I eventually became obsessed with finding out when it would be showing and watching the rest of the series. The anime turned out to be Evangelion and was the start of my anime craze.
What has been your favorite anime, and in your opinion what makes an anime stand out from the rest of them?
Goldie: My favorite anime is actually a manga – xxxHolic. It focuses on the interaction between humans, the spirit world & dreams and different morals we can draw from the way we try to take the easy way out. The artwork is beautiful as well – it’s heavily influenced by ukiyo-e wood prints.
David: Hard to say, but I don't have problems with saying that Trigun is near the top. A mixture of everything: comedy, drama, action, intenseness, and very memorable characters. Vash the Stampede is my role model for fantasy characters.
Anthony Williams: I love anime films, can those count, haha! Everything I've seen by Satoshi Kon makes my mouth water, from Perfect Blue to Tokyo Godfathers. The reason I like these is because they tell a story very well, partially because it's not drawn out over a series. Sometimes that can be the problem, animes get drawn out with filler episodes or content that dilutes the story, and sometimes that can hurt it. Clear storytelling, likeable characters, and great production values make animes stand out. For example, Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo are two of my favorites. Why? Everything works, even in the dub! From the music, to the story, to the amount of episodes, to the character development. They had a well-laid plan, stuck to it, and everything flowed!
What inspired you to create a series based on an anime club?
Goldie: It’s really based on my time as an Anime Club President (both in high school and in college). Being the only girl in a lot of situations was pretty hilarious, so I thought it’d be fun to do a series around some of the nuttier people and places I went. Also, there’s no series out there right now that’s made by an Otaku for Otakus that’s filmed well. I wanted to create a show that was of very good quality.
What was your biggest goal in regards to creating Otaku: The Series?
Goldie: I’m still learning as a writer and producer. I wanted to create this show to explore both. I hope that the show inspires other anime lovers to document some of their experiences or at least makes them go “Hey! I KNOW that person!”
How big is your anime collection now?
Goldie: A secret! I will say that I have kept at least some of my collection all the way from high school and given away/donated parts of it to various anime clubs – so it’s growing and shrinking constantly.
David: Only modest. I'm pretty picky when it comes to any kind of TV shows, anime included. So, I tend to only watch very well-rated series' rather than anything and everything.
About how much of the plotlines and characters come from your real-life experiences in an anime club?
Goldie: Haha! Too many. The dirty, hentai-loving old couple? They’re real. The neurotic engineer? He’s real. The list goes on and on. However, there are some new characters that I’ve added that are based on several people that I know and that I grew up with.
Was it hard to find people interested in doing a show about an anime club?
Goldie: Actually, no! When I pitched the show as an “autobiographical comedic webseries,” people really got on board fast. A few of my cast and crew are also true Otakus themselves and help with pronunciation of the Japanese words and phrases.
Do you have a favorite character you like to cosplay as, and if so what makes this character special for you?
Goldie: One of my favorite cosplay outfits is actually Misa Misa from Death Note. I love doing her costume because I get fans who come up to me and ask if they can get their names written in my Death Note (which is an exact replica of the movie version). Pretty hilarious considering if the Death Note were real, they’d be instantly killed.
David: I've never cosplayed as an anime character but I've always considered going as Shikamaru from Naruto. Reliable, but lazy, and always five steps ahead of you. Very cool.
Was it difficult to try and not stereotype anime fans in the show, or did you feel that your own personal experiences make it easy to know what a real anime fan is?
Goldie: I think that stereotypes exist in all communities. It helps to base my characters off of real people (who may or may not happen to naturally fall into certain stereotypes).
What kind of research did you do in order to prepare for your characters?
Goldie: Hahaha. I have plenty of real-life research having been part of two clubs, visiting countless others and going to cons every year. The characters are heavily based on real people and aren’t stereotypes so much as people I actually do know.
David: Since I haven't had a lot of experience with characters before, I tried to pull a lot of myself into my character cause it's the best character I know. Otherwise, just recalling different odd characters from various school-life anime had some contributions.
Anthony: Ha! Go back to my old CD-Rs of anime, talk to a bunch of my friends who are huge otakus, and I started reading a lot more manga again. Otaku made me realize how much I missed anime and manga.
What sort of process goes into creating an episode of Otaku: The Series?
Goldie: First, we break out the Pocky and ramen… Just kidding. First, we map out the general storyline and how it connects between the different episodes. Then we figure out the main arc for that episode and give our characters something to talk (or freak out) about. Then we do a shot list (a list of all the different angles and scenes we’ll be filming). Then we grab all our props, crew, cast and go on a filming adventure!
Here’s a complicated question: pro-fansub or anti-fansub, and why?
Anthony: Well that's so hard to answer! Pro-fansub in a way because I was raised on fansubs and they expose new anime to people who might never see it if it doesn't get licensed in the U.S. The problem with it though, is that it can go too far and can cause problems in the industry. They spend all this time creating it, then eventually subbing it, so when the subs aren't taken down after it's licensed, it's a bit of a moral dilemma! So I'm pro-fansub, essentially, but as Facebook would say, "it's complicated."
David: Very pro-fansub. For the impatient, fansubs are the only way to get the freshest anime as they are being broadcast.
Goldie: Pro-fansub. You have to be if you want to be able to spread anime love! I think as long as they aren’t maliciously fansubbing anime and turning a profit, it’s always a good thing.
Right now you plan to release the rest of the season sometime in September, but until then you are putting out a couple short videos (most recently “Miniskirt” and “Jugs”). Did doing these shorts help to evolve the characters’ backgrounds, or was it just a way to flesh out a couple of quick storylines?
Goldie: The short videos or “minieps”/ “miniepisodes” are a bit of background on the characters that are not covered in the main episodes. In some ways, it’s a good way to meet some of the less-featured characters and hear what they have to say about their past and each other.
Do you plan to take Otaku: The Series on-location to record at cons and other anime-related events?
Goldie: Shh! It’s a secret. But if you happen to see Coco, Chike, Ron, Eugene, Lynda, Terry or Don at a con, don’t be surprised!
What can viewers (and hopefully future fans) expect from the upcoming episodes?
Goldie: Well, we don’t want to spoil any of the surprises in store for our audience, but let’s just say that we discover one of the characters has a significant other and that makes it difficult for the rest of the club to deal with.
Do you have any other series ideas up your sleeve, or will you be focusing your time mostly on Otaku: The Series?
What sort of advice can you give to the anime clubs in America?
Goldie: Keep on trucking! If people think you’re weird or uncool or anything negative, just remember you’ll be their boss someday at a Fortune 500 company. At least that’s what I tell myself :D.
David: Anime isn't just about watching it. I feel that the people who get the most out of anime are the ones that contribute as well. Write music, draw, foster communities, make huge wiki's on everyone's favorite characters. These are the things that keep people always coming back.