Last week was the official launch of Otaku na Video (Отаку на видео), a crowdfunded documentary series and almanac that contains an expansive record and discussion of Japanese popular culture as seen through the eyes of fans in Russia. The documentary includes one episode on seichijunrei and anime tourism, and the almanac contains an interview with me about the same, but the scope of the project covers a broad range of topics. I asked Valery Korneev (@valk0rn), one of the co-creators, to write an introduction to the project contents, as well as the long and challenging path taken to bring the effort to fruition. His message begins after the line below.
Whether or not I had been involved directly, I would have been a cheerleader for this endeavor. The inclusion of material that helps broaden the picture of seichijunrei among non-Japanese fans is of course great, but I am most struck by both the depth of research and heartfelt care that went into making Otaku na Video. The world is already full of thin, search engine optimized content. It needs more projects like this.
Otaku na Video—Otaku on Video in Russian, a pun on Otaku no Video, an old fandom-centric OVA miniseries by studio Gainax—is a 10 episode documentary on anime, manga, associated subcultures and Japan in general.
I have been an anime fan since the mid-1990s. I wrote articles on animation for several Russian publications during the late 1990s to early 2000s and worked as an editor-in-chief at AnimeGuide magazine from 2005 to 2010. This magazine was partially funded by then-largest Russian anime distribution company MC Entertainment. It didn’t survive the fallout from the 2008-2009 economic crisis. Back then, viewers in Russia simply stopped purchasing DVDs due to the sharp income drop. We started otaku.ru as sort of an online substitute for that magazine. Around 2012, I decided to venture into yet unknown territory of video production with Otaku na Video.
This project was successfully crowdfunded by Russian anime fans back in spring of 2013. During that year, my colleague Alex Lapshin—videographer and founding member of R.An.Ma, the very first anime fan club in Russia—and I took two trips to Japan, where we visited a number of anime- and manga-related museums, several animation studios (Production I.G, Gonzo, Studio 4°C, CoMix Wave Films) and places featured in famous anime series and films. Among the people we interviewed for our project were Mitsuhisa Ishikawa (founder and president, Production I.G), directors Makoto Shinkai and Toshiyuki Kubooka (of Weathering with You and Berserk fame, respectively), animators Yoshiharu Ashino, manga artist Hayami Rasenjin, representative from the Animate store chain, employees of a maid cafe and so on. We also visited Wonder Festival Summer, Tokyo International Anime Fair and Anime Contents Expo. Upon returning to Russia we started recording additional interviews for the project, this time with people prominent in local anime/manga-related circles: academics, librarians, cosplayers, business people, a locally famous dubbing director and so on.
Due to a lot of complications, some personal, some much grander in scale, we could not meet our initial deadlines, and our project went into literal production hell. Because of the lack of funding we also could not afford to expand our team, so everything video- and text-related was being done mainly by the two of us. We were extremely fortunate to have an understanding and patient audience. Very few backers have asked for refunds (which we provided, adjusted for inflation, to anyone who decided to withdraw their advance payment from the project). In no way did we deserve such a great audience.
After several long years of editing, additional shooting and updating it in accordance with current events, we managed to finally wrap up Otaku na Video 2021, both the 10 episode documentary and an accompanying almanac. The 140-page almanac includes interviews with Eiko Tanaka (founder and head of Studio 4°C), Yoshitoshi ABe (creator of Haibane Renmei and character designer for Serial Experiments Lain), Mikhail Tumelya (prominent Belorussian animator, production designer for Russo-Japanese-Korean Cheburashka films), Boris Ivanov (film critic, author of the first Russian book on anime), Yulia Tarasyuk (Curator for the Saint Petersburg Manga and Comics Centre), Michael Vito (anime pilgrimage blogger) and others. Having spent so much time with this material, I hope that it manages to project the image of the ever-changing Japanese visual entertainment industry and its perception in Russia.
Otaku na Video is out now on Blu-ray and can be ordered online (the shop is all in Russian, though). Each backer and each new buyer also receives a link to downloadable versions of the episodes, production diaries and other bonus content from the discs. We still have enough unused material for two to three additional episodes and another issue of the almanac. So, if the stars align, we will be able to provide our viewers with Otaku na Video 2022 or 2023.
Otaku na Video 2021
- 10 episodes, 278 mins (10 episodes) + 240 mins (bonus features)
- 3 x Region Free Blu-ray and digital download. As of December 2021 English subtitles are not available. Complete Edition also contains a 140-page almanac, two posters (Genealogy of Anime Studios + Map of Anime Geography) and postcards.
- Produced by Valery Korneev and Alex Lapshin, with artwork commissioned from Lena Hemomo. Distributed by Reanimedia.
- Promotional video: https://youtu.be/ki1AC0EfsKY
- Anime Music Video with a specially written song: https://youtu.be/J0cRafglhw0