FLCL: Progressive is weird. I don’t mean that it matches the original FLCL weirdness that fans celebrate and praise it for. It’s awkwardly weird. It doesn’t have the fluid, bold experimental animation, the zany characters, and the upbeat music as its predecessor. The story’s a bit of a rehash (with the main character not seeing anything exciting about life until Haruko comes along) but with new elements. There are only two episodes left of Progressive and it’s unfair to judge and compare, but it’s hard to wait – especially with the internet buzzing on how Progressive isn’t as glamorous as the first series.
Why is this? Surely Production I.G. and Studio TRIGGER could have delivered the same excitement from the classic with Progressive (as the original team members are all on board). The thing is, FLCL classic was an experiment for Gainax to test new animation software at the time. The team was allowed to go off the rails with the software, art, and story writing to push the limits of their new toy and their artistic talents. That’s it.
That’s why FLCL classic was charming…well that’s my theory.
With FLCL: Progressive, the production team isn’t using new technology (to my knowledge). They already proved themselves to the industry (serval times mind you). There’s no need to reproduce the charm from FLCL Classic with fancy new software. From the four episodes I’ve watched, I’m assuming that Production I.G. and Studio TRIGGER are focused on delivering a solid story than just being silly with animation software. There’s FLCL: Alternate coming out in later this year. Perhaps it’ll recapture the outlandish feeling that the original gave us so we can only wait and see.
Otaku no Video (lit. “The Geeks’ Video”) is Gainax’s 1991 two episode OVA (original video animation) celebrating otaku culture. Set between 1982-1999, the anime follows main character Ken Kubo’s journey from an everyman college tennis player, to his transformation into a diehard otaku, aspiring entrepreneur, the CEO of his a multi-million dollar anime figurine/garage kit company, and finally, the president of a successful multi-billion dollar animation company. Otaku no Video is celebrated throughout the otaku community; due to its overarching theme of otaku pride and positivity. However, there’s one theme of the OVA that isn’t discussed within the community: the hustle of Ken and his journey as an entrepreneur.
Join me as I discuss this underappreciate theme of Otaku no Video and how it even relates to the real world of entrepreneurship.
‘While we out here, say the Hustler’s Prayer
If the game shakes me or breaks me
I hope it makes me a better man, take a better stand’ -Biggie Smalls,Sky’s the Limit (1997 hip-hop single)
Towards the end of episode one, Ken (frustrated with his girlfriend dumping him, not being able to find a job, and dealing with the negative stereotypes of otakus) convinces his friend Tanaka to drop out of college and quit job hunting in order to start up an anime figurine manufacture company: Grand Prix (GP) . The ambitious friends worked and hustle non-stop; creating figurines out of their apartment and promoting the GP brand. Months later, they were able to buy a property – setting up shop at a storefront and hiring old college friends (to work for them).
Their business massively grew and they start to scale; buying up more property to open new shops. The public and media take notice of their brand; with Ken and Tanaka’s brand appearing on TV, newspapers, and magazines. Grand Prix grew into a power player within their industry – dominating the competition.
Finally, after a year of relentless growth, Grand Prix transformed from a small business to behemoth of a corporation.
In the real world, a company coming up from a small business to a major corporation within a year is a mere fantasy. However, the reality of business growth can be rooted in taking risks. Quitting a secured job and/or dropping out of college to one’s entrepreneur journey is risky. Successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg know this well. They had to drop out of college in order to grow their business massively. Daymond John (founder of the urban clothing line FUBU and Shark Tank judge) quit his job at Red Lobster to focus on his brand (although he did wait until FUBU became a profitable business before quitting). The greatest of entrepreneurs had to surrender something in order to build their brand – just like what Ken and Tanaka did.
The otaku duo where met with overwhelming success in a span of a year. Yet, like with many entrepreneurs, failure was waiting nearby.
FAILURE AND COMEBACK
‘Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is the part of the process of success.’ -Robert Kiyosaki
The impressive growth of the GP Company meant that Ken was able to expand the business overseas. In order to increase capital, Ken (now a multi-millionaire), set his sights on China (in order to build a warehouse for mass production). Taking out a loan with a bank, Ken travels to China and buys land for the warehouse; overseeing the production of it. Back in Japan, the figurine industry starts to crash – putting Grand Prix at risk of going under. With the company in financial trouble and the morale of his employees fading, Ken at is in danger of losing his title as president of GP.
The downfall of the Ken begins.
After the success of the warehouse in China, Ken is called to an emergency meeting at Grand Prix. The meeting is a front to fire him as president – with the entire company in favor of it – including his best friend Tanaka. Ken is forced to work as a regular employee at one of Grand Prix’s underperforming location and he begins to lose hope in himself. Later, during an event at a Grand Prix store, Ken encounters Tanaka (who too was fired from the company on false embezzlement charges) and confronts him (about Ken’s firing). Tanaka begs for his forgiveness: explaining to Ken that he was manipulated by the bankers to vote against him.
Ken forgives Tanaka as he realized they were both screwed over (by the same people). Putting his anger aside, Ken asks Tanaka if he wants to start over again. Tanaka agrees and the two join forces once again to build a new brand – separate from Grand Prix. Together, Ken and Tanaka start up a Japanese Adult Video (JAV) business with cosplay porn as their specialty.
…Nah I’m just fucking around they open up their own animation studio.
Tanaka and Ken begin work on creating their new company: “Giant X”. Tanaka suggests that they create homemade anime marketed towards otaku to sell through mail orders (as well as selling merchandise at events for extra income). Tanaka recruits Fukuhara: a former employee of Grand Prix as an animator. Together, the three start production on an original anime: Misty May. Misty May is a hit with the otaku market; putting Ken and Tanaka back in the national spotlight. Giant X – like Grand Prix before – dominated its market and industry without resistance. Ken, with the success of his new company, buys back Grand Prix and becomes a juggernaut of a businessman. Later on, Ken opens the world’s first otaku driven amusement park: An amusement park for otakus by otakus.
Finally, at the end of the OVA, Ken is the richest man in Japan and one of the world’s wealthiest CEOs.
‘Last night took an L, but tonight I bounce back.’
‘If you’re a real winner you know how to bounce back!’ -Big Sean, Bounce Back(2016 hip-hop single)
Ken was able to bounce back from failure – like many entrepreneurs have done. In business and in hustling, you’ll have your fair share of failures, mishaps, disappointments, what have you. It’s all a part of the entrepreneur’s journey. In order to become a successful entrepreneur, you must bounce back from failure and never give up. Richard Brandon, the founder of Virgin, has seven well-known failures. But he still works as an entrepreneur to this day. Walt Disney, one of the world’s most influential animator and businessman, was fired from his first cartoonist job. His boss told him that he’ll never find success because he lacked imagination and his ideas were terrible. Today, the Disney Company is worth over 92 billion dollars.
Failure doesn’t always mean the end.
Otaku no Video is a wonderful OVA on otaku pride. It has inspired many fans around the world to love their nerdiness. Gainax shows the world that otaku can break the stereotype that nerds are hopeless losers that won’t amount to anything in life. However, what should be celebrated about this OVA is Ken’s grind from a young college kid to a rookie entrepreneur, to a successful businessman who failed but bounces back against all odds. Although Ken ’s wild story and the man himself is fictional, we can learn from and relate to him.
We dealt with failures, setbacks, doubters, and disappointment, only to come back from all of them and shine brightly. Our vision may seem wild and outlandish to some, but to us, they can come true – but only if we work our ass off for it.
We should be like Ken Kubo; staying focused on our goals regardless of what failure may come and embrace the hope of an unseen world far away.
‘I won’t let anyone block me!
I’ll go my own way!’
‘My goal is the world!’
‘I’ll be the greatest man’! -Lyrics from Fight! Otaking! (Otaku no Video’s OP theme)
‘Real niggas do what they wanna do, bitch niggas do what they can.’ -Tupac
Ken Kubo of Gainax’s 1991 animated/live-action comedy-documentary “Otaku no Video” is someone who otaku can relate to. He’s otaku and proud – and wants the world to know. He’s passionate about otaku culture. So passionate in fact, he winds up quitting tennis, drops out of college, and becomes a full pledge, full time otaku with best friend Tanaka. After being dumped by his girlfriend Yoshiko, being belittled by normies for his passion, and unsuccessful job hunts, he declares that he’ll become a total otaku. He yearns to be not just a total otaku, but the ultimate otaku – The Otaking. Inspired by Ken’s declaration, Tanaka too quits job hunting and joins him on the quest to achieving their dreams.
The two start a figurine production company from Tanaka’s house. Day and night non-stop, the two stay on their grind, selling garage kits to fellow otaku. Overtime, their small two-man company grew from a small business into a giant multi-million company, becoming the leading company for figurine production. Not happy with just owning a big business, Ken envisions a theme park for otaku, by otaku – Otakuland.
Ken thinks and dreams big. He wins big, no matter what. Even after losin his company to greedy bankers, Ken doens’t give up and thinks of winning again. He bounces back from rock bottom, and starts grind the all over again. he builds himself up agian and obtain massive success beyond his initial success off his figurine company. After finding an animation studio and creating an anime series that took the world by storm, Ken not only brought back his old company, but becomes the most richest and successful man in history – thanks to his passion.
Ken’s journey to the top as an otkau and businessman inspires me greatly. As otakus, we are often criticized and ridicule for our passion. We’re told to grow up, stop watching cartoons, or whatever bullshit people pull out their ass who don’t understand our love for anime. But we don’t let that shit get to us. We don’t change just to be accepted by those who don’t get us. Instead, we keep and stay to our otaku roots and raise above the naysayers, like Ken himself.
Ya know to be honest, I ‘m really not that well versed in anime history to say with confidence that I have an all time favorite animation studio (I’m working on that). There are however, two studios that I greatly respect – Gainax and Toei Animation. There are other companies I love such as Madhouse and Shaft, but I’m directing this post towards Gainax and Toei Animation today.
Toei Animation (Founded in 1956):
I love Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball, so of course I would give Toei a little mention. Toei is an animation juggernaut produced over a 100+ shows and movies in their 50 or so active years. Some of their well-known titles include Tiger Mask, Saint Seiya, Cyborg 009, Ultimate Muscle, and Galaxy Express 999.
Gainax (Founded in 1984):
In 1983, twelve people would make an everlasting impact on otaku culture and the field of animation with their six minute animated short “Daicon IV”. This short showcased the otaku fandom love of giant robots, manga, sci-fi movies, American comics, and of course anime at the time. It was a celebration of all things otaku as the short unified the variety of otaku niches for a common purpose and love.
What should be noted from Daicon IV are the technical skills of the staff, considered to be highly impressive in quality – even by amateur animators standards. Many of the techniques shown in Daicon IV would become future staples in Gainax’s animation history such as the infamous “Gainax Bounce” to name one influence.
I admire Gainax. They were just a bunch of young college drop outs who pretty much said “Screw all the normal, everyday average crap everyone else is doing! We’re gonna start our own shit and show the world what it means to be otaku!” (see: Otaku no Video), followed their passion, ran with it, and became successful off their love of otaku culture.
With that, there are my two favorite animation companies. Sorry if I didn’t go more rigorously with this one. My ass got kicked at work and I’m pretty worn out. Plus, I’m prepping for Anime Midwest in Chicago (Rosemon, IL), so my focus is directed towards the convention.
Lyrical analysis of the theme song of the 1991 anime OVA Otaku no Video, “Tatake Otaking!” (Fight Otaking!) by Gainax. Tatake Otaking describes the main character’s journey to become the king of all otakus, becoming whatever he desires, despite others telling him he’s wrong to pursue his otaking dreams.
‘Over the endless wasteland I run alone for all I am worth embracing the hope of an unseen world far away.’
When you start the dream journey you’ll be alone on the path. The faraway world of your dreams unseen, but you must keep on pressing on.
It’s your dreams. Chase it, even if you can not yet see the end results of it.
‘The only thing I believe in is glowing passion.
I will be a raging inferno!
No one will be able to stop
my heart’s beat!’
Believe in your passion, it’s your main focus and at times, it’s the only thing that you can believe in. Envision yourself as an unstoppable inferno, and do not allow anyone to attempt to put out your flames. There will be people who’ll want to stop your shine.
Do not let them. No matter what.
‘One of these days, I will find out the truth of
love. Everything in this world will be mine.’
Love created from the passion of the grind and hustle from chasing your dreams and you doing you.
This world can be yours if you put your mind to what you seek, and imply effort through actions.
Also, does the line “everything in this world will be mine” reminds you of a certain quote from an early 80s gangsta movie?
‘We’re bound together by friendship.
It’s a thick bond.’
The otaku community, for the most part, is a close-knit one. Our community is forged from many outcasts, shun by society for the common passion, which we all come together and support one another. Naturally, (everlasting) friendships are created from this.
‘I won’t let anyone block me!
(I won’t let anyone block me!)
I will go my own way!
(I will go my own way!)’
You can never allow anyone to stop you from achieving your dreams, no matter what. On this hustle and dream path, there will be people who want you to steer off it. They will attempt to block your progress, or tell you shit like “Oh, you can’t do this.” Or “You’ll never make it.”
Fuck them. Do you. If they ain’t paying your bills, fucking you, or feeding you, don’t let their opinions get to you. Do you. Do your own shit.
Besides, people like a man or a woman with her own path and goals, and can stay focus on them.
Fight! Otaking! ‘
A possible reference to the original otaking himself, former Gainax president (and company co-founder) Toshio Odka.
‘I abandon the one I love and keep on running
believing in a shining future
and staking my dreams on it.’
On the hustlers and dreamer path, you may have to abandon friends and family members who won’t support you and your dreams. If you have people like that in your life, cut them out now. They’re holding you back. Keep running towards the shinning future you want in life.
Ken Kubo (main character) had to abandon his girlfriend off, who was on his case for being otaku and chasing his dreams.
‘The sweat that soaks my T-shirt
is the medal of a man.
‘My tears won’t stop!
I won’t forget the beating
of my heart’s refrain!’
(It’s not that deep)
‘I will rise above the drifting time and be reborn.
The time will come someday when I
will be known as Otaku.’
(It’s not that deep)
‘I won’t let anyone block me!
(I won’t let anyone block me!)
I will go my own way!
(I will go my own way!)
(Already given my analysis on the hook)
‘I’ve thrown away
everything in my life.’
For some otaku, in order to become the ultimate otaku, they’ve thrown everything out from their lives. Friends. Family. Work. Everything just so they can invest in their passion and dreams. (Although I personally wouldn’t recommend tossing love ones and a job aside just to watch anime all day)
In some cases, you may have to throw many things out of your life, so you can pursue a better life.
You have to be willing to give up something to get the real shit.
My goal is the world!
(My goal is the world!)
I’ll be the greatest man!
(I’ll be the greatest man!)
Going back to the “The world is yours!” mindset mentioned earlier. People with drive and purpose want the world. They want to be noticed by the world, and want everything within it.
Who’s world is this?
The world is yours Otaking. The world is yours Otaqueen.