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.’
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)
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