The King of Foreign Otaku in Japan
As reported earlier, TV Tokyo aired a compeition between foreign otaku last night. The program went out of its way to assemble an international group of contestants: a Frenchman, a Russian girl, two Americans, and a guy from Hong Kong. They were subjected to a variety of questions on the anime/manga world, few of which any normal person could answer. In the end, Chang from Hong Kong was crowned champion, but the real entertainment on the show were the social awkward otaku from other countries (the Americans, to be precise).
The strangest contestant was Jonathan Underwood, a 20-year-old student from the United States. Like many otaku out there, Jonathan doesn’t show the slightest shame at his flamboyantly strange otaku behavior. As this this video shows, he loves singing and dancing:
Unfortunately, Jonathan was unable to locate the source of a mystery drink the contestants were given, so he was eliminated at the end of round 2. He said he would practice hard and come back next time for “revenge.”
The other American contestant was Ardith Carlton of Hobbylink Japan, who was referred to as “Carlton” on the show, in contrast to their calling the other American by his first name. Anyway, Ardith wrote the following on her blog back in March, when she was pondering the decision to participate in the show:
If I said yes, I might be mortified for the rest of my life about being the doofy-ass geeky gaijin who panicked and couldn’t think straight and spoke crappinese on national TV.
But if I said yes, maybe, maybe the planets will be in alignment and it might all go okay.
Here’s a short clip of her on the show, starting with a spirited redition of the Hokuto no Ken theme song:
Unlike Jonathan, Ardith had a guess about where the mystery drink came from. Unfortunately, she was wrong, and the time she wasted heading to the incorrect maid cafe sealed her elimination in round 2. Before leaving the show, she tells them she had fun.
In the final round, the Russian girl faced off with the eventual champion in a battle of triva knowledge. One challenge involved putting on a Char costume and filling in a missing line from Gundam:
The show itself was entertaining, but it wasn’t without a few irritating parts. One of them was this scene of the foreigners taking a tour of Akihbara, which involved eating a dish called otaku-don:
Those of you who can understand Japanese may have noticed the narrator indulging in one of the biggest pet peves for foreigners in Japan: he comments on their skillful use of chopsticks. Foreigners can eat with chopsticks too? Wow!
As this was a show about foreign otaku, I was totally not expecting an African clown talento to show up, but somehow they managed to fit one in:
You might have been distracted my Jonathan Underwood’s weird dancing in that clip, but while the otaku are singing and dancing, a random African guy in a pink kimono can be seen dancing and playing maracas in the background. Later, when there is a question about Gundam, the host summons the African guy and asks him if there is Gundam in Nigeria. African clown responds with a confused stare: LOL, of course you wouldn’t know about Gundams, you wacky Nigerian talento! Did the show really have to result to humor at the expense of Nigerian talento when there was plenty of funny stuff going on already with the contestants?
Those of you missed the show will be happy to find out that somebody has posted the entire program on YouTube [Parts: one, two, three, four, five, six]. Props to DrWorm for discovering the presence of the full show on YouTube, and for pointing out that the French contestand has been on Japanese TV before! If anyone has more information on the contestants, or links to their websites, please let us know. It’ll be really cool to see if they wrote about their TV experience online!
In closing, I offer a warning to all foreigners who are considering an appearance on Japanese TV: If you’re making beeping sounds, they will air the footage.