In Defense of Danny Choo

I understand that some of my otaku-oriented contemporaries (and anti-otaku-oriented contemporaries) might crucify me for saying this, but despite the ire he gets from both sides of the fandom, not only am I a big fan of Danny Choo, he’s a constant inspiration to me, and that’s why I’m kind of bothered by the amount of disdain I see for him.

Danny Choo, son of fashion designer Jimmy Choo, runs his company Mirai, which spreads Japanese culture (with a strong focus on otaku culture) worldwide through the Culture Japan brand with TV shows, internet media, character goods, etc. For some reason, however, he’s constantly portrayed as something more than simply a man who’s managed to turn his passion for otaku culture into a lucrative business venture.

People look at Choo’s media and get the narrative twisted. They look at his unapologetic enthusiasm for otaku culture and accuse him of pushing an “otaku is cool now!” narrative, and I question how people arrive at that conclusion. Throughout what I see in his blog, videos, and other media, I see a narrative that says “live life the way you want,” “follow your passion,” “what other people think doesn’t matter.” His narrative encourages people to find a way to make their passion into a career. People have been saying this for years, but because Choo is saying this about otaku culture, people have a problem.

People are really particular and protective of otaku culture, and honestly, I don’t blame them. We saw with gaming that a bunch of people who weren’t into it in the early days got into it when it became the “cool” thing to do and now dictate the coruse of AAA and indie game development, leaving those of us who have been into gaming for decades to languish in the middle. An influx of “fair weather” fans tends to ruin a fandom by diluting the things that differentiate it from other (often more mainstream) things. In gaming, this came in the form of a shift toward narrative focus. In anime, who knows what it could end up being? Thus, it’s understandable that people are protective of otaku culture.

The thing is, it’s easy to get some things twisted. Danny Choo is an unapologetic super-fan of otaku culture. He’s also, however, a prominent figure, relatively good-looking, a member of the Creative Industries Internationalization Committee, the son of a famous fashion designer, among many other things. Taking all of that into account, it can be easy to stretch “I love otaku culture” into “otaku culture is cool and everyone should get into it,” making him seem like a threat both to people who love otaku culture and want to protect it from being destroyed by dispassionate outsiders, and to people who would enjoy otaku culture being destroyed and would rather not see it propagated by people who are unapologetic and unashamed of being into otaku culture.

One side is content with their nerd image and doesn’t want to see the stuff they’re into change to please an influx of new fans brought in by a “mainstream,” “cool” image propagated by a prominent fan. The other side is still struggling with their nerd image and can’t stand seeing someone happy with their nerd image and passionate about the nerdy stuff they’re into genuinely propagate the idea of being happy and passionate about this stuff.

A lot of this depends on how you choose to read this stuff. Some of us are blinded by our opinions on fandom and, as a result, see things that aren’t exactly there. The enthusiastic ravings of one man who’s really into Japanese and otaku culture can suddenly become an “otaku cool” propaganda campaign when we let our opinions on fandom decide things for us, rather than looking at things the way they’re actually presented.



11 thoughts on “In Defense of Danny Choo”

  1. I don’t know much about Danny Choo, in all honesty. I’ve visited his site before, but it’s difficult to navigate through, and I don’t know which pages I should check out in order to know much about this individual. But I like the idea of a passionate person who conveys the idea of being proud of your passions, and not caring what others think. It’s shameful to admit, but I am that type of person who cares about what others think. I am working through this, even though I’m not completely there yet. I don’t think there’s anything bad about someone who is happy with where they are. If anything, I think that’s very admirable, and I wish more people would do that. It gives me inspiration to better myself as a person. Although, I do understand the concerns about anime being mainstream. But I think this guy just wants to share his passion with the world. I’m very curious about this guy now.

  2. I loved his short lived show Culture Japan. Best was when he visited J.C. Staff.

    People bemoan him because they see it as someone trying to exploit and promote otakuism as a good (well, it is). I’ve always think of him as the anti-Sankaku COmplex. Whereas Danny shows off only the positive aspects of otakudom, Sam-Com glorifies the negative. Like most things, a happy balance of showcasing the two extremes is what’s needed. Of course ANN doesn’t factor in this because they think ANYTHINg that “panders” to otaku is BAAAAAAAAD!

  3. I’m also a fan of Danny Choo as well. In fact, reading some of this blog post gives me inspiration. That being said, I’ve been watching anime since middle school, and I never got into it because it was “cool” and “hip” to do so. A lot of those people who lambaste him for that are almost acting sort of hipster-ish to me.

    I’ll go ahead and repeat what VZ said; because we do need more of a positive image of the otaku-dom, as the negative images associated with it tends to repeat itself a lot.

  4. I think Danny’s been into the otaku stuff way too long for anyone to fairly complain that he’s plundering it for profit. For years he has not only promoted his own projects but has written about anything else that had caught his fancy, be it certain shows or games or artists. And if he IS making a profit from otaku culture, well, good. He deserves it. He’s making a product he clearly loves to make and that he thinks many people would like. I admire his unabashed otaku stance and his formidable work ethic. It makes me feel guilty every time I think about taking a nap.

  5. I’ve never heard of Danny Choo before up to until this post, but now that I have, I’m definitely going to follow his website. He seems like a great guy doing what he loves to do. If people are actually having a problem with that, then honestly, they’re being overprotective of the fandom, if not being downright insecure of themselves. I can see why Danny’s a great example to some people, and I’m more then glad to support him.

  6. I found this:

    Honestly, a few points I agree with like the notion of him being able to buy his why into getting his own character made into figures. But if you were rich and had an idea for a character, wouldn’t you want merchandise of it to get made? I don’t think Danny’s duping people into thinking anyone can make their otaku dreams come true unless that’s what the distractors of him actually believe.

    I do have ONE complaint of him, and that’s his character Mirai isn’t all that original in design.

    He totally ripped off the main girl from Kage Kara Mamoru. Considering nobody but me saw this 2006 anime, I can see how many think he’s being original here.

    1. Yeah, but a lot of anime characters look similar. Look at characters like Yuri from Angel Beats, who looks like Suzumiya Haruhi if she had purple hair, for example.

    2. I think one thing people miss about Danny Choo is that he had to work his ass off to get to where he is. He put in years at places like Amazon and Microsoft before he started Culture Japan, and so, naturally, he had the knowledge from those positions, in addition to probably some accumulated cash. People look at him and say “Oh, he’s rich, so him telling people to follow their dreams is a farce,” but either they don’t consider where that money came from, or, and this is specifically in the case of Colony Drop, they assume he got all his money from his father.

      As for Mirai being an unoriginal design: It happens all the time. Even my own mascots for SLC were inspired by other characters.

  7. Ah, see. The context helps otherwise it paints hims as a rich kid that got whatever done with daddy’s money which I’m sure that’s what Colony Drop wanted.

    “As for Mirai being an unoriginal design: It happens all the time. Even my own mascots for SLC were inspired by other characters.”

    True. It’s no secret that the NTR Radio mascot Hina Watanabe was inspired by a comic from one of my favorite loli artist Salad so I guess stones shouldn’t be thrown around in this case.

  8. Uwa, I am disappointed.

    Guy does nothing but appropriate subculture in the manner that all businessmen have done, which ultimately ends up distorting and diluting it. He peddles shallow novelty and markets a label as status symbol that was once used to drag fans to the level of serial killers, rapists, and cult-terrorists. Do I want the term “otaku” to still allude to that? Of course not. But to pass it off as being little more than a game of merchandise consumption is insulting to the people that have gone through that. It’s the problem of branding; it’s shallow. To trust the brand instead of the contents is lazy.

    The narrative you see could just as well be one of egocentrism. Choo acts like he made it from the bottom, but doesn’t realize how far a name can go; if my dad was a famous shoe designer, I’d probably have at least a a couple more employment options above “shit dead-end job.” But still, I give him credit for carving a place for himself. I just don’t like how he did it and I don’t like his angle. I hardly ever see Choo talk about anyone or anything but himself. For a fan, he seems painfully unaware of what this fandom has had to go through. He has startlingly little to say about otaku media itself or fandom or anything of substance, unlike, say, you guys and your blog, or lainspotting, or AltairVega, or Heisei Democracy, or a plethora of other outstanding blogs. As such, I can’t respect a person who acts as a cultural ambassador when he seems to lack any depth of knowledge regarding any of it. You will find better information about otaku culture and media from pretty much everywhere but Choo’s blog. Even his “informative” posts contain more pictures, often of irrelevant things, than actual information.

    So enthusiasm doesn’t mean much when you don’t actually say anything worthwhile. And at this point, it all smells like advertising (seriously, the cross-promotion on his site is fucking ridiculous). He’s a businessman and a tourist. You speak of twisting narratives, but Choo is the prime twister of otaku history by simple creation of the “otacool” concept. You need to sweep a lot of shit under the rug to sell something like that.

    Am I being too hard on him? Am I being unfair and difficult? Am I just being an insufferably pretentious asshole? Probably. I’m an elitist. But I like to believe it’s all done out of love. I actually know very little about him. So hate on me and correct me if you know more. But I can’t stand to see a guy like him swindle people into buying things of his recycled “original characters” and being hella otacool when actual otaku are still getting blamed for shit like stabbings and sudden violence. And while people are crafting remarkable stories that speak to what’s going on, Choo manages to ignore all of it for boobs and stock moe chara, because, hey, it’s popular. Mirai is an excellent exercise in regurgitation. He talks about GSC because they made figures for him (and because they’re popular). He talks about Nitro+ because he’s doing some shit with them (and because they’re popular). But GSC and Nitro+ actually make things. Choo doesn’t add to the culture, but instead robs from it.

    I won’t lie. I’m extremely biased on the matter. You wanna talk passion–I don’t wanna see the people who bleed for this shit getting ignored. We get bullied and mocked for having these hobbies. Otaku are Japan’s number-one scapegoat. So forgive me if I get a little irritated when some kid of a famous designer comes out with a suave British accent telling me this shit is super duper cool and makes a killing out of it. Everything seems disingenuous. It’s like he’s dumbing everything down. But that’s business. And that’s why I hate it.

    I’m not ashamed of what I like and I encourage passion (it’s why I love otaku culture). But the “fans” that Choo is attracting with his mainstreaming are a depressing kind of ignorant. The last Culture Japan fan I saw in real life was buying up shit tons of figures (GSC only, of course!) only to resell at a higher price–he didn’t know or care for the characters or anything (psst, characters like Mirai are created especially for people like this). He was really friendly, but damn. Anecdotal evidence, etc, yeah, but it really bothered me and it’s not the first time either. I figure he takes after his idol.

    Don’t get me wrong, I respect you for speaking your mind. I agree with you on many a topic, but not this. Can’t you see that your post /about/ Choo has sparked more discussion than Choo has ever done himself? Something above Youtube-post tier. Something a little more than “WOW CUTE FIGURE MUST BUY GSC MIRAI FIGURES” or “HAHA ANIME PILLOWS SO OTAKU I NEED FOR MY OTACOOL ROOM.” Maybe this is just what the most recent otaku generation is all about. But I think they are so much more than that. When did we trade substance for style?

    In the end, guys like YOU inspire me by creating content and encouraging discussion. I can only wonder why you’ve bought this guy’s schtick when there are other prominent figures with much more to add to the discourse. Reading your post, it’s almost like you had to invent reasons to like him, some of which involve oversimplifying opposing views into two clean opinion-camps. Are we both just seeing what we want to see? I see something between a ruthless profiteer and a well-intentioned fan that’s trying to cover too much ground, thus coming off as extremely shallow. The money makes me lean toward “profiteer.” But he probably thinks he’s doing a good thing. I don’t think he is. “Otaku” is more than buying things.

    Damn, I’m just gonna stop there. I’m sorry for rambling. Despite all this, I’m really not trying to be “that one guy that hates Danny Choo” (seriously, I’m not!). I just can’t fuck with guys like him. I’ve tried multiple times to dig into his site, but it makes me mad at how he oversimplifies everything and uses every opportunity to talk about and promote himself and his projects. I probably have an extremely skewed view of him due to limited exposure. Correct me. Talk shit. I’m just not seeing any reason to not hate this guy.

    1. I’ll start by saying that, to a certain extent, I feel like (And this is especially in today’s fandom) the raw enthusiasm that people like Danny Choo carry themselves with has value. In an environment where we have plenty of people with large followings who make a name for themselves off of downing on the stuff other people like and the people who like that stuff, it’s not only refreshing, but constructive to have people that carry themselves with that kind of enthusiasm for the things they’re into.

      That said, I’ll 100% concede that his content is very often too shallow to facilitate very much real discussion. I think there’s room for both, but the issue is that the content creators who do value discussion don’t pull the kind of numbers Danny does. Some of us are trying (Myself and She’s Lost Control included), but it’s a long climb, and Danny has past work experience up on us, and I think it’s also fair to say that he probably gained some connections of some kind for being his father’s son.

      If his telling of his own story about himself is to be believed, his passion for otaku media and otaku culture is genuine. As far as being a “cultural ambassador” for otaku culture goes, while I would rather someone more knowledgeable, but with the same enthusiasm take up that kind of role, Danny seems to have a high level of genuine enthusiasm for the stuff, a respectable level of knowledge about and connections in the industry (His relationship with GSC, etc., touring places like J.C. Staff for his Culture Japan TV show, overseeing the production of his doll line and other products), the valuable perspective of an overseas otaku culture enthusiast, and has the kind of notoriety that’s necessary to elevate him to that position.

      Enthusiasm is valuable to me. At this point, I would much rather have a conversation with someone who has a shallow perspective, but speaks mostly positively about otaku culture and the media than someone who has a deep perspective, but speaks mostly negatively about otaku culture and the media. While perspective is still valuable to me and discussion is still the utmost to me, out of all the people in fandom that have a similar standing to Danny Choo, there isn’t one I can think of that has a similar enthusiasm for the culture and media while still also being more knowledgeable, having those connections, and having that big a following, and for a cultural ambassador of otaku culture, I’d rather have someone who can cultivate enthusiasm for the stuff. While it might seem like a false dichotomy (Enthusiastic w/ shallow knowledge vs. negative w/ deep knowledge), I just haven’t seen anyone with a similar-sized following that’s as enthusiastic and more knowledgeable, let alone stuff like industry connections and whatnot.

      Plus, I mean, we gotta do our part too, as members of the community, right? Once all these people Danny ostensibly brings into the fandom get deeper into it, people like us are here to encourage discussion, share knowledge, and widen perspectives. Honestly, I’d rather the people coming into the fandom through the evangelism of a cultural ambassador be people who are enthusiastic about the stuff this fandom’s all about. Knowledge can easily be gained through talking to other people about things. A negative/positive outlook is harder to change.

      (Well, that was a ramble and a half.) My point is, enthusiasm is invaluable when trying to promote a fandom, and in that respect, we could certainly do worse than Danny Choo.

      I agree that he’s a businessman, I agree that he most certainly has something to gain from promoting an “otaku pride” narrative, I agree that he supports GSC and Nitro+ because he has business deals with them, and I sort-of agree about his characters. I say “sort-of agree” because, as someone who’s created original characters (Granted, inspired by existing characters, but what isn’t? Danny’s girls probably are, too), I gotta say that I love these characters and had a lot of fun creating them, and I feel like creating characters and sticking with them takes some kind of passion and personal investment in those characters, regardless of what they’re used to market. In addition, I feel like a lot of the disdain I see toward him, his style, and stuff like Mirai Suenaga comes, at some level, from an aversion to being sold to. Not all of it, but some of it, and, admittedly when a character simply exists outside of a work of media, he or she is usually used as a marketing tool, so the aversion isn’t unfounded.

      At the end of the day, though, I like the cut of his jib, and I greatly appreciate the fact that we have someone in the fandom who’s that enthusiastic and that passionate about promoting this stuff and encouraging people to also be enthusiastic about this stuff. I think that’s valuable and, while I’ll agree that he doesn’t really promote discussion, and that he talk about himself a lot, and while I can definitely see why some people don’t like him, I still think he gets a bad rap a lot of the time for no real reason. (No to mention, personally speaking, I actually think the articles in which he talks about himself, his company, his life, etc. are his best articles.)

      Also, no need to apologize for rambling! Your criticisms are definitely valid, and really, this is the kind of discussion I was looking to have when I decided to write this article. You’ll find no shittalking here.

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