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.