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Otaku

Acoolly fascinating look at the techno-cocooning, gizmo-worshipping and obsessive doll-collecting of a substantial slice of urban male Japanese society, Jean-Jacques Beineix's "Otaku" suggests that nerds and dweebs -- who are in the vanguard of "virtual relationships"-- may inherit the Earth.

Acoolly fascinating look at the techno-cocooning, gizmo-worshipping and obsessive doll-collecting of a substantial slice of urban male Japanese society, Jean-Jacques Beineix’s “Otaku” suggests that nerds and dweebs — who are in the vanguard of “virtual relationships”– may inherit the Earth.

Visually snappy and intellectually intriguing docu — which exists in 52-, 77 – and 168-minute cuts — is a natural for TV slots and a potential tool for students concerned with alienation, sublimation and cracks in the Unified Front of Salarymen.

The word “otaku” is a polite form of address for obsessed hobbyists who prefer pixels to people and who stay at home pursuing their compulsive special interests to the exclusion of all other activities.

Subjects are lucid about their stunted emotional growth and failure to make the transition to adult human relationships. One nocturnal otaku compares himself to the anti-social young clerk who’s obsessed with an opera singer in helmer’s “Diva.”

Many otaku fixate on so-called “idols”– primped-to-order young female pop stars whose photos they stock on home computers to fuel daydreams and masturbatory fantasies.

The only teen in a group of three video-porn enthusiasts who’s actually experienced sex says he found it “a bit painful” and it gave him a backache.

One of pic’s best segs shows how dewy schoolgirls are photographed and then mass-produced as miniature doll replicas available in kits to be snapped up by thousands of collectors. One 34-year-old vice president of a magazine firm solemnly admits to owning 200 such dolls, one of which he confides in. Stumped by a question about how he would interact with “a real woman,” he replies, “You have to meet one first.”

Docu presents plenty of professional opinions to go with the frank confessions of otaku. Voiceover translation in British- and Japanese-accented English is clear and concise if a bit sterile.

Otaku

(FRENCH -- DOCU -- VIDEO)

Production: A Cargo Films/France 2 production, with participation of Television Suisse Romande. Produced, directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix. In color.

Crew: Editor, JackieBastide; interviewer, Etienne Barral. Reviewed at Vue Sur les Docs festival (Sunny Side of the Doc market), Marseilles, France, June 18, 1994. Running time: 52 MIN.

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