Otaku is a Japanese word for American fans of Anime, more particularly the obsessive ones. Most likely, you've never had cause to use this word because you've probably never been to an Anime convention.
Guess what- I have.
What's that mom? You've never heard of Anime and you'll be calling me tonight to inquire about it?
Hold up y'all.
Mom, Anime is Japanese animation. For some reason it's really popular among groups of people that you would never associate with- not because you're snobby or something (you're not) but because you don't hang out with misguided tweens or computer programers who live in their parents' basement.
I guess I'm kinda snobby.
Anyway mom, they have these conventions all over the country where Anime fans get to hang out and dress up like Anime characters and hear from their favorite Anime directors, artists, and voice actors.
So one night some friends and I were trying to find a place to hang out downtown. We were looking for something low-key that would provide us an atmosphere in which we could "catch up." We decided that The Holiday Inn lounge would be ideal because it's undeniable lameness would guarantee us a quiet table and speedy service. We were right on the money.
As I sipped my whiskey and listened to my friends weave tales of their latest shenanigans I noticed two gentleman approaching the bar. I noticed them because one was wearing some sort of futuristic military outfit and the other had a stuffed octopus resting on his shoulder.
A steady stream of costumed individuals began entering the lounge, and my friends and I began to wonder what was going on. I decided to approach the gentlemen I had noticed earlier who were seated at the bar and find out.
The pair informed me that there was an Anime convention in town and that some of the festivities were going to be at the Holiday Inn that evening. I said thanks and hurried back to my table.
"Y'all- it's an Anime convention."
"Should we go to another bar?" one of my friends asked.
"Absolutely not." I said. "We stay here. And we mingle."
Before my friends knew what had had hit them I asked Futuristic Military Guy (we'll call him FMG) and Octopus to join us.
I wanted to understand this Anime world. Who are these people? What makes them tick?
The two men were very kind. They told us about the different shows they enjoyed, the inspiration behind their own "characters," and some other odds and ends (did you know that there is such a thing as animated pornography?).
I did notice two things: 1) There were a lot of anime fans who were teenage girls in the lobby. 2) There were a lot of anime fans who were thirty-something men in the bar. It was concerning.
As FMG began to wind down a lecture on Anime body proportions, the lobby and the lounge became completely quiet. I looked over my shoulder to see a short but well-built man with frosted blond tips enter the hotel and begin the check-in process. I looked over my other shoulder to find that every pair of eyes in that place were glued to this guy.
"Who is that?" I whispered to Octopus.
"It's Vic Mignogna."
"Yeah, but who is he?" I said.
Octupus looked at FMG and asked, "How should I explain Vic Mignogna?"
"He's like . . . the Brad Pitt of the Anime world." supplied FMG.
"Oh," I said. "Then we should hang out with him."
"How are we gonna do that?" inquired Octupus.
"I'm gonna ask him to hang out with us." I said.
As I stood up FMG grabbed me by the arm and in a voice that begged for reason explained, "You can't just go talk to Vic. He's like . . . a really big deal."
I gently took his hand from my arm and replied, "watch me."
As I made my way across the lobby and began to approach Vic, I realized that all eyes were now on me, and began to get a little nervous. Then I turned back, looked at Octopus, and remembered that I was in an alternate universe.
But what to say? What to open with? How does one engage "the Brad Pitt of the Anime world?" Well, I'll tell you. You tap him on the shoulder, introduce yourself, and say, "so I hear you're like the Brad Pitt of the Anime world."
Vic broke out into a huge grin, and said, "I guess you could say that."
"Well, I'll be honest- I'm not really into Anime. See my friends?" I asked and pointed to my friends. "They're not into Anime either, and we would love for you to join us for a drink."
"That sounds great." chimed the Brad Pitt of the Anime of World. "I'm just gonna finish checking in real quick."
I got about ten yards from Vic before I was approached by a very nervous mother who assumed that I was friends with Vic and begged me to introduce him to her daughters who were standing several feet away praying.
"Ummm, I don't really know him."
The woman glared at me like I was lying so I said, "I bet I could manage that."
Vic was right behind me so I called, "Hey Vic! These little girls want to meet you or something."
"Sure," Vic said and posed for a picture. Then of course the flood gates opened. I watched as a line formed behind the nervous mother. I mouthed, "we'll be over there" to Vic who smiled in return.
"Oh my God. Is Vic coming over here?" asked FMG.
"Yup." I replied smugly.
"How did you do that?" asked Octopus.
"I acted like a normal person," I said.
"You are awesome!" exclaimed FMG.
It turns out that Vic was pretty awesome. Or at least really, really nice. He hung out with us for about two hours even though my friends and I continuously hounded him with ridiculous questions about the trappings of Anime celebrity. FMG and Octopus just sat there in awe.
At one point during the evening two tweenage girls sat down at our feet and sketched Anime cartoons of me and my friends. I guess they thought we were important because we were hanging out with Vic.
I hate to say it, but I'm not sure if I've ever felt more cool. Too bad I was at an Anime convention sitting next to a 40 year old man wearing a stuffed octopus on his shoulder.