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  How to Date an Otaku Girl Mad for Manga
Year: 2009
Director: Atsushi Kaneshige
Stars: Shunsuke Daitô, Wakana Matsumoto, Jun Fukuyama, Yuta Furakawa, Satoshi Hino, Emi, Mizuho Hata, Kyoko Ochiai
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: After a dream date with his comely co-worker, smitten Hinata (Shunsuke Daitô) asks Yuriko (Wakana Matsumoto) to go steady. Only for her to nervously warn him that she is a “fujoshi otaku.” Not certain what that actually is, Hinata accepts her anyway, but soon discovers that Yuriko is an obsessive manga and anime geek heavily into the “boys’ love” or homoerotic romance genre.

Otaku was a word supposedly coined by Japanese essayist Akio Nakamori to describe fans obsessively devoted to anything from motorcycles to horticulture or military hardware, but more often anime and manga. As with words like “hippie” and “queer”, this derogatory term was adopted as a badge of honour by the very people it was intended to mock. Some translate otaku to mean “nerd” or “geek”, but the reality of this social phenomenon is rather more complex. In Japan the biggest consumers of manga and anime are women and private obsessions are considered perfectly acceptable, even laudable, provided they remain just that: private. By flaunting her obsessions so publicly, Yuriko hoists the hapless Hinata onto the very height of social embarrassment, whether geeking out over stacks of manga at her favourite comic store, playing pornographic videogames or indulging erotic fantasies about him cheating on her with his hunky best friend, Koji (Jun Fukuyama). To make matters worse, Yuriko seems intent on turning Hinata into some kind of costumed, submissive boy toy, drawing inspiration from some of the feyer examples of romantic manga.

However, like the saying goes: love makes fools of us all. To his credit, Hinata does his best to accept Yuriko as she is, accompanying her anime conventions and kitsch themed restaurants or dressing up for a spot of costumed role play. He even enters into her rather cracked mindset perceiving the world as one giant twee soap opera. Interestingly, their relationship stalls not because Hinata won’t comply with her fantasies, but because Yuriko’s insecurity leaves her unwilling to believe he can accept her for what she is. In a touching scene Yuriko admits she hid her passions from her first boyfriend, who upon discovering the truth called her a freak.

Based, predictably, on the manga Fujoshi Kanojo by Rize Shinba, How to Date an Otaku Girl is something of a one-joke movie. Director Atsushi Kaneshige strains too hard to be kooky and cute with cartoon thought bubbles and candy hearts. He switches between witty social observations and laboured humour as when Yuriko imagines Koji as Char Aznable, the suave antihero of the anime classic Mobile Suit Gundam (1979), while the plot sorely lacks momentum. However, the film boasts stellar performances from its two young leads. Shunsuke Daitô’s deadpan bewilderment sells several gags while willowy Wakana Matsumoto is a manic delight.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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