Imagine, if you will, a version of the Wondertwins with even less useful powers than forming into ice bridges and buckets: the ability to hold forth, at length, on any otaku-related topic. If this sounds suspiciously similar to the podcasts that Patrick "as seen on TV" Macias and I have been doing recently, you've earned yourself a peek at the December 2006 issue (#106) of the Japanese-language Figure Oh magazine. That's where "USA Otackers," our new column, debuts.
How this monthly gig came to be is a story in and of itself. The publisher of Figure Oh asked Patrick to come up with a sequel to his recently ended "Otaku in USA" column, so we pulled together an intro shtick and sent it in. Called into the office to explain ourselves several days later, the conversation opened with our pair of editors sternly advising that they couldn't possibly spare us more than a half-page of space this time around, perhaps even a third. And could we be more, like ya know, like the Amerika-jin that we are? Throw around some of those big words, eigo de, as Americans are wont to do, ne? I'm not sure if this was some kind of test, but Patrick and I had no problem with it and told them so. After a hasty whispered consultation between themselves, they signaled us to follow them out of the room and into the basement.
Figure Oh's headquarters occupy a solid-looking building constructed out of reinforced concrete in Nakano, its unpainted gray walls, stylishly exposed utility piping, and windowless meeting rooms making it look more like a facility that Solid Snake should be infiltrating than a publishing company. Down one of these fluorescent-lit corridors and into a staircase is where we were led, down one level, then another and another, away from the light and into Figure Oh's reichsbunker deep beneath street level.
By this time we'd been re-arranged single file, Patrick and I in front, the editors behind. The hallway was half blocked by a table with an enormous scale model of a recent Ferrari, the employee working on it barely registering our presence as we squeezed past. Presently we were ushered to a doorway opening into darkness. Hesitating, Patrick shot me a nervous look. I could see it in his eyes: they're going to "whack" us with airsoft gun shots to the back of the head, like Joe Pesci in "Goodfellas." Meanwhile, my eyes betrayed my own fears: they're going to bury us up to our necks in gashapon, just like David Bowie in "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence."
Suddenly, the lights came up. White backdrops, professional grade lighting gear, a serious-looking camera sitting on a tripod. And toys. Walls lined with boxed, wrapped, and loose toys, the detritus of a thousand Figure Oh photo-shoots from issues past. In other words: "SUPPLIES!"
So rather than an otaku coup de grace, our meeting finished even more unexpectedly, with our (or at least my) first professional photo session. Hence the disturbing close-up photos of our mugging faces that accompany the column... Which, after all the teeth-gnashing, ended up being a full page anyway. So it goes.
This month's topic: Patrick and I get hot and heavy, Cosmo-style, discussing our first experiences... with Japanese toys. For those of you who read Japanese, stay tuned for next month's issue. And for those who don't, what better excuse than the USA Otackers to start studying, ne?