Here's my sexy segment from last night's episode of NHK TV's Eigo de Shabera Nighto. Watch me squirm as the eternal question is posed not once, but twice: "Are you an otaku?" The shocking answer may surprise you!!!
This Fri/27, I’ll be featured on yet another episode of NHK-TV’s Eigo de Shabera Night. My segment will offer viewers “Otaku in USA” nuttiness via a visit to the Japantown Anime Fair, the editorial offices of Viz Media, and some first-rate slouching around in the headlands near the Golden Gate Bridge. The rest of Friday’s show will feature a tour of Nakano Broadway with manga-ka Taiyo Matsumoto and “Black and White” anime director Michael Arias. Tying it all together is special guest host Marina Watanabe (ex-Onyanko Club member #36) who will discuss the amazing world of pilates!
Also, on Wed/25, I'll be making my second apperance on NHK World's Tokyo Eye, this time leading the charge of the light brigade into Harajuku, Marui Young, and darkest Machida for the Gothloli wars.
While waiting for powerful representatives from a Big Toy Company to pick them up, Matt and Pat nervously pace up and down the main temple and tourist drag in Asakusa. Hello Kitty is seen holding a chocolate banana, the new Gunbuster movie is reviewed on the sly, and fashion tips are given on how to get arrested in Tokyo.
Otakers Patrick Macias and Matt Alt invade Shibuya on a quest to recover a “big cereal with a big taste.” Instead, they are accused of shoplifting at Mandarake, are waylaid by rival gaijin, discover the “pussy whistle,” and are nearly “retired like a couple of skin jobs.” Typical Saturday night in Tokyo, basically.
The room is white, spotless, and smells like maids. It looks like the entrance for a ride at Disneyland or a spaceport for a rocket to a maid-populated moon. People sit in church-like pews watching pre-taped maid antics on a plasma TV or browse through seemingly endless amounts of maid merchandise. Maids stand behind the reception desk, make notes in maid schedule books, and pause to robotically shout out numbers into a maid microphone. One by one, the customers depart for the upper-floors, and packs of new people come through the door to take their place.
This is the lobby for Akihabara’s oldest, and judging by the looks of things, single most popular maid establishment, @home Cafe.
Eventually, they call out the number for our little crew. The holy trinity of director, soundman, and cameraman scout out the mysterious upper floor where I am told I will have to “play games with a maid” as the cameras roll.
@home Cafe itself is staffed by “fantasy maids” in brown uniforms that owe little to the Victorian and French tradition. The customers are surprisingly stylish looking young men; a bit like those surfers I saw outside of Meicure. About ten of them sit in the back huffing cigarettes and cracking jokes. I only count about three or four textbook otaku sitting by themselves, lost in some private reverie. All chairs face forward to a stage where god only knows what is going happen.
The music on the hi-fi is pretty amazing. Super Moe Pop sung by the in-house band Kanzen Maid-Sengen. The sugar-sweet songs, performed by the staff, all seem to say the word “goshujin-sama” (“master”) at least one million times per turn.
They seat me at a counter down font, right next to a gorgeous hime gal (“rich princess type” think Paris Hilton goes Cinderella) with bouffant hair who is having some gooey ice cream dessert with her mom. Other perfectly normal looking women are dotted throughout the restaurant, all beaming with smiles. Apparently, everyone wants to be called “master” these days.
I am presented with my maid. She is a perky and toothy little thing wearing gold-rimmed glasses that do not have any lenses, which is so dysfunctional that it induces moe on the astral level.
I calmly inform her that she is not my maid. Rather, she is my enemy. I am going to wipe the floor with her at whatever silly game we wind up playing. No fucking way am I going to lose to Miss Megane Moe on worldwide television.
We play the Wani Wani Panic game. Imagine a goofy plastic alligator head filled with tombstone-like teeth. The maid and I take turns pressing the teeth down Russian Roulette style until the jaw snaps on her dainty hand and she makes appropriate squeaky little noises.
The Hime Gal and her mom firmly have their backs to us the whole time. They don’t want any part of this.
Glasses vanishes for a while, and then reappears on stage with another maid. They lead the entire cafe into a rousing game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. They sing in unison "@home, moe moe, jan, ken, pon!" The camera zooms in on my face.
I briefly and seriously contemplate jumping out the window to my right. I see myself falling seven stories down to my death, and my splattering brains hitting both used computer parts and a vending machine selling instant oden. There really is nowhere else to go from here. Plus, imagine what a gaijin otaku suicide in a maid cafe would do for the sales of my book!
Instead, I calmly wait for the maid to bring me my chow. It turns out to be a heart shaped hamburger (framed by angel's wings made out of mayonaise) and bunny ear cheesecake that the cameraman eagerly eats up after he takes his close-up.
I’m told later that what makes the food here so special is that “the maid puts her moe into it.” Make of that what you will.
@home Cafe Notes:
An over-the-top maid cafe experience worthy of Las Vegas. The girls here aren’t so much “maids” as performers in a kind of Anna Millers/Hooters theme restaurant. Everything, including the audience participation and use of the word “master” is helpfully amplified to the point that even the dumbest customer will “get it.” While this may be great fun for the straight folks, a real otaku, in search of the calming and healing properties that maids sometime provide, might be better served by a place that’s more, I dunno, quiet?
The control room of the Government of Darkness? The Final Revelation of Mystery Frequency 109? Or just the last episode of Kamen Rider X?
Nope. Just me doing my bit as a reporter for the new TV show TokyoEye.
The program begins airing October 4th on NHK World. The first episode features Maids versus Me.
Official Hype: AKIBA MAID FRONTLINE
The Akihabara electronic district in Tokyo has become a magnet for "otaku" lovers of comic books, animated cartoons and videogames from around the world! We introduce the latest fads, including coffee shops and beauty parlors staffed by women in suggestive lacy maid costumes. One of those maids also visits the studio!
It sounds like some crazy ESPY stuff I would make up, but the show will actually be broadcast via. orbital satellite at 4060MHz (Asia-Pacific Region), 3743.5MHz (Southwest & Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe Region), and my personal favorite 4040MHz (South & North America Region).
My sexy book OTAKU IN USA is reviewed in this morning's edition of the Asahi Shimbun. The book next to it is Seiji Horibuchi's MOERU AMERICA - the story of how Viz blazed a trail for the rise of manga and anime right smack on Uncle Sam's front yard. There are some wild pictures inside of a Bay Area hippie commune that Horibuchi got groovy at during the '60s. He also green-lit my book TokyoScope when I worked at Viz, so it's kind of a gas to now be competing with him for shelf space here in Japan like a couple of neighboring maid cafes. The solution?
Born in Washington DC in 1973, Matt Alt has been working as a professional Japanese translator and freelance writer since the mid-1990s. In 2003, he co-founded AltJapan Co., Ltd., a company specializing in the localization of Japanese entertainment products for English-speaking markets. His work as a writer and specialist in Japanese pop-cultural phenomena has appeared in the magazines ToyFare, Anime Invasion, Super 7, InQuest Gamer, and the Playboy website, among many others. He is also the co-author of Super #1 Robot, a pictorial history of Japanese robot toys published in 2005 by Chronicle Books.
Seconds after the smoke cleared on Maid War: Two, in the form of puffs of post-massage baby power, the staff of NHK’s TokyoEye stumbles back into the Akihabara mean streets.
While the director, soundman, and cameraman shuttle back and forth throwing equipment back in the van, the fixer and I stand around trading notes, sharing the first few pangs of combat fatigue.
Akihabara sure ‘aint like it used to be. Center Guy types stroll around with their dolled up girlfriends. Entire families prowl the streets in search of thrills. Everyone, it seems, is a tourist now, no matter where they come from. And the classic plaid shirt and beat up sneaker otaku is regulated to the margins of their former clubhouse-writ-large. The other day, we got news of “Otaku Gari” or “Otaku Hunting” where packs of bad boys were cornering and mugging otaku in Akiba for as little as US$30 (The quote of the year from one of the perpetrators, “Otaku are weak and they’ve got money, so we went after them.” Matt Alt asked, “Did Bandai say that?” I thought it could have just as easily been a maid).
Two rough looking Japanese youth are squatting next to us, having a smoke. They are pouring over a travel guide to Tokyo published by Pia magazine. Both are wearing urban surfer clothes and look like they got lost on the way to Shibuya. One of them is too cool to talk to us. The other sheepishly approaches.
“Excuse me, but do you guys know where all the maid cafes are?”
I almost want to send them to Mai:lish where the otaku at the counter with the horrible skin disease would scare them straight. I tell them to check out the one in the basement of LAOX, simply because it’s the closest. But how hard is it to simply ask a maid, especially since you can find at least one per block on the main street, handing out tissue?
Only several hours into the shoot, maybe I already look like a seasoned veteran of a million maid wars. Possibility two: maybe I am becoming something of a maid myself and will be judged harshly by a jury of my peers for exposing safehouses and secrets.
Then the director gives the signal and we are off to another cafe…
I'm going to be on Bunka Hoso's 吉田照美のやる気ＭＡＮＭＡＮ radio show tomorrow plugging the heck out of OTAKU IN USA. I should be on the air about 2:20 in the afternoon or so. In the best sitcom tradition, my voice is thrashed from hollering at maids all last week (and maybe a cold) so this could be some brutal shit.
Here are the facts: