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An Otaku in Paradise

Date: 2006 July 11 22:56

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For this middle American otaku finding good anime to rent was like finding an ounce of fat on Paris Hilton. Then along came the brilliant Netflix commercials to lead her to the Horn O' Pleanty.

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An Otaku in Paradise
Or... How Netflix Rescued Me From The Pits of Storefront Movie Rental Hell

I live in the U.S., a place often thought of by Anime fans in Europe and the U.K. as the English speaking world's Anime Promised Land, where any title can be had without having to resort to pirated versions. Where the fan can stroll into their local movie rental store and walk out with all the anime their rental Dollar can buy. Maybe on the Coasts, but not here in the Heartland where I live.

Oh, but it wasn't always this way. Back in the day, this truly was the land of plenty when it came to anime. I could walk into my local movie rental establishment and be confronted with an entire aisle devoted to anime, sometimes two! Alas, those days have gone the way of the really good 50-cent cuppa Joe. I'm talking about coffee, folks, real coffee. Not something that takes half a minute to order from the fashionably young androgynous thing behind the counter and costs about six bucks. You don't drink that kind of coffee like it was a something you poured yourself in the company canteen. No, sir. You worship every last expensive drop then go back to the Church of the Pimped Bean and buy some more like it was Crack. Sure, I can make good coffee at home, but the beans still come from that ubiquitous purveyor of fancy coffee-like beverages I'm sure you've all heard of. You know the one: They're on every street corner, like commandos in a conquering army setting up beach heads. Sometimes they're actually across the street from each other. Spooky.

I have a theory that the proliferation of expensive coffee joints and the dwindling of decent anime at rental stores is connected. I think it's possible the coffee quaffing hiperatti decided the HQ (hipness quotient) of anime plummeted when it stopped being the province of college anime clubs-and therefore perceived as "underground" and "edgy"-and moved to Cartoon Network and WB Kids. If it's underground-or even merely perceived as underground-it passes the hipmus test. "Pass the chocolate sprinkles, my fashionably caffeinated comrade. Our godlike coffee cannot be seen with anything watched by children!"

Then I discovered Netflix. If you've seen their commercials you might be able to imagine how I was sucked in. One memorable ad goes something like this: Man comes home from work to find soldiers in his living room, shooting the place to pieces. The leader pulls him down behind the overturned coffee table as bullets whiz over their heads. The man demands to know who they are, and the commander shouts over the exploding of artillery: "We're the war movie from Netflix! We got here this afternoon!" The man looks at him in horror. "My wife ordered a historical romance!" The commander replies grimly, "They got here when we did. We haven't seen them since."

So I'm, like: "Sweet!" And then I go into a dream sequence...

I enter my apartment complex's mailbox alcove after a long day at work to the feeling that I'm being watched. I put the key into my mailbox but hesitate to turn it. Something metal flashes past my head and sticks into the wall behind me. I dive for cover behind the trash can in the corner. "SHURIKEN!"

Suddenly three kid ninjas jump into the opening to the parking lot between me and danger: One wears orange, the other is a girl with pink hair, the third is...really cute and totally intense. (I blush as puffy pink hearts sparkle about my head.) Shuriken fly everywhere, but just when I think those kids can't handle it, what to my wondering eyes should appear but seven Samurai-and one's a mech! (Oh, and the leader's totally hot. Mmmm...Kambei-dono! Now I have a full-on anime nosebleed.) Then some chick in a blue mini skirt holds up a sparkly crystal to point the way to the source of the threat: More mech! "Nobuseiri!" The girl snarls in a voice dripping with hatred. "We will not let you take this woman's rice and starve her village as you have starved ours ever since the end of the Great War! These Samurai will stop you!"

"And so will I! Uzumaki Naruto ! The next Great Hokage! BELIEVE IT!"

Even the Nobuseri sweatdrop.

I like owning my anime as much as the next fan, but being able to test drive it first is bliss. Best of all, the selection is huge. The last time I went to my local movie rental store, there were, maybe, a dozen titles and no complete series. From Netflix, I can add entire series to my Queue. I can even add not-yet-released parts of a series that will ship to me when they're available. I can load up my Queue with as many titles as I want and put them in any order I want. You can choose from different membership levels, each allowing you to have a certain number of movies at a time. I took the middle of the road, which allows me three titles at a time. As I return them, others are shipped. I can choose from hundreds of anime titles. Hundreds. I get all choked up just thinking about it. And I can keep them as long as I want with no late fees.

Oh, but that's not all! Yesterday, Fujiwara no Sai and Shindo Hikaru were waiting at my place to teach me to play Go! And last week, more "Samurai7".

Also viewed:

  • "Kamikaze Girls", which was fun and freaky beyond all reason. See it if you have the chance. It'll make you want to dress like a Lolita and pimp a scooter.

  • "My Beautiful Girl Mari", a Korean title that featured beautiful and rather unusual animation, but I just couldn't latch onto the story.

  • The Saiyuki movie "Requiem", which managed to incorporate every "hook" of nearly every popular character, have near-yaoi encounters, and add a new bishounen...but I still didn't like it very much (and yet I watched it twice. Must be the pretty boys climbing in and out of beds and showers.)

  • I need a coffee...and possibly a cigarette.

    I know I'm not being very brave yet. So far I've just rented titles I've heard about or for which I've read the manga. I'll probably get to the point where I just randomly pick stuff I've never heard of. If the description goes something like, "Sakura was an ordinary middle school student until the day she fell into a magic well and into a fantasy world full of cute boys begging her to save the world and date them and an old sage who swears she's the only one who can pilot the giant Battle Armor of Heaven! But she's more worried about passing her high school entrance exams and not letting her best friend Maki run off with track team hunk Mokoto while she's off saving an alien world!" Give me that, and I am so there.

    You won't find Hentai at Netflix (don't ask me how I know that.) Nor will you find everything you can get in Japan if you have the means by which to play it--and I know most of you hardcore otaku do. I know there are even still some of you out there who believe fansubs are better than commercially produced titles. They're just illegal. So I hope that the more fans rent the legitimate versions from outfits like Netflix, the more they'll stock. Of course, they've already learned lesson one: If you build a good collection, the fans will come and give you their money. Then they'll tell their friends, who will also give you their money. Then some of us will write articles for webzines touting the joys of your service and give you even more of our money.

    I should write commercials for these people. Oops. I think I just did.

    Netflix can be found at You must sign up for the service and pay a monthly membership fee that's based upon the level of service you choose. A free trial period is offered during which you can try the service and cancel without penalties.

    Disclaimer: It should be noted that some of the brick and mortar movie rental companies also provide internet movie rentals. However, their TV spots aren't nearly as compelling or memorable as the ones for Netflix, and for me it's all about the commercials. The Netflix commercials don't just make you want to join Netflix, they get you excited about movies in general, which is to say Netflix gets the point. It's not about cost or convenience-though those things certainly matter-it's about the movies. You get the idea from their ads that the Netflix people started their service because they're all madly in love with movies and understand that the reason people go to or rent movies is to escape reality, to imagine they're in the movie. The ads for the other companies are my cue to go pour myself a cuppa in the kitchen. YAWN.

    Source: The mad mind of the Queen of Swords
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