Magazine Review: Otaku USA, volume 1

Otaku USA vol. 1

The cover of Otaku USA volume 1, complete with bonus DVD

So I open the magazine from the back, and the first thing I see is this:
Otaku USA vol. 1 - Mistakes of Youth
Mistakes of Youth!

The last page of the magazine is devoted to Mistakes of Youth, a fine comic by wildarmsheero. He is a very cool chap who hangs out in the HD IRC channel, and while I knew he was on assignment for this it still took me by surprise. Woah, I thought. It’s Mistakes of Youth! In print! How totally radical is that? Pretty fucking radical, that’s how.
The flippage continues…
Yume Miru Kusuri ad in Otaku USA vol. 1
Yume Miru Kusuri!

It’s an ad for Yume Miru Kusuri, the game that was my first pet project on the new job. I didn’t make this ad (though I did provide some input), and I think it turned out rather well. I don’t know about you, but I would certainly buy a magazine with an ad for Yume Miru in it!
Flip, flip, flip…
Brian Ashcraft's otaku top 5 from Otaku USA vol. 1
An oblique HD reference?

What’s this? Lurking at #4 on the Otaku Top 5 list of Kotaku‘s Brian Ashcraft is an item that seems awfully familiar… Coincidence? You be the judge.
In conclusion: these three clear and obvious references prove that Otaku USA is, in fact, HEISEI DEMOCRACY: THE MAGAZINE. It is the duty of all patriotic Americans to proceed to newsstands and bookshops on June 5th and procure every single copy you see, and for all patriotic Nonamericans to do the same (overseas subscriptions available!).
The Actual Review
Otaku USA bills itself as a magazine “by fans, for fans”, and while this particular bit of ad copy is to be expected from any publication with “otaku” in the title, in this case it seems to be largely true. If the fans represented here present a certain hard-boiled, mature perspective on the otaku scene, that influence can be laid at the feet of Editor in Chief Patrick Macias, whose quirky, incisive wit and sardonic awareness both of the subject matter and the modern fanboy zeitgeist pervade the issue’s pages.
Aside from Macias, other fans with solid credentials on the magazine’s staff roll include Daryl Surat and Clarissa Graffeo of Anime World Order, the aforementioned Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku, and Matt Alt of Alt Japan (apologies to others whose names I don’t immediately recognize).
In a wise editorial decision the magazine has chosen to be largely a smorgasbord of in-depth features instead of trying to cover all the latest news out of the anime and manga worlds, a prohibitive option given its’ bimonthly format and competition from internet news sites. That said there is still plenty of preview action to be found here, as well as reviews ranging from a feature on Tokikake, to GitS: Solid State Society, to Haruhi, to event reports on Japanese console launches, Wonder Festival, and the Tokyo International Anime Fair, to a trip inside Bandai’s Gundam manufacturing facility.
While the content is incredibly wide-ranging, the percentage ratio of burning spirit (燃え) to saccharin cuteness (萌え) is perhaps 98% to 2%. Those looking for an endless parade of kawaii are advised to seek elsewhere, but if it’s robots, soft vinyl monsters, superheroes, samurai, and more robots that you want, you’ve come to the right place. This is both a strength and a weakness of the publication: while it’s full of wonderful archival material, this tends to pull it away from the present immediacy of the serial magazine format and more toward a bookish sense of timelessness. I’ll be interested to see whether they strive to maintain this same content balance in future issues; personally I’d like to see greater representation from both female fans and devotees of that accursed moe thing. Dialog with us, people! On the reverse side, in the spirit of “Otaku USA” I’d like to see more exploration of the origins of American fandom – let’s hear from the Psychommu Gaijin guys and others who were fans before some of us were born.
All in all, while the magazine’s content doesn’t mesh with much of what you’ll find on HD, it’s a purchase I would recommend for any serious fan of Japanese popular culture. It’s fueled by the love of the writers, and unlike many of its competitors it has no corporate parent that it’s beholden to. This may make it more difficult to find exclusive media to pad its pages and make the $9.95 cover price seem more palatable, but it leaves them free to pursue what I believe has the potential to be a more authentic editorial agenda than the other options that are out there.
If the three free anime episodes on DVD, two manga chapters, and the centerfold poster don’t sell it for you (which they really shouldn’t, in my opinion), think of the magazine as an investment in fandom, an alternative to the big guy, and an authentically interesting read that you’re likely to come away from better informed than you were before. Oh – and there’s a great picture of Matt Alt (I think it’s him, at least – his face isn’t exactly visible) being crushed by a 1:350 scale Space Battleship Yamato, too. Highly recommended.

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17 Responses to Magazine Review: Otaku USA, volume 1

  1. Hazel June 1, 2007 at 10:41 pm #

    Another anime/manga magazine?! *Looks in wallet* :'(
    It sounds good though, but I’d rather buy something cheaper without the dvd ^^;

  2. Shingo June 1, 2007 at 10:48 pm #

    Yeah, I’m not sure why they felt the need to include it (other than the obvious urge to compete on a level footing with other similar magazines). I think they’d probably benefit from ditching it, but I’m sure they’ve done their market research.

  3. Randall Fitzgerald June 1, 2007 at 11:34 pm #

    Question: What is the pullout poster? And what is the manga insert? They running anything good?
    Comment: Brian Ashcraft is probably the least otaku person I’ve ever come into contat with. One of them, anyway. He’s just about the only gamer-type person who actively lives in Japan but still chooses to post “them wacky japs” posts anytime there is something odd about a game. If it’s a man conforming to his blog standard, it sure doesn’t show to me when he insists oneechan can be romanized as onechan.
    Ah well. I should stop bitching before I develop some sort of reputation. (

  4. Randall Fitzgerald June 1, 2007 at 11:35 pm #

    Oh, one thing though, admittedly, Ashcraft has been doing less of the wacky-japan posting lately. And for that I am happy. I still say it’s always oneechan and never onechan.

  5. Shingo June 2, 2007 at 12:08 am #

    Sometimes I think the “oh, Japan” line is apropos, though it can definitely be abused… to be honest I’m not familiar enough with his game coverage to have much of a stance on it, but his article in the magazine is solid enough. I agree with you that one-chan is incorrect Romanization, though.
    I’m going to keep mum on the content of the extras as it’s not displayed on the magazine cover and I don’t want the information to sway anyone’s purchasing decision. I will say that one of the manga is visually stunning and I have a volume of the other one in Japanese, so I doubt it’ll be boring material – the first volume of one was released Stateside recently, with the other coming soon.

  6. Randall Fitzgerald June 2, 2007 at 4:13 am #

    Fair enough! Wouldn’t want them getting pissed. I already told Heero I’d be picking up a copy, so I guess I shall. As long as the manga’s good, I don’t mind.
    Still, I’d prefer Brandon Sheffield to Brian Ashcraft any old day. Not as an insult or anything. I just prefer Brandon’s writing style.

  7. Sydney2K June 2, 2007 at 10:28 am #

    Wot, no cosplay material?

  8. Shingo June 2, 2007 at 10:47 am #

    There’s one page devoted to cosplay (a single cosplayer, to be precise); a bit more if you’re feeling generous in your interpretation of some of the pictures attached to other articles. Definitely not a focus of the magazine, though.

  9. Bashcraft June 4, 2007 at 6:35 am #

    @Randall Fitzgerald
    We’ve come into contact? Sorry dude, no clue who you are. But look at that, you’ve ramble on in separate posts about why you hate me. Good for you.
    And the only gamer-type who lives in Japan? And only posts “them wacky Japs” item? Hilarious and so classy, Randall Fitzgerald.

  10. Randall Fitzgerald June 6, 2007 at 12:42 am #

    I don’t hate you, I just don’t respect you. I’d say there’s a wide swath of difference there. And I don’t know if you’ve used these internets before, some of us enjoy shit talking people.
    And why should I be classy? Classy people are boring. I don’t like your writing. If Otaku USA is any different, I’ll step up and say so, but until I get see the article, I’m going to keep on bitching. It makes me feel good about me. :D
    Haha, oh yeah, and is not remembering me supposed to make me feel bad? I don’t care. Hahaha. Oh man.

  11. Totali June 6, 2007 at 3:51 pm #

    Hmm…I remember seeing this at the bookstore the other day and thinking, “wth is this? Where’s my Newtype for this month” xD. Maybe I should have taken a closer look. -.-

  12. Bashcraft June 8, 2007 at 8:08 am #

    Wow, you really sound like a nut job, that’s for sure! Good luck with feeling better about yourself, and the incessant trolling.

  13. Ocha-san June 10, 2007 at 6:52 pm #

    There’s Bashcroft in this mag? I’ll probably not going to pick it up then. I don’t think Bashcroft is that bad in reporting about Japanese culture in general – it seemed he actually knows JPOP culture very well and watches actual TV shows in Japan. He just has this just very anti-otaku views; he doesn’t belong in a mag called Otaku USA.
    Given the amount of hatred he has for idolm@ster and other otaku game properties, I’d say that Bashcroft probably doesn’t even like HD, as he’s likely to laugh at those who attend Comiket (that’s you, Shingo).
    Bashcroft, I’m sure you’re a pretty cool buy, but you’re an Otaku-basher. I think Otaku USA would be better off without you. You should start writing about general gaijin-related articles for sites like Japan Today rather than focusing on Gaming/Otaku culture – Your holier-than-thou attitude toward otaku-ism is really annoying.

  14. anonymous June 19, 2007 at 9:17 am #

    An American magazine based on the otaku subculture…what a laugh. XD

  15. kyok October 1, 2007 at 1:47 pm #

    I agree with Ocha-san about Bashcraft not really fitting in with Otaku USA. I do frequent Kotaku often but feel that the news snippets reported by Bashcraft are very slanted and often breeds ignorance and hatred for otaku-subculture.


  1. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » A few quick links - June 5, 2007

    […] English-language anime and manga magazines he can find, with some info on each. And Hesei Democracy reviews the newest addition, Otaku USA, which officially debuts […]

  2. The geek shall inherit « Precocious Curmudgeon - June 5, 2007

    […] be surprising given the credentials of many of the contributors. Here’s Jog’s run-through, and here are the views of the good folks at Heisei Democracy. (That last link was found via Simon […]

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