Exclusive Anime Expo 2011 Preview Coverage: Danny Choo’s Panel

“I have six months to live,” exclaims Danny Choo.

The audience at his Sunday Anime Expo panel, shaken from their early-morning bleariness, gasps. Someone screams, “No, Danny!”

“Wait,” Choo explains, “I live life as if I only have six months to live.” He grins. As readers of his site know, this kind of inspirational, live-your-dream rhetoric is standard Choo fare. And he certainly seems to be taking his own advice.

Choo, son of shoe designer Jimmy Choo, became best known for a series of YouTube videos in which he dances on the streets of Akihabara, Tokyo’s otaku mecca, dressed as a Stormtrooper. Choo has parlayed his Internet celebrity into a kind of mini-media empire with a series of books, a TV show about Japanese culture, and an upcoming moe anime series called Chinka.

It was his TV series, Culture:Japan, that Choo was on-hand to promote Sunday, previewing the first episode which aired last month in Tokyo. The hour-long show is comprised of a series of segments revolving around Choo’s explorations of Japanese and otaku culture. The segments are bookended by an interview with voice actress Satomi Sato, known for her turn on Ritsu on K-ON!

The first segment is basically an extension of Choo’s book series, Otacool, in which fans submit photos of their figurine collections and otherwise otakuized bedrooms. Here they’ve done the same thing, but with video.

In another segment, Choo visits a Japanese high school. He’s ostensibly there to compare real school life to shows like K-ON! (an overexcited fan next to me gasped, “they’re the same in anime and real life!”), though for most of the time Choo simply performs antics in his Stormstooper uniform.

Finally, Choo visits Good Smile Company, a figurine manufacturer and distributor who produced a figurine of Choo’s own mascot, as well as the figurine-turned-anime Black Rock Shooter. With a look at what goes into creating one of these figurines, this was by far the most interesting piece.

If it isn’t yet clear, Culture:Japan is essentially an extended commercial for Danny Choo’s business ventures. For over an hour, he plugs his website, Chinka (Satomi Sato did the voices for the preview version), his friends at Good Smile, and everything else Choo-related.

Bits and pieces are interesting, but at one hour, Culture:Japan really drags; wisely, Tokyo MX aired a 30-minute cut. And with a tour of a Japanese high school and segments largely in English, it’s also unclear how this is supposed to appeal to a Japanese audience (likely Choo is using the Tokyo airing a springboard for selling the show internationally). It’s also troubling that an entire segment is made up of fan-submitted (i.e. free labor) content.

But the oddest part of Culture:Japan is the feeling one gets from watching Choo himself.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of Danny Choo among American fans. He’s got the British accent, the hipster glasses, the boyish grin. He’s good on stage. In a world of introverts, he’s an extrovert. And, ostensibly, he’s living the dream. But something about him, both on stage and on screen, feels off-putting.

For one thing, there are the dolls. Choo collects a series of ball-jointed, anatomically correct female dolls called Dollfies. He had one such doll on display at his panel, referring to it as his “lovely daughter.”

There’s also the fact that everyone Choo interviews in Culture:Japan seems uneasy in his presence. Even Satomi Sato, professionally-trained voice actress, can’t hide an occasional grimace, to say nothing of the high school girls, who look downright uncomfortable next to the man in the Star Wars costume.

No such problem at Anime Expo, though, where a throng of worshippers, male and female alike, clamored for a chance to sit next to their idol as he descended, Christ-like, into the crowd after the end of his panel. These are the true faithful, whose adoration (and wallets) ensure that Danny Choo is a brand that isn’t going away any time soon.

18 Comments

  1. First sentence, fourth paragraph: the word ‘millionaire’ is missing between ‘of’ and ‘shoe’.

    Important detail your readers will need to remember while trying to emulate Danny’s lifestyle.

  2. Surprisingly little overt rancor and hostility for a CD danny choo article, still quite enjoyable.

    stop lurking around the shitotakusay site, and crank out more. I missed you guy’s writing

    keep up the good work!

  3. This is almost like Cnngo quality–complete with factual mistakes and wandering focus from the headline.

  4. Is there a difference between Danny Choo calling his special dolfie his “daughter” and a rich hipster punk calling his underground garage of prestige sports cars his “babies”?

    It’s because dolfies are realistic, right? And a grown man with dolls is wrong in this society, right? But a grown man who collects $12,000.00 vintage toys is normal? Or million dollar sports cars? Or people buy Banksy artwork?

    Danny’s an eccentric alright, and an entrepreneurial one at that. Probably on the same level as say… Nigo of Bathing Ape and Teriyaki Boyz fame. Or every other weird rich guy with a quirky habit.

    I dunno about all this. Is Danny Choo bad compared to every other hipsters, wannabe street artists, limited edition clothing designers out there?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Colony Drop, and your previous criticisms are funny, witty and bloody brilliant. But sometimes, I sit back, and do a double take with posts like this…

  5. > otakusteve

    The Dolfie issue isn’t about money, it’s about creep factor. They’re detailed dolls made for adults that look like little girls.

  6. No Sean, it’s the same thing. Like many Japanese, otakusteve and Danny Choo understand that women are property just like cars. They should be admired for their physical beauty and nothing else. Of course there’s always the car that you actually drive, much like your wife who you cheat on with any number of hostesses.

  7. I suppose one thing to remember is that TV Tokyo is just a local broadcaster (albeit one that broadcasts to a city with a population the size of Canada), so they have a history of putting on some pretty cheap, trashy stuff during their dead hours. Also, there’s a subset within the Japanese media that loves to see wacky extrovert foreigners (and foreigners on Japanese TV, just like in real life, are all wacky) making twats of themselves over Japanese culture, in much the same way that we find pictures of puppies or kittens wearing people clothes adorable. My thought would be the opposite of this article’s conclusion: that local Japanese audiences would get a kick out of watching Choo goof about like a fool, whereas British or American audiences would cringe with embarrassment, although perhaps I’m underestimating the imperviousness to shame of your average Western otaku. Again.

    >omo

    Key difference, CNNGo pays good money for its main content, whereas Colony Drop is a blog. I think that gives CD more of a license to ramble (although all the CNNGo writers I know are model professionals, I assure you). I certainly pay less attention to providing sharply focussed content when blogging compared to when writing professionally, and I don’t think my readers are in any particular position to demand otherwise. No idea if Sean feels the same way, but just putting the idea out there.

  8. For clarification, I slept through Choo’s panel at Anime Expo. This article was written by another staff member.

    As for factual errors, I’d love to hear them, but considering the sniveling manchild the complaint originated from:

  9. Like many Japanese, otakusteve and Danny Choo understand that women are property just like cars. They should be admired for their physical beauty and nothing else.

    Okay!

  10. I suppose it would have been quite funny if he’d just said, “I live my life as if I have only 6 months to live: in a boiling tempest of crushing pain, resentment and regret, bitterly cursing a cruel God that I no longer believe in.”

  11. I have to say I find it funny that Colony Drop explains that Danny Choo “specializes in selling a lie that his lifestyle has been borne out of anything other than unimaginable privilege”, when his own site has a page that details his insanely extensive resume, including his work for both Microsoft, Japan Airlines and Amazon, which is linked to right on the front page of his website

    So could you call the above a factual error, then?

  12. All this talk about Danny Choo being the harbinger of anime’s doom is just… silly.

    Danny Choo is, like his father, first and foremost a businessman. He saw an opportunity to exploit a bizarre subculture that has had a long and depressing history.

    How he exploited it is not the issue.

    Sure, we can cite the creepy doll fetish, the fake “glamorous” image of “otaku lifestyle” as the reasons why he must go down in flames. Is it dishonest? Yes. Creepy and bizarre? You wrote about it. All part of his brand/image?

    Wouldn’t doubt it for a second.

    How is that different from the likes of the Kardashians, the Hiltons? Do you think rappers turn their teeth to gold because its good for their health?

    You expect him to run his little empire by stating the bizarre Japanese otaku-related crimes of recent history and the past? That’s just stupid.

    Chalk it up to sign of the times. The decline of civilization as we know it. Whatever you want to call it.

    Whether his enterprise survives or not is anyone’s guess. At this point, I don’t doubt he’s a fucking good businessman.

  13. But still, at least that it’s public knowledge that Danny Choo is at least the son of Jimmy Choo, or that he has such an extensive career.

    I doubt that readers of the blog think that his story wasn’t an AMERICAN DREAM meteoric rise, but I’d like to think that a good amount of his readers are aware that it wasn’t. Some readers of Danny Choo’s blog aren’t exactly sheep, you know.

    And besides, the “live your dream” rhetoric isn’t something that takes social class and standing into account, it’s just easier for privileged people.

  14. I’d just like to say Danny’s said before that he hasn’t borrowed any money from his father. He had to almost sell his home to afford to get his start-up off the ground because he wouldn’t borrow any money from his dad.

  15. I’d just read “the dark side of DannyChoo” article, it was interesting. I think you are condenming a person who is just giving his followers what they want from him. A “dream come true”, A beautiful illusion, a warm and safe comunity to be nice with each other and share their girly nerdiness. In return he just want to make a living of this relationship and he’s being successful, wich is a fair treat I think.

    But I didn’t find what I was looking for, wich is the reason that lead me to search this website. Danny always says he wishes to have a “clone” to “help” him with all of his hard work, and I said: Why don’t he pay for help?
    He actually has “employees” at his service the first of them was this “Hector” (actually an associate in Dannys’s own words) both share the same dreams and worked a lot togheter, suddenly we never heard of him again, remember: Mirai Gaia was their Dream. Now Danny runs Mirai Gaia with his wife and the guy who was in the beggining building the dream is gone. He “hired” up to two or three guys already to “help” him, then they dessapeared. I wonder, way someone who dreamed to “make a living” with a “job” involved around Anime, games, figurines, side to side with the “otaku god” Would quit their dreams just like that?
    I don’t want to think that those guys had to quit their dreams because they couldn’t make a living out of a bussiness that allows Choo to BUY a millions dollar three stories tall house in Tokyo, a nice Car, to have a TV show, make trips around the world, produce his own anime series, figma dolls and other merchandises.

    He says he wants clones better, I can’t blame him, I wish I could have a clone too! An slave to work for me, and don’t have to pay him a fucking dime for his hard labour! That would be fucking awesome.

  16. It honestly sounds like the writer read Danny Choo’s blog, went to Japan with a mediocre anime porfolio and some basic Japanese he/she learned from watching cartoons, showed up at some studios doors, got laughed at, ended up being a host/hostess in some seedy bar to earn enough money to buy a ticket home, and now blames Danny Choo for that experience… I’m just saying that’s what it sounds like.

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