Operation British, Phase Six: The Dark Side of Danny Choo

Be it anime-related or not, few pursuits are more self-gratifying and masturbatory than the fine art of blogging, a conduit for unleashing whatever your self-indulgent ego feels compelled to spew onto the Internet. Oddly enough, anime blogging in particular is comparatively devoid of the sort of personality cults that prevail across other blogging landscapes. That is not to say that there isn’t fair number of self-righteous pricks whose opinions we could all do without, but it’s rare for an actual, tangible personality to dominate such a blog. This is, no doubt, a consequence of the anime “blogosphere’s” affinity for me-too patterns of behavior that, from choosing the same generic WordPress themes to the trite blog titles featuring words they learned in first-semester Japanese classes, makes it difficult to tell one smug blogger from the next.

Amidst this herd of homogeneous mediocrity, one notable exception stands out, a Gargantua whose personality cult eclipses all others in the realm of anime blogging: Danny Choo.

[Update 7/16/2010: It’s recently come to our attention that Danny Choo has been redirecting the links made in this post to an entirely different post on his website. You can circumvent this by copying the URL and pasting it into the address bar of your browser yourself, but visiting directly from Colony Drop will not work.]

Among the throngs of foreign-born otaku moving to Japan to stake a claim in the land of milk and hug pillows, few are more offensive than Choo. A shameless peddler of the Myth of Otaku Cool, Choo feeds off the dreams and hopes of anime fans the world over. He tells them, dressed in an immaculate suit of white plastic armor, that they too can come to Japan and live the otaku good life. A life of strolling down the Chuodori, sippin’ on Pocari Sweat, blowing each Eikawa-issued paycheck on a heaping dose of anime figurines and the masturbatory aids with which to enjoy them in the quiet solitude of a 1DK apartment on the ass-end of Saitama.

Then again, we can’t all be the scions of wealthy cobblers, and Akihabara’s cool otaku subculture isn’t going to welcome all these bright-eyed gaijin fansumers with open arms, because that subculture doesn’t even exist. With street performances quashed by overzealous Japanese policemen and the sidewalks packed with shoppers, Akihabara is little more than the Mall of America for anime fans. The difference is that people don’t claim the Mall of America’s food court to be a facet of a unique culture merely because Sbarro is staffed by women in maid costumes.

Choo and his ilk market this myth throughout English speaking fandom for one simple reason: it makes them money.

Don’t get it twisted, we here at Colony Drop fully support people making money off ridiculous shit like writing about anime toys, and the way in which Choo has turned himself into a profitable brand is nothing short of genuinely impressive. The guy pays his fucking mortgage with the revenues from his website, a fact made even more impressive by the realization of how poorly designed and utterly impossible it is to navigate. But, much like in the case of 50 Cent, it’s hard to figure out who’s worse: the guy who sells the shit, or the suckers that buy it?

Choo takes things up a notch, by employing his dedicated fanbase as an unpaid labor force so that he can make even more money. Take a look at his Otacool book series, two (soon, three!) books which feature crazy otaku rooms and insane cosplayers, respectively. While Choo and his publisher clean up, the people who submit the photos for these books go completely without compensation. When you realize that Choo is literally doing nothing but collecting photos taken by others and selling them as a book, it’s hard to view it as anything other than taking advantage of a mystifyingly loyal fan base.

While his actual talents may be hard to discern, Choo is clearly skilled at exploiting things. His painfully-generic anime girl “mascot” Mirai adorns his business card and website, as well as a double-sided hugpillow that features her partially undressed, for the low price of 9,800 yen.

Choo has also thrown his hat into the ring of an one of Japan’s most exploitative industries: anime production. He recently announced his upcoming anime series Chinka, a completely unironic feature about a female firefighter who just happens to be underage and totally moé. But, while we’ve all been well-educated about how completely exploited Japanese animators are, Choo wants to take it to the next level by having you, his loyal fans, help animate his rubbish cartoon in return for your name in the credits and absolutely no pay. Perhaps, if you’re mentally defective enough to believe that such a thing would actually lead to the “opportunities” Choo hints at, this might seem like a good idea, but it’s just another ploy to wring a quick buck out of devoted fans.

One of Choo’s most prominent claims to fame is as an expert on otaku and anime fan culture, ostensibly because he himself is a hopeless nerd. This is where things get difficult, as it’s not clear whether he actually buys into the tripe he writes or the ridiculous cosplaying otaku persona he portrays. There’s no doubt that he was once a bona-fide unashamed fan, but at this point, how much of it is legitimately earnest passion? Genuine or not, he’s perfectly comfortable doing whatever the hell it is that he’s doing. Witness the awkward smiles and uncertain faces of everyone he’s photographed with, contrasted with his blissful ignorance of (or, perhaps, plain disregard for) the uncomfortable situations an expert in 1/3 scale dolls brings upon people.

Clearly, both parties are guilty. If Choo is the authentic otaku he claims to be, he’s an awkward, creepy guy who isn’t doing fandom any favors whatsoever by presenting such an awkward, creepy persona. On the other hand, if this ridiculous otaku personality is just a front, one can’t help but wonder: how much of a massive, desperate tool must one be to resort to manipulating a bunch of cartoon-obsessed adolescents who would know better if only they weren’t 14 years of age (or born in Singapore). His delusional fans aren’t any better — but at least they’re not the ones making money off this pathological relationship.


  1. I don’t know if it’s just because I haven’t been to the site in a while, but I have never seen anything on Danny Choo’s site, or anything regarding Chinka that suggests that he wants it animated by fans for no pay. In fact, I haven’t heard much about Chinka since the promo video. Sources, please?

  2. That is not to say that there isn’t fair number of self-righteous pricks whose opinions we could all do without, but it’s rare for an actual, tangible personality to dominate such a blog. This is no doubt a consequence of the anime “blogosphere’s” affinity for me too patterns of behavior that, from choosing the same generic WordPress themes to the trite blog titles featuring words they learned in first-semester Japanese classes, makes it difficult to tell one smug anime blogger from the next.

    What about the third pattern? You forgot the Colony Drop Staff blogger that hornswoggled his parents out of their hard earned money, in which they paid for his living expenses and move to Tokyo in exchange for him to learn Japanese. If I recall correctly within a year he would drop out of Japanese Language school and soon after move back to the States on his parent’s dime only to repay them by cynically blog about foreign-born otaku bloggers that still reside in and out of Japan.

    You know what I’m saying?

    Remember, it’s all in good fun.

  3. It’s RIGHT THERE in the article they linked.

    “You have been involved with Otacool 1 and 2 and I want you to be involved with Chinka too. There will be scenes for you to illustrate or color in and we will feature your name in the credits. You get to have your work featured in an anime which I would say is a great opportunity for those who want to expose their work or get into the industry. More details to come. Hope you are as excited as I am!”

  4. Dear Sirs and Mesdames, does “Operation British” mean that Danny Choo’s ruthless way of moneymaking destroys the anime community? I do not know anything of Gundam Universal Central’s history. I am just asking for confirmation.

    Topnotch article! However, is there a counter-example of Danny Choo? A fan who contriubtes to the anime/etc. community and who wholeheartedly makes his living off the anime/etc. economy in a good way? Or do such counter-examples only exist in fiction?

    This source also strengthens CD’s argument. A competition for an ending theme of an anime series. Healthy competion? Maybe. But you can take it on a different tone when you realise that the anime industry and Danny Choo want their minions to work for them.


  5. I think you guys left out the worst part of the Danny Choo lie in my humble opinion. I ALWAYS hear people say, “Man I wish I could make it like Danny Choo.” or “Danny Choo is a nerd made good.” But this is an illusion.

    Danny Choo is the son of ultra rich shoemaker Jimmy Choo. This means that so much of his success has come from the fact that he was able to throw a good deal of money into making himself a brand name. I am sure a good deal of Danny Choo success come from hard work but his level of success comes from his daddy’s wallet.

    You can’t do that the way he did. You don’t have access to those resources. But the myth persists that if you just work hard you can be a Danny Choo as well.

  6. …And what’s with the Singapore hate.

    No seriously. You don’t throw a random hate around without sufficient vidence to back it up.

  7. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. I had long been wondering if I was the only person who saw through the facade and the bullshit that was Danny Choo.

    It’s good to know that there are other sane people who can step outside the hugpillow bubble, and see things for what they really are.

    Kudos, CD. Keep calling a spade a spade, and a liar a liar.

  8. Hisui: There’s also the fact that he worked for JAL, Amazon and Microsoft, and knows several programming languages. The guy is hardly the average anime nerd: he’s just a guy who has a lot of work experience. And connections.

    And negotiating his site is still a pain.

  9. @Hisui: I think what you said was implied in “scions of wealthy cobblers” plus the paragraph before that, but your comment does clarify that up.

    In general: these are some great ad hominems, a part of which makes reading “Japanese culture” blogs so entertaining and enjoyable.

  10. Besides, isn’t he just trying to sell his version of Myspace/Facebook/Twitter/whateveritis?

    The way I see it, he’s going to court the otaku because they’re the most likely to buy his shit.

    The hard work into exploiting a bunch of cash cows notwithstanding, he’s a businessman through and through. He revealed his insidious plan one day in Singapore. While everyone was marveling at his so-called geekness, I noticed that he was actually revealing to anyone who paid real attention to what he’s actually doing.

  11. I’m from Singapore and I’ve never heard of this guy. None of my anime-loving friends have heard of him either. So I don’t think it’s a particularly Singaporean phenomenon?

  12. You guys are making it obvious who was behind the Otaku Elimination Game.

    Guess there was a reason why they dropped off with cryptic messages.

  13. Singapore.


    Actar and Kodomut.

    It doesn’t take much to figure out who are the people bashing the fans from Singapore.

  14. Strongly disagree with what you are writing here. The internet is full of sites that express the owners/writers personal ideas. Yours is one, Danny Choo’s is another. Whilst you can write whatever you want, your audience gets to choose whether they like it or not.

    You might be better off writing about positive things in life rather than trying to spread negativity about others. It is your blog though, so it’s your choice. If you believe in that, then you should not have much more to say about dannychoo.com or anyone elses site.

    Hope you find your way and pick up some more readers.

  15. Yeah, man, that’s just, you know, like, your opinion dude.

    Seriously, shibuya246, what bit of this do you “strongly disagree with”? The bit where the article says that Danny Choo is making money off of selling a misleading view of Akihabara/otaku culture? The bit where it says that he is making money out of his readers by selling them overpriced self-promoting merchandise with one hand, and getting them to do unpaid work for him producing selfsame self-promoting merchandise with the other?

    Or is it just that you don’t like the article’s tone and would prefer not to think too much about the specific content and the clear examples that the author uses to back his assertions up.

    Also, is it just me, or does anyone else, when someone on an anime forum says something like “Hope you find your way and pick up some more readers,” imagine it being spoken in the same voice that fundamentalist Christians use when saying “I’ll pray for you”?

  16. Another fine article, folks. Keep up the ascerbic work, and I’ll keep coming back.

    The world of Anime is ever increasingly dissapearing up its own bumhole. I have found Mr. Choo’s site to be endemic of this trend, and agree with the thoughts put forward in your writings.

  17. I ain’t complainin’ mind; passive-aggressive remarks delivered from lofty equine platforms are what makes the Internets go round.

  18. The more I read about Danny Choo, the more I think “Poor Stevie B, this Choo guy took his gig and turned the dial to 11”

    Because Stormtrooper armor scores much higher on the geek identity meter than Civil War hats…

  19. I note that in Choo’s article he doesn’t list “people who find your way of doing business dubiously ethical” as a reason. Given how exhaustive the rest of the post is, can we assume that in fact he hasn’t read what Sean’s written here? If he had, surely he would have dealt with that point clearly, perhaps in between “fear of the unknown” and “jealousy”. Or perhaps he’s planning on dealing with this in Part 2.

    Of course if his fans are happy to buy his stuff and continue making their unpaid contributions to the growing of his brand, and if they’re happy to believe in the dream they’re being sold, no matter how misleading, it seems churlish to criticise; however, from the outside, it’s hard not to find this strange symbiosis a touch… perhaps dysfunctional is the word.

    I do wish we could all get over the word “hater” though. Disagreeing with someone is not synonymous with hating them, and personalising disagreements like this just seems juvenile.

    MUM: Tommy, go clean your room; the floor’s covered in comics, and your hug pillow smells funny.
    TOMMY: Oh, if you hate me so much, why did you have me? I wish I’d never been born!

  20. Dealing with Haters _PART 1_.

    I’m still laughing at that. I can’t tell if that’s SEO-friendly, blogging genius at work, or a clear and ever present indication of U MAAAAD.

  21. I’m pretty sure this is just a repost of an earlier blog post. I remember this from months ago.

    I kind of find it funny that you constantly parrot on about the “unpaid contributions to the growing of his brand”, when it’s really just a book about geeky rooms and painting backgrouns for anime.

    Plus, there are blog posts where he offered IT jobs for companies on his site, which I find funny as well, especially in the wake of the whole “making money off otaku” thing.

  22. “constantly parrot on”? You exaggerate; I mentioned it twice, and it’s a key point in the original article.

    And of course it’s about developing a brand. Creating products and content that appeals to a particular audience, and delivering it in a way that increases the visibility and name recognition of the provider is what any sane businessperson does.

    There are two things going on here, both of which seem pretty obvious. One is that Danny Choo is a businessman, and as such has to maintain a coherent brand image through his products (books, blog, merchandise, whatever). This is not wrong, this is ordinary. He’s also marketing a lifestyle image through the development of his brand, which is also normal (see the images of beautiful, healthy, sporty people in every Japanese cigarette advert), but which the article above the line criticises for presenting a misleading image of what Akihabara/otaku culture is really like. Perhaps not a terrible crime, but nonetheless a falsehood that deserves to be pointed out lest some of the more credulous out there start to take it too seriously.

    The second, and I would say related, thing is that Danny Choo’s blog has its own internal community, which feeds off the picture he paints through his blog. This is normal too, in a sense, in that fostering a sense of community between writer and readers is part of what blogs are for. However, this also blurs the distinction between producer and consumer, creating a dissonance between Choo’s role as a part of the community and his role as a businessman. So when he collects photos of his readers’ rooms and things, he does so with his “community” hat on, but when he sells them back the photos of their own rooms, he does so with his “business” hat on. Ditto with the anime thing. The article above criticises this, you might not think it’s serious (neither do I, really — it’s entirely the decision of the fans), but nevertheless I think the relationship behind it seems a bit dysfunctional.

    Personally, I’d guess that this is symptomatic of wider aspects of the way Web-based media works. My wife works for a Web media company in Japan and one of the trends in her industry right now is along similar lines, with UGC (User-Generated Content) gradually taking over from paid, professionally-produced work (full disclosure: I’m a writer and don’t like this trend).

    >there are blog posts where he offered IT jobs for companies on his site

    This makes sense. It’s reasonable to conclude that readers of an anime site are likely to be interested in and have skills appropriate for an IT job. Just because he dresses up as a stormtrooper, that doesn’t mean I think he’s a complete bastard.

  23. “Unpaid contributions” is one of the Web 2.0 business models these days, on the high level (Youtube) and the low level (blogging): you start a blog or a Tumblr on a popular theme and call for user submissions. If the idea takes off, like Clients from Hell or Hipster Puppies, the blog gets a book deal. The contents of the book are as good as filled out already!

    It’s a very popular setup, because someone else does all the work and you make all the money. It’s completely reasonable to question the morality of such a system.

    (Colony Drop reserves the right to publish “Colony Drop: The Operation British Debates,” a hardbound book consisting only of your comments on articles like this one.)

  24. I, for one, would buy that book. I could put it on my CD and it might provide a useful “in” to help land me my dream job as a journalist writing about Japanese pop culture!

  25. What Dave and dotdash said. Unpaid contributions. It’s also known as crowdsourcing.

    Readers love it because they feel empowered, bean counters love it because they don’t have to pay anybody a good wage.

    Problem is, it destroys the market for creative types. The teens and young adults this system ropes in do tons of work for practically nothing, and they’re more likely to make big blunders (more publicity! Sweet!). Which poisons the waters by reducing expectations for pay, and makes it much more difficult to carve out a living on this stuff.

    Not so fond of it, myself. But it’s the preferred system of choice for Palo Alto types.

    As for Dannyboy, he seems like an okay guy. I just wouldn’t take life advice from him.

  26. That should read “CV”, natch.

    I wonder how much of this is just a blip as the market struggles to realign itself and how much this is a permanent shift to the detriment of professional creative types. Without the doorkeeper of traditional physical publishing, I don’t think the market has readybuilt answers to questions about the value of creative content. I mean, CD (and I do mean CD this time) is written by a bunch of people who presumably don’t make any money out of it, and provides more insightful content than most “professional” writing on this topic, but as link aggregators take over from old media outlets as the new gatekeepers, who’s going to actually compensate the content provider?

    It’s actually a point my most hated enemy Rupert Murdoch has been making, and much as I hope his new paywall-powered empire fails horribly, I don’t have an answer to the problems he lays out.

  27. If it’s a topic being debated here on CD among MD Geist and Macross 2 then I’m pretty confident it’s far less than a blip.

    “I do wish we could all get over the word “hater” though. Disagreeing with someone is not synonymous with hating them, and personalising disagreements like this just seems juvenile.”

    “It’s actually a point my most hated enemy Rupert Murdoch has been making, and much as I hope his new paywall-powered empire fails horribly, I don’t have an answer to the problems he lays out.”

    As the Japanese say, EHHHHHHHHHHHHHH?

  28. Has anyone actually leafed through the Otacool books? The first one is a mess of terrible unreadable “Engrish” that makes you wonder how it ever got to the printers. I understand how this project originated in Japan, they suck at English, etc, but it’s *almost* as if no professional standards were applied to the final product. I guess the people making this book had better things to do. Anyway, welcome to your wonderful new world of consumer generated crap.

  29. >> As always more movie quotes, wouldn’t expect anything less.

    Yeah, I guess a common phrase that has been in common use for ages may have appeared in some movies.

  30. dotdash, I can’t disclose any specific examples I’ve observed or been told as a contractor for IDG. Contracts and NDAs, you know. 🙂 But here’s what I can tell you, with minimal snark.

    Around late 2007/early 2008, banner ad revenue started declining sharply. That forced every Tom, Dick and Harry that was involved in online media to either expand into new markets (*cough* Google) or look into more aggressive ways of reducing overhead. Many lost their jobs. Condé Nast Digital, IDG, and “new media” outlets like Weblogs, Inc and Gawker Media were all affected.

    This is when crowdsourcing became a very appealing option. It’s the foundation of popular sites like Youtube (est. 2006), which have programs in place that allow the original IP holders to invisibly profit off of pirated work. Yelp, too, which has been caught trying to extort local businesses for better reviews.

    Then Google settled most of the IP issues that stem from this model by placing all responsibility on the user, citing that their scale makes it too difficult to pre-emptively police their own content. That opened the floodgates opened for others to follow with their own solutions.

    Choo’s following suit, and he’s not alone. AOL (Seed), CNN (iReport) and several other large companies have recently set up programs to profit by similar means, as they continue cutting back on the providers of traditional news. Even the bloggers are cashing in; the newly minted Gdgt.com was founded by some of the big minds behind Weblogs and Gawker.

    It’s not a pretty picture, and I don’t see it as the future. From where I sit, it’s a race towards zero. Very few of us are doing well, and the masses are trying to hide it or find the Next Big Thing in web fads.

    If I can get ahold of one of my friends wrapping up their BA in Journalism, I might be able to give you some (hopefully NDA-free!) more interesting data to work with. Won’t be for awhile, though.

    (Wow, this is almost blog-worthy. Would you believe me if I told you I wrote most of this in less than an hour? 🙂 )

    Now I’ll concede, if you’re small, agile and willing to try ambitious, new things, AND you’ve accumulated a big enough audience, there are sustainable ways to profit off of the internet without making life worse for other creative folks or killing yourself. But it’s a tough act to balance, and only a select few have found it.

    To tie this back to Colony Drop, if they’re willing, they can follow the lead of Jim Coudal and come up with their own ad network to focus on a very specific niche. But first, they have to prove that it’s profitable, and I don’t know if CD is interested in going that route.

    We’re not doomed, yet. 😉

    Though, I worry about journalists at bigger outlets (like, uh, me) and artists as a whole. Nobody’s found a silver bullet for them, so they’re kind of left to fend for themselves for the time being.

    We’ll see what the future holds.

  31. One thing about Crowdsourcing, it seems to me it’s the obvious outgrowth of Harvard MBA thinking, where ‘do more with less’ becomes ‘do it all with nothing’, aka the cancer that has all but destroyed the entire market system.

    I think the eventual result will be, nobody will trust ANYTHING they read, because they’ll have been taught (by peer pressure if nothing else) that everything is opinion, there are no facts, and history is meaningless.

    I’m thinking that’s not a good thing for a rational, thinking civilization. I seem to recall several books written about the concept and they never turn out good.

    “The truth today is as follows….”

    I think Helen would have some thoughts on this. 🙂

  32. Another angle on this is that people willing to do stuff for free is an integral part of the DiY ethos. The underground music scene is really all about that kind of thing, with bands and fanzines getting everything they possibly can done for no cost. From what my movie geek friends tell me, independent filmmakers often work like this too, as do group blogs like this one.

    Coming out of a kind of new wave or punk ethos seems to give you a pass when it comes to money, because there’s an idea that this is a shared project, that the people involved are brothers on a mission, with money a welcome but secondary concern. It’s quite an idealistic place to be, and the idea that one member of this project is making money out of it would be seen as a betrayal by other contributors.

    The roots of otaku culture have a lot in common with the DiY music and underground cinema scenes, which I think is why there’s a lot of resistance from some quarters to people coming out of fan culture and making a transparent grab for cash out of it. Otaku were furious with Murakami Takashi when he started making huge wads of moolah out of otaku art, and it’s only recently that some of his visual language has started to get re-appropriated, creeping into some of the more fashionable fringes of the anime and manga worlds.

    And isn’t this part of the problem CD has with people like Danny Choo and his fans? Perhaps I’m misjudging the contributors here, but CD still seems to have this kind of swashbuckling, punk attitude to its pop culture, whereas Danny Choo and his fans probably wouldn’t see a contradiction between their position as fans of something and their treating it like a business. The former wants to shake up the establishment, whereas the latter just want to suck on its teat long enough to get members’ privileges.

  33. To mis-quote Pulp Fiction: “Punk is dead, baby, Punk is dead”

    Let’s take a moment to look to ‘first cause’, what Danny was famous for, capering about in Stormtrooper armor.

    Nobody really thinks about that, but let’s put it under the magnifying glass for a moment.

    Did he make his own armor? it’s possible, but it’s a pretty special skill set to know how to create vacuform bucks to pull skins from, or laying fiberglass, not to mention sculpting. So, the most likely is he bought the armor from one of the fans (in punk fashion, I guess) who HAD learned the skills and put in the time to be able to garage manufacture the stuff.

    Point one: He didn’t create, he bought someone’s creation.

    Then there’s the fact that the Imperial Stormtrooper is part of George Lucas’ IP as part of the Star Wars IP. Lucas has been very forgiving and surprisingly ‘open source’ with the whole Stormtrooper thing, to the point that the 501st in all its various units is a regular part of otherwise official Star Wars events as well as raising money for charities and PBS and such. Note, this synergy can probably be considered ‘crowdsourcing’ as letting a troop of the 501st walk around in exchange for passes and a teeshirt is WAY cheaper for Lucasfilm than sending out official mascots. I digress.

    So, point 2, trading on the visibility (and value) of another’s IP

    So he goes out and breakdances or something, using the crutch of the high visibility of someone else’s IP to promote himself, as without the armor he’s just a dumbass on the street, right? That doesn’t seem too Punk to me.

  34. Why did punk die, though? Mark P wrote in Sniffin’ Glue that, “Punk died the day The Clash signed to CBS.” Money, and more importantly the influence of the rock establishment, disrupted the fragile ecosystem of the punk scene.

    Punks and otaku were both extremely snobbish subcultures, with an internal hierarchy based on the possession of knowledge about the most obscure, geeky information: “Man, you only have the album mix of Pere Ubu’s ‘The Modern Dance’? I bought the original 7-inch backed by ‘Heart of Darkness’ in 1977.”

    Differences come where punk was highly political, whereas otaku culture was kind of post-political, and there are some differences in the attitude to IP (a comparison between the idea of the punk cover version and otaku fanfics/fanart/doujinshi would take too long). One thing about IP though, is that there’s a difference between the attitudes of 1st Generation otaku and the current 3rd (4th) Generation. In the 80s, if you made a Gundam derived product, you would have been required by some kind of otaku code to make it consistent with the existing Gundam universe. Nowadays, each element of an original work can be separated from its context and re-applied elsewhere pretty much at will. Since Evangelion, even the creators of “originals” have started doing this (the “alternative Eva” in Episode 26 that pitched the characters in a traditional slice of life school comedy — compare to the way Gundam has to create elaborate networks of alternate timelines to rationalise its every iteration).

    In any case, messing around with IP — sampling, if you want — is a fundamental part of the otaku way of life. The stormtrooper thing makes sense (and also marks Danny Choo as at least in part a 1st/2nd Generation otaku, since contemporary otaku are much less of the multi-purpose geeks that their predecessors were). I still feel that by some sort of general DiY culture code is being broken by his transformation into otaku businessman extraordinaire. You can’t be on the inside of a subculture with this ethos and be obviously out for yourself at the same time. Whether you recognise that code as existing is another question, and I’d guess he and a lot of his fans don’t. However, I’d guess that some of the criticism he gets has at its root the breach of this unspoken code.

  35. To Nicholas Levin: What you said about unpaid contributions and its effects is pretty much spot on with what Jaron Lanier has been complaining about in regards to the ‘Net today.

    And as an artist myself (well, _illustrator_ might fit better), I am worried about what’s been happening. Despite the stories of the land flowing with milk and honey and paved with streets of gold, the truth is that earning your keep via the ‘Net is guaranteed. Like you said, it’s something _very_ few have managed to do. And yet, we see the mad dash to it, to cram everything on it, all possible consequences be damned.

    To Steve Harrison: That’s already happening. No one is trusting anything they read online, and it’s usually just a sea of loudmouths screaming, “THAT’S MY OPINION!!” (say, a talkback on Ain’t It Cool News, f’r instance). The problem is…we’re entitled to our _informed_ opinions…and those are getting to be pretty rare on the ‘Net.

    CD and I may have different views on some things, but at least the staff have watched or read the books, movies and shows they talk about here.

    As for Danny Choo…well, I’ve heard the name tossed around, and I’ve seen his site. Never knew this about him, but I’ll hold off using the old flamethrower.

  36. OK, I give up. I’ve tried coming at this from the wider cultural/media view, and I’ve tried to look at this article in terms of specific things it mentions, but reading crabs’ link just made me want to puke. If you can write bollocks like that and get a legion of little munchkin capitalist followers to suck it all up, then you’re either Chris Morris, or you’re… actually my ability to hate just gave in on me here. Seriously though, anyone who buys into that kind of Disney Capitalism is the enemy of culture wherever it’s lucky enough to find space to raise its head.

    My earlier points about media, otaku culture and all that still stand, but as for Danny Choo… well, I guess I should have been warned by the existence of a “motivational” category to begin with. That was just dreadful. I mean, really, wow. Just, wow, what a twat.

  37. Steve – whatever the outcome of crowdsourcing, at least everyone involved volunteered. Consumers and producers alike know what they’re getting, even if they choose to hope that the project might deliver more than common sense indicates.

  38. To be fair, regarding the “Chinka” thing, when initially presented it was presented as supposedly an “April Fools” thing. Albeit an incredibly ELABORATE and well produced April Fools thing. So I don’t know (maybe so, maybe not) if he would have been totally serious if he was asking people to “work” on it.

    That said, I’m inclined to agree with the opinion of the at best naive and at worst misleading missives on how “easily” people can go live their otaku dream in Japan. I think Danny Choo specifically is a charismatic and incredibly driven person, but I think the number of people that could replicate what he has done is VERY small.

  39. Choo once lured people to one of his Consumer Generated Media events (i.e. “everyone pay for the privilege of blowing me”) by promising that Jackie Chan would actually be there.

    It turned out some other Chinese guy named Jackie Chan came instead, and hilarity was supposed to ensue, but you could feel the chill and hostility in the room take over after the bait and switch.

    A normal person would feel conned or ripped-off (like a certain Lucasfilm I.P. that was big 30 years ago…) when Choo routinely pulls stunts like this. If only his mind-fucked followers would catch on eventually.

    Maybe it was an April Fool’s joke when his parents threw him into that foster home that he alludes to from time to time…lots of unresolved childhood issues underneath that armor. That’s probably why dude comes off as sort of autistic when you actually meet him face to face.

  40. There seems to be a lot of hate in this article and the ‘Myth of Akihabara’ that stems from the perception that anime fans in the west yearn to go to Japan to “live the otaku good life” and be accepted and feel cool. The vast majority of anime fans in the west only know about Akihabara as a place to buy figurines and anime stuff, and only a select few will even bother to take a trip there. They don’t see it as a heaven where they could finally be accepted, and only look at anime as something they like and aren’t yearning for acceptance for it. These two articles seem to come from too much familiarity with the idea of going to Akihabara or trying to live in Japan and bitterly not finding this otaku subculture to accept them. They sound like someone had a bad experience there and feel the need to spit vitriol about it.

  41. Yeah, that guy really gives off a creepy, perverted persona. I don’t know what it is, I kind of like reading how he made himself what he is in the motivational section of his site. Even though, I didn’t know before this article that his father was a millionaire cobbler. Regardless, some of his posts are interesting reads. I just try and stay away from that perverted shit.

    This post definitely gives me insight on how people in this niche industry make money. Exploit fans.

  42. Well in defense of Danny to a year old article, I can say I frequent his blog and do take his opinions with a hefty grain of salt. I also visit read via his RSS feed, and can agree that his front page makes for better random browsing and less finding what you want. And for the most part for the Internet you make money off your fans, one way or another. Failblog/I Can haz cheezburger do take your “explotiation of free content” model to profit off of, but arguably its not the easiest thing in the world to pull off. And for the most part its not the content but the collection of that makes such a book useful. I can always find the stuff inside again, but as a book its in one place, unique, and portable. It’s one to say just gathering shit up and making money off it is a total hack, but its another to say that there are people who would want someone to gather this shit up and put it together and don’t care if they make money off it.

    And in the end people sound like they have a distaste for his personality, real or not, because it tastes too saccharine. I definitely get that same vibe off him. But I read his blog cause as is he looks to be the one blog talking about Japan with pictures in English. And I like reading about it. And sometimes it helps to not be overly negative all the time. Sometimes.

    Besides, even if punk ain’t punk if it sells out, can’t it still be entertaining? Or is that lack of pure punk the core driver of its credibility?

    Also: Sure his dancing in a stormtrooper suit is essentially ripping off multiple ideas (suit wasn’t his, but it was modded for dancing), why not say the collection of it is not original. Cause we do live in a purely derivative world.

  43. so what the guy makes profit by selling merchandises, the guy has to make a living too and besides he turned down an offer from his father Jimmy Choo to take over his shoe company so he could MC culture Japan and blogging about his love towards anime

    so an advice: dont buy merchandises if u dont want too

    p/s: one of merchandises the moekana pack card was created to teach people japanese language

  44. Hi. I ran across Danny Choo’s web site looking for info on Akiba. I found it a good read and I enjoyed the photo essays on life in Japan and how he got there to realize his dream of living and working there. Made me look forward to revisting the country this summer. Then I ran across this critical piece of his actions and work. What is it you want him to do? Stop doing what he’s doing?

    I dunno. I found his life there informative and interesting, glad he found a niche for himself where he can survive there on the fringes of Japanese society. I say survive, because as otaku myself who has lived amoung the people helping in their defense (I’m retired Air Force), my observation is that as a gaijin, no matter how asian you appear, you are on the outside looking in, only being invited in on occasion from the friendships you make in the industry. And remember, your personal relationships with people are what get you ahead in Japan as well as your qualifications to work a job.

    I think the first thing anime fans should realize is that there is no easy way to “live the otaku life” in Tokyo. I think GAINAX’s early offering, Otaku no Video, made that pretty clear with the scene of a ragged looking white american otaku living in a flop house apartment that would do Leiji Matsumoto’s illustrations of such places proud. I get a couple of impressions from Danny’s writings that I can confirm:

    1. To otaku in Tokyo, you gotta have income and a place to stay.

    2.That requires a job. Not all jobs that want foreigners are anime related. Mostly IT, teaching English (JET program)and in my case, serving in US military.

    3. Once you’re there, your job has the priority, unless your job IS anime production and marketing. Outside of Danny, I only know of one other person before him that acheived that success, Jan Scott Frazier. For the rest of us, the otaku stuff is secondary to the reason you are in country, and if you wanna keep staying in Japan, you better realize that real quick or you’re back on a plane to wherever you came from.

    But what IS an “otaku life”? It’s what you make it out to be. I spent eight years in country, the first four of which were 400 miles north of the “holy city”, but I enjoyed my anime lifestyle with fellow service members and local Japanese friends I’d made when I wasn’t fixing broken F-16s or flying off to Malaysia to fix them. Like any red blooded capitalist, I also tried to make money with anime. I made garage kits and sold them at Wonder Festival. Along with my Yokota buddies in my second assignement, we did pretty good selling american comics (I guess we started the amecomi phenom) and other US stuff they wanted there.

    Once back home, I founded an anime store and road that wave until it crested in 2005. In between, local anime fans and I created a con that had a 10 year run. Could have been longer were it not for something that I discovered, the dark side of the fan community. I’m seeing it here too.

    Otaku are Sith-like in that they either revere someone who’s “made” it or appear successful, and later they want to destroy them in envious passions of blog and semi-private web journal log entries. I’ve been through that as a chairman, attacked by those who precieved me as “powerful” or as having something they too wanted but could not achieve. Nah, I was just the guy they picked to help lead a small popular con. A few cosplayers felt we weren’t obeying their wishes, so they set about bringing it down.

    All that aside, I give Danny his due for having a successful business model. Exploitive? I’m not so sure, given what I know from living there and working within the retail aspects of the industry on the hobby/model making side. I think he’s doing well for himself. How long this will last remains to be seen. What I DO know is that the entertainment industry that resides in Tokyo can be extremely fickle and will spit you out as soon as its done with you. Ask any former idol. To me, Danny is just saying if this is your dream, and you have the skills required to be there, go for it. Thanks for reading.

  45. I just stumbled upon this article, and man this hits so close to home.

    When I was a teenager in high school, I was a huge weeaboo and wanted desperately to live in Japan, fuck around in Akihabara, eat bento lunches, and so on. I taught myself the language, researched the JET program, and looked for Japanese universities I could attend. This obsession with wanting to live in Japan naturally brought me to Choo’s blog, which was like the fucking Chocolate Factory to me at the time.

    There was so much information on living in Japan and making it in Japan, as well as motivational articles on following your dreams, that I couldn’t help but make an account and create free content for that sneaky cunt. My ultimate goal was to be taken under his wing and live the dream of reviewing anime figurines and rubbing shoulders with anime industry-insiders for a living. I eventually ended up in a Japanese university, wrote even more blog articles for him, and sent him an e-mail about how I wanted to join him. But there was no response.

    Looking back on it, I was a fucking idiot. Why would he need someone else? He’s the face of his brand, the dancing storm trooper, the cool nerd (as if such a thing existed), the self-made man. A programmer, marketer, and financial planner. He prides himself on being “self-made” and it shows in his constant ego masturbation.

    But I doubt Choo is as self-made as he wants everyone to think. Even if his billionaire father didn’t financially support him since birth (doubtful), the fact that his father is Jimmy Choo still holds massive weight. When your father is a household name, people treat you differently. Companies treat you differently. CEOs treat you differently. So the fact that Jimmy Choo’s son could make it in a foreign country sounds less and less surprising the more you think about it.

    Some of the only true things about Danny Choo is that he’s smart, sly, and tech savvy. He embraced the Web 2.0 crowdsourcing model and applied to the otaku, an obsessive and profitable demographic that seemingly exists to be exploited (check out the prices on official anime mugs and seat cushions). They make all of his ad and referral money and he gives them… well I’m not sure what he gives them. I guess it would be false dreams and reviews of masturbation aids.

  46. As anime lover, I dislike him. It’s not like I’m jealous or anything, as I do have proof that leads me no choice but to dislike him. His personality of showing Japan as a perverted country with lots of otaku stuff going on is not right, I used to live in Japan, yet only some areas affected by it and not that big, for instance Akihabara. Japanese culture is not just about otaku, but what I truly love is their manners, how they live in sync, the discipline, and how they love work. Otaku that he is trying to describe is somehow different, and sounds disgraceful towards Japan. Japan is the land of rising sun, not rising skirt. Sorry for the offensive part.

  47. There are some hardcore Danny Choo fans and haters on here, others with polarised opinions about anime culture, otaku, and Japan. Maybe I can add a more objective viewpoint. I sometimes read Danny Choo’s blog and like a lot of what he does. Collecting toys/models etc. and living in the sort of sub-culture is fun and I kinda get it, but the only toy I have on my shelf is the odd gift from a friend. I actually find the dollie and naked-girls-everywhere side of it/him pretty odd, but to each his own.

    Looking at the criticism above that he isn’t self-made seems a bit odd. In what sense is he not self-made? He certainly benefited from his dad’s wealth and fame, but Jimmy Choo is no billionare, most people get a boost from their parents, and Danny has specifically addressed the lack of connection with his father, so unless those commentors have some inside info, they would seem to just be haters. He was able to do what he did in Japan by working for many years in standard, but decent paying tech jobs in Japan. He wasn’t an English teacher or bar host living off tips. His career and experience, very real and provable, set him up for what he’s doing, not some rich shoe designer who has no connection to what he’s doing.

    Others above say that the Japan he portrays he not real. I 100% disagree, he actually shows real Japan. He filters out a lot and concentrates what his people want to see, but he doesn’t just show Japan as some anime/otaku-heaven. What he shows, especially in his photo-articles looks just like the real Japan I’ve seen every time I’ve been there.

    To those who say the life he has is either fake or unattainable, I partially disagree. If you think as a young foreigner with no amazing talent or education, that you can just go to Japan and start leading that life, you are dellusional. Danny has a lot of things going for him, he’s foreign but not too foreign, he’s a great communicator with excellent Japanese and other language ability, he’s got good relevant work experience, he’s got luck, passion, and patience. It took him a long time to get where he is.

    Don’t let that or the haters above burst your bubble, but be realistic. Japan is not the open heterogeneous culture that the US, UK or France might be, that’s why it’s so amazing to many foreigners, because it’s still very Japanese. It is a huge challenge for any foreigner in any country to really get into the real life of a new place, but in Japan it’s extra difficult. If you are young, love Japan, and want to be part of that, make sure you have experience, talent, and skills that Japan needs before you go, or be ready to go spend a decade or so slowly building up those things. It won’t be easy, most people will fail, but it’s doable and Danny Choo is one of many foreigners who have made it happen.

  48. Haha Actar was BANNED by Choo from figure.fm, I’m pretty sure Actar hates Danny Choo now too.

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