Otakus in Love
“Otakus in Love” is a funny, oddball romantic comedy with a warm heart.

“Otakus in Love” is Japanese, but I’ll use it as a positive example to give you a rant and a rave about the sorry state of recent Korean films, which I simply have to get off my chest. If you’re not into rant and raves, just skip it, and go to the review further down the page.

The Japanese can still make a nice romantic comedy, without being overly sentimental or formulaic - which the Koreans just seem to have forgotten how to do.

One of the hardest genres to get across to other cultures is the comedy. What seems funny, heartwarming or hilarious in one culture is ridiculous, stupid or downright embarrassing in another.

Some comedies are universal, though. Ever since I saw “My Sassy Girl”, I’ve been in love with Korean films. It’s funny, witty and very heartwarming at the same time – a wonderful film. I realize this is not a film that will come around every day. This is not your usual formulaic Hollywood comedy.

However, today nine out of ten Korean comedies are just that – formulaic, unfunny and much too manipulating sentimental. In short they are boring and uninteresting. If that’s how you like your films, go back to Hollywood, they do it better.

As I said earlier, comedies are difficult. But unfortunately the trend is spreading to other genres as well. Lately I’ve seen some pretty bad Korean horror films, dramas and romances. What made Korea special is that they have been one of the very few countries in the world, where the local films sold more tickets, than Hollywood films. Now that seems to be changing – Hollywood are gaining ground again. And that’s a pity, but judging by the latest crop of Koreans film, they asked for it.

The reason it is a pity is that Korean films seemed new and fresh. Over the last couple of years, they gathered big audiences, because they had lots of original ideas, were not as cloyingly sentimental as Korean films used to be and the directors were given a relatively free rein to experiment.

I don’t expect every new Korean film to be a new “Old Boy”, “A Tale of Two Sisters” or “My Sassy Girl” - but, please don’t slip back to the old times, where none but Koreans wanted to watch a Korean film. You have spoiled us with great and interesting films over the last years – we want more of this and not the current dismal crop of speculative crap!

End of rant.

Back to “Otakus in Love”. As a contrast to Korean comedies, the Japanese can still do it.

“Otakus” means nerds or geeks. Mon Aoki (Ryuhei Matsuda) is a manga artist, but his manga art is not drawn on paper as is the usual, but consists of rocks artfully placed in boxes, with written kanji characters on them. He is not selling and has a hard time getting food on the table. He runs into Koino Akashi (Wakana Sakai), who is heavily into cosplay (People, who like to dress up in costumes. In Koino’s case, self made costumes of her video game heroes).

After a night of heavy drinking Mon wakes up in Koino’s bed – dressed in a homemade costume of her video game hero. As he thinks, he lost his virginity to her sometime during the night, he feels; he can live with the costume thing. However, when he finds out, that they didn’t have sex – he’s out the door. Koino does not want to let him go, and the chase is on.

Will these two nerds find true love together?

“Otakus in Love” is Suzuki Matsuo’s directional debut. Multi-talent is the word for this director/actor/writer/playwright/novelist. As an actor he is most known in the west for his double role as the twin psychopathic detectives in “Ichi the Killer”. Apart from directing, in “Otakus in Love” he also plays the part of Marimoda – a former manga artist, who is now the owner of a bar.

He has taken this manga-based story, and made it into a colorful film full of charm and grace. In today’s hectic society (and that goes for western societies as well as Japan) some people create their own worlds in order to survive mentally. Living out your fantasies, whether they are manga, cosplay or something else, is becoming a safety valve for many people. Suzuki Matsuo shows, that this does not mean, that you cannot fall in love and experience the joys and problems of all lovers. Even for geeks love is a process of adapting to each other and the real world – and that process can make you a fuller and happier person.

This is a funny and warm romantic comedy that transcends borders and cultural differences. Are you listening, Korea?
Uffe Stegmann
May 29, 2005

Original Title
Koi no mon
Suzuki Matsuo
- First feature film
Ryuhei Matsuda
- Cutie Honey (2004)
- Izo (2004)
- 9 Souls (2003)
- Collage of Our Life (2003)
- Blue Spring (2001)
- Gohatto (1999)
Wakana Sakai
- No Problem 2 (2002)
- several TV-series
DVD Availability
Available on DVD from YesAsia: