Akihabara Geeks – Review
by Miguel Douglas on May 28, 2010
Akihabara is a neighborhood of Tokyo, Japan known as “Electric Town” for its rows of one-meter wide discount computer and electronics stores. In more recent years Akihabara has evolved into a full-blown Mecca for computer enthusiasts anime and manga fans doll or “figure” collectors video gamers and “Otaku” of all kinds. Because Akihabara caters to interests outside of mainstream Japanese society it captivates an entire subculture of devotees. Join us as we peruse the shops streets and Maid Cafes to present an engrossing day in the life view of Akihabara and focus on the unique people who are passionately plugged into this town.
Akihabara Geeks presents an endearing look into the life of the people that occupy the lights and glimmer of the town known as Akihabara. What this documentary does exceptionally well is that it overlooks the superficialities that we often times associate with a town such as Akihabara, and delivers to us a more detailed look into the various facets that contribute to town’s foundation—in a sense showcasing a realistic look into how it operates on a more personal level. While we still see the familiar elements such as maid cafes and otakus, the film delves deeper to show the often times unacknowledged individuals such as computer over-clockers and electric part storeowners. The film uniquely showcases these people throughout a 24-hour period, which really gives the viewer an insightful look into the daily lives of the individuals who occupy Akihabara. The film intersects to show the various individuals as they perform their duties throughout the day, ultimately telling us what Akihabara means to them personally.
And that’s what primarily makes this documentary so appealing. The people viewed here really showcase some of the more interesting elements that contribute to Akihabara—as well as show the town’s immense diversity. We are first shown Ryukishi07, the creator Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. He got his start in Akihabara, and we follow him through the process of both creating and self-publishing his own games. We then take a look at probably the most common representative associated with Akihabara—the otaku. 20-year-old Ikki Motohara is what you would describe as a hardcore otaku, here shown as having a huge desire to collect items associated with cute female anime characters. He collects an abundance of items, which leaves him sorely having to reduce buying food in order to spend money on items such as posters, pillows, and figurines. We are then shown 51-year-old Kouichi Shimayama, an electronic storeowner. Giving up a high paying job to work his family business, Kouichi spends his days within a small confined space offering electric parts that aren’t normally found in bigger retail stores. We then have 35-year-old Katsumi Ohashi, the world-record holder for the creating the fastest computer—otherwise known as overclocking. We follow him as he attempts to break his own record, traversing Akihabara in search of parts to perform the attempt. And finally, another famous element of Akihabara is shown—the maid waitress. 22-year-old Miss Ichika is a prestigious law student who is also a maid café employee, and we follow her through her job as a waitress.
Akihabara Geeks does an excellent job of showcasing Akihabara as a town with numerous outlets for people to better express their talents, habits, and passions. The film showcases not only the pop culture element the town is famously known for, but also for bringing the viewer a more intimate look into the daily lives of the workers, shop owners, anime enthusiasts, and game developers that contribute to Akihabara. The film is very aware not to fall into presenting just a general view of Akihabara, but rather as showing it as a place of diversity and opportunity. Behind all the stereotypical otaku and made waitresses—let’s not forget that people like that are still ever present—there lives a population that when combined, create a utopia of realized dreams and creativity unlike many other places of earth. All these culminate in presenting Akihabara in an entirely different light, thereby breaking many stereotypical assumptions we might have had before viewing. We also get a brief history of the town itself—from its pre-war usage as a transportation hub, to the future development plans of having Akihabara become one of the biggest tourist spots within Japan—the film presents a great look into how the town came to fruition, and its future potential.
Overall, Akihabara Geeks is an excellent documentary that really gives the viewer a truer sense of what constitutes Akihabara. From the multiple perspectives, brief history lessons, and interesting tidbits, the film truly provides the viewer with a well-rounded and intimate look into Akihabara not only as a town, but as a real place that people live, play, and work, with the film presenting a look into Akihabara free from exaggeration and stereotypes we might often associate with it. While Akihabara may cater to many interests not deemed entirely mainstream, Akihabara Geeks successfully strives to show the people who inhabit it are usually just everyday individuals just like us. While somewhat short in its running time, the film still presents a great wealth of solid, fun, and interesting information. If you are even remotely interested in what Akihabara has to offer, or plan on visiting it some day, Akihabara Geeks provides an excellent look into one of Japan’s most fascinating destinations.