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An Audience with Danny Choo

Yesterday, I was able to meet with world famous blogger Danny Choo while he was doing a talk at his old University while he is in the UK.

The talk was called “Creative Industries in Japan: an audience with Danny Choo” and he basically spoke about how his interest in Japan started, what he did to get to where he is currently and a brief glimpse into his future plans.

Now, I am aware that Danny has his fair share of admirers and detractors in equal measures and, if I was being honest, I think I would be classed as a detractor. But my issues have nothing to do with Danny Choo himself, but rather the persona of him which has been created online, mostly by the community which idolises him to the point of being almost fanatical! But this was a rare opportunity to meet the man himself, without all the fluff and corporate baggage which has more recently been the regular focus of his site and the scorn for certain sections of the online community.
I’ve spoken with Danny on and off for a few years via email on little things but I never went to meet the guy in person, so I thought “why not?”

Here’s a look at the lecture theatre where the talk took place. Not exactly a full house but it was still rather busy.
Initially, I and a few others were sat near the back where we had a clear view of the stage but we eventually moved forward when we realized that 1) we didn’t need to see the entire stage and 2) the terrible lighting prevented us from taking photos!!!

The talk itself was rather uneventful. If you have been a follower of his site for a few years then he was basically going through his posts about how he got started so it was probably stuff which DC.com members have read before, although he did share some of his more eccentric memories, such as taping the background noise in Shibuya while he was on a trip there and playing it back when he was back in the UK to help “transport him back there” (his words, not mine!)

The talk was also anything but smooth, with a single persistant technical glitch which caused the projector to turn itself off at random intervals. Personally, I blame his Mac. Yes, I’m a PC so deal with it!!
Macs “just work” fine so long as there are only other macs around. Try and get it to work with a PC tho… oh dear. (incidentally, connecting to a macbook pro using my windows 7 PC is the only time I have ever seen a BSOD for windows 7. And the macbook caused it!!)

In any case, at a certain point in the talk, the projector simply refused to go any further and stalled so an impromptu break was called while the techies tried to figure something out. I think they ended up copying his presentation to a PC and running it from there but I’m not sure.

The staffers trying to sort stuff out!

In the meantime, Danny tried to entertain the crowd by offering out freebies such as surgical masks featuring various 2D girls.

And danny choo straps

I attest that he should have worn the mask backwards so the picture of the girl would be facing him. That way, we could say that he was kissing her! But seeing as his wife was in the audience, perhaps that wasn’t the best idea.
As for distributing the items, Danny simply left them on the desk and said “come get ‘em” and so the audience did. In fact, they did it so quickly that I, despite being next to the stage at the time, was unable to take a picture of the audience grabbing the merchandise!! I ran up to a spot on the stage to get a better position, turned around and they were all leaving already. Ninjas? more like vultures!! Maybe I should have done a Phoenix Wright-style “HOLD IT!” to get them to pause while I took the pic…

And here’s the offending slide which caused all the problems. It was of Ita-sha… Even the Mac and projector thought that they were too painful to show!

Apologies for the quality of the pics. The lighting in the venue was just awful!

Danny plugging the Pokken devices. It’s just a shame that they have rather limited use in the UK since nobody has one!

The end of the talk was the most interesting as Danny started talking about his current projects such as his recently announced anime Chinka and the recently announced Otacool 3. Personally, I think that being a geek and being cool are mutually exclusive. Doesn’t mean that you can’t take pride in being one or the other but that’s my personal feeling. Anyway, Otacool 3 was announced by danny (I think) last week and the theme will be worldwide desks. He spoke of plans to get some anime seiyuus involved as well as getting a few pages for his dad, Jimmy Choo!
I can only hope that this time round, they keep strictly to the “desk” theme and ensure that all the entries are fit to task and still be used as desks. The last time Danny held the desk competitions, it devolved into people simply cramming as much stuff as they could on their desk to grab attention. Kinda missed the point… In any case, I think I’ll step aside for this one. Being featured in 1 otacool book is enough for me.

Danny also mentioned that he was working on a pilot TV show which would be broadcast around July. The format isn’t quite fixed but he hoped to do stuff like behind the scenes segments, showing how anime or figures were made. He also said that he hoped to get some members of the DC.com community to upload and share a video of their room which would be shown on TV. Think Otacool 1 but with moving pictures and commentary. Not sure if that was confirmed but if it is, I’m sure he’ll announce it on his site soon.

And that was the talk in a nutshell. A little something for everyone but non community members or more recent ones will probably take home more than others.
But there were a few things which struck me during the talk. Firstly, on a rather superficial level, Danny has a rather distinct voice. Nothing bad about it but after listening to him speak I get the feeling that you would be able to easily recognise his voice in a crowd. Apparently, mine is the same but enough about that. The other thing is that, while there were times where I felt that Danny lacked a certain overconfidence one would expect to see from a public speaker, one thing which anyone can tell is his sheer passion for what he does. Like him or loathe him, even if you just disagree with him you cannot deny that he is really passionate about what he does and what he was speaking about. That kind of stuff often gets lost when you are simply reading words but when you listen to him, it’s enough to make you think.

Afterwards, there was a Q&A session which allowed the audience to mingle with eachother (and hound Danny on a more personal level). I took the early opportunity to get my Otacool book signed and then spent some time with the crowd.
This was the part of the evening I enjoyed the most. Meeting like minded people and fellow DC.com members (tho at this stage, I’m more like a ghost member) and sharing stories. During this time I had a chat with Ken and exchanged a few words with Emily, AKA Meimi132. Both are DC.com community members. Seeing as I don’t really have much use for paper business cards, I kept my vcard handy and sent a few over to people. At least I hope so. There’s always a chance that their spam guard blocked delivery. So if you’re expecting a vcard from someone you met at this little event, please check your spam folder!!

In one of his posts before the talk, Danny encouraged dollfie owners to bring them to the event and show them off. And before anyone says anything, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I start calling them “daughters” or refer to a transaction as an “adoption!”
Not to be outdone, I took Christmas HoiHoi, as well as one of my Yoko kits and getsumento heiki mina garage kit to the event to show to others. Hoihoi and Mina seemed to go down very well and Ken even asked if I did commissions. I was a little reluctant to say yes as I don’t think I’m actually that good a painter but I was a little more confident when he told me that he saw a shop in Hong Kong where the owner painted kits and sold them and mine were easily comparable. So maybe I will, someday!

A shot of various figures which people brought to the event. Mina seemed exceptionally popular so don’t be surprised if you see a few pics of her floating around other peoples blog posts regarding this event.

Throughout the evening both the dollfie owners and Danny himself tried to convince me to get one. Afterall, I’ve bought garage kits which were worth similar amounts so cost isn’t really an issue. But they all failed anyway! As I always say, it’ll take a character of Sheryl Nome level to break me down!

And after stories and cards were swapped, that was pretty much the end of the evening. A few people took the chance thank Danny and ask for advice on how to get to Japan in general. I asked him a little about the figure industry. After seeing people reactions to my kits, it made me wonder if it’s worth trying to pursue an opportunity to work within the figure industry. Unfortunately, I think I may have blindsided Danny a bit with that question as his answer wasn’t quite as in depth as others. In the end, I was left with a “wait and see on DC.com…”
Also, as a rather pleasant surprise, I was working under a veil of anonymity but when I mentioned my online handle. Danny knew exactly who I was. Being a community member for years probably helped but I was taken a little aback by it.
And yes, I had my photo taken with Danny, as did most others but for the safety of children and preventing the need to put a NSFW tag on this post somewhere, I’m just putting the link in.

Seriously, this link may be hazardous to your health

and that was the better shot. The first one didn’t look anywhere near as good!

This one should be less hazardous

I blame the cameraman!!

and so, that’s how the evening ended. After being a member of the DC.com community for several years (I think since 2005) I have finally met the guy! Admittedly, I didn’t get all awestruck and go into fanboy mode but I think that was probably for the better. I would have loved to have more time to chat with Danny about various other things he’s involved in but everyone wanted to ask him something so I couldn’t be selfish.

Maybe I’ll do it next time he’s in town. Perhaps in another 5 years? But at least I get to walk away with my Otacool signed and Danny Choo business card.

  • http://www.haremland.blogspot.com Ken

    Hey nice to see u there too mate,

    Just to let u know, my username on DC is Sneddon ^^ see u in some sort of event very soon!

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    heh, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for your nick next time I pop into DC.com or Figure.fm!

    Hope to see ya at an event too!

  • serogane

    Nice review Chris. I remember watching some of his commentaries on Youtube before – he does have this distinct British accent.

    I do hold the guy in a certain regard, both for his Wonder Festival posts that got me into garage kits in the first place and for his professional accomplishments, but I can’t stand reading his blog these days (not because of his new dollfie obsession but because of words like “din-din” which he chooses to proliferate his blog with).

  • lee

    yo what up Chris, should’ve realized sooner that your asian lol for some reason even to this day I just automatically assumes(fantasize lol)that anybody in our hobby group I’ve not yet seen in real life is a none asian. but how horribly wrong I am, every time somebody guts up and reveal their true nature I get disappointed lol but seriously, our hobby to me seems pretty much like a asian exclusive :D

  • http://radiantdreamer.wordpress.com radiant

    Awesome stuff mate! Glad to hear that you were able to get in on the DC action. I can understand where you stand in terms of the whole Danny-fanaticism. I believe that I’m in the same boat as you, but really have no hard feelings towards Danny himself.

    It’s interesting to hear that Danny knew who you were by your handle. I think it’s safe to say that anyone that’s been memorable around DC.com and figure.fm would leave an impression on him.

    I think though, that his passion has definitely changed. It’s no longer about the hobby, but about how he can make money off of it. That’s all fine, but I believe some of the hate that people have for him stem here in a way, in addition to those that are resisting “the mob”.

    The whole labeling of “daughters” is actually a very smart marketing gimmick to get people to personally identify with their purchase. After all, you’re more likely to buy more products for your “daughter” than for your “plastic doll” right?

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    His voice is also quite high. Not quite what you expect when you see him but it’s not quite as bad as David Beckham.

    I’ve not really been following his site for a while and even Figure.fm (the community one) feels stale and domesticated these days. Still, I keep the feed on just in case something interesting pops up. It happens from time to time.
    And I can manage stuff like Din-Dins and wifey but I draw the line at using “eyes” and “dolphin” to describe certain body areas. Calling dolls “daughters” and saying you “adopt” them kinda gets to me as well.

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    That might be borderline racist! :mrgreen:

    But at the same time, it does seem that the more hardcore collectors and the ones who are willing to go that extra mile do tend to have an oriental background. Not sure why that is tho. Then there are ppl who just make you go o_O
    When I was speaking to Ken at the event, he mentioned that he knew a guy who goes by the handle of Rin. Rin is kinda infamous cos it seems that he has more money than sense. People became aware of him when he posted his purchases from a trip to Japan. It was a massive pile which cost a small fortune ($1000 or something) but everything was standard production figures and the like. The stuff you can buy from HLJ or AmaAmi! If I had that kind of money to spend, I would track down nothing but exclusives!

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    Yeah, I think we spoke about it briefly before but a lot of the “old guard” (those of us who joined a while before he started his own company and did the tokyo trooper video) are pretty much in the same boat now.
    The fact that he knew me by my handle was a surprise to me as well. I let it slip while I was talking to some DC.com members and he was next to us and it was suddenly “Oh yeah, that Chris! I remember you!!” I’m sure he remembers some of the older members as well even if we don’t hang on his site or have much contact with him anymore.

    I agree that his passions have changed and there’s a lot of monetizing involved but because he’s far more recognisable now, there is a strong element of political correctness in his stuff which wasn’t there before. He’s far more conscious of what goes on his site and what to say so everything is “Great” and “wonderful” The community then picks up on that since they idolise him and suddenly, we get a situation where criticism and discussion are frowned apon because it doesn’t conform to the majority! He’s actually quite powerful in the figure industry now! I’m sure Dollfies and some figures like Black rock shooter may not have gained the traction they did without his plugs. And yes, the commercialisation of the hobby isn’t something I totally agree on either. It’s good to make it more known but I’m not sure I agree with where it’s headed. I’m also a little old fashioned in that I feel that words like “otaku” which traditionally have a negative connotation, should not be used as something which people want to advertise at the top of their lungs! I’m not ashamed if someone says I am “otaku” (tho I don’t think I am) but I would never shout it out in public like some do.

    Good point about the “daughters” marketing ploy! Still, I will never call them that. Not even if (and this is a big IF) I ever get one myself.

  • http://lightningsabre.blogspot.com lightningsabre

    That looked like an interesting meeting, because I know you and Danny don’t see eye-to-eye all the time (or most of the time, whichever). Yes, the first time I actually talked to him, I was sorta gaga about it because well maybe the fanaticism was there, but I think the more I talked to him the more I see him as a casual (or perhaps even close?) friend than as an “idol”. And I think that’s what he prefers anyway.

    About your kit painting… I think it’s a nice skill and goal. I think it’s a good idea to pursue it in one form or another. I’m unfocused, so I don’t really know what to pursue. So I’m somewhat jealous of people with skills who perhaps can make a future/goal out of them.

    I guess I have met a few DC members in person, but I’m generally a quiet person so I don’t really approach people easily.

    I laughed about that bits on Mac. I’m not a big fan of Mac either, but I do use it for work. Otherwise it’s all PC :D

    Haha well you did show your picture on that Otacool post, so maybe he remembered you that way.

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    Haha, Yeah we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things but personally, I think that’s better than being surrounded by “yes-men” who can’t say anything but praise and adulation. I’ve read a few writeups from people who were there and that was pretty much all they were saying. A counterargument and criticism is always useful, provided that there’s logic and reason to support it!
    I didn’t really get a chance to speak with him at length but you’re probably right in that if we did have a long conversation, sparks would probably fly a little even tho it would remain civil!
    I’m not the kind of person who would resort to personal attacks (unlike some other DC critics) so I would think that such a conversation with danny and perhaps some of his other detractors and old community members would be very interesting indeed!

    As for the kit painting, it’s just something which is tugging me a little. Truth be told, I’m probably as unfocused as yourself and I just tend to go with the flow. I have a few things which tug a little. My kit painting has always been a passionate hobby of mine, even in the worst of times and my writing for both this blog and tomopop have made me realise that perhaps a writing gig isn’t that bad (since I HATED essay writing back in my school days). but neither have been exerting a particularly strong pull to make me really go out and chase it…
    But if an opportunity arises somehow, you bet your ass that I’ll jump on it without a second thought! Maybe I should ask danny about getting me in contact with goodsmile and see if they’re willing to take me on as a temp or something if I get a working holiday visa or something (tho I would prefer to work for Alter or Volks)

    and gimme a break on the otacool thing man! :oops:
    It was only a side portrait so I doubt people would be able to recognise me on sight from that anyway! That’s the hope. It seems that many people were unable to get a copy anyway. The second most popular question for me, besides “did you paint those yourself?” was “where did you get that Otacool book?”