The eighth installment of the Tokyo Origami VR Series, “Through the Eyes of an Otaku” garnered the prestigious Best Short Award at the 2023 BRNO Fulldome Festival. Here’s what the Jury had to say:

Despite being less than 9 minutes long, “Tokyo Origami: Through the Eyes of An Otaku” presents the audience with a wide gamut of emotions, beginning with amusement and veering sharply into heartbreak. At the same time, the medium through which the show is presented – an unmoving 360′ camera stuck in the middle of a small space, – seems particularly well suited to the story, adding to its trapped, claustrophobic feel and inviting even more sympathy for the main character. The result is an unexpectedly haunting experience.

About the Tokyo Origami VR Series

Tokyo Origami is an 8-part series about life in Japan commissioned by META for the Oculus Quest. It was produced by COSM studios and is available for free for Oculus users. The total series length is about 60 minutes. The series was written and directed by Robin Sip with music composed by longtime collaborator Mark Slater.

Episode 8: The Story of an Otaku

In Japan, enthusiasts who find themselves absorbed in the captivating realms of pop idols, anime, manga, not to mention computers or video games, earn the title of ‘Otaku’. The translation of ‘Otaku’ means ‘at home’, insinuating these obsessed fans often find sanctuary within their homes, immersing themselves in their chosen interests, possibly at the cost of neglecting their social skills.

The term ‘otaku’ originated in the 1980s and was initially a derogatory label for people who were seen as socially awkward due to their intense interests.

Episode 8 had initially intended to shed light on the social phenomenon of ‘Otaku’. However, one of the subjects for interview had such an astonishing backstory that Director Robin Sip decided to make the episode entirely about him, even hiring actors to portray him as a child.

Through the eyes of an otaku

Despite its negative origins, many people now proudly identify as otaku. Here are some of the many areas of interest:

  • Anime and Manga: Anime is not just ‘Japanese cartoons,’ nor is manga simply ‘comic books.’ They both are distinct forms of artistic expression with rich narratives and intricate art styles that captivate millions.
  • Video games: From arcade classics to modern esports, video games often intertwine with otaku culture, leading to fascinating cross-pollinations of these mediums.
  • Figurines and Merchandise: Collectible figurines, known as nendoroids or scale figures, and other merchandise are proudly displayed symbols of otaku passion.
  • Cosplay: Dressing up as favorite characters is a beloved aspect of otaku life, forging a real-life connection to the fictional worlds they cherish.
  • Pop idols, or ‘Idoru’: Fans called ‘wotas’ splurge heavily on idol merchandise. From music CDs, posters, and photobooks to concert tickets, handshake event entries, and even voting in idol popularity polls.

Telling Tales through Tunes: The Role of Music in the Award-Winning Episode

The episode opens with a glimpse into the apartment of an eccentric presenting man who identifies as otaku. His tiny apartment is so overflowing with his collections of games that he barely has room to move, sleep, and eat. There is nothing sinister about. The man has turned his passion into a successful career. So far, the music plays along with these strangely colorful and cluttered surroundings with an air of humor. 

Then we learn through a dramatization how he was abandoned as a young child and grew up alone in a house but with a good supply of money to spend on games and take-out food left by an absent father. The music takes a more serious turn as the child discovers his dead mother and injects just the right amount of pathos to everything that happens next. 

People often have questions about how people turn out the way they do. Here our subject as a young child discovers he is actually good at something, playing video games, much more than his school peers. People look for belongingness and who could need it more than a 7-year old child left to cope by themselves from that point onwards?

Despite the many individual acts of kindness people perform, every day I see the institutions of the world, the corporations and the super rich, care less and less about people. The selfish and often fraudulent activities of the powerful often come under the spotlight, but typically most escape any consequences. Some like to dismiss this as an inevitable trait of human nature, to care little beyond themselves or at best their own family. Others see the opposite and how social bonding and physical connection with others is the only thing that gives life meaning. We need love. We need to belong.

Experiencing Tokyo Origami VR in a Planetarium Theater

Although created for the Oculus Quest headset in full VR, spherical 360, the film used techniques for framing that have been developed in the fulldome space. Consequently, it was possible to screen the series in the planetarium dome in BRNO Fulldome Festival. 

Deciding where your audience stands and their main focus is critical for fulldome and VR production. It is easy to be too close too things especially in a confined space of rooms where this Episode was shot. However, Robin Sip establishes the right point of view for the 360 camera from which the audience can turn their head and look around, feeling immersed in that space.

COSM, the producers behind Tokyo Origami, have a mission to build more immersive theaters around the world. Currently most immersive or giant screens are connected with museums and education rather than mass entertainment. COSM believe in the power of the shared event that connects people that can be lost in the metaverse. They believe nothing can replace the belongingness that you can feel in such a space, watching. sports game or undertaking a journey.

With a recently opened venue in Dallas, TX, at Grandscape, there is another being built in Hollywood Park, CA, due to open in 2024.


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