Otaku was filmed and directed by Joan Hill, a woman on the autism spectrum, who has found that anime and Japanese comics (manga) help her connect to the world. She traveled with a group of friends, some with special needs, to Japan, where she was able to eat the food she’s been reading about for years, visit the museums dedicated to her favorite anime artists, and use the language that she’s been teaching herself since she first developed an interest in anime while living in a group home in Massachusetts.
Joan lives and works in Camphill Village—a lifesharing community for adults with special needs, where she’s a dairy farmer and shares a house with volunteers and adults with developmental differences.
There is a trend in movies and media that showcase individuals with special needs, where the theme is one of overcoming a certain challenge. This is not that movie. This is a film that was created by a woman who happens to be on the spectrum, who also has a fantastic sense of humor, curiosity, and desire for new experiences.
The film is often funny, at times sensitive, and invites the viewer into Joan’s world. The juxtaposition between her peaceful rural lifestyle with the newness of her experience in Japan imparts to viewers the same excitement that Joan experienced on her journey.