The tale of online fans that tossed two testimonial video actors into battle.
By now you may have seen the videos floating around the internet. If you're a visitor to 4chan, you've most certainly caught a glimpse of the casual, laid-back battle that has been waged since December of last year, where two well-dressed men argue about anime. Intrepid internet users had discovered Fiverr.com, a site that let's you pay $5 to another person for services or goods. Many of the most popular products on here are testimonial videos, where actors or ordinary folks looking to make a quick buck record themselves reading a provided script in front of a webcam. It's simple, effective, and rife for mischief. What do you think happened when 4chan got a hold of it?
Obviously, they submitted orders for videos with scripts featuring the most silly and over-the-top writing, deriding popular anime or declaring Satsuki (from Kill la Kill) as "best girl." They lampooned their fellow otaku for their tastes and tried to make the actors say Japanese words in the silliest way possible. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning, with a video ordered from a user named "activerog" or Rog.
Like most internet memes, it's difficult to pinpoint the origin of the joke (and expiring 4chan threads don't help), but the earliest video I was able to locate on YouTube was uploaded on December 10, 2013, over a month ago (by Ryan Pollard). Since then, countless /a/ and /s4s/ threads have spread, and as more people caught wind of Rog's Fiverr page, more orders poured in. Suddenly, someone who had originally only dealt with businesses promoting products or other testimonials was flooded with an onslaught of anime-related video requests -- all at five dollars a pop. And then a second person, labeled Tyrone, showed up. Where was this all going?
While it's easy to laugh at the speakers who attempt to pronounce difficult Japanese words, I wondered if perhaps there was a different side to this phenomenon. What did "Rog" and "Tyrone" think of all this? Were they aware of their minor internet celebrity? I wanted to find to out -- so I went straight to the source and chatted with both spokespeople.
Roger Stockburger is a motivational speaker, life coach, and network marketer from Australia with an endearing accent. He expressed an enthusiasm for video and internet content the whole time we chatted, saying that his web presence has always been a big part of his life. "Before YouTube [...] and GoPros, I strapped a Sony Handicam onto a Helmet and went snow skiing," he told me, and "that was in the early 90's." He touted his Facebook page as proof of his marketing skills and popularity.
When he first started getting requests for anime-related videos, he quite literally said "WTF?" He also started to catch YouTube Poop edits of his videos (YTP videos are remixed and regurgitated modifications of existing video content). At first he wasn't sold on the idea, saying they were "a bit below the belt," but once he took a closer look, he realized all the time and effort being put into these edits was a creative use of users' talents that was "quite cool and impressive."
Still, users were essentially paying Rog to recite jokes to other anime fans online. Speaking through his videos, they declared "Kill la Kill the Evangelion of anime" and that he "does not use VLC, because I use god-tier MPC." (For the uninitiated, there is plentiful and needless debate over which media player is the best to use for watching anime, either VLC or MPC.) The videos railed against fans' favorite "waifus" declaring that "your tastes are bad." Clearly, some fans thought they needed to fight back (or more likely, wanted in on the joke). So how else, than to fight fire with fire?
A new challenger approaches! Enter "Tyrone" (first by Burotaku). Unlike Rog, the internet didn't know this fellow's real name, so they assigned him one of rather racially dubious quality. Tyrone was hired to combat Rog's Australian anime empire with a variety of messages, from one issuing a decree that "Wakfu is clearly superior to all anime ever produced" to another that reviews Chuunibyou season 2, where he says that "Rikka is super kawaii."
There was also the hilariously awkward lolicon video, above. "That floor!"
Obviously, Tyrone is not his real name. In actuality, he's Gordon Hurd, born in Cameroon but now living in Britain, a motivational speaker, author, preacher, and former TV presenter. Yes, that's quite the list of jobs, but it doesn't stop there: he also runs a Christian ministry. Even with all this, he finds time for making videos on Fiverr. He says he originally thought the flood of requests was due to "a new thing on the market" but soon found that he found himself "enjoying doing anime videos." He laughed and added, "but I keep begging the sellers for the right pronunciations."
Perhaps the most hilarious anecdote was his tale of a client that asked him to to shout for the entire 30-second duration of the video. "My wife rushed down during the shoot as she thought I was hurt!" He also noted that some users have asked him "to feign being Obama," but he said the strangest one was "recently when I was asked to pass for... a single mum!" I'm still trying to find that video.
Gordon also mentioned that due to the popularity of the anime-themed video requests, he decided to check out some anime himself. He told me that he watched "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and plans to watch more. I can only assume he meant an anime AMV, which (frankly) is adorable. Perhaps one user will feel bad about making him read that lolicon script, now.
While Gordon and Roger have never crossed paths in real life, their videos have collided virtually aplenty. Both of them have also been aware of their digital faux-arguments; Rog said what caught his interest was that "some of them were some impressive hits on YouTube." Gordon even mentioned interacting with users in the comments, saying that while he loved how involved they were, some were "so involved one of them even shoved me off in a YouTube comment with words I cannot write here." Well, that's YouTube comments for you.
Amidst the myriad of video-uploading, something emerged: a strange sense of unity. Though fans were hurling insults at each other, it was a gentle ribbing rather than vitriolic hate. Usually denizens of 4chan are powered by hate -- either of moe or of moe detractors -- but this was something they (mostly) came together to support.
Of course, I couldn't leave without getting a video from both Rog and Gordon, now could I? I decided to continue the theme of unification among otaku and attempt to bring everyone together, although even I couldn't resist a few jokes here and there.
"Now, I just love doing videos especially when buyers return positive, encouraging comments," says Gordon. He plans to continue doing anime-themed videos as long as the orders keep coming in. Perhaps one day a true collaboration between the two will happen, and the anime fandom on this side of the internet will collapse.
Before I finished, I asked Rog one last question: who is "best girl?" I expected him to answer with the typical joke answer, "Satsuki," but instead he surprised me. "Geez, who is best girl, tough one to answer. That blonde one with the big tits, whatever her name was."
I think they'll fit in here just fine.
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