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Friday, July 20, 2018

Producers in Focus: Jacob Chapman (formerly JesuOtaku)

            This entry in Producers in Focus will be a bit different than normal, since it concerns someone who no longer produces video content and whose past work is no longer available (at least not in any format I’ve yet found). 

            Jacob Chapman would most likely be familiar to former Channel Awesome aficionados under his original moniker, “JesuOtaku” (which he no longer goes by, though he’s still fine with being called “JO”).  Specializing in anime, he premiered on the site in the summer of 2010, appeared a year later in the now-infamous To Boldly Flee, and left the site in October of 2014 so as to pursue a different career path.  He also revealed over the course of the #ChangetheChannel movement that his personal circumstances behind the scenes at CA had been really, really bad for some time (To Boldly Flee production being just one of many issues). 

            Despite his departure, the old JesuOtaku website still functioned and most of his work could be found on Youtube, until January 30th, 2016, when Jacob formally came out on Twitter as transgender.  I had the good fortune and honor of being able to message directly with him right after his coming-out video went live.  After congratulating him, I asked if he had any plans to re-host his old JO content; he responded that, while he had no problem if others had downloaded and saved his past videos, he did not plan to ever rerelease anything he did under his dead name. 

            This is, of course, his decision entirely, and given the degree of shit he experienced while at Channel Awesome on top of the challenges of coming out as transgender, he has every reason to not want or have to revisit that time; more, perhaps, than most of the other former CA producers. 

            However, I do wish to take a brief moment now, at the very least, to show my particular gratitude for what, for me, was one of the most influential and informative works ever published on Channel Awesome; JO’s “Month of Miyazaki” series. 

            In response to Miyazaki’s (since rescinded) retirement announcement, JO decided to go back and review each and every Miyazaki/Ghibli film ever made up to that point.  These videos were a treasure trove of rich detail for anyone who loves the work the Ghibli team has done over the years.  Jacob went deep with each review, analyzing linguistic and even sound design differences between the Japanese and American versions, provided background stories on the inspirations for some of the characters out of traditional Japanese culture, and in some cases examinations of when and how the movie was released in the States and what sort of success each one had. 

            Ultimately, Jacob never finished the series- due to a mix of production delays, his personal struggles at the time, and his eventual departure from CA, the last one he completed was Howl’s Moving Castle- but, amazingly, that in no way diminished the immenseness of what Jacob achieved with the series while it was running.  Neither before nor since have I seen anything like this series go so far and be so thoroughly detailed in its study of the Ghibli canon, arguably one of the greatest sets of studio films in the history of film.  Nothing I have since watched or read comes even close to it.  These videos left an incredible impression on me at a time when I was still in the early stages of developing my sense as a film critic, and these videos were as big as anything by MovieBob, Lindsay Ellis, or Roger Ebert in shaping my approach to film. 

            Because of this, I will always feel a certain sadness when I think of the fact that these videos are no longer available, even though Jacob is completely within the right with his decision.  I hope that is not presumptuous or arrogant or dismissive of me to say that.  It is certainly not meant so.  If anything this is meant as an appreciative farewell to what I consider one of the first great lost works of the Internet Age, one that never had the chance to receive its proper due. 

            Thank you so much, Jacob, for what you did before and for what you do now.  You are a shining light in world in desperate need of them, and I am so grateful the world has you. 

-Noah Franc

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