"It's either real, or it's a dream, there's nothing that is in between."
There are many ways one can describe the Daicon III and IV videos, but when someone pointed out to me the quote above (which is a lyric to the song in the Daicon IV video), it made me realize something: these short videos represent the dreams of science fiction and animation fans the world over -- the dreams of the otaku. It's what a fan might subconsciously envision after watching 12+ hours of anime, having played six or more hours of video games, ingested liters worth of Coke Classic, and having used just a little too much wasabi with the sushi. We are treated to wild and crazy visions of cool, cute, and powerful bunny girls, cities being destroyed and rebuilt, sakura blossoms... just a mish-mash of everything you've ever seen in a way that only makes sense when you're dreaming -- Macross Valkyries with Gundam beam sabers, flying swords performing the "Itano Circus", Darth Vader vs. our hero as Imperial stormtroopers cheer on, a huge white radish firing its main cannon to repopulate the world with trees, all kinds of special effects shots, and reference after reference to the shows and movies which have inspired us, continue to inspire us, and capture our imagination as fans.
The Daicon (note: a daikon is a Japanese white radish) videos are cool to watch just for the sake of watching them, but they're important for other reasons, too. Without the Daicon videos, the studio known as Gainax might never have come into being. Daicon III, held in Osaka in 1981, was the 20th Japan Science Fiction Convention. The volunteer staff of mostly college kids created the short (music video length) opening animation for the convention's opening ceremonies. This is the "Daicon III video". Although it was an amateur production using relatively low technology, fans loved it, and the use of opening animations at conventions would become a long-lasting tradition.
When the 22nd Japan Science Fiction Convention returned to Osaka in 1983, the same group of friends/fans would create the Daicon IV opening animation, which earned them rave reviews and garnered the attention of some very important people in the anime industry. The mostly amateur animators (note that future Gainax members Hideaki Anno, Hiroyuki Yamaga, and Takami Akai worked on the staff of Superdimensional Fortress Macross in 1982) were approached by Bandai Corp. and were given the resources to create what would be the most expensive anime movie of its time, Wings of Honneamise (a.k.a. The Royal Space Force), released in 1987. To produce this film (which would be their professional debut), the friends officially founded Gainax Co., Ltd. in December of 1984.
Unfortunately, Wings of Honneamise was poorly promoted by Bandai and failed to elicit much response in Japan (though, among fans, it has become one of the most highly regarded anime movies ever made). In response, perhaps, Gainax went on to produce the Gunbuster OAV series, which was much more successful commercially. Gainax would continue to produce hit after hit with Nadia, Otaku no Video, Evangelion, and Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou (His and Her Circumstances), not to mention releasing a significant amount of anime and manga-related software, the most notable being the Princess Maker series created by Gainax member Takami Akai. Princess Maker, a simulation game, allowed otaku everywhere to experience the joys and sorrows of raising a daughter. Takami Akai was also responsible for the character design of the Daicon Bunny Girl (who would later be parodied in Otaku no Video).
So just as the fans at Daicon did so many years ago, follow the little white rabbit, experience the history of the individuals who would become Gainax, and celebrate the wonderland that is anime, manga, and science fiction.
[12/22/04 Update: For more information on the Daicon anime, see this author's Daicon III and IV Opening Animations Information Site. For further articles by Lawrence Eng, see his anime page.]