In an episode of Martian Successor Nadesico Akito Tenkawa, the series’ heartthrob cook and Aestivalis pilot, is admiring the handiwork of Seiya Uribatake, the Nadesico’s lead mecha mechanic and resident model kit otaku. Akito compliments him on how realistic his snow covered 1:35 scale Aestivalis battle scene diorama is, despite Seiya’s recent change of heart towards the enemy. The mecha otaku explains how he knows the difference between real and realistic. Both men are contemplative and not to let the scene end on a sour note Yurika, the ship’s lovestruck and goofy captain, shows up holding 1:8 scratch builds of herself with deflated breasts and Ruri with enhanced womanly features. She interrogates the otaku on how these can be realistic and demands that they be remade more accurately. The scene ends with her breaking the arm off her own modeled likeness by accident. Baka.
For mecha otaku the difference between real and realistic is obvious. For example, when I was an adolescent you had to pry the toy gun from my play-dead still warm hands. I loved shooting a large hole through magazine pages featuring lingerie models with my soft-air sub-machine gun. It was romantic. Another great example would be a session of playing ‘Nam with my set of 3.75 inch G.I. Joes. Every Joe was a hero who would die in the name of justice to save a friend and squash the nasty Commies. Because of these fantasies I avoided the "real" guns and soldiers. Documentary footage never interested me like a realistic fantasy like Apocalypse Now. Realistic accessories like camouflage caps and bandanas, army surplus combat boots and web belts and the tinny taste of canteen water always enhanced the fantasy play.
Model kits are the perfect outlets for this realistic fantasy because you must devise new ways for light and shadow to react with paint and minute surface detail for a realistic effect. This complete control over an object of war extends into the environment of a primped diorama. Shaping wires into tree branches or sifting baking soda to replicate sparkling snow gives the model otaku the sense of total control over an environment’s situation, he/she can determine the winners and losers without the complications of the loss of life. When presented with a real life trauma the otaku will more likely than not be completely incompetent at handling the emergency. The intelligence of the model geek is only in the copied techniques of other otaku and cannot be applied outside of the diorama.
Yes, we know the difference between real and realistic. Real is what makes life hard and realistic is what makes life fun.