[Last update 9/13]Continue reading
Thanks to reading to yet another outrageous but understandable take, I remembered that I had some blog posts to write. Instead of dwelling on those unfinished businesses, here’s a non-sequitur of sorts. Very light spoilers ahead.
Araoto, short for “Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo.” (…and complete with the period), is a manga-turned-anime written by Okada Mari. The story and the way the story is told, both in the manga and anime, are extremely signature Okada. Even the subject matter is a standard fare for her. The way Araoto blends in elements from her prior works, (borrowing the climatic pivot from Tari Tari, and basically condensing the emotional whiplash from Nagiasa, I don’t know, among many other things) it feels very much functional rather than meaningful so that the anime is about sex and teenage girls at all.
That being said, Araoto’s topic of sexuality is as a salacious of a topic as you would expect, given that this is entertainment for virgins? I don’t know how else to put it. It might seem both outrageous (funny) and exaggerated (lame), especially when it comes to Mr. Milk-substitute and his charge, the internet-sext-artist. Then there is the very cute story between Rika and her pairing. And the delicious drama bomb-polygon for the rest of them that makes this show even worth watching till the finish. (“Teenage girls and sex”? This is a dog whistle if I’ve ever seen one. Also sign me up already.)
I had to admit I read up on the wiki summary before going in, because seeing a bunch of comedically chaste girls talk about sex can only go so far. (I also wanted to know what dirty phrases Mocho got to say, it helps.) There needs to be that money shot, so to speak, in this emotional porn exercise. It is not an indictment of the show–it’s more just recognizing when you open a bowl of instant noodles, you’re gonna get instant noodles, even if it’s labeled Ichiran ramen or something fancy. Short of going into spoiler territory, let’s just say I’m all for a good student rebellion, and as always I am disappointed.
Looking back to this Okada formula that Araoto walked, it is clear that Okada has really crystalized that formula to a tee and is able to tweak it at will. She knows what will bring the squeal and how to poke us in our most sensitive moments. Now she just needs to go deeper.
This is my current mobage workload:
- T1: Playing a lot (log in several times a day, do all the stuff):
- Princess Connect! Re:Dive
- THE IDOLM@STER Million Live Theater Days
- T2: Playing occasionally (daily logins only, with bursts of normal play):
- THE IDOLM@STER Shiny Colors
- Magia Record (EN)
- T3: Playing rarely (log in occasionally–just to gacha really):
- Hachigatsu no Cinderella 9
- THE IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage
- Granblue Fantasy
I didn’t mention it on my blog much, but I have been playing Princess Connect! Re:Dive since its launch in 2018 and have been playing it regularly ever since. We are about 1.5 years since launch. I still enjoy that game a lot. Let me write about it.
Basic information and review:
Princess Connect (Pricone for short) franchise, which first launched in 2015 as a browser game, shut down in 2016. Princess Connect! Re:Dive (Pricone or Pricone-R) launched in 2018 as a mobile app game as a continuation. Pricone-R was originally an Android/iOS game, now also available on PC via DMM. An anime has been announced with no air date, but Studio Wit has extensively provided animation for the app/PC game.
Why do I play it so much? Because it scratches a RPG itch that sort of is at the core of the Cygames RPG theme, yet unlike their other entries, Pricone manages to provide all the flavors with the least amount of filling. “Grinding” this game usually means playing a set 30 or so minutes a day, which completes your dailies and maybe spending a bit of extra time to “tower” or “PVP.” For people who actually are into grinding, this game is going to run dry pretty quick. For people already playing other things or have obligations in RL, it’s an easy thing to keep tabs on and is not laborious.
Re:Dive also balances well between free and paid play, and given its PVP slant there has to be decent balance for the game to still be taken kind of seriously 1.5 years into it. In usual Cygames fashion they are pretty generous with in-game currency, and instead monetize by providing frequent and cheap options to augment your teams. Spending the currency to improve your existing team members usually trumps spending it on gacha, but both do happen.
What I refer to by the Cygames RPG theme I mean generally the following: a stats building core in traditional JRPG sense, the usual rock-paper-scissors damage/defense model, evolving meta (a bit like Shadowverse except it’s with characters and not expansion sets), and clan battle and coop events. In some ways if you are familiar with Cygame’s original properties over the years, you can see those themes progress from one game to the next. In that sense PriconeR reflects a level of maturity in both Cygame’s development process and experience in game design.
One huge way PriconeR reflects mature development process is how it is one of the best quality-of-life games, both in the UI design and in terms of mechanics. Over the last 18 months the game consistently improved its user interface, and updated to add several common shortcuts and to removed mechanics that reduced player enjoyment/added tedium. It’s very clear they are tracking how players are playing the game in a very direct sense, like what menus are being opened and what stages people run, not to mention obvious things like which characters people are raising and using with others and where.
There used to be a player-matching PUG mechanism that gave out pretty decent rewards, but the fights for that feature were so easy that it was just pure grind. The challenge was actually doing the PUG part. That feature got axed pretty quickly because most of the time the players are dealing with the matchmaking interface rather than actually playing the game. You can see that they even upped the reward to get more people to play prior to axing it, but a lot of people cannot be arsed to wait for matches.
Visually, the game is a cute-girls-gets-stuck-in-a-mmorpg kind of a theme. It is very cute and generally the visuals roll between the SD models that you see in the 2D game engine and the full-on anime visuals, or the 2D static graphic for the dialog/adventure game/VN portion. There is a lot of skeuomorphism which adds color to the whole experience of this rustic RPG vibe circa Ragnarok Online. Once in anime mode, though, the game, complete with Kouhei Tanaka-style sounds, reminds me more of Sakura Taisen. The next-episode preview bits for its in-game events and main story chapters drive that home.
Actually the composers for the game range a lot. Tanaka wrote the main theme, but just eyeing through the in-game music store (you can unlock songs from events and the story to use as in-game menu BGM) you see composers like InoTak, for instance. Which is lols.
Usually Princess Connect! Re:Dive means clearing the daily quests. It requires stamina (generated over time, the primary gameplay driver) to clear 20 nodes, 3 hard nodes, do 1 Arena battle, do 1 Princess Arena battle, buy mana once, skill up a character, star up a piece of gear, give someone in your clan an “ii ne,” do 1 dungeon battle, do 4 “explorations,” and you get 100 free stamina from noon JST and another 100 stamina at 6pm JST. Occasionally there are events, which are self-contained areas which have their own daily and event-specific quests, plus the monthly Tower of Luna daily and Clan Battle daily.
To do the daily quest as someone in UTC-5, I log in once in the morning and once at night. You have a “room” (similar to Deresute) in which you can grow and farm bonus stamina, exp pots, skip tickets and mana. Harvesting twice or three times a day keeps everything under their maximum limit. Also, that lets me collect the daily quest stamina. So I would probably do the “early day” stuff and finish as many quests as I care for when I log in at night after work, and log in once in the morning to clear out the accumulated stuff in order to finish all the dailies.
I would probably play a bit harder on evenings for Clan Battle nights to save the clan battles for the morning, since it require using up 900 stamina. It’s just easier to wait for the bonus daily stamina. Tower I generally hate so I try to play it only when I’m in the mood for, and have time for.
Since I have been playing the game fairly closely since launch, the routine also carry me at the top of the player level cap all this time, as the level cap extends once or twice a month. Having access to all the content probably makes all this easier from the start. Events are a breeze to grind through, where the challenge is in only clearing the VH boss with 1 try, and the exhibition mode/special mode. In recent months the game has been sort of trying to be more relaxing in order to allow late comers to enjoy the later content.
Given the PVP drive of the game, there is a lot of advantage for being first mover. To use a recent example, the latest meta-altering character, Neneka, dropped into gacha as a limited character about a couple weeks ago. For the first 2-3 days people were easily topping Arena and Princess Arena. Now it’s full of people with 5* Neneka (and 6* Kyaru) a week since. To get 5* Neneka to rank 14, that is a fairly significant investment that even I was able to make (despite being mostly a free player).
There is definitely an online community for the game in which a meta exists, either because that’s what “gamers” read on the internet or seen others do. Obviously, a social game that is Pricone, with clans and all, people talk about what works and what doesn’t. This especially matters when it comes down to arena and princess arena, which are really just a giant puzzle where if you can recognize the hand the opponent fields, you can figure out your counter. The fun is figuring it out, mostly, because it’s not so fun to play janken when you know what your opponent throws, unless you just want to enjoy winning (and it is enjoyable).
This is at odds with the social/meta nature of this Cygames game (think Shadowverse) where people competitively come up with “teams” (or decks) in which you can beat via some kind of RNG (since you can’t control play). If your team is “rock” enough against an opponent team that is “scissors” enough, you will more likely win than not. So in the end everyone tend to pick teams that are really the rock/paper/scissors that has the most difficult counter. It isn’t even like janken where you have to guess, or like “arena janken” where you have to think about if the opponent’s teams are like rock or paper or scissors, it’s just a matter of balance.
So when a new winning combo drops due to a new character, it becomes fun again. Until the meta settles or is altered (like how Neneca is kind of replaced by Kyaru 6*), it’s kind of fun again.
This game fits my lifestyle. Reality is I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and play. Console games are rough. I can do stints with Steam, although lately my PC needs an upgrade to really enjoy that. Half of that time I am either watching anime or sportsball, or catching up with tons of free seiyuu content online in radios or promotional talk shows or weekly streams. I can grind, and the game has grind-type content if you want it, but I’m never forced to do that, nor does grinding convey so much advantage. I can just put in my 20 minutes a day if that is all I have time for. I can even skip if I really want to.
The game is also fun, which is why I have not gotten bored with it. The QoL changes over time makes the game less painful to other entries. The art and voice over (fully voiced game) is top notch and the anime style really apes from that Sakura Wars-shaped hole in my life.
It also helps that the main story is kind of interesting, although I don’t really care too much about the characters themselves. It is a serious game with silly characters and I’ve had enough of those. They are features I don’t need, but enjoy, and maybe others like them more.
So overall this is a great little gem of a game that could take off in the right situation. In South Korea the game apparently is doing very well, and it isn’t too bad in Taiwan/HK/Macau either. I believe there is even a Chinese knockoff of it now. Pricone shows that a quality product that does many of the little things right will still find an audience.
When the word dropped for Otakuthon this year with its concert lineup, I decided to go despite the somewhat more fitting lineup out at the usual Anirevo event. Otakuthon, in Montreal, is a cool city to visit because it’s as European as it gets in North America, and frankly it’s not that far from me.
I was able to carpool with 3 other folks and split hotel with 2 others. The good exchange rate between USD and CAD helped. What didn’t was our tough schedule leaving so late, and the strong storms in upstate NYC which made driving challenging in rare spurts, both to and fro.
The tough schedule was a late arrival into Montreal and getting up early to move my car, and to work remotely for the rest of the day. I did sneak out of the room to get an autograph from the lovely Marina Inoue, who played a role of Japanese CV here to see her fans and dispense answers to questions. She took on a pretty strong persona and it felt a bit intimidating, but she was enjoyable overall to see in person.
There were two autograph sessions and a panel and it was fun as you would expect. I missed part of the panel due to another autograph session with Rica Matsumoto, but overall it was pretty educational.
For Matsumoto, I was only able to see her at the autograph session on Saturday. Frankly the con didn’t do a good job keeping her events on time. The lineup and the handling of the guest didn’t sync up in terms of info, and I see how the line control struggle to implement whatever they were doing from the industry group that brought over the guest.
JRock North did what they could for TMR, Matsumoto and Faky, another Avex Trax idol group. Unlike Wa-suta, Faky has a lot of international appeal with 3 multilingual performers. One of the even speaks French fluently and that won her tons of brownie points in Montreal. You can look them up here. The group recently just had a member change so 2 out of 5 were finally getting a song that’s coming out just now? Well.
Here are some Youtube teasers for their new single, which they performed at the con: Akina (From California), Hina (New member from Kyoto), and Taki (New member from Tokyo, speaks Fr/En/JP). I guess the rest will come up shortly…
Somehow Otakuthon also scheduled all their Japanese guests on top of each other. I wasn’t able to do much else besides get 2 autographs and catch part of the panel for Marina. I didn’t see Faky’s panel, nor Matsumoto’s panel, nor TMR’s panel… And also there was Miyavi’s stuff by Fake Star and I didn’t participate at all in any of it.
Oh yeah, TMR was great. His abridged set is collaboration with another Nishikawa brand, TNNK. So it was TMR x TNNK. TNNK is mostly just his later output from Thunderbolt Fantasy and the like, and it was great since I dig those songs a lot. I had a good spot for the live too, thanks to premium badge.
Otakuthon this year had a $200 CAD premium badge. The concerts were 20 or 30 each. I went to two. So I am still spending $95 or so on top. I also got some perks from going to the TMR concert, like a poster watashikai/handshake. Well, I’m more here for the luls and to enjoy the show, so it was not a big deal. The badge helped me get a front-ish seat without having to camp much, so I think value-wise it was a push. If I wanted to I probably could have gone to another concert on Saturday if things were less CF than it was.
What else did I do? I got an autograph from Irie, which I will have to frame somewhere. Takkyu Musume is great stuff. There was fooling around with the locals at night. I mixed some drinks and sang some karaoke, while trying to buy Million 6th SSA tickets.
Overall Otakuthon was fun, laid back, and I approached it kind of small. Part of it was that I also worked for much of Friday so not much was getting done. Montreal is a fun and enjoyable city.
PS. I drove to the city, and dealt with the EV infrastructure. It was educational. Montreal uses its Electrify system and FLO, which is largely interoperable. The parking situation in downtown is kind of bad, but I still only paid less than 50 CAD for the weekend. There are some street-side chargers which are level 2, and the Indigo deck under the con also has level 2 chargers.
I also rode on a Lime scooter, which went live in Montreal just a couple weeks ago. It was fine. I was going somewhere out of Downtown but since I couldn’t park in that area I ended up walking half of the way.
PPS. La Banquise was dinner on Friday, Reuben’s Deli was dinner on Saturday. On the way up we stopped in Queensbury NY at a local diner, and on the way down we stopped at Albany for Five Guys (even if we had only 4 Guys). Aforementioned scooter ride was to get some bagels at St. Viateur to bring home. There was a huge parade on Sunday downtown which obstructed traffic but celebrated LGBT rights, a push in my book, so I had to uber, ride, and walk to get those bagels.
Also, I finally got to have some orange julep. It’s a Montreal specialty that probably most closely resemble SunnyD but more like actual juice. The recipe is really more just orange juice with flavoring extract and egg whites.
I wonder what made both programs air on the same season? It’s like one is on the giving end and one is on the receiving end. And because they air in the same season I can’t help but to compare them.
I really like Okasuki in that the Mom character is both an oil tanker load of main female trope but, add a lot of “mom” to it. Mamako does a good job I think, in that you can feel the irritation of a child who is just sick and tired of his mother being mom. Good job, in this case, is that I can pick up that feeling well, and yet not let it overrun the tone of the show.
Well, the tone of the show is kind of not good, to put it mildly. It’s got that strong, late night meta-fantasy isekai harem stench all over it, except it isn’t quite it. I don’t think it’s a bad package overall but it is kind of hard to swallow personally. Maybe I just don’t have a mom fetish.
It’s in that contrast that we see Uchi no Ko, or something equally long of a title as Okasuki that I won’t repeat in this actual post. Let’s put aside the fact of the main female character and her various plot events and attributes for now, but look at Uchi no Ko from the “dad’s” point of view. I think it is a pretty powerful look at a very naive and small-brain perspective to parenting.
I’m harsh on this because it isn’t even wrong, it is just not the way to go as a storytelling style. And in that sense the cover in Uchi no Ko is that he isn’t her real dad, even if essentially that’s who he is. It’s sort of a fantasy fulfillment, if you look at the overall story and how it ends. Which is why we are all in the present and now for the child.
There is also a timelessness to Uchi no Ko that is amusing, but right now the early going of the anime is making all these parent feelers tingle. It’s an easy way to write a parent-child relationship while having the audience dote on Latina like that. It’s like a parental fantasy in which you “build” your child like a slime builds his SimCity world while being really adorable. In that sense, at least Uchi no Ko is not entirely shameless (yet?), and deploys some emotional nuances.
It’s certainly a much more comfortable thing to witness than parading humorous MILF tropes around. But I think that might just be a matter of preference, since children do grow up (and then we can talk about Araoto).
It’s maybe more like, when you do world building with a fictional world, okay, we all do that. But it’s kind of weird when you’re writing a story in which, in essence, is a MMORPG character creator. It blends the weirdness of a “cartoons come to life” meta with standard anime character development. The end result is just kind of silly on one end, and icky on the other.
In a way this has been also the isekai genre’s strength. The genre takes away one layer of meta for us, and ever more steadily, otaku anime today get right to the point.
Since someone asked about this and I have definitely thoughts on this over the years, it’s time to write them down. Basically, a dance cover group out in DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) called μnite hosted panels at Otakon this year and last year to teach people the wotagei thing. Or the idol thing, I guess. I was asked by some guy to provide some feedback. So here it is.
The context doesn’t matter that much–I guess it’s an anime con in the US/Canada, and a panel at said con. So we are talking about pretty low stakes to start. And that it’s out here US East Coast.
These are extremely low stakes. Like I’ve rarely seen better jizos. And that is okay.
I’ve spilled some ink on the topic very generally, but in redux, basically, there are layers.
- Common sense layer: don’t be a dick, don’t be obnoxious/KY, obey the rules (to the degree that it follows common sense).
- Wota layer: do the calls, do the right colors (if any), do the right team coordination, wotagei responsibly
- “It’s art” layer: do what enhances the show for yourself, for the artist, and for everyone.
We can wax poetry for the 3rd layer all day long, so I won’t here. But we could, over drinks.
If we assume a panel at a con with a title “Wotagei 101” is mainly about education, then I am assuming we should be presenting information about layers 1 and 2.
And layer 1 is really a thing that should not need to be taught, at least in this format. It’s maturity and life experience. Go to events, see for yourself. It can be any live shows or similar events. And sure, Japanese idol events are not the same as, say, a free concert in Bryant Park during a summer night, or a Babymetal concert–actually that one is kind of the same! So maybe, yeah, go see Baby.
(Joke aside, metal is a great gateway to eventing. It sets the “average” high bar–things can always be more crazy but on average metal shows are more crazy than non-metal shows. At least in the States. There are nutsos in Japan as much as any other country but the average is well below the States I think. It’s more like, there is an initiation, a learning curve, in which kids get their tigers out of their system after a while. If you do a lot of headbanging I guess it accelerates the process.)
OK really joke aside, after a certain amount of life experience I expect most people to get for layer 1. The complication with layer 1 is when you get into the weeds, there will be differences between a con concert, an AX con concert, a Japanese anime-content-style concert, an underground idol show in Japan, and all kinds of different shows where different protocols are needed. The best example I can give is attending a similar panel at Anime Next this year the panelists pointed out even when you wave lights at a Japanese live for anime content, you don’t go all out and extend your arm, you do it so you your arms/stick don’t block the view for people behind you. People do not fully extend at certain types of shows. This is kind of a big deal that people rarely ever talk about. Even if it’s kind of a “layer 1” sort of thing.
Then there’s the other kind of knowledge I have liberally spelled out in this post–there are different kind of concerts in which different rules apply, but also some same rules apply too. How does one know what to do at an Aqours concert versus an idol concert? I mean most people at Otakon probably don’t know the difference. And does it even matter?
These are the kind of knowledge that forms the first steps to go from layer 1 to layer 2, and I wish more panels covered this.
But that’s not even the truly important kind of knowledge for layer 2–which is what to do when the song comes on, for the person in that particular time and space at that event.
We really should be teaching this. Maybe people learn it when we do Days of Dash or Rising Hope, but there’s a lot more to it. I think there is room for a panel just teaching people anikura moves. But that isn’t even it.
Before anikura you need to learn non-anikura, which is the standards: The calls and moves for the anisongs if they were performed at a proper venue by the right people. Then that is the real platform where wota can jump off into the deep end.
I talked to some folks about this and I feel we could do a lot better to address the knowledge aspect of all this. From attending, say, the Fakku sponsored MOGRA events, and other anikura stuff, my feeling on the matter is that people are hype and a lot of people actually know the music. But people don’t know what to do when the song comes on.
So it could be the ankura-style stuff or the normal wota stuff (which becomes more background and less crazy during anikura if people were doing wotagei or foolish anikura wazas, and less intimidating). People need that association.
Maybe what a future panel could do is go over the actual moves and cut the rest. Like, spend 5 minutes doing the very basic (could be a tutorial video). Then we would do each song’s “special part” like twice, once demo and once with everyone. Or once “live” style and once “club” style.
This would equip everyone with what to do. If we can get an cover for actual anikura at an anime con late at night, so much the better.