Eventing 2015

[THIS IS again A STICKY POST: Last update 2015/08/07]

Just want to put out there the “events” I want to attend in 2015 so far. Everything subject to change. Post will be updated…

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Million Live Crash Course

In the year 2015, it is the war of idols. Actually, it’s the war of mobile games. The battles wage across battlefields all over the world, and I’m just here to write about one of them.

There are two schools in mobile games. The newer term for the first class, social games, is really just a cover term for mobage because it’s kind of trademarked in Japan. Well, that aside, the idea behind these games is content delivery. The other type of game is the mobiles games that has some kind of gameplay baked in, but also deliver content around it. Think of it like a sliding scale of pachinko machines or what you might find in a casino. On one end it’s just a RNG, on the other end you have minigame puzzles and what not, like solitaire or blackjack or IIDX (you get the idea), that the numbers change based on what “cards” you have or whatever.

By content, I mean things like the idols that I love. Or rather, the narrative material in which depicts these lovely characters. It’s stuff I will ignore for now because you can find out about it via the well-stocked Project IM@S wiki and the greyer namassuka site.

What this post will cover is the long play, mid-term play, and short-term play goals of the IDOLM@STER Million Live that I stick by. It may not be the best way, and I don’t do anything that blatantly violates the TOS (no botting or multi-accounts or RMT etc), so I welcome anyone with a better approach to let me know. I won’t go over account creation either because I assume you are savvy enough to do that in order to play this game. The only caveat I will make here is that trading is disabled if you don’t confirm with a Japanese phone number, which makes certain things more difficult. I’ll call them out as necessary.

1439767696180

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Why Otakon 2015 Shrunk

I was reading the ANN Forums thread for this post. Why? Because reading the Otakon boards on the same topic doesn’t get you the same kind of discussion, and I’m not sure where else I can read to see people chime in with their 2c. The key takeaway in the forum was that Bronycon, which is the MLP con that runs in Baltimore just before Otakon (traditionally the week before) had about a 500-people increase. Most people attribute to the decline in Otakon’s attendance between 2014 and 2015 to also several other factors such as the pre-reg issues this and last year, the price increase, and the less-than-stellar guest list, and most of these were unmentioned in the ANN column.

The Bronycon increase is important as a control, because that con, presumably, has a similar age and location demo as Otakon, and I’m assuming it did not have a price hike or a prereg debacle. Maybe there are some factors that made it different than Otakon in the context of this discussion, but it’s hard to see them at a glance.

From WUGBAN 4

That ANN Ask Justin article is basically, fear mongering, according to a certain person who is a big Eva nerd. I partly agree with him after that factoid. Partly only because I don’t think Justin is wrong in his central point, just the way that post came across seemed that way. Maybe it’s just my confirmation bias, but nobody I went to the con with was that concerned about the Baltimore riots in August. We were definitely concerned about it in May, but it helps that I know somebody who works in the City and he is pretty much not concerned since the riot days. I certainly didn’t pay it any mind while I was there, as I never go out of the inner harbor anyway. If that article was fear-monger-y, it was likely unintentional and reflects Justin’s personal biases.

I would have believed aforementioned Eva nerd less if that ANN article had facts to justify that the con attendance dropped not because of other things unrelated to the civil unrest (and I understand why Justin wasn’t thinking about these other things), or in general, based less on hearsay (and not even hearsay of insiders or people in a position to “know”). For example, anecdote about the pool of blood is simply unnecessary and, why is it even there? I can see why some may accuse that article of fear mongering.

The real reason, I think, has more to do with other events and cons. Justin applied his experience with AX and how after years of failure people still came back, and that’s sensible. Despite fare increases, botching pre-reg and at-con reg, screwing up line control, dicking with GOH treatment, endless management drama, and countless other screw-ups, AX kept growing. Maybe this is why he didn’t list any of the factors Otakon goers thought that could attribute to the issue. Unlike any other US cons though, AX is in a very different boat, as there’s nothing quite like it. Now that it has rocketed out in terms of star power, compared to any other North American con, it can afford to keep screwing up and people will continue to return. AX is also located in the largest asian nerd demo region in North America, which guarantees lots of interested attendees at any given year.

Otakon, on the other hand, now seems to fall in line with cons like Anime Boston, ACen, Anime North, and even Anime Next when it comes to guests and attendance. And unlike the US Northeast, and despite the repeated attempts at starting something, SoCal remains firmly in AX’s grasp, as it distinguishes itself from the other non-anime, mega nerd events in the area. Otakon locals can get their fix from established and familiar events like Magfest, Katsucon and Anime USA, and that’s not to mention the smaller ones in the area. People in a 2-hour radius have a lot of options, including cons down south, up to Boston, or even Toronto/Montreal (which both have 20000+ anime cons now!). Even if you go by the numbers, The DC metro area is 3rd largest in the US and the SD/LA metro area is the largest. The demand out west is much larger and less supplied, so to speak, than the one in DC/Baltimore.

And this is a relatively recent thing. Just going back 5-6 years, other than Katsucon, these other events were nascent and unremarkable. As there is only so much nerd money in this pot, and with the new Otakon price hike in 2015 ($100 at door), it’s going to hit a point where people will stop coming because of all these factors, including the persistent crowding due to the con outgrowing the facilities and other perceived negative experiences.

So my hypo is simply that the con-goer landscape in 2015 is drastically different than even 2010. There are more events that vie for our disposable incomes. Con-goers are more sensitive to pricing and other negative factors such as how a con is run. Not to mention, at some level, AX anecdotes don’t apply to Otakon? One common thing that comes up is the increased fees for Otakon as compared to AX. AX 2015 had a $60 entrance fee for 4 days while it hosts paid large events (like the Masquerade). But it’s an apples-and-oranges thing as even if you don’t go to any of the paid events there is plenty else, free, to do at AX. (I mean, %-wise, most AX attendees probably don’t go to these paid events, as the largest of these halls only hold like a 5th of the total attendees?). I’m not entirely convinced that one AX admission dollar goes less far than one Otakon admission dollar. It’s probably close value-wise, which makes the cheaper of the two much more attractive.

Another factor that could have impacted the Otakon attendance is the fact that Otakon this  year ran in July, which is the same month as E3, SDCC and AX. That’s a packed month if you are from the west coast. And I feel the people who are most likely rattled by Baltimore’s rough patch since the riots are most likely people from way out there…


IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls: How Many Is Too Many?

TL;DR – it’s not about quantity, but quality, once overhead has been accounted for.

Momoka Sakurai

Evirus says here:

There are entirely too many Cinderella Girls. It wasn’t a problem during the first cour when it appeared the show was content with keeping the story on the 14 main idols; that worked for its two-cour predecessor. However, the current season of THE iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls seems intent on cramming more and more of the game’s enormous battery of idols into the anime, presumably attempting to placate ardent fans of niche characters with cameos. Unfortunately, this practice dilutes the show as a whole, making this half of the Cinderella Girls anime somewhat underwhelming.

and concludes with

I’m sure there are disappointed Harada Miyo fans who just want five freaking minutes watching her gap spark plugs, and Yorita Yoshino apostles who want a subplot about her talking to strangers, but neither of these scenarios is likely to do much for the Cinderella Girls anime as a whole. How about spending more time with the ostensible lead trio in New Generations? How about that?

It’s a fair ask, but it’s the wrong ask. Here are some arguments against what Evirus is asking.

First of all, the first season is more or less in line with the same formula as season two, because it cannot possibly focus on all 14 main idols. So what happened was each idol was assigned a grouping and put into the canonical network of interpersonal relationships, and when it’s their turn in the spotlight, we get an group episode. I mean, compare the Miria episode in season 1 versus the Miria episode in season 2. What Miria episode in season 1? The one she just tags along Rika and gets lost? LOL.

I’m just going to interpret what Evirus is whining about as the usual ask in the context of focusing on the development of the main characters. It’s why I say it’s a fair ask. But that’s not the IM@S way.

Which is to say, second, New Generations is kind of meh. Meh in terms of what? There are reasons why there are Yorita fans. Or Momoka fans (in the case of episode 17–look at how those 2-bit minor characters present for fanservice diluted a great episode! Wait). If you took a look at the regularly scheduled elections in the game, you’ll notice one thing: The New Gen girls are just so-so popular until the anime. They may be spotlit as “lead” characters but they cannot carry the show by themselves. That is both true cynically/critically, and true to the theme of IDOLM@STER.

[I am just glad Mio has fans now ;_;]

Also, they’ve been dropping hints on TriPri so I’m sure we’re just going to get a giant ball of mess coming our way when that setup pops. Honestly when Cinderella Project was first announced there was some minor murmur of discontent, because some weren’t sure if Uzuki and Mio can really pull it off.

Last, to answer the question I posed in the title of this post: one idol is too many if it is the wrong one. Unfortunately the anime has only enough time and resources to showcase so many characters while giving them a fair shake, and the Animas formula that Deremas anime is following dictated the kind of complex character development which involve a lot of intercharacter exploration, further limiting how many characters the show can write for. There are going to be times when idols most don’t care about go on stage. (I get the feeling Evirus is knee jerk about his comments based solely on the variety show episode, given the 4 season 2 episodes, thus far, are all very similar in the showcasing-extra-idols aspect, at least by the clock.) But so far every time this happens in Deremas anime it was done in a context that goes with the story of that week. It’s the most we can really ask it to do. The concept behind Cinderella Girls is to have at least one idol you care about than trying to sell a handful of idols that you don’t, and unfortunately it also means having to deal with many idols you don’t care about to get to the ones you do.

If they can make such crafty episodes like #17 every week, I don’t think I would care which idol it is about, because quality is what’s important. And much like that episode demonstrates, one can showcase minor characters just fine while delivering a great experience. Quantity is just an obstacle that needs management.

In that sense, the compromise I offer is that the writing has to account for this aspect. I imagine if you weren’t moved by the Big Sisters moment, the whole episode was a little on the dry side. Maybe we can’t please everybody but the same can be said of all the prior episodes. It comes down to just how well the execution is, I guess.

PS. Here’s a man who has not the right idol in the show.


Early Decisions: Summer 2015 Season

If SAO is our standard bearer of Mary-Sues in recent memory, what makes of GATE and Overlord? This is a rhetorical question I suppose. But I find myself honing in on the political undertones first.

Million Lives

Even before that though, there needs a hook, sometimes. What is the hook in Gangsta? Crime and violence? Sex and violence? Grit? Ha. Hahaha. Maybe the whole dogtag thing? Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in but it almost felt like the show is an insult of actual criminals and gangsters? Which may be okay. Perhaps even more okay, if it turns out that way, is if Gangsta becomes an insult of the genre. I don’t know and wouldn’t know, though, because I missed the hook; a reason to watch the next episode. Other than Mamiko’s character not dying in the first episode? Didn’t these people watch Cowboy Bebop? I guess if you were one of those people who watched Bebop as a result of its critical acclaim, maybe I’ll join you on Gangsta.

On that note, if Haramii is the standard bearer of “boob voice” then that could explain why is she in another MMORPG anime? I mean don’t get me wrong I love her role in Overlord. It’s a lovely hook. That show is also my favorite of the season for some reason. It’s like Log Horizon for me. If Log Horizon for you was shipping and the adoring of a little assassin character, maybe Overlord is not for you. Still, the two have some strong similarities in the narrative approach and setting. I realize people don’t prioritize these things the way I do but I feel Overlord is an improvement on the setting building aspect of Log Horizon in some ways.

Speaking of hook, I thought School Alive had a wonderful pilot. It’s the perfect embodiment of that famous(?) fan fiction about Bottle Fairies and split personalities. It doesn’t go that distance however, and I’m pretty meh on zombies. And maybe even more so on crazy (in a clinical sense) anime characters. It does seem quite entertaining so I’m not hung up on the fact that I haven’t gotten around to it. Another season with no time to watch everything I want to watch, is just a fact we have to deal with.

I’m not even hung up on the fact that I didn’t get around Prison School. I thought I would by now but I guess I thought my time would be better used to make maids in eroge or something. Probably not too different than being up to date to the Wife Is the Student Council President except more time consuming.

I feel good about the Hackadoll anime next season–believe it or not it’s my most hyped upcoming show that I can remember off the top of my head. The other shows on the same anime blocks this season are all pretty okay, and they are all served well by the 8-minute format. Even Wooser… I guess. That one seemed a little borderline because some of the recent episodes felt it went on for just too long. In a weird way I’m also looking forward to the cameo they could mix. I mean it’s clear that Miss Monochrome and Wooser are shows that are open to straight cameos. Hackadoll is even more so when the “IP” itself is about discovery of other IP, to the degree that it outright endorses and what not. Kind of like if Gamers or Animate made their own serious shows, what would be in them? I mean the Hackadoll namas… If you are into the WUG seiyuus (and Ueda Reina) they’re a must watch, and you’ll get what I mean by cameos (maybe).

Supposedly that Hayamin anime with Red Riding Hood naming is good. That’s like people saying Oremonogatari is good. It would be nice if someone can go into details and elaborate on how they could be relevant.

I am also watching Rokka. It’s not that good, in fact every episode felt off-putting. It does serve well with a choppy pace of things, so in this instance I enjoy the plot more so than anything. It takes its time during these “unusual” moments, almost awkwardly, so that could be why every week it feels off-putting. It’s like you  know a cliffhanger is coming but the show misses its timing in telling you what you already know. Maybe I’ll drop at some point, but I’d like to give all the new characters a chance to make an impression. So far only the main dude guy is of any interest… Pikasha playing the lead female is well-deserved but the precarious princess probably won’t get her day in the spotlight until much later.

The opposite problem happens in Million Doll. The concept and story are both right up my ally and the level of meta-ness is perfect, but the anime is lacking to say the least. I kind of hoped the animation is at least good enough so I remember everyone’s names by like 5 episodes, but given the very short length I can cut it some slack. Crunchyroll recently streamed episode 5.5, which means we now get to see Yuiton’s full length legs with English subtitles. That I can accept, since she is just there the whole time, but of the entire length of the fan meeting, why those segments? Specifically, why the segment that points out she’s from Osaka? LOL. I guess it works.

That nicely segue into Sore ga Seiyuu, which is obviously a must watch for me. It’s sad people compare it to Shirobako when the two are actually nothing alike. Of course, they are also entirely alike in their glamorized/deglamorizing view of the industry, but why would anyone watch something like that? Joke aside, it’s nice to finally see some drama this week. It’s funny to see how Kugyuu and Hocchan are in their cartoon flesh. It’s especially amusing if you think about the various versions of herself that Horie had to play in the recent years. That said unless you are a seiyuu otaku of some measure this is not exactly going to be enjoyable. In a lot of ways, Sore ga Seiyuu gives you the inside look at a voice actress’s internal thoughts rather than the internal working of an animation project. It’s much more personal and also a lot less compelling/hit or miss, unless you have already a hook there.

[Here’s an aside. Take Yoshimura Haruka as an example. She’s still a “newbie seiyuu” in the technical sense, soon to graduate out of that bracket. It seems that she shares some of these exact anxieties our protagonists share, if you read this interview. Even the way she name dropped Pe and Nu, or her coleads from Shirobako… Also, thank goodness for IDOLM@STER, right?]

What is always enjoyable is great seiyuu performances. I feel like that every time I watch Monster Musume because there is nothing else redeeming about the show. The voice acting is carrying it. Well, maybe one other thing: the political undertone. I mentioned in a chat once but if we think about MonMusu as a harem with fantastical creatures combined with harem characters, we realize isn’t the only IP on the market with that concept. Even Bakemonogatari and the like, really, is merging the plight of a young girl with the notion of some eastern phantom. And it’s not alone. Normal, quiet guy’s life gets upended by rowdy and over-excited young women trying to bone him? Except this time, they’re not Cat Planet Cuties. The monster fetishes aside, isn’t this what we can call, for the lack of a better term, a “gaijin harem”? The immigration issues too certainly highlight this. How does a normal, if model, Japanese specimen deal with these foreign intruders? They clearly mean well but they’re a handful, as they gaijin smash into your heart. What to do?

Joke aside, Monmusu doesn’t deserve 2 paragraphs, let alone faint praise in the form of thematic exploration of its parallel with western notion of liberty and romance (and other aspects of everyday life…Cat Planet Cuties does, though). Maybe Charlotte does, but I can’t watch that show objectively devoid of my Mocho biases and tendencies. It’s a great show and her character is decidedly similar to her business persona. The story and characters are who you expect them to be, knowing Charlotte’s Maeda Jun roots. I hope for the best, and PA Works so far is doing a good job. And knowing that, we are way too early in the game to pass any real judgment on it, even if the story has been placing hints along as expected.

The other original title I like this season is Classroom Crisis. It can be really good, it can be mediocre, but it probably won’t be bad. It’s a little boring but I’m ossan enough to enjoy that kind of boredom. Cobalt is a great song and probably my favorite this season. There’s also some social commentary as undertone here that’s pretty enjoyable, if kind of wrong-headed.

Shimoseka is clearly socially interesting, but it’s also interesting from the seiyuu perspective. And beyond that, the story is a little interesting. I don’t think it’s tapping into the full potential of the premise and I’m not sure I like how it exists in the school context because that puts the weird things it can pull in line with other stories in the same setting, but I’m willing to let it prove me wrong. At the very least it can be fun on the basis that the anime is about a bunch of perverted jokes.

I tried the first episode of several shows above and dropped them, but also Aoharu x Machinegun, Actually I, and Ushio & Tora (which had a really good episode 1 that’s just like the one I saw 15+ yr ago). I don’t think I would mind watching more but there wasn’t anything compelling. Actually the first one up there was particularly tough, since it’s not my kind of thing? I probably would be watching Symphogear except I cannot be arsed to undrop shows from years ago. Praise it more guys, maybe I will change my mind (lol).

On the notes for sequels, I am enjoying Non Non Biyori a lot, and this take is brilliant. Less brilliant is Working season 3. It puts me to sleep. In fact it inspired me to track often each show this season has done so:

[Title]: [Ep count that I fell asleep on]/[Ep count watched]

Working!!!: 4/5
Monmusu: 2/6
Classroom Crisis: 0/6
Gate: 0/6
Non Non: 0/6
Rokka: 1/5
Gatchaman S2: 1/3
Charlotte: 0/6
Shimoseka: 1/3
Sore ga Seiyuu: 0/6
Overlord: 0/6
IMAS CG: LOL/Every episode twice

I think I fell asleep on an ep of Wakaba Girl. Anyways, I ignored the short stuff because of the obvious reasons. Back to Working. I think it’s the A/B format each episode uses, it would mean the slow part of the ep puts me away and I would wake up on the good part or vice versa. Not much I can do besides trying to watch it not when food coma is coming or at a time when I am not tired. I guess a positive way to spin this is that Working is disarmingly funny, and relaxes me. The negative way to spin this is that it’s just a boring same-recipe-every-time gag that has expired last season.

I’m also of two minds on Gatchaman Crowds Insight (two different minds), so I’ll keep that to myself for now and make a call later once I am more caught up. It’s on the to-watch list for sure.

Still up to date on Food Wars and Baseball A.

Yeah I’m watching IM@S CG. Lately it’s been good. Not sure that is because the episodes are good or I’m still under the influence of 10th. Most likely both.

Last but not least, Teekyuu backlog ever increasing. And I don’t mind the least.


Japan 2015 Trip #3: Reaccounting, Counting the Costs

From Osaka

At some point during my trip a few of us who shared a room in Japan (in 3 different cities!) started calling ourselves “Meiwakrew” for fun, because we were a bunch of crazy eventers up for crazy things. Like typical kids from the USA, we were in Japan to party. Well, to a degree. At the same time this trip was definitely an odd one with various mishaps but nonetheless fun and rewarding.

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