Shimoseka 1, or Blogging about Comedy Is a Lost Art

I’m not doing episodic blogging on Shimoseka, or as localized, SHIMONETA, but for an obviously politically tinged story I think it deserves a crack down better than the hot takes at ANN. I think the main reason why I’m even putting these words on keyboard is that I like to perpetrate a narrative about the dearth and low quality of writing on comedy in terms of anime blogging. True or not? You decide.

Shimoseka, by all means, is a slapstick comedy where some of the humor derives from hearing Ishigami Shizuka (nickname: Zutchi) yelling the Japanese translation for “penis” and “vagina” (and many other things) at the top of her lungs. Some, is the keyword. As for the rest, with these kinds of political humor, I think if you don’t have some familiarity on the rhetoric over these kinds of moral laws that are part of pop Japanese culture, it might not even be funny. To just bounce off ANN’s article, like the gold-squeezing woman crying being molested, for example. How you want to interpret it is precisely what makes it funny or not. But that is also, only, just some of the humor.

I think calling Shimoseka like Seitokai Yakuindomo is fair in the context of an anime review for westerners, and it’s the closest mechanism western otaku are familiar with. But to me this is closer to, say, George Carlin. The joke is presented in a way that is not funny if you don’t speak the native tongue, as the value of such a thing is largely linguistic.

Thankfully, words like penis and vagina are a lot funnier in translation. So maybe I’ll watch episode 2.

yorosico

This joke translated very well. And I think it’s the litmus test: if you are going to have an opinion on Shimoseka, you should also say if you get this joke.

PS. If you are too young to know Carlin, look him up on Wikipedia. The thing about history is that if you don’t learn it you’re doomed to repeat it.


Beyond Otakudome, Post Script of Kicking Starters

I backed the Otaku no Video Blu-ray Kickstarter. The reason is the only copy of this I own is on VHS, and, well, that’s kind of sub-optimal this day and age.

Beyond the usual discussion of Kickstarter as a multi-purpose fundraising platform, may it be simple preordering and free publicity to powering arts&crafty, independent creators, I don’t know what there is to say about Otaku no Video. This is a sell, but when I read that Anime Diet post I can’t help but to feel an overwhelming sense of irony.

Because it’s precisely that we’re in the year 2015 that a Kickstarter for licensing an old classic that got rebooted into Blu-ray for international distribution seems, at best, trite. I mean, any otaku worth his or her salt knows how to import home video, may it be 1995 or 2015. This is more about just doing the same o’ localized consumption of international media for US-centric prosumers who probably have moved onto different things than living in piles of hard disk drives or otaku paraphernalia. It’s for the kids who watched Otaku no Video when they are young, and for kids who are young and have never had a chance to acquire it in that status-indicative way of buying a home video product.

Also, I guess, this is beyond the usual discussion of what defines an otaku. But which otaku is still fixated on this early 90s classic? Which is why my copy is still VHS. It’s easier to grab that from an illegal site or a friend’s FTP than trying to figure out which storage box it’s currently sitting inside in my attic. Also, which is to say, we’re well into the post-physical media era.

If you read the Anime Diet link, you wouldn’t know that Robert Woodhead priced the goals with assumptions being that majority of backers will go for the basic level, which just means the funding for this kickstarter is not breaking any ground on a per-capita sense. With things going the other way, I think it speaks a lot in both that Otaku no Video is still a title that people (like me) care about, and that there are people who would put down money for it, because $55 is not a big deal in the bigger scheme of things.

Riina the Birthday girl

PS. It took me a while to condense my thoughts about the BGC kickstarter into coherent words and what I found problematic with the approach in putting the product together. Writing about this helped. There are two issues. First, it comes down to my expectation of being able to pay and buy something that’s well-defined. Second, it’s the flaw of democratically defining the requirements, or applying it in the wrong situation.

If you didn’t know about the approach…uhh read all the backer updates to get an idea. TL;DR it was a meticulous and transparent Kickstarter, except where it counted, which is the way how backers determined the specification of the product. That said, let me also disclaim that a lot of the things I mention below are not unique to this particular Kickstarter. I’d think it’s fair to say that Woodhead has done a great job running the BGC Kickstarter, but the reasoning and logic that sounded good at the time all had issues, and these issues will arise in other Kickstarters and similar projects, with the same qualities, following the same reasoning.

The first problem is inherent in backing something that will take input of the backers. You might end up backing something you don’t really want in the end. The trade-off is that you might end up backing something you actually want, to every detail specification, but usually it’s something in between. If we’re talking about a widget, say an iPhone adapter or some such, that’s no big deal, because you can always choose to pick another version of the same thing from a different vendor or Kickstarter that addresses your needs. Or more specifically, the need a Kickstarter typically address in those cases are specific use cases that you are just in for. Things are murkier for something like licensed anime.

The nature of copyright monopoly necessarily mean that only one definitive edition or version of, say, BGC, will ever get released until the next reboot. BGC is probably not a great example because Woodhead has rebooted BGC god knows how many times now, but the typical IP gets maybe 2 or 3 chances at life in the USA, if they’re old enough to live through the DVD era. In other words, you don’t really get to choose. If FUNi or anyone screws up your DVD, you basically have no choice via this licensed release format. If a kickstarter screws the pooch on licensing, or puts out a flawed disc, GLHF.

In that sense, taking backer feedback is fine, if not also an improvement. Ultimately you can have a shot at influencing the outcome of the product. If it doesn’t work out, you might be stuck with it (as I believe all these ways of influence are backer-only). You can also choose to not back it, but you might not be able to get your hands on the “collector” version of the goods. You can still do so with BGC at retail today, just at a slightly higher price point/fewer bonus items. (BTW I backed at poster + basic level). So maybe that’s fine, at least, if you’re willing to just ignore all the crowdfunding aspects as the ultimate “other choice.” Then again, at the time of BGC Kickstarter, this availability was not entirely guaranteed.

The first downside with taking backer feedback in the way Woodhead has done so is that during the process, you really had no clear idea what you were getting, besides the basic anime-on-a-disc part. In that sense, that’s all I could justify paying into such a Kickstarter, and all I am willing to do so in the Otaku no Video Kickstarter. How can I possibly pay double-triple-whatever on the basis of the product itself, if I don’t even know if I will like the addons? At the same time, part of what makes Otaku no Video Kickstarter more premium-heavy than basic might just be that we now have a known process in which BGC was produced, so there’s less uncertainty. Although I’m sure it is only a small part compared to, say, the price tag. I mean, please tell me people are not buying Otaku no Video because of challenge coins or some similarly useless, albeit shiny, bullshit.

The second downside of taking feedback this way is that for every item choice that went to a vote, it becomes a bunch of compromises. Like if you poll 3 people on 3 product choices, you might get 2 out of 3 people picking one way for each choice, thus democratically come to conclusions on the decisions on a product, but the end result may contain things all three people did not want. That said, I think Woodhead took some pretty conservative choices for election to begin with, and nothing really crazy happened–which is kind of what I’m referring to in the previous paragraph. It’s now a known quality.

Which is just to say, welp, I guess I have no choice in this matter. Maybe it’s not a problem if I liked the choices people came up with. It’s like the running jokes about RightStuf promo image voting and how the “Megami” one always gets picked. Is this like an American misconception of democracy or what?


Season Ending Meandering

Here are some thoughts swimming in my head.

Strange Juice

Dandelion fetish

Lately I’ve been paying attention to the local greens on my way home from work, because it’s finally not dark when I do–a testament of summer in North America if there was one–and wondered just what it would take to make the dandelion tick as a pop cultural commodity worth a child’s fancy. I think the home improvement culture in the US pretty much put them out as one of the top public enemies come Spring time. Romantic stories about vagrants that bloom and gets blown around in the wind probably won’t get a lot of love as an analogy to this common weed. Rather than picking one up and blowing it, I think most parents would rather hand their kids one of these. Sorry Popotan.

Punch Line or  Terror in Resonance

Which of these two are bigger disappointments? Are they even equally bad? I think they actually are equally bad. Or good, depending on how you look at it. As animation I enjoyed Punch Line a lot more, where as Terror had the better soundtrack and hipster magnetism. Why would I compare the two? Because both are the same kind of story actually. I thought the way Punch Line worked was, at the very least, creative. Would Steins;Gate anime be just as bad if it was only half as long?

Also, while the above is kind of a spoiler to Punch Line, I struggled the longest to figure out what show it could be compared to. It’s probably best to watch Punch Line without much of a preconception anyway.

Dedication

I’m basically skipping AX for 10th and mental sanity. AX->10th->Otakon in back to back weekends in a sense is the perfect arrangement for 10th because I can still hit all three, but I’m going to die trying. So there is no try, just do not. Somehow this year the amount of work it takes to coordinate the event stuff is also monstrous so I’ll be busy this and next weekend anyway. It felt like I am pretty much orientating my 2015 eventing around it. But am I really that dedicated to IM@S 10th? It’s one of the weird cases where I may say yes.

It’s probably worth noting that Otakon this year is kind of “subpar” to AX. As much as I hate it, AX is still having some top guests. I want to go rep Hanabe and Moyochi. Go hear Takahashi Yoko. See the UBW event. Rock to MomoClo (and KISS?). Aren’t these still the most important things that a con can offer? The pain points of AX are just consequences of these things. At some point you have to wonder even if a con is run very well, what’s the point when it has no real headliner? Maybe those who still go to such a con are really dedicated. Maybe they’re just going for going’s sake. Yes, Paku Romi is a great get and Otakon will remain special for doing that, along with the usual JP guys who rep a solid event that I like. I’m just complaining that it’s a little anti-climatic.


Party at Home Is the Way to Go

Just to follow up on the making-of of the ANorth Offkai promise, but I wanted to draw out the bigger picture too. Maybe this post can be of a lesson to some of you.

As of this writing the Teespring I’m running is about to end. The t-shirt designs came from long-time fellow blogger and otaku Momotato. The dude has an eye for this stuff, so I asked him if he wanted to help. In reality the money will always going to be handy, but it’s more about the fun in the process. I mean, can he update his blog post? LOL.

In 2014 we did a similar thing, if you recalled. This year we are kind of retracing the same steps for IM@S 10th, and instead of carefully planting one foot in one footprint, as the figure of speech goes, we’re sprinting at mach speed.

Even back in the early months of 2014, the bunch of us had IM@S 10th in the back of our minds already. Maybe it is a true testament to the “international lag” that happens, but what Anim@s did hasn’t really quite catch on over here until the more recent idol bloom that coincided with Moviem@s, Love Live, what have you. That’s almost 4 years ago. The older and more experienced of us are already thinking (and some worried even) about the future of IM@S. After all, nobody’s getting any younger.

The reality was that as long as there is a will, and a way, it’ll continue. I don’t see either of those things dry up, so it comes down to luck and accidents and making mistakes. But even then, IM@S as a franchise has made lots of mistakes. I can’t really see it go terribly wrong–at least no worse than it has repeatedly before.

It’s with this attitude that I approach these fund-raising or fan organization stuff. Try and you may fail, but with enough experience you will fail less? With home-field advantage and repetition things will roll out better. Anime North 2015’s offkai is a prime example of such a thing.

With Asapon being green-lit, the Ami-Mami birthday bash idea also was greenlit. We had about 3-plus months of time to prepare. In reality we had a year to prepare since the possibility loomed overhead even when we were with Haramii in a literal sense. We knew that some JP Ps were coming just to party with those who were going to go–assuming the right guests were announced–and the rest of the dominos fell in place from the con’s end. It was just a matter of doing things on our end, by February.

The hardest part of that, in retrospect, was coming up with the ideas that we did, from the cake to the shape the offkai will take. It wasn’t hard to advertise the offkai, since Producer-hivemind turned 2014’s Anime North into just that already. The human network was in place. Lots of the new kids spoke Japanese and can perapera on twitter just fine. That amused not only the JP Ps but also made my life easier. The network also took cared of funding certain things, thanks, crowdfunding culture.

The ideas came slowly, but it tend to move in bursts. Once the plan formed in shape, it was just execution. On that front, it was only challenging because life have so many other distractions. 10th, for example. I’m pretty sure because of ANorth planning I fell behind on 10th planning, and am currently suffering for it.

I forget who exactly came up with the idea, but using the Koami and Komami Grafigs as the basis of the cakes felt natural and it took the design aspect out of our hands. One less thing to worry about, at least, was what I thought. We sort of just threw ideas on the wall and I think this one stuck, too, because the boxy shapes made the cake more 3D, and we were gunning for a 3D cake with this anyway. In retrospect the cake looked less boss than it could have been, but it still felt like it was worth every Canadian penny.

Having attended at least one offkai last year helped with planning this one. Booking the hotel hall was actually the easy part, despite weeks of back-and-forth. The hard part was estimating if what we paid was worth what we got. The room we were in was not that great–pretty average for what it was. We also didn’t pay out of our noses. It also worked out well because this party turned out not too different than a wedding. It was in a lot of ways just like one, so what applied to one was often used on the other. That gave it feel and form, and a handle for non-Ps to work with.

The real heroes at the offkai had to be the people who helped out. A lot of people helped out in some ways, some might be intangible in terms of their ideas or vetting there of. A lot of people put in some elbow grease helping setup or run the front desk. The panel presentation, the guys running sound and providing the equipment, the cheki printer trick with engraving on the business card holder, and so many others… It’s all the usual stone soup magic. And in that sense it’s the individuals that are still ultimately pushing this forward. We just made it easier to do so, to put it in different, less corporate-y terms.

The election board was a last minute thing, relatively. It worked out much better than expected. Same with Japanese Ps providing freebies, as this seems to be a very common thing with oversea otaku coming to the west, and also the vulturing that happens. Calm down guys! I had no clue what Chuck’s “panel” was going to be like, but I think it worked well. HPT is no A-Team but there are enough wiseguys in there to make something out of not a lot.

Anyways, I had a lot of fun at the ANorth offkai. And it wasn’t even that much work… Sort of like the point behind a fan-run con, where you work hard to bring fans and creators together in the right context, so they can party freely and within acceptable bounds. That’s really what good cons do, and ANorth on that regard gets good marks. Running a con unfortunately is a lot more work though… Certainly it’s a challenge that needs the home field advantage. There will always be a will and usually there will be at least one way, but sometimes it’s good to be shown a more excellent way.


Anime Next 2015: Wrap

Uhh it happened in my proverbial back yard, so I attended to mainly rep Elisa. This is as “hangout” as a hangout con can get for me.

Gaming in the lobby

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