(Sticky) Eventing: 2020

[Last updated: Apr 7, 2020]

Last year’s note here, my Eventernote here.

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My Shinography

My sleep-addled brain cried buckets of figurative tears last weekend listening to Sato Takafumi’s DJ set during the online EDM music event Asobinotes. Why? [Hit play below to hear the relevant part. Full set here]

That question “why” is literally the description of words on the canvas of the deep blue sky described in the song Shinography. It is the reason why I do the things I do. I quote the lyrics from the Shiny Colors 3rd year theme (TL):

まだ上昇中の Gradation days
誰のでもない 瞬間を
光空記録(My shinography)

The IDOLM@STER is a series that lives and dies in the hands of a, to put it nicely, turbulent company during a time when the future is uncertain. I’ve made the analogy of that tree in the past as a personal metaphor, but it’s a metaphor that is shared between not just other fans, but the series itself as well as its creators.

Million Live’s theme songs since the start had been as follows: Thank You, Welcome, Dreaming, Brand New Theater, Union, Flyers, and Glow Map. Do you see where we are going? We will go into the space over the future. We’re looking for the place under the shining star. And I guess Jam Project is also Lantis, right. Shiny starts at the glowing part already. To paint the visual metaphor of the tree, the OG is the seed, CG and ML are the trunk and branches, and Shiny is some fruit. Maybe also, CG is also all of these.

But this “growing” vibe, this repeating theme from OG, CG, ML and Shiny literally is the type of music fans consumed and loved year to year. It describes the attitude of the content, the attitude of the producers–those who know where they are but they dream big. Shiny Colors especially is that daring fruit hanging from the IM@S tree, bucking core trends and practices for popular mobile games and franchises, eschewing easy and quick play for deep characterization and VN-style rewards.

The lead in to Sato’s set, going back to what I was saying, is the summary of where he is. Sato happens to be the music director for the IDOLM@STER series, so he has a hand in all of this after taking over the role from his seniors. It seems almost like biographic when RE@DY was the start for this portion.

In a lot of ways when you are creating media works for a series like this, you are creating some kind of future that you are building towards, and it’s always somewhat risky how things will play out or not. Granted the risk is pretty low sometimes, but with these big franchises the room for mistake is pretty small, or so it can seem.

This is Manabi-ism. We exist as fans inside the space the work’s creators made, but the difference isn’t building a world, but building a the mechanism that moves the world forward. The difference is similar to having a lot of money versus a machine that makes money. In the year of our Lord 2020, only the latter exists, and it is one derivative higher, more difficult, more uncertain.

It’s about our perception of where this world will go. It is about the perception of the creators, and the fans’, the cast, the execs, the committees, and everyone pushing forward our next software update, our next gacha banner, our next new song. This is the idol festival that never ends, and is never exactly the same year to year.

Because if it was, it probably will end soon.

Now imagine that, all the ideas and emotions I tried to describe, play through in your mind in the span of about 138 seconds, and then add the pandemic-induced issue about having missed ML7th and Shiny 2nd, where for one weekend each you can actually touch, smell, feel and see this world materialize in the physical festivals that marks the typical IM@S anniversary lives.

Buckets of tears. My life is carved into the lights of the sea and sky beyond your water bottle. Want a sip?

Hase Yurina/Ochiai Yurika, June 15, 2020

I have a con to put together and thus not much time, but it helps to put all the relevant things together in one place. Obviously this is my point of view so take that with a grain of salt, but I’ve been a seiota for a while now, and you can’t fairly interpret what 2020’s Hase Yurina said without knowing her relatively turbulent history.

To be clear, I think she is a victim in the end, and I wish her the best, as she’s gone through some crazy patches in life generally, inside and outside of work. But it is really hard for me to take what she said on that stream at face value. For starters, it’s best if you can find a recording of it and the chat she’s reading off of, and watch on your own. Admittedly I wasn’t paying a lot of attention while it was happening so I missed a lot of it, but most of what I’ll write below have little to do with the stream itself. (Working from home lets me tune into twitter-trending Showrooms, but work still had to be done.)

Yurishii (henceforth, to simplify–also it’s ゆりしー, not ゆりしぃ, so lulz how bangdreamers hijacked that romaji term on Google) signed into the seiyuu world via Arts Vision back in 1999 via an open audition. She came in with a lot of accolades and was a rising talent. She left Arts Vision in 2006 and became freelance for a short while, then joined Genki Project. It was over there she got those death threats.

The big splash for folks realizing for the first time about the recent Casting Couch post probably didn’t realize that in 2007 Arts Vision blew up with an agency-wide casting couch scandal. ANN has it written up here as I linked, but there was a lot of follow ups, which much has been lost in time in terms of news/fan coverage. I think only a couple showed upon ANN unfortunately, but there were a series of departures. A lot of people left the company around that time, a couple (at least?) formed new companies. It dragged on for a bit. For fans following the industry, it was a big deal at the time. [God bless Canned Dogs.]

The whole casting couch thing (makura eigyou) was an industry-wide (read: geinokai) problem. Actually that is not saying anything not already bloody obvious. Personally the Yurishii story is the seiyuu version of that shadow. Maybe we all got our crosses to bear, so this is one specific cross for this particularly small part of the industry, and it hits home harder. The #MeToo thing last year also mentioned an account where a female seiyuu were invited to mixed bathing in one occasion with higher ups, so you can see how this plays out in a believable manner. What’s really sad is it’s not easy to find official or tablody reporting from back when, as matome blogs were the only real source left. And maybe this? Little bits of shadows are easier to cover up.

In 2009, Yurishii changed her name to Hase Yurina and became freelance at some point during the death threats saga. She was removed from the IDOLM@STER cast in 2010. She joined a third agency in 2013 but eventually Yurishii left the seiyuu industry in 2014.

In 2015 Yurishii went public with her story about the IDOLM@STER changeover, which had to do with her management at the time being unable to properly protect her. If you can get the actual text of this, it gets into detail more as to why it happened. It was a really freaking sad thing to see how Matsuki Miyu played a role in Yurishii’s story too, but in a way this is just to show how so many things are connected in the relatively small industry of anime voice acting.

In the past couple years, Yurishii started to do influencer/personality stuff for her small group of fans. At first it was talking about her time in the IDOLM@STER series, then it escalated to her covering old IM@S tunes–which seems to be fine since she is not related to the series at this point. But at some point it escalated into her cosplaying Yukiho and selling chekis of that, and there was some more escalation in which led to Bandai Namco sending a C&D letter to her. A lot of fans suspect this was the act which motivated her to do that live stream on Monday.

As someone heavily into the series, the attraction of a live Yurishii version of Kosmos, Cosmos or Alright* is quite powerful–you can still buy her versions on CD of these. I can see the allure of what she is offering. There is incentive (as it always) for fans to encourage this stuff, just like how there is incentive for ANN to publish a hot ton of bricks for clickbait, as Yurishii didn’t provide any real details–wow Sunrise engaged in makura eigyou back in the 00s? Color me surprised. It’s spicy week.

Yurishii didn’t drop a lot of details–instead she dropped a ton of spicy sauce. The bullying with Mingos with Eririn joining in? The Chiaking stuff? The Itou Shizuka stuff? Hirano Aya (again)? I’m tired of this, because not only it is weird where the bullies are mad at their shared target in the adult context, it’s also weird to have a history of this kind of thing and still be going at it so many years. She talked about a ton of personal issues she had to struggle with in those years too. Menhara came up, as she could be that kind of a thing, but didn’t wanted to. Again, not denying Yurishii–her claims are entirely believable but I wouldn’t read into it too much without more corroborating details. Ultimately, this is some really ancient salt, over 10 years and going. I can afford to worry about other stuff over this. And it’s not going to address issues like makura eigyo or the DV thing that went down (man that was the shocking part).

Here is an executive bullet-point summary of the Monday stream:

I labeled this post with a date, because this is developing story. It has been developing for 20+ years, and it’s not going to stop yet.

As for rest of us, I guess either do something about it, if you are in power to do so, or munch on the popcorn quietly? There is enough misdirected anger and justice in the world as is, when what we need more is affirmative healing and real change.

Introducing KuroCon

Hey it finally happened: I’m helping to run a legit convention. It did start as a joke, but I’m tryna not let it end as a joke? I don’t know.

I can use all the help you can get. The details are on the website, kurocon.org. Check it out. It’s in 22 days or something, so there is not a lot of time left and we only started the “official” PR today.

Lots of stuff to do on the con side, but also a lot of opportunities! Ping me if you are interested in helping or pitch an idea. Probably on twitter.

The Chupacabra: Million Live Remains a Little Wild

In a blink of an eye, it’s already June? Almost.

In the past 3 months, I have taken to the land of streaming (Twitch, Youtube, and the underground where content ID is just a murmur) to stream some seiyuu live events. Knowing that every concert is going to get cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a bunch of people decided to watch IDOLM@STER Million Live concert content along online, so this group watch happened on almost every weekend leading into Memorial Day weekend here in the States.

The march from 1st live to today is a good idea to even the official folks running the franchise, so they are doing it in the month of June. Mind you I assume they knew of nothing of what we’ve been doing. Given how everything event-wise is shut down, musicians are also going online to show their stuff, either past performances or putting together new shows online-only. This much is the new reality in the age of COVID-19. On twitter I have seen other Ps watching old lives on their own.

With the first two shows out of the way this past weekend, it was definitely a nice salve for hardcore fans of the series, and also nice for casuals to join in to see something they might not have seen before, and get context from others following along the stream. Some of the staff and cast also tweet as we go.

This all precipitated when Million Live 7th anniversary live was cancelled about 3 weeks prior, and in its place, which were supposed to take place in the first weekend of May, were two live streams, each hosted by a cast member featuring the rest of the day’s cast in a zoom chat. The other main staff members also show up at the end on teleconference. Some announcement were dropped but none more shocking than the new song, Do the IDOL. This track is the promised fan-selection from those who watched Million Live Theater Days kanshasai in January, in which fans watching in person and online can vote for the theme of this song–techno and chupakabura were selected, so here we are.

In the continuing era of war of idols, mobile games clash with billions of dollars on the table in that ever-changing video game economy. It seems prudent, if not necessary, to continue to push forward the breadth and depth of the type of music, the quality of performances, and have genre challenges to existing works. It’s also important to keep pace and play up your core experience. Between the recent CG election and the Million Live stuff above, that seemed to play out plainly. These games are rather well-polished and take a well-funded team. It takes cohesive and compelling artistic vision that can sell both to management and customers. It’s about incremental QOL like the deresute monthly pack, as well as keeping what makes the franchise unique, as in, uh, the Chupacabra.

Million Live needs to be wild. With all the announcements due to 7th live now on drip over the next 4 weekends, we’ll see what is left in the gas tank after 7 turbulent years. It doesn’t help that we will be driving down (or again, in my case) that nostalgia lane, reminding us how it was in the “good old days.” It’s like taking stock and remembering this side of the franchise, when we’re just grinding Alive Factor on the other side? There’s a big surprise at the end of this road, in terms of the 3rd Theater Days anniversary content, and I’m hoping it’s something nice, and not a brick wall, LOL.

Eventerpocalypse: Major Force

Being underneath a rock for the past month and change, thanks to the internet, I know what’s going on? But more realistically, did people travel to, say, Anime Boston, not knowing it’s cancelled? If you did please let me know because I want to know your story.

In a more sober note, obviously as someone who’s done 5+ cons a year for the past…decade plus(?), I have this itch that needs scratching badly. Camping on hotel carpet floors waiting in line for events while talking to other like-minded people is not really what I miss…but I even miss that now. What I really miss is the anticipation and sometimes, the payoff. Thus, Anime Boston being my first real casualty this year is already a small acknowledgement hitting home. I enjoy Takahashi Minami, OK? Of course, I am pretty lucky that I still have a job, I can still pay my bills, and I’m in good health. I appreciate all the delivery guys and retail folks, some who are also in my life as friends and family, let alone the MDs and RNs and EMTs and whoever else out there actually fighting the pandemic. Other personal eventing hits can be better checked in my ongoing eventing log, which is also pinned to the front page of the blog.

With that out of the way, here’s what you should do regarding US/Canadian cons. I’ll write, later, some stuff about the other event types.

  • Assume cons are cancelled for all of 2020. That means, yes you, AWA and Anime NYC. Until Americans have a widely available vaccine, you can be sure nobody is going to allow non-essential, entertainment events of large scale to happen. USA took on huge economic tolls, as tens of millions of people lost their jobs, in order to slow the spread. This is the context we operate in, so short of a vaccine, there is no chance anything that will scale the virus on 10000s of people will happen. Especially when it’s a 100% leisure activity. Vaccine timeline is on the order of a year, so best case scenario we’ll be looking at early 2021 for a vaccine–probably more like mid-late 2021 given that it’s not trivial to produce and administer hundreds of millions of these, and that’s just for Americans.
  • Don’t worry about cons announcing cancellations. It doesn’t matter–you’re not going to go to any cons in 2020 anyways. Do keep track who is cancelled and how the refund policy works.
  • Do know that cons vary a lot. Some are for profit, lowest-common-denominating gravy trains; some are educational non-profit foundations trying to bring the most woke Japanese acts (w). Cons are in different financial shape–just like the XFL, some cons might go bankrupt after this year, some aren’t. Who knows? If by delaying the cancellation, con organizations can have a better outcome, these cons will. And it doesn’t really matter because you, an attendee, won’t be going to any of them anyways. It doesn’t matter if they announce cancellations early or late, you aren’t going to go anyways, because it will be cancelled sooner or later.
  • Cons can save money sometimes by cancelling closer to the actual date, because in order to trigger escape clauses and insurance claims, certain government policies have to be announced. Until it happens, they will wait before they can announce anything.
  • Please don’t harass people who run cons or even pester them. Everybody knows what’s going on, especially people responsible dealing with cons, it’s what they do. And con runenrs are definitely having a harder time than you! If you don’t think so, then you really should forget about cons and spend your free time solving what’s troubling you. I mean what’s really at stake anyways, unless you are an artist or vendor who relies on cons?
  • Speaking of people who are having a hard time, for artists and vendors, well, I hope you applied for that SBA loan (PPP). I heard it kinda didn’t work so well. My condolences. And you have a real standing to pester cons for refunds, because that’s your livelihood.
  • Refund vs roll over? If you know you’re going next year, it’s better to roll it over. If anything, there’s a chance the price will increase because every con that had to cancel lost money! If you need the money back or if you don’t know you can go, then yeah of course, try to get it refunded. Expect price increases in the near future, across the board, is what I’m saying.

On Force Majeure: It’s fancy legal term for “act of god” which is a bigger label for things that relates to ways contracts may terminate due to unforeseeable circumstances beyond the parties’ control. Basically, unless something like that happens, people are expected to follow on contracts they signed. Most legal contracts that’s worth anything will have some kind of clause governing when an force majeure situation happens, and basically it will spell out what happens, usually saying something about being conscionable or whatever (TL note: some of the deposit or payment will get returned; sometimes all, sometimes not). It might also include a list of naturally occurring events that are excluded or included as a situation where force majeure occurs. In general, things that commonly happen are not acts of god. Obviously nobody would disagree that government shutting down cons to fight a pandemic is an act of god in terms of executing contracts related to an anime convention. (Maybe this is why the country is in trouble, LOL.)

It gets more complicated in that different types of contracts care about this on different levels. Most service type contracts (catering, venue rental) would not really go too deep into this, but insurance contracts usually do. Because, well, it’s insurance. Good insurance policies precisely cover weird stuff that nobody can foresee. Cheap/bad ones spells out that they do not cover whack things. You pay for the difference. And pretty sure, some cons have corona related things covered by insurance, some do not.

Key thing here is, since what happens in a force majeure is defined by the contract specifically, what happens to a con in a force majeure is not universal. Different contracts can have different terms dealing with it. While most contracts these days for stuff like what cons do are quite similar/boilerplate, not all of them are the same and so it’s probably bad to compare one con’s legal situation with another. Further, different cons are in different financial shape too. For-profit cons also have different limitations versus nonprofit. And this is not like buying things off Amazon.com, cons are negotiating with other businesses who are suffering in this economic weather as well, so the money cons already ponied up might not make it back, or it might get deferred to next year, whatever. It’s up to each con to negotiate how that’s done with their suppliers.

For an anime con, think of like, renting a wedding hall. You have to put down a deposit well ahead of time (probably last year, for 2020 cons, if not earlier), and then closer to the event you are due the rest of the amount. For cons like AB I’m sure they paid all of that before the Federal emergency declaration.

The other consideration in this domino effect of corona cancellation is the leniency of the venue. The venue is easily the most expensive part of running a con. Or rather, venue including hotels. Since most cons deal with big hotel chains, they are actually easier to deal with in terms of event cancellation, as they have national (or even international) sensitivities, and a lot more of their money comes from individuals anyways. Organizations are closer to loss leaders (hotels make real money from selling hotel rooms to people going to the ballroom, not renting out ballrooms). Con centers owned by companies specialized in event rentals, especially like big ones like AEG, really do not have as much leeway (it’s all of their revenue, vs hotels), and likely will be way less lenient. Con centers affiliated with local municipalities will likely lean with the government announcements, but it’s not a sure thing. But a lot of those locally owned con centers don’t have shareholders, and you know what that means…

Hope this info is helpful, we already know the internet is crap when it comes to misinformation in the corona era, let’s not add more to it.