Category Archives: English Language Modern Visual Fandom

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?


Crowdfunding: Copyright in Fandom

GITHUB YEAAAA

For completeness, I am talking about this particular kickstarter – School Idol Tomodachi. They’re just two folks doing it like it’s 1999, and are operating with a minimal regard to copyright at least as per my interpretation. You can make your own interpretation, as I’m posting the Q&A I have submitted. Or rather, what I PM’d them on KS:

Is this licensed by klab or bushiroad? Do you have permission?

Deby & Engil says:

Hi!
Though we never talked to them directly nor got an official authorization from them, we know that they are aware of the existence of this website and tolerate it, as they tolerate fan sites since it helps them grow their users base.
Every single fan site violates copyrights in a certain way, and it’s up to the license owner to sue. Most of the time, and this is the case, they consider it as “fair use” and let people do their stuff, since it’s free advertisement for them and it’s harmless.
If at some point the lisence’s owners change their mind and ask us to take the site down or close the Kickstarter, we will do it.
Hope that helps~

And it does. Thank you.

I don’t really have a bone with the concept behind it, but it still rubs me the wrong way when someone promotes his or her own project by selling straight-up stuff they don’t own to market it. It’s one “commercial activity” too far for this ossan. I guess there’s nothing wrong with it per se, but from a business point of view it would be weird to see a fan project go raise money when the actual commercial products the site is a fan of can’t be equally shameless. That Kickstarter (TM?) stuff still is worth something in PR money. Well, for shame tiering, there is always that Clannad Man thing as a lowest tier (that I care to signal boost). This is somewhere above that.

To an extent, too, this is largely a changing mores kind of thing. These two developers are just 23 years old. Kickstarter was a thing before they even started college, assuming they were on a standard path. Paying for your own fandom from your own pocket is getting to be passe, it seems. Of course, at the same time, crowdfunding works for fandom precisely because it enables that “country club” thing for things beyond large tracts of land for golfing. The bone I have with it is just, again, as with Kickstarters in general, the simple buyer-seller relationship that Kickstarter permits to happen in the context that has been largely reserved for traditionally memberships. That ~30% that Kickstarter and its payment processor takes out of is 30% a private fundraising via paypal will not (which is just ~3%).

At least if you kickstart a con, you can do what Otakon does… When you are kickstarting a CD album or a board game or a smartwatch, you really are just preordering. And if this fansite kickstarter kept it clean, it wouldn’t be as bad as those. But now it’s a question of “is it okay to second-hand sell loveca”? Is this a question you want to even ask in the first place? Among other things.

Another interpretation is just that these folks don’t know any better. It is not out of the question. I think Dave choosing Indiegogo is a smart move, for example. Good for you, Kawaiikochan Man.

PS.

This School Idol site publishes a public API so you can pull its card entries (among other things). It’s both hilariously bad and pretty cool at the same time. I mean, like, AWS is not cheap. It’s like one-upping a production committee by putting out your favorite light novel’s anime adaptation. Except in this case it’s code that the production committee don’t care about? And the fans are trying to sell things the committee would sell? Because, like, how else can you raise money, besides selling t-shirts with Honkers printed on it, right?

It’s not like I dislike any of this. But this is no longer about copyright as much as businesses trying to make money and how fans fill the gap in a very meta kind of way, and copyright only goes to show how inadequate it is at trying to cordon off a way to get it done. It’s entirely too weaksauce for this 21st century stuff.

Maybe Gaben should take note on this.


Theme Cafes and Mobage

I was reading some twitter tweets to Swallowtail, the famed Ikebukuro butler cafe. It struck me that these are the kind of things well-executed theme restaurants do. And then it also struck me that this is why I play IM@S Million Live, because it is a well-executed game in a similar manner.

It may or may not be fair to say that theme restaurants are gimmicky. Well, they are just normal eateries with a focus. Andrew Zimmern went to one that’s a prison-themed place. I went to an IDOLM@STER themed cafe (I suppose a cafe or a restaurant is an equally important distinction). I don’t know what is different between the two other than the focus and the type of food each places serve.

Hit-Girl?

If we consider social games or mobile games in that sense, they are gameplay-as-a-secondary-offering games with various themes. And it’s about how these themes execute that makes them or break them, at least for some people. If you want to dine in prison, as a theme restaurant patron, what does it mean? What should go into it? Perhaps it still should be comfortable, but in a way that reminds you that you are in a prison. Perhaps the food should reflect thematically. The atmosphere of the place might be prison-like. It goes on.

And by “secondary offering” I merely mean it is not the central point, as much as it is at best just as important to the purpose of these games or restaurant, which is about some kind of entertaining user experience. Anyway, I don’t want to belittle somehow these things as games or not. Just like I wouldn’t belittle a delicious meal served by cosplayers or by just about anyone else.

Things are a little more vague when we talk about details. To put it in context, when we dine and review the experience, it is usually things like service, quality of food, the value of the meal, if the taste meets the expectation, atmosphere, wait time, and other things like that. In video games, it’s about similar things, except we would translate it to how fun it is, the complexity, the learning curve, how the gameplay integrate with the game’s narrative, how polished the code is, what have you. Like your average yelp or whatever review.

It’s entirely possible to rate a game based on the number of idols available in it.

Ever read reviews like these? And think it’s retarded? I guess that’s kind of like rating how good a buffet restaurant with how many dishes…wait. I guess it just goes to show how video game reviews seem to be a little oddish when put into that “casual” point of view.

But details nonetheless. Like the cylume color of Shiho’s card for Liar Rouge is white and not red? Or blue? Or brown? Because fans called it out on them? Or the selection of images that may make up a collage which tells a narrative behind an ongoing event? Or how the CD releases coordinates with in-game events? Or how in-game cards nods at in-fandom jokes?

Well, that’s par for the course for these character-collecting social games. It’s the extra mile a game like ML goes that impresses me over the other ones I’ve played. But I think this case can be made across the genre, especially when they’re mixed-media franchises with room to collaborate between all of these things.

But for those of us who are easier to please, or who might be open to these kinds of experiences, what values is the execution, the exquisiteness, the finer details of life. It doesn’t matter if you are tapping against rings shooting out of a moving beat or trying to figure out how much money you need to spend to win, it’s more about what it brings to you; what it buys. For those of us that time and money can actually buy things that make us happy in this context–it might be an after-meal espresso or a pile of “energy drinks” that replenishes your in-game stamina–is it worthwhile?

Yeah, it is closer to gambling (the casino style) as a lifestyle and entertainment than, say, buying a book so you can read it on your own terms, even if it exists somewhere in between. But I don’t think the world would want only one or the other and never both, to exist as options for anyone and everyone. At the same time, if you’ve ever been to places like Atlantic City or Las Vegas, these are pretty crass institutions. When a dirt-cheap looking mobile game can deliver (I still feel like Cinderella Girls is just a glorified pachinko interface, at least the Japanese one) the same experience on your budget smart-whatever device, maybe it’s time to rethink all this.

It also explains why there’s still all this resistance from what typifies as “gamers” to accept mobile gaming. I don’t think of it either way, other than as long as people are comfortable with this sort of things coexisting.

Which is also to say there are not much in terms of maid cafes and that type of theme restaurants in the US for much the same reasons. It’s a pity.


How I Watch Anime

This is a long form comment for this blog post. Chaos-kun does good work and I feel the call to pitch in:

I am genuinely interested in how other anime bloggers approach watching and writing about anime – so in a rare show of audience solicitation: let me know in the comments or in a post of your own how you go about this blogging malarkey.

Haruka & the Crabs

But, see, I don’t write about anime. I watch anime, and I write as a part of that experience. My horse is squarely in front of the cart. The funny thing is I also write for a site where the writing comes before the anime, or at best together. In short, writing, discussing, participating in the fandom for anime, may it be for a specific title or thing or the broader identity-political community and everything in between, greatly influences my watching.

It’s actually similar to how having a “theater room” and nice a TV (or projector or whatever) and sound system can have an impact in how you watch anime. In that sense you get out as much as you put in, except in a different way. For example, a long-time observation is that anime viewing in the west is a largely decontextualized exercise. It’s like how you might watch a comedy about an indigenous African interact with a Coke bottle in the ’80s, you can do the same with Americans and Europeans with Japanese cartoons. All I want to do is be able to not only have the option to re-contextualize my anime (like, for example, understand all the references; but also understand how Japanese fandom interact with anime and how anime answers back;  how anime is a part of their lives), but also be able to enjoy it for what it is, with or without context. I mean, all I seek is understanding. And it isn’t like I can’t enjoy Star Blazer or Robotech, I just can’t stop there.

To use the anime diet analogy (we’ll come back to this in a moment), it is the difference of being able to digest the nutrients of what you eat versus being able to understand the palettes excited by the food particles that went through your mouth, and write it down in floral and verbose texts to put on a blog post. The latter is why I write about anime; some anime is friggin awesome and I have to deal with what happens after I watch it. The former is kind of like the true enjoyment value of what I’m watching, or maybe the educational or thematic payload. This might be part of what makes B cinema fun to engage in, but I think the analogy stands to all kinds of other entertainment.

In that sense, I enjoy watching anime because of both. There are plenty of crap anime, guilty pleasure, plain pleasure, kind of guilty, tits and ass, or whatever other people call it. If it fits my constitution and I have the time for it, then I would watch it. This is also why I think of Africans and Coke bottles because you have people complaining how something is of poor nutritional health and others are saying it tastes great and have less filling. I’m like, geesus, nobody said you can’t drink light beer, and nobody is forcing you to. Except instead of light beer it’s just some late-night TV anime.

But when we go on the long haul, things are different. A balanced diet is the turning point between an obsession and a lifestyle. I say this partly as a warning–being in fandom for some time I’ve seen people falling in and out of it, and for all sorts of reasons. Some people may OD and burn out, but that may not always be a bad thing. For others because they have found balance in how to incorporate this anime hobby thing into the way they live, and are comfortable of the sacrifices they make for it, they are still doing this anime thing as if it’s 1989. I’m not judging, but each should judge within themselves to make the right decision. Well, rather, only if you are in the long haul and sufficiently distant and comfortable with the thing can you make a rational one anyway. Although for some the rational one might not even be the best one.

It’s like when I think about a friend who has a series of NAS and dozens of terabyte+ drives, who spent thousands of dollars and who-knows-how-many hours on his rigs, where a majority of that storage is just BakaBT seeds, I question the point behind the exercise. I’m not really judging, but at some point you can go beyond that point of balance. It’s just coming from someone like me, who at best downloads some fansubs just so I can delete them after I watch them (I’d rather spend money on anime goods than another HDD), it seems a little alien. But at the same time I feel my money is just going into a drain somewhere given the nature of what anime goods tend to be in this part of the world, where has you can always use a NAS. It’s like the difference of living to watch anime and living where anime serves as a specific aspect to the way you live.

[This is why I have no love for US DVD/BD releases outside of Aniplex and the occasional NISA boxes; they feel like POS. It’s like I can spend $400 on those R2 Fate/Zero BD sets and be like, “hey Mandarake is still selling them for 2/3 of what I paid them for” just because of what I actually bought in a physical sense–a finely, thoughtfully craft collector’s item. Not some wannabe, crappily crafted collector’s item that makes up far majority of such releases in R1. Because that sort of context matters not to Americans.]

But that is just more context and background. So when I make caps from CR for my too-legit-to-quit anime writing gig, I basically use the “view in dedicated window” feature, pause wherever, screen-cap the window (720), and paste it in a psd file in photoshop. In that psd file I have a pre-defined selection that crops exactly where the video is. The only real challenges in capping a CR stream is the seeking of a streaming file, and accidentally capping with the timestamp pop-in within the image. The occasional CR watermark may show up but I stopped giving that a damn. Oh, I guess sometimes I do turn off the subs, case-by-case.

This is a rather laborious method than hot-keying every-so-often to do a screen cap (or what some people do which is use some program to do it for you then sift through that), so instead I make sure I watch what I do episodic-blog at least more than once, so I already know which scenes I want to capture. Naturally, I don’t episodic blog much here, because just this one aspect of blogging kills any momentum I have about blogging anime. And when I did, I basically used a camera. Remember my Xam’d posts, guys?

After I’m done capping I use some simple Photoshop features to save for web, and resize/crop when it needs to be done. That’s basically it. And as you can see, FUNi’s streams is simply uncappable using this method, so to hell with that.

But the funny thing is, even with a file (of the right format) it still takes me a good amount of time to cap. I just take too much time thinking about that, and it doesn’t really make my life that much easier. Because all of that teeth pulling makes up my think time about writing about anime.

Ultimately, when I blog about anime it’s because there’s a specific idea or ideas I want to express, or some specific thing I want to say, like an observation or even a funny little detail. Without it, it feels really retarded to just have an opinion on something. I need some kind of context to put it all together. A story, a narrative, a gut feeling. Whatever it might be, that should what drives what you write.

The great anime for blogging, for me, are the shows that fills me with these things after I’m done watching them. The ideas come easy. I know where to screen cap. The words write themselves. So that tends to be the stuff I write about, because they fight the crud in the way of enjoying anime to the fullest. Also it would just seem I have more to say, and higher chance of something worthwhile to say about it. The opposite is true too, both in that some shows I watch don’t really fill me with ideas so I don’t write about them, and shows that I have a hard time watching and understanding typically are shows I don’t write about either.

As an aside, I love anime bloggers who are actually thoughtful about what they write. Almost as much as those who put sweat equity into what they write. Those people are good people.

I rotated this image...

The way I watch anime  has changed over time along with the nature of anime and the technological advances and changes. The way I write also reflects that change, but in ways that don’t show up in a typical blog post “made for consumption.” In a sense that makes my writing much harder to understand in a gut feeling kind of way, because it’s as if I’m cracking inside jokes to myself. Anime fandom has gotten younger and more vibrant, where as I am not so much. Compare to my younger self, today I am probably more interested in appreciating anime for what it is than the stuff surrounding it, but only because I’ve gotten beyond all that jazz. Ironic, I guess, but it’s more like there’s a fine line between worrying about blogging than worrying about having something worthwhile to say. Now THAT is ironic.

But that doesn’t make me immune to the minutiae. Right now, my number one worry is that dead Sony receiver of mine. The low-end receiver went kaput like 2 months past the warranty. LOL. The HDMI inputs don’t switch right anymore, and maybe this week I can score a low-end receiver for an appropriately low price. As you can see I don’t put a lot of stock in sound, but probably more than many, like everything else about my anime viewing habits.

So for now the annual introspection series can wait till next week. As you know, all I’m going to write about is The Idolm@ster anyway.


Re: Impossible Spring 2014

I am still watching new anime, and relatively speaking a lot, just less than I have been. I chalk it up due to work and these con blitzs. In some ways my trip in Feb is still draining me emotionally and man, I need a vacation where I just sit around and relax. Maybe I can just skip AX and take those days for OFA grinding.

Rabbits

Just going to piggy-back on Author’s list. This means also not inserting a table in this post. Uguu tables.

  • Rabbit House – I think it’s amazing that how tire I am typically, I am still trying to catch up to date on this. It is totally to Rabbit House’s credit such as the case. It might seem like a big endorse coming from me, which you will see why as you read through this list, and it probably doesn’t deserve it.
  • Puchimas S2 – I too will batch it later. I did start, and at some point I realized FUNi’s stream is not serving up the new ED for some reason and I’m like :v Screw this nonsense.
  • One Week Friends – Without Author’s baggage, I’m no more likely a friend of this kind of sap. This is all on me though; just not in the mood for this, which I’m sure is a competent production of feels generation.
  • Mangaka & Assistant – Comedy. The pacing could be a lot better, it needs to learn from SYD.
  • Kawaisou – I enjoyed what I’ve seen. But I need to watch beyond one episode…
  • Precure All Stars Selection – I don’t Precure.
  • The World Is Still Beautiful – This is the kind of show I would watch because it is easy, on CR, and is not terrible. The whole shoujo-ness is really embarrassing to see but otherwise it’s okay. Overall probably a wholesome recommendation.
  • Love Live S2 – Yes.
  • Broken Blade – Didn’t watch it the first time, no interest the second time.
  • Chaika – This is like, Scrapped Princess the anime remixed, right? Because it’s just like Scrapped Princess in terms of setup. And written by the same guy. That said the voice cast is pretty fun to watch and the story moves at a good clip. I think I’m one or two behind, and will probably drop, even if it is a nice change of pace given the usual light novel fare that gets animated these days.
  • Jewelpet – Ha, no.
  • Ping Pong – Best anime this season. I will go through the depths of FUNi hell to watch this. Problem is Ping Pong doesn’t excite me.
  • Kanojo ga Flag o Orareta – Not sure if I like this or Azuki Azusa anime more. Maybe needs more Yukarin. Probably will get cut if time runs short due to Acen and Anorth next couple weeks.
  • Escha & Logi – Nope. Speaking of which I have Totori on my Vita now so I’d rather pour the time into that.
  • Seikoku no Dragonar – Haven’t heard anything good about this.
  • Mahouka – Too slow, but intriguing. Unfortunately it puts me to sleep so it’s hard to make it even to the third episode.
  • Date A Live II – Passed on season one so…
  • Mekakucity Actors – I really want to watch this now that I dropped Nisekoi and Monogatari S2 looms like a distant rain cloud. But maybe it’s better for me and Shaft to take a break for a while.
  • Majin Bone – Nope.
  • Nanana – This is like Zvezda, a lot. Too uncanny. Also totally enjoying it right now.
  • Knight of Sidonia – In Netflix hell. Probably will marathon at some point.
  • Brynhildr – Will catch up. I liked the first episode or two I saw, but it’s a little slow. I just know it’s really rewarding LOL.
  • Daimidaler – Right on top of this nonsense.
  • Fairy Tail – Nope.
  • Blade and Soul – Not enough boobs.

There are other entries I am following, like Jojo and Mushishi and Cap’n Earth and Diamond Ace, (and dropped, like all these sports shows that I would at most watch one ep.), but let’s just say I would rather blog less and watch more anime because of the limit on time and energy. I can add that this Spring, I found myself wanting. There isn’t that one anime that’s got all the hype. Ping Pong is the only thing truly remarkable in a sea of the usual stuff, but it isn’t exactly the most hyped sort of thing. Maybe it’s also that I haven’t had the time to watch episode one of everything I wanted to see, so there’s something still out there. I still wouldn’t say this season is particularly bad or whatever, because I think it’s more me than it, so to speak, but I certainly wouldn’t disagree if someone else makes that claim.