Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Million DD, Of Seiyu And the White Box

MD

So all that idol nonsense swimming in my head the past couple years come to ahead in Million Doll, the anime of a manga about underground idols. It reminds me of a few things. When I was a fresh undergrad one thing my English Lit professor stated/taught is that by the time we study it in academia, it’s dead. It was in reference to Stephenson’s landmark cyberpunk novel, and by the 90s I think that’s a safe statement to make.

Does that apply to commercial exploitation too? By the time an anime with “chuunibyou” in its title became a thing, is chuunibyou dead by 2012 (pretty much)? Doujinshi and the comic market dead by the mid 90s (resoundingly yes)? The idol otaku dead in 2015? Maybe. A dude in the USA was able to already internalize all those concepts back in 2013-2014? I guess making anime does take some time (even at 8 minutes a piece).

What I found interesting about Million Doll was how expository it is. The tension it sets up at episode 1 is not unlike what we see in the oversea fandom. You have on one hand scenesters (like me, kinda) that attend events and socialize with other fans, and meet and greet guests. This often costs lots of money, money that could be better spent on, say, actually supporting the industry by buying Blu-rays or importing or what not, rather than putting that money into hotel rooms, eating out or plane tickets. I mean I will probably spend more money on flights this year than my annual figure budget during its highest peaks as a collector, something to think about.

The tension over money is less in Japan, simply because the cost to attend events in terms of time, money and effort is way less. In Japan, you have eventers (Million Doll call it DD, which is not exactly how the term is used today…if you want a clue on how “dead” this subject is today) and you have the guys who do their cheering at home and online. That’s a valuable group of fans as well.

[Tangent 1: IM@S is all about wrapping up both into one. Its 10th anniversary live (NEXT FREAKING WEEK AAAAAH) is its largest effort yet.

Tangent 2: Must resist talking armchair idol industry aaaah.]

The exposition reminds me of the first attempts at exploiting these subject matters as theme and setting. The Comic Parties or Animation Runner Kurumis. It’s not Shirobako, which does a lot of explaining, but it has to. It also doesn’t explain a lot; I don’t think it needed to explain why Aoi-chan was pulling Initial D moves. What doesn’t explain a lot this season? Actually compared to Sore ga Seiyuu, Million Doll is a-okay. It strives for a fair mix given its 8-minute span.

Sore ga Seiyuu’s mechanism is closer to seeing the animated GIF of a running rotary engine for a car nerd. For seiyuu otaku it’s like seeing the cartoony behind-the-scene look at how things work. It’s quite fun and fascinating if you’re already interested in the subject, and more so if you already know most of the references, technical or social or historic or whatever. It’s not like the usual “same concept in new skin” where you can put a Koshien plot in a tank battle, or maybe something more primitive and personal like the office of a production company (that happens to make anime).

It’s kind of like Plastic Memories was not an Asmov story purely, but just using the skin. Maybe Sore ga Seiyuu is the Martian for tech nerds, but even more specific in terms of subject matter. You get the point.

Anyway, I enjoy all these “explanation” type anime because at some level, learning about things I am already interested in is fun to me. The dose is twice as deadly when the show presents things you can learn along with things you already know, posited like pop cultural references. Yes, that middle-schooler is as good at voice acting than all the Love Live girls. Because that’s life.

And I think Sore ga Seiyuu has to keep it straight, because if you believe Shirobako, being a newbie seiyuu is the most depressing thing (relatively). Meeting the famous Nozawa Masako (nickname: Makosan (and even I am too green to apply this term)) would make anybody’s day.

Just to kind of wrap up this rambling, I feel the first impression session for these shows is just going to hurt to read as a bunch of contextless guys trying to make sense of the dynamic demonstrated in both of these shows. The way Ryuusan’s eyes looked…I KNOW HOW IT FEELS aaaah.

PS. Million Doll goes by MD in initials. And MD is … well? I guess someone who’s read the manga ahead can tell us if they pull this joke or not.

PPS. Kecek. Kecha. Yes I know. But nobody calls it that. Maybe that’s because early day wotas don’t sweat inside jokes. Or at least we get as far as OAD and call it a day?

Episode 1

How does that even work?

PPPH. We may have DD. There isn’t a Kuso DD yet. And as a related tangent, there’s also my grand theory about western eventers having to be DD by necessity.

PPPPS. It is important to realize that idol otaku (wotas) are not the same as those of us who dig 2.5D or 2D idols, by definition. In reality they are actually quite different in Japan. People who like seiyuu are by necessity into anime and games and the like, and obviously people into anime characters are the same. Idol otaku has, strictly speaking, nothing to do with any of that. In the anime context all of these things kind of dissolves together if you don’t have that perspective. This is only important in understanding the history of what came first, and what culture imported what aspect from what other culture. For example, Japanese idols have changed drastically the last 20 years, and so have anime, and the two have some pretty curious interplay both in terms of the industry and concepts, as well as how fans react to all that.


Anime North 2015: Wrap

Trying to keep this to the point, because a good chunk of what I want to write about will be written in a different post: the making of the offkai. Also, this post is taking me 2+ weeks to wrap up? Most of it I had written just a day or two after, but it took a long time to put the finishing touches on it.

Asapon is... Linguini?

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Mobile Gaming, Hard Boys and Girls

TL;DR: it’s false.

Archer and Archer

Recently I read the following articles:

Why Gaming Journalism Should Update Its Thinking on TechCrunch

“You’re Watching It Wrong” on Wrong Every Time

And I think both articles are talking about the same thing, at least when it comes to “first impression.” The religiously zealousness of how some people cling onto their one singular truths may or may not really be so much of a thing, to me, because I can’t quite tell the difference between someone hating on Bobduh and someone being ironic. Thanks, Gators.

The similarity continues to games as entertainment. Ironically here, Fate/stay night is a “traditional” video game, traditional in quotes because the average commenters that left their doo doo in the internet comments section of that TechCrunch article typically would snob down on visual novels. If we describe gamers as circles of hell, Type-Lunatics are probably well above average, so maybe just the first couple circles.

Well, I don’t know. The visual novel fandom out west, at least given my casual impressions, runs the gamut from terrible pirate-whiners-entitlers to bottom-feeding memesters living off just the culture that the other weeaboo fishes leaves off as scraps. I’m probably more the latter. There are above-board guys, too, especially now that this silo is being farmed as much as it has been deserving, so props to those entrepreneurs licensing stuff and localizing it for profit.

Since we’re still at it, let’s compare how much the particular groups make life worse for the other groups. Fate-Lunatics do not much besides harass people on the internet, casually. So not very harmful. Thanks, 4chan. The majority of mobile gamers, at least revenue-wise, come from Asia. Most of them give 2 schlicks, tops, to what western game media has to say about how terrible mobile games is for your bank account, et cetera. Of course, because they are busying playing those games.  So they don’t even really count, by more than one calculation .(Western) gamers are a big deal, I guess, and in a way the “bad” actors in the industry gets a lot of credit for things turning out not-so-great? The game-as-an-art, hierarchical and tradition-laden inertia behind gaming presses is only going to affect people who care to listen to them, which by this point forms more an echo chamber, even including gaters (in a “it-takes-two-to-tango” way). I think irreverence and “games as failing comic book industry” route is where things might be going, except I also don’t think they would simply because people know what video games are like, and they are fun. And we want to know what’s the next fun thing to try. [And on that note, Avengers 2 is not that fun.]

And starting that discovery process from friends is where I’d say most people go first. Which is to say, when they play hand-held, touch-based games and find them fun, they would probably not care too much about the snobbery either. I think there is a subcurrent about social media and how it is slowly replacing the press/media, because precisely these online friends serve both as support group and discovery mechanism. And this mobile snobbery will, in some capacity, help further drive it. Which is also why you can spend big bucks on ad revenue on mobile and do a lot of installs on mobile (at least for some of these games). Which circles back to that TechCrunch article about the problems on mobile. Which also circles back to my initial reaction after reading the first dozen comments.

It is one of empathy. It’s as if none of those people had fun playing a game on their tablet or phone. I mean, there are some good games out there, and it’s not that hard to find them. Even LLSIF is not horrible, although that sates a particular niche for certain gaming demographics, let’s just say. The real irony is that if the game press did a better job covering what’s good and what’s not on mobile gaming, maybe some of these people would have had their opinion changed.

The nexus of these two narratives, between debating UBW viewing order and the nature of gaming press on mobile games, hits home for this Producer who spends his hard-earned money on Million Live. But at this point I’m not even sure the western gaming scene deserves something this good. When the conception of what makes a good game is so narrow, guarded by so many bigots, is it even worth it? It takes a dose of foolishness and a lot of tough love to bring something like that over. There is every pressure to not go outside the box. Japanese Ps understand if you got on board via Anim@s you are not automatically inferior than someone who’s paid his dues during Arcadem@s. This is the kind of fandom model that builds a trashing lols game from the dim-lit and smoke-filled arcade to a baseball stadium.

I wonder if there’s enough fans of Nasuverse to do the same.

Actually, I too struggle with feeling comfortable

PS. Being old enough to remember the introduction of the App store, it makes me wonder if the initial price points (and the ulterior purpose of selling iOS devices via a diverse App ecosystem of affordable applications) ultimately drives mobile gaming towards a certain direction. Like how when Apple parrots out every WWDC how much they’ve paid developers, maybe developers should consider the BATNA in an alternate universe where prices are not set by Apple Marketing, but by the devs themselves. Of course, F2P is still going to prevail as today’s trend, but maybe this facilitation towards the bottom would’ve took out fewer projects and developers and made the transition less device-oriented.


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.


Seiyuu Nicknames, 2015 Spring Edition

I reference seiyuu by nickname sometimes. It’s not a habit I pride on and I think it’s better, in such a blog, to refer people by their family names. It can get confusing since romanized, a lot of people’s names are the same, so nicknames often help as a better way to communicate. (Especially since the reverse situation, while does happen, rarely does due to the way nicknames tend to form.) Anyway, I digress. Ask me separately about how I feel about them sometimes I guess.

For sake of ease of recalling, I group them by how I felt like it (kinda) and sorted by nickname, since I figured that’s the better mapping. Also I’m limiting it to the names I would use on this blog. I know there are more nicknames than what I list here, and some seiyuu have many nicknames that I only list a few. Truth is I don’t even know all of them, even people I reference to.

Also I’m avoiding the list of people who are not new because this is going to get REAL long if I added people like Miyukichi and Asumiss in the mix. It’s already really long.

Only if CG was this cool

Core IM@S

  • Akky/Akki – The (recently) married and with-child, Hasegawa Akiko. Plays Miki.
  • Asapon – A high end nickname for her is like “Shimoneta” because Shimoda Asami is like that. the CV for Ami/Mami is also playful.
  • Azumin – Asakura Azami. Yukiho’s second CV. Best known otherwise in her High School DxD and ChuuniKoi roles.
  • Chiaking – Takahashi Chiaki, or Azusa’s CV. See also King. See also “JPY” or “Juicy Party Yeah”???
  • Eririn/Eriko – Nakamura Eriko plays Haruka.
  • Haramii – Hara Yumi. Lately Takane’s CV’s new nickname “Hanyanya” has gained steam, but it has yet to stick.
  • Hirorin – Hirata Hiromi plays Makoto. Also see Kaachan.
  • Jurikichi – Takita Juri, or Kotori’s CV. The second 765Pro mom.
  • Kaachan – Somehow Hirorin gained this nickname because she was pretty public about her early goings of being a new mom. TBD how this nickname will stick with multiple buns in the oven in the near future!
  • Kami – Wakabayashi Naomi, or Ritsuko. Mom #3.
  • King – It’s actually just the next stage of Chiaking.
  • Kugyuu/Kugimi/etc – Kugimiya Rie, you know her.
  • Mingosu – Imai Asami, CV for Chihaya. Just a side note but Mingosu is often a suffix (see: Asamigosu, Eromingosu, EriMingosu)
  • Nunu/Nu – Numakura Manami, CV for Hibiki. Nuuuuuuuu.
  • Sensei – Often refers to Nakamura in this context but in general this is a flexible nickname in all cases.
  • Yurishii – Hase Yurina. The original Yukiho CV. Also goes by Ochiai Yurika. Retired from IM@S back in 2010 or so.

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