Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Ueshama Elevates Dumb Characters


I had a hard time coming up with something short and concise to describe the kind of characters Ueda Reina is particularly good at. Well, maybe not even; it’s more like how do I describe the lead of Bakuon without making slurs regarding people with disabilities. This is more a quick quip about Harmony and Bakuon, so let’s not tread those dangerous waters.

The thought came to me when I watched Harmony the other day. Harmony is Project Itoh’s best novel (and also the most critically regarded one), and because he was one of those writers who’s really taken into the “Tom Clancy style” of storytelling, Itou’s fleshed-out books probably will all work well for the silver screen. Well, it certainly did not disappoint.

Going into the movie I had no particular takes on the seiyuu for the movie, realizing only the lead role played by Sawashiro. Her husky voice probably bleeds into a certain other gun-touting SF anime heroine in the news recently. It’s probably an unavoidable comparison especially for a western audience, but Tuan is a more nuanced character and I think Miyukichi tried to bring that out best she could. She’s gotta be emo enough to ramp up to the climax, after all.

Like Empire of Corpses, there are these somewhat obtuse same-sex ships in Harmony, but it doesn’t really detract from the story in that it helped to slot in the plot device behind Kirie’s obsession for Miach, at least. What really sold the story was Miach. Kirie was a blunt instrument in some sense, perhaps better suited as a dude, now that I think back to her role is in this situation. Still, by being a girl there’s this some tension you can diffuse with their relationship, so the focus could be made more so on the conflicting feelings she has for Miach without having cisgendered romance clouding everything. However, internally constructed, I don’t know if Kirie sold it; the character was conflicted but it wasn’t clear how much the audience had to go on to infer to her inner desires. Miach sort of had to play the onion peeler to get us all the way home, largely through her final scene.

And I really just want to talk about how Ueshama was great as a psychotic world-ender in this role. Short of spoiling the movie let’s just say that this is why I had a hard time coming up a way to group Miach with Bakuon’s Hane (who could be described as a glorified bike sponge). And as a semi-frequent viewer of Hacka Channel it just made sense that Ueda is perfect for these kinds of high tone and low brow roles. If you had a scroll at her anime CV it might give you some insights. If youngin voice actresses of Japan get typecasted at all, Ueshama would be slotted as an oujosama type. In reality she escapes that sort of a thing in general and has already played a wide variety of character types in her short career. Arguably, her role in Harmonie is almost the opposite as her role in Harmony, right?

In this season she voices Hane and Kuromukuro’s Sophie, and those also make a good opposite-pair. The power of this woman who can be cool-cute one moment and old-adorable the other is pretty much already amusing enough on its own. And I don’t really have taken any interests in her via the usual route; purely through her acting and her on-screen charm, I guess.

My Million Live Playlist

I looped a lot of IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE songs a lot the past twelve months, but after the third anniversary live I think I’ve been focusing on just a handful. Feels like worth sharing with you which, if only as a time-frozen snapshot of how it feels like.

Karen & Ritsuko

It’s a long list even after some heavy pruning, so in the interest of keeping a short list, I’ll just have two: the top 10, and the next 20 or so. The tiers reflects more my sentimental attachment than anything, but within tiers there are no ranks. To put it into perspectives, as of this writing, there are something like 152 Million Love vocal songs.

Youtubes and what not links when available.

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Spring 2015 First Opinions

Imocho #2

I had a pretty busy month between mid-March and mid-April. Two cons and a Japan trip will do that to you I guess. Most of that time suck went with the Winter season, but I think I’ve finally caught up with Spring enough to have some time to write about the currently airing shows.

It wasn’t exactly that I didn’t watch any anime in the winter, but more like I didn’t feel I watched enough. Maybe I’ll end up going back to some and at least finish the ones on the back burner, like Dimension W. And one of these days I will catch up to Concrete? I don’t know and I probably shouldn’t promise. Anyways, on with it:

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Armchair Quarterbacking: Animator Wages

I think it was a couple weeks ago when the animator wages survey results was published by JAniCA. It made its rounds as usual. Here’s just a link to one of many.

The last coverage I read was one of the matome blogs blogging the Japanese translation of 4chan reactions to someone posting Yuyucow’s translated averages. I’m like, this is like a cow eating grass in one stomach and regurgitating it and re-eating it into another (no pun intended). But also /a/ sure does not get it. And I think it’s important to have some context.


Obviously I don’t have first (or much second) hand experience as an animator trying to make it into the industry. And it might even be fair to say the vets who have been doing it for 10+ years might faced different challenges as people who are trying to be an animator in Japan today.

Making animation, for the most part, is something you learn on the job. You can certainly enroll in some higher level classes and pick up trade skills in academia, but typically people (and industry) approach this as you would an associate’s or trade degree. I mean if you enroll and graduate from Kyoto Animation’s schools, I’m sure you can start well as an animator but that’s a very specific kind of training you have gotten. Learning to animate is something you can certain do it yourself, too. In the past 10-15 years this has been something actually possible because of advanced (piratable) software you can run on consumer laptops, and rendering would only take tens of minutes for a short clip. Nerdy enough, you can pull a Shinkai (he’s really nerdy). Today, it’s even more accessible for artists to fool around with animation.

The story/use case goes like this. So when people join the animation biz in Japan as an animator, typically they start as in-betweeners. And on that JAniCA report we know they don’t make much money per month. We can double check this pretty easily because in-betweeners are typically paid by the drawing, and you can work backwards and estimate how many drawings are produced on average, and how much time it takes. at the super low price of 100 yen take home pay per drawing, we’re talking about 925 drawings per month. Is that a lot? A little? Assuming an inbetweener work 5 days a week on average of a 22-day work-month, that’s 42 drawings a day roughly. Does that sound way too low?

So one thing off the bat is that a lot of inbetweeners do not work full time. I mean given this kind of pay, it makes sense; it’s like master and doctorate students working for pay to fund their life while slaving away under a form of academic apprenticeship. Animators too work in this form, at least on a certain level. Meanwhile the freelance-y nature of the job gives them flexibility to work somewhere that pays better.

The real issue with low in-between pays isn’t that it’s not enough to live off of, although that too is problematic. The real problem is the entry pay is too low compared to other things people with similar aspirations and skills could be doing. That’s the core long-term issue with Japanese hand-drawn animation. Or any industry with low wages, excessive working hours, and high stress. Without new and young people going up that apprentice ladder, there will be talent drain, as fewer and fewer people learn the craft as more of the seniors leave the industry, or people quitting half way. Making a living as an in-betweener is possible, it would be very hard, and it might limit the potential pool of applicants to people lucky enough to be working with a KyoAni or living in their parents’ home, but it’s not how the numbers suggest how it’s typically done.

What’s also good to note is that inbetweening is the kind of grunt work you unload on the new guy in the animation studio, if they need that extra work to learn, but it’s literally the kind of grunt work that could be eliminated through better automation and computing advances. There are a suite of software that will auto-inbetween for you, when you insert the key frames. And these software will only get better as time goes on, to the degree that established animation companies might use it. In-betweening is typically checked as they’re colored anyway, so that low-paying job might disappear altogether in the near future and fold into some kind of in-between check or shiage role.

Anyway, the freelance/part-time/full-time kind of nature of majority of Japanese animator professionals is something we have to take into account in looking at data like this, because otherwise it doesn’t make any sense.

First Deculture

There are a few dozens of narrative strands you can go with on Macross Delta, but the one that came to me happens to be the way I went into it with any interest at all: a Flying Dog PV that is inconveniently Youtube Red-Blocked for us Americans:

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