Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Episode of Jupiter

Here’s my actual hot take, after I dried it from my tears. There are some spoilers for Episode of Jupiter (#EOJ) in this post, but they target mostly people who are invested in the series already. If you are new or don’t care, keep going!

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Authenticity Is Two-Edged

A couple related topics. More like, how do I write subtitles for blog posts in lines of post rock tracks or A Centaur’s Life’s episode titles.

The West’s pursuit of authenticity misses the point

To riff off SDS here, I don’t know why this particular facet of cartoon idols need to be highlighted. If you wanted escapism, do you want a dose of reality in your escapism? How much? Do you want the bottom of your Large serving of soda from McDonald’s to say “You’re fat”? But clearly since I don’t quite get where he’s coming from, I probably am missing the memo on what spurred the post in the first place.

That said, SDS’s post does a good job highlighting the one aspect about Love Live that it shares with classic Yuri, which is the whole garden of otome thingy. At the same time, his overly-tropified understanding of that go-to-koushien thing is kind of tired. It’s like if you were to make a teen drama revolving around a high school sport, you might have one of the top players to have some conflicts about going pro versus going broke to win a game or something. I mean, talking to my soccer-mom-class coworkers I hear enough juice about their kids’ sports drama that reality is always going to be more strange and messy than fiction. Youth’s fleeting nature coupled with that once-in-a-lifetime achievement in a once-in-a-lifetime setting can be the perfect spark to ignite the mono no aware inside you.

It’s not about a thing. It’s about you, what’s in you, and how you feel about that thing.

What is really anime in a world where nobody even knows what anime is or how it’s made?

Is Neo Yokio anime? I think to some people anime is a class of media entertainment, and based on my casual observation as an American who attend cons and observe some other fans, yeah, for certain people in certain demos, it has a cultural meaning, weight, definition, context and more–a specific signaling of a set of ideas and values. That anime and games like Scott Pilgrim or Pacific Rim or Neo Yokio can speak to us and engage us in a similar way as anime does may be enough to say they are anime or what have you.

But to me this is ignorant of how the sausage is made. Yeah, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter really isn’t butter, but you may treat it just like how you treat butter. It also means in the 19th and 20th century lots of important men in suits litigated and set Supreme Court precedence over marketing, distribution and production of butter and butter-like products. Because I guess, people cared about butter a lot back then.

But if you’re going to say Neo Yokio, RWBY and Shelter are or are not anime in the same post, at least care to identify which one is not like the other two. (Hint: Only one has Arai and Kouno Megumi in it.) Or are they even alike? Is ScarJo’s Major more anime than FLCL’s Haruko? Is Kamiyama’s Major more Hollywood than, well, Neo Yokio anything? I think there is a dialog about culture being mixed with a dialog about what is or isn’t figurative butter, and that are going to just confuse things even more.

Also, I feel part of the problem is the lack of insight that’s in digestible pieces. Even the wokest Anitwitter are only beginning to be rid of people who can’t be bothered to know to stop using “budget” as a kind of excuse about TV anime. In the post-Sakugablog world, there are still much to do to at least get people on the down low enough to understand the Japanese process, and what that means in practice, and why Neo Yokio might be more anime than you think, and why Shelter is basically completely anime, and why Avatar isn’t at all.

What I can say is that Rooster Teeth, the guys who made RWBY, do not survive at near-poverty level to make their anime, nor are they part of the system that Japanese folks have build in which sustaining the development of new anime production talent is a major struggle. They own the copyright. When I see in the news about the Young Animator Project and how Japan’s government funds are going into indie production, I am happy that cool stuff are being made to give youngin some experience. This is the kind of “anime” that doesn’t exist in the vocabulary or awareness of “Is Neo Yokio anime” kind of discussion. The folks who made Avatar, which is as anime as anything that’s not actually anime, also are not a part of that industry–if anything they are like, the polar opposite. Which is to say, when it comes down to the entertainment of individuals, it’s nice to talk about, but it’s not really our business? I enjoy eating steak and watching anime, but I wouldn’t confuse the two activities, although I would care about the time and money allocated on both activities. Perhaps you could discuss how Star Trek Discovery locked behind CBS All Access can affect the amount of time and money someone allocates to a Hi-Dive subscription to watch LOGH? But this is pretty tenuous and really do not matter if one is “anime” or not. It’s more like, are these products affecting the same market seg in a similar way? This isn’t even what’s being discussed, anyway. What is really being discussed is a form of identity tagging, for lack of a better term.

Truth is, anime (as I know it) is not anime (as you know it). 

Personally, my framework is similar to Kelts’s in his Japanamerica book, where we live in on a rolling oroborus where the snake eats its tail yet it also keeps growing from the head. It’s really about the regurgitation of cultural appropriation. Japan takes what they like, make their own version to satisfy their locals. Rest of the world take what they like from Japan and make whatever the hell each of us (groups) like, with little respect to the original. This is why Japan is weird (and every time I hear Japan/anime is weird in this kind of discussion I go ugh). What the Neo Yokio guys think is anime is not really anime for a significant segment of people, such as a lot of folks in Asia, for an example. This is a ghettoized kind of a thing, like how only certain fans in English-speaking countries can appreciate (unironically) the term Japanimation, and what that word meant for a bygone era. Which is to say, what is anime is a socially and culturally sensitive and specific thing. The Black American experience is not going to be the same as the Asian, Hispanic or White American experience when it comes to anime, even if we are more alike than we are different, especially when compared to the South American anime experience or the French anime experience. (By the way, the term defined as sakuga in this discussion of anime is as ghetto as Japanimation, lol) What appeases Japanese anime fans and what resonate with them are probably not going to be the same as what stokes the fire of fans in English speaking nations or Spanish speaking nations or whatever. You’d realize that it’s kind of awesome that Pokemon and DBZ have the kind of international penetration that they have, if you think about it enough. It’s not until you appreciate our differences that we can appreciate how similar we are? I guess.

The sad thing is that fandom is driven to seek others who think similarly and like similar things, so the reality of this situation is probably clearer to people who hop fandom circles and other wide-eyed outsiders who dare to look inside this kind of dumb and messy situation. No big deal.

But I’m more interested in talking about how the sausage is made, so everyone should go brush up on their sakuga blog backlogs. Ultimately, 99% or more of anime still comes from Japan, made mostly by Japanese people, created by mostly Japanese core creators, for the Japanese market. I don’t really care about these western-regurgitation edge cases today, even if for people who are fans of those things, that could be 100% of their lives. That’s not what is anime to me–these things wouldn’t exist without the original, all Japanese sausage (and the sausage factory). I mean, even before Neo Yokio, there’s a lot of Chinese anime we have to deal with first! (And as a point of clarification, we should just call Avatar, RWBY and NY as American anime, because that’s what it is. Harder cases would be, say, The Red Turtle.)

And ultimately, this isn’t about gate keeping. This is about knowing what is what–you ought to know what you eat. You ought to know who made the things you are a fan of, how it’s made, why it’s made that way, is it ethical, etc etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s anime or not. If you don’t know and you have an opinion, maybe it’s a really good opinion, I don’t know, but it might just be a bit uninformed. People in Japan don’t really have hangups like, what is anime. They deal with sausages like how anyone would deal with sausages, and we ought to do likewise.

PS. This coming season, a seiyuu who goes by the name Takeda Rarisa Tago plays a regular role in Shobitch, as well as being the latest addition to Cinderella Girls (Yuzu). Takeda is a 3rd generation Brazilian Japanese, and joins the ranks of Bridcutt Sera Emi (or as I prefer: Sarah Emi Bridcutt) in “wow she’s got a weird and long name” in the anime credits. I’m guessing if someone want to translate Takeda’s name into English, it would be Larissa Tago Takeda, where her mom’s family name is in the middle? I still think Ru Thing is the weirdest name once you translate it into English, LOL.

Which is to say, it’s not even about Korean in-betweeners or, my favorite, Indonesian shiage teamsters. It’s about the process, it’s about how it’s being made. It’s about the flavors.


On Million Live, New IM@S Game

In response to this, I’ve got almost nothing. Let me quote:

In short, the reason you likely won’t be seeing the Million Live anime anytime soon isn’t due to some odd bias against it, and it definitely isn’t because they’d rather chase the wallets of evil women ruining your cartoons. It’s far more straightforward than that: there’s simply no one around to make it right now. One of the reasons this franchise has consistently had high-profile adaptations, sometimes in spite of messy production schedules, is because it’s been supported by an immensely talented group of creators; even as the key staff is reshuffled, Idolmaster‘s production backbone has stayed the same, and that can only mean good things.

And by good thing he and I mean:

The real reason to wait to be honest, is for Taneda Risa to recover. It is one thing for Theater Days to leave out Kotoha, but you can’t do that with the anime. The industry/technology isn’t there yet! There’s more to say on this matter, in that you can speculate about the A-1 pipeline, the order of Million Live anime and SideM anime, and other things. With Darlifra and SideM close to each other it could mean a lot of things, one is that Million anime won’t be in 2018.

As someone who’s a little invested in Million Live, the point of having an anime really is just so that these guys can now render our favorite characters and idols in the same ludicrous settings that Million Live is known for, at least among the producers who are into the mobile games. So it really is Fukushima’s crew or bust. It’s a bit unfortunate that this segment of the IDOLM@STER franchise is so “narrow” now, but the hope is that when they produce something really good, people will come to appreciate it on the merits, idol trapping aside. It’s as good as GamiP’s confirmation that this cast and crew will be tapped to make the show, whenever it will be.

As for the new IDOLM@STER game on the Bandai HTML5 platform, I’m thinking it’s going to be international. The titles they picked seem to say this to me. That will be the big hope I have on it. And like how IDOLM@STER is a franchise that rides on the first generation of new hardware and platforms, this one will be something that can live or die based on its reception with the players and existing fans. I’m not really holding my breath on it because it does nobody any good, at least without more details anyway. Plus, I’m too busy caring about the existing things I have control over, like how much to spend on Theater Days gacha, or how I’m going to see the 765AS live next January.

PS. One of the best way they could do with Million Live anime is to have episodes in alternates, where one is based on one of the ludicrous events, and the next based on the main continuum. In some ways the 4th PV is paving the groundworks for this delivery style already. The big challenge there is how do you execute these gag concepts into full-length episodes, while not totally upsetting the overall atmosphere of the series. Another benefit of this is that the episodes can get outsourced easier and allow for more freedom in crafting the animation. I guess we’ll see what happens.


Summer 2017 Anime

Just to recap, on the first day of Autumn?

Re:Creators – A lot of this story is fun and enjoyable, but it also kind of rubs me in a wrong way? Hard to explain. But I think Aoki’s direction is quite compelling so I’m sticking with it even if it turns into Aldnoah Zero again. I’m a bit behind on this one. For some reason I skipped the seiyuu/recap episode, and I should go watch that ep because, after all, it’s a fourth wall thing with seiyuu! I am kind of over the whole aspect of this story being a dumb fanfic, so I’m ready to enjoy it, but the story is now a bit slowed down since the first half.

Fate/Apocrypha – Pretty fights but overall dull. Coincidentally this is just how Fate Grand Order is, LOL. (Psst go play Magireco it’s way better in every dimension.) I’m also quite behind here so I’ll need to catch up.

Gamers – Not sure if this is fun because of relationships or because of games. I guess, like New Game, I dig the style. It has a pretty tiresome romantic thing going that eventually sheds the video game thing and just deals with low-esteem introverts and obviously low-esteem extroverts not being extroverted enough. Hoshinomori is great, I dig her a lot, possibly because she’s kind of the third wheel thing. Thematically speaking, Gamers is interesting in that it focuses on the divides between hobby, friendship, and romance, but I feel it’s not really poised to go home on that front.

New Game – It was a little slow going into the second season but it was fun seeing the, uh, employee mobility within this company. The new characters brought the drama but they were slowly growing on me as well. Kind of sad the new ED was not as design-y as the first ED, but ah well. In a way the assets in New Game surpass New Game anime itself…

Knight’s & Magic – Fun little show about the meta driving the present in a way that makes science fiction fun. But it’s trapped in an isekai shell that at least doesn’t get in the way. I hear the anime keeps to the good parts of the books, so there’s also that. I will miss this one, just because the anime packaging is so tight, for the most part.

A Centaur’s Life – To me this show is the winner of this season, it wraps around some of the same issues other shows this seasons dealt with, but in a way that suited my tastes the most. If anything, sometimes it feels like an American sitcom, which is probably not the best thing in this context. I do like how it takes on some plain philosophical questions, not as core, but as extra bonus.

Classroom of the Elite – I feel the draw of Yojitzu, besides fanservice and crazy characters, is the mystery element. The actual educational system and the plot are kind of drab, and frankly the pace of the anime is too slow. If it wanted to make comments on human conditions or Japan’s societal issues, there are better way to do so. Well, in its own way, it is a story about high school kids doing high school kids things, so it can be endearing on those fronts.

In Another World with My Smartphone – It’s Aho Girl or this, I went with this, now I feel kind of bad. At the same time, this is the kind of show you don’t need to check your brain at the door to enjoy, because you need it to understand how bad it is, and derive enjoyment from the badness of this show. And by bad I mean it’s just a poor production. The fluffy, softcore fantasy aspects of the story is enjoyable if you let yourself enjoy it, I guess. Despite having a lot of opportunity to play the smartphone joke up, it refrained from doing so.

Aho Girl – It’s dumb. I enjoy it to a degree but I couldn’t finish it–I wish the dosage is smaller.

Tsuredure Children – The Tsuredure Children are all right. It’s perfect because it’s  just all what’s good about romance anime boiled down and condensed. I feel that really added to the comedic effect of the series.

Sakura Quest – Long trek completed. I enjoyed it a lot, although it was more a slow burn than any great heights or valleys. I think the 2 best parts of the inaka experience are the sceneries and the people, but short of the former because your countryside is boring, then it’s the latter carrying the show. If anything Sakura Quest is stocked full of weirdos and fun people, in a normal folks are never really that normal kind of way. You can see it even in the way Sakura Quest credits itself with the storywriting by its own character.

Tenshi no 3P – Lolicons ahoy. I enjoy the music aspect of this enough. The story is even more soft pitch than Isekai Smartphone, although arguably it has an edge because they do play the lolicon jokes and threaten viewers with loli fanservice. Goes to show that among otaku, lolicons are not even the worst!

Magic Circle Guru Guru – Dragon Quest inspired cartoon is actually great. I am in the middle of it, but will catch up.

Restaurant to Another World – This is one of my top watching of the week, which I follow as soon as the new ep is out (Knight’s & Magic is the other). I dig that opening song. The story is healing and the food is delicious-looking. If there is a minus it’s that for a non-Japanese eater the food selection is kind of keks at times, and you will be teased by this show into wanting to eat what they’re eating.

Princess Principal – This is oddly fun, but I feel this is also a bit too wishfully fancy. I’m quite a few eps behind so hopefully I can catch up.

Welcome to the Ballroom – It’s just OK to me, but the animation is delightful to watch. I guess I’m a little fatigued by the character composition and the way how they are used in the plot. It’s kind of formulaic in that it tries hard to do its own thing, but I don’t want that familiarity it tosses to the viewers as a guide.

My GF is a Gal – This is kind of fun, a simple-minded but honest fanservice anime. It kind of played too close to textbook towards the end, for better (because it avoided being even more misogynist) or for worse (because it got real dumb fast). Towards the end, I’m not sure if it’s just a production thing or they decided to give the larger boobs minds of their own. It got kinda puri puri in terms of physics?

Still in the middle of PriPri Chiichan.

I’m holding onto Made in Abyss for a marathon, hopefully on my trip to Hotch Potch?

PS. That Nora Stray Cat anime short…has a whole episode (#6) where they showed footages of goats grazing, and the voice actresses dub over it. On a related note–that it’s not exactly anime–I’m still watching Agent Hazap, it’s worth it for the intelligence.

PPS. I didn’t mention much that I dropped, other than Aho Girl. I guess the Reflection counts? It’s the kind of show I’d watch 15+ years ago, because it’s kind of intriguing despite the other shortcomings.


Animelo Summer Live 2017

Today is September 12, as I write this, and I have finally fully physically recovered from my Anisama trip. And that is not counting some lingering bronchitis-type symptoms that could take up to 2 months to clear up. Sup, I am getting old, is what.

To be fair, going to Japan for 3-4 days and concert it up in the humidity and heat does take a lot out of you. I think the kids who run and mosh with their crazy jumps at the outdoor stage are something. This is not an activity that I can recommend middle-aged Americans who are not in their best physical shapes to do; namely, try not to go all out at idols and spent 6 hours going out some more at various anison and seiyuu singers. Not even counting the in-between time, which invariably means you’ll be walking around a bit, even if lounging back.

That said, Anisama is the Comiket of Japanese eventing, and it’s worse in terms of stamina in a way. My conviction grows stronger now on my second trip that this is both a festival and a trial. This time around the lineup is way more powerful than last year, and they pulled some items off my bucket list, such as You & Me duet between Motsu and Yukarin, and seeing the SOS-dan get back together. I don’t even think I had that latter act on my list because I did not expected it to be possible.

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