Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Eromanga Sensei

Eromanga Sensei anime is the Gamera of late night anime, in the Roger Ebert sense. Speaking as someone who saw Air Force One but not much in terms of giant city-wrecking turtle movies, I’m on shaky grounds to appraise either. Eromanga Sensei is in my wheelhouse, though. A little bit of spoilers ahead. Also some Oreimo spoilers ahead, too.

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Sweet Soul Sister

It’s a bit of “lore” but just want to put it out there rather than let it languish in my draft folder. It’s nothing special, really, but also a little neat. Basically, ZAQ is good.

For those who don’t know, ZAQ is a musician who is signed with Lantis. She herself has a solo musician career as a singer-songwriter type. But that’s an inadequate description of the kind of stuff she actually does. For starters, she writes a lot of songs for other Lantis projects, and that includes fellow musicians and anime projects that come attached. Her first big hit is also her debut single, Sparkling Daydream, the opening to Chuu2koi, and in that show she wrote the opening and ending, but only performed the opening as a song in her solo library. The seiyuu unit from the anime made up the vocals for the ending single. This is kind of the pattern for a lot of her work. It works particularly well for her, as someone who is multi-genre and covers classical to rock to ska to even hip-hop, which gives her a lot of options to work on anime-wise.

Over the past few years this has added up to that maybe half of the songs ZAQ worked on are actually hers, but due to the way anisong world works she ends up performing a lot of them during her solo live events anyway. To me, based on a handful of Lantis acts that I’ve seen in person outside of their concerts, it’s almost more like, Lantis artists tend to be music nerds who are also kind of otaku, and I feel ZAQ embodies this idea well. Granted she isn’t really an otaku…sort of. It’s just that she carries herself across this mix of nerd and music in a way that makes you think, huh, yeah, maybe…

Anyways, here’s the thing. Lantis runs Million Live’s music. ZAQ writes for Lantis projects. ZAQ has written a few songs for Million Live (here). Out of all 7 or so of them, though I want to call out one: Sweet Sweet Soul, a song that was released earlier this year. The details of the thing is right here, in ZAQ’s own words on her own blog.

Soul’d Out, basically, are the people who wrote Sweet Sweet Soul. They were a mainstream hip-hop group in Japan back in the 00s, and it was the group that got ZAQ into hip-hop music. I guess she’s only 29 this year, so that means when Soul’d Out’s biggest hit (Yakitate Japan ending) in 2005 she’s 17? Anyways, she was pretty excited to write the lyrics about our three young idols and give their take on hip-hop, but I think it’s more exciting for me to see how Soul’d Out left their mark in ZAQ’s musical DNA.

PS. I actually can elaborate on this post a bit. She did a lot of research on IM@S when she wrote the lyrics to Rebellion. I think there’s the general awareness of the care needed to handle the franchise, and she said something to the extent that I know this is probably not very Hibiki-like, it’s pretty cool so I went with it. And there is our red of truth or something.


Half-way Into Spring 2017

I’m still watching anime.

I did finish the main OVA series of Legend of Galactic Heroes, or Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu, and it was good. Feels like a very literal map between TV cartoon from book, even though it’s a home-video only release. Like its content, that release is a bit ahead of its time; I think it would have been a killer IP for a Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. If I was working for those groups this is the kind of content I would try to secure.

Saekano S2 – This is at least astute to a degree, but misses the point entirely. I think of the story of Saekano as a bunch of problematic people coming together, with the joke being that the boring girlfriend character is actually the most interesting person among a bunch of weirdos (to put it mildly). It is full of good, subtle, meaningful fanservice and to me, coupled with Misaki’s designs, makes this top notch in that department. It is a story between battling emotions and emotional people, and really repurposes the harem aspect to describe a creative process.

Tsugumomo – Only really watching it because Sanpei Yuko told me to, but also it turns out to be another kind of fanservice show that are not too common these days. At first the subject matter doesn’t seem to be my cup of tea but it is pretty easy to get along, especially there aren’t any shows this season like this. If anything the porno-ish aspect found in the manga doesn’t get played up as much in the anime, maybe for the best…

Renai Bokun – I started to enjoy this show more to think of it like, trash tier episodes of Ranma 1/2. It might as well be. Haramii’s character is pretty extreme! It was hard for me to watch actively, but really fun to play it in the background while I do something less attentive, such as eating.

Re:Creator – I hope it keeps going, because so far it is doing nicely to escalate. The first handful of episodes were fun to watch in the same ways Aldnoah Zero (at least S1) was kind of fun to watch, in that it is a competent production and the story moved along smoothly. The subject matter actually is still kind of problematic. But I think there are some cool places this show can go.

Twin Angel BREAK – Sins of seiyuu watching brought me here, but somehow once the Russian twins were introduced, this series stopped being as hard to watch. Maybe it’s because I’m watching it for the twins, but I don’t think the story was getting any better than it was before. I guess someone has to give it a nod for laying down all the details in the early going that can come around towards the end of the series.

Tsukigakirei – I LOL’d at the book publishing part. Otherwise it’s just very comfortable cute romance I guess.

Akashic Record – Rokuaka is the kind of trash LN that works in the TV anime format, it’s got some dramatic things that map well to a more cinematic mode of storytelling. It’s enjoyable.

Hinako Note – It’s cute but the fanservice in this show sure is jarring. It has a plot so the show is kind of enjoyable at least in terms of tracking the narrative.

Natsume S6 – It’s still going, but I’m behind. Will probably catch up soon. Have to say after 5+ cours this show is just more of the same and one episode doesn’t always differentiate from the next significantly at times. To me it isn’t about what happens, but the atmospheric quality and the way it entertains me. It’s like a box of chocolates, just because I like said chocolates it doesn’t mean I will finish the whole box in one setting.

Uchoten S2 – Still very enjoyable, but it isn’t as compelling as the latter half of S1. The way the anime plays off the highs and lows with almost equal import throws off the storytelling a little. It’s like if you enjoy passive aggression, you would love this show right now.

Eromanga Sensei – It’s such a fun show to watch, I look forward to it every week. What has been surprising is that I thought I was going to get my best bang for the buck from the meta, but the core material is plenty enjoyable too, unexpectedly.

Attack On Titan S2 – Every episode is more fun reveals, so it’s pretty solid thus far.

SukaSuka – WorldEnd is just too confusing of a name… But the setting is really the shining part of the show. I’m just glad to see Koroazu in a lead role of a show that doesn’t suck… or at least it doesn’t suck that much.

Granblue Fantasy – The first couple episodes were great, but the show really tanked after that; not only it was really too cliche, none of the great part of the game got nice highlights until this past couple weeks. I’m still on board but it really needs to pick up the pace.

PiriPiri Chi-chan – In another page of watching cartoons for seiyuu I am totally watching this for Mocho, but I think this is actually a must-watch for any Rieshon fans. The production, the OP/ED themes, and the general makeup of the show are all really fun and pleasant, so it has been surprisingly enjoyable.

Cingeki – Sometimes I forget how eroi some of the comics are, and I’m glad they decided to make them into anime.

Alice & Zouroku – It’s got a thriller opening set but now things are just kind of normal-ish? Not sure I like the change but it hasn’t been bad. The mid-season breaks this cour has been a little more obvious than usual isn’t it…

sin Seven Deadly Sin – Want to watch ep2 but haven’t gotten to it yet, it’s a little obnoxious and I think Renai Boukun is taking up my quota on obnoxiousness this season.

Clockwork Planet – I actually enjoyed this thoroughly chuu2 show to a degree, but it’s also equally insufferable so I haven’t been able to go past 3 episodes.

Danmachi Side anime – On the back burner, haven’t even tried… But I will!

Bahamut Virgin Soul – I’m glad people are getting what they always wanted! /s When I watched the first series I was pretty annoyed, and I find this one a little less annoying but true to form. But I’m also behind on this because I just haven’t gotten that time for a show I’m only mildly interested in.

Busou Shoujo – One and dropped. I probably would enjoy this show but ain’t got the time.

Anonymous Noise – One and on hold I guess. I enjoyed the pilot but I might need to get in the right state of mind to keep going, so maybe it’s worth a binge watch later.

Silver Guardian – This is OK for a Chinese cartoon. Pass.

Atom: The Beginning – Too uppity for my tastes but worth watching at least one. Might go back to it…after I finish other equally uppity anime in my backlog?

Frame Arm Girls – I was fine with the 2 episode I watched but it wasn’t compelling enough to overcome the jetlag induced backlog. Maybe later.

ID-0 – After just one episode I wanted to watch more, but I didn’t want to mess with another subscription service. I think my habits have largely tilted to watching stuff legit if it meant following it week to week. Two exceptions in the form of Re:Creator and Saekano buck that trend, but I’m sure I would rather watch ID-0 over a lot of the other shows on my list.

On a couple notes in terms of trends, this is the first season in the States where Amazon streaming has some specific exclusives I care for, and Netflix still has their usual bags that they lock up for binging only. Chris from Fandompost has sort of laid it out, although the monetary figure will vary on how you approach the system. Honestly I use streaming so I can avoid making my life more complicated, so I’ll just stick with CR (and Daisuki) for now and ignore Netflix and Amazon until they make their offering more compelling.

And it’s not like their products aren’t compelling. I’m tempted to do a month of Netflix HD just to watch the rest of Sidonia and Blame (and LWA if…they had it). I would subscribe to Amazon’s Anime Strike, too, except I’m in Amazon Prime limbo due to free F&F shipping perk. I’m basically already a leg inside Amazon’s system habit-wise. What needs to change is providing a way for people who can’t get the shipping Prime straightened out, which might mean a more ala cart thing (which makes sense for everyone, not just my case). The second thing is I want more of a commitment from Amazon on anime. If I switch to paid Prime that is one year of commitment (I’m not going to bother with monthly subs with this, sup, the new Amazon credit card), so they better not suck 6 months later. Overall the jury is still out on Amazon and I am in no rush to join until there’s some track record first. (Well, there IS IDOLM@STER.KR waiting but so far that’s just the K-Drama-fying of the literal concept, which one’s mileage will vary on how they feel about k-dramas.)

PS. At this rate, I’m probably going to spring for a Amazon.jp kindle unlimited membership before Anime Strike. LOL.

PPS. I’m headed to Anime North! Just going to chill out in Toronto for a while, as the freight train that is AX prep continues to run unabated. Come say hello!


Eventer Life? Brainstorming for a Panel

I’m presenting a panel at AnimeNext 2017, down in Atlantic City, in June. It’s going to be more of the nuts and bolts about eventing, like what to do if you want to go to something. Just going to start getting prepared, and by that I mean I have all the ingredients in the fridge already, but it’s time to do some prep and put stuff on the back burner to let the grey matter do its thing.

To me eventing is like a pillar of the JP visual modern cultural complex, no different than, well, anime/manga/games or what have you. But much like a breakdown chart of the “anime industry” by the AJA splitting out the percent revenue each sector of the industry represents, eventing was not a fully recognized pillar, so to speak, until more recently. We can talk about licensing of anime or the sales of merchandise or the licensing of merchandise from anime, in great details (as this is a big thing historically), but it’s rather difficult to talk about this aspect of eventing. Part of it is because it’s kind of difficult to talk about, much like making a late-night TV anime, where the same result may be across different IP, but the motivation and the business model may be quite different from one to the next.

I think it’s easier to read and quote directly from the 2016 report. It’s a little more informative than the prior years anyways.

<Major Breakthrough of Live Entertainment>
Live anime‐related entertainment continued to make important breakthroughs. The market doubled in
the past three years since 2013 when the survey started, and recorded revenues of 52.3 billion yen in
2015, increasing by 68.4 % over the previous year. This increase, which may partially be attributed to
improved accuracy of surveying methods, was also significantly associated with the rapid growth of
overall domestic live entertainment markets, especially the growth of music market (i.e. revenues of
music concerts, stage performances, plays etc., including live entertainment related to animation). The
market size, which was 333.4 billion yen in 2012, became 503 billion yen, increasing by 51% over the
past three years.
At the same time, non‐staged live entertainment, such as anime museums, anime exhibitions and anime
cafés are also doing well. Although revenues of non‐staged live entertainment fall far short of those of
staged live entertainment, the field still makes constant progress. Animation is shifting from a thing to
be watched to a thing to be experienced, and the non‐staged live entertainment, which offers a feeling of
belonging to consumers, will continue to expand.
The sales amount arising from merchandise sold on‐site (i.e. concerts, events, museums and exhibitions)
is not included in the values in this report. If such revenues are included, and in some cases such they
exceed ticket revenues, the live entertainment market size may reach 10 billion yen or more..

(Click on chart for more readable version.)

The business of eventing is also not that interesting, as you can see. In a sense as a seiyuu otaku, I mostly care about the mechanism that enables, for example, Uma Musume, to exist in the degree that puts some notable IDOLM@STER names in the same production. But I know how a mobile game IP works, to a degree, and even if I don’t know, I am familiar with the way these CD albums have been released and that the voice actresses are a huge draw and reason why people care about a game that doesn’t even exist yet. And that’s probably all that I need to know at this point. Oh there will be an Uma Musume anime soon, too.

I don’t need to know, for example, that the Sailor Moon live action musicals are often sell out shows. And this is why you could have seen Asumiss dress up as a Persona 3 character in the stage play. Or ZAQ as Aegis. Or why maybe Wake Up Girls did a show earlier this year and I can’t buy the blu-ray (easily) because of Avex’s export restriction. Or why there are a bijillion theme cafes in Tokyo. Or why the Panties & Stocking Cafe is in Kobe.

Eventing in Japan, as the data above shows, is really just that. And anisong and seiyuu events have been happening for decades before AJA put it into its own category. I still missed out on watching those Sakura Taisen kayo shows, and would like to go once before it’s really too late. The “seiyuu idol” boom started in the 90s, with the likes of Hekiru Shiina and what have you, and those while counted more towards the bucket of traditional music industry stuff, today the market is sophisticated enough to know that a yen of Wake Up, Girls! money is different than a yen that Mizuki Nana brings in.

But it’s a lot less complicated than that. Zooming in, I went to Japan to see a concert because of various reasons. Maybe it’s an once-in-a-lifetime show. Maybe you want to go to every show your favorite artist puts on. Maybe because it’s a good time. Whatever. From there, we take a sequence of steps to take us from where we live our daily lives to a place at a time where the stuff happens. We can walk that path, but I think my panel is going to describe it and put it into words first.

And that’s not even all. If eventing is a way of life, it’s beyond just going to concerts or events or musicals. A good example or parallel is how a lot of American fans who go to anime conventions. They might go to one or three a year, and as they ramp up their prep to the show, there is excitement. There is the social and the prep aspect of it that is similar to how one might prepare to go to Japan from overseas, but there is also things like cosplay, making a panel, or what have you leading up. It could even be sharing the experience over social media, running an offkai, or just have that knowledge to share and help others to have a better time at the event, may it be AX or Anisama.

In a way that’s all nice and well, and there is no way to cover all of that in one hour. The more important thing, maybe, is to convey both the narrow specifics and lay out the big picture for people to explore on their own. It’s kind of hard to come up with a compelling thread to tie it together, though. I mean how do I explain how a frugal otaku becoming someone who wholesale-buy boxes of CDs for event lotteries…

PS. The 2016 English summary from AJA has 2  things I want to call out. First, the chart doesn’t really point out what live event, in the bottom graph regarding the “limited” scope, means. Second, they singled out anime music, which I kind of nod towards in that what’s a dollar for a DiveIIx81Produce project means versus, say, a normal concert by a normal musician under a major label. When someone gets, I don’t know, X Japan, to do a show at an oversea anime con, where does that money count towards? Or Man with a Mission with their one anime song? Are they just calling anime music events the ones that are typically billed as such (such as Anisama, Animax & Lisani)?

PPS. What does this count as?


The Meta Game: 2017 Spring Edition

It’s sort of well-understood that otaku TV anime play to the meta. By this I mean it’s about defining, deconstruction, reconstruction, spins, and swapping of existing/known genres and archetypes. It’s a continuous cycle of creation where frameworks that are successful are reused with modification to create something similar but new. New ideas that work often gets grafted into other existing frameworks for added effect. Things also don’t always work out as intended.

What’s interesting about this season’s meta (like a new expansion of M:TG or Shadowverse, as the comparisons may be) is that there are more attempts at misleading or misdirection by giving off generic vibes than not. Last season I think the biggest “gotcha” was in Fuuka, but the most successful misdirection was Kemono Friends, where the audience were treated to this borderline “so bad it’s good” CG animation as a means to help us engage the right part of our collective consciousness in order to parse the surprisingly sincere and nuanced story. Two seasons ago the well-received buttocks anime, Keijo!!!!!!!!, also has this sort of a play to it where viewers go in expecting one thing, but got something quite different. Even original anime projects like Haifuri played this trick via marketing, and it’s unclear to me if it actually fooled anyone. The oft-panned Mahouiku is sort of the victim of not reading the meta correctly, which was using this baited setup to provide a very traditional story, ultimately kind of disappointing the audience. I think this season we will see a few others play out this way as more shows pick up on the meta.

To clarify and disclaim, by “misdirect” I don’t want to imply that there was some kind of intent behind the process. It may be intended or it may not. There are some cases in which the marketing material or the production style was done to give people contrasting expectations, but some cases are not. I think Kemono Friends is a good example where there isn’t an intent to do quite that. Sure, media mix projects often do employ marketing to manage our expectations and solicit interest to a degree, but I want to highlight the shows in which these things get into the “art” of it, as it were, enough that you want to sideboard your deck against the meta, as the analogy goes.