Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Autumn 2015 Anime

But first some thoughts for the last season:

Sore ga Seiyuu: It was good, but I’m not sure how they lined up their use cases. It felt like if we enjoyed things like underground idols, it would be more fun. But I think that could be said in general, if we enjoyed everything like idol otaku enjoying underground idols… Where does fantasy end and reality begin? Where does consumption end and…non-consumption begin?

Overlord: My favorite of the season, but it felt like it didn’t have enough time to breath.

Charlotte: My other favorite of the season, but it could’ve used another cour.

Classroom Crisis: My guilty pleasure of the season, but this one definitely needed another cour.

So yeah, what the hell Japan. Two of them are even original.

I still enjoyed Ace of Diamond, I have not fallen behind, and it is the first 100+ episode show I’ve watched since a god-knows how long ago. It didn’t go the way of Space Brothers, so that’s something very positive to be said about that project.

Monmusu was great. Fanservice-harem anime will always be welcomed if they are executed like this.

Non Non Biyori is still excellent. I think it might even be better than the first season.

Rokka is terrible and you’re all terrible for liking it?

GATE was OK. Not that good to be honest but worth watching for some highlights.

Food Wars was lovely, and I hope more of it happens.

Still need to wrap up on Million Doll (2 eps behind lol), Working S3, Gatchaman, Ilya, and Shimoseka. I don’t know why I stalled on Ilya, probably because there is no drive for me; I don’t really get it on watching this particular gang of little girls, and Rin’s side is not much better thanks to all this exposure lately from UBW. (How do you top that last episode?) Shimoseka is a really weird watch for me in terms of how to position it as both comedy and entertainment, and as a serious work of narrative. The first half (where I stopped) seemed like a good stopping point, and I don’t know if it gets any better. I might brave on if I go on a trip. Working just makes me sleepy which is why I’m a few episodes behind, and Gatchaman, too.

Well, there’s more.

Tokugawa matsuri

Now, new stuff…

Osomatsu-san and One Punch Man are both shows that probably won’t sustain the vigor episode 1 has showed us, so I’m not saying much about those besides, go watch the first episode. I like them also as gateways to explore these cultural artifacts, so you can get that even at 1 episode.

I enjoyed both Asterisk Wars and Chivalry (of a Failed Knight or) whatever, but not enough to take them beyond 3 episodes. I think the latter is more interesting because it is more different and more self-conscious, but that’s jaded people talk. What I found problematic, heh, is the execution of the fanservice elements in Chivalry is weird? I don’t know, had a hard time putting a finger on it. Asterisk War feels more sterile and tepid, kind of like Mahouka minus the obvious setup.

The real action for me is in Lanmas. The show features Suwa Ayaka as a horse (and has speaking lines) whose name is Shirohime. I cannot pass this up. There are also other factors to make the show compelling so far, even if at core, it still surrounds a potato and a bunch of girls. Holding my breath on this one in case it degenerates into a duty watch rather than for enjoyment as well.

The best show overall this season has to be Utawarerumono False Faces. The rebirth of Underwater Ray Romano is so far delightfully self-aware and curiously curated to please. Can’t ask for much more.

The new Gundam is what old fogies liked. Why do people hate 8th MS Team? I guess we can find out soon. For the record I enjoyed all that stuff. I even enjoyed 00 and Wing. I like Gundam, I think.

I tried watching DD Fist of the North Star II, I don’t get it.

Comet Lucifer is the first show that reminded me of those Bones original IP in a long while. But I guess this also means I should say I haven’t caught Concrete Revolutio yet. Maybe tonight.

Heavy Object: How can you screw up this badly. Oh wait nevermind, Index-heritage. Sigh. The concept is interesting but only because it triggers my Mechwarrior internal logic.

More Yuruyuri is always good.

K – Hahaha that action sequence.

Thanks to this post now I can’t stop making boner jokes about that Bone Detective anime. Sakurako anime. Whatever. It wasn’t bad, but I’m not sure I am in the mood for something like this. Maybe.

F anime, the one about the Insider? It’s really hip but yet probably ultimately will piss me off in a Nisioisin-can’t-write-well sort of way. I’ll leave myself open to its interpretation of murders and mysteries, because the production is good and it is something very Noitamina-y.

The slightly hard-boiled anime with Ueshama as lead female? It isn’t entirely terrible but I think this is what I dislike about otaku-database-driven stories. I thought we’re well beyond this, so when it’s straight up served it bothers me too much.

I avoided mentioning the shorts mostly in this post but just want to end with Hackadoll. It’s great and the WUG fanclub is selling the OP/ED single LOL.

And we’re not even done yet.

PS. Sakurako is a woman who gets a boner on esoteric bones?

PPS. I forgot to mention but we’re doing a DereSute wiki too. Thanks Rop &co!

Eventers’ Flower Girl

Shibuya Rin in the ongoing Cinderella Girls anime gets paired with flowers. I remember vividly still the first episode as she gets her first look at Uzuki’s smile. Director Kouno’s transformative climax paired with blossomed plant reproductive organs is not at any odds with the fact that Rin’s family run a flower shop and at times she adorns the shop’s front door.

The initial telegraph during episode one has Rin, Uzuki and Mio run into each other at a live event, each handling one behind-the-scene aspect. This flower girl Rin is, in a very literal sense, just like our flower girl, if you belonged to the growing number of fans who purchased flower stands for events. In retrospect that these flower stands got prominently showcased in the Dereani concert scenes should come as no surprise. It’s nice to imagine that behind every expensive order we put in for a live, there’s some Shibuya Rin putting the wreath together and hauling it to the venue.

Flowers from fans are, perhaps, a vain exercise, but it is nice. In the big picture, perhaps Rin’s existence isn’t so different. Both she and her fans hope, at least, the flowers will match her.

Comparing young women to flowers is the easiest thing.

Glass Slippers.

Sometimes I watch Cinderella Girls from an agency point of view. By agency I mean via the character’s point of view of self-realization and self-empowerment. It’s a fitting term, isn’t it? In this sense, the Producer is an agent for exactly this, in order to further the idols’ careers. An agent for change? How does TakeP’s character bring it about? And will the change be the kind I am looking for? For better or for worse? From whose perspective?

Thinking back to season one, when the police mistook Producer for a creeper, it gave the Dekoration girls an opportunity to do something, even if it is to right what may be called a wrong (it may not be). And there are other instances of this, where agency is cloaked in some form of a challenge, like giving Cat and Rock the same unit song and to work out their differences, or just giving Minami a lead role as the eldest. But aren’t these challenges just normal tasks? It seems by giving them mundane idol work the Producer produces. In fact Mio’s big scene in the first half revolved around the most ordinary thing ever, although it might not be fair to trivialize the challenges that Mio overcame.

The same is true for Rin’s eventual change of mind in the recent episodes, or what Mio decided to do. But to what ends? And are the changes good? I think this is the real talk part of the show. Imagine if the idols give up something to become one. No dating the boys (or even girls?) that they like, for example. Leaving their familial responsibilities or betraying their parental expectations to pursuit what they dream of doing, to make a career out of it, outside of the entertainment industry context, can be framed as noble and sympathetic things. Being chased down by a tall, stoic dude trying to hand you some business cards is a weird turn-on-head approach to career guidance. Basically, a lot of these challenges in Cinderella Girls may be silly, but the show treats them no less real than the “real talk” items of the seedy underbelly of the Japanese idol biz. It’s as if we were handed placeholders for these things, even if we didn’t quite address them head-on.

This is probably why I always thought Rin as “the” Cinderella Girls character. Once I look beyond the intercharacter relationship Rin has on NewGen and see it as Rin’s personal struggle as a Millennial, anyway. I mean, to spell out what I think is obvious, if we think of Cinderella the fairy tale as a story where someone grew true to her potential with Theatrics, help of a magical godmother, and a mean adoptive family, then IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls takes this time-honed adage and time-honored, little-girl-marketing mechanism and spin it into Japanese idol regurgitate targeting otaku bros. This is a little weird, but also a little bit the most strangely gender-fair approach: Do boys like Cinderella like girls do? I mean, who doesn’t enjoy this generic kind of coming-of-age spin? This is way better than making a male-twist version on the same story. It’s like we are re-making a cake, using the old cake as the original material.

Is TakeP’s Producer the real pivot as our Fairy Godfather, whose CV was formerly just 17 years old?

Maybe I’m looking at this from the perspective of someone who has been through the wave of otaku material in the 00s when Japan occasionally addresses its outcasts with encouraging messages such as “Don’t be a hikkikomori, there is hope” and such? Or is that way too subtle?

Anyway, all I want to say is if Rin blossomed, it’s only because she was born to do it. It’s natural for a character of her nature to do so. The response of seeing it is either admiration and awe, and/or a desire to have what she has. This is where Cinderella Girls get interesting, in terms of that and the setup it has to trigger whatever expressions from its viewers, both reactions engineered and not so much.


War never changes.

The mobile free-to-play rhythm game IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage (Deresute or SS for short for now) launched a couple days ago, but with a lot of leading-up. People who pre-reigstered for the Android version can redeem a code for in-game currency. Since the iOS version isn’t out yet, you can still pre-register for that and get the same deal when that version launches. Go to the link up there.

The hot take? Deresute largely riffs on LLSIF (the link takes you to a beginner’s guide in English), which is the short hand I will use to explain how the game works. Instead of love gems, you have star jewels or whatever you call it. It translates to about 50 star jewels per love gem, to give you an idea on the prices. 2500 heart jewels for a 10-pull, but all the 10-pulls have a guarantee SR or better.

Cards in SS break out similar to the original Mobamas game, N, R, SR, SSR. You “awaken” cards by maxing out the affection on the card, then awaken it via using certain items required by that card for awakening. Awakening increases the card’s max affection and levels.

And besides that Deresute is a rhythm game based on consuming stamina to do “lives,” actually the similarity with LLSIF ends there. The rest of the game is the logical extension of marrying a F2P Rhythm Game with Mobamas.

BIG DISCLAIMER: This game has not yet have its first event yet, and events are what all these F2P games are about. So this hot take is definitely incomplete and only for novelty.

What I really want to point out are first, how Deresute improves on the LLSIF formula, and where Deresute actually is not like LLSIF and more like Cinderella Girls the original mobage. And I’m going to compare a 2-day old F2P platform with a 2-year old one.

  • Deresute has notification support…mainly for level timers in the chibi room and stamina full. Where’s LLSIF’s?
  • Deresute guarantee SR pull is always available. LLSIF not so much, although it has more variety of pulls now, like the ability to get URs directly.
  • Deresute improves on the Mobamas formula again by keeping affection but removing the 2-card kakusei rule, adding another layer of gameplay.
  • Deresute SSRs have real background artwork. And SRs. Blows the crap out of LLSIF in this department.

Shibuya Rin @ Shibuya Scramble Crossing

Moroboshi Kirari

  • The chibi floor. Or whatever it’s called.
  • I think even the graphics in the 2D live mode blows LLSIF away, to say nothing of the 3D mode. The 3D mode is definitely neat but mostly  eyecandy only.
  • Uses BNID for porting your game, so you can actually play on multiple systems. There are some downsides to this but the upside outright wins for anyone who’s lost a LLSIF account…
  • Does LLSIF story mode have autoplay? Access to audio in the log? Deresute does.
  • Deresute has skippable tutorial. It’s a dumb, minor point, only relevant to re-rollers.
  • Everyone is equal (minus the few unvoiced idols in this game) as far as their representation in the game goes. This actually means each idol have a much more developed story once you unlock their individual ones. The fact that LLSIF is tiered and focuses on the core 9 is not a plus or minus, but there isn’t much to say about everyone else in that game. It’s a content thing. Of course there is more pure content in LLSIF given its age now, but I wonder by how much really.

I think none of this is really special? LLSIF is 2 years old but that game feels dated even back in 2014. The overhaul helped but that clock has kept on ticking. Now we’re just finally getting something similar to compare with as to what things ought to be like.

Of course there are also downsides to this game compared to LLSIF. The player base, the large number of cards you could possibly get (and good luck! You will need unlimited amounts of that!) now compared to somewhere north of 200 in SS. There are more songs, by far. There are more modes of play, even outside of events. But then we consider one game is 2 days old, it all seems like here we have a game that will catch up and surpass LLSIF in probably another 6 months.

The real test, I think, is how Deresute is still JP only. Will it get ported? It’s entirely likely given that trademark file, and doubly so if Scamco want to copy LLSIF’s plan for success. I would think anyone who paid attention to what IM@S things has happened oversea would guess this will eventually make it out of Japan.

And I think they have a winner on their hands; as long as they don’t screw it up, anyway.

Million Live Crash Course

In the year 2015, it is the war of idols. Actually, it’s the war of mobile games. The battles wage across battlefields all over the world, and I’m just here to write about one of them.

There are two schools in mobile games. The newer term for the first class, social games, is really just a cover term for mobage because it’s kind of trademarked in Japan. Well, that aside, the idea behind these games is content delivery. The other type of game is the mobiles games that has some kind of gameplay baked in, but also deliver content around it. Think of it like a sliding scale of pachinko machines or what you might find in a casino. On one end it’s just a RNG, on the other end you have minigame puzzles and what not, like solitaire or blackjack or IIDX (you get the idea), that the numbers change based on what “cards” you have or whatever.

By content, I mean things like the idols that I love. Or rather, the narrative material in which depicts these lovely characters. It’s stuff I will ignore for now because you can find out about it via the well-stocked Project IM@S wiki and the greyer namassuka site.

What this post will cover is the long play, mid-term play, and short-term play goals of the IDOLM@STER Million Live that I stick by. It may not be the best way, and I don’t do anything that blatantly violates the TOS (no botting or multi-accounts or RMT etc), so I welcome anyone with a better approach to let me know. I won’t go over account creation either because I assume you are savvy enough to do that in order to play this game. The only caveat I will make here is that trading is disabled if you don’t confirm with a Japanese phone number, which makes certain things more difficult. I’ll call them out as necessary.


Continue reading

IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls: How Many Is Too Many?

TL;DR – it’s not about quantity, but quality, once overhead has been accounted for.

Momoka Sakurai

Evirus says here:

There are entirely too many Cinderella Girls. It wasn’t a problem during the first cour when it appeared the show was content with keeping the story on the 14 main idols; that worked for its two-cour predecessor. However, the current season of THE iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls seems intent on cramming more and more of the game’s enormous battery of idols into the anime, presumably attempting to placate ardent fans of niche characters with cameos. Unfortunately, this practice dilutes the show as a whole, making this half of the Cinderella Girls anime somewhat underwhelming.

and concludes with

I’m sure there are disappointed Harada Miyo fans who just want five freaking minutes watching her gap spark plugs, and Yorita Yoshino apostles who want a subplot about her talking to strangers, but neither of these scenarios is likely to do much for the Cinderella Girls anime as a whole. How about spending more time with the ostensible lead trio in New Generations? How about that?

It’s a fair ask, but it’s the wrong ask. Here are some arguments against what Evirus is asking.

First of all, the first season is more or less in line with the same formula as season two, because it cannot possibly focus on all 14 main idols. So what happened was each idol was assigned a grouping and put into the canonical network of interpersonal relationships, and when it’s their turn in the spotlight, we get an group episode. I mean, compare the Miria episode in season 1 versus the Miria episode in season 2. What Miria episode in season 1? The one she just tags along Rika and gets lost? LOL.

I’m just going to interpret what Evirus is whining about as the usual ask in the context of focusing on the development of the main characters. It’s why I say it’s a fair ask. But that’s not the IM@S way.

Which is to say, second, New Generations is kind of meh. Meh in terms of what? There are reasons why there are Yorita fans. Or Momoka fans (in the case of episode 17–look at how those 2-bit minor characters present for fanservice diluted a great episode! Wait). If you took a look at the regularly scheduled elections in the game, you’ll notice one thing: The New Gen girls are just so-so popular until the anime. They may be spotlit as “lead” characters but they cannot carry the show by themselves. That is both true cynically/critically, and true to the theme of IDOLM@STER.

[I am just glad Mio has fans now ;_;]

Also, they’ve been dropping hints on TriPri so I’m sure we’re just going to get a giant ball of mess coming our way when that setup pops. Honestly when Cinderella Project was first announced there was some minor murmur of discontent, because some weren’t sure if Uzuki and Mio can really pull it off.

Last, to answer the question I posed in the title of this post: one idol is too many if it is the wrong one. Unfortunately the anime has only enough time and resources to showcase so many characters while giving them a fair shake, and the Animas formula that Deremas anime is following dictated the kind of complex character development which involve a lot of intercharacter exploration, further limiting how many characters the show can write for. There are going to be times when idols most don’t care about go on stage. (I get the feeling Evirus is knee jerk about his comments based solely on the variety show episode, given the 4 season 2 episodes, thus far, are all very similar in the showcasing-extra-idols aspect, at least by the clock.) But so far every time this happens in Deremas anime it was done in a context that goes with the story of that week. It’s the most we can really ask it to do. The concept behind Cinderella Girls is to have at least one idol you care about than trying to sell a handful of idols that you don’t, and unfortunately it also means having to deal with many idols you don’t care about to get to the ones you do.

If they can make such crafty episodes like #17 every week, I don’t think I would care which idol it is about, because quality is what’s important. And much like that episode demonstrates, one can showcase minor characters just fine while delivering a great experience. Quantity is just an obstacle that needs management.

In that sense, the compromise I offer is that the writing has to account for this aspect. I imagine if you weren’t moved by the Big Sisters moment, the whole episode was a little on the dry side. Maybe we can’t please everybody but the same can be said of all the prior episodes. It comes down to just how well the execution is, I guess.

PS. Here’s a man who has not the right idol in the show.