Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Autumn 2016 Housekeeping

Just some housekeeping items. Links to relevant quoting. Bolded for topic. Some replies to blogs and some are just seasonal anime musings.

Shall we make a wish?

Usagi Drop is a solid anime, don’t let people who follow/read/gets spoiled by the manga tell you anything otherwise. It’s not about morality, but about mode of consumption and letting that dictate what you ought to do, when it might not be a good reason. When I read that post I thought about how anime adaptations sometimes live in this different world than the manga experience. Then again I dig these kind of controversial stuff so I am hardly unbiased.

The only thing I can say about Shirobako’s commercial success is that they sold out of the first run of the Blu-rays pretty fast, but that might have to do with low expectation to begin with. It already has a Blu-ray box on the horizon, too. Given the industry these days it would not be a surprise to hear in a couple years that PA Works will go back to that well. Certainly it would out-delight that recent announcement about Uchoten Kazoku.

I have mixed and some reserved feelings about Girlish Number (PSA: don’t put the (a) in there). I think it is also the anime made just for me. I say this only because a number of us have said this. Are you one of us? For well-intended Americans and Canadians, the show streams on Hulu on Wednesdays with 1 week behind-cast schedule. I might actually do this to rep the show (especially now there’s no more ads for paid service). Anyway, as much as I still have mixed feelings about the whole thing, I can’t expect any more than what it has already given me: a satire on seiota fandom/industry.

Adults are different, but overrated. I would even add a lot of people enjoy adults who act like this, what is the point of being one then… I can confirm this observation, although I made it when I first watched Yuri On Ice. When it comes to pro figure skating, age ranges can run the gamut…of young, as it’s not a sure thing based on the teasers. What’s more interesting isn’t why but what it does. I feel that can make some shows more interesting (Matoi) and some shows tried and tired (3gatsu). Maybe it doesn’t really matter. Man Shaft doing 3gatsu feels just all full of try-hard. I guess when Yamamoto Sayo is directing a girl-pandering anime in the same season, nobody can win against that. On that note, it’s good that we have adults, in the case of children hitting each other with butts and tits seem to call in the moral judgment police–that’s one valid use case.

Matoi and Mahoiku are both good shows to watch together if just for comparison’s sake. I can’t speak about magical girl anime or which tier of nerd hell we’re in in regards to talking about them, but these two approach probably very similar things in a different way. I mean it’s obvious Matoi’s mom will come forward as a key plot item, much like the dying game Mahoiku is doing. Can we get that idol killing game an anime too? (And … Idol Death Game TV TV would be delightful of a name for a TV anime. I kid.)

There’s some Chinese animation that passes for season fare this season. I’m not sure how to feel about all this, other than the toilet humor gag anime does work still. It really comes down to the core staff and material. Also, if the skill and process still need development, try not to create something too ambitious like Bloodivores. Maybe this is related to that one news bit about an animator thinking there are not enough animators to go around. Well, that seems like an obvious thing.

Izetta had me at episode 1 and lost me by the OP. This gun-riding witch thing is hilarious, in that while I’m okay with it as a matter of plot, I’m not so much okay with it when it is the main visual gimmick. It also reminds me of a D&D character I created who would swing around a Spell-Storing Broadsword. I have nobody to blame but myself, to a degree, but this is dissonant when you expect something closer to Indiana Jones and got Guilty Crown (ok not that bad).

Euphon S2 is great. I love what it has going, but I hate how it’s 2 episodes long for a pilot. This show doesn’t hold my attention very well…except if I can marathon it. The voice acting seemed to change even closer to live action. That took a little getting used to.

Nanbaka is dumb. Natsume is chill af, FliFla is weird I guess? I think I would tough it through if it had a good story to tell. Maybe it’s like reading some good writing on news blogs and only to realize the stuff they talk about is dumb and empty. Quality art/passion projects sometimes feel like more an exercise than a thing that can take on life on its own.

What else do I need to name drop? Drifters is OK. Udon no Kuni is not bad, and I like it more than Sweetness & Lightning so far. Trickster is uh, Gackt? I love how 1hope Sniper works in this and that always mean I end watching the episode smiling. Brave Witches is, well, a brave new sequel. I feel like Brave Witches is re-engineered for the present, in that this series incorporates some lesson learned from other franchises and its progeny. I have some hopes for this in fact.

Ping Pong Girls should deserve its own paragraph. It actually is less unlike to Ping Pong than I expected, which speaks volume for something mostly I consider as “throwaway Chinese anime.” Oh wait, I guess that would be Idol Memories (although the Chinese lessons are luls). I mean, what do you call these anime that are clearly made with the, uh, Tencent market in mind?

WWW.Working, on the other hand, seems to be made with the dumb audience in mind. It lacks a lot of craft and charm from the original series, but there’s enough carry-over charm to stick with it. Or maybe because the original series just wasn’t that good so the dropoff in quality doesn’t seem so bad, I’m too stupid to tell. Maybe.

PS. Such cramming for CG4th begins. Let’s see what that does to my viewing schedule. Someone asked me a couple days ago which shows are my top this season, and they were Yuri On Ice, Girlish Number, and maybe Occult 9 or Keijo!!!!!!!!. I don’t know if I have a number 3, but I can see a few shows making strong moves to that spot, with Takkyuu Musume, Matoi and Izetta probably moving up the ranks.

The Mobage Divide

The thought process is this.

The future of gaming in Japan is free-to-play mobile games where monetization model is based on the gacha. Fundamentally, these forms of games are not really being pioneered in the western market to mainstream gamers. These games are the norm for the “casual” segment, as witnessed by the various chart-topping Android and iOS titles, but usually these games fall outside of the “gamer” segment.

Why this is happening and other related notions as to this ongoing development interests me, but it is a side track. The thought continues that, if today’s ever-competitive seiyuu industry now employs a lot of new talents to voice these free-to-play games, eventually there will be a large crop of seiyuu whose most famous works are exclusive to F2P games that never gets localized outside of Asia, or even outside of Japan. There are already some cases where all the notable work for a seiyuu (especially for male seiyuu) are for mobage.

Shipping a localized F2P game overseas is tough for various reasons. For one, localization of F2P games are a major task–localization outfits are supporting platforms, not just another release that will ship and then they can move on to another title. It wouldn’t be far fetched to see a localization company release just one or two platform games across most of its resources for a year or more. There are not a truck load of companies doing it, although if there is money to be made, there will also a case to be made there; such as what’s happening over at Nutaku, the English-language arm of DMM’s ero branch (I guess).

At the same time, F2P titles are good work for seiyuu because they typically don’t end after 12 or 24 or even 52 episodes later. It provides some continuing work and F2P titles generally drive gacha via characters, and to sustain gacha variety, F2P games typically employs a lot of different seiyuu to create a lot of different characters. The games usually also have more flexible demands on voice recording, plus on average the rates are better for games than anime. Perhaps on a pure headcount perspective, anime still hires a lot more seiyuu off the bat, as games tend to start with a dozen or two and grow over time, but generally game jobs are more desirable.

All of this, is just to say, that no wonder Matsui Eriko’s most famous role gets no nod here. On a higher level, it addresses the gap as mentioned here, the social game generation. It’s not to say anime of popular social games don’t get made, and they clearly do, but for fans clamoring for anime seiyuu of a certain variety (especially if you dig a certain dude), it could be very hard to justify it to an oversea con committee, as the male anime voice roles tend to be dominated by a select few, and there aren’t too many of them to go around in the first place.

Maybe this is why all these people are trying the solo debut route.

Why Anime: 91 Days

It’s been a bit of a theme. I think in 2016 I’ve watched more shows that pretends to be anime, when in reality they could be much better as live action works. I think 91 Days follow this. A little spoiler below, just very little.

Ships gonna ship

The reason why I say it is because I don’t really see what making an anime out of the story convey any ostensible advantages, as a work in the whole, to tell the story. There are some “meta” advantage, I guess. It’s a lot cheaper to make a 12-episode story than to hire American actors to do a 1920s mobster short series. The runtime of about 4 and a half hours is perfect for a mini-series, and I think the story of 91 Days would even work better. There’s a major advantage in that by approaching a story like an anime, we sort of grade it on a curve, too, with things like suspension of belief and our expectations. Or at least some of us. Maybe, making it into anime allows you to market the work to an established segment that the story may not otherwise reach?

The length of time, in that show, is totally not respected. I mean the guy in the end says 3 months, and he could have said 6 or 18 months and I would have believed him.

Anyway, minor problems aside, we can look at the major problems I have with 91 Days.

  1. This is a Japanese take on a couple big time mobster themes. The logo image invokes the obvious Godfather feels and I think the way the story panned out in the end is invariably just like it, with the last Don fighting against the scheme put on him and his family. The way the story plays out also make homages to other works of the genre, most notably A Better Tomorrow. But that’s kind of it. The story is written where organized crime gain power due to the power of money and influence of the cartel has as provider of liquor. If you substitute liquor or organized crime with, say, dystopic authoritarian government; or present day and instead of gin it’s cocaine… And I feel this is like where 91 Days dropped the ball. This is a big problem…in as much as some software bugs are actually features. I just find it kind of inauthentic. Aside: a version of Infernal Affairs done like this could be interesting, but that sort of disregards the setting.
  2. The character acting is so un-American that it is a constant reminder that I am watching an anime. Well, I am watching an anime, obviously, but this is the other aspect, the hard-to-tease part of what makes anime anime, as opposed to all the Chinese anime we see this Fall season (man did y’all watch Bloodivores). To an extent this is my problem with that spy versus spy anime Joker Game–the characters are paper maches of Japanese stereotypes of foreigners. At least in 91 Days since everyone is American (except the main guy who is really just Setsuna F. Seiei, and his good friend, who is more like stereotyped ship bait) the stereotype can’t hold enough diversity to characterize everyone. I put it as a major problem here to distinguish from the causal Japanese-isms. In a mafia film you are watching for that charismatic character interaction, and other than Nero I find this entirely lacking. Not enough Italians, just weirdo Japanese people.
  3. The main character is Setsuna F. Seiei. Com’on. In the 1920s if you were like this you would never have wormed your way into any mafia, unless they call you the janitor (and he was kind of…not). This is not how things worked! I guess if there was a mafia made up of otaku and fujoshi, it could work… Anyway, he had no hold over me, I had no vested interest in him except for the main plot thing–which is if he will let Nero and the Mafia life win him over or not.
  4. America is pretty hard to get around even in a car back then. It’s not clear if the sense of scale panned out. Maybe this is something where on paper it was all researched out and thought through, but the anime left out some of the more authentic details. I don’t know. But this also goes into the time scale of things. Ninety-One days is not a long time back then. I guess this is not that important. Would be funny if SPOILER was SPOILED on a New Jersey beach.

Anyway, I thought 91 Days was OK, but I should just go watch more the Wire or something instead as a better use of my time. If you have exhausted all that mafia culture, maybe this is worth your time. If you have not, please go watch something actually good. Like the Godfather films. Or those classic Chow Yun Fat movies.

Protesting of a Drowning Fish

Two songbirds

So the preliminary 2015 numbers for the Anime Industry (of Japan) in English is posted on this ANN report. The full report can be had for 6000y. Hopefully AJA will post its usual English summary soon.

Major gains from streaming and events? YOU DON’T SAY. I mean if you were keeping up with the news at home this past 2 years you would know at least about Amazon and Netflix’s foray into anime streaming, not to mention the stuff out of Asia that most of us probably don’t know as well.

I also just want to note, that on my trip to Taiwan earlier this year I actually ran into some streaming service’s promo for WUG. Looks like Crunchyroll is not the only guys playing the streaming game with WUG promo. In this case the streaming company also sponsored a sweepstake to go to Japan and attend the Taiwan WUG tour. Hey Crunchy guys can you folks hook us up?

On that note, events…just look at my eventing sticky posts for a clue. It’s carved into my mind and body like … what’s the word? Jetlag? A deep tiredness that only comes with combining all-nighters, summer weather in Tokyo, 28 hours in the air and over 12 hours of live events in a weekend? How about 5 Asia trips in 7 months? You get the idea. To me this kind of reporting is well beyond affirmation, or preaching to the choir, but more like “I’m drowning pls send help.”

Can’t wait to see what big fat number 2016 will put up on the Events category LOL.

Clinton’s Copyright Platform Is Probably Good for Anime

Iowa Primary

United States presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton recently revealed her campaign platform on tech, and here’s the relevant segment:

And she will encourage stakeholders to work together on creative solutions that remove barriers to the seamless and efficient licensing of content in the U.S. and abroad.

Since nobody else has done one of these yet, at least nobody interesting, here is probably all there is to it in this election. Given her opponent Donald Trump’s current style of campaign so far, it’s hard to say if there will be a policy document for the Republican side. Of course, these are just campaign promises, which don’t translate into actual policy implementation all the time, or if the implementation would ease international licensing. It’s just merely on the table as an idea.

And when it comes to relatively fringe issues like international licensing, having that is way better than usual. For example Obama gave some pretty vague statement about reforms on IP during his campaign, and other than the patent reforms that went in during his second term, the current President didn’t really do much during his time in the Office. Historically it’s just not a subject area that gets much lip service during any presidential campaign. The past couple cycles have been a little different, and obviously I think a lot of hot topic issues today are tech oriented, so it’s nice to see some splash over to archaic copyright law.