Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

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.

This Is Dumb

It’s never too late to back peddle, but they never do.

I tried to s/Hane/Yui in that post and it worked for maybe 60% of it. I just want to say that:

The ZX-10R is a very fast bike

Hane did make trouble for her friends, such as running into problems with her bike while on a group trip–but that’s a plot device/reference. In fact this is a reoccurring theme about motorbiking. You often travel in a group but it is really loner activity, and being left behind is a running gag kind of a thing. Maybe you can take the next step and say that KyoAni’s K-ON took it as it is and let it resolve without explaining things, but Bakuon had a point to make and it had to explain it.

We never saw the extent where Hane’s sister took cared of Hane, but sufficed to say Hane is a straight Yui knock-off, so I expect the same degree of reliance.

When it comes to a newbie’s journey into music versus into being a bike guy, I don’t really see any differences between the two narratives in those two stories maybe besides that one requires a team, and the other is just something you do in a group. If you think Yui is dumb for making problems for others, you clearly haven’t had enough Tarous in your life. If stupid people didn’t play in bands, rock music would be a terribly boring thing to get into.

That said, Bakuon is also my top series of the season. The reason behind it is that I thought anyone who would ask this question is probably looking for a dumb answer, because it’s not exactly the smartest question to ask. And if you want to distill a catalog of like 50 anime into one for some silly reason, this would be a good choice.

Distance On the High Seas

Such paint

It’s a good point.

At the same time, it’s also a failure as a “Cute Girls Doing Cute Thing” show, in that there’s not enough levity or enthusiasm to make this “K-On! on Boats” for example. Not being much of a fan of “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” shows to begin with, perhaps I’m not the best judge in this respect, but the constant reminder of the pseudo-serious issues at play sort of kept me from feeling as if the characters enjoyed what they were doing.

This all changed with episode 10, a straight-up filler episode dedicated to an equator-crossing festival. Nothing of much consequence happened during the course of the episode, but the important part is pretty much every character had a good time. It’s tautological, but in order for a “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” show to succeed, it needs (a) cute girls who (b) do cute things. Regardless of how you feel about Haifuri’s success or lack thereof with regard to the first point, I think you have to agree it wasn’t doing too hot on the second part.

I think there’s a fundamental difference in the way people appreciate “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” sort of stories, based on my own observation (warning: anecdote). One way is summed as “I enjoy happy people by observing and sharing in their happiness.” Alternatively, it’s more like “I enjoy watching people doing what they do.”

To that end, I disagree with Evirus completely on the point about Haifuri lacking levity or enthusiasm. It’s pretty much on par with Girls und Panzer, except in that story there is the levity of an afterschool activity, and not a life-and-death activity (save certain plot points later on). There is the attitude of students participating in an after-school club. In Haifuri, these kids, well, are doing actual school. Some people take their extracurricular activities seriously, but others do the opposite–the average is somewhere in between. It is not the case when it comes to what we are suppose to do in school, where our collectively-institutionalized souls feel the weight of coursework in the girls’ high sea adventures as assumed as Blumers-in-training.

In that sense Evirus is right on in terms of the core difference; one is about tea and pet turtles, the other is a class that lasts all season long. It actually sounds daunting.

However I think the other school of thought, which is to say, we have a bunch of high school girls acting out the fantasy of some military otaku, as they operate some older-than-your-grandma warships while shooting huge ordinances. (Nerd fantasies always have large ordinances, right?) The routine and spectacle aspects of the concept of girls-on-warships are collectively taken into the character’s weekly activities. In that sense it’s no different than K-ON or Bakuon or whatever-on-whatever-else. The Cute Girls are merely a vehicle. [Is there a meta genre of plot vehicle made up of meta of actual vehicles, kind of like Mad Max where the automobiles are actually driving the plot points?] The thematic points Haifuri drove through the latter half of the series are blow-by-blow by the book, as the matsuri episode sort of marks its climax as a CGDCT narrative. It never wanted to be K-ON, but a story about juxtaposing two contrary things while catering to the Admirals and military nerds out there. The unnatural circumstances are part of what is enjoyable, along with all that tension (as part of the unnatural circumstances).

I mean, ever wonder why there is no token otaku on the Harukaze? And why were there all these yakuza film impersonation going on? Because Haifuri is not about girls on a boat; it’s about girls in a war film. The conceit is precisely about silly young women acting out a story typically reserved for craggy older men as sailors. I guess in such a setup they could playfully make fun of equally troped yakuza flicks. It just wouldn’t work if Mii-chan and Koro-chan were the same actors as the films they portrayed.

Is this why the Fleet Admiral is a fat cat? Or why the girls get nicknames reserved for cats, too? I have no idea. But was Koro-chan funny? Yeah? Guess what.

Maybe it’s a mistake to say Haifuri is CGDCT, because it’s Cute Girls Re-Enacting a WWII Flick, which is actually a comical thing to do, not per se a cute thing. I think that’s kind of cute, but if it fails to make you laugh then the problem is wholly elsewhere. Maybe they were all just Re-enacting the movie Battleship, which would describe the sweet-sour reactions some may have with Haifuri.

PS. Things on the high seas happen both very slowly and all at once. There’s a great deal of lag between some events in Haifuri and they really didn’t exploit those opportunities for the more mundane things. I thought that was the one aspect they could’ve played out more, but I guess not if they want to mimic a more movie-like experience.

Eventing As a Sub-subcultural Marketplace

This post is partly in response to SDS’s comment about wanting to hear more on this topic. In a nutshell, during his recent trip to Japan, he went to the Love Live Thanksgiving event that was recently taking place. I remember reading about the event mainly for the giant LLSIF game they set up where nine different people can play by tapping separate buttons, and seeing it on a big screen. He also posits the “trigger” about choosing between that and a similarly-timed Love Live doujinshi event.

Just to speak out of my own experience, the past few Million Festiv@ls were like, the few times in recent years where I really wanted to go to a doujinshi event. Given my inclinations for doujinshi, it was more to get all those Matsuri x ??? books, or just seeing what’s out there and which fan base ships what or how did the fannons operated. I remember also about Comikets 87-89, when I would actually research the catalog for ML circles and seeing if there’s anything really worthwhile. It turns out thin books themselves are not where it’s at, but also accessories like card mats? Thanks, guys, that’s some next-level artist alley stuff. (By the way, Million Festiv@l 4 is coming up next month. There are also a few other series of IM@S-only events that are inclusive of ML/CG stuff as well.)

A bit of backdrop about these tiny doujin events. Like most Artist Alley types, Japanese booths nowadays also gravitate beyond the humble thin comic format, at least when it’s focused by specific IP like this. Fans buy merch–not just prints, but the whole nine yards of them. As a reference point, my last “set” purchased from Lunatic Joker last year comes in fancyass plastic folder (full art on it) along with a printed shikishi and a couple other misc goods. The book itself is lusciously printed with a color cover. The whole thing is like 2000 yen but the book itself probably could have gone for just 1000 alone. So you buy the set…because artists know they make more money this way. Perhaps one of the most well-known Million Live doujinshi circle/person, Taka, makes Mocho merch for all occasions and while he also has a series of fan books (mostly detailing Mochoisms on radio) and doujinshi (CG/ML/765 SD stuff) he makes a lot more on these polyester eventer shirts (that wicks away sweat!). Or why Bin1’s now-smash-hit Captain America collab translates into T-shirts and a book of prints. Or why there were so many ReDrop shirts in the crowd during IDOLM@STER 10th.

I guess, in a way that ought to be obvious, the communities within the fandom are engaged persistently. The “artist alley” narrative is a different sort of thing than the typical eventer stuff. Fans at an IM@S live show up in Taka shirts meant a certain context permeates those people’s fandom, for example, and this a particular sort of cultural currency that only pays off in that specific context. But this is the same and yet different than saying you are a Kikuchi Makoto producer, for example. Rather, these fan creation actually reflects more nuanced and specific/unique, composite meanings. It’s easy to be a MakotoP and wear a pin badge of her, as you can get countless official and fan-made pin badges of her. It’s another if you show up with custom black coat embroidered with Hirata Hiromi on the back (let’s congratulate her on daughter #2 by the way). Or a ReDrop Makoto. Or certain pins over other pins.

To paraphrase, official events like lives and such are not “canon” but rather “content.” Fans ultimately have varying levels of preferences in terms of the engagement they want to have, they can have (eg., oversea versus domestic; rich versus poor; student versus salaryman), and what’s available. But unlike watching an anime or playing video games, event-as-content is both ways, as in fans at the event exchange/create ideas as well as consume new content. If the defining mark of otaku entertainment is its cultural ouroboros of remixing aspects of fandom in subsequent work, eventing culture seems like the same thing but on hyper mode.

In the US, I really don’t know AA culture enough to make a statement convincing enough about how it works to the degree that it runs parallelly like Tumblr or whatever. The truth is that these cultural spaces generate its own kind of content, but at the same time it resolves around other contents in which defines these spaces as fan spaces. That much applies across the board. In as much if you have only so many days visiting Japan, what you do with your time visiting which space is entirely a matter of your limitations and proclinations.