Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Lantis Festival Las Vegas, Or the Offkai Is a Con

Anisong World Tour Lantis Festival Las Vegas is the full name. In 2014 Lantis celebrated their fifteenth anniversary as anison specialty music label with four multi-day festivals in Japan, covering from south to north. In 2015 Lantis plans a series of oversea events, and Las Vegas kicks it off. Next month they’ll do a show in HK, and then SG, Taipei and Seoul. During Saturday’s event they announced that Shanghai will be their newest stop.

I went to the Vegas show, of course, because I want to support the Lantis label–it is the anison label that ultimately purposed itself to be the anison label since its initial days. Other more established labels have anime/stuff sublabels for this stuff, but throughout the years Lantis has been the one that keeps its focus rather than just coast on the big success stories. Of course it also helps they carry some of the stuff I like, some that shows up at the Vegas show. At any rate, it feels like Lantis does actually produce stuff I like, so the support I give them has a much more direct relationship.

I don’t really want to spend too much time talking about the two actual shows, besides that this is probably my first “anisama” type experience, where you have these clutch and swing-from-the-hip musicians do collabs and covers besides their main songs. I mean Choucho x Sayaka’s ENTER ENTER Mission was awesome, sure, but Bamboo’s Koi no Mikuru Densetsu really killed it for me. Maybe it helps that I remember how the calls went (it’s super easy). Super Driver was great. Go Go Power Rangers was great. It’s a baseline setlist and delivers more or less what I expected, with each collab and cover super great surprises.

Of course, seeing Sayaka, Choucho and Yousei Teitoku for the first time was good too. (And Bamboo…kind of.) It dawned on me why Das Feenreich is on an anison label after seeing them at the VIP session. A bunch of nerds! But I guess that’s not so unusual for metalheads.

Speaking of which, Lantis Fest Vegas is brought to you by Otakon (Vegas), which helped them with all kinds of things, and in exchange they did some collab events. I thought the collab was done well from my point of view, because I managed to pony up for a membership to OV despite not caring at all for its programming other than Sushio. I got an autograph from him on Sunday and he looked pretty much plastered. You can probably count on him to live it up!

The VIP event, on that note, was cool. It was super stiff, but cool. I think in the end it was more like we were kind of chatting with each side kinda. I spent most of my time with Yousei Teikoku so I didn’t see much going on with Jam, although that one felt more like just people taking their turns fanboying or fangirling them. I think I spent enough time grilling them in 2014 so I wanted to interrogate the fairy metal band more.

There was some snacks, sushi, and soft drinks. Nothing great besides this baked brie thing. Photo session was provided by Otakon and it was great to just fool around with all the guests.

What made this Vegas trip great was not only the Lantis (and Otakon) stuff, but that we got to hang out with all the eventers and what not.

We miss you brah!

The two tricks and tips as eventer that I/we picked up last year are the “viewing” and the “Joysound.” It sounds like a Kawaiikochan comic but being in Vegas, it’s pretty easy to pick up a “party suite” and set up “viewing” and “Joysound.” This means you can karaoke for a cheap price with a lot of people, and be really freaking loud at really late at night. Or if you don’t sing, doing calls to Jam Project concerts or ML 2nd sounded good too. This particular hotel even provided Blu-ray players for each TV they had, making wiring things up super easy. In addition we were about to deploy “advanced ‘viewing’ techniques” such that we did a real-time watch Cinderella Girls episode 2 along with the CG live-viewing Niconama. The hardest part was waking up at 6am to setup when you went to bed at 3am the day before. And that episode was hella hype!

But yes, the “party suite” and the massive gathering of online people meant that we had a better karaoke setup than Otakon Vegas, showing better programming content (at least more relevant to our interests), and more interesting goods exchanged hands (I picked up my C87 loot!) and we even had a cooking event or two in the suite (it is has a fully featured kitchen). The room block that we had had enough spare/separate rooms that we were even doing board gaming (mahjong and Weiss) at one point. There were spare PS3/PS4s if people wanted to game. We even had cosplayers, and I was part of a shoot? So in that sense I thought we have not only beaten the “con != offkai” thing into the floorboards but broken through to the basement by doing the offkai better than the con.

Of course, we’re not entirely serious, in that Otakon Vegas is probably good at what it does. I’m just pointing out that OV doesn’t have much in terms of event we’re interested in. It doesn’t cater to any of us other than what makes up for all the Lantis Festival-related events. And maybe that’s good enough. It just makes the whole purchasing decision aspect of OV a little hard to take.

On that note, it was great partying all weekend and hanging out with net and non-net friends. It’s so bizarre that we had an offkai from the offkai because so many circles of friends overlapped. It was also kind of interesting that we scored the right types of hotel packages to facilitate all of our IT and transit needs. Having locals who can VIP it up for us at the casinos and being able to drive people around was really wonderful, too, and a key ingredient of a good time.

Putting it all down and thinking about it makes me very thankful of all the people that helped making it possible. And it was something everyone helped contribute to some degree, from just having the luck to win a VIP thing or doing a lot of heavy loading like logistics or hosting or driving. Thank you all, you know who you are.

On an even more personal note, this event really helped satisfy my feeling about seeing team West Coast at least once a year, because I just did that. Now I can focus on doing the JP Eventer thing for 2015.

PS. Special shoutout to Kurotsuki, who by not being there still was able to be a crucial piece of the puzzle by connecting so many of us together. You were missed and I hope 2015 will be more awarding than you can imagine!

PPS. I hope I can share the photos we took in Vegas sometime. It’s hilariously lel.

PPPS. Slightly regretting not dogeza’ing or otherwise begging Lantis to come back to USA this year with an idol group. Even Star Anis is fine. Prefer Stylips/u’s/Million Stars obviously.

Young Animators’ Death Games

I googled this

I don’t know if it was a mistake, but I watched Death Billiards and Death Parade episode 1 back to back.

It’s a little bit cathartic in that sometimes a TV series just highlight what’s sad about anime as a narrative format. In the government-grant-funded one-shot, everything is put together in a way that needs no additional explanation. In the TV series so many of the things I liked about the one-shot are missing. In its place is lower-quality animation and slower pacing to suit.

At the same time, I know all of it before I even started watching these two things. I knew the compromises it has to make to stretch a concept 12 times longer. I knew it has to hold some cards back in the hand. But unfortunately many of those things Death Parade is holding back are the things I like about it. The receptionist with an attitude, the dry humor, the funky high speed cuts, the glossier look to life (or after life or whatever)?

Stripping away most of the things I liked from Death Billiards is a good way to show me what lies underneath all of it, and it’s not encouraging. Basically it’s some random unexpected competition that make people express their inner, hidden feelings and ends with a twist as people relive and gain catharsis over their final moments of death. I think that part of the show is solid, but isn’t it just kind of lame without all the trimming?

I don’t know if the strings-attached funds behind Death Billiards mattered, in that some things they could or could not do with Death Parade. Reusing its footage, for example.

The silver lining in all of this is that there will be a lot about Death Parade left to watch that nobody knows about since it has to depart from the initial head-trick of the first episode. At the same time, they can screw it up. I don’t want more Hell Girl. Anything but that please.

PS. Yeah dancing dancing don’t stop that dancing.

Shirobako’s Jet Vehicle

Honest question. I want to know, specifically, why do people connect the concept in Shirobako’s cour-2’s anime-adaptation-in-the-anime with Strike Witches.

And this is just an informal poll, but other than casual twitter searches seems to suggest this. I can make some guesses but I want to know that the observation at least has some merit among my social circles.

More importantly I want to know, perhaps, why not Girls und Panzer. Same director, same conceit, but no name drop? Or maybe I’m just not seeing it? Did Strike Witches blow up the mechamusume genre so much that it’s including the whole military girls conceit as well? Is there something more simple?

Producers Gonna Produce

Some quick observation from Dereani or Anidere or Deremas Anime or CG anime or whatever the hell we’re calling it.

Fuurin and Shiburin

1. The producer is the ultimate head trick given in the adaptation space for these games. If we think of the evolution of harem works since the 80s and 90s and up to today, terms like “self-insert” or “potato-kun” might be the image you are thinking about. However at the same time in works where the focus is on the “girls” or as far as features go, that’s why anyone bothers with such works, you can think of the protagonist male-dude as a shadow or a negative space. That’s where a creative adaptation can really flex its muscles. In recent years these kinds of “harem-esqe” (as while most of these are harem, some aren’t) works started to actually paint in stronger protagonists, especially coming from a light novel heritage/line, because an interesting protagonist is a major draw for any reader, player or viewer; let alone how such a character can give one work some distinguishing merits over its competition in the crowded marketplace.

In Animas, the producer was a literal camera trick in the style of Ocean Waves in episode 1. The producer revealed wasn’t just an introduction to who he is to the idols, but it revealed how Animas was going to approach the adaptation. In that sense the same happened in Deremas Anime. What’s probably key here is that in the first episode we focused on actually three characters’ development: Rin, Uzuki, and Producer. In Animas, only one character got a lot of development: Producer. (Okay, and maybe Haruka.)

In a nutshell, the games are LOL-meta in how it reflects this tendency in the importance of the player in IM@S (games) as it does in the anime. And it seems Deremas Anime is going full throttle in painting in that negative space, versus a more mild treatment we got in the 765Pro P.

2. The net effect of this is that for some parts of the Deremas Anime episode 1 experience, I am reminded of Puchim@s. That is another take on the IM@S concept, after all. In that anime P actually got arrested. It’s also a good example of how important the P character is in IM@S in general, as well as in the adaptations. It’s the rudder to the ship, in a manner of speaking. Which is just saying what I just said.

3. From this point, it only makes sense, given the 346Pro concept, that there will be multiple Producers in Deremas Anime.

  • It wouldn’t be realistic if one huge agency has only one producer, nor is it realistic to expect one producer to manage the countless number of CG idols.
  • Inter-producer dynamics would blow my head off, and I think they’re gunning for this. Ritsuko’s role change in 2nd Vision paved the way for this anyway. It’ll be natural to see it extended in Deremas Anime, which is a social game with multiple players together as a core conceit, and it’s a game where players typically produce a small-small subset of all possible idols.
  • Going with that, it would make sense our Kuzuki-sensei-like P is a newbie along with the other New Generation idols, learning the ropes together.

4. The first episode of any new anime is important, but in IM@S’s case, it’s super-duper important. I’m glad it turned out well.

5. it’s A-1 at their A-game. Details will come later but that is some Kyoto Animation level storyboards LOL. There were not only the signature frame cropping and liberal use of “large aperture” shots, but a fairly cinematic approach to the storyboarding with lots of quick cuts.

6. It’s a lot of idols I recognize and a lot I do not recognize. I can facially ID maybe 80% of them but I only know maybe 30% of their names. I’ve been playing CG for only a couple months after all. I mean, you have to be a hardcore CG P to get everyone, and that’s not exactly the same thing as an IM@S P in general.

7. Yes, Nation Blue, the eventer in me picked it up immediately, and since I was trawling twitter anyway it was nice to see this tweet right around that time.

I’m tempted to go through the episode blow-by-blow but that’s kind of time consuming. More fun if you do it yourself.

Year In Review: Lonely in a Sea of a Million Stars

If all I’m going to talk about THE IDOLM@STER this December, there are just two takeaways I want you to get even if you care nothing about them:

1. The mustard seed parable

2. The future, or how I started playing the mobile games.

I already explained the mustard seed thing. So.

Tokugawa Matsuri (Prologue Rouge)

Part of the otaku identity is a sense of self-inflicted loneliness. A lot of people–geek culture stuff–talk about it. This is particularly an amusing thing when I was reading on the GG/game culture stuff and how people found solace and identity through video games. At its extremes, that sort of identity politics can seem cultish, perhaps, but that is nowhere close to idol otaku who’s fell in the deep end, that I can see almost first hand.

But what I have to describe is not like this at all. It’s more like, because I started on the path of THE IDOLM@STER: MILLION LIVE, I begin to walk away from established IM@S fandom, at least in a way. It’s really ironic in a way because back in 2005 or whenever First Vision era started, that’s how people feel about Producers. Before it was cool thanks to Nicom@sPs, Producers meant you sat in dinky, smoky arcades and poured money while sitting down in front of a touch screen. I mean, like, how is that different than those of us who were grinding away at a Stamina Event in ML and had nobody to talk to, because nobody (who speaks English) plays ML? And yet for the past 3 years looking for Ps was what I wanted to do deeply. It was weird, familiar, and almost Ouroboros-ish.

Part of the problem is that the English-language IM@S community…is inadequate to say the least, if not outright a textbook example of the problems with online gamer communities. I mean, much of it is just 4chan, and I just didn’t have the time for that. It’s time I can spent playing the various games. ML was kind of an after thought because oversea scenster kids online are all chasing CG, if they were chasing IM@S at all (well, they all got shipdaughters now).

At any rate, let’s fast forward to today, where at least Derem@s Ps are getting a reprieve from loneliness through the growing player base for the mobage oversea, as well as from the upcoming TV anime. The Milim@s Ps are still a group missing in action in English. Newly engineered away from the tobacco smoke of the dying arcades, forged in the foundries of SNS and the 2.5D media mix school, Million Live is a wholly unique creature even by Japanese standards. But I fear the fandom for IM@S overseas is not ready for this pivot. I’m not even sure if they are ready for Derem@s, the poster child of gambling-like gasha schemes with an impossible-to-collect-them-all roster. After all, these games are no longer games of yore, where things like gameplay and concept can be understood without the meta, without the bizdev concept, where Da-Vo-Vi meant something other than gameplay concepts. There is no incentive for people to take the (possibly expensive) dive into a game where the rewards is just the same as any other gamer group identity–you are a P. Produce an idol (or three or however many). Except the rest of that support infrastructure–starting with the IM@S movie to the player base to the LTP and LTH to the numerous events to the region-locked radio show–is not available for oversea Ps. It is fully turned towards the Japanese 2.5D otaku.

It’s not like you can take these girls and run with them in a doujinshi. There aren’t that many ML doujinshi even, and those who traffic in the categorically pornographic, unauthorized doujinshi scan scenes can attest. This past month was the first Milifest, which is a ML-specific doujinshi event. It was the first doujinshi event I actively wanted to attend, ever.

Where am I going with this? Basically it becomes impossible to be really alone unless you go out of your way to be. Over the course of this year, since I started ML, I met people who play and now we have a small group of people who play the game both casually or seriously, and everything in between. I even started CG. Perhaps I am fortunate. If I am someone who latches onto new trends, then this is the one I did for 2014. If the people planning the IM@S franchise wanted people to play the game because of Moviem@s, well, it worked, at least with me.

But it just means for every whine about how ML were shameless tie-in characters or are underdeveloped fillers that dragged out an otherwise already draggy movie, they have a point and I can only nod and agree to an extent. What posed itself as a negative for some is just an opportunity and eye-opener for me. I’m not going to defend the shameless money-gathering scheme they’ve set it up, because in exchange I had a blast in 2014, in a big part thanks to those profit-driven enterprises!

It’s was a spectacle.  That’s the thing I enjoyed the most about 2014 x IM@S, at least looking back. The spectacle. The advertisement in Japan. The seiyuu lives. The oversea news. The new games and anime. Meeting new people. It’s exciting and fun.

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