Monthly Archives: May 2006

Killing them softly with his sweet opinion♪

Adjudicator Ciel

This past Monday, the landmark patent law case, eBay v. MercExchange, was decided by the US Supreme Court. You can find the complete slip opinion here. Many other patent law blogs summarized the issue to its extremities and fine grain details, but you can look at it as one of the key battles between so-called patent trolls and big tech corporations in summary.

Surprisingly the Supreme Court came out with a fairly centrist opinion but ruled in favor of eBay (kind of) to vacate the appeals court decision. One of the axioms of the US Supreme Court in the mess that is patent law today was that each Supreme Court opinion messes with the overall structure, harming rather than helping patent litigators, prosecutors, investors and inventors. Why is that? It’s hard to say in short but it might have to do with making laws in the vacuum.

Thankfully this opinion isn’t likely to alter the landscape of law too much. While weakening what injunctions are for patent infringers today, the opinion seemed more corrective than authoritative. The normal elements of injunctive relief is still fully available as they were for decades, and at the discretion of the trial court. The two concurring opinions were very informative and Chief Justice Robert’s opinion re-nailed the opinion of the court:

“The decision whether to grant or deny injunctive relief rests within the equitable discretion of the district courts, and that such discretion must be exercised consistent with traditional principles of equity, in patent disputes no less than in other cases governed by such standards.”

The standards, on that note, are:

“(1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction. “

The surprise is just how the Supreme Court justices couched their positions. It seemed that this is one thing that the various justices tend to agree with, given its unanimous decision with two heavily-joined concurrences. Probably slightly less than exciting, overall, was this case given the hype it had. And all is good.

Mimei Sakamoto’s Waiwai Rant

I apologize; originally I had ready a different rant (but metaphysically related) about memetics, but this seems to be the hot news that came since last Friday. Or rather, by this Friday it won’t be so hot, so I gave it priority. Sorry to those who might wanted to read it because I told you about it earlier. Look at the funky-expressive Alicia-san and forgive my funky-blog.

The only thing gushing on here is the waters of Aqua...

The original news article is here.

I feel the need to expound on what many others have said, even if what Sakamoto is doing here is nothing really new. I wonder if she has any children of her own; it is something you want to drill into your kids’ psyche as Asian parents: take life seriously and don’t do the escapist thing.

Well, much good it did me. Anyways, the controversy itself warrants some discussion. The antagonistic patriot that champions personal freedom says that a healthy dose of trolling really brings the issue and its discussion to the fore. This is just that.

But even before we couch Sakamoto’s rant (or better put as HD would have it, Waiwai’s slanted sensational journalism, by the way, a well-constructed nitpicking if you care for a read) in the right light, I think no matter what your opinion is regarding the controversy, the fact you have one means it is warrant enough of the value yellow journalism (which is not quite where Mainichi is, yet) to society.

My view of the situation is that Japan is transforming socially. Ever since the 80s we have had waves of young people expressing themselves as youths would. Sakamoto’s perspective, on that note, is not only critical not of otaku, but of the otaku movement, and specifically the Japanese otaku movement. I get the feeling a lot of the criticism in the English language misses these two points.I also have to confess that I’m not at all familiar with the Japanese otaku first hand. Well, I do know one personally and while his English is not conversant, we do communicate over the internet with some frequency. He’s not a hikikomori, nor does he exhibit a lot of the serious otaku problems you see on TV or on specials or exaggerated in terms of out-of-place images (like a bunch of them with their hugpillows, for instance). What makes him representative to me is his attitude and his flavor in the media that he consumes: self-interested, puts society first, and distinctively pedophilic.

All people are self-interested to some degree. You can make exceptions but they are just that–exceptions. What does that mean in terms of a Japanese-otaku sense? That means they are not going to watch a show they don’t enjoy. They are going to be bothered by people they can’t stand (Genshiken has some great examples of this) or by certain kinds of behavior. They’re generally edgily passive-aggressive (as with the stereotypical Japanese). Empathy is only existent on a social level (as in, following norms) and even then it’s frequently used in a self-serving way.

And like many Japanese people, they treasure who they are in society. Kogals are kogals because they like that inclusiveness–kind of like how gangs work in the US. To that end we have J-rockers, gothlolis, people who are going to Toudai, etc. The otaku label is just yet another one of these things people wear. The only real difference is that today, with things like Densha Otoko, it is no longer wore as a badge of shame and disgrace (like being an ex-hikikomori). Otaku generally are shy, somewhat introverted, uneasy with girls, what have you–that’s just a commonality that separates jocks from nerds, if you want to use some different labels. That is not to say there are no shy jocks or aggressive nerds, but there is some kind of commonality that is shared within each of the labels in terms of personality that not only reinforces these behaviors, but badges them.

To that end, otaku do things otaku does, often because that’s what they are and what they do. They might line up for that new hot video game coming out the night before, for one. Or spend a lot of money so Hare Hare Yukai gets bumped up on the Oricon rankings. You know how it goes. The reality of it is also that they do things Japanese people do with a label–ride that group with pride; they don’t criticize themselves (even if there’s something obviously wrong), and generally don’t leverage that organization to their advantage. Politics? No way–that’s reserved for scums and untrustworthy people wanting to manipulate the public.

The bit of analysis that HD really left out that Sakamoto addressed (a little) in the article touches on this: because marketing and businesses of selling franchises are also of scums, untrustworthy, and they’re all about manipulating the public (at least, no more so than politicians). In this case, the otaku generation. Why do people spend their money on loliporn? There is a HUUUUGE industry for this crap, we all know. It’s not to say otaku are pedophiles, but there sure are a lot of pedophiles in the mix. Things like Negima is rather more ephebilophilc rather than pedophilic, but why do people spend money on this crap? Because that’s the “otaku” thing to do? I just don’t see any redeeming value in that. Ok, sure, it can be entertaining, and I am surely as guilty as any of them in spending money on guilty pleasures…but is that it? Is the economic power of the otaku (IMO their greatest asset) at the whims of dirty pleasures? Certainly a trip at the stores in Akihabara’s media stores will impress you in that exact way. What happened to the good, solid stuff that we westerners recommend to everyone to watch and read as anime and manga? Is that just assigned only to the mainstream?

Because if that IS it, then I’m 100% behind Mimei Sakamoto. It doesn’t matter at all about moe or syntax. It matters that this is a group of people who share beliefs that are just unfit and unhealthy. It is a real social problem, and while it may be brought to our attention because it trolls blanket statements like moe is pedophilic and otakus are lock-in scums, but just how close is that to the truth?

Schedule of Choice

Magipokan Illusion

Crazy wine people make wine tasting an experience in of itself. Enjoyment of wine can be casual and serious; you can bust open an affordable Californian variety to entertain, or something a little dearer like Chateau Margaux to share with someone intimate. Or as I know it, as a fund raiser.

The same can be done with TV watching. Indiscriminate use tend leads to brain haze and hours wasted (like alcohol!), but if you are watching for something very specific the TV potentially can be equally rewarding.

In constructing the framework I concede that anime on TV is just like anything else on TV. That’s not where I stand on the issue–films shown on TV isn’t the same as films shown in theatres, but for the sake of this mental exercise let’s just presume you consume anime like a typical North American–Adult Swim and other TV outlets, DVDs; and while we do watch them occationally through a club, a con, a movie screening, on the computer or iPod, it’s not in the scope of this exercise.

So with that out of the way, common sense dictates that you should spend good time to watch stuff you want to enjoy. If you’re going down memory lane and popping some classic show you own on DVD into the player, you can probably afford to do it wherever and whenever, because it is not likely to change the way you view the show and the show isn’t likely to affect you. On the other hand you’re check out some edgy new show you heard about being odd or visually weird, it’s important to keep a clear mind and be able to pay attention to the thing. Don’t do it while you’re half-falling asleep; or busy doing something else (unless it’s as important to you as that). The important thing is to understand like everything else you do, how you perceive depends on how much attention you give it; how much effort you are putting into perceiving and thinking about it; and having as little getting in your way as you can.

That much is common sense–it’s just a matter of thinking about it and realizing it and caring enough to do something about it. I think most of us watch TV the way we do because that’s how we treat it. But does that befit an otaku? Regardless of how much of a geek you are when it comes to anime, however, there are some much more subtle things you can think about too.

The expected audience. Believe it or not, not all anime are made by the same people, for the same people. Duh. Despite that (and get this), some shows can be very similar in terms of content yet are meant for very different people. There are genuine magical girls shows, and there are magical girls shows made for drooling pedophiles, for instance. There are angst-filled robot shows for teens, and there are angst-filled robot shows for adults. Get this right. It’s not to say just because you are category B and the show is for A, you won’t enjoy it–plenty of drooling pedophiles likes Card Captor Sakura and Wedding Peach. But those who like Nanoha A’s for its silent angst and 80s stylistic comments is going to find most other Magical Girl offerings quite the bore. This is rather elementary, and it ties in nicely with the next point.

It helps to know the broadcast schedule. More importantly, is this a prime-time TV affair or a midnight otaku-only sell? Take Eureka 7 for example, it’s got a primetime weekday slot. This kind of stuff you can show to just about everyone. By the same token Emma, the British Romance, by all means a much tamer existance, is a late-night show. What does that mean? Sometimes it can help you distinguish between “for fans” versus “for everyone” in the case of Card Captor Sakura, for example, but other times it gives you other clues about what kind of an expectation you should probably have. Now I unfairly used Emma as an example because it is rather the counter-example to this rule as it is made with a serious, and non-otaku appeal in hope that it can reach that market segment. On the other hand, this kind of thing is exactly the tip-off you can get by looking at the time slot. The most useful application of this rule applies in weeding out children’s programming. After all, large amount of TV anime in Japan is still kids programming in the most typical sense–think Dora the Explorer and their ilks. YMMV, anyways.

Prime your mind. When you’re sad, watch something either really sad or that will uplift you. If you’re low on attention and high on spazz, watch something spazzy and require little attention. Here’s a corollary, too: if you want to watch something slow, tire yourself out first by watching something else if you don’t feel like you’re in sync with that kind of pace. Sometimes by watching the OP instead of skipping it, that could also do the trick. Listening to the right kind of music beforehand also works, and I do this.

Mood is important when watching with friends. Some things are just funnier to watch as a group, but other things are easier to get engrossed with when you watch alone. Some things can come out differently depending on who you watch it with. Experienced and well-connected people can watch the same thing two different ways just with who they watch it with. High level technique! An easier application is when you want to show something to your friends. Be a little sensitive not only to their tastes, but also to their moods. This should be a no-brainer, but it helps if you ask.

And so is ambience. Keep things bright! I don’t get why North Americans dim things when they watch tube TV. I guess glare can be a problem but more often than not it makes you more tired while watching TV. Selecting the right show at the right event–party, background noise, whatever–takes just a little thought but can make a big difference.

Pacing is very important. Anime as a TV form are often aired weekly as 22-minute segments of actual material. Marathoning is rarely the designed mode to consume anime, as a result. If available, chart out good chunks of the show to watch, in pieces, if you know how the show will pace itself out. If doing an episode at a time is too slow, or you’ve hit a stretch in a long TV series where it’s just too slow/too exciting, use your flexibility as a home video owner to pace that so you can get through it faster or with more enjoyment. One thing to consider is to actually force yourself to watch climaxes that spans over episodes in pieces and not all at once. Sometimes it helps you enjoy the show more if you take a break and let your brain work over the material. It will help you understand the material and give you more insight to what’s going on. If it’s a really good show it will even challenge your imagination. I personally found that when you marathon a show you tend to not enjoy it as much because you don’t have the time to grow to like it. Of course that also depends just as heavily on what the show is doing, so I don’t know how much that is a real effect. Certainly, though, watching slower shows in small doses works much better.

Try to listen to it, too. Anime are often consumed with subtitles, but the music can make or break a show. Don’t skip out on it unless you’re sure you can live without it. On the other hand for ou dub watchers, voice acting can make and break a show too. Pay it attention, and experiment with the different dubs you can find on a DVD. In my own experience the dub track make pretty lame background noise if you’re the kind of person who always leave the TV on; but then again those kinds of people don’t nitpick like what I’m doing now.

There are a lot of other tricks you can use to suit yourself and maximize your enjoyment when you watch something. Most of these principles applies generally and doesn’t limit itself to TV watching nor anime watching. Of course, they’re all just things to think about and may not apply in specific instances. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk; friends don’t let friends waste time watching anime you recommended to them and end up “not getting it” either.

Ai wa Bubble Bubble Trouble

Magipokan Surprise!

Love is trouble
Love is trouble
Priced like truffle
We are baffled
Makes me babble

Love is a bubble
A growing puzzle
Poetry, a riddle
or bloggable hassle
Almost predictable

Love is trouble
A harem debacle
Male leads fumble
the romance polygonal.
Totally serviceable

Love is bubble
Just like a bubble
Pops like a bubble
Realizations subtle
We all roffle (anyways)

Love is trouble
A big trouble
Vampires cackle
A Hamster troubled?

Love is bubble
All adorable
Loli? Certifiable!

Love is trouble
Love in a bubble
Expectation shatterable
Anime cliché-able
Call the blog constable!

Love is a bubble
Full of trouble
Ideals Romancible
All in a fable

Because, after all…

Love a riddle
A poetic riddle
Cryptic trouble
Magipokan babble
Totally blog-able

Love is Trouble
And Parodi-able
Like Love a Riddle
An aural miracle

The Harem Fallout

I tried so hard, and got so far. But in the end, it didn’t really matter.

Honey & Clover Movie Cast

We all long for a harem. Men, women, children. The young and the old. We form societies in which the purpose is to allow for harems. Religions that purport the inner desires justified by divine social order. Philosophical restructure of social order that recognizes the good things harem can bring to humanity.

The reality is today, harems have fallen out. It is the subject of mockery and hatred. Something innocent and tender, that young children dream of, has become excuse for sexual abuse, emotional harm, and physical trauma. The spirit of harem broken on the rock of commoditizing people’s fantasy and in term twisted into cheap print matter and late-night animation. Yet in disillusionment, people are still slaves to their dreams and fantasies. People pay to see harems. To experience harems. To relive them vicariously from one franchise to another. The weather is nice, the girls/boys are fine, it’s just as you like it. They pay for their fantasies. The commoditization continues–a vicious cycle.

Has the harem changed so far from what it used to be, as some elusive ideal to some concrete representation on ink or on the tube? Maybe. Invariably differences and space to innovate and differentiate occurs. The protagonist-focused narrative, for example, is a key distinction in our selection of harem-like traits–but is it even necessary? Isn’t that just a by-product of limitations in storytelling? A real harem may be seen as several girls on one guy, or several guys on one girl, but it doesn’t have to be. The harem itself is an organization where everyone plays a role. You just can’t have a harem with the same kind of people; diversity is important, for example. And just like solar systems, you can have harems with a bunch of girls over two guys, for example. Perhaps another key distinction we forget about harem as a result of the limitation on narrative is exactly, the alternate perspective. A romantic harem is still a romance story with more than one party doing their thing. While it is important to tell a story involving empathy of the protagonist to another–we all need to do this in real life–the story is a lot more complex than that. Very few harem anime goes beyond merely telling the story from the characters’ perspectives, for instance.

What is a harem is a question that will have different answers depending on who you ask, and in the end I don’t believe it’s important to answer that question. It’s probably more important to understand what makes a harem attractive and how to make use of those elements. It’s easy to see the sensual/pornographic element of a harem and it’s no surprise many anime capitalize on that aspect. But there is a lot more than that. The relationship is easily the second tier, but even then a relational web alone isn’t enough….or is it? Character driven versus story driven? Or both? How about external factors? Tension? Acting? Dialogue and mood? Not only I don’t know if they matter as elements that makes a harem desirable, I don’t know if they are a part of a harem fantasy or just something else extra.

In some ways I am thankful of the harem concept because it put a name and face to something rather elusive. It has always been there as well as the despised pandering that goes on. Maybe it can all be solved simply by stopping just that.