Monthly Archives: January 2008

True Sweets

I have a thing for imagawayaki. Part of it was because of my youth, as the local Chinese population then adopted this casual eats from their ex-occupier in Taiwan which, like the nuts vendors at the street corners of Manhattan, promoted its own sales by smell… Sadly, it seems only when you’re walking around town will roasted chestnuts smell anywhere nearly that good.

Thanks to Kanon, everyone and their mom knows what the frell a taiyaki is. But just like how the nikuman is really a spin off of northern style bao zi (and we really need some anime to showcase my favorite Chinese export to northeast Asian cusine, zhajiangmian), the taiyaki is really an ornate relative of the imagawayaki. I think the Japanese variety of imagawayaki tend to be more cakey, with more filling and a generally larger construction than the shell-thin Taiwanese variety, but it’s still a step down from the whale that is an average taiyaki. Well, YMMV of course. These kinds of traditional snacks come in all kind of variety, if one can dare to generalize.

I don’t really know much about taiyaki for that matter. The real truth is that, from a frugal parent’s perspective, it’s a wasteful gimmick to lure kids. Woo it’s a cute fish! Ugh. It’s this unshapely mess that will get those filling all over your hands. It makes your kids whine if you’ve not had the chance to show them how it’s suppose to work. Down with silly shape gimmicks! Down with Macbook Air?

I jest. But it makes you wonder about the imagawayaki. All in all, it’s an unremarkable snack. To western sensibilities, flour-based snacks are quite common, so rice-based ones tend to draw more attention (like mochi and daifuku). I don’t blame them–those do taste hella good. However the imagawayaki is like, the ghetto choice of the everyday man’s confectionery. Not everyone’s snubby enough to enjoy their tea and wagashi all the time? I guess if you can turn into a butterfly and cackle like the best of them, maybe.

That said, in the US we have Waffle Houses and IHOPs, so maybe that niche is taken cared of. I’ve yet to see a pancake place that’d let you have red bean paste… but that’d be dorayaki? Isn’t that the granddaddy of all anime foods?

True Tears is definitely not. While it is an intriguing exhibition of strange people and the not-so-strange, the quirky interaction so far is definitely catching my attention. Plus a chance to relive the taste of imagawayaki!

Election Year

If Saimoe is like the US Presidential campaign (it sort of is, and it even ends around November!) then we’re sort of doing something like the Primary here. Except for another country. And it is irrelevant for the most part, with each other. Plus, we’re about March Madness.

It’s sort of off topic, but I just want to share a few insights about moe elections and, well, this kind of fan activity in general.

1. Purpose.

One thing I really like about Saimoe is how it is impeccable in terms of getting a large group of people on the same page and voting for what they want. I guess that’s the Japanese for you. However it’s a terribly poorly designed contest even compared to its Korean counterpart. But that’s really only half the story. The purpose of Saimoe is somewhat tangential to the purpose of Korean Saimoe in that the latter is really just a popular vote-off. The former is almost a community building event as there is a standardized platform (2ch) where the fan community on the whole recognize as “official.”

When planning something like a moe election, you need a clear goal as to what you want to accomplish, and design around that goal. I like fun, fresh madness. I don’t care so much who wins. I do care about heated competition and excitement and entertainment generally. YMMV, I guess. I think it’s good to have a selection of stuff like this, Touhou Saimoe, SaiGAR, whatever.

2. Design

This is something that’s a little harder and require people who think it through, with experience. But it’s not hard–just get a good feeling as to who are your participants and take their interests into account. Usually after doing it a few times, you get pretty good with it.

3. Promotion

Don’t even bother. Just pick a group of people you want to do this thing with, and do a darn good job. People who enjoy it will just get others to join you. Maybe you want to throw the good word to the people around you just so they know it’s happening, but that’s really all you need.

4. Rules

It’s good to have well-communicated, clear rules. It doesn’t have to be fair, even, but it can’t appear to be partial. In fact even with sucky rules, if people playing the election game think it’s fun, they’ll do it anyways. And usually when their favorites are at stake, there’s plenty of motivation already. Don’t be afraid to take people’s suggestions freely, and freely reject them too. As long as you think it through before committing.

It’s a different bag when it comes to moderating the actual polls. It’s good to be familiar with what technology can offer you, and find people who can work with you. It’s great if people know what’s going on, that there’s transparency in the process. People like fair contests, and they’ll enforce things themselves if it’s made possible that way.

5. Incentive

It’s good to have incentives beyond the mere exercise of the contest. It’s optional for the most part, but sometimes it just makes life a little more fulfilling, even if what you get at the end is a bunch of fanart doodles you don’t like. The way I see it, if people are going through the motions and effort to make it happen, you might as well ride it as much as you can. For the little contest we’re running, we have some used goods. YMMV.

Fur in the Ointment

One Is Preferred than the Other

I too thought Wolf Spice (Old Spice’s traditional brand name?), better known as Spice and Wolf, an anime adopted from another light novel series, was spot on.

The right vibe is there at least in the first episode. Someone told me that it makes him think Tony Taka. Must be all that nudity. But I sort of see where he’s coming from. There’s a sense of realism in the way how character art is chiseled out of ink that is most relevant in good anime porn which, coincidentally, was also part of what made Scrapped Princess good (as in, style, feel and suspension of belief rather than “woah can you believe her boobs?”). Honestly nether show really did a great job about character design at this point, when compared to their peer. Classics like Lodoss War OAV still put the typical TV sword & sorcery production to shame when it comes to design and stills. It’s not really a minus for Spice and Wolf, at any rate, but a very good thing.

Anyways, I suppose it’s much more palatable to put human-animal lead characters in a verbal narrative than a visual one, simply because those who reads it exercise their free will to visualize what they read …or not. Put it bluntly, the freedom to selectively ignore things is one of the growing strengths of the traditional print media. I can forget that Horo is practically a werewolf in appearance if I’m just reading a book about Horo, unless the author wants to mention that she has has a tail and wolf ears hanging out to dry every time the imaginary camera in my head (as directed by the book) points her way. In a TV show or movie, I don’t control the camera so I don’t control what I see. And even if I give the show the benefit of the doubt that they want to drive this point home in the pilot episode, it’s a great distraction to an otherwise perfectly fine episode of anime.

In my own experience I think most fantasy authors do make an effort to wow their audience with a hook; but most know enough about the pop knowledge level of their readers to not make a big deal about the setting unless you are doing something really neat. I can’t decide if all that nudity and fur is there to wow the audience, or just to provide exposition and set the tone and theme for the series. I only know that it bothers me a lot. Despite my furry-phobia, I think it’s just not the best take to tell a serious story. It’s not to say that strange fantasy things and nudity can’t make a good first impression (I think Sister of Wellbur is a good example of the right first impression you can make, contrary to my feeling of that show), but it has to be used with a lot of care that I’m not sure I’m seeing right now.

How serious is Spice and Wolf going to be, anyways? The whole”moeblob” thing with today’s anime has never been better treated, IMO, than how Sutepri introduces Suppi-kun. I hope they don’t just stick that aspect of “genre norm” into the characters and rend that feeling of “immersiveness,” the distinction that separates great fantasies from forgettable ones.

LOL Copyright

I just have to do this every once in a while.

This post is brought to you by killing time with William Patry‘s blog. Patry is better known as a leading copyright (and I guess also copyleft) guru working as Google’s chief copyright attorney, and he keeps a pretty fat blog. And as you may expect, I’m going for somewhat Longcat here too. TL;DR warning! And most of it won’t have much to do with anime, so feel free to skip towards the bottom.

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Hard Yuri Saves the Space?

So there was this anime called The Legend of Black Heaven (by the way the Japanese name of this show makes a great pun), which the schtick was some mid-ager, in his crisis, saves the future with rock and roll. Oji, the main character, reunites with his old band and rocked on (sort of). A very anime-like premise, I suppose.

That paints the perspective that I have with Blue Drop. It’s not that I watch and laugh at the silly antics of some newbie playwright, or the embarrassing coming-to-know-your-feelings drama that so commonly peppers the landscape of TV anime. Rather, the strange homosexual undercurrent of the show became an outlet for some of the more honest, heartfelt human feelings that was in the show. Sort of like when Tanaka strokes his 6-stringer like nobody’s business (and hey, it was also LOL fun).

But I kid as well. There is no hard yuri in Blue Drop: Tenshi-tachi no Gikyoku. Supposedly this anime is an original take based on a setting with two other manga series in the same time line as the anime, but about other characters doing other things. That’s really just the hook, the setting in which makes this show an anime rather than some strange Japanese TV drama that features an all-girl cast.

And some guy that looks like Yanni…

The science fiction part of the show is actually creative, but thoroughly an afterthought beyond the “genderbending alien invaders with better tech” premise. The anime makes little use of it, as it took place before the alien invasion. We began Blue Drop anime with a retrospective of an older woman on her way to somewhere for a meeting. Later, we find (at the very end of the series) out that she is a key supporting character, on her way to the alien mothership, even if we cannot recognize her at first. Nevermind that I just spoiled the show somewhat, but as the audience find the very first scene of the series a distant memory in the back of their heads, 12 episodes later, we can come to recognize the same woman as her teenage self in a happy yuri trio just moments before the “30 years later” overlay appears on the screen.

The funny thing is, to me, that whole retrospective thing is saying that there are some of these aliens who have enough ‘good’ in them that peace is possible. Throughout the series the mysterious Arume (or whatever they’re called) exhibited a wide variety of emotions and morally-driven acts (and apparently 90% of those emotions are various shades of embarrassment? I kid). Love, yes, both the platonic, heroic kind as well as the amorous and vengeful-jealous kinds.

It’s about looking back. Perhaps one through an extended penis analogy (/zing), the other as a couple holding hands, playing in the school pool, illustrating interconnectivity and reconciliation.

But also how no matter the sort of bitterness and difficulties we go through later in life, what happens during those pivotal moments in your youth will set you straight for good, or not. That’s probably not so funny.