Monthly Archives: March 2008

Makoto Shinkai’s LOLCAT


It just dawned on me, believe it or not, but Makoto Shinkai’s 60-second tribute for NHK’s Ani*kuri really is a lolcats reference.

Icanhascheezeburger, the premiere site for lolcats pics, shows that generally lolcats fall into two categories of images. I think the picture I posted up there is a good example of what the two common lines are.

Probably more aptly, Neko no Shuukai is, like most lolcat pics, the same nod towards the two-faced nature of our feline masters. It’s either at your domicile being a cat looking for cheezburger, or in your base killing your mans with its gigawatt mekara BEEM! Or hiding your bodies or trying out some bad puns. Whatever.

I Can Fly

(First, a bit of admin: we’ve had some service interruption on Friday and it’s an ongoing issue, hopefully I’ll have time to resolve it this week.)

JAM PROJECT is coming to the United States of America.

Bring it on?

I don’t really care for 90s arena rock music, but the essence of their burning soul is undeniably attractive. I own a few of their CDs but rarely will these albums make the trip to the mp3 player/cd changer/etc simply because it’s not easy listening.

Otakon purposefully tries to reel in different sorts of performers every year because I think they value the diversity that’s within the kind of “visual culture” context that Otakon works within. JAM Project, personally, embodies the heart and soul of a particular subculture of this visual culture nonsense that has been long neglected. Are there any other band that embodies the concept “anime” + “music” in greater perfection? It’s a little ironic but understandably so, that cons will invite pop rock artists and jrockers to perform, because they are just straight-up performers with little agendas otherwise. JAM Project, on the other hand, is much more purposeful, even if they are also just performers not unlike any other at the core.

JAM Project historically is a “supergroup” of ???. ??? as in a lot of people will have some problems make sense of them. Ichiro Mizuki is the original leader of the team, who sort of retired (part-time member status?) not too long ago during a lull of the group’s activity. And interestingly enough, JAM Project’s membership includes an international individual who’s known for his works in Brazil, Ricardo Cruz. The other folks currently a part of JAM Project rocks out anime-style. So you have a few old guys, a few young(er) folks, and a guy from Brazil as an associate. And they rock out and jump around like nuts! Okay…

Still, and again, ultimately JAM Project is true to its namesake–it’s about Japanese Animation songs. If you don’t know the shows they sing for you wouldn’t know who they are. The careers of the men and women of JAM Project is the precise marriage of the two (well, and also tokusatsu). What does it mean as a musician when the works you produce are just half of an interactive relationship? Is it really surprising that hot-blooded arena rock becomes the primary means of expression for them? It’s both why they’re so powerful as performers but also eternally relegated to a very niche audience. They are not a group or performers that we can easily pigeonhole into some kind of categorically familiar thing. JAM Project is its own, unique thing.

Personally, what makes JAM Project interesting is its international perspective. Of course for oversea fans their perception will vary depending how much old school pop anime they’ve swallowed, or if they happened to be a Masami Okui fan or something, but this world tour folds well into the recent effort for the anime industry to export and explore their cultural “cool” globally. Will Americans be too “cool” to receive them? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, it’s time to get prepared:

1. SKILL karaoke. Simply because it’s pretty awesome the first and second time I’ve done it, I should do this again. For it to be possible, I have to recruit a few helpers to scream along with me. Post or email (click on my name at the bottom of this post) if interested ;).

2. Get in shape. I’m going to jump around a lot. Well, if KOTOKO threw a show at the 1st Mariner Arena that’d be a good way to practice…


A Case for Yumi Hoshino

I think one of the most important thing in Kimikiss is understanding why Kazuki and Kouichi are split in the anime adaptation.

Yumi Hoshino

But before we get to that, I want to talk about Yumi Hoshino in Kimikiss.

She was the pivotal character in Kouichi plot thread. If looking at Mao, Kouichi and Kazuki as co-leads, then Kai would mirror Yumi, and Asuka Sakino as well.

In that end, is it really selfless that Kai let Yumi do the things she does? One would say probably not, since Mao made it pretty clear what he is getting into (and out of). Still, Kai somewhat surprised her with his own version of kindness. He does have a stake in the relationship–his genuine affection for her.

One could say the same thing for Yumi. But why would people call Yumi selfless or saint-like? Considering her circumstances, if Yumi’s affection for Kouichi was genuine, she would learn to move on and let the two love birds flock to their preordained destiny. Love is not war, after all. Kouichi, nor the type of relationship she has with Kouichi, is not a thing to possess. Yumi recognizes that the relationship between them is not based on selfish gains–it’s a relationship with mutual gains that recognizes mutual interests that may be selfish and selfless at the same time.

In fact, this theme of giving up for the one you lovelike is really the jist of Kimikiss. Just don’t ask me what it actually tries to say about giving up…

You can make a table, fer crying out loud:

  • Mao: Giving up Kouichi (which didn’t work, especially since Kouichi didn’t let her) because of Yumi and Kouichi’s present feelings for Yumi, and later on giving up on Kai because she knows she can’t keep him dangling.
  • Yumi: Giving up on Kouichi, as in the ending, because she knew it wouldn’t work otherwise.
  • Asuka: Giving up on Kazuki, going so far as to help him with Eriko, because she came to see how Kazuki sees Eriko.
  • Eriko: Giving up on Kazuki, because she repeatedly hurts him and she is afraid of what might happen.
  • Kai: Giving up on Mao because he knows she doesn’t return and can’t return his affection; rather supports her.

But what’s interesting is that people, in general, don’t see giving up in Kimikiss as equally selfless. It is probably a reasonable observation because love is both a selfish and selfless act.

The Good Book has it right: you can’t truly love others until you have learned how to love yourself. In their growing affection Kazuki and Kouichi both find their way, in romance and otherwise–one kicked butt in sports and the other wrote a successful film script. It’s through this interactive exercise where puppy love becomes a healthy exchange of transparent souls, rather than an destructive war between egos and insecure self-worths. People are affirmed not because of the labels of their relationships but by the affections of others. And Yumi recognized what she was a part of was something much more precious than her wavering boyfriend.

So I don’t think Yumi was selfless. She definitely had class, in spades, but at the same time she was just not your stereotypical maiden in love. Her emotions are in check and she made a good choice both for her and for him. She was no saint, either, and that’s the part I want to drive home. I believe no matter how the show spotlight each girl and boy, they are all doing the best they can because they all truly care for the object of their respective affections.

And it is that sense of care that elevates Kimikiss beyond a mere tango with romance and into a tale about growing up. How we are the same and how we are different.

Kind of like Honey and Clover.

So, why the split for Kazuki and Kouichi? I think you can get what I was going to say.

The Real Pillows

So instead of Anime Boston I spent most of my Friday and Saturday in NYC doing anime-related things, and eating at Mitsuwa across the river.

I heard there was a line there or something at AB? Hope I didn’t miss much.

Ikuno, Ayumi, Yoko (L to R)

I caught the Pillows and Noodles on the NY leg of their “Delicious Bump Tour in USA 08”. It was Friday night. The day after, the Pillows would have headed north to AB and Noodles to their Brooklyn show. The venue was few blocks north of Union Square, at Blender Theater at Gramercy. Unlike their last hole-in-the-wall show in 2006, this venue was much nicer complete with a sloping pit and stadium seats in the back. The place had a pretty cramped downstair-lounge area though.

I want to talk about the Noodles a bit. They’re a band made of 3 Japanese girls. Between I last saw them in ’06 I’ve finally gotten to watch Linda Linda Linda, and the way Ikuno (bassist) goes at her base on Friday night totally reminded me that movie… I think the consensus was that Ayumi (drummer) was the cutest and had the best English to boot, if you are curious. But it doesn’t stop there; it’s pretty interesting to see the same band 2 years later and observe what has changed. I think overall their playing style has gotten better, but at the same time their song selection was slightly grungier for some reason. Not a bad thing, but it’s not exactly what I expected.

And was it just me or Ikuno seemed feeling a bit under the weather?

Jun, Drummer?, Sawao, Yoshi

The Pillows, on the other hand, brought their veteran showsmanship to their show. They are fun, energetic and generally very solid at jumping around while hitting those lol riffs. The two guitarists know what they’re doing. Yoshi was very cool. Shin the drummer was sort of lol-looking.

I guess if there’s anything to say about their live, it was a little too much pandering. Compared to their last US tour, they played a lot more of their FLCL songs. That’s what most people know, and they got into it. Their newer stuff was notably less well-received even if they are just as good. It’s a little sad.

But it’s always great to hear them play their older songs as they totally change stuff around. I was particularly impressed with Little Busters and (again) Hybrid Rainbow. They are not exactly rocking songs but they managed to turn out that way. They’ve also changed a few small things to some of the other songs and generally the band had a nice grip on the mood and flow of their set.

I really wish they’d play some of the songs they did last time. It just seemed…more fun.

But then again I busted out laughing when they encored with Advice. So it works either way.

Disposable Entertainment: The Cake Is a Lie…Like a Fat Kid Loves Cake

Sadly this blog post has little to do with Portal or 50 Cents, should you be looking forward to a discourse of either in light of a nude crane kick. Seriously, I can’t believe I was inspired enough to go through with what I wrote a few days ago. Sorry.

But this post isn’t about True Tears either, although it has something to do with that. Just to share, I have been reading a few (well, it’s counted up to 7 or so now since about a couple months ago) English-language light novels that inspired anime adaptations. You know, Scrapped Princess, Full Metal Panic, Twelve Kingdoms, etc. I might also try to dabble in reverse, and get a hold of the Makoto Shinkai books.

This is important because I’ve never really read anything like that in my life. What is “that”? “Disposable light novels.” I’ve read stories and shorts serialized in magazines and such before, but they never occurred to me as disposable in the same way as some of these works. Full Metal Panic feels as worthless as the manga; not that it wasn’t any good–it’s actually not bad–but it has no keep value. If you were asking your friend if a certain film is worth seeing in theaters, the analog answer to that would be “it’s a rental.” It’s a bit like some of the science fiction novels I read but promptly forgot when I was younger, except the dosage was on the level of a 20-minute TV show instead of a 120-minute feature film that most “proper” books were.

I think I’ve talked about this before in the context of the ills of the anime industry as seen in the past few years. The problem is, in a nutshell, that the direct-to-home-video model of anime distribution in the US necessarily require us to tag these anime the same way as any other videos worthy of keeping a copy at home. It’s partly why companies tried to air anime, and it’s party why Netflix and Blockbuster is good for American anime fans. It’s why cheap, online distribution may curb some of the ills.

It’s not a bad presumption as the home video market post 1999 was a growing way media companies made money. For the first time ever, American TV shows made more money on DVD sales than from the initial profits made for the broadcast arrangement. (But what now? Where will the bicycle go now that it is peddling up a steep hill? Ah heck, bad question to ask when it’s not the point of my post.) But stuff sold because they were mainstream stuff, and enough people cared about it; spending $20 on a season of 24 was easier than to timeshift them yourself for reviewing. People bought anime because they were good and people were curious. There was a fad factor but also a various set of external influences made buying anime harder later on, with retail and economic conditions changing.

What is the point of this train of thought is that in light of timeless literary classics I tend to read, I make a mental distinction between things that isn’t worth remembering 5 years down the road and things that are worth remembering. A lot of anime, manga, and similar media falls into the former category.

But maybe the question we should ask is, rather: why are some nonsense stuff selling and others aren’t?

Maybe it’s all just a lie? Some are better lies than others?

Maybe what I’m trying to say is that what anime promises us is not really what we think it does. Maybe it’s not even a lie; it’s not deception. But at the same time we may flock to new shows, good or bad, like a fat kid flocks to a cake store. But the cake is something to be seen, or to be eaten; not both.

In other words, it’s not that the problem with the anime industry that we’re indulged with a ton of “non-A” ranked shows, licensed or not, but we are not consuming it the same way it is ought to be consumed. Light novels are fluff reads for kids on the bus or on the train going to school. It’s not what will adorn your antique book collection. It’s fine to make some B-rated show your Friday night pasttime with friends, but to sell it much beyond that is deception of some sort. Maybe you’re fooling yourself?

Perhaps that’s true with many of my own favorites. The test of time will tell if the cake is a lie. Or maybe we’ll get a revelation and go on a diet. Meanwhile I’ll enjoy my fake cake as they are.