Monthly Archives: April 2008

Soundtrack of Our Lives

I am hardly the first person to ever blog about this, but what would the soundtrack of your life be like?

Maybe I should be a little more specific; open-ended inquiries like that are good ice breaker questions for airy-headed groups of people. But as I was walking down the street one morning the song I was listening to just struck me as a good match to the feeling and the visuals I was seeing.

In my own limited experience, music works with the visuals to achieve an intended result, at least in directing a film. As people listen to more music more often and more frequently, we can achieve the same — by seeing and listening to certain things, and to achieve purposeful results.

Perhaps listening to a pumping soundtrack while driving enhances your enjoyment even if you are just doing your weekday commute. Or listening to a strong melody that can help me me march down the street quickly. Or a soothing song to relax during some private break time.

It also has to do with your own enjoyment of the music as well. But I found that people who listens to music all the time tend to also listens to a wider range of music; maybe because that’s just how it works.Much like the science fictional future of our fathers’ generation, there are a lot of little, yet important aspects of today that people did not foresee. Just how many people are carrying around a personal media player today? The soundtrack question lights up differently when one can potentially be listening from a collection of sounds from a wide variety of sources? It’s virtually limitless if you take into account MIDs.

It’s almost Shirow-ish to think that our perception of reality is augmented by little things like this, but it’s the reality we face today.

Recalling the original Macross series, we see the effect of culture as represented by music on a race of people. Macross Frontier is just a timely reminder of how things have (and have not) changed since. Some of us are still high on protoculture, but a new generation of kids growing up will be taking that and inventing new things to do, new ways to explore the world.

I Am a Bad Seiyuu Junkie

Confession: I watch anime, at times, purely for the voice actress.

It’s really sad. I almost wish I want my time back after some of these experiences.

I want to make a distinction, though. A lot of people like a certain voice–Norio Wakamoto is one popular example–because they like that voice and the way the actor does his or her thing. And that is great. There are some actors like that for me, too, and I would go out of my way to check out a show done by that person. What’s interesting is that a lot of people who don’t normally pay attention to voice acting still gets hooked by some of the more amusing performances, and that is remarkable. If I was Mr. Wakamoto I’d be surprised that all these non-Japanese speaking people like my works.

But what I’m confessing is worse. For example, as much as I’m all “notokawaiiyonoto” about it, I think Mamiko Noto’s boy voice really … isn’t all that. Perhaps the voice itself is exactly what the director wants out of that character, but it hurts to watch. Still, I’m going to watch Kanokon. And I respect the Ayako Factor. Or recall how Kawasumi did her Mahoromatic role with such vivid memory and superimpose that onto Kanokon.

Times like this I wish I was a green, mean pet alligator.

But being human, we are called to a higher level of existence. We should recognize how funny episode 3 of Kanokon was, not just because it lampoons, but because of how it lampoons and what it lampooned. Is this what people get out of radio shows? Or phone sex? WTB more Saito Chiwa lines. Or Mai Nakahara lines, if that’s more appropriate.

But all that is second to what some junkies get out of a fairly pedestrian comedy affair–by all means, don’t watch shows like this.

Why can’t these enjoyable voice actresses just work on shows that are worth watching? Nana Mizuki finally stars in a show that I can stand to watch, so I guess I should be glad for what I can get.

Maybe I should be content about Kanokon’s massive dose of fanservice, and watch Kanokon in silence. Sadly it just doesn’t work.


CLANNAD the Movie or Incremental Upgrades Leaves the Heart Wondering

I enjoyed the CLANNAD movie. But I realize it became a very narrowly tailored exercise in, well, dramatic reenactment of something that’s probably more powerful.

The problem with CLANNAD, and to some extent the Key anime adaptations we’ve seen so far, is that there is no way to traverse through all the key “checkpoints” without making a mess of the story. The story either loses some of the impact because of that, or the story just gets too convoluted for a straight-faced narrative.

In a more general sense, multi-pathing visual novels are like arcade racing games. Specifically, it’s those games that takes a couple tokens to play where you have to not only beat your AI opponents, but make various checkpoints to get more time. When you run out of time, even if you are ahead of the pack, you basically lose.

In this modular way to look at drama, where trying to hit every gut wrenching twist and turn becomes the purpose of an unstoppable, artfully sly narrative, we should see quite a few of those checkpoints in the duration of the story. But when as applied to visual novels, the difficulty arises when your checkpoints are not dotted across one race track, but in a city of one-way roads that necessarily limits you to only a subset of all possible checkpoints available in the game out of the total.

The approach in a theatrical adaptation is necessarily much more single minded. We want to go in and get it done in an hour-and-half. TV series can pursuit forks in the road, but movies lack the luxury of time to backtrack (so much).

And in exchange, the CLANNAD movie took us deeper and all the way through with Nagisa’s story. But at what cost? Was it worth it?

I think how you answer those questions will be the litmus test to determine what you enjoy the most out of an exercise in drama.

Perhaps more relevantly, with each iteration, each Key adaptation, both Toei and Kyoto Animation do a better job. At least that was my impression.

Huggles Boggled

Blogging and journalism are like salt water and freshwater; to some anyways. Today, they are mixed; you can see the afternoon newspaper dying in the streets and reborn online with the likes of industry, pro bloggers and journalists who release bits of news in a blog format.

But are they suppose to? I guess this guy probably doesn’t think so. What surprised me was my own reaction about he being surprised at ANN’s relatively new tack in regards to internet reporting.

Li Mei Asako Nishida

Undeniably true, however, is that ANN is getting more traffic the more they dabble in this so-called “huggle” readership. If you read the comments in that In Search Of post, one of the commenter mentioned this and, well, that’s what blogs are all about! At the same time, unlike other news blog sites that we might be familiar with, ANN is sort of in mid-transition between a more traditional news website to a news blog.

As one of the first major anime fandom company on the internet, I didn’t really pay ANN any mind because it utterly failed to serve my needs (mainly protonews and a source of industry hubbub which was primarily what AoDVD was for). At least, until their mighty encyclopedia started to gain momentum. As a factoid, the first anime entry in the database is Angel Links. That should give you a clue to its vintage.

[Coincidentally that was one of the first series that I’ve had the joy of watching the digital raws while the series was airing. (And the subsequent joy of dropping it.) Anyways.]

So, yes; if we took a look at what fan blogs are about this day and age, we’ll see how things break down:

  • Episode reviews, previews, retrospectives
  • News – Both straight-up news and entertaining news. Does Mainichi Daily News counts? But I was thinking more like, say, akibablog or Canned Dogs.
  • Special features – Like a March madness tournament. Like blogging about your company’s Blu-Ray strategy. Like a sound clip from Yukana. But usually just reports from cons–the home of the huggles.

A lot of blogs mix them up, including this one. But I think that just lays out the things you will see ANN do more of. Being a commercial entity they already have a leg up on getting special interviews, so as a potential reader I hope they can do more of those.

The role of editorial bloggers and editorial blogging, however, is something else. To an extent, the power of blogging comes from the ability to do whatever you want with disregard to any kind of professional standard. If quality writing, professionalism and speed are important things for any publication, why is ANN getting the readership it gets?

Perhaps a better way to see the big picture is to understand how people gather information using the internet. And quite simply put, as long as it isn’t a time intensive and otherwise pain in the neck kind of a thing, people are quite content reading the words of a recent ESL person versus someone who has been writing professionally for decades. What is important is the information within, and does the information in the format presented serves the needs of the person looking for it. Or at least that’s how I judge the quality of information.

But that’s just how I see ANN, as a source of information. Different people perceive ANN as different things, after all.

That’s blogging in a nutshell IMO. After that it’s just a long sliding scale from awful to awesome. We are here to serve our huggling overlords, and many bloggers double duty as both. It doesn’t matter how we call ourselves, our readers can tell the difference (so we believe).

After all, it is the non-Serious-Business nature of internet blogging that makes amateur production feasible; there may very well be no incentive for a person to improve his or her blog if there is nothing to gain from it…much like how ANN has no incentive to improve the quality of its services?

It might be healthy to be obsessed with your blog’s traffic after all?


Nine Years with Maaya Sakamoto

It’s weird, but today I thought about Maaya Sakamoto.

Her debut in Escaflowne was back in 1996, a journey of 12 years. I took notice of her pretty soon after that and was following her pretty much since then. Whoops?

But what was especially memorable to me was the song she released along with Platinum on the single, named simply “24.” If you recall Platinum was a bit of a hit and it rode the CCS wave during its hottest hour. That was 1999. I thought 24 was a cute song in a clumsy “lol engrish” way and the general idea behind the song was encouraging. I guess that was a time in my life where I had a lot of personal struggles, so it stuck.

Sort of like how every time I listen to Break of Dawn I think of Everquest, because I’d be listening to it hours on end on EQ binges. (…often when the dawn breaks…) Sigh.

Perhaps it is just that I listen to her music quite often, it’s gotten to a point where I’ve started to associate her songs to random memories I’ve had. It isn’t like I particularly like her songs, even if they are pretty soothing. It just sticks?

Still, what’s amusing is the continuing development of Sakamoto as a musician over the past decade or so since her first solo album. It’s hard to say for me, as I did not really keep a detailed tab on her career. And there was always the Yoko Kanno factor to consider. But others have, and that’s all we need.

But man, recalling seeing some early day videos of Sakamoto when she was barely out of high school, compared to her more recent sighting in musicals and in American con appearances… she’s doing well.

So why “24″? I thought it was a clever dual-use of the number both as a time notation and as an age limit. You can think of it in terms of the societal norms of women in Japan, but I think of it more generally–as a generation of young adults looking for direction in a rapidly changing world. Maybe you can interpret it differently. But that’s what is so great about it.