Monthly Archives: February 2011

Death Loli Survey

By “loli” I mean it in whichever broadest way I could have used it in a serious manner.

The strange thought came after viewing Infinite Stratos 8. Actually, it started a few weeks ago when someone made an off-comment about the lack of DFC in the series, to the extent that “wait, is it just China?” China’s representative herself is not exactly flat; probably just closer to normal for a high school student. Soon enough we were fixed of this with the appearance of France and Germany. One is magically flat, the other flat by archetype. And that is the archetype I want to talk about today: the killing machine loli.

There had been a fair number of the loli-born-of-science over the years. I think the all-time iconic stoic deadpan tsurupettan still is Ruri Hoshino, in her original, pre-teen tsukkomi self. Granted, she was not particularly violent, but when combined with some super computers in battleships, the results don’t leave much to your imagination. Evangelion’s Rei is another all-time favorite, so I won’t go into how she’s any different.

German-chan, or Laura, has a backstory that is slightly spoiler, although I don’t think it matters; so bear with me. I think she stands more in line with Gundam00’s stoics better, who inherits from their generational Zeon experiments, starting from the original ethereal space beauty, Lalah Sune.  To cut to the chase, I think Zeonism is pretty much drawn from Nazism, if only in some vague sense. German-chan would fit right at home.

On the other hand, I have a hard time coming up with an American death loli. In fact the only loli of any sort that I could think of is the all-American fujoshi, Susie Hopkins. And even so, she’s not exactly loli by definition. So where are they?

I mean Italy has a whole line of deadly lolis (and probably bonus point to Russia and maybe even..Tunisia? Netherlands?). Where are the French, Spanish or English ones? Well, they’re probably out there, just none coming to mind right now. I’m not well-versed in this subject matter, so it’s an arduous task for me. Can you help?

Also I wonder if this has any connection with Japan’s national stereotypes of foreign nationalities. It probably does, but it’s a subject for another day.


Just some thought dumps, since it’s all I have time for this week.

CrunchyRoll’s newsletter has an interesting take on B156. I am not sure who contributes to their newsletter but I thought this is a particularly empathic take, and one that I don’t disagree with much. Namely it points out the maturing of anime has something to do with blurring between the genres that were categorically adult and what clearly weren’t. It’s a logical thing to say because it is obvious; you can see it happen. It’s good that I’m no fan of Moetan either (although I don’t think I hate it). More pertinently, the maturing of anime probably comes from the notion that its audience has grown up (age-wise), but this was missing from the write-up. I quote:

Sex sells; or more specifically, moe. Moe is rife in modern anime, more than ever before. Granted, sexual content has been present in anime (who hasn’t heard of hentai or ecchi?) but up until recently, the boundaries between mainstream and hentai were well established. These boundaries have blurred considerably with series such as Strike Witches and Moetan leading the way in using moe to promote questionable or feeble material. The latter is particularly responsible. The main character, Ink, is meant to be sixteen years old and yet she looks like she’s ten. The dialogue enforces constantly that her age is sixteen but there’s no getting away from the fact that she DOES look like a pre-pubescent girl. That was three years ago. Nowadays, there’s always at least one series per season that tends to one-up the previous season in terms of sexual content sparking outrage with organisation and public figureheads like Ishihara.

This leads me back to the title of this article. I believe that this legislation, if it goes ahead as planned, could stimulate anime into producing more mature and accessible series that are more engaging narratively speaking and less sexually awkward. However, I’ll make this clear. I’m not a fan of Ishihara and the need of a bill to make anime not resort to controversial tactics to generate interest regarding a show. Studios and directors should come to that conclusion themselves and not out of fear of reprisal from the government. I liken anime in 2011 to a teenager – exploring the boundaries of risque subject matter whilst not being able to fully comprehend the consequences for doing so. A bill may change that – whether it will be a positive or a negative action remains to be seen.

I think the blurring or pushing of boundaries is natural. It’s how almost everything evolves. It’s certainly how art and entertainment evolve. Of course what should go hand in hand with this boundary condition is socially responsible application of boundary pushing. If that is what B156 pushed for, it’s certainly not written in it anywhere, although it does make sense in this context. Still, this Masako guy might be right even if how he came to his conclusion may be wrong–that eventually we’ll get something pretty darn cool because things will have evolved.

Like Magica Madoka: You know what was the coolest thing so far? QB’s real name. And it’s a bilingual trick too, by taking the second and third syllables of QB’s real name (which is basically English lol) to make his other name. And just to think if we didn’t have an aging audience clinging to magical girl shows they were infatuated with when they were younger, how possibly could we have had this strange mix of deathly despair and frilly-cute combat outfits? I suppose I should also talk about the other word play reveal at the end of episode 8, but someone else probably can do it better.

Before QB’s reveal, though, Homura’s strange outpouring on Madoka is somewhat … funny? I think this doujinshi explains why I find it funny (and it was made a few episodes ago no less). The only question left is: how GAR can she get?

Mardock Scramble Is an Extended Metaphor about Eggs

I’m sure every worthwhile review will point out the eggy-ness of Mardock Scramble. If you can get over that and the casino talk, then this book is worth your time, all 770+ pages of it.

It’s not immediately clear what the hell is Oeufcoque for this non-French-speaking person, but once you realize it is suppose to be like œuf à la coque, then, well. I had a hard time taking the book seriously after knowing the main character is named after Balut, and was literally because people thought she was like the delicacy she was named after. It was small graces like my ignorance of French that kept my beliefs suspended from collapsing, as I don’t know how I could have reacted.

Sure, it’s the same kind of lame name schemes some other anime/manga/light novels have gotten away with. I don’t hate on Magic Knight Rayearth because they use car maker names, for example. In fact I think I prefer it in that particular way–when the names are just names and are not some kind of extended metaphor about the psychology of the characters. It makes me laugh when Mr. Boiled wants to cuddle with Soft-boiled, and Ms. Balut has a bone to pick with Mr. Shell. It seems just ridiculous to take these names seriously. Later on when the soft-boiled, half-bromance triangle came into focus, I just basically stopped taking it seriously.

On the other hand, it works well when the psychos Boiled hired were named after different kind of conditioning on meat. So there you have it.

Balut would have made an excellent Range Murata heroine; the character concept fits his style to a tee. Too bad it just wasn’t meant to be.

As to the book itself? I don’t really think it stands up to scrutiny despite being a character focused piece meant to guide us through an array of futurist moral problems while entertaining us on a more basic level. Read it for the Hollywood-inspired action and drama, and for characters that you care about despite their mutilated backstories and charred personalities. In fact, it’s best to read it; I’m not really equipped to discuss the nuances of it, although I suppose some could be said of breaking down casino gambling into the pieces of math and human social behavioral study pieces. Unfortunately that is also exactly why most SF/urban fantasy readers might find a quarter of the book totally out of place. Still for one I am glad they didn’t quite walk down the well-trodden road that the likes of Hideyuki Kikuchi has made a good living out of, even if Ubukata has a foot in it anyways.

On the other hand, Ubukata does have a very interesting, almost pacifist message in it. One that made me appreciate Heroic Age even more. And once taken into account, it makes the casino pieces much more amusing, especially as proxy for violence. So (as expected) you could have this half-boiled egg product in more ways than one.

PS. Bell Wing is totally 2+ metaphors together. I mean, I also thought of Rio and Misuzu. LOL.

No Dubs, No Service?

Here’s another stray thought that has been spending way too much time cooking inside the grey matter, and it’s related to my last post. Basically we posit a few basic premises about the average dub audience and play pat-a-cake.

During the VHS days the number is something like 1:5 when it comes to sub-versus-dub sales. While that number applied to a fanbase over 11 years ago, it is probably a ball park reference in terms of a buyer’s preference. This is just some background info for you. If you look on the net for discussion about dub versus sub in pre-DVD era forums and what not, I think that’s what you’ll find.

The cost of producing a dub is drastically more than the cost of producing a sub. How much more is beyond me, but from what I’ve heard it is somewhere in the order of one magnitude. I’m also thinking the billing methods are probably somewhat different, since for each SKU you would pay the actors and producers, where as for subbing it would be more for per-episode. There are other constraints, of course, since it’s no problem to hire different people to work on different episodes in a series, but it can be a big problem to hire different actors for the same role. Location is also a bigger problem since recording and working with the ADR person is best when everyone is in the same room, where as this is basically a non-issue for the whole subbing process.

Well, nothing you didn’t know before. But let’s make one big distinction in the average dub-over-sub person: a lot of people think dubs are a good thing (and a non-trivial number of them disagree), but just because you like dubs, it doesn’t mean you hate subs; it’s a false dichotomy that became irrelevant as multi-lingual DVDs took off as the primary format. Most people love both, and most people rationally considered the presence of additional language tracks as a boon, either Japanese or some other language. Ok so I guess a lot of people didn’t factor in ADV’s Spanish dubs back in the day as a purchase motivator, but you get the idea.

What I’m going to posit next is pretty simple, logically. After the anime bubble in R1-land busted, the fallout mostly took out on the demographic who would not buy something that is sub-only. The supporting evidence is simply that companies have been releasing sub-only releases with some success. The corollary is that the margin value of these multi-language products has fallen below the marginal value of a sub-only release, given relatively fixed prices. In reality it might be worse, as dubs may bump up to cost of production to a point where margin is negative, in some rare cases.

Are the people who whine about $30/volume the same who cry for no-dub no-sale? I have no evidence of this, but one group is probably larger than the other, as the second group basically have little clout. At least price of anime has steadily fallen since the bubble burst.

And this is where I talk about S23’s “upgrade-to-dub” business, like their KyoAni x Key titles. I think it’s a brilliant idea. You want to re-release a title? How about one that has some solid added value at a higher price point than it was before? Not only you will bag the collector types who want to upgrade, you will have some chips against fans who whine against you, while earning some good will, and open up a new “tier” of market who would now buy something because it has an English dub. Most importantly S23 just mitigated the risk of producing a dub that nobody will buy. In CLANNAD’s case, that’s a lot of anime.

Granted, I don’t think K-ON or DBZ Kai is going to have that kind of risks, but what ex-ADV is doing is pretty boss. It’s something that only works when you are close enough to the fan base, that you can master the overhead cost of this “upgrade” process, and so on. For contrast, just look at FUNi–most of their title go through this cycle of value depreciation from a normal set, to a Viridian, to a SAVE. What is FUNi getting out of that product process? More work spent on different products with probably the same or less marginal profits, where as ADV is doing the same overall amount of work and making more money off it as time passes!

I guess in the end, sub-only releases are less content for your money, but I think no-dub-no-purchase positions are ultimately logically the reason why there were no dubs in the first place. For fans who want dubs, rationally speaking, there are no good answers to the question besides learning when to wise up and give in to buying, meanwhile still talk those company reps’ ears off about how much you’d want one.

Oh So FUNi, What Would I Do Without You?

Just to riff off this piece of news, because I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Probably ever since sometime in 2008 or 2009.

It’s kind of obvious that Funi is down 75% since 2004. Robert (of RACS) posted here and explained it better than I could. What is surprising is that anime is still doing as well as it is doing today, although I’m sure 1999 would be exaggerating. Maybe it’s like how his store’s website is still stuck in 1999.

During the one summer (or two) when Adam Sheehan was doing most of the cons (’09?), he peddled a couple slides saying how anime wasn’t dying, that FUNi was crunching out SKUs on a normal basis and how one year they put out more than the previous. What those slides didn’t say was how many of them were re-releases, either of their older titles or license rescues from ADV/Geneon. The impact of that wasn’t immediately clear to me, but I think DL ShawneK spelled it out the other day, front and center.

To draw it out a little more in this post, people who buy re-releases are people who are going to buy an old title. Who buys old titles? And we’re not talking about Beauty and the Beast on BD here–it’s your average b-rated licenses from the mid ’00s. Usually not hardcore fans (because they would have them already), and usually fans who are just easing their way into the hobby, or fans who have their fortunes improved (hopefully not a small number), such as those who have graduated in ’07-’10 and found jobs, for example.

It is an entirely different beast than new licenses. New license generates hype and continuing interests, as people are always interested in it. I think American fans are Pavlov’s doggies when it comes to industry and license announcements. (As an aside, I :sadface: when guys like Chris and whoever at ANN botched the Coffee Samurai PR, but anyways.) It’s party time, man! FUNi’s re-release-passing-as-progress? That’s sadface posing as party cat, in your house imitate Kanye trying to let you finish.

I think FUNi needs to get more nimble. A title like Summer Wars, for example, potentially can make them good money. They’re giving it full treatment, but I get the feeling they’re not really striking when the iron is hot. It’s finally released this week. What does that mean? It means it wasn’t out last holiday season, the last fiscal quarter, or the last time Navarre was trying to sell them.

On the other hand, I see that what FUNi is doing is somewhat hard to fault. They’re taking cautious steps into new media and sticking to what worked in old medida. Their transit strategy from a company that made its money from a handful of big titles so they can turn around and produce dubs for every other show they had to license (when it wasn’t really worth it) was, to be honest, what I would’ve done. The stream of re-releases wasn’t a bad idea, probably, given what they had to deal with as the licensing mechanism shriveled, regardless of its unavoidably negative consequences. It’s just right now they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. I mean yeah, dubs sell, but wouldn’t it be a better way to phrase thing to say “nothing sells that much anymore”? It seems that from a business forecast perspective, as long as new players like NISA or Aniplex are prodding the market by building up a new business strategy from scratch, FUNi will be left behind to play catch up in terms of making their methods more profitable (ie., by cutting costs but not by shifting gears). Well, that is assuming these companies make it in the long run at all. NISA is walking through its first full year as an anime localizer and distributor; I’m sure they’re already reeling from how some titles just don’t sell, as moe as they may be.

The North American market has been waiting for the next Yugioh/Pokemon for about a decade now. I don’t see that wait to ever end; or rather, it’s probably already sort of late to examine the flaws of that particular business strategy. Maybe we will go back to 1999 for reals!