Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Game of Tuu-Tu-Ruus

Kana Hanazawa‘s character in Steins;Gate has this little chant, a sound effect, that she makes whenever she presents a greeting. It is very cute. Moe, perhaps.

It can also be full of burning passion.

It is also something I’ve been trying to get on my phone. After 3 seasons and some number of OAVs later, Meru’s notification tone for messages is getting a little old. I figured it’s time for something new.

I started looking for a good instance of Mayushii’s fanfare (or whatever you call that audible) to clip at around week 4 or week 5 of the simulcast from Crunchyroll. It’s about week 9 now, on 5/31. It’s like, the first couple weeks had a good opportunity or two where Mayuri was able to blurt it out with a bit of a framing from the show, without background noises in the way. Every other one since then it was a part of Mayuri’s normal routine. Often times it’s done while she’s in the middle of something–walking, running, talking while someone else is talking; if not, there’s always some kind of background noise to denote that thick, urban malaise. There was at least one where a car was driving by when the event occured.

Episode 8 even had a double … thing. Which was very cute. It feels like they’re quite mindful of how Mayuri speaks her signature line. Will some other character repeat the cute little catchphrase before the anime is over? Will we be cured of chuunibyou? The world may never know.

Will I get a clip of Mayuri going ドゥッドゥル゛ゥー? Yes, I already have. Will I get a clip of Mayuri going tuu-tu-ruu in a way that I like? Only time will tell.

This Is Why I Watched Moshidora

Moshidora is a fundamentally sound anime. You would think a show about management principles would at least have the “principle” part down in the subject matter. It has to; because a core tenant of sound management is to determine and follow through these underlying principles. And it’s a NHK animated special, it has to be fundamentally sound…right?

I think what elevates Moshidora beyond a trite exercise at edutainment is that I can soundly apply cynicism towards its primary subject matter (which, not to be confused with baseball, is management) and the show respond to it. But whole manager’s angle to sports (and by manager I mean high school girl, and by high school girl I mean a anime-style 2D-construct voiced by Hiyocchi, and…you get the idea), is why I’m here, too.

On the conflict of goal-oriented versus process-oriented philosophies: it’s a philosophical conflict rather than one that results in fundamental problems. As in, I personally believe either way gets you where you want to go. More specifically, when there is only one way, both philosophies will lead you to it. The way they may diverge simply imply that goals were not set to include all your stakeholders, or someone is hiding something. I believe the “right” read here during Minami’s last chat with Yuki is suppose to show that Minami has lost sight of the long-term, unspoken goals and was too focused on the intermediate ones.

It’s kind of like talking with amateur fans who watches too much SC2 pro matches and not realize the goal is  to just have fun when playing the game, or not realizing the context in which these very high level games were playing at, that as applied to their bronze-level play it doesn’t really make sense.

That is an overarching purpose of sportsmanship. One that is sorely not cultivated in the age of video games. We need it badly.

On the hardness of life, Evirus spelled it out well. Baseball is unrelenting like that: statistics is yet another type of tool of the devil. I’m not a sabermetrics person but I believe in some of its fundamental concepts; hard working person, doing everything right, has no guarantee of success. It’s only when taken from a large sample, the statistics would say they are successful. It’s an illusion when applied individually, but it can highlight sound baseball principles. It just means nothing in a single-game face-off, and little more in a best of 5 or best of 7. It is not about being the best, it’s about being the best all the damn time. (See: the dude who chokes 3 times in a row.) The former is achieved through the stuff all those crying baseball anime is about (as in, it’s fiction; a fantasy), the latter is achieved through management.

Going to bounce off Evirus’s post some more: on pitching and control, I think it’s a little more specific than that. No-bunt-no-ball strategy is just a simplified version of style of play when your pitcher is pitching-to-contact. You’re playing the odds, and you can manipulate the odds somewhat when you execute certain plays: namely when your pitcher can consistently throw 2-seam fastballs and a complementary pitch for strikes. IIRC in the high school level, 2-seam fastballs are the predominate form of fastballs? In Oofuri, it’s actually much less about control and more about delivery–Mihashi’s out pitch is a fastball that isn’t, he gets hitters out by fooling them. (I think Evirus just didn’t get far enough to see this.) At least, once we get over how amazing he can throw pitches to the 9 zones at his level, anyways. Which is to say that’s the usual sort of the miracle plot devices I give these baseball anime/manga a free pass on.

The last thing to bounce off: no-bunt has a specific context. Bunting in MLB is something you do mainly because either the batter at the plate is probably not going to have a productive at-bat (which can be due to a lot of different reasons, such as the opposing pitcher is on a row, or the pitcher is batting, etc), or you want to just threaten to bunt, giving the infielders something to think about or position them a certain way. At that level of play, the infielders have tremendous responsibilities given the average caliber of batters being able to muscle any pitch (even a lot of balls) through the infield by strength alone. That additional threat of bunting can be a big deal in terms of opening gaps in the infield defense. There are times when a speedy lefty batter would bunt for a hit, but it’s safe to say those hitters do so to keep the infielders on their toes; hitters at that level is expect to be able to slug, if at least to expand their marketability as an all-around player.

In the context of Japanese high school baseball, bunting is often the statistically smart move to play given an uneven lineup for moving the runner. Not bunting means a few distinct things:

  • You don’t need to do bunt drills–remember these are noobs, and students, who are time-throttled and thus you can optimize their training more on hitting. It also optimize their at-bat experience. Someone who bunts all the time isn’t going to get those good looks at the pitcher.
  • You don’t need to keep the defense honest by reminding them you’re bunting. By the book, the bunt is always on with less than 2 outs with a runner on base. It would be a reliable psychological factor until the opposing coach got enough of a scouting report on you. For the unprepared coaching staff, they may even plan their inning wrong.

That’s all on top of the whole Moneyball stuff Evirus aluded to. There are other advantages: every batter is a RBI risk (psychologically); no easy outs means you wear the opposing pitcher down more, giving your pitcher more rest between innings (a big deal for those summer tournaments), whatever.

Now I can nitpick Moshidora in terms of how scouting play a role in competitive baseball at that level (read: it plays a huge role) but whatever. For people who can appreciate all that nonsense, the show is a fun watch. If the economics doesn’t get to you first.

PS. What if a high school baseball team’s manager read Lewis’s Moneyball? Does this mean my cynicism is naturally, uh, American?

Sell Me the CD?

This has nothing to do with Aniplex of USA. They’re fine folks. I think. I think it has nothing to do with them anyway.

This has everything to do with Aniplex Japan’s approach for their value-added home video release. And specifically, when they bundle the show’s soundtrack and make it available only when you purchase the home video release. I like my Kara no Kyoukai box, but more because those films look great on Blu-ray, and that’s more because they were produced in a certain way to begin with. And that’s not to mention the actual content, the film themselves, and what the “origin of Nasuverse” those stories represented. It’s nice that it came with an art collection and very posh packaging. (Admittedly, warping posh packing.) But it’s not why I pull the trigger. It just makes pulling the trigger less painful.

What I don’t like is how you can’t buy any of the Bakemonogatari OP tracks separately from the LE DVD/BD releases. Because a track like Renai Circulation would’ve hit #1 with a bit of marketing push, easily. Because it’s what the people wanted. Because I really don’t want to buy those LE releases, given what I get versus what I pay for. I mean, in other words, I want to pay for those songs, just not $60-80 a pop kind of want.

If you recall, Aniplex did the same thing for Kara no Kyoukai DVD LE release too. Accompany each LE DVD release was the soundtracks used for each of the films. They were rough cuts, so it felt more like bonuses than individual products. Aniplex went back and released a proper soundtrack album for Rakkyo earlier this year, and it really soothed the nerves. Because, again, I guess I may pay $300 or whatever and buy the DVDs used today, but it would just be for the bonus items.

I think it’s just unfair and crazy to attach actual legit items along as a bonus for a larger package, without making the separate items available. I mean, what’s with that? I suppose it’s okay to do it if it doesn’t make owning the package prohibitively difficult. Black Rock Shooter with the nendo was maybe twice as expensive as the nendo by itself, but it was not outrageous. I bought Working R2 DVD #1 because it was priced about as much as a CD after discounts, just for the OP single. And it works. But I don’t think I would pay twice that for a single, and certainly not 5 times that to get an album full of OP songs.

The weird thing is, I used to be more RAEG over this, but with Rakkyo OST, it doesn’t feel so bad. That soundtrack was arranged well; I would pay big bucks if, say, Eminence, would pull out a couple long ones out of that CD and took their own spin. It’s perfect for an orchestra. That was something entirely not present in the DVD omake. It justified an individual release.

With Madoka, Kajiura pulls another trick out of her rear; will it be treated the same way? Are those of us buying into volume two, biting into an unseasoned sandwich? A diamond unpolished? I hope so; because by making the stuff available separately later can only Aniplex make me RAGE less.

It’s really ironic though. On one end of the industry you’re trying to fight piracy by making things more available, with more choices. On the other end you are making things more scarce to drive up margins. FML.

Rally Behind Terms, Fracture; Obvious Stuff

A lot of people say a lot of different things in terms of what defines anime or manga. I don’t know who is right, wrong, if even they are in conflict or if the varying definitions are incongruent. What I do know is that anime and manga are broad brushes that describes a lot of things. Once we throw games in the mix, it actually…gets no more crazy than it already was.

The gaming community is a good way to look at it. In reality there are a large number of different types of games. What’s more is that video games have long since reached the mainstream in the utmost sense, especially in the past few years when casual gaming tied up with the gadgets everyone wanted, on the social networking platform everyone was on. It’s gotten to the point where everyone knows what Angry Birds is, and really, why is this? I don’t know, besides that the game ties into a variety of devices.

All I’m trying to say is, say, someone like me, who doesn’t really play much in terms of marquee titles, is very different than my bros who play Halo and CoD and what not, which are all too different than a blogger on hiatus or one who’s not. Are we even gamers? By some stretch of the definition, sure. We might all watch anime at some point in our lives, too. Or read manga. But we are not similar in our inclinations at a fine grain resolution, to say the least.

I see this, painfully so, when it comes to manga in America. The general marketing concept behind it has not evolved beyond TokyoPop’s brand of “Woah this crap comes from Japan! It’s like, girls read this thing! We call it manga! UNCE UNCE UNCE!” Which is fine, if the calendar says 1989 or something like that. But in 2011 terms this is woefully insufficient, especially since Japan is thoroughly involved with this little localization scene. Especially now that the internet is a major player, and the path everyone is taking to get to the next level.

The sad thing is, even posh and classic manga publisher like Vertical can’t get stuff lifted off the ground in this way. It’s like selling mushrooms, to use an analogy: $500/lb truffle can be marketed in the same way as your $2/lb white buttons, simply because they share some biological similarities in their life cycles? I mean, yeah, you’re a mushroom dealer. And not even the illicit ones. So, again, just because you read/sell/buy/review/follow manga, what does it mean? What does Drops of God has anything to do with Bleach? Nothing, I propose.

I mean, compare this with, say, Marvel or DC’s catalogs–there’s this kind of fracture for attention that is just unimaginable and unseen with these American publishers. It’s not to say those DC or Marvel don’t have diverse offerings, but they really aren’t concerned with just the wide range of topics, forms, modes, and concepts that all of manga has to offer. Which, is to say, manga covers basically everything under the sun.

And naturally, this extends to the fanbase. Just because I may have an anime blog, it doesn’t mean it’s the same sort of blog as any particular breed of anime blog. Anime is a lot more niche than manga, relatively speaking, so I think the relative success of marketing based on that product identity in the west is much better as a result. Ultimately when I go to an anime con, most people overlap in their anime consumption experience, as far as what makes them fans. I cannot say the same thing for manga, at least, not as confidently. But to not just contradict myself, I probably cannot well-identify with majority of American con-goers either, just because I am well-above the average age. Maybe. Honestly, I don’t really know.

Which is why things like this happens, I suppose. Learn to offkai amirite? It’s more serious than that: Learn to realize your hobbies is actually (slightly) different than mine? Do we need to create/import vocabulary for this to happen? Is your illustrated pornography different than mine? How different is too different? Or are they really the same and some people (at the con) are just old and some other (characters) are too old? Do you belong better at a JumpMangaAdaptationCon than a LatestLateNightTVAnimeCon? Or maybe go straight to 4ChanCon? Do plot-driven drivel get you going farther than the House the Artfag built? Or do you require the services of both? Neither? All these things can strongly dictate what we enjoy, what we experience, and how we enjoy yourselves, together. I don’t know why we would want to confuse them. Let’s spell it out.

A Channel Fireball

Misleading blog post topic aside, one advantage of computer-assisted/generated techniques in animation is that we no longer are at the mercy of the artist at the canvas. Life is no longer an image, but a set of vectors and rules governing motion. It means two things.

Fireworks that no longer looks like moving neon lights.

No longer being able to call out on cheap animation when a manzai comedy anime take place entirely within the same setting, with the same characters.

I’m squarely in the camp of embracing my future overlords today.