Monthly Archives: May 2011

Bamboo Shoots

Not a Nichijou post, sorry.

I am not really an insider with regards to MangaGamers and their relationship with the various bishoujo game makers/eroge scenesters, pro and otherwise. It feels, at times, a fairly close knit circle because it’s full of small timers doing something that they like, making a living off it. It’s kind of the feel you get from how characters relate to each other in Koe de Oshigoto. In some extreme cases, it really is a family business, like in 07th Expansion’s case (and others I’m sure).

But from seeing the way he does things, both at AX last year and now in the thread he started in the forum of the company he produced (it sometimes gets left in the cracks, but it’s vital to remember that MG is a company created by the Japanese!), I get the idea that he has a solid grasp of the issues surrounding the growth, sales, proliferation of these games.

So when he decides to go directly to the BBS, it makes you wonder why. He’s also taking requirements for their made-for-foreign-player tourism game (granted it looks close to be completed). By “taking requirements” I mean he’s soliciting opinions on it. But anyways, it’s interesting to note a few things. I’ll just quote EvoSpace’s translation:

First of all, I would like to start from the current status of the Japanese bishoujo game industry.

<Current Status>
Many companies in Tokyo and nearby regions were heavily affected by the earthquake in March and their schedules were thrown off. Although the damage may differ in size, companies working with MangaGamer, such as Circus, OVERDRIVE, Navel were all affected as well.

This has finally calmed down now in May, but it’s still not safe to assume things. I wouldn’t say it is bad as Fallout3, but we are still having difficult times.

It’s cute, and by Fallout 3, heh. There totally needs a game that uses American oldies and pairs that with the Japanese visual novel experience. Ideally, it wouldn’t “heavy” or “noire.”

<About the titles we are negotiating>
As a premise, most of the bishoujo game companies in Japan make their games with the minimal number of staff, and obviously, their main market is Japan. And because of piracy and the unknown size of the overseas market, many times, they are uncomfortable about working with us, and it takes quite a long time to have them understand what we are trying to do. As the producer of OVERDRIVE, my company is not that big either. Yet, I am trying my best to go around trying to talk to different companies while releasing our games in Japan.

Most Japanese game companies are thinking this,
– Is it really going to sell overseas?
– What about the laws?
– Is there a demand?

This probably is on the mind of 90% of the companies that you wish for. Since sales in Japan is going down recently, it is even more diffcult for them to look at the overseas market.

We’ve been running MangaGamer for a while, and have visually seen that there are indeed fans and demands, and our sales has been increasing over the years gradually. Using such data, we are trying to negotiate with several game companies.

So, first, MangaGamer is doing better than before. That’s good news. It’s a big takeaway.

The second concern is well-phrased. I think Bamboo is realistic and understands that ultimately the western VN community is full of people who would buy games, but also full of people who would pirate them. There’s an overlap, of course, but it does nobody any good to dwell on it. It’s probably better to think of it as an availability issue. It would be reasonable to pin the lack of availability as one of the primary reason people pirate stuff, after all. With digital distribution, this is even more of a glaring gap.

Looking back from the perspective of a Japanese development house, then, the same issue is one based on increasing risk. That’s how I read “Is it really going to sell” and “Is there demand”? I think there’s nothing we can do about laws, but there is money to be made. To that end, Bamboo’s statements is pretty simple: buy his games. I’m not a big customer of MangaGamers, so I’m indifferent about it, but if the proof is to be in the pudding, he’s well on the way to make some.

<minori and ef series>
We are still working on this game with minori.
They are the ones helping us with the actual development of the English version.
We are taking a good care of the translated script, even if it is fan translated.

<age and MuvLuv series>
“Muv Luv” is a big title from age, and they take significant care about their games. It’s not that they are ignoring the overseas fan, but because they still put their priority in the Japanese market, their response is slow. The Japanese fans refer to their 3 years as “1 age”. That’s how long and serious their development span is.

Also, they just announced the Xbox360 version but it took a while until they told me about those things. However, it’s natural that they needed to keep things a secret until the announcement. For a large budget game such as that, not only the game company, but several companies may invest for its rights. This is called the “Development Council” in Japan and it is a common form of how anime are produced. Although there are some merits, there is the demerit that unless all of the members of the “Development Council” agree, they can’t make decisions.

It’s a good insight into how a big game production is like versus the little ones that localization companies typically deal with.

The rest of the post contain the plea from Bamboo about improving the image of western market in terms of piracy and what not. I think that’s a long, long road, but one that has an end. If people really like the stuff, they ought to walk it. And maybe talking despite the language barrier is a start.


Parenting with Anime, Or Not

I read Tangle’s guide to anime for Christian parents, and I’m kind of disappointed that it delivers not much beyond the usefulness of a Wikipedia article. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, it just doesn’t go to any of the instances in which I find some connection spiritually with the anime I’ve seen over the years. Maybe I shouldn’t have been looking for that, being an insider rather than an outsider.

Truth is, religion and spiritual beliefs are intensely personal things, so it’s difficult to write anything about them in a way that is intended for a general audience, at least for me. Parents, too, would also apply that rule, so I think, even if the application is just as intensively personal on the part of the family. It takes a certain gifting or certain moment of inspiration, I feel, to be able to generalize to that level in this category of topics, and at any rate stuff that I probably do not have.

What’s probably just as bad is trying to talk about parenting ideas in the same way, because I feel that is just as personal as anything religious. I mean, do you want to get all up and in inside your tween’s media consumption? Some parents do, others not as much. I don’t blame them. Either of them. I mean, if I was a 14yo, do I want my dad to watch anime with me? I guess regardless how I feel about it, it’s up to the parent or child to decide.

Or not. Because I think either way could work. It’s like how some find religious release and salvation through simple stories and personal anecdotes that resonate with the deepest part of their existence, a personal revelation. Others seek answers in rationality and things they have a deep grasp of, to construct the system that they live by. Some do both.

It’s how I approach anime, actually. Invariably, when we’re dealing the media output of one of the most introverted country and culture in the world, it feels a bit foreign. In other words, anime is a bit like a stranger in my eyes, in my culture’s eyes, and in the eyes of its analysts, critics, policy makers, academics, parents, and what have you. There is not much that one could call gospel or bible when it comes to anime (although there may be a few encyclopedias lying around, and one very black bible), so most people are left to their own devices to make sense of it.

Thankfully, anime is cartoons. It’s not something made in order to discuss really complex issues (even if it can) or to hide something from plain sight (even if it can), or just plain confusing (which happens more often than one imagine, but not that often). I think the average tween-raising adult (probably in their 40s or 50s?) should have enough common sense to handle it. Because the average teenager is by far more complicated than the average anime, and that includes even late night offerings.

So, perhaps it is naive, but I am hopeful that kids will still be kids, and grow up in such a way that how they were cared for reflects appropriately in the end.

And this is basically how I approach the whole Manabi Straight thing. The thing when I wrote about that it is the picture-perfect illustration of God’s kingdom. Because it’s about seeing it; it’s the way how prophecy, anointing, hope, patience, faith, standing up to what is right, fighting for what you believe, understanding, reason, charity, acceptance, and by some measure, love, come together to make a beautiful whatever-it-is. And the thing is, you won’t be able to see it unless you are looking for it, and you can’t find it unless you know what it looks like. That stuff, no amount of anime is going to be able to teach you.

Just ask your mom.


Brain Dump: 2011-05-12

Just to capture what’s on my mind today before restless sleep flushes it out, that or just a lot of work:

The Aya Hirano thing happened. If you’ve ever been to Forbidden Planet, you might note that it is arranged not unlike the Strand used bookstore next block down, which, if you have not been to either, is a place with a lot of stuff stacked mighty high, and there’s not a lot of room to move around. It’s kind of like shopping in Akiba, I guess. So even if you want to do an event there, there’s just not much space for it.

The rumored 5pm starting time is grossly exaggerated. Things didn’t really happen until 6:30. The word was Hirano and crew were filming something at the Met, and, well, NYC is the birthplace of gridlock. It’s not a long drive at all from UES down to Union Square, thankfully.

The whole thing went down like an episode of Otaku Versus Zero, except instead of Macias going to the field (or the improved Macias x Asakawa combo in season 2)  for some half-reality, half-reporting programming, it’s Hirano going to the field for some of the same. It is really casual; the crew was about 7 people, including two camera peeps, a boom guy, and a bunch of girls who are, I guess, handlers and interpreters and whoever Hirano needs on location.

The crowd was pretty small; pretty much all kids until later on. A couple business types showed up so I didn’t feel so out of place. I think there were a bunch of kids who had to leave because of classes or something, so the delayed start thinned out a lot of people. That said, it’s Forbidden Planet, so by “a lot” it’s like just a dozen.

What did Hirano do? She did her half-scripted thing with the one clerk there, she asked some questions and 2-3 of the people in on the thing asked her some questions. Before that she was just looking and shopping and pointing at merch. There was this bigass Haruhi dakimakura right by the entrance to the anime/manga section (oh, right, this all took place on the second floor of FP, which is even smaller), I wonder why. Anyways, after the Q&A, we got friendly, took pictures, and she signed a few items before being ushered away. Oh, she also did like 4 different voices. I was holding back my urge to yell “Katja-sama!” but that’s probably the right thing to do. But if anyone cared, one of the four voices was Ms. “Give Me Blood” Pachira! Thar be otaku in our midst.

There’s a line about how it went down in terms of press and media. If there was anyone to blame, it was one of the guys who had the heads up on Hirano’s visit and tweeted about it. The next thing that happens is that the all-seeing tweetbot of Scott Green (of AICN/CR News) picked it up and retweeted it. It happened some time like 3pm on 5/11, but I didn’t notice it until I was reading my feed on 5/12, on my commute in. I think Jtor picked up the story for serious, and ANN got the full scope afterwards. Wonder who wrote it up for them…!

There’s also some back story that I overheard about Hirano’s low-profile visit. But surely, Japanese people read ANN. I guess it’s just the anime industry types…but that stuff cross-breeds on 2ch just the same. Uh. The back story has to do with stuff about the low-profile visit, so you can take a guess what I’m referring to.

===

The other thing I want to just blarb about is Anime Expo’s Hatsune Miku festival. Pound for pound, while Kalafina is pretty cool, Scandal over at Anaheim is probably a little more attractive. I happen to like Kalafina’s music more, but I’ve also seen them already. Now, this Vocaloid show? It’s, what, the third or fourth time we’ll see actual holographic projection for real? We as in, the world? I think this one is just a little more serious business, Toyota’s involvement notwithstanding. Plus, Sega is doing it!

And holograms don’t weight very much I think. Even if you throw in Len, Ren and Luka on top of Miku. [They also don’t take up space in the green room…hrm THE PERFECT AX GUEST LOLOLOL.]

It’s got a production committee behind it fer crying out loud. But with the behind-the-scenes works, it doesn’t surprise me.

As for the last bit on Miku and Toyota (for now), the WSJ blog post on it is as good as it gets to the bottom line. Ricers may not dig Corollas, but their girls and sisters might just have big dreams and compact dreams. (I’m sorry, I can’t help myself.)


Alternate Theories on Miku + Corolla

So, yes, it didn’t occur to me because this article was about Fast Five, which came out some time in late April, about a movie that came out over a week ago, which is yet another a few days prior to the Toyota Corolla x Hatsune Miku tie-in.

The Boston.com article, titled “Fast Forward: Why a movie about car thieves is the most progressive force in American cinema” details the nature of American mainstream cinema and how somehow The Fast and the Furious franchise is now the #1 progressive franchise in America mainstream cinema which treats race as a fact of life and not some issue or point. It mirrors a less-whitewashed reality experienced by more people in this country than most other films. Perhaps a coincidence, it is no less a force for progress.

The article is a good read, and if that topic interests you, please go ahead. I am just going to grab one thought out of it. I quote:

In a sense, the balkanization of movies would appear to be an example of how much culture has splintered into niches—more proof, if we needed it, that we no longer watch, listen to, or read the same material. But moviegoing is one of our last shared public acts. Hundreds of millions of people continue to watch movies together, and it’s easy to scan the house and see who’s watching with you. Were you to visit the big theaters in Boston—the AMC Boston Common or the Regal Fenway—you’d see that the audiences at both complexes are often diverse. The movies are not.

You wouldn’t draw much of a popular audience, mixed or otherwise, to a movie about race, of course. And that is the accidental genius of the “Fast and Furious” movies. They’re not about race. Race—and casualness about race—is just their hallmark. They’re about something else, a great American unifying principle: sexy cars that everybody wants to drive.

So to me, it comes down to two things:

1. To see Hatsune Miku–a first pop idol of sorts for her race (Japanese meme-oid fictional character)–in a car ad is something truly American. Big dreams! I laughed pretty hard, I confess. But it’s the right car, for the right audience.

2. Some people are complaining because, well, it’s a Toyota Corolla. In fact it’s probably as opposite to “sexy cars that everybody wants to drive” as it can get. Just look at how well the Corolla XRS sold (cancelled for 2011 model year). I mean I suppose there’s a perverse joy in putting racing stripes on your Chrysler Town and Country, and a Miku x Corolla ad is not as bad as that, but one might just question the unifying qualities of such choice on the automobile. Well, at least there is no question to its desirability, considering that despite the failure of 10th gen Corolla versus its competition, its utilitarian appeal ensures a sales figure of over 200,000 vehicles a year in the US alone. Still, it just isn’t a “big dreams” vehicle. It’s the exemplary Asian-conservative econo-car.

Mr. Opportunity should have had his chance with the young idol. Imagine the scandal it would generate back in Japan! At least Civics had way more face time in F&F than the Corolla (which was always just the cameo of the iconic AE86). Thinking about it, I think people would have reacted more positively if it was a Civic or a Mazda 3 (a truly progressive merger of American and Japanese concepts and technologies), if we’re sticking with that class of cars. The production quality nitpicks are always going to be an issue when we’re talking about international copyright and money spent on ads, but it would have soften the jarring migration from one media scene and aesthetics to another.


Explaining Miku + Corolla

For the uninitiated, Toyota of North America rolled out an ad/campaign for Hatsune Miku, to sell the 2011 Corolla.

So far the collective reaction among fans are like, “what the?” I mean Houkago Pleaides at least is a brand-wide tag-a-long. (CR has a nice write-up on how it sold). But Miku? In a Corolla?

Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. If I was an idol I would be pretty happy to join the ranks of Superbowl MVPs and other American local sports heroes, selling, get this, the third best selling sedan in America. It’s not a trivial thing; far from it. Miku is the face of a multi-billion-dollar business. Ok, she may be just one of many faces, but I mean, the revenue of Toyota dwarfs anything that ever came out of Crypton ever, all together, and then by a multiple. Heck, it’s probably a multiple bigger than all the revenue via Miku’s derivative works–all her doujin and non-doujin CDs, books, DVD, video games, whatever. Heck (again), just the Corolla’s revenue in North America may be all of that already. I’m going to assume that the marketing team behind the world’s largest car company (well, maybe back to second largest by end of 2011 due to the quake) are pairing up with Miku for a reason (at least until proven otherwise). But all I’m saying is, this is like, really serious business.

Of course, it doesn’t mean people’s reactions are unwarranted. I’m inclined to think a part of this has to do with the corporate sponsorship nature of stars and products. The most random people can get paired with the most random thing. Just ask Hideki Matsui. Or the Ex-Governator. Or watch Lost in Translation. But this is Toyota of America, so none of those cross-cultural things are likely to apply.

To share, my initial reaction to Miku’s new ad was not unlike my reaction from the animated ad for the Nissan Sentra SE-R back in 2001(?) where the whole thing looked kind of like a crappy Avatar (the animated series), but more in tune of the famous Honda Civic Del-Sol ad when they got sued by MGM (okay, famous only for copyright junkies). It was also right about when Initial D was the hottest thing. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.

In other words, this Eastern fusion of vehicle and animation is hardly new. When you have an excitable, down to earth and relatively large customer base (ie., young people), who, unlike their Japanese counterparts, actually needs to drive and can afford cars, well, you’re going to pander.

For a girl who’s graced  random variety news segments in America, Miku is a very nice option. She’s definitely a genuine idol in a lot of ways; there’s name recognition to a degree. She’s exotic, for sure. Bizarre even. Eye-catching and regardless if you know her or not, Toyota’s ad probably is worth a double-take. And to that, I think it’s all Toyota is looking for. Someone young, youthful, perhaps cutting-edge in some subculture, and most importantly, attention-catching. The name recognition is just icing IMO.

Or in this case, the anti-icing. Because I really have no excuse in terms of the execution of the ad. The splash page for the Miku ad campaign, the ad, and all those details…kind of rubs some people the wrong way.

But then again, so did that Nissan ad.

The takeaway, thus, is let’s enjoy it. I like Miku as a concept and largely as an entity as well, it’s her little limelight in America, her ticking 15 minutes of fame getting ever more…famous. It may not amount to much, but Toyota linking up with Miku is probably even more awesome for her than it is for the top auto brand. It’s like getting away with a fat advertising contract and then not make the playoffs next season. Let’s again put it in the right perspective: a lot of new and upcoming bands are excited even when their music makes it in one of these large commercial projects. I was kind of stoked when that one Onitsuka Chihiro ad, or hearing Explosions in certain car ads. Miku’s Toyota gig is basically, yet again, a little pop cultural nod in a land tiled by commercial interests.

Now why they didn’t go with Scion, that’s something to think about. Even with their hard rock tie-in.