Monthly Archives: June 2011

C Almost Misses the Point

I think one of the most problematic thing that differentiates America and Japan in their economies is the nature of the entrepreneurship. I think C ([C]: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control is by far the worst title this season, worse than the anime from that day whose name that I still couldn’t remember) has it right by bringing on board an entrepreneur as the person who turns around Kimimaro.

But at the same time, I think this is fundamentally a cultural problem. Take this anecdote for example, where a Silicon Valley type asks a room full of Singaporean MBA students if they want to start their own business.

It’s even worse in Japan.

The problem isn’t so much that few want to start their own businesses; that is fine if the number of business in the economy generally is stable. But with mergers and boom-bust cycles, there will to be times when the economic condition is favorable and encourages new entries into existing markets. That is how an economy grow. Under such circumstances, the business culture has to be one that tolerates failure. Because for each healthy harvest of new and successful businesses, there will be a multitude more of failed ventures; that is always going to be the case. If people are afraid or can’t afford to fail, new businesses are not going to be developed, or at least not at the optimal rate. That has has long term and negative consequences.

I thought this was kind of glossed over in C. It is by far the biggest problem–how else can you empower a lost generation, if that generation is only seeking to plug itself into the existing machine that has long since favored the established? I think the show does a good job covering that alternative perspective, but it doesn’t explain the incentives behind it; it’s too busy talking about philosophical pokemon nonsense than the economic realities of things. Change will never come fast enough that way. To compare C to its companion piece, Eden of the East, I thought Eden made a lot more sense in terms of providing a real point of discussion. You have basically the establishment playing against a, heh, internet startup. We’re talking about how to empower a lost generation, rather than magically putting that generation of people in some magic vacuum.

Perhaps, rather, I am more discontent with C for not offering an answer. I’ll avoid the spoiler here, but the ending was more hilarious than credible. Monetary policy is a complicated game and while C entertains a particular outcome that happened to also be entertaining, it kind of lacks that raw edge, that anger, again, that was full of in Speed Grapher’s climax. I keep going back to Speed Grapher because the overall idea between the two are the same. C just cultivates its supernatural settings based on real social issues, where as Speed Grapher exaggerates and turns them into way fantastic things. [Maybe a Shintoist sort of way?]  Speed Grapher talked about things that are beyond any notion of realism, but yet evokes emotions.

(And of course, C pays homage to the ultimate concept in Speed Grapher too. C  kind of makes fun of it, as we should.)

Because, let’s put it this way: regardless if Souichirou is a sympathetic antagonist or not, he is just outright wrong. He represents the philosophies and policy positions plaguing Japan in a big way, as posited by the story. I mean if they’re trying to put that idea down gently, they’re doing it wrong–not because it isn’t a respectful put-down, but they aren’t putting it down enough.

Rational discussion is wonderful; but it lacks the outrage that powers a real change of regime. And without that anger, that discontent, the metamorphosis of despair into outrage, greed will continue to trample over justice.

My other disappointment is that other than the first couple episodes, it didn’t really do much in terms of exploiting the short-sighted nature of greed. It’s a fundamental driving force behind bad ideas!

I don’t think I do the show justice, that said. C is definitely a worthy piece if you want to talk about Japan’s view of the outside world, in a way that connects with its fellow citizens. Personally I wanted C to challenge the notion of the nature of the global economy. Japan’s economic problems, after all, are not Japan’s problem alone. Pardon the light spoiler, rather than think of C as a tsunami that gets bounced back and forth (which is an apt metaphor in a lot of ways, and perhaps a bigger fear factor to a Japanese audience), in real life it would manifest more like a slow-acting disease.

With all of that out of the way, I thought C was way above expectations for a Pokemon-for-adults anime. I guess that’s damning via faint praise, but I went away entertained, even if the two “horny” girls were a big part of the fun equation. It’s a good watch to get some insights into problems in vogue within Japan’s domestic dialog. The animation is creative, but a little too nonsensical; the designs, cinematics and artistic direction are full of impact, except I’m not sure what those things impacted besides a grounded understanding of C.

I’m still waiting for them to do a big reveal with Msyu to give it more of a human touch. It would have made an awesome epilogue. Instead we get this weird scene between two people who may be blood related. OKAY JAPAN. I mean I could read Mikuni’s motivation and trauma as an extension of his feeling of protectiveness and adoration for his sister, but like, isn’t that just imouto moe? So imouto moe is killing Japan? (Pure imouto moe in OreTsuba discourse.) And back-to-the-nonexistent-future imouto moe is the cure? Maybe you don’t have anything to stand on to criticize Speed Grapher after all, C.

Anime Expo 2011 Day Minus-4: What Is This I Don’t Even

Just to gather my thoughts on AX 2011, part two.

I’m helping out at a friend’s panel. You might know him as this fun-loving dude with a lot of figures and wears pro-Starcraft paraphernalia; you might not. But he’s going to take center stage on AX Day 3 (Sunday, 7/3) at 8pm @ LP3. He’s going to talk about figures. He’s going to show you figures. I’m going to do whatever…that I do. Come see us. Come heckle us! I don’t care. It’ll be fun, hopefully. And I say this with some uncertainty because I think we’re still a ways to go to finalize the content.

And “a ways to go” is pretty much how I feel about AX 2011. A lot of the stuff they’re promising for the public slipped, even if most of them did materialize at some point. Dates are missed (a couple big ones for press I think). Let’s get it together yo. But of course I say this without any condemnation. It’s just kind of how it is.

Armed with the convention schedule and now a list of descriptions, I’m going to drop some names and sigh at the fact that those two things only makes up maybe 50% of all you need to know. Anime Expo is big enoguh, elaborate enough and corporate enough that to get all you need out of it, you have to look at all sorts of places.

I mean, first off, we know there’s that Hatsune Miku thing, but what does it mean? You won’t find all you need to know from AX’s website; it’s all posted on Mikunopolis.

This is kind of how I approach AM2–it’s another value-added event that occurs outside of AX. Except AM2 is a real con now and located an hour away. Not too worried about it (although it would be nice to see Scandal and kanon x kanon perform their latest single LOLOLOLOLOL). If I can go, I will go see Scandal. If not, I am not going to lose any sleep.

Well, the fact that AX info is posted all over the place is nothing new. What is new is that we’re T-minus 4 days and there’s no news at all on autographs. I guess we should expect the usual…but that is not a good sign. And AX autographs can really use some good signs. On the bright side I can probably live without a set of Kalafina paw prints, and unless Nirgilis and Maon knock it out of the park, that leaves just Sawashiro for the minimum. It doesn’t mean I won’t be trying for more, though.

And because of all this, having the con event schedule alone  is kind of useless. Well, we can continue on.

The AX Maid cafe posted some pictures (and even they operate outside the AX media infrastructure to a degree, and they’re part of the con… what does that say to you?).  Along the same lines, there’s the pre-con offkai charity event Christina Vee (she really should cosplay Kurisu this year wwww) and Steph Sheh is hosting. I mean LOL whut. Wuuuuut.

What’s more LOL WUT is something on the schedule. The JETRO is helping to throw a panel (LP4, 10:45am on Saturday) that polls the audience on new media trends. I mean, let me just quote you what the PR says:

Industry professionals will gather to present their ideas in developing the next best online business model, discuss recent trends and the next step necessary to make anime and manga content more accessible to consumer demands.

For every topic introduced, we will ask the audience if they agree or disagree with the professional’s viewpoint.
Grab a sign, grab a raffle ticket, share your opinions, have fun, and win your own Nintendo 3DS!

The thing is suppose to include these following people: Ken Iyadomi (Bandai Entertainment), Henry Goto (Aniplex USA), Atsushi Yanai (VIZ), Vince Shortino (Crunchyroll). Holding out on us huh, Gen? This is a recipe for LULS!

It’s probably also worth noting what the industry lineups and events are for these companies, but I’m not going to shill that hard. Well, maybe except Aniplex, because they have a certain contractual obligation to fulfill. That’s Day 1 at 2:30. But other than Madoka I’m not sure what they’d tell us, and, well, we already know about Madoka somewhat.

Aside from that, there’s a Funi-sponsored noitaminA panel; Which sadly conflicts with the one I’m helping with. Do go to it; I want see people blogging the hell out of that panel. I would totally go.

There are a few panels at AX about industry and IP stuff. I’m not sure if any of them are worth attending, but I am curious to know what they cover.

Of course, I can’t leave out Fred at AX. But to me this dude is just as big of an attraction. Thankfully it doesn’t entirely conflict with the Yuki Kajiura panel that’s being hosted by zzeroparticle. And I say I’m thankful because the whole looking-at-AX-schedule thing is just an exercise to determine how many interesting things you are going to miss out because of a time conflict. That these two panels I want to be at overlaps only for half the time (and probably a 5-minute walk between panel rooms) makes attending them somewhat feasible. Fred’s panel starts 10am on Sunday, Zz’s at 10:30am.

Back to the schedule. And shilling. Although in one case it is a genuine premiere… And there’s the stalking.

  • As of today, the last of the TBDs on the event schedule has filled in, so there are more items you can worry about conflicts. There’s going to be a Friday night show for Maonsu, tied to HOTD (which may require age verification? Unclear), a mini concert. Com’on, Maon stakers, you know who you are.
  • The video schedule reveals Gundam Unicorn focus panel on Sunday at 2pm.
  • Onigamiden is screening at 2pm on Friday (with an intro).
  • More relevantly, Sawashiro frontwomans the Arakawa UB screening on Saturday at 10.
  • Right after the Arakawa UB screening is the premiere of Last Exile Silver Wings at noon, with a Gonzo panel after that. What? A Gonzo panel?
  • Looks like I am very much in a position where I may have to trade an autograph opportunity for Silver Wing. AUGH.
  • A Gonzo panel kind of makes the HOTD screening and panel at 4:30 on the same day (and same place) a lot less outstanding, but I’m sure that isn’t the case.
  • Mizushima’s Gundam 00 the movie screens on Sunday at 7:30 pm, with a panel at the end of it.
  • The creator focus panels themselves are not too bad. I’ll show up for Maon’s and Miyukichi’s, and probably Matsumoto’s too. Kalafina’s if time permit.
  • And I haven’t even touched the various hanging-out events with real people! Or the stuff I need to help out with on top of the panel itself. Or the press-related things.

    So tempted to just wing it. Oh, you know what else is sorely missing? The AX iOS/Android app. At least last year there was that website where I can export the schedule as a calendar file, which I can load into Google cal (or whatever that you use). I guess I can live with PDFs, but that is a real slip.

    Last for this post, and hardly least–food truck gallery at AX. Three days. They say the way to a man’s heart is where? I AM SO EXCITED.

    Picking On Chris: On Transforming Fanservice

    I generally don’t pay Chris B’s simulcast coverage any mind, because I think Chris’s context is sort of odd when it comes to simulcasts (a bit like this, in fact), but this season he shells on two of my favorites: Steins;Gate and OreTsuba so that makes him a natural target. He also kind of misses the point to Sket Dance (OMG I’m watching a JUMP anime), but I think that one is actually forgivable because the anime exposes the problem the manga kind of has. (Compared to Kaminomi, where the anime greatly enhances the original material…IMHO. But that’s another post for another day.)

    And I’m just going to talk about these two shows. There are other disagreements, but I, being not Chris, will have a different opinion on things. That’s not what gets to me. I just think he got these titles wrong entirely. And well, many people didn’t like OreTsuba, so I probably should say something about that regardless of anyone else.

    First off, read CrunchyRoll’s AMA on Reddit. And I quote, more pertinently (you might want to read the whole thing anyways):

    Kuiper 5 points 15 days ago
    Are there any “sleeper hits” that turned out to be unexpectedly popular, or do you generally have an idea of the kind of revenue pull you’ll get from a certain show at the time you secure the distribution rights?
    i_work_at_croll  14 points 15 days ago
    It’s always hard to predict, but it’s not a complete gamble either.
    A few shows that performed better than we expected are:
    Blue Exorcist
    Ika Musume

    [Formatting and links removed; partly because it’s hard to quote and make it look okay. Last Retrieved 6/23/2011.]

    Since Rob P’s departure, we no longer have a steady source of Crunchyroll viewership ranking  (AFAIK; if you do know a source, please share!). Going by online buzz, it’s pretty clear that Steins;Gate has relatively good viewership, and generally the trend is on the up as it approaches the midway point. And even CR confirms this. So how am I suppose to interpret this statement:

    With the show now hitting its halfway mark, it’s a difficult show to really get a handle on. In a way, I’m often surprised that the show hasn’t been canceled.

    Does it seem wrong to you? I mean, I’m probably being too harsh: I think if we swap out Steins;Gate with Serial Experiments Lain, his statements would apply just as much. And he would be wrong just as much. But if history taught us anything, it was that there are more than a few people who slammed Lain and yet it sold. More importantly, there’s a lot of great stuff going on in Steins;Gate (and Lain…I think) that just is not being picked up by Chris. I guess he does admit as much.

    What is the takeaway here? I don’t really know, besides that I don’t think he gets what a lot of today’s simulcast-viewing people are after. Which may very well be a totally different group of people than those who buy anime on DVDs in America, which is what he represents better.

    As for OreTsuba, it might be just a matter of taste. And I don’t have any taste when it comes to fanservice. (Although that is also a taste in itself, arguably.) But I can’t take it as serious criticism if Chris says:

    […] and the show has so many surprisingly raunchy and poor taste moments that it simply doesn’t work well at all. When it makes some of its revelations at the halfway mark, it’s pretty much a too little, too late point.

    Really? Poor taste moments? Can Chris honestly be a judge on taste? I mean, he’s probably the biggest porn anime reviewer out there. He gave Kanokon a B? I mean, you can go to and look at all the slutty anime he reviewed. Really? OreTsuba got “actively dropped”? That’s actually some very high praise in that it’s probably not like anything he’s seen before.

    It’s like, I heard you like some boobs so I put some boobs in your boobs show so you can boob your boobs? [Qwaser S2E10 FTW.] OreTsuba doesn’t need to rely on memes to get its points across–it can become the meme that gets its point across. I think that’s what’s really brilliant about it. And that brilliance is precisely in the execution. The fact that Chris can’t enjoy a show like this is not my business at all; my problem is in his inability to recognize that there may be a method to its madness. Maybe OreTsuba is too clever by half, sure, but he didn’t even say this. I just hope he never reviews Seitokai no Ichizon.

    The saddest thing is, I think Chris has a good grasp on what sells in R1. And while I actually agree OreTsuba may not sell in R1, I think the other strength OreTsuba has is precisely in its ability to appeal to a R1 audience through its strong character writing. The scrambled narrative is what I think may hinder its uptake, but OreTsuba is very story- and character-driven, and for its ensemble cast of 8 or so main characters (plus side characters), a lot of exposition and development happen within the 1-cour length. It does things as fast as Baccano, basically; the story is misleading up to the end, and while the audience may feel deceived at times I think there’s a lot to chew on.

    For this genre of anime, OreTsuba is a real gem. Well, maybe it’s just me who enjoy a misleading narrative, especially when the excuse for it is to illustrate the convoluted plot device, but it comes together. And you know what I love.

    Again, like I said, it comes down to taste in a lot of cases. Chris is an easy person to pick on (nothing personal) because he is easy to read–I mean, he says it. Back in Kanokon’s review, he’s fessed up:

    Kanokon isn’t a deep title, but it’s one I had a lot of fun watching because it knows it’s not meant to be taken seriously. And it goes further in a lot of ways with its sexuality yet doesn’t feel completely over the top. But my standards probably aren’t the norm after watching these kinds of shows for twenty years…

    Well, assuming you’ve seen Kanokon (unlikely), then hopefully you’ll get what I’m trying to say. This guy gets it. That’s why I still care about his opinions, because I can relate to where he’s coming from. (And just before I further incriminate myself, no, he’s still the expert on anime porn that I will never become.) (That said, I think Kanokon on DVD is uh, polished up from the TV release.) So it’s a little more disappointing that he doesn’t quite dig the new wave of meta anime, especially ones involving fanservice.

    I think that the iterative seasonal TV anime offerings from Japan is evolving, changing, and offering viewers new types of shows. Especially in the past year or two; things are moving in a new direction. Things that are tried and true may continue to sell, but unless these established, old-timing reviewers pick up on these trends, they’re just going to poop on these opportunity to organically grow the fanbase. If Funimation wants to go out on a limb on OreTsuba and put some marketing muscle behind it (I hope they do), great. It doesn’t seem like a high risk title, I don’t know, but I am glad that they’re doing something about it. But if we want to transform this season’s simulcast viewers to next year’s DVD owners, I just don’t think Chris’s perspective will cut it.

    Lastly, it is usually the case that anime of a certain genre sells better than others in America. So short of just saying “this anime doesn’t belong in this genre” is there any value to the whole “license” and “dub” thing? Because to me “dub” is just a “how much it will sell/target audience” thing. I mean, this guy thinks Lotte no Omocha deserves a license. That’s probably the low bar for this season in terms of how marketable something can be–how do you market the whole “this guy is in this 11-yo succubus’s ‘harem’ but he is also her mom’s lover and his daughter is the succubus’s half-sister, all before the thing about how she has to extract his semen to stay alive” bit? (And for the record I am watching it, and think the anime is pretty okay for what it is.)

    Triangulating Con Guests, 2011

    Jim Vowles used to run the guest relations for Otakon for the past, I don’t know, 10 or so years. He stepped down this year and is just helping the new guys taking over. I bring him up because he used to play this guessing game over at Otakon’s forums, teasing us who is lined up as guests every single year. I think it’s a lot of fun, both to guess and to be teased. I think he enjoys this inequality in information too, so it’s win-win for everyone.

    Unfortunately this can backfire. It doesn’t happen in a way you think it does. What has happened was that he trains people to think very, shall we say, resourcefully. Arguably there’s nothing “backfiring” about that either. What has happened in the past couple days is a little more complicated, but I’m going to attempt to explain because it’s very amusing.

    And let me just say this right off the bat: it’s entirely speculation. Totally guessing. Nothing I’m going to postulate is true.

    The point isn’t who we think will line up Otakon’s “star-studded” import guest list (and their domestic list, for that matter). It’s more like because it points to certain things, it adds a lot of urgency and excitement to the people who are still kept in the dark.

    The situation begins at some point several weeks ago when Otakon basically confirmed they have a horde of Japanese guests lined up, booked, and all that is left is to announce them. That’s actually unusual for Otakon, and perhaps first time ever once taking into account the number of them. When something like this happened (as it has before), it’s usually because of some third-party stipulation. Usually what you want to do is have all involved parties announce their participation at the event at the same time.

    It gets trickier when the guests are a tie-in with a product announcement. Naturally, that means not only the parties have to sync up their release notes, but the date will hinge on some kind of contract talk about the product. And by product usually I mean either a premiere of some sort (so we’re talking about some dubbed anime or a film or something), or a license announcement.

    Why would anyone do this? Because some companies want to use cons to promote their shows, of course. By hyping up some event via “world premiere” or “we’re bringing all the voice actors and directors and whatever to the con that we’re announcing this at” it would be pretty cool. Of course, I don’t think serious cons like AX or Otakon would let someone pull that off entirely (I think Bandai did it last Otakon for Christina Vee?), let alone Japanese guests which will need con help in accomodating, so it’s much more likely that you’ll get an announcement at one con, and the staff support and more hype at the next one.

    So tell me how people would feel when there are 5 seiyuu spots lined up and locked? And 5 american voice actor spots lined up and locked? All on the morning when Aniplex’s lock on Madoka’s domain came up in the news (ie., it all happened yesterday)?

    I have no idea, honestly. It was just a lot of fun to kind of push the point that Otakon is about a month away, or right around the time when the biggest announcements are due.

    As of right now, we know 2 of the 5 are for one show and 3 of the 5 are for another, so crisis partly avoided. So exciting!

    Akasha, Religion And Chair

    In the middle of a discussion about what makes for “chuunibyou,” I thought about Nasu’s… Nasuverse. In that world, mages are people who take magecraft like a trade: you have teachers, craftsmen, unions and guilds, rivals, people who do it for fun, people who do it for profit, and people who do it for the hell of it. You have artists and salarymen, parents, children, and heroic spirits. Swords and sorcery? People who are dead because they are killed? People who are the bones of their swords? It’s, in a word, chuunibyou to a tee.

    But in that silly world-creation exercise, Nasu laid down some foundations that I particularly like in this kind of setting. It’s a bit like Fuyumi Ono’s Twelve Kingdoms, where the laws of the world are absolute; Gods and emperors speak with not so much authority but with reality-bending, “let there be light” powers. I like that sort of thing.

    The cool thing about Nasu’s magecraft is in its adherence and pursuit of the akasha, or the origin. In a way, the attempt to understand Nasuverse’s notion of origin is just like a mage’s pursuit of understanding of origin of humans and the world, existence in general. [Cynical: both are fraught with irregularities and illogical examples!]  The cute thing (and adding to its middle-schooler-illness) is that the notion is not original. I just think it’s a beautiful parallel to the act of introspection: when we examine deep within ourselves, conflict invariably will emerge. When mages fight each other in Nasu’s universe, it is a clash of different origins, cloaked by the personalities, motives and external reasons (eg., fate) behind these conflicts. These conflicts are external manifestation of internal turmoil. These conflicts are thematic.

    Because, after all, the darkness inside of ourselves is the one that brings about the most enduring and endearing conflicts. Tsundere, I’m looking at you.

    The other neat thing is that this is a central concept that perpetrates consistently across all of Nasuverse. In a way it feels like those Tolkein-style students of arcane magic, living inside their towers, honing their art. It just has taken a 21st century turn of events. And of course, these Nasu-mages are hardly anything akin to a D&D mage in practice. It’s the thin veneer that keeps his works at least somewhat credible, sure, but I appreciate at least the consistency.

    The way I model these things in my mind is kind of how I look at, say, how one could reconcile religion with anime. For example, Mike’s the real deal. And I find it an uplifting testimony to read. It’s more about us than the anime that we watch. It may be reasonable to say that Nasu’s writing is horrible (I don’t know, I can’t tell anyways), but it resounds with others, with a purpose, so it is fine. I see it specifically in pursuit of science. It, too, revolves around the notion that we are students of the world; we are learners, not teachers. Because we know we don’t know, it is why we do these things. It is why GlaDOS gets away with the things she does. It is why Academy City exists. It is why we pursuit the study of the world. Scientists are eternal newbies: that’s where the action is, that’s where the new revelation is, that is where the new science happens. It is driven by the same budding curiosity and imaginative power that makes Steins;Gate an amusing watch on principle. In other words, it is the same force which powers chuunibyou bubble. Scientists, too, are just human beings with all the contradictions humans have, seeking the origin of all things.

    Times like this I wonder if THIS CHAIR is just a reference to AI development.