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 Mania.com 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.)

No Responses to “Picking On Chris: On Transforming Fanservice”

  • 2DT

    I can’t comment on OreTsuba, but I’m surprised Steins;Gate gets that kind of reaction. In some ways the show is ultra-typical: Just a VN adaptation like any other. But I do find myself writing about it again and again, so there might be something that tugs at my new-generation reptile-fan brain after all. ;)

  • omo

    I don’t understand why he thinks it wouldn’t sell, or people wouldn’t find it interesting. The characters are all pretty fun, and most importantly the lead character is thoroughly interesting. On top of that you add the actually interesting parts of the plot…which is basically a sure-fire combination of any top-selling late-night anime.

    In fact, that’s the Haruhi formula in a nutshell. Right?

  • sdfsdfsd

    Hahah as if anyone takes Chris B seriously. He’s so out of touch it’s a joke by this point.

  • ubiquitial

    Jesus Christ looking at that picture just reminded me of why I despise Aoi Nishimata’s art so much. Haven’t seen OreTsuba, though.

    Also, thoughts on Seitokai no Ichizon? Personally found it annoying and unfunny and dropped it after 3 episodes, but I’ve heard a good deal of people give it a good deal of praise.

  • omo

    Seizon is pretty much the formulaic take on this particular new “smartass” trend of anime. It all makes sense once you really get into it.

    It just isn’t an anime for everyone.

  • jpmeyer

    Ha, I thought that a lot of scenes in OreTsuba are in bad taste, but that’s what made them funny!

  • omo

    Precisely. I mean if it was in good taste I’m not sure if it would have been funny at all. And the key is that OreTsuba purposely made it so that it is in a funny-bad-taste kind of way.

  • ToastCrust

    Well, as always, there are inevitably people who aren’t reflexive enough to see these things.

    Or, arguably, some people who just don’t want to see it.

    I’m fond of what I saw of OreTsuba. Ichizon, I don’t know. Something about episode one really irked me, even though it got some laughs out of me.

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