Monthly Archives: July 2011

Otakon 2011 Days 2 and 3: Shikai Con Baltiport 2.0 Ver.

I got a big kick out of those Baltiport badges. I probably could have begged Bandai’s Napton for one, but that joke is kind of a drag once I actually escape from Baltimore, which is… an effort to say the least.

[07/31 19:19] <omo> wee back
[07/31 19:19] <omo> to baltimore: 2.5hr, from balitmore: 4hr

And I had the foresight of the latest Google Maps app on Android PLUS local travel know-how to avoid some of the traffic. Sigh.

Day 2 is where most of the action is. Part of my own mismanagement caused me to miss out a potential epic chance for LULS when I knew LOAE was translating for DJ Saolilith. That would’ve been epic, and I could’ve made it to their panel if I ditched Hoshi o Ou Kodomo right when it ended. Or if Shinkai-kantoku didn’t take like 15 questions for the Q&A (and he wasn’t even supposed to?)

Comix Wave was pretty awesome at the con and they gave away some amount of swag for basically all of Shinkai’s events. During his proper Q&A they were giving away film strips from Kumo no Mukou. Film strips! And the nice producer-san there even helped screened the strips that they had so people walked away with strips that had character art in them.

Aniplex’s Iwakami (henceforth IwakamiP) gave away that Saber sketch at his panel, which led to some awesome-funny outbursts from this man. You had to be there. They also raffled away volumes 1-4 of Madoka BD, and a couple Cospa shirts or something. That’s, of course, on top of the charity posters that Aniplex helped produced. It’s too bad that IwakamiP was only here for 2 days, and left Sunday AM, because he had relatively a lot to say.

I also went through major-fail when I forgot about the Jtor meet-up. Part of what is fail about it is I was actually at the K-ON dub voice actresses live event at the time, which is something I could have totally skipped out for. FAIIILLLL. Just means if I see those guys next time I will have to buy drinks.

Tho the dub concert was actually okay. For a con concert that is premised on the notion of roleplay cosplay karaoke, it could have been a lot worse. I mean Kylee’s concert wasn’t a whole lot better, and that was a real, proper live.

Chemistry is pretty nice, but the crowd was, well, lamers. In retrospect the rave crowd was the best that I saw this year, for a live crowd. Then again, Otakon isn’t Wotakon. Still, Chemistry is too little too late and not even my kind of thing.

I didn’t get to spread the love of Tanto Cuore, except telling super rats about it while waiting for the directors panel. SDS dropped the best (broest?) question there. Link’s left-field question about Murata-kantoku’s favorite To Heart character is pretty good too, but it could have been even better if he followed up on Shinkai-kantoku, since he was chuckling like a nerd. There was also a cute question about their top recommended anime (of not their own) from probably Evan of Anigamers, IIRC.

Shinkai is a nerd, by the way. How did this nerd get so much tail is apparently the stories about their distances beyond the cloud down below the falling cherry blossom as trees grew money at 5cm/s. Or some such. He even likes Five Guys. Director Shinkai Makoto is surely an exemplary man.

I actually recorded the Sunday AM Otakon ritual panel for directors this year. But to save you the effort of hearing my kibitzing I’ll just paraphrase it here. And no, no promises about putting it up (I still owe you guys some Tutuuruus anyways), since I might never get around to it.

SDS:  So earlier, director Ishiguro was saying he doesn’t understand digital animation, and directors Murata and Shinkai work in digital animation. Can the two younger directors give some pointers to director Ishiguro?

Toshi: … uhh

SDS: Okay let me rephrase that, is there anything you can share about working between digital animation and analog animation?

Toshi and LOAE explain it to the directors. Murata and Shinkai chuckle nervously and Ishiguro just smirks.

Ishiguro: Yeah, since my last work I realize I need to learn more about digital animation. You must give me some pointers.

A long 10 seconds passed and the conversation between them started. Eventually some interesting information did actually come out. I forget who said what exactly but Shinkai was saying how he found it difficult to talk with people who worked on analog animation in expressing distances in pixels versus millimeters (eg., this object moves x pixels per frame versus this object moves y mm per frame). Ishiguro chimes in about how during Yamato, the ship would always move 1mm per 3 frames, because that’s the lowest speed setting on the machine. And then Shinkai explains it to him how it was hard to communicate how x mm doesn’t translate into pixel due to the scanning process, and it is difficult to convert between the two technical shorthands.

Hrm, that was kind of technical wasn’t it. To be fair, that was Ishiguro’s second time at this American panel nonsense. And to put it into perspective, Makoto Shikai is born in 1973. Kazuya Murata is born in 1964. Noboru Ishiguro… 1938. Calling him “dai-senpai” is politely undershooting here.

Evan’s question is a simpler sample of what went on. With Ishiguro on the panel you’re kind of stuck, especially given the three of them aren’t really that familiar with each other as far as I can tell. Each of them gave something simple and sure-fire. Ishiguro didn’t really namedrop anything “commercial” but rather a lot of animation he saw in the 70s and a lot of foreign stuff. Murata named Future Boy Conan. Shinkai talked about how he’s slowly working through the Legend of Galatic Heroes during dinners at home.

OK! Yeah, there are a lot more I can talk about just about Shinkai alone, but let’s save it for later.

Bandai After Dark had a soft pitch this year for prizes. The one embarrassing thing you had to do was live karaoke to Fuwa Fuwa Time, with romanji lyrics posted on the screen. I should’ve jumped at it. Winner got one of those dealer room banners with VA autographs. They also upped the general give-away: people got those Gurren Lagann straw bags, with random junk inside (set of GITS figures, yet still another Lucky Star seifuku t-shirt, and some random manga or CD). I didn’t think everyone got one of those, so the consolation prizes were just more GITS figures.

I sort of wish I had more time in the dealer’s room, but I already spent a ton of money there… Picking up a CD here, a penlight there (Chemistry was selling some pretty nice white ones), plus some t-shirts. MangaGamer’s got really slim picking at Otakon, it’s just sad to compare it to what they have at AX.

Okay, enough for now…I need the sleep. And while I’m at that, someone let me know what MangaGamer gave away at their panel? LOL.

Otakon 2011 Day 1: Okay, Sorta Wotakon

Brought to you by a nice, classic Saolilith DJ set. The middle segment was a page out of Nico kumikyoku circa 2008. Listen and Love.exe are a couple good touches.

I mean, let’s be honest: DJ con guests are rarely given the respect they are worth, but that may be because they are often not seen nor heard in the first place. I thought 2010 was a good year because we got all those denpa DJs touring cons like Acen and AX. This year, not so much; just your local variety beat thumpers giving something for teens and college kids to prance to in the dark. It’s tempting to say that the authentic slice of Akiba-otaku (technically she’s not from Tokyo so whatever they do in kansai I suppose) beat Saolilith gave us tonight is wasted on the American youths, but it’s also a brave attempt at cross-cultural education through hard beats and heartful wig-banging. How does she DJ with those long strands in the way?

There’s not much else to wota to at Otakon this year. I think Yura’s brought over a vocalist, but she’s the classic sort. Not that stops everyone. I just couldn’t make it to their panel.

Shinkai is as affable and friendly as he seems in his live footages if you’ve been watching those DVD/BD omake. He’s a little shy on stage tho, very geek-like. His English is also passable (that puts him in the top 5 percentile of Otakon Japanese guests). Looking forward to picking his brains!

The rest is pretty much SOP for my 13th Otakon. Day 0 was especially chill since I got all my reg and things over with fast. Prereg this year is record-breaking on Thursday, so they say. What 20000+ con can do pre-con prereg with a 10-minute line? There is no such a thing (short of mailing badges).

Ok, actually press is a little in disarray this year. It’s like only my 2nd year as press at the con but this is pretty bad. I hope they can get themselves together.

The industry news is interesting; I wasn’t at any of those panel but who needs that when you have Twitter? (Still, that hopefully will be rectified tomorrow). I caught the Q&A part of the Madoka screening and learned a few things: basically everything good visually from Madoka is thanks to Inu Curry. That and some Shinbo’s professionalism over the DVD/BD release that resulted in the brush-ups we have been seeing. And it does look like the Tohoku disaster has nothing to do with the content of the last two episodes; and not much else besides the delay that the ensuing disruption the disaster has caused. Thanks IwakamiP!

Oh, there was one more wota note: The “behind the scene of Mikunopolis” panel was quite the informative summary of all of the Vocaloid events that took place at AX. It included even the Fox news aftermath–all of it. Along with coverage on the panels, and my favorite PV from Mirai no Niero this year (at least of the ones I can see).

Otakon 2011 Day Minus 1: Not Wotakon

I remember when I first started giving less of a damn about cons. It wasn’t even that long ago. Cons are a lot of fun, but it ceased to be all nerd-prom-like (which is a pretty interesting social phenomenon) for me years ago. And even so it wasn’t so much like a nerd prom but a game of chance: will I run into any really weird internet people at my “offkai” type things or not!

Thankfully, odds are overwhelmingly favoring “not a weirdo.” Maybe it’s just the kind of places I frequent online.

Otakon holds that special first-con-cherry status for me in that way. I remembering exploring it during my earlier days and running into RL acquaintances there. It continues to happen every now and then over the past however many years at Otakon. Its status as “the con” to go to for East side folks remains. And usually I see it as an adventure, an exploration sort of thing. Even if over the years Otakon has gotten to be very familiar to me, it never got old.

But ever since that life-transforming trip to japan, I think I’ve been hit hard by that wota nonsense. I’m not sure if I’ll ever recover (or if I could, or if want to). By “wota nonsense” I mean the whole tribe of people who pushes up the anisong/idol industry side of things: Blowing money on glowsticks; waiting in line for these guests; chasing their info on the net.  I’ve always been partial to that side of the industry, but seeing how it is today as opposed to how it was when I first started all of this, things have changed a lot. And for the better. It’s a lot of fun in that nerd prom kind of way, but actually much more… normal. It’s just fanboys and fangirls going after their idols.

Because you can’t “pirate” real human beings, cons have become this nexus of hope and despair for fans of real-life Japanese entertainers. For years this was something monopolized largely by J-rock types and people getting into visual-style music. But just like how anison is bigger and things like VK is getting smaller, will we see the same trend ripple across the pond? I don’t know. All I know (and somewhat lament) is how over the years I’ve been increasingly focused on those guests, over guests who might actually be behind the moe-moe 2D lovers of my days beyond the cloudy memories of a time wasted on anime-related fandom.

Well, I always chased guests basically. Not that is a problem, and as long as the guest is responsible for something interesting, I remain interested.

  • Makoto Shinkai is going to be pretty cool. World-class animator and director, he probably typifies a new breed of animator. One better suited for this century than the last. On the other hand, he seems just more straight-faced and isn’t as, shall we say, entertaining. But that’s fine. Definitely curious as to his experience at doing animation in the past few years. He is still a neophyte compared to most. The screening of Shinkai’s new film is icing on the proverbial cake.
  • I’m slightly amused by Ishiguro’s idol project Angel ScandyS! Amusing in that “how did Otakon become status for trash idol projects”? I guess it does get Japanese-domestic coverage as a proper event, but if I was Otakon I’d be pretty wary about things like this–spending con money on proper guests people actually care about? Then again maybe 15 people out of the 20k-30k present might care about them, so who am I to judge? The three seiyuu he is bringing over is, well, unknowns. I guess we’ll see.
  • Iwakami didn’t start doing anime stuff until 1997, but since then he’s been doing a lot of cool stuff. With Aniplex of America dipping into the US industry in more direct ways, Iwakami has been making the trip more often. Googlers will discover his interview at the Rakkyo screening in California earlier this year. Probably a good person to ask questions for Fate Zero, yeah?
  • Masao Maruyama is also back. I hope he is still doing well. If the rumor mills are of anything there’s a lot of interesting stuff he will be sharing with us come this weekend.
  • But what’s up with Ozaki? I don’t have a grasp with this besides a very focused take on Tiger & Bunny. Hopefully they have some good news (Blu-ray)?
  • Speaking of interesting stuff, generally speaking Uematsu is pretty interesting. I hope that is magnet enough to draw away people I have to fight for in the various lines!
  • Bob Shirohata is another interesting guest that I won’t have time to see. Diamond Daydreams is an interesting thing!
  • “Interesting” however would be not apt to describe the CEO of ASCII Media Works, Toshihiro Fukuoka. I mean, it’s either “boring” or “OMG he is the CEO of the moe-est publisher of them all, the origin of all these interesting IP!” And I’m like, orz. Maybe he knows a thing or two about licensing light novels for the US.
  • Cosplay-DJ from Osaka lands in Baltimore probably some time tomorrow, but DJ Saolilith will be doing a set for Friday night’s rave. This could be interesting. She’s most notably a Gainax-related personality, and she’s done some vocaloid-related work, both in terms of mixing and utattemita [vocal cover]. Say hi to her on twitter! I hope she’s bringing over some goods for sale.
  • Speaking of cuter-looking girls, there’s also Kylee. She would be at the right age to be at Otakon as an attendee, LOL. Not expecting much from her, but she probably has some live presence at least.
  • CHEMISTRY should be old hat, and good value. I probably shouldn’t miss this!
  • I probably shouldn’t miss the K-ON concert too. Christina Vee is actually pretty okay at it. And I want to see if they play the tunes like their Japanese counterparts, LOL.
  • What is Hiro Yura doing again at Otakon? Will he have new, more discriminating pictures to show us this time? What happened to that CD I paid for last year? Dude!

Anyway. Here are some other items of note:

  • Friend is running this panel for hanky-panky for the ladies. I’m wary of it but I might show up just for support. The alternative is Mangagamer’s panel, but since it’s just Kouryuu… No offense but I need a little more excitement at 12:30AM on Otakon day 2.
  • The panel that I help ran at AX will also appear at Otakon, but with now with Super Rats and Colette (of Tomopop’s ex-EIC) instead of Andy and I. No jokes this time! And I think they will go over different things. We’ll see. I think the RevereThieves is throwing a best-manga-you’ve-never-seen panel at the same time, and such is just how things roll.
  • Charity: Please pick up those Little Hands doujinshi at Hen da Ne! Otakon has a beef’d up auction this year too, it all goes to charity–dealer’s hall on Sunday 11 AM. On top of the Aniplex Madoka poster. Man, that’s pretty awesome. Oh, and Uematsu’s autograph is also for charitable purposes.
  • ComixWave has a booth.
  • Bandai has booth autographs this year too, including Shinkai. It makes the dealer room a higher priority place to schedule into my list of to-do’s.

Some random junk:

  • I know Digitalboy is going to sing it up. Just a matter of catching him. If you want to catch both of us, Sunday bright and early is the best bet. I’ll probably lug around my copy of Tanto Cuore so there’s something to do between songs.
  • There’s that dinner on Thursday that I always go to. Anyone want to hang out afterwards do let me know, maybe we’ll get something going again.

I’m probably missing out on stuff, like, say, the new FMA flick. Or things that I outright forget or don’t know. As usual, you can’t get everything; fill me in!

Anyone got good questions for Shinkai? What do you want to know from him?

Summer 2011 Checklist

I better do this before Otakon washes me out. This being just a run-through on the interesting titles this season.

As usual, just because I couldn’t fit a show in here doesn’t mean it does not deserve it. I think it’s self-destructively amazing that I can still watch so much anime given my usual hours. And I’m writing about it. Probably just so I can then forget it and do something else. Anyways…

Are you ready? I’m ready. At least my body is ready, so they say.

Mawaru Penguindrum wins the visual award. I’m blogging it elsewhere, but hopefully it’ll make me want to write more about it here too.

Mood-wise, I am pretty partial to Kamisama no Memochu and Kamisama Dolls. The latter just makes me want to sing UNINSTALL for some reason. The former has that DRRR chic with match eccentric NEET-types. But I don’t know; both shows are wildcards in execution and plot departments.

A supposedly safer bet is Blood-C. In a lot of ways Blood+ was really flawed. Like a PS3 is flawed. Blood-C has potential to reboot the brand, while retaining what is attractive and boot what isn’t from its predecessors. But each reimagination sucks the life out of the original concept a little more than before. It’s also my Nico experiment target #1–something relatively high profile, good viewer numbers, and hopefully some slick comments will feature-add over the dumb comments.

Twin Angel is also a Nico experiment, except for the reverse of course. I now truly understand what people mean when they said they’ve watched really crappy anime on Nico that they would not have otherwise.

I thought the same for  R-15. The truth is, it’s the creative sort of crap anime that is sufficiently enticing that I would probably continue to watch it even without the Nico snipping. It may be a typical harem kind of show, but it’s sufficiently deviant from the norm to be amusing and thought-provoking (at least a little).

And that is way more praise than I can give for shows like Black Rabbit. I feel all Kuroneko about this anime, in the sense that it’s some pathetic chuunibyou attempt to cash in on some thing by using the most unoriginal source material. That is probably too harsh, but at least in Yumekui Merry there’s some kind of moe factor along with a sharp directional sense. We don’t get either in this. And why am I slamming Yumekui Merry? Obviously Index is the real true public enemy #1.

Dantalian at least looks passably okay. Nico comments do help it go a little farther, like Blood-C. But I’m not excited.

Nekogami Yaoyorozu is… Touhou animu. Too bad it’s not even funny.

The real dark horse this season is Ikoku Meiro no Croisée. I mean, it’ll be all culturally relevant and iyashikei with moe power over 9000. “A Jasc show” by all means. It’s got that huge advantage only because there is nobody pissing on it as everyone is too busy pissing on Usagi Drop. Grrrr.

Total aside, isn’t it ironic how a bit over a year ago Funimation has noitaminA on that partnership lockdown? Look at things now! Zero shows!

I think Number 6 will get its audience; the drama (in the noitaminA format) should be compelling as long as there’s some substance. It can’t be worse than Jyuohsei. And I watched Jyuohsei. Oh poor me.

The real guilty pleasure this season is obviously Ro-Kyu-Bu. And I’m doing it for the seiyuu marketing. Yeah. That’s it. But more seriously, if it can stay true for its three-episode-pilot about team building and your garden variety sports drama tropes, I can’t see how it’ll turn out badly. Unless you count the FBI breaking things up as a bad end.

Oh, speaking of those 3-ep-pilots, I thought R-15 ep2 was in every way superior than ep1. It’s like watching two different shows, the differences. Ro-Kyu-Bu also had a similar difference, but that’s more because the plot stuff didn’t kick in full gear until episode 2. What’s up with that?

Then again some shows are still playing true to formula. I’m not sure what I’m suppose to do with Sacred Seven. I probably will pass on it until I catch up on Blue Exorcist. Or something equally unlikely. It’s not bad, just not good enough.

But sometimes not good enough is fine, if you’re the only thing that airs on CR (so I can watch it on the road via 3G streaming) on Monday (man I miss Kaminomi). YuruYuri is just that.

Kind of wish that is true for Mayoi Chiki too. As is tho, it might not matter–if I can’t get to episode 2 by the time episode 4 airs, the odds are low that I will ever watch it.

Is this it? Probably not. I have a couple more shows that I want to try (ie., Manyuu!). I think I’m watching still a lot of shows left over from last season, which cuts into the new shows I can pick up. And then there’s stuff coming back like Bakatest. Oh well.

So the net total is pretty good; we’re talking about just two shows that I find even at all notable that isn’t getting a simulcast. Even Morita-san has it. Now we can argue about 1 hr or 24 hr or 72 hr or 144 hr or whatever, or if we can even call it simulcast (I don’t think we should), but in my book any of those is better than never.

Stray Thoughts on Usagi Drop

On Daikichi’s recent sacrifices, you can read a survey here from E Minor, which summarizes the issues that appears in Usagi Drop 3. However I was under the assumption that most of us have already internalized it on the basis of what child rearing means in general. I’ll cover a few things that E Minor didn’t.

1. On time spent on Rin–in general, at least in America, when your kid is 6, you are actually well positioned to re-enter the workforce full time, if you took time off to take care of his or her formative years. It’s easier to find child care for kids in that age range than, say, 0-2, with the onset of elementary school. The kids themselves are easier to take care of (and thus freeing up the caretaker to do more things). In Daikichi’s case, this was not possible simply because he has a different take on Rin’s psychological burdens than an average foster parent. That perspective gap is what drives Usagi Drop’s drama later on, as I can see it from manga readers’ reactions. At the same time, Rin probably needs more time with some stable parent figure to cope with the unusual events that has so far transpired in her short life.

2. But even if we don’t care about any of that, if Daikichi works 12-16 hours a day (and by that I mean it in the usual Japanese salaryman sense), there is just no way he can take care of a child simply on the basis of government-provided childcare. There’s also the “Daikichi seems to be entirely clueless about administrative burdens of parenting” angle. If he was a savvy parent, he probably could try to juggle a more-than-fulltime career with parenting especially given his social network (ie., he has one). This is a conceit on the part of Bunny Drop, I think.

3. At the same time it is exactly in areas like this that Japan feels so antiquated, compared to the west. It isn’t that westerners don’t sacrifice for their kids; arguably the time spent is actually more in the latter case. The impact of that on one’s career is just somehow less as a matter of corporate culture. It isn’t that women (and some men) are indirectly disadvantaged due to adding new members into their respective families in the west, but that gap is socially accepted. I should rather say, taking time off to care for a newborn (again, it’s not the direct counterpart to Daikichi’s unique situation, but it seems to maps the best) is a luxury that companies use to entice prospective employees. At least with a straight face, anyway; culturally it is considered as a luxury as well. And the fact that it’s somewhat government-mandated makes it easier for companies to just man up and do it that way.

4. While we can phrase it as a “parent’s sacrifice,” it means different thing to different people. I think if you are choosing between two things you love dearly, after failing to have that cake and eat it too, the fact that you can be regret-free after having one and not the other is not a real problem. To me, the term has a large component of respect that some how happens that the person has aligned his or her choice with the well-being of his or her family via spending time there. It is a selfish decision as well as a selfless one. So it’s not a dimension that I particularly want to dwell on. But if human beings make large career choices such as these based on reason, that’s where social policy can affect real change in the direction of its population. That is, if social policy can be changed in a way that shifts the nature of the Japanese corporate culture, anyway.

5. From this point we can speculate the other tangential issues that may come into play with a single-foster-parent situation. I always thought anime is kind of a weird medium to try to affect social change. Or manga, in this case. It is a good incubator of such thoughts, perhaps, and hopefully Japan will wise up and allow its people to live in the 21st century.

Lastly, there’s one thought that bothered me this entire time with Usagi Drop–people who are whining about the manga in the anime discussion. I normally don’t really mind, but some people really crossed the line when it comes to this title: Basically everyone who’s read the manga extensively and pisses on the title due to their colored impressions as triggered by the anime. I mean, sure, some people put “spoiler warning” on their posts and…if it wasn’t a FIRST IMPRESSION piece that would be okay! And what’s more this typically happens with people who … well, have a certain disposition which tend to make them interesting “first impression” folks that I read. Except in this case their true natures rear their ugly heads and I just want to forget it has ever happened. In my book that’s worst than the worst spoiler that you could have given. It’s simply irresponsible.

Actually that kind of extends to a general complain about people who whine about the medium-specific aspects of the adopted work because they’re judging it from some presupposed perspective as a result of an prior experience of the work in a different medium. Or, as before, whine about some non-specific aspect of the adopted work because they’re judging from a post-hoc position in the knowledge transfer process of storytelling from a different rendition in a different medium, before the transfer process has even started in earnest. They, for what it’s worth, can all die in a fire.

With that said, I think I might actually like the manga and its post-time-jump conclusion! I guess after the anime is over I will give it shot. Six volumes and all.