Monthly Archives: March 2012

Miku Is Fun to Write About

The other day I read that Miku pitch from that Idea Channel show (which hangs with the PBS tag) and I was like, yeah another show mining eyecatching fringe otaku taglines. After watching it, though, it’s actually an honest investigation from a music perspective. Too bad it’s so short that you can’t really get much out of it.

I guess it’s not unlike console gamers and their alleged alligence to certain platforms, or lack thereof. I buy consoles purely based on the software. That’s why I own a 3DS. But I also buy consoles based on other considerations too, which is why I have a PS3. This multiplicity in terms of how and what makes sense to spend money on is something I believe most folks share, given that they have enough resources to consider different means of rationalizing their spending.

Do we treat these idols the same way? Identity aside I think the way we derive enjoyment from popular entertainment isn’t unlike the way we derive enjoyment from, well, consoles, which are also pop entertainment channels. In that aspect maybe Miku is just like one of the other typical, flesh-and-blood idols. In that aspect maybe it really is all about the music (software) for some people sometimes. But of course, the hardware matters too…

Rather than Lana Del Rey, I think someone like Shokotan is probably a better comparison. But then again how many top 10 Oricon albums did she sell versus Miku… Well, the comparison sticks for either one of them. The hardware will appeal to somebody, the software, who knows?

Clearly, Miku addresses a big lack of appealing hardware of a certain type. And by 2012 terminology, what I mean by hardware is more like ecosystem. And I’ve written some on that already.

I think for every Sharon Apple reference made for Miku, rather to think of it as some kind of silly “old school nod,” I think of it as an itch that is unscratched for ages. I’d go even as far that when Priss and her Replicants a few years prior, or even in Gibson’s Neuromancer line of novels, this itch was already a thing. Miku happened to scratch that itch. Perhaps not applied head on, she does help relieve some of that energy people have in terms of creating and projecting and identifying with some thing they want to be creating/identifying/etc.

Which is all to say, as an idol, Miku is for real. It’s just that it is we who write her story. Kind of like an open-source idol of sorts, and the repository is made of memes and moonrunes.


I’ve Waited Like, 10 Years, Since That Summer

There’s something nostalgic about Ano Natsu de Matteru. You know, Tommy Lee Jones is in a bunch of Japanese ads. Even a series of ads about him being an alien. So what’s stopping them from adding him to the series finale?

Spoilers, incoming.

I think it’s safe to say that ultimately NatsuMachi is the distilled essence of the contribution to Toradora from the team that brought you both. Does that mean it is better? Or worse? It depends if you like Toradora for what it is–a light novel adaptation into 26-episode anime-ness. I am inclined to say that the reason why you ought to like NatsuMachi is because of the parts of NatsuMachi that isn’t Toradora–a lovingly crafted tribute to Ano Sensei from 10 years ago. I think that is what is great about NatsuMachi; it’s about a part of my memories from DAT SUMMER. It’s, yes, about I’ve Sounds, about that quaint Japanese rural area with DAT LAKE and seeing various spellings of POCKY on the screen, snickering at the canned romance/magical girlfriend trope playing out, before such a thing as TV Tropes.

This is not even to mention that an original tribute is probably more whole-heartedly wholesome than a reboot or a sequel. We can use more of these things.

The question, then: is there anything else like to love about Ano Natsu de Matteru if you take all of that away? Probably; it’s an enjoyable romcom romp, but in this aspect I think the original two series had it slightly better. I still expected that at least one pair of the dominoes that made up the romantic polygon would’ve matched and made it official, other than the main pair. I wonder whose idea was that originally? The good girl was great, the sidekicks are amusing and enjoyable. The hijinks are appropriately over the top–but only if you were in on the joke. I suspect if you weren’t, the whole Ichigo/Remon aspect would not be nearly as fun.

I think the reverse is also true; I’ll confess yet again that I am no fan of Toradora; I think it’s a great show but it was nowhere near as enjoyable as the hype was. In that sense, what was a  distill of Toradora in NatsuMachi felt and taste just as, well, distilled. I guess I can run with that analogy. It’s like vodka, in that it may be fine in a mixed drink (eg., what we got in Toradora) but I doubt anyone would order a screwdriver just because they enjoy the subtlety between different top-shelf vodka. I think for the handful of people who truly enjoy anime like this, are so starved that we don’t really let the little details bother us. For the rest of us, those of us who are less committed to this sub-category of romantic comedies, well, the mileage will vary on how much you like watching the distilled essence of Toradora.

In case it isn’t clear to you–by distilled I mean it is filtered out of certain, more fruity flavors.

And for me, unfortunately, it remains a curious execution on subtle twists and turns, in plotting the characters, and in the application of wit. On those grounds I find NatsuMachi inspired, but still well short of excellent. Much like it is comfortable to wrap yourself around Taiga and Yuuji’s embrace like a comfortable blanket on a chilly afternoon, you probably won’t wear it, or likewise Ichika and Kaito’s fantasy, to the prom.

I mean, after all, who brings a warm and fuzzy romantic relationship to a fight against aliens? At least bring a robotic van.


Life Beyond 8th Grade: Guilty Crown’s Gravest Sin, And a Movie with A Really Long Name

The blog title says it all. Let me break it down:

8th Grade is a reference to “chuu-ni” and in the context of Guilty Crown, that refers to chuunibyou. Chuunibyou, literally 8th grade disease, refers to a, well, trend (now) in regards to a certain kind of mentality that’s pervasive in pop media.

Guilty Crown’s gravest sin… well, that statement is a joke. I think it’s easy to talk down on the show, and not praise it for all the things it did right. FWIW I think it did a lot of stuff right–that’s why so many people watched it to the end. But I’ll leave the white knights and people who wants to thrash against an 8th grader to their work. I mean that’s my biggest issue with dismissing Guilty Crown, it’s like stealing candy from a kid.

Or at least, nobody I think has mentioned the problem I have with Guilty Crown. The problem I have with guilty crown can be summed up in a sentence: it’s a story about someone who struggles with chuunibyou, rather than a story about how cool it is to have your chuunibyou cake and eat it too. I think characters like Okarin, Ed, Leolouch and Light have deep, psychological issues. Shuu? He doesn’t. And as a result he ends up doing things in a way that’s not really fun to watch, and it comes out in the way the story has to write him into these preposterous situations that probably shouldn’t happen given who he is.

The natural reaction I had with this, when I realized this, was just why was Shuu so abnormal in this way? What thematic purpose does it serve? I think it’s in this sense that Guilty Crown is actually redeeming and likable. Well, likable if you have a thing for hating on chuunibyou (for example, hating on fans who take RailDex too far). Unfortunately a normal protagonist doesn’t work with this formula (Bandai/Sunrise formula?), just like how no matter how uplifting Soranowoto was or the interesting issues Fractale explored there are probably a truck load of naysayers and dissatisfied customers. Which is, I guess, just another season of TV anime in the bank and life goes on, etc.

The movie with the really long name is actually billed by its sub-title: The Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below. I wanted to rewrite this post in order to open with “In order to say goodbye to Guilty Crown I went on a journey to NYC” and catch the last screening of it at the NYCIFF, but that sounded too corny. Anyway it’s great to see that film on a big, proper screen. Let’s just say that unless you got some pimp TV setup, your Blu-ray or Blu-ray rip of it will not do it justice. It is just gorgeous to see it the second time, now that I can dispense with paying attention to the stuff in the film that I already know, and instead focus my attention to the animation.

The story of the movie also comes into the clear better the second time around, at least I guess I kind of figured it out before I watch it the second time, and seeing it the second time affirms what I was thinking about. But then it struck me while I was watching Asuna saying goodbye to Shun–she is not only saying goodbye to a stranger she barely knew, but to a part of her youth. Given that she is the Ghibli-esqe protagonist in a Ghibli-esqe film, it’s kind of ironic that she would go on an adventure in order to say goodbye to her version of Howl or Porco or Pazu or whoever. It’s like she is bidding her to-be chuunibyou life, bidding her once-in-a-lifetime adventure goodbye…by going on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. And naturally, the adventure she went on is a forbidden one.

I heartily support this message. I also heartily support this film. But like I said earlier about Soranowoto or Fractale or, heh, Guilty Crown, I don’t know, man. Do you like Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below? Will it sell? Can you eat it?

PS. During the screening of Hoshi o Ou Kodomo, I still felt like as if I was watching “Char and Squid Girl go on an underground adventure.” I guess nothing can cure this.


Sins of a Search Engine Empire, And a Story about Copywriting

I kind of like how Nisioisin names his books with his funny portmanteaus. “Ghostory” and the like, you know. The game “Sins of a Solar Empire” had a striking name, as it stuck with me, being a light fan of the 4X genre, so I was wondering if I could make it work in this blog post. I guess not.

I’m basically mourning the death of Google Reader Shared Item. I am basically mourning the disappearance of the records that birthed the best thing that anyone can quote and put on the DVD copy of Okami-san. Okami-san is a FUNimation license in North America. Okami-san is a story also called Ōkami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi. Like, about that untranslatable word about something or another anime/light novel nonsense, Okami-san is also known for her Endless Pleasure Sticks.

The concept “Endless Pleasure Sticks” is worth noting because it’s a set of words that resonates. Ever take a tuning fork (like an F) and just whack it around? It sounds good. Or rather, it sounds just like a note, nothing more (depending on what you whacked it on). That’s what it is like.  That’s why it’s worth calling it out. That’s why it makes a good, uh, measuring stick.

So the other day I got this in the mail. I was slightly surprised (and way more amused) to see a quote from the Nihon Review–a proper website with anime reviews and indexed and what not that–in my mail. I guess I confuse it with the “staff blog” sometimes, which is where all the interesting stuff happens. Upon some more reflection it occurred to me that whoever was working for RS on behalf of Funi is actually just going on the internet and looking up “good” sites with proper “hay we peddle reviews” criteria for quotes. Contrary to what I posted, NHRV isn’t really a “blog” per se. Still, seeing it got me thinking.

I mean, if I was the copywriter, I would totally put “Endless Pleasure Sticks” on the back of the thing. It would be the best quote any copywriter can put on a copy of Okami-san DVD. It would induced me to purchase it. I mean, doesn’t it just intrigue you? And I think it’s infinitely more classy than any three words that ever came out of, say, these people. Alas, the back-room joke now will forever be back-room; it will never be on the cover of a mediocre late-night anime adaptation of a light novel, never see the light of the day, or the dim glow of a gigantic warehouse.

I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves. This is the cover of Funi’s DVD/BD box set and the cover volume 1 of the Japanese DVD/BD release. You can ignore the red circle pointing out how Funi “censored” the artwork if you wish. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, well, you can write “Endless Pleasure Sticks” about three hundred and thirty four times and it would be worth just as much as that picture. And you won’t even need to photoshop anything.

And since I started out blaming Google, why don’t I end it the same way? If Google’s search was smart enough to realize that any copywriter would want to see those three words used to describe our titular heroine, why doesn’t it give it to said writer? If GRSI wasn’t deprecated I could’ve linked you to the said juicy goodness. Disappointing internet gods, that lot.


What Ends Well

Anime and ending is a tough topic, because in order to talk about it to people who speak English you have to first talk about eastern and western storytelling modes, just in case. But I can talk about something about endings that ought to be universal–or rather, the opposite of judging a book by the cover: judging a book by almost the entire thing except the very, very end.

I think there are a lot of wasted ink spilled on why it is okay to justify crapping on a show with only the first, second or all three of the first three episodes. To be honest I don’t care; fact remains you are making a call with just (at most) three episodes, and I’m hoping your wager is equally tempered with how you’re rolling your odds against the other 9 or whatever episodes that you haven’t seen yet. That’s not my business, anyway. However I think the equal if not much stronger argument can be made with the last, next-to-last, or three episodes from the end (or any 1-3 episodes in the middle, for that matter). Some shows, rather, really need to end on a strong note in order to have a shot at being “good.” I’m thinking we have at least a couple this season, for various reasons.

Take Another for starters. [I totally picked it first so I can avoid making another pun.] It is more or less a classic Hollywood-styled and paced horror anime. It’s also the kind of horror anime that wants to play the entire spectrum of happy and sad scares. Its final-destination-esqe deaths are one of the biggest booms. I can’t help but to compare it with Angel Beats. I think all the Angel Beats naysayers would have had a great time if the cast in that show actually died in those comedic ways. Too bad they were already dead.

Anyway. I think a show like Another really, really needs to end on a strong note. It’s that sort of poetic/thematic redemption that can make or break a show where it bankais on all the emotional chips it built up over the season. So it had to end well. Or else all that emotional ride comes crashing down, and people will leave the theater with a bad impression. I’d say it’s because this precise thing that made Shiki at all a bearable show (I didn’t think it was very good, except for the climax and the end), so I have high hopes, given how it’s written by the woman’s husband.

The other big one riding on the end is Lagrange ~ The Flower of Rin-ne. Technically Lag-Rin (or Kamojo or w/e) is a Fate/Zero-style hack–it is doing just the first half this season and I’m assuming it’ll get a break and resume in the summer. But for people to care about this show, it has to go all-in with this ending. This week’s build-up was beyond expectation in terms of quality, so hopefully we’ll go into the break with some positive feeling about this show, despite how it really tried to squander all that good will by its lackadaisical character development.

Not as dire as the previous two, but the romantic throwback Ano Natsu de Matteru also needs a very strong ending. The biggest reason why would be that it already has expended most of its chips; it may be safe to say the emotional climax has come and gone. What remains is largely people’s expired expectations. If it were to merely meet these low hanging fruits it would have made the show unremarkable on its own. But given how people lowered those expectations it is precisely the time to strike. It would be easy to surprise us with something clever when we’re least expecting it. I think a car chase is a good beginning to the end! Actually, given how close Natsumachi is to filmmaking in general, I’m not going to be surprised if it makes a real push at the end. It would be a pleasant thing.

Among these, however, the show that really, really needs a good ending is Guilty Crown. It hasn’t quite lost the audience it picked up from the very beginning, but it’s beginning to thin. We’ve had a good run of the show as a joke but if it can’t cap the dramatic climatic turns that this high-energy, high-budget formula has typically provided in times past, it will soon be forgotten. Maybe it’ll get as much creds as Star Driver?

As for what I’m watching…that might be it. Or at least I’ve come to expect these handful, for better or worse. I guess if a show is really dire I probably wouldn’t think a great ending could do much for it, so maybe there is something to be said about that.