Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Future Is 2.5D

Remembering Anime Boston, I thought about 2.5D. I think the context the term was used in was for Momoi’s Afilia Saga East–she’s a producer for them–a group of Akiba idols associated with the similarly named maid cafe chain. The term came up during a question at Momoi’s fan panel related to the subgenrification [btw, google result of this made-up word makes a good list of wank blogs] of otaku in Japan–I think they would have it way worse than oversea otaku, and they probably are. There are idol otaku and there are anime otaku, very different groups of people who like very different things even when from afar, they are not really that different. Among others.

Thinking about some of the fans I personally know, to put stress on the term fan (I think it best describes most of these people), it really is the case where people are fans of a lot of the same things, but for different reasons. I’m not sure if that is because of the media mix case or what, but this sludge of … things that are attractive do bridge both 2D and 3D fans, otaku, scholars, shopkeepers, other sub-genres, what have you.

I think what is more interesting about 2.5D is that there is a distinct expression for it. Seiyuu. Hatsune Miku. ClariS. AKB0048. All of these things are examples of 2.5D.

To take a big step back, the term 2.5D really comes about when we look at the otaku who likes their 2D–slang for anime/manga/game characters. Those moe figures and hugpillows, that’s a stable expression of 2D. You can shout “ore no yome” for both 2D and 3D characters, but the latter will get you more weird looks than the former, I think. As for 3D, it generally refers to real life persons, or specifically idols for idol otaku–people who like AKB48 or one of the many. They have their own code and things to do, depending on which agency they (idols and fan alike) are slaved to. Of course 3D fandom has been in development for a much longer period than 2D, so it’s a convoluted thing to sort through so I won’t really try to here. It’s when 2D collides with 3D that you get this strange 2.5D effect.

In other words, when 2D wants to do 3D, it’s 2.5D. When 3D tries to be 2D, it’s 2.5D.

Like every other otaku term that’s been around, it’s not exactly easy to define or even pin down. I think 2.5D is most akin to a feeling where there’s some kind of gap that is being broached. It’s probably vaguely related to concepts like “uncanny valley” and “AI” and “meme” and things like that, because undead Tupac is a very apt expression of 2.5D. On the other hand when you have physical manifestation of 2D (hug pillows, figures, etc) or when the 2D slots into a perfectly 3D role (eg., a virtual idol), that’s 2.5D. Actually anime is inherently 2.5D.

The bigger generalization I want to state is that 2D is limited to ideas, where as 3D is manifestation thereof. Most Japanese idols are pretty much just girls who are produced to project some kind of persona, an image. As mentioned before it is no less artificial than Hatsune Miku in a lot of ways, certainly in the ways fans interact with idols. On the other hand when your average Precure kigurumi stage show happens at an amusement park, well, that’s a real-life manifestation of cartoons.

Somehow we are infatuated when this crossover behavior happens. I don’t really know why, but I can make a few guesses. And by we I mean people like myself.

There are many other advantages too. 2.5D naturally lends itself to better marketing. It’s easy to photocopy some ads or post on facebook an idea, and image, a persona; to win fans with your 3D personality require the person being all over the place, or expensive TV broadcasting. Neither replaces the other but you need to leverage both the 2D or 3D along with the 2.5. It’s great to have a manga with a good story and great art and an eye for what makes for great manga material, but it probably will always be more popular if the anime adaptation turned out to be a blockbuster. The examples of 2.5D’s benefits are countless.

The best example, to go back to Tupac, is that ideas live forever, theoretically. Much longer than life + 70 years. Even if the 3D component is six feet under, 2D and 2.5D will live on as long as there’s enough interests in it. That alone almost guarantees that the future is 2.5D. Wait until hologram technology breaks the gates of Hades wide open–big enough for Biggie to join the chorus!


Design-Driven Results


This is kind of off-topic for this blog, maybe, but it’s probably worth noting a few things. So it goes. These things are about how the choices you make, perhaps seemingly minor, can have a big, big impact in the long run.

There’s this anime blog tournament going on. I think it’s a worthwhile exercise because in order to have a working blog scene, you need to have some required things going on, elements. One of these elements is enough of a reader base that will sufficiently bleed out information beyond purely linking and relying on analytics and trackbacks in order to create the “social networking” effect. For example, if person A writes an interesting blog post about Amazon’s monopsony, and person B has never heard of person A or his blog before, but is interested in the content of A’s blog post, how can B discover A’s blog post? If person B’s daily reading of internet stuff overlaps part of the network in which A’s blog post traverses, such as if B reads a blog post that links to A’s blog, then maybe. Or if B reads person C’s twitter in which C comments on A’s blog post, for another example. You get what I’m saying. But in both of these cases it means some person C has to read person A’s blog, or maybe C is just like B and is not regularly reading a part of A’s blog post’s network, and some person D has to fill in that role. In other words, someone has to act as an intermediary.

This is why in order for a blog to actually achieve some degree of the network effect, it has to:

  • get a lot of readers, and/or
  • get some readers who are heavy-duty cross-posting or networking “nodes”

Invariably a lot of bloggers themselves are heavy-duty readers of other people’s blogs, in order to cull and come up with new things to put in their blogs. They also link out to other people’s writing, as blogs themselves present one way for the network to exist. But I can tell you first hand this is not easy work, and quite frankly I can’t do it because uh…what is commonly described as anime blogging is not something I have a high tolerance for. So when something like AnimeNano or the Aniblog tournament exists, it becomes a way for blogs that very few people read to get read. Someone does the curating for you, as much (in the Aniblog tourney case) or as little (in the anano case) as the case may be. Or in my case, very rarely do I link out to an anime blog! Kind of weird isn’t it.

I think it’s fair criticism to say the Aniblog tournament is an exercise in circle-jerking, as a result of this simple mechanics in play. Fact remains that most people already read blogs they want to read, and blogs with the stronger networks invariably will do better simply because they are better recognized and have more readers. Blogs that have more readers will move on further, since it’s a popularity contest. Meanwhile blogs with few readers are often blogs where the blogger is the most active networker as part of that blog, and s/he will end up being most invested in the Aniblog tourney, adding to the circle-jerkiness. But let’s face it, when you have a blog that makes a big PR move and links to a bunch of other blogs, all it’s doing it simply networking.

In order to min-max this effect I think the Aniblog tourney people should move away from a single elimination format and just have every blog pit against the two or four most-read blogs. I mean, let’s drop the facade. I think psgels would rather want to get it over with using minimal effort by winning against every anime blog out there via a few big polls, where all his readers will get a chance to read the competition and not just on the days where he’s actually pitted against some blog that was tortured long enough to get that far. And in some ways, I think it may benefit everyone the most this way–more readers will find more blogs they might want to read, after all, and it avoids the situation when you involve the blogs with the biggest readership only in matches where the competition are already well-read. The gain is minimal in that latter scenario.

Moving it away from single-elimination will also reduce the appearance of circle-jerkiness. I mean by playing it up like a sai-moe-whatever-thing type game, you are sure to attract the most heavy networkers who are also already bloggers and not a whole lot of people who stand to gain the most from the networking exercise, but just like a sai-moe-whatever-thing type game, it will not interest the wider public unless it engages the most popular sites. Having everyone engaged all the time is for sure a great way to reduce that circle-jerk appearance. Sure, having this sort of fancy elimination format adds the entertainment value of the tournament but really, I guess that is the true cancer that is killing anime blogging. I mean, really, I’d rather read some blog who puts in effort and write something amusing about anime than some meta exercise about popularity of blogs. I think the way the tourney is set up this time is a major step backwards for that reason, by “seeding” better-read blogs and giving them byes.

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I do want to talk about Amazon’s monopsony for a minute; please do read this article. I think Japanese publishing is also, like American publishing, ripe for disruption. But who will do it?  Amazon is no doubt in talk with Japan with the entire controversy regarding the DOJ suit over here as the backdrop, with all that nonsense about agency and wholesale and profit sharing, etc. But will they make the same mistake American publishers did with DRM? I cannot imagine a world where Japanese publishers cast away their DRM. It just seems like psychologically impossible. Does this mean the same thing will happen to Japanese publishing? I know Apple had issues making leeway because of their stance on censorship and what not, so it will be a war between walled gardens to see who wins the Japanese market. It is about exciting as seeing a bunch of old men punching each other in the face, except they’re doing it in Scrooge McDuck’s money bin.

As an aside, I think Amazon’s devices may do well in Japan. It’s definitely got a winning formula in the US and Europe. And the price! How can one of the most frugal first-world country in the world say no to that?

Yeah, I like that article because it posits the double-edge of DRM. Loved the irony.

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Small plug for Nippon Columbia’s paid-for streaming music service, FaRao. This is almost god-send-y. Only if I can actually use it! Or I should say, only if their app works on my phone without crashing every time I try to create an account. Supposedly a flash-based web UI will be available at some point soon.


Too Many Good Anime Is the Best Problem

I always give the ol’ 3 episode test when I could, when it’s a new season and we’re met with new anime and new IP to dig through. It’s not easy. For the past 2-3 seasons I’ve had the same problem, which is the problem I see a lot of people having this season: there’s just way too many good shows. Or I should say, I want to watch a lot of new anime this season–I don’t know if they’re really good or not, but I’d like to find out by watching them.

Shows like the new Lupin and Tsuritama are shoo-ins. Space Bros and Apollon are definitive for the medium. Achi Kochi? Nyaruko-san? They’re at risk, despite being quite entertaining. Even otaku straight shooters like Medaka Box is with enough merit to put it above the mediocre line. Resuming Fate Zero and Korean Zombies, and keeping up with Sket Dance, Aquarion and Mouretsu Pirates become difficult, despite being the sort of shows I have a hard itch for. This is not even to mention that I kind of like Upotte, the throwaway anime of the season (that and maybe the new Queen’s Blade–Itou Shizuka as a pirate again! And what’s up with the transparent horse LOL). I tried that Bear Cafe anime, that’s not too horrible but it stands no chance this season. Same with Kuroko’s Basketball–these two shows are things I’d watch in 2010 but not today. Nazo no Kanojo X was a manga that I enjoyed briefly but the retro look in the anime is a great touch. The first installment of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is interesting and curious, much like Sankarea, but will I have time to explore them? Ozma is classic and interesting after 3 episodes, but I really don’t have time for old school with this new school of new anime, not to mention Fujiko has got that itch scratched.  Intriguing and well-executed shows like Sengoku Collection will not fare well at all despite doing all the right things, just because it’s a moe-historic-character sort of deal and it hits my sweet spot with episode 2. Jormungand brings back that Revy feel or Lovely Haruka feel, whichever, and it’s White Fox doing something very cool.

I wish I have the time to entertain Saint Seiya Omega, but how can it stand a chance? That bread making anime? How do I have the time? Piggy Online? It’s rather solid chuunibyou anime. And lastly there’s still Eureka 7 AO, which I guess I should slot it with Saki as a continuity/side story dealie. Oh, there’s NatsuKise (which I’m blogging for jtor) and AKB0048, which, well, I kind of have to watch as well. Oh, there’s also Zetman, which Hulu-fication and strangely familiar setup demands its audience.

I could watch and enjoy almost everything this season. I think only Panda Cafe and Kuroko fails, and even then I’d rather give them 3 episodes. Who doesn’t want to see Stealth Momo play hoops? That’s the thing. If you are the average avid anime viewer following Japanese TV anime (of the late night kind), even if you skip half of the shows this 2012 Spring season, odds are very good that you’ll be dropping actually a show worth watching. I guess it just means it really, really pays to be extremely picky?

Late night TV anime is finally thriving, maybe. It’s been a long journey since Those Who Hunt Elves.

But the risk here is that will these fairly well-produced production meet the unyielding reality that the market is packed with them? Will KyoAni’s Hyouka make a splash? How can studios and productions and committees distinguish themselves economically and in the minds of the fans? In a price war often times it is the consumers that benefit; but I get the feeling there are no winner in this war, only losers and otaku.

Personally, I feel this is pretty exciting. The only thing is I have this weird spiteful feeling for everyone who thinks anime or noitaminA is saved because of Apollon. It is kind of like Redline; I get the feeling that as much as Watanabe loves his jazz music, it just doesn’t feel right for him to adopt a josei/shoujo manga faithfully. I have no doubt it will be great, it will just be kind of weird. On the other hand Nakamura’s Tsuritama is somehow so delightful for me, on so many different levels, that I have no words. So who am I to say?

Of course, I’m waiting for someone to tell me that this season is crappy and there are only like two good shows. Because oversea anime fandom is incredibly distorted like that.


Nyarlathotep And the RPG Sausage Maker

I’m not really a fan and I am not familiar with Lovecraft’s creation, but it seems that Nyarlathotep’s transition into anime/light novel (in the resulting Haiyore! Nyaruko-san property) is via the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game. There were no “SAN” points in the novels, I think?

I think the first time I heard about Japanese tabletop RPGs was almost around the time when I first heard of 2ch. Of course, that just means I didn’t find out about something that geeks everywhere have enjoyed since who-knows-when, in Japan, until then. There were, as expected, games that are popular and exported, and games that are domestic. Queen’s Blade is probably the best example out there in terms of an anime based on a tabletop game. Nyaruko-san anime is actually based on the light novel of the same, which I assume got its inspiration from Call of Cthulhu.

The history behind the CoC game, though, is still the game adaptation of the source material. Tabletop RPGs make good use of fantasy material given their wordy and rich world building necessary to field games like this, at least in a way that will sell to the same crowd. A lot of IP can be contextualized and translated into some existing game system and the various RPG systems and frameworks enable role playing, a way for players and fans to interact with the IP.

The amusing thing in Nyarlathotep’s case is that it not only allows for player interaction, but localization. It’s easy to localize a system. I can play New Love Plus because all the moonrunes come at me with a steady, player-regulated pace in a way shared by other games of the same genre. A 3DS is not so different, from one region to another. I have context, I have the help of user interface designs, and I have experience from using or playing other games. If I can play Dominion, I can play Tanto Cuore, or the Nitro+ version of Dominion. But that’s still just another form of lateral translation of experiences. It is still one step further to get to the case of how I relate to Nyaruko-san–someone who plays table top games in general and enjoys anime, versus a specific regurgitation (the anime) of a localized-for-foreign IP (CoC (game and books) Japanese ver.) based on a local IP (CoC game) that was adaptation of another local IP (CoC novel), and the IP itself. I mean, seriously. I haven’t even gone into the Azuma-style of database elements about Nyaruko-san yet. This is all very dicey, in a chopped greens sort of way.

So in my mind, I think of how sausages are made. This is it. This is cultural sausage. The game system provides the proverbial sausage grinder. The anime/database elements is like, the sausage skin. What’s inside will probably drain you of your sanity points. What’s amusing is that Nyaruko-san makes whole sale references to Lovecraft text, starting with the tagline “Crawling Chaos.” This is some special sausage if that much of the original can get through.

PS. When I game, it’s usually a sausage party, get it?

PPS. After writing this post I washed my hands. With soap.

PPPS. (」・ω・)」うー!(/・ω・)/にゃー!


Upotte!! Is Not a Crime

The other day I found that my childhood buddy has finally landed a job of his dream/calling, which is to work as an attorney working on gun ownership related litigation in the state of New Jersey. Just a blurb about gun ownership, it’s something of an American tradition; living in the land of excess you do see people abuse their rights and go overboard with their firearms. On the flip side, for every 10% of bad apples there are probably a bunch more good apples, more victims of circumstances than anything, now having to navigate the varying firearms laws of each individual state, plus the federal one. It can be tough especially if you live in a state that progressively restrict certain weapons that you own (and NJ is one of the more difficult ones); something legal that you bought 10 years ago may be illegal now and you might not even know about it, or can do anything legal to make it un-illegal again. It’s interesting to see how not each instances of grandfathering work as flawlessly as designed, and regardless of your position on the issue of gun ownership, enforcement is always never perfect. That’s why my friend has a job, I guess.

While he doesn’t quite fit the pigeonhole of your average libby gun nut, my attorney friend does have a modest firearm collection that he has probably left in some degree of neglect due to work. He also grew up in the country and the ‘burbs, and is not a city person at all. Well, it’s all good to me because I know he is a responsible and trained individual when it comes to this, to the degree that I know the kind of, uh, misdeeds he has committed that he probably won’t be doing anything dangerous.

That said, would he enjoy Upotte!!? I’m not sure. I’m not much of a gun nut at all (although I do enjoy skeet shooting on occasion) but I find Upotte entirely a riot. I mean, in a postQwaser world, Upotte is light-hearted and fun stuff that is easy to get in to and get the joke. If you’ve never seen Qwaser, this may all be a shock. I’m pretty sure my friend had not, so Upotte might be shocking to him in the “right” way, which is the shock of seeing how boobies now are analogues to barrel protective covering for guns that he know. I mean, there’s little anyone can say about that, and more about emoting the unspeakable, that “mfw,” that jaw-drop.

Upotte is about assault rifles, for the most part. Those weapons are generally heavily restricted in America today. I think that takes the show’s military otaku context up a notch in the sense that most Japanese gun/military otaku don’t own guns, contrary to their American counterparts. But I think no matter if you are Japanese or American or any other nationality, Upotte’s blend of moe and firearm is more of the point, the gag if you will, than any kind of contextual gateway to appreciation of someone’s favorite weapon. I mean, it’s basically what this is all about.

It’s clearly different than, say, when my aforementioned friend and I watch Gun Smith Cats and Riding Bean, he’d point out the sort of things they were using in the show, the stopping power of human muscle on small-caliber arms, what have you. I think it’s hilarious that we’ve come so far. And I can’t imagine anyone taking this seriously. But I think it is precisely why Upotte can be good entertainment!

PS. Ever look at the ads pixiv serves you when you look at Upotte artwork? LOL.