Monthly Archives: June 2012

Nodoka’s Unfeeling, Fleeting Dream

It all started with this tweet. What Kurogane said wasn’t important, but it highlighted a scene in Saki Achiga-hen episode 10 that had several interpretations. It looks like this:

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You Know You’re [Insert Age Group Descriptor] When…

…seiyuu around your age are tying the knot. First it was Maaya now RieRie? Actually that one isn’t so surprising; if anything I expected it to happen earlier. The exceptions like Michiko Neya are, well, exceptions. But who will rise to be the next cool single seiyuu Onee-san? More amusingly, where’s those pictures of torn copies of her photobooks? Or will I be able to find them in Book-off now? Joking aside, I don’t really want to see the depth of Rie Tanaka fandom surfacing; it’s probably safe to say that once she gets to be as old as she is, getting married is a good thing. I don’t think far majority of us really mind that.

Now some of us might be scratch our heads about something else. Actually this post is more like, my reaction-face equivalent. Yea, Kouichi Yamadera is pretty smooth but wow. Who saw this coming? I don’t even mind the 17-yo gap between the two but it’s definitely quite amusing and that makes a couple that seems just a tad unlikely in the beginning. I hope Yama-chan is good at Monster Hunter. At any rate, they have my best wishes.

If I have another chance to give her flowers, I still would. Just different kinds of flowers!


Upotte Is the Definition of New Fanservice

For years I have been referring to generally things that pleases the fans as fanservice. This includes not only the sexually alluring sort of fanservice, but basically all sorts of things that kind of juts out there in a particular narrative beyond boobies and booties. The reality is that late-night TV anime is largely founded on the premise of giving the fans what they want, so we have a lot of shows over the years that have this broad definition of fanservice at its core. I think we have seen some shifts over the past few years, though, and now we are kind of hitting it with more authority and in a more complete sort of way.

The concept behind Upotte is basically you have these magically morphed assault rifles as middle-school girls, both sharing human and weapon characteristics. In a way their human appearances is kind of the black curtain that hides what the hell is going on; we’re taking them as is, characters, and not as some kind of mysterious creatures that are both sentient and are assault rifles. It’s not like they look like guns with arms and legs, nor do they actually possess any character design elements that can be liken to rifles; just jokes about underwear and character personalities, and occasionally they can overheat.

As representation of assault rifles, admittedly, the girls were more like high-level concepts–caricatures of these guns in the eyes of gun otaku–rather than the weapons themselves. At least that’s how I reconcile the fact that these girls actually use the guns they represent in the show to play their various life-and-(not-)death games.

Of course, the fact that these guns are middle-school girls create a pretty convenient vehicle for fanservice of the boobies-and-booties kind. Actually the show kind of ups this angle by including a large cast that show up alongside with the main four characters. We actually don’t see the main group showing off, so to that extent the Upotte anime doesn’t really push it. I imagine it doesn’t need to given its specific niche.

Underneath all this, though, is another vehicle for fanservice–that the girls are just, as far as from what we can see, normal girls. Aside from their weird characteristics like unable to die from gun shots (a necessity purely to facilitate the need to have gunplay (pun unintended) in a gun otaku anime), when any onlooker sees the cast of Upotte they probably will be none the wiser. Maybe the elf or animal ears hint at their non-human origins, but last time I checked elves and animal girls can still be shot and are not pure representation of high-level ideas. Well, seeing just the setup for “normal” fanservice is just as large of a cloak for what’s underneath.

What kind of tickles me is how the girls in Upotte are ideas for other ideas. Not in the sense that fictional characters are ideas, but these characters are just representation of ideas that are bundled and “moe-ified” natures of the weapons they represent. It’s kind of like the “database animal” thing, except now we’re talking about wholly foreign and kind-of incompatible elements. Thongs for skeleton stocks? I mean, yeah. I said it earlier, but Upotte uses this clean-cut “let’s not get too deep into it” approach to do the human-weapon merger. It provided a fairly plausible bridge to suspense our beliefs, I suppose.

In likewise manner, Upotte approaches the “real fanservice” part of the show, the firefights, in a “let’s not get too deep into it” style. I say this is fanservice because they’ve now gone out of their way, out of the mold of moe anime, and put some good scenarios where the students play some rough games of airsoft, except with weapons that have the right characteristics of actual guns. It’s pretty darn good fantasy fulfillment.

If we look back to Cat Shit One, maybe we can see this coming. Well, that one is a little bit literal; but for military and gun otaku, that’s kind of what we want out of our entertainment: 30 minutes or so of military action with people fighting using rifles and other conventional arms. It’s like a video game. Upotte tries to deliver that, and it was at least successful in having that content present and highlighted as climaxes in the show.  To put it in perspective, the story of K-ON or Soranowoto each has some overarching paradigm in which the narrative follows. Epic spidertank battles or high-energy live concerts, from the perspectives of those paradigms and themes of the story, are fanservice. In Upotte we came for some cool guns and gunplay, and we got plenty of that, because the whole show is pitched around those aspects and it knows that’s what we want. Rather than to go neck deep into philosophy of deadly weapons and the debate about civilian ownership of these things, for example, Upotte knows better. You can kind of see it in the last episode, but really?

Anyways, TL;DR: Upotte is double-barreled fanservice, and the whole thing is designed for this purpose.

PS. In the era of Kickstarter, CSO would probably thrive, don’t you think? IDA needs to get their butts on it pronto.

PPS. If fanservice is extraneous, and the whole anime is about fanservice, wouldn’t fanservice in fanservice anime no longer be fanservice?

PPPS. These name-branded guns, if they weren’t core to the course of human history in the 20th century, they are almost as good as advertising-generated popular culture (think of all the name brands of instruments in K-ON)?


Siloed for Sanity: Anime Fandom Ghetto Encourages Harmony

Just quoting some tweets here, between SDS, Ed, Daryl and JP:

SDS: I can’t help but wonder if the root of nerd misogyny is a bitterness towards being unable to reap the benefits of being male often mentioned

SDS: If one does disagree about a character being sexist or not, I would hope the argument would involve reasons why that character is positive.

SDS: And not “Well it happens to guys too so there!” (it doesn’t)

Ed Sizemore: @sdshamshel Shhh. Let the gamers and superhero fans be insensitive jerks. They can drive the geek girls into the arms of the anime fanboys.

Daryl: @edsizemore Per @sdshamshel‘s hypothesis, if the geek girls are driven to the anime fanboys the anime fans without will intensify their hate

jpmeyer: @DarylSurat @edsizemore @sdshamshel my theory is that anime fandom isn’t as bad because it has rigidly gendered areas (waifus vs. yaoi etc)

me: @jpmeyer anime nerds can get it on without resorting to line-blurring stuff; fanservice a time honored element

me: @jpmeyer or another way of saying, there is less qualms about outright porn in anime fandom

jpmeyer: @omonomono when your fandom coins the phrase “rule 34”, you don’t flip out when girls draw pictures of your favorite characters buttsecksing

The fact is, anime culture out here is grown up among and along with jokes like “Tentacle Rape” and what have you. It’s not wholesome stuff. People get the wrong idea about it all the time even today. Its exploitative reputation in the 80s and 90s are well-rooted in like-kind works that are available in the west at the time, despite having the term (anime, Japanimation, whatever) covering all Japanese animation, from Future Boy Conan to Cool Devices.

Video gaming has gone a long way since its early days in the 70s and 80s; but unlike anime, the west is intimately familiar with video games. And unlike anime, the concept of video games have long been something wholesome for the family. In some ways it’s no different than the word “cartoon” and its connotation. [To think of it in reverse, it’s like as if Japanese games were its own category of games and are treated differently than non-Japanese games.] I can pretty clearly recall that it wasn’t until the mid 90s did we get games that actually broached adult content in the mainstream gamer consciousness, at least beyond the usual strip poker or the like. (It’s hard to do ero when the graphics isn’t quite there yet.) Yes, you get to blow people up in pieces, or aliens, or whatever that it is you were shooting. The GTA games really elevated that at around the turn of the century. Old guard “adult” games like LSL were, for the most part, wholesome, even if they did play to adult sensibilities.

More importantly, consoles and video games become something everyone played at some point in their lives. That might be enough of a key to turn our attention to them in general.

What I am seeing is this sensibility being slowly expanded in mainstream gaming to approach the varying issues that anime had to deal with since day zero. If gamers can just own up to that a part of their experience–to acknowledge the entire spectrum of human discourse is fair game in the medium of video games–maybe people will be better off? To put it in fewer words, own up to the sexist, misogynistic side? It’s like legalizing marijuana, or better yet, acknowledge the issue because “knowing is half the battle.”

I guess what I am suggesting is a subtle thing–it isn’t to say if we made more porn or adult-only games, it will make mainstream games less sexist, or anything like that. I’m wondering if the people who play games–gamers–will sort themselves out accordingly, if we give them appropriate “playgrounds” in which they will go and mind their own businesses. In other words, if we created some genre of games that makes things like DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball obsolete? Or added another 20 genres to what’s out there, beyond the bounds of gameplay but also in terms of themes and human needs? And have discourses that are thoroughly off tangent from the mainstream discourse as a way to give more choices for gamers to spend their time? What if we simply all played the games we wanted to play, and they happened to be very different and not the same 10 AAA sequels from the same 4-5 big publishers every year?

I also think the whole concept of “AAA” gaming accelerates and complicates this problem. It’s retarded that we all have to care about only a handful of games, just because tons of money is spent to market it. I don’t even know if tons of money is spent to create a AAA game that actually goes into the development. These titles are as authentic as, well, as Lana Del Rey.

The problem about everyone caring about one game is that it is very difficult to fund a controversial game and piss people off (at least intentionally, not through incompetence). What does it say about the industry or scene if a flagship title is, say, sexist or treat minorities poorly? What if it is extremely violent? Does it matter? More importantly, what does our attitudes about AAA titles say about how we, in the converse, don’t care about the countless titles that gets little to no press, which may be even worse or very commendable when we use the same ruler to measure? Why this double standard? Or rather, this is exactly the mechanism that anime communities have long adopted to co-exist.

The fact of the matter is I share a banner, a heading, as people who buy these figures (NSFW). Because I buy bishoujo pre-panted stuff (tho nothing like this). Because I like anime. This is just for example, sure, but you probably share some title, being an anime/manga person, with people who are into totally different things than you do. Rule 34, after all, spares no one. We certainly don’t have to like it, but I think that sort of things exist in enough of a vacuum, both in actual separation and in the contextual sense, that we can co-exist. The merit of ideas remain the primary means in which good stories, characters, settings, concepts, shows, franchises, fan participation, artwork, and all that we do, move up in the marketplace of ideas. Anime has always had a marketing problem oversea; the flip side is that it is easier for trashy, late-night anime (or ONA crap even) to bubble up in the fandom discourse, provided that it has merit; that the siloing of different types of fans who are interested in the different aspects of this fandom allows for merit to outshine preconception. More importantly, these silos help in that we all can lend each other our strengths and still keep all that naughty stuff to ourselves.

PS. NYAF died in its ghetto. Will its rebirth (lol shared artist space with NYCC AA) cause friction? Got a few months to go before we find out!


That iDOLM@STER Panel, Decontexualization

There are a lot of things you can say about iM@S fans but one thing undeniably so are their tendencies to go out of their way for it. I mean, now I can say that I went to a con just to attend an iM@S fan panel, as that was the con experience of AnimeNext 2012 for me. I also dropped by the dealer’s room and artist alley this year (what a weird setup) and said hi to some people, but this con is like, in my back yard. I actually have some humorous stories about it I could share if you ever run into me in the meat space.

Any any rate, I didn’t even really wanted to go. Berryz Koubou was the one guest(s) at the con that I was interested in, but I was also entirely unable to go to their programming due to a variety of obligations. I didn’t know a thing about this iM@S panel besides what was provided by the con website–“ARE WE LADY” and it’s got some generic but pro-feeling text about what iM@S is over here. I didn’t even know there was an iM@S panel until I read on twitter a few days I had to jet out of town earlier in the week. I only knew that this panel happened at a time that I can make.

Even after so many hours after the fact, I still have a lingering feeling to say “woah, an iM@S panel. Really?”

After the panel I did a minimum amount of stalking and here are the two LADIES (I mean, I always felt weird to say “I AM LADY” when I’m not, but anyway that isn’t the case for worry here) who ran the panel. They were nice enough to drop the usual social network tags to make my life easy. One of them was dressed as Makoto. (The other one gave me a tag on her imported 3DS! I think.)

The panel itself was mostly 50 minutes (out of 60) of overview of the basics. It started with some cute quiz questions to get people pay attention to the presentation–who are the voices for Yukiho (for some reason they used Hase Yurina instead of Ochiai, but w/e, there was a brief comment about her eroge/ero histories which was kind of not relevant? Maybe?), the one girl who had video game as a hobby (at least on the official sheets), the new studio in Dearly Stars, and the one idol removed from being playable in SP. Then it went through each of the main idol girls; the Makoto cosplayer identified Makoto as tops but Takane as top voice. The other girl (which I will just say Nyachan for now) is definitely the more avid player and prefers the likes of Chihaya and Haruka. Actually I forgot who she said exactly [Update: Mami was her favorite.] but it seemed that she presented the material in that way.

There’s also a feeling like they read 4chan or something. I probably should’ve asked which iM@S forums they read. Maybe this one? I mean, there was a slide for Nonowa and her kins. But the panel went through page-by-page of what each character and each game was, and the two panelists shared what their impressions were, what they really liked, and what they didn’t. Nyachan pointed out a lot of those little giggle things, like Takane’s place of origin or where the Nonowa doll was, stuff like that. Amusingly, they avoided Cinderella Girls entirely until someone brought it up as a question at the end. One of the girls actually played it! She brought up the gimped foreign aspect, and how it’s really just a tedious game otherwise. That discussion did bring up the complete gacha situation the game is in so that is pretty worthwhile.

There were a bunch of iM@S bros at the panel (out of about 27 people, this constitutes about 4-5), as you’d expect, and one of them did the usual loudmouth fanboy thing, even if it is reasonably so. Just that I couldn’t get a question in. As for the panel proper, I think I even learned something: that Xbox 360 Live for You thing–that’s pretty cool. And it explains a lot.

As for being LADIES, Hisui phrased it best–it’s all kind of oddish. It’s good and all and it doesn’t really matter, but the whole thing reminds me of this again. And in some ways this is why a girl can ask KOTOKO if she’s played any of the eroge her songs were used for, and actually give KOTOKO an awkward smile in, uh, the other way. Because, really, does it matter if 90% of iM@S fans in Japan are dudes? Or that there’s a healthy contingent of female galge gamers oversea?

Well, it’s good to know there are at least a few cosplaying girls who like this stuff. I would be stoked to see something like this at Otakon or the like. Because it sure beats me trying to do it (and it will spare you watching me trying to do so).

Somehow, it wouldn’t surprise me if the one panelist who is more fluent with Japanese knows of this other ex-panelist & eroge player who is fluent with Japanese.

===

It’s not an entirely clean break, but Author wrote about iM@S and the whole children-for-idol stuff. I think that is a problem any child entertainers have, but having your child work as an entertainer is relatively light work when all considered; most would think it’s a privilege or an opportunity rather than some kind of abuse. I can’t really say that would be exploitation–no more than how in America tons of athletes are groomed and compete for the spotlight in various pro leagues, starting from a very young age. These kids work very hard and may end up landing jobs that will end their lives prematurely. Football is probably an extreme example, but this is the kind of thing, to me, that isn’t too unlike what SDB was talking about.

And by “isn’t too unlike” I mean it is exactly like. I mean, the bottom line is this kind of training that your parents put you through at ages 8-12 is probably something you can be entirely remove from as you get to ages 18-22. I think Author is being too romantic about it (see his header pic) but it’s generally right. Child idols have nothing on, say, what Olympic gymnasts do, and those start at like, 3 years old. “Taking away childhood” sounds like the kind of straw-man old people who have forgotten what being a child was like, and has way too thick rose-colored lenses on.

Of course it isn’t to say that is okay, and SDB is right that the industry is very cynical and there are some sleazy producers out there; the real problem I see it is how the Japanese porn industry is just way too pervasive. But Steve’s comments sounds like trite words from someone who isn’t invested; a non-customer complaining about the meal he hasn’t tasted. I mean, I think if anything, iM@S tells a story that all kids growing up has to tell–the one where a child and her dreams come through via some degree of determination from an adult-like attitude. Being “that age” means you’re not all mature, but you’re also kind of mature. That road, that vehicle for this story just happens to be being an entertainer/idol. If iM@S is a story about growing up and adolescence (and it’s fair to say everyone from Ami/Mami to Azusa have to jump through some kind of hurdle in their own character narratives), guided by friends, wiser/older people, and pluck, how is it any different than any other story with the same themes? If I was the contextualization fairy I would go tell SDB to stomp on Accel World and how it robs children’s childhood via high-tech cerebral network connectivity as a statement of the internet’s impact on the next generation.

To cap this, SDB actually replied to Author’s post and said that the age was what bothered him–does he think that being an entertainer should only be a thing adults do, or that 15-yo girls in anime are bothering him? I mean, it does read like the second way if you think about it for a minute. Then again, the more I think about it, the less reasonable (and unfortunately, less interesting) his complaint seems.