Monthly Archives: November 2012

Autumn 2012 Mid-season Checkpoint

I voted for more shows dropped and more time shooting aliens this November, but I got wet from Konya wa Hurricane. The net total is this post about random observations. If I didn’t mention a show here I probably dropped it, or on hold until whenever like E7Ao.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! – It’s less mentally offensive than Hyouka because it doesn’t try to engage me on higher level of analysis and thought, so it is much easier to watch. But in a lot of ways it’s definitely inferior. I suppose this is why Dekomori and Kumin exist. I said most of what I wanted last post.

Teekyuu – What I watched: Teekyuu. What I expected: Sofuteni. What I got: Zero Punctuation. Also, this is Mappa? Good on them. About 3000 yen for all of it on Amazon! [Side note: man, pagerank for CR on this keyword is horrible.]

Seitokai no Ichizon & Ebiten – I lump the two together because clearly both are being screened on Nico first (how about that US merger huh) and then picked up by a TV station the season after. HOPEFULLY this means CR will stream it starting in Jan 2013. As far as Seitokai no Ichizon goes I’m pretty okay with the new season, once I got used to the new Akaba voice. It was easier to deal with Mafuyu’s voice because it’s a very neutral tone, although I miss the very subtle tonal acting that was present before, that gave it an extra edge of melancholy. Oh, I probably should mention Seizon Lv.2 Episode 0 was AWESOME, because man, I miss Houko.

Oniai – On the merits, it’s probably worse than NakaImo, and it is more or less the same schtick–crazy girls tries to get into main guy’s pants, entertain mostly with OTT antics and not with so much fanservice, hides its plot/character chops. Takeaways are the two underage seiyuus in Ibuki Kido (as the main sister girl) and Sumire Morohoshi (the 12-yo manager genius). Kido is actually a year younger than Akiko, and Morohoshi a year older than Arisa. My favorite gag has to be the T-shirts. It’s like “Primary schoolgirls are great” but even better. Because I can wear something like Che Akiko and not get arrested.

Zetsuen no Tempest – I’m fascinated by this show, but it’s not the most engaging thing. All the characters are mysterious and hard to read, and you don’t really know what’s going on. How can they build a compelling plot on that? Just turn a bunch of people into metal and have giant eyes float out from the ground, I guess. Oh, add a romantic triangle involving some really messed-up interpersonal relationships. What’s the best about all of this is that it’s done with the precision of a Shakespearean play, instead of something more, well, relatable and visceral. What’s the worst is that it’s all posturing and TL;DRs, with the reasons and rhymes in thoughtful dialogues and monologues. Yeah, it can be kind of dull. It’s no surprise that I like Tempest; I’ve always liked shows like this. Having Bones behind it just make it a lot easier and makes it possible that I can talk to some people who may be drawn in for those superficial reasons. Book of Bantorra, anyone?

Hidamari Sketch S4 – Really digging it so far. Although, as others pointed out, unless they do something with the new first years in a major way, this is going to be pretty much more of the same for another 13 episodes. What they did in episode 6 is exactly what has to happen for Nazuna and … the girl with the PC.

Jormungand S2 – Eh, it’ll do. A lot of the suspense is gone with the second season. Maybe I should write a blog post about sequels like this. And Hidasketch.

Space Bros – It’s gotten to the point where the anime just has to make one more mistake before I drop it (for the manga). Invariably it makes a mistake and I’m like, man, I don’t want to read manga, because I just don’t have that mode of consumption handy in the way my routine is. But invariably, also, Space Bros redeem itself in some minor way for me to keep putting up with it.

Psycho-Pass – I can put up with this. At least it rewards with some pretty cool ideas. And a strangled Ayanyan.

Robotics;Notes – This anime is my Yoshino Nanjou coming-out-of event. Granted at this point it’s all kept in the dark, plot-wise, so I can’t really say anything about this anime besides that it’s already seeding important details, as all non-linear narratives invariably do. I’m not sure it has given me enough to go on but I’m just blindly rolling along with Tall Robot Nerd Poplar. And is Kai a jerk? Who cares?

Magi – I think this is my top show this season. But it’s one of those “watch but don’t buy” kind of thing since the show itself is just excellent, but not something I’d obsess over. Maybe it will change and upgrade into something worth owning.

Busou Shinki – This is pretty lame. Limp, even. Especially when it’s less like Strike Witches and more like… Infinite Stratos? At least that’s how I’m watching it–for the mecha battles. The animation is what I like best, along with the tech/setting. But I’m not sure how else it appeals to the cute-girls-do-cute-things demographic. Maybe I’ll punt it after all?

K – The music is so pimp that I feel like playing Persona 4 Golden. Might punt it. And yes, this show works great as a comedy…and that’s it.

JoJo – OMG. On the other hand it’s just as I expected from David Pro.

Girls und Panzer – This show is brilliant. Not only it capitalizes on what is obvious as the concept became a thing, it did enough of a twist to make the whole venture seeming worth the while. Its ensemble-cast style organization yet focusing on a handful is a gamble ultimately, not because they’re doing that, but they better be focused on the best five girls out of that lot of dozens.

Medaka Box S2 – I guess this anime took the Negima turn? Not that I mind; Medaka makes a good protagonist, although it’s really just a 2-person show between her and Zenkichi vs. the world at this point. Not that I mind that, either.

Shin Sekai Yori – It’s the “different” anime this season, although how it’s different is unclear. I think it’s at least something interesting for a more “mainstream” audience (because it isn’t really mainstream) but this is definitely overrated. If I had to criticize it, two things–the pace is horrid and the direction and scripting is clumsy. Usually these two things cause me to drop shows, but the setting sort of redeems it. Or the underage sex, I’m not sure. I predict at least one commentator at the end of this cour will complain how it does not fully utilize its setting.

Muv-luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – Lots of BETA action in the first half. Second half is more about Total Eclipse of the Heart amirite.

Little Busters – It’s the sort of moment when you recall every Key/VA anime event you’ve personally experienced since the beginning and you go, “we’ve came a long way.” It isn’t to say the visual novel to anime mechanism has improved to the degree that those products are something worth while–maybe it has. But Little Busters was originally the concept, and now it has arrived; perhaps its only flaw was this anime existed starting after Angel Beats. None of that, however, heals its deadly pangs of boredom.

Initial D Fifth Stage – I guess no one sleeps in Tokyo in the night of fire about love and money. And I still would like to test out a FR-S/BRZ sometime.

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo – The Pet Girl of Sakura House? Inn? Guilty Crown? I enjoy the roomful-of-lunatic approach to the series and it is very much got everyone looking at the characters as characters, and that is already a win for the anime. As usual I have a harder time buying in, but the array of otaku references makes the low production-value pill easy to swallow. [LOL I forgot about this show srsly…now it is included!]

I really want to keep watching Kamisama Kiss, but I have to drop something in exchange. I might.

At a glance you can tell Funimation is pushing a lot of new titles this season. It’s a promising thing because in the past 18 months they are major slacking on new acquisitions in my opinion, given the share of home video releases they put out. On the other hand, while I have been test driving their premium account across my phone and PC (mostly on the PC), their quality of service is still rather lacking. It’s better than just embedded Hulu streams that TAN is doing, but that’s like comparing your current self with yourself in 2002. At least I can get things to work after enough experience “jiggling” the various nobs and switches. Like how in Chrome when you change resolution to 720 it autoplays, and half the time it tries to play 2 streams in the same player if you hit the wrong buttons in the wrong in sequences.

At times like this I wish I was the kind of otaku who only watched anime off the tube, so I can cut it loose and just stick to this sort of services, paid or not.

There are three fronting shoujo series this season. Two go to CR, one to Funi and AN gets one of the two from CR. Not sure which one wins but that sounds at least fair.

Overall a pretty mild season without a smash hit, unless that boring Urobuchi show turns out to be a gem or Sakurasou becomes the second coming of Toradora. The various continuing series are all pretty strong and they will entertain, where as new series will have to flounder a bit before they find their footing. We’re at the half way point now, but I think shows like Garupan and Oniai have no real grasp on the audience at this point. Maybe that’s okay for those kinds of shows.

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Chuu2Koi 7 Is Fleeting, Alternate Reality

Much like Hyouka, I have a love-hate relationship with this season’s Kyoto Animation product, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! I love it because visually it is a cornucopia of all things that power anime and make it an enjoyable medium. I don’t like it because ultimately it’s the same tiresome teenage-coming-of that Kyoto Animation has done a dozen times before…most recently in Hyouka. Its saving grace, probably, is in the two anime-only characters. Dekomori, specifically, simply made the show a lot more fun as far as her fast-pace personality and those gags for a character smarter than her pay grade.

I want to specifically talk about episode 7, because throughout this episode the dreamy Kumin-senpai reminded me how things would be like if Kyoto Animation animated The iDOLM@STER. This random post is brought to you by the seiyuu connection between Kumin and Yukiho, Azumi Asakura.

Isshiki probably did not say that Kumin looked like a Showa idol in the novel, but in the anime it is quite the trigger, at least for someone with my disposition. It means Kumin channels those old-timer (well, ’60s-80s) TV and stage personalities (I suppose the term applied to only women) who stood tall and sang, giggled gracefully as they mingle with various MCs on variety shows or visiting soldiers on tours of duty. It’s that kind of image you see inside run-down Japanese bar restrooms, on beer posters. It also personifies, today, a kind of lost past that some people long for. A lot of ink has been spilled in the recent years about Japanese idols generally, but this kind of thing is more about a class of people who conduct themselves in a certain way? It’s charming.

[This blog post is also brought to you by Animazement, an anime con that has consistently brought over Japanese voice guests that personify this idea.]

As a matter of comparison, Yukiho Hagiwara is no Showa idol. She’s more like your timid AKB48 understudy, except proficient with the shovel. Someone like Takane or Azusa is closer to that concept. Kumin, on the other hand, is slowly getting enough screen time to show off her after-school regalia, complete with a strategically placed mole. As Isshiki said, Kumin fits that ideal to a tee, right down to her white, one-piece swimsuit. How quaint, I guess.

And it is quaint. Dekomori and Rikka may be in a world to themselves, but Nibutani sets a different kind of ideal–the one I’m more used to. I’m not sure how realistic Nibutani’s attitudes are, as far as what goes for “normal,” but it seems reasonable. Here we have a totally someone from the left field in Kumin and, well, it’s kind of nice, not to mention it is entirely natural. It’s like having a visual (Rik-)kei idol next to an ’80s idol, and then you have Britney Spears-tani right here. To that end I’m not sure what the show has to say about any of this, besides that Isshiki would shave his head for any one of them.

For North Americans, you can catch Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!, Ep 7 “Reminiscences… of Paradise Lost” at the AnimeNetwork, with a subscription. The translated episode title happens to describe Showa-era nostalgia too, doesn’t it?

PS. There is one strangely technical aspect about Chuu2 that I like: Nijine is the composer. I previously stumbled on his work from Hatsukoi Limited, and the same weirdly fitting music came across in Chuu2 as, well, weirdly fitting. I really like that overly sentimental take from Hatsukoi Limited but as far as I know I am the only person ever who took note from that show’s music (outside of the OP/ED and Marble connection). In this anime, well, I’ve not made up my mind yet. But I think this Nijine person really has it together, given this pretty impressive list. Impressive only because I like a lot of these songs.

PPS. Seiyuu X-COM is kind of on hiatus, partly because of the approaching holiday, and also because I have a current-season backlog that I’m trying to hack away. It is as if I’m barely getting by and keeping my face above the surface, but only to be overwhelmed on every Thursday. Losing a week of broadband internet because of Sandy certainly didn’t help. With Thanksgiving coming up hopefully that means I’ll have time to catch up for good. Or maybe I’ll drop even more shows.

For Sale: Grab Bags

As mentioned in the prior sales post, here are the grab bags! More like, bag o crap, except they’re in boxes.

They are $20 + shipping each. Here are some sample items that you might find in any one of them. In the average box I’m aiming to have at least 6 from this list, plus more items.

  • A KOTOKO 2012 Aisa tour paper folding fan
  • Takuya Tsunoki’s autograph on a shikishi (He’s a Madhouse producer). This one is p. cool because he drew Kaiji on it.
  • Aniplex USA’s Madoka DVD vol 3
  • Mangagamer’s Kira Kira (all ages)
  • Nemu boob pad (thanks, Mangagamer!)
  • Bandai/Crunchyroll’s 5 Centimeters per Second DVD
  • Sentai’s K-ON Season 2 Blu-ray Disc vol 2.
  • Masakazu Ishiguro autographed clear plastic folder (mostly known as mangaka for Sore Demo Machi wa Mawatteru) with printed JManga promo artwork on it.
  • One set? of Yujin Aria the Natural trade figures
  • Random OOP type-moon trade figures (Sorry too lazy to ID what they are, but it’s across 2 sets I believe)
  • Some trade figures from Namco’s Tokimeki Memorial 3.
  • Random promotional items, like pencil boards, stickers or post cards.
  • A… Strong Bad beanie cap. Fan-made probably.
  • Imported(?) JAM Project CDs
  • Maybe some packing filler. You know you want some.

Initial D Fifth Stage, Shipping Companies with Promotions

This past Saturday I had the cable box tuned to BBC America all afternoon, and in the process absorbed a lot of Top Gear by osmosis. It also put me in the right mood to watch Initial D again, which is probably the first time in like, 6-8 years, since I’ve touched the franchise. As far as I know, the manga is still going strong, yeah?

So the naturally the first thing I asked myself while watching it was: just how much of the new Toyota 86 launch promo budget went into making this anime? I say this not as a rhetorical question, but more like voicing a nagging suspicion. It’s one thing to point at the various anime projects in the past ~12 months from the various Japanese car makers. It’s another to see a long-time, car-enthusiast focused manga return as an anime to coincide with the launch of the FR-S/BRZ. “Coincide” by about 6 months, sure, but it’s too close for comfort.

For those who are not entirely familiar, Toyota and Subaru have teamed up to produce a line of cars that “rides” its famed AE86 heritage. It’s kind of ironic because these days Subaru is more of the automotive engineering powerhouse and Toyota is more known for its ability to sell a lot of cars that people actually want to buy. In the late ’90s and early ’00s Toyota killed off most if not all of its low and mid-range sports offering, where as Subaru still has its staple rally-inspired carriages going strong today, best summed by Subaru’s famous WRX line of vehicles. These all-wheel drive rally cars, to be honest, are the kind of cars that owns Japan’s winding mountain roads. I suppose that’s probably what inspired Subaru’s engineers in the first place, and why Takumi ends up driving one (or something like it) eventually in the anime.

Naturally, inside the new Toyota 86, Subaru’s 2.0-liter boxer engine is not only sweet for power-to-weight, it also sips gas at 35MPG on the highway. It works well in Toyota’s marketing for the “new” AE86-class of affordable automobiles, as powerplant offers a plenty 200 BHP, putting it in the right place as far as MSRP goes (in the US it’s starting at around $25,000). It’d be really retarded to sell an expensive 86 after all. Being an “86” means that it is front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, which also happens to be a type of car that I personally enjoy driving.

Well, is it any surprise that Initial D gets its new season in 2012, given the Toyota 86 debuted in the 2012 model year? Episode one of 5th Stage starts out with Takumi driving home in his dad’s Subaru (classic WRX blue) coming home after a tofu delivery. The episode ends with Takumi giving his newly refurbished Toyota Trueno a test run up and down Akina’s(?) winding roads. Toyobaru? This is one true pairing indeed.

PS. I don’t know, if I was Hatsune Miku I would rather promote the FR-S! Why is this not licensed in America yet? What’s holding you up, Toyota?

Role of the Niche in Localizing Anime

Okay, when you get in a slump for blogging fuel (actually, I’m not sure if I’m in that place), all you need is to shoot some fish in the barrel to get some juice. I mean, eternal topics like dubs vs. subs or fansubs orAniplex of America pricing gets people’s panties in a bunch in a hurry. I think I’ll do just the last thing now. This post gets pretty ranting so I apologize (a little).

Reading that thread through (and contributing to it), I feel there are some things I probably should address. Please note I’m definitely biased. I’m very much for all those expensive releases of crap throughout the years, from Pioneer’s LDs to Geneon’s fancy DVD boxes to Bandai Visual (LOL) and of course, to the imported stuff from Aniplex of America. I don’t buy all of them (and few of us could), but they put out things that is highly desirable from a rational perspective. Things that have, usually, Japanese-import qualities to them. It sets apart from the usual regional licensee and their wares.

But that’s where it ends. I buy lots of stuff from FUNi and Sentai too, probably the two North American licensees still engaging in the low-price, high(er)-volume release cycles, although there are some very large trends that I’d like to share with you, if at least to get the idea off my head and maybe you can tell me if it’s just me.

I think one of the fundamental issues here is a matter about the freedom of choice. When I see people say that anime is a right or it is not a privilege, I still giggle and sigh, because ultimately anime is still a form of protected speech. And, last I checked, it’s a constitutional right for Americans. What is not a right? Clearly, what we can do with speech is restricted. That includes not only the things about government’s limitation on speech (which is what is the actual “rights” part of the thing), but what private people can do with speech in general, including copyright and all that dead horse meat. And none of it has much to do with “rights” or “privileges” unless you are the copyright owner, which to you then anime IS a right. None of it has to do with privileges, eg., things above the norm. Being able to purchase Kara no Kyoukai BD box is not a thing above the norm. Perhaps some might feel entitled to purchase it at a lower price, but that is just teenage entitlement speaking and the internet is full of this crap, let alone anime fans on the internet. [You’ll need a bigger forum signature than that.]

The second fundamental issue here also involves obviously, that not all anime are created equal. I don’t consider clock shows the same as the 2:30 am crap that most of us watch. Production companies don’t treat it the same. Japanese kids don’t treat them the same. Stores don’t treat them the same. So why should the “no dub no sales” people treat them the same? Or the people who always want their 13-ep releases priced in the same $30 retail price tier, treat them the same? Or for that matter why should we not treat them the same? Well, I could go on, but here is a fundamental issue. It’s like people saying anime OVA X is too expensive compared to outsourced TV anime Y on a per-minute basis. Congratulations, you just made all the Production IG in-betweeners cry.

The fact people cannot recognize these two major issues is a major failure of fandom at talking about industry stuff. I mean, okay, maybe it’s not clear why you should equate Aniplex of America with Sony, and why you shouldn’t equate Aniplex of America with Sony. Japanese holding companies are sneaky like that, but they’re not the same sort of thing. And really, I think it’s okay to hold out buying something because it lacks a dub, because for some people it’s a requirement on the product they want to pay for, that seems fair. It’s probably also fair to call out on people who are probably too entitled for their own good. But let’s not any of that obfuscate the bottom line and the fundamental nature of anime. It’s more than just a medium. It’s the same reason why I can go to an Otakon or AX and still feel like the people around me don’t watch the same stuff I watch. Because it is really all different kind of stuff.

I think there’s another thing people don’t really take into account, even if they realize it: it’s a matter of personal preferences. Just like there’s all kinds of anime from outright adult entertainment to things only interest 8yo kids, there ought to be release models appropriate based on the title. Some shows (like DBZ and One Piece) should get that sort of release FUNi is doing. Some should get the release AoA is doing when they “import” something. Some should get what NISA is doing, whatever. There might be an acceptable range where most shows we care about fall in to, where certain release formats make sense for that range of shows. I think we see that today. And then there are shows that should sit higher, or lower, depends. And that is kind of a personal choice which titles falls in which range. It’s not really okay to think every anime should be released only in the way you like. What is odd is most people who complain about Aniplex of America’s pricing is really doing just that, as if there is some notion of a common or public good in terms of the titles these companies procure and publish.

From what I observe, people generally recognize this fact. But what people don’t recognize is that you need a wide range of publishing and retail businesses and business models to support that. Sometimes a big company can subsidize a smaller run of something more niche, but anime is already pretty niche and I’m not sure what kind of margin FUNi has, being the biggest kid on the block in North America. And that necessarily means things will have different price points.

Which is to say, the longer the Aniplex of America thing drags out, the more likely that the discussion/argument is driven purely on people’s entitlement on “cheap” anime seems to make sense. I mean, it does kind of suck that someone brings over a title you love but you can’t afford it. I guess maybe it isn’t so much entitlement about cheap anime but entitlement about whining and attacking companies verbally for not considering people who don’t buy their stuff. (…And it’s not a pollution/economic inefficiency problem.)

It’s just personal opinions at the end. Let’s just state it that way. If you think something is a rip, it’s fair to explain it. But don’t do it while making animators cry.

Switching gears, there is a larger trend at work. If we accept the hypothesis that Aniplex of America is actually an agent of the Japanese production companies trying to raise the floor on the price of anime licensing (not necessarily the price of anime) so that they can realize more oversea licensing revenue, mostly because they did some analysis and the BATNA of launching an IP via AoA is better than lowering the license price of the same IP so a FUNi or Sentai can license it (plus any overhead cost involved), then ultimately having AoA enables more anime to be released in a local region. It is kind of a weird case because now we are talking about shows that may be licensed if Aniplex decided to do it cheaper, and it may mean that AoA will not release shows that are not often localized, if the cause of that obscurity is its low profitability.

In that sense, if Aniplex of America can help raise the price and realize additional revenue in the R1 market, does it help the industry overall? In as much as having more competition versus Sentai or FUNi might cut into their profitability and probably lower the price of anime licenses overall in the long run, it behooves AoA to operate in a model that complements both the titles too expensive for Sentai and FUNi while not stepping on their toes by avoiding direct competition. This is traditionally a role Geneon has occupied as well, except I don’t know if Geneon went to the same extremes. I think there’s a lot to be said that why raising the price of anime directly help AoA’s long-term goals, although it doesn’t have to be the only way. I think they have came up with ways to not directly compete with the business models FUNi and Sentai are doing, partly because that’s really the biggest piece of pie left and few people are serving it up.

And then there’s the pure marketing effect. For starters, I’ve voiced my displeasure about the way K-ON is being treated in America. Maybe it’s a sensible thing to do given the economic reality of the time, but it feels like such a waste! I think it’s things like that that serves the anime industry no good in the long run, and why Aniplex’s investment is something much welcomed. It’s okay to keep your head down, put out simple anime on BD or DVD that serves the bare minimum, but that cannot be the only mode and that is inefficient when applied to every title. Granted shows like DRRR and SAO are, well, problematic at best, but it’s definitely a net positive to have more than just FUNi try their hand at the TV stations. That is another area where Aniplex of America can really give anime the boost that it needs in North America.

By “another area” I really mean it. Nozomi is barking up the old school tree along with Viki, as well as Discotek. It’s bringing into the fold unrealized or expired IP that probably still have good value in North America. There are the streamers like Viki and Crunchyroll, not to mention the usual suspects like Crackle and Hulu and Netflix. I guess in terms of the adult/porn stuff throughput has slowed, but that’s going to get picked up sooner or later. There’s plenty of opportunities in the industry and I think there’s plenty of space for everyone to make a decent living out of that.