Monthly Archives: February 2013

Problem with Mutants Is the Problem with Anime

So I was watching The Unlimited — Hyoubu Kyousuke as it slowly turns into this psychological study of the backstory of Hyoubu Kyousuke, the namesake character at the center of the story. We see how there’s all this ZKC trapping to the show and for the most part that is the fun and game part of ZKC and Hyoubu Kyousuke. It also turns from this internationally-wanted terrorist group slash Psi-user humanitarian effort into this made-and-born-in-Japan episode about where a human experiment project (in the form more like the X-Men) come about.

What I’m trying to say is that as the show progresses, it gets increasingly Japan-centric both in terms of the setting but also in terms of the characters. I guess it can’t be helped that ZKC is mostly a Japan-based thing so the characters and their organizations and the underlying government ploys are tied to that geography. It cannot be helped that Kyousuke is this foreign-born (from Manchuria in the 1930s) Japanese in the first place. Just as it cannot be helped that anime is really a made-for-Japan sort of thing.

I don’t really think it is particularly problematic, but it’s interesting to point out how over the course of the series, the age of the characters appearing and having lines slowly decreases on average. At first it’s basically Kyousuke, Andy, and the guys and girls who are in the tough business of whatever international-spy-intrigue things. Then it gets the Japanese kids involved, like the ZKC themselves. Then the little girl character Yugiri gets a lot of screen time. Then now we go back to the past when Kyousuke is just a wee lad.

I’m not sure what to make of it, I just want to know how did my bro-tastic, superpower-intrigue genre anime turn into this.

Episode 7, Hyoubu Kyousuke

You know, if the War on Pants came AFTER this show, I might be more receptive to it. At this point, however, I’m just hoping the ending to this doesn’t suck. Which is probably a futile thing to wish for, given how it is sort of a prequel-slash-spinoff. Just like how Hyoubu Kyousuke is probably struggling with some deadly condition, in which every time he goes “Unlimited” it robs some of his life, maybe this anime is also the slow decaying mess that slowly loses part of what it’s good for with every passing episode. I don’t know.


Giving ANN More Referrals

So that “law of anime” thing is now a thing. I don’t think it is a bad read, but I’m not so sure.

I mean, how many people talk about copyright registration? If I didn’t know better I would think this Mr. Sean Thordsen is just fishing for people to register their stuff. It’s kind of what you offer as a small business service if you’re a solo, general practitioner. Heck, I almost did copyright registration for someone (they didn’t want to foot the $35 times a billion or whatever at the time–let’s say you want to register a song, that is $70 for the lyrics and the recording; or you can do a “collection of song lyrics” hack but lol) at the clinic I worked in, because it’s a common thing.

It is a pretty standard POV from a legal professional. Yes cosplay tangos with public performance (but that’s…a really derivative sort of thing, given this is animation). Yes cosplay tangos with copyright not only for the character, but for the designs in the artwork. But I’ll go back to the DMCA legislative debate language: the internet is a copyright infringement machine. There’s not much to that this article has to say, at least at this point.

The article doesn’t really further much about the debate we have about copyright. What it does is illustrate that the war is a real war. Fansubbing is probably one of the less important battles you can fight in this digital age. A vocal cover of a vocaloid song is copyright infringement. A guitar cover of some anime OP is copyright infringement. Copying Yuno’s recipes, thankfully, still isn’t, but if you dressed up as her that might run afoul of the law, if you cooked in public.

Puyo & Kyubey

Back to the article; it’s full of languages like “a legal copyright” which is groan I mean com’on that’s like saying “a bird eagle.” There’s all kind of cringing verbiage that aren’t really wrong, but those ideas just could be put in a better way. Like the whole section about “consumer” doing anything with copyright–you would think stuff like First-sale Doctrine would be in there, but nope. I mean I read it, I knew what he was getting at the whole time basically, but I also know what he is talking about. I can’t say if someone who is reading about copyright the first time would get all the things he made subtle references to.

What’s probably more disappointing was the lack of mention on copyright on characters, or international copyright whatsoever. There’s some about licensing which is I guess helpful but Justin S. probably knows more about that. So I don’t even know what good that post does to entertain or educate besides to talk about registration LOL.

Come to think of it, this article is kind of forgettable other than the cosplay section, and the ever-necessary reminder about AMV is usually straight-up illegal use of someone’s music. Maybe this is why I wrote this post. And maybe because the dude with the Esq. behind his name could be this guy.


Good Job Robbing the Cradle, Guys

It's manga niku

I laughed when Hashihime titled it “youth movement.” I guess it’s true when most of GJ-bu’s cast members are under 17 years old. But it’s not even the first or the lowest-on-average otaku anime in terms of seiyuu age. There’s this (now-licensed) anime called Sasami: Magical Girls Club where, at the time, all the main voice acting girls were 13 years old. I assume it’s licensed because it is a tangential hinge on the Tenchi Muyo franchise, and it’s probably not a horrible show, I don’t know.

I want to raise this point because what I think is a good job isn’t that GJ-bu is full of young’uns. I think what is good is the profession of the seiyuu idol has seen yet another subtle transformation.

In Magical Girls Club, the series is more like a launch vehicle for a potential teenage idol unit, working with girls already on an idol entertainer track. You can check ANN for details. On the other hand, the girls in GJ-bu are on the seiyuu track, groomed to probably become actual seiyuu-idols.

Seiyuu idols are not a new thing. They’ve been around for maybe a couple decades now, as a genuine career path, at least enough of a path to make a name for yourself; the Shiinas, Hayashibaras of the world. But one Nana Mizuki doesn’t make an industry; she’s just an icon of a larger underpinning of systems and businesses and more importantly, entertainers of varying degrees of success. And honestly, Nana is more about anison than idol. Idol, in my mind, is like Yukarin Tamura and Yui Horie, who are also groomed in the same steps but are nurtured not with the money of a hit success, but a cult-like following. Their businesses are not so different, but I think there’s a reason why I don’t think Nana’s generation will raise another Tokyo-dome caliber seiyuu.

Well, people might take issue with me saying Nana Mizuki is mainstream, and I understand where they’re coming from; it’s like saying AKB0048 is not mainstream. But I think that is making “not mainstream” a meaningless indicator if I have to go the range from, say, Ibuki Kido, to a girl a month older, Juri Takahashi (of AKB48 team A). One is clearly, actually, mainstream enough to be called that. Nana is mainstream enough for Kohaku, so that has to count for something. But if Nana is not mainstream, to satisfy the semantic arguer, then everyone else is waaaaay not-mainstream. Super un-mainstream. Super-super-stream not-mainstream.

But it’s nice to see a deeper integration and talent cultivation for the likes of Kido and Miyamoto. Maybe the debutante Chika Arakawa will build on her possible success here. I mean, think about it. It isn’t that kids did anime voices; some of my today’s favorites include the ever-present Miyuki Sawashiro who started at 13 years old and ex-child performer Maaya Sakamoto who started at 15. It’s distinctly different than, say, Yuuki Aoi’s Murasaki at 15, because that was the case where they hired a kid to play a kid, not so much because they were grooming her career to be whatever the petit-pas that Aoi is trying to do today.

Actually, what is Yuuki Aoi trying to do anyway? I think this is kind of exactly not the thing, say, Yui Ogura is doing. That’s what I’m talking about. But that might be jumping the gun. Maybe we just like kids in our anime playing our animated kids. Is that what the Forever-17 club is trying to do?


From a New Oppression: Winter 2013

seiyuu_connection

I feel the story of Psycho-Pass is a key to unlock a certain understanding from From the New World. I guess in order to talk about it, there will have to be some spoilers.

There are some key elements in Shinsekai Yori that keeps it beautiful–like this ever-present human darkness. It’s like every given life that is born to society, society plays Russian roulette with statistical odds in the production of a monster. The monsters in Shinsekai Yori are world-destroyers in the most literal sense. A character refers to it as a nuclear bomb, and I think most of us would agree. It becomes the nightmare scenario where even if 99.999999% of mankind is perfectly upstanding and good, all it takes is one bad apple to ruin everything.

In the same way that is the exact same perspective from Psycho-Pass (if in that society, humans are much worse on average). In order to play this numbers game with statistics (which already assumes a lot of different qualities about the human condition that you and I might not agree with) we can skew the odds heavily in society’s favor if everyone just give up on something. In Psycho-Pass, it’s the obvious flaws with the Sybil system. It does a clumsy job of illustrating it for us, but they’re spelled out plainly.

In Shinsekai Yori, the scheme is much more sinister. It’s so sinister, that we don’t even get a good look at it. It’s so well-disguised, we can call it simply, human evolution. It’s when we de-evolve ourselves to limit the conscious capacity to commit murder, to hypnotize our children so to limit the power of their minds, and ultimately kill the potentially dangerous elements of our society in the form of children-killing-by-committee. We never really got a up-close look at all this, except maybe the scene where Saki goes over the details of her terms with the Ethics Committee chief. We never really get a close look of the hypnosis  or the way these visual triggers were genetically added into the strains cultivated at the village they were living in. We don’t know how the memory manipulation were done besides what we could guess by inference. It’s not really the focus of the narrative, but these things are pretty important.

Of course, it may only seem like “de-evolve” from the perspective of a world where not everyone is a live bomb ready to go off. In some ways, the scenario in Shinsekai Yori is what engineers called an edge case. You can look at it in the context of, say, gun control, or in the context of an effective way to prevent crime. You could also look at it in the case where how can power and responsibility coexist. There are a bunch of different ways to tackle the same framework underneath. It’s in this overarching context that I examine the stories about Saki and Satoru and Maria and all those kids, in that the values we perceive to be important to cherish and reinforce in life may run against these survival, political, societal, and even evolutionary forces.

Unfortunately, this also means in a season where I’m watching Psycho-Pass and Shinsekai Yori at the same time, Psycho-Pass is more like Psycho-Passe, and if it isn’t for Urobuchi’s sensual murders I probably would have already dropped it out of the weakness for themes. Of course, I don’t think most people are approaching Shinsekai  Yori as an ethics experimental pressure chamber, and Psycho-Pass has other redeeming values too, but for me I can’t take all this Mole Rats business any other way.

Actually, an experiment is a good way to phrase it. The fantastic setting is oozing with realism in Shinsekai Yori. There are pluses and minuses to this approach, that said, but it feels like after 17 episodes the experiment has finally began.


Winter 2013: Played Out

I think we’re at the point of the season where new shows are either cleaning up from their explosive and intriguing pilots, or holding on to its cards until the final stage of the game. I feel the lull.

AzusaShiori

I think this is where a lackluster anime can really fly its colors and get people’s attention, now that the TV anime mix has stratified from sedimentation; the unforgiving centrifuge of short attention span will float those Senren Kaguras on top and hard campers like Shinsekai Yori and Psycho-pass on the bottom. Not that either is particularly value-assigned good or bad, mind you, and certainly that means the Jojos of this world is probably somewhere in between. Man, what a show that is.

But is there anything really outstanding? It’s kind of like how all this people who harp on Magi, either way? I mean, yea, I see animation mistakes and the like, but I wouldn’t call it bad. Or else nobody would watch anything SHAFT makes (at least on first pass). At least there has to be that proverbial cabbage, and it wasn’t there anywhere this season. But anyways, why do people chime after Magi, besides that it ended a story arc in the middle of the season? Maybe that was it. At least it didn’t do what Chiyomaru’s Robotic;Notes (almost) did, which is grow a little too long in the tooth. No matter how moe Frau is, we want to know what happens next.

It reminded me of that show with flying panties a few years back. I mean, all you need is just a little bit of whack. Maybe Kyoto Animation can make Tamako Midori burst into a tango duet with Dera? Or in Magi’s case, a cute Haruka Tomatsu character doing a gap moe dance routine (and unlike Frau, that clip is spoiler-free and context-free). Or maybe what it takes is Urobuchi killing some more people gruesomely in his Psycho-Pass (surely that is tired). Maybe it has to do with gothloli maid character bouncing around in a dance routine with a bunny sharing the same rack size with Kurokami Medaka (complete with hair color change)? I’m looking forward to that. (And I hope someone tells me Medaka’s are larger, because they may be.)

That said, if there’s anything reassuring in Winter 2013, it is that boobies only get you so far. Who’s still watching Senren Kagura again? Maoyu’s sacs of fat is a somber reminder that boobs are really no big deal in the real world–we all have them, it’s more about how you use it. It’s much like how SHAFT, try as they might, can only do so much in Sasami-san episode 5 because that material is so Haruhi in this post-Haruhi environment, that the Based God herself (CV: Asumi Kana) goes meta over her own desires, in which becomes the plot driver. At least now we can claim that the combination of Haruhi anime with incest is actually a thing, or Haruhi with untranslatable puns is a thing. Plus the only booby character is the loli (who is fully clothed at all times, God willing). On the other hand, adding the right amount of boin (and it could be in all forms, from Kanade “Boin-chan” Oue to the cast of Da Capo III–Da Capo Sakura Drift) does give your show a little bonus juice. It’s about time we’ve gotten that formula right. (Is calling Kana-chan “boin-chan” the, uh, the 1000AD version of “Titty-ko”?)

On the other hand maybe this is why Aniplex is going for butts in Vividred and Lantis & ASCII Media Works are putting money on the surging idol trend. It is free market at work, folks; the industry is growing to meet your ever finicky and ephemeral demands. The only question is which people group are they taking feedback from? Surely not from people not paying any money into that exorbitantly problematic financing model. Maybe the final hook from Vividred would be the “OMG my body is an elite combat machine from the future and I’m just a plucky 14yo girl who wants to make friends using world-destroying weapons, but now I can’t do anything because I’m a zombie like Grandpa and I will never get married.” That would be such a cop-out. A more direct way to make sales is to just give us some bonus throw-ins, like how they deal with those rednecks from Osaka.

Or if you’re like me, you’re still glued to this show called Hyoubu Kyousuke, because it’s actually the most anime-y and best anime-y anime on the air. Why hello there Aya Hirano. If I had any regrets, it would be that shipping Hyoubu and Hinomiya is probably the canon thing to do, even if one (or both) of them is a real lolicon. I almost regret to be able to introduce the show for those “oh why are anime full of teenagers” crowd, but Hyoubu Kyousuke does work for them.

What is up with all these lolicons, anyway? I think there are probably a couple more than usual this season. Not that I actually keep track–it just feels weirder. It’s just like how Oreshura takes that oddish turn as it continues to introduce the girls in a mid-flight attempt to boost its solid if lackluster drama, borrowing from both Haganai (which continues to be problematic, for better or worse) and maybe even Chu2koi? I don’t know and I don’t even. It’s probably way too hopeful to expect it to be like Sakurasou, since I think a lot of us were expecting Sakurasou to be like Tora Dora, which is already way too hopeful. Does that mean Hocchan > Asumiss > Yukarin? It feels that way certainly when it comes to luck of the casting draw.

I’m starting to think Asumiss is the Morgan Freeman of the otaku anime world. でんがなまんがな! Or maybe more appropriately, PUCHIM@S!