Monthly Archives: March 2013

Seiyuu Hats

Just to clarify, not the TF2 virtual currency kind of hats, but ones people rock because, well, it’s useful while stylish.

It must be my sleep-deprived brain, ravaged by Simcity, that I felt a need to write about hats. I guess in a sense the power of hats is how it covers your head, both to protect it from the elements but also to hide what’s beneath. Still, regardless why these people wear them, I find them kind of fascinating, especially when it’s a woman rocking one.

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these.

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Wiley E. Importy, Or a Charitable Perspective

Kobayakawa Rinko

Rock, meet glass house.

Whenever people complain about dysfunctional Japanese DVD/Blu-ray prices, all you need to do is point to the myriad of American or European media goods that are sold for a fraction in other countries, and how publishers sue or threaten reverse-importers for those purposes. And sometimes it’s not even media goods…

The latest US Supreme Court decision basically affirms a first-sale right of legitimately produced foreign good for sale domestically:

In Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, the Court considered the “first sale” doctrine of copyright law.  This is a rule that means that when a publisher sells a copyrighted work once, it loses any right to complain about anything later done with that copy.  This is the rule that makes it okay to resell a used book to a used-book store, and for that store in turn to sell used books to its customers.

The issue in Kirtsaeng was whether the first-sale doctrine applies to copyrighted works manufactured overseas.  Kirtsaeng bought textbooks in Thailand, where they are cheap, brought them to the United States, and resold them at a large profit.  The lower courts said he couldn’t do this, and ordered him to pay damages to the publisher (John Wiley).  The Supreme Court disagreed.  The Justices said that the first-sale doctrine applies to all books, wherever made.  So even if you buy a book made in England, you can resell it without permission from the publisher.

Which is good! Because it would be sad if, I don’t know, J-List got shut down for something retarded. Oh wait, that doesn’t work. Actually, given this is a case on American copyright law, it doesn’t have anything to do with the situation where going to certain Akiba shops can score you FUNimation’s Spice & Wolf on Blu-ray, or anything like that, because that is solely the call of the Japanese government.

But that’s the internet armchair bandit version of the interpretation. The truth, as usual, is more like if companies can’t no longer forbid price discrimination along national/geographic boundaries, this is why we can’t have nice things. We’ve seen it happened once with Blu-ray when the US no longer sits in a different region than Japan, so dub-only BDs, hard-sub BDs, and in some cases, no-BDs, became the North American release. Does it suck? Kind of. What really sucks is that if a large company wants to sell cheaply to a poor and developing country, they will have to be wary of reverse-importers trying to make a shiny buck by undercutting and disrupting the home market. This may mean those guys won’t get to have a nice thing, too. And their nice things could be “college education” or “medicine so they don’t die.”

The narrative gets a lot worse once you consider that first sale doctrine applies to patents as well. This could mean cheap, patented drugs sold by big pharmas to poor countries at margin, could be reverse-imported for massive gain in the grey market, legally. And if you know anything about the grey market for drugs, well, you know how bad it can be. So does this kind of law actually serve society in a beneficial way? The irony is that Wiley (the loser/plaintiff) sold books cheaply in Thailand both because the cost of living just can’t justify the outrageous textbook prices here, but also it’s a humanitarian thing to do. It’s good to sell text book cheap to poor countries, to countries full of people who want to study but can’t afford to.

[It’s also kind of a head-turning moment when you realize why anime is cheap in America. I mean, Americans really are treated like third-worlders when it comes to this stuff…or are we? Anime does not cost significantly more here than most of East Asia, after all. Maybe there is something to paying more money for anime. Maybe there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way we value media, at least ones in print. Something to think about.]

The motives behind the decision, however, is sound. The idea is that the Justices simply interpret the law of copyright First-sale Doctrine this way to get the public (and more importantly, the rights holder) to think about changing the law via Congress. I think copyright is always something that should be revisited legislatively anyway; the overwhelming concept behind it is that this is a way for government to regulate the industry of intellectual properties, not some civil right or anything so sensitive. Given the climate of big tech getting their feet into the door of Capitol Hill, maybe now is better than ever before to hammer this copyright thing to fit the use for this millennium, because at least we’re slowly approaching parity of power, to not have the content-owner-tail wag the dog that is the rest of the world.

PS. More blogs should define its own self-citations…

From Up on Flag School

"Back in the days."

From Up on Poppy Hill hails as the first full-length animated feature helmed by a father-son combo. The Miyazakis did a pretty good job here, with its usual features that we’ve came to expect of the typical Ghibli production. Even if it’s an adaptation.

The US dub is, as usual, competent. It falls just short of being a really great dub, but I think it suffices quite well nonetheless.

Watching it on debut weekend on the coattails of the NYICFF takes a bit of air out of it because the screening didn’t count for the box office numbers. It’s kind of weird but those screenings are eligible to be watched by festival pass owners (It’s like $250 or something). Maybe that is why they counted separately.

The real angle I have on this movie is that it has a strange cultural bubble that the narrative swims in. My first reaction after finishing the film was “man, I need to get the JP version and rewatch it.” Thankfully, it will make a fun rewatch. The subdued and awkward teenage drama is as cute as quaint can get. I mean, only if Hyouka was even 10% as cute as this. It’s too restrained to catch up to Whisper of the Heart but this might be the very first Ghibli film since Kondo’s masterpiece which attempted at real teenage awkward-laughing-at.

Poppy Hill makes a very strong parallel with Umi’s home at the Coquelicot Manor and the Quartier Latin, one that is made explicit half way through the movie. I guess it’s typical for the movie to help us out in this way.

In Porco, there was a scene (or two?) where you see these shiny American bombers doing rounds in the sky. I wonder if this is how it feels when Poppy Hill shows us its smoky, 1964 landscapes in Yokohama. It’s all this figurative “flag language” that surrounds the film which makes it doubly more interesting if you knew what it spoke.

PS. I wonder if we can say, fairly, that the difference between Miyazaki Sr.’s film and Jr.’s film being the difference between Shun and Oreki.

JManga, 2010-2013

Himawari-chan Best-chan

I wish I have something to add to JManga’s last announcement, but I don’t. It’s the imagine conjured up in my mind whenever Japan tries to innovate regarding media. Which is to say, yeah, as much as I love you for trying, you guys just got that proverbial long ways to go left to go. I hope the people who were working for JManga find a nice landing place. I also hope I get to read all the stuff I bought off JManga but didn’t finish reading yet, before they cut the cord.

The saying also goes “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” I think we’re pretty much stuck at that stage of the game when it comes to new media. You have to execute. In fact just willingness of these big corporate dudes in playing the game, as another saying goes, is just half of the battle. It feels none of the execs or corporate bodies on the list of controlling entities are known for innovation. Manga publishing? Hah. Maybe you could point and say it’s in the DNA.

It takes an incredibly different mindset to be able to serve the world beyond Japan’s borders, and the truth is nobody over there has proven this is something possible domestically. It’s not that they are incompetent, but it seems like they just don’t get it.

I’m also tired of this naysaying. So instead let’s see what JManga did right after all. It’ll help me switch gears from whining about Google’s decision to kill Reader.

  • Open up the service more like a title library than a catalog – They listed a bunch of stuff they didn’t translate, but were possibilities. It’s a nice touch.
  • Bring over guests to cons – You do this, you’re all right in my book–it’s about connecting fans with creators.
  • Mobile apps – They eventually had this, and it’s increasingly a must for new media to cater to relevant platforms.
  • Regular communication – For the most part they’re pretty okay at this.
  • Sales – It’s nice to have. Especially periodically and at first.
  • High definition images – They exist, although it could be better, it’s good enough.
  • Translation options – It’s good to have the option to read in raw and in English or any other language available.

…and I’m spent. Fact is I just haven’t used it much. Certainly not enough to really get to know the service–as much as you can after reading a couple volumes and browsing for a while. The downsides and things it got wrong held me back. And that’s the temptation–for every one thing it did right I can probably name 2-3 things it did badly or wrongly. It’s so easy. I remember when JManga launched in 2010 I sent feedback to them about their point system, and in some ways they never outgrew that. Maybe they were doomed from the start.

Eroge Fandumb, Let’s Choke on Maple Syrup


I was reading Bamboo’s latest blog post about the ailing sales of this stuff over there, and how it’s harder to make a living doing it now than before. Figured I probably should hit up some usual visual novel/bishoujo gaming conversational haunts I looked and then lost my motivation in trying to talk about this stuff. Why? Because the retard to sensible ratio is up in there. It’s not that people are stupid–most everyone have a good point or more they want to make. But that’s all they want to do. They don’t want to actually discuss stuff. I’m probably unfairly characterizing things but it’s sad and pathetic how people bicker over things like translation quality or release dates. It’s like they’re on a sinking ship, arguing what the shade of blue the sky is. It’s also probably a sign: that it’s a scene increasingly drowned out by the “vocal minority” given how it’s a very small scene to begin with.

So instead, I will just link to it here. It helps to have read Akira’s translation to this news bite to get the general background of what’s happening.

For what it is worth, after the interview with nbkz went public, I did buy a copy of ef. I think a big reason is that I realized it’ll never get a physical copy, which is what I really wanted, so I stopped holding out. This is why it will probably never get a physical copy.

Still, I think it’s such a pain to read these forums–it’s like you get the totally clueless-about-game-dev types (are they from the FGC? Please be from the FGC) crossed with the super-entitled pirates crossed with dirty redditors and on top of that, fansub snobs. It would not surprise me that this is partly why we can’t have nice things.

And if Bamboo calls it quits, we may very well have way fewer nice things! I mean, I think I spent like $100 minimum at the MG booth at AX every year. And that’s just AX. I’m seriously hoping that will not be going away. I hope someone can do Bamboo’s rant a reasonable translation, because as you know I can’t.

Finally playing the beginning of ef now, it’s really just a tortuously beautiful version of the anime. Should be a fun ride going through it on a flight or something. It’s also in some ways painfully ironic in regards to the severity of the situation.

Edit: I just found out I was linking to the wrong post. So the maple syrup thing probably didn’t make sense. This is the recent rant from Bamboo that was kind of an interesting read. This is another follow up that is, well…