Monthly Archives: April 2013

Notes on Tokyo 2013

I went to Japan to do otaku stuff, to meet with people, and to relax. I think I accomplished all three to some extent, and now the internet gets to hear about it. Actually, it’s just about the food and the nerd stuff. Bullet-style.

But first, loot pic. And this isn’t even everything.

Lots of loot

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FREE Willy, the Swimming Anime

I think I can make 99 jokes based on FREE, the newly announced Kyoto Animation project. This TV anime will hit the airwaves in July 2013. It’s roughly the same anime people have been clamoring for since the Animation Do KyoAni commercial of the same subject matter aired a couple months ago. Today, the characters have names, voice acting, and are part of some story.

I don’t know, really. After Tamako Market I’m definitely skeptical about another original Kyoto Animation work. I still like/am biased towards original works, so I’ll definitely be watching it when it comes out, even if the visual signals are clearly saying it’s not for me. And it isn’t as if Tamako Market was not fun to watch; just nothing special short of that one episode.

As for the ongoing discourse, to put it broadly, it’s all about Kyoani putting their foot down on female-targeting fanservice. There’s a lot of different reactions out there actually, but what is kind of amusing and bothersome at the same time is the meta-ness of it. There are probably more blog posts and reactions about people who might be against this manflesh anime pandering than actual complaints about the anime, let alone complaints about the anime being manflesh pandering. I’m sure there’s a healthy contingent of whiners, those so-called moe otaku or whatever, but isn’t that true for just any other anime out there? Shouldn’t all this complaints be characterized in a way where it’s normalized against some average? At this point it feels like people are just having fun against a strawman, and yeah, arguing against a strawman is pretty fun.

The way I see, it’s a simple formula of KyoAni fanbase clashing with the truth that there are probably a helluva lot of girls actually working at Kyoto Animation, slaving away at your Hyouka or Chuu2Koi, and now they are doing a project that flies their flags, so to speak. That goes against the typical work Kyoani has produced, so naturally some people are kind of irked. Like all those people hoping for a Full Metal Panic work. (Funny thing is you can’t even really make fun of these guys (at least not full bore) because FMP is at least a cut above, say, an eroge adaptation). I like this–this flag flying–because people tend to draw their best when they draw stuff they like. But, really, just how many girls are working at Kyoani today? Why do I get the impression there are a lot of them?

To take even a bigger step back, I feel this is just an anime hipster kind of thing to do. It’s like there’s this overarching dialog over there in the video game scene about women and sexism, and anime peeps are just making their own version up, in a monkey-see-monkey-does kind of way. I mean, it’s too disingenuous to even call it prosecution. It’s just silly. It doesn’t even address any of the core issues, or real issues involved.

For one, this is about fanservice. It’s clearly not about moe (or anti-moe or whatever). Yet moe gets flagged, why?

Second, more people need to watch Tsuritama. Or KimiBoku. It’s not otaku entertainment if it doesn’t have discourse, and without familiarity of the discourse I don’t know if you can really make sense of it. Like a good doujinshi, it needs context, it’s from fans, to fans. You really get a nice dose of it in the promo material for FREE. In fact I think that’s part of the problem–so far the various promos offer little in terms of what the show will be like besides the fanservice part. There are high schoolers swimming, and…?

To circle back about fanservice and moe, I think maybe it’s more about misidentifying Kyoani fandom? There was all this hoopla about Little Buster and Air and Kanon, after all. I think it’s just yet another chapter in KyoAni’s varied history–from Munto to the Kanon remake to Haruhi-isms to Yamakan. Now this.

And like every misleading narrative, it distracts attention from real issues, like the regularly-issued bomb threats for Kuroko’s Basketball events, or, well, Kyoto Animation hasn’t been able to do an original anime to make a living off of. Will whining about whiners whining about the homoerotic undertones or manflesh or whatever of Free, change any of it? Or improve the lives of women interacting with anime? Doubtful, unless you count the good feels those tumblr campaigns or laughing at internet strawmen bring home. It’s normal for guys (especially nerds) to get squeamish about the naked body; it’s not normal for BL doujin events to get canceled because of bomb threats. I think it’s just sad when people can’t get that straight.

TL;DR – just another day on the internet.

Oreshura, Colors

There are a few notable OP/EDs this past season but my favorite is probably Oreshura OP. If we put aside the hit-and-miss seiyuu ensemble music aside, that show has the exact kind of color design and set of cuts to leverage it. It is remarkably similar to another OP that had solid color design and matching direction, from not too long ago.

The coloring and post-processing sometimes clue you in about  the production. It’s like Shingeki no Kyoujin’s shiny (and somehow invariably Korean) look.

In Oreshura, the characters are the life of the show;  they’re also split into quadrants, seasons, across a spectrum, whatever. So it is a natural palette. I guess by characters I’m including the sad protagonist in this case; he has this chuunibyou streak to it that makes a sort of uncanny idealism fitting. In a weird way, the club these folks make for themselves, about exploring how to become a proper lady, is almost as apt in terms of an exploration as to how to become a man.


Steins;Gate the Movie – Fanfare Version

So I watched the Steins;Gate movie. It’s … well, I probably should hold back on making a call until I confirm my understanding of it, but let’s just say it didn’t meet my expectation. In the end, a time-travel plot can only take you so far. I blame having watched Looper not too long ago for the first time (on the flight to Japan in fact), and that sort of colored my view.

There were two big theaters showing the movie on opening day. Somehow I went to the Ikebukuro Sunshine Cinema for my viewing at 9:45am, which is really early for a movie by American standards, and it’s kind of across town from where I was staying. When I arrived there were lines outside for kuji goods, and lines inside for the movie-specific goods. There really isn’t anything too special, but the cyalume saber is pretty cool–a star wars lightsaber kind of a deal, except it can display something like 6 different colors. It also makes sounds. And by pretty cool I mean it would be a good gag. I mean, I guess you can use it at events…

Given only 2 theaters were doing it in downtown Tokyo, I saw some pretty cool loot.

Signed poster

Chiyomaru eh

I had standing-only seats. It wasn’t too bad because I got there early, and the runtime is only 89 minutes.

As for the movie itself, let’s just say it’s very Chris-centric. In fact if you like her or if she’s your #1 or you dig the thing she has going on with Okabe, then this movie will be your jam. For the rest of us, well, I was hoping for a little more actual drama. Instead, what we have is what is probably best called “closing the loop.” It’s nice to see it come around and make the pieces fit, but I think those of us expecting high dramatics that made the TV series a joy to watch probably should tone our expectations down.



Schatzkiste front door

Today I visited the maid cafe Schatzkiste. Their main claim to fame is the annual horror events that they do on Halloween, which is reported over at bigger venues like Kotaku and, well, any site that writes about maid cafes on any semi-regular basis. What’s actually interesting about Schatzkiste is how it’s one of the more unusual maid cafes in Japan, given how it’s not about calling out at their masters “welcome home” and it’s more about the basic and more “classic” fares involving maids just working in a cafe.

In some ways, it’s really just a counter-cultural maid cafe, I think. The fact that some of their furniture was hand-made or that they bake their own sweets are just the little things which makes it an attraction in a market that is full of other entries offering the usual cafe or izakaya fare, or the stereotypical moe omelette thing. But, really? Maid-made furniture sounds kind of boring. Respectable, but “doujin furniture” inspires as much confidence as what that phrase sounds. It’s not exactly what I am looking for in a maid cafe, anyway.

What they do add is the intangible aspects. There’s this hyper-artificiality about maid cafes as presented by the gallery of leafletting maid army that lines Akihabara’s nerd shopping district, or the massive Maidreamin banners that hang on top of building corners. And if you ask me, walking down Chuo-dori from the south, it’s the immortal Dejiko that makes me feel at home, not the images of hair-shaving army of idols and maids, as “pure” as they may also be.

But Dejiko can’t serve me tea, where as the lovely maids of Schatzkiste can sure pure a pretty good one. For 500 yen per 30 minutes, you can get as much tea as you can drink, and you can help yourself to one of their books, magazines, board games, or purchase some additional refreshment like a soup of the day. There are also events that go on periodically, which I presume are posted on their website.

It seems that the owner of the establishment produces a doujinshi of some sort for the cafe periodically and in it, explains what the story is all about. It feels kind of the same way when you sit down at the cafe, going through their menu and “concept” about how the maids at Schatzkiste were originally working for a master of unknown origin and is far away from home. In the “house” that they were in (which is Schatzkiste’s old location), they turned the “attic” into a cafe.

That is all well and good and serves little practical purpose, but it’s pretty thick in a vanity purpose sort of way. In a weird post-modern kind of way, it’s exactly that in which adds warmth, and value, to the maid cafe fantasy. Well, what isn’t vain was the scones; I had some and it tasted pretty good. It feels exactly as home made food should.


It’s the kind of maid cafe that you bring people who want a cafe experience, not a maid experience, so to speak. I think there’s a lot to be said about people who enjoy going to this sort of a place, and I also think Schatzkiste is not really what most tourists want out of a maid cafe. In a way, what makes Schatzkiste interesting is exactly how it isn’t rooted in the shallow kind of vanity that outsiders see Akihabara as, but the pure emotions that makes people spend countless waking hours and even more money on AKB48 events or the motivation behind the existence of such a thing, like Schatzkiste.

PS. I dig Schatzkiste’s boardgame angle. Check out their live streams.