Monthly Archives: September 2013

The (Not So) Hidden Game of 69Bu

First, some things to consider.

In an ideal world, we could also call them this: seiwota.

Episode 10 credits

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Canonization, Comparison, Criticism

Let’s revisit Girls und Panzer for a second. That anime is great because it’s a sports anime, it’s got the usual “go to koshien” schtiks, the characters are eclectic and fun, and tanks go boom. It’s well-executed. It’s got a lot of heart.

Just about none of those I would say is true for C3-bu. In fact I don’t even know where Author is getting his marketing talk from. No links, bro! It’s kind of amusing, though, because reading his post makes me feel as if he is watching some other show that is entirely different than the C3-bu that I watched.

But I did say this about homework, so let’s compare answers.

"Deconstruction"

First, I should take back one thing: the characters in C3-bu are still fun. Maybe they can be eclectic, just not for me. I think the range is much smaller; from Rin to Sonora, there’s not much of a gap. Karila provides a level of excitement that many of the other girls don’t have for the sport; it’s like she thinks airsoft like how Rento thinks of tea and cake. And to be honest I have a hard time picking out anyone other than Yura, Rin and Sono-chan.

In other words, for better or worse, C3-bu is different. In fact I think it’s unique for the all-girls after school club genre, if such is a thing. I know I enjoyed the show for bits of its originality. It has a mix of actual sport, character-driven development, lofty visualized analogies, dreams and fantasy sometimes mingle with reality, and cold, hard truths. I think it is the story about Yura and Sonora and how they develop as adolescents, even if they’re like Railgun characters in a way, acting too old for their age on paper.

Another way to look at Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 Club, I think, is in the same wrapping context. If Saki is “girls and mahjong and high-tension tournaments” then C3-bu is “girls and airsofts and overcoming deep-seeded, self-inflicted emotional wounds.” In fact I think the whole reason behind why C3-bu is a tough watch compared to these very popular shows in recent years. It’s not a pretty topic.

As much as Girls und Panzer tries to bring this element in, for the most part, it resorts to a checklist style of broaching the issue. There’s the Nishizumi older sister angle, there’s the abandoning the game to help a friend angle, but the show doesn’t really detail “how” Miho overcome her inner struggles, other than having a circle of friends validating each other, as “nakama.” Girls und Panzer is more concerned about glorifying the correct answer without really showing the work, and honestly, we would rather not see all the laboring details, the negative inner emotions, the personal struggles, the repeated setbacks that set the stage in how one may try and try again and eventually overcome. Do we see how Miho obtain her steel-like inner resolve? Her brilliance of thinking outside the box while under siege, in the cold? It’s in the shadow of these brilliant feats of Tankery that I feel C3-bu, instead, takes that brave step forward and gets into the black box that too many shows sidestepped. It’s good time to note that Yura achieved greatness in a very similar way, to honor her friend, but the stories of these two girls are very different, with all the pluck, luck, and “ganbatte” in the world, we see how it could have turned out in polar opposites.

Well, I can’t blame these shows for sidestepping it. The detour to the dark side hampers execution like a wet rag and people in general don’t like that stuff in their escapist fantasy. But this is why I think anime today is great; there’s such a diversity of thought that even within the same, generally stable diet of teamwork-glorification and affirmation of what is universally considered good, a depiction of a girl who answered correctly but still got it wrong on the test. It’s about a person who has everything but lost herself in the process. A teenager who has finally gotten over herself.

Bonus round: Here’s a third way to look at C3-bu, Girls und Panzer, and the Koshien tournaments Japan idolizes. I linked to the article before, it’s worth a read not only as a cross-cultural lesson in sports, but also in getting an idea of what “koshien” means to that country, that society. There’s a reason why these coaches leave these teenage monster arms out in the hot summer sun for hundreds of pitches per game, potentially blowing up million-dollar baseball talents in these bouts of glory. Because it’s all about form. It’s about deeply-held beliefs, almost religious, that transcend physical reality–like heart mixed with courage can overcome the impossible. This is one solution; it just only satisfies some, not all, and certainly not anyone who lost in this negative-sum game.


Some Summer 2013 Season Thoughts

Shoot first ask questions later style post.

Honoka Mutsu

I generally like Servant x Service. I think in a lot of ways it is an improvement over Working, but it lacks magnetic characters. I think taking on adult sensibilities gives it a new flavor but at the same time brings too much into play that shaves away the charm of a simpler punchline and makes it harder to embrace. “It” here being both the jokes and characters.

I think Silver Spoon anime comes across just a little heavy handed, but at the same time that’s probably necessary to drive the deeper points of the story. I’m not sure how the manga handles it, but this Silver Spoon feels like it is a pretty deep work. I also think that this could have been a very cultural-specific sort of a thing, but the saving grace is that processing basic raw ingredients in agriculture isn’t so different this day and age, across different countries, thanks to scientific advancements. In other words, the core message is somewhat universal, and moreover a lot of them don’t have anything to do with agriculture. The pizza episode was a great example of a modern day stone soup story and it definitely was the best one out of them all.

Out of all the shows I couldn’t make it out of episode 3, I’m most intrigued by Kaminai and Monogatari series. I’m pretty sure I will catch up on the latter series.

I really enjoyed Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ episode 6 and 7. In the end of 7 Potte took a photo of the fireworks and the backs of her friends. What ISO was that film? Did she change it from her camera at some point after the competition? That said I’m kind of behind so hopefully I’ll get to catch up in the coming week.

MJPR ending was a sea of flags. I mean, it totally pulled an Evangelion in terms of the joke flags. Too bad the story came across as too simple, for me. It’s like a Hollywood cliche. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t executed well enough to be enjoyable. It was enjoyable, for sure, but a little too shallow for my tastes.

The two Oonuma Shin series were a riot to watch. Good for him. They executed well, and despite the obvious and usual resource-saving techniques used everywhere, Illya delivered all that action and Watamote was a very clever show. They exceeded expectation in a good way, but that forces me to examine my expectations for Watamote and Prisma Illya to begin with–admitted they were somewhat low. Still there were some obvious bright spots in both shows. Izumi Kitta simply was perfect as Tomoko. Besides the convincing action scenes of Illya, Mai Kadowaki by now has a ton of Illya speaking time, so she wears that role like a comfy sweater.

Compared to her performance in Genei Taiyou, at least, Ilya was simply delightful. It’s not to say Day Break Illusion would’ve been helped by that, but in the end it was a weird way to highlight how different the two magical girls show were. The weird thing is, as bad as Genei was, it still had a lot of good points to it. Otaku media, I guess.

Titan and Railgun remain as the two top least serious business anime on my watch list. Especially Railgun. I see people taking it seriously all the time, though… I don’t get how people can do this without making a fool out of themselves.

Free is a fun watch on its own merits. The manservice for the most part can be side-stepped easily. I don’t think the rest of the show is really that noteworthy–about on par with Tamako Market I guess. My complaints still stand, but the animation and story is enough to keep my attention.

Kaminomi is also a lot of fun, as a non-manga reader. It’s not often you hear Asumin and Ayachi in roles like these. This third season of Kaminomi changes the gambit of the show for me–my favorite episodes in the last 2 seasons were the filler ones. By pumping the plot forward like season 3 they removed some of my complaints about the forced pacing, but it also took those charming down-time moments away. I guess I can’t say I like it, but it certainly can be a lot worse.

Eccentric Family is my top show this season and easily a top 5 candidate for 2013. No need to waste my breath at this stage, lots of other people are doing it. I’ll take my time to think about it…

The surprise hit this season is actually Love Lab. I really dig the way it gives a normal girls-be-girls kind of a setup, a backbone. It also has boys. It’s overall just delightful. If anything it could be funnier.

Genshiken Niidaime is as good as I expected to be, which is a high bar to clear. It’s still one of the best meta anime out there in recent memory. But because I expected this, it’s not particularly delightful since it can’t quite surprise me. Even if I have the manga and have been saving it until I’m done with this anime. I really enjoy some of the cross-cultural jokes especially.

Well, I probably should watch K3 before making those claims about Genshiken. I saw some cool caps from that show. But it doesn’t distinguish itself beyond the really nonsense stuff. Is this show any better than Kinmoza?

C3-bu, on the other hand, is a big surprise  in a different way. I also really enjoyed it but I had a hard time talking to people about it because following that show on CR is basically following it a week behind. It comes out on Mondays and the new episode airs Thursday–given how busy I was this summer I basically end up watching the episode usually on the weekend, Thursdays being the earliest. Sorry Crunchyroll, please never do this.

As for the show itself, in a way I like how it approaches the pathos from the “negative” side of things. You can state the problem in a negative way or a positive way, and the solution would feel very different depending on how you approached it. I think it’s a great litmus test. I also love how it gives Yura all these “reality marble” sort of way to show whatever it is C3-bu was trying to get across. Anime no Chikara yo. In a lot of ways this is a great show, in the way that, for example, MJPR fails to achieve.

I thought I would be all over Kinmoza, but this show didn’t have a higher gear to kick in to so it lost against the other shows of this season for my viewing time. It’s like I need to save certain times of the day when I am awake enough to take in these low-tension shows like Tamayura and Uchouten Kazoku (at least earlier on) to enjoy them fully, bumping out shows like Kinmoza and K3.

Gatchaman Crowds is the odd ball of the season. I guess that is only expected given that it is a Kenji Nakamura anime. However it is also a pretty fun show carrying the same kind of weirdo-yet-progressive ideas Nakamura has been sprouting. Whoever lets him have the freedom to make weird shows like this, God bless you and I hope you keep doing it for another 50 years.

Anyways, Gatchaman Crowds is also kind of the show that could “go wrong” really easily. It’s like Fractale, basically, that if the execution dropped something important, it’ll lose all credibility. I guess we have one more week to find out.

If there is one guilty pleasure this season for me, that would be Ro-kyu-bu SS. SHOW YOU GUTS COOL SAY WHAT saikou daze. No, more like because it is a koushien story after all. Kanae Itou is being her usual self in that show too, which is something getting rarer by the season. I also have to say it has a weird effect watching this right before/after MJPR. Iguchi!

I’m going to marathon Rozen Maiden…from episode 6. It’s fun. But probably less fun than marathoning Senyuu and Teekyuu back to back. Or interweaved. Which is something I’ll have to do too.

Bonus round:

  • Favorite OP: Servant x Service. However C3-bu’s final sequence is woaaah moeeeee. Also, kz song is so kz.
  • Favorite ED: Drowning in saudade in fhana’s Che Sera Sera, although I will reserve 10% for LOLI LOLI GROWING, whatever that means.
  • Most surprisingly good: C3-bu
  • Most surprisingly bad: MJPR
  • Funniest: Love Lab…or Teekyu.
  • Most surprising: Gatchaman Crowds
  • Most Mamiko: Uchouten Kazoku
  • MVP: Rento Kirishima

New Idol Master CD Is Actually Worth Buying

newonion

Tokyo, Japan – Throngs of youthful men and women gathered at the 8th anniversary live tour of a popular music group this summer. What you might not have known is that this group is made up of voice actresses from a video game call The Idol Master [iM@S], where players manage a team of pop idols on the road to stardom.

The marketing for iM@S presents itself as a traditional, multimedia mix of goods, video games, CDs, DVDs and performances, but it is revolutionary in having such success in packaging fictional characters as effective idols not unlike famous acts like AKB48 and their ilk. In fact, because its niche upbringing as a 2005 arcade game, and then as a game for the relatively obscure console Xbox–Microsoft’s consoles are not well-distributed in Japan–iM@S attracted a very hardcore fanbase, at least at first.

“I’m glad we can get the same songs on one single album that used to be across four or five different albums.” Jon Tyler, one of many of the avid iM@S fans–who call themselves “producers” as fashioned after the role of the player in the iM@S games–remarked on the way Columbia Japan handles the CD releases of iM@S music. “It’s really a change of the times. The series got really popular right around the time I became a producer. At first, it was very hard to buy all the popular songs, since the average iM@S album, not counting mini-albums and singles, was about half vocal tracks and half either instrumentals or voice tracks like skits. Columbia knows that’s what people are after and accordingly spread out the top hits to get more sales.”

“It was difficult to get more than four or five of your favorites on one CD, for a lot of reasons. Another problem was that many of the album releases were based on characters or different parts of the video game releases. I think Scamco wants you to just buy the Blu-rays, or collect all the albums.” The candid statements detailing the steep curve, not only as a matter of the cost of being a fan, but the logistical complication one have to keep on top over time, as iM@S-related CDs are released almost monthly.

While for some, overcoming the labrynithe of release patterns and being able to finance their collections are badges of honor. For others, the difficulty to identify and purchase their favorite songs is a barrier to entry. Perhaps this is why Columbia Japan is finally producing these simple collections. For others, it’s a sign of something else to come.

“The so-called ‘Second Vision’ series of games and merchandises are coming to an end. I think this is why they are now releasing new SKU with good value.” Oscar Kha, a market analyst describes the overall strategy behind the iM@S releases in terms of the bigger, cross-marketing effort combining Columbia Japan and other publishers and studios. “During this campaign, the goal was to transform a relatively straight-forward video game IP into a sprawling franchise where monetization strategy is no longer limited to the typical console or arcade use cases, or the usual licensing and merchandising opportunities. The campaign begin to add some of the newer strategies such as mobile gaming and through live events. The timing is right to take the franchise to the next level, along with various market signals such as the next generation home consoles.”

Commenting on the future, Kha points out perhaps the most persuasive motive behind these affordable new releases. “Lowering the barrier of entry at this juncture is strategic as well, as it prevents too much attrition from the newer customers who became attached to the IP in the past couple years, and keep everyone engaged as the next campaign starts.”

THE IDOLM@STER
765PRO ALLSTARS+
GRE@TEST BEST!
-THE IDOLM@STER HISTORY-

COCX-38070 2500 yen (w/ tax) (Blu-spec CD2)
2013.09.18 on sale

PS. This is fabricated, yeah?


In Fandom, the Grass Is Always Green

Haruka Saigusa

I may or may not be tsundere when it comes to “go to koshien” stories, but I do have a soft spot for anime characters playing recreational sports in fan recreations. When the fiction itself is not prose, that gets me over the hump of dealing with people’s slashes or whatever. So, for some reason, I’m reading the brief recaps from the Anime Studio Baseball tournament and I’m in stitches.

I mean, I guess because I also read Murrican Sportsball writing in my spare time, so I really could see how all of this can be threaded narratively into a hilarious story between two distinct but unrelated matching. The jokes not only write themselves, it’s so ripe that you can probably write jokes you didn’t even know that exists. Calaggie over there does a good job generating the scores and results (although I guess the game has started already, I can’t bracket them up at this point), and there’s a small write-up, but I feel like we can spin this out more. A lot more.

And this is where I can see myself doing something. A big thing about sports narration is explaining who everyone is and coming up with the story that threads the game together, the players together, and give context to what is happening. A big part of this anime baseball nonsense is knowing the characters. Even I don’t know everybody, but I do know many, so it should be fun to come up with something. Maybe that’s why I find this funny?

Like Minko putting up baluts inning after inning. Or Lulouch went 3 for 6 against a Iri, Ryougi Shiki, and a penguin. Tsunemori Akane’s bat is bigger than Tendo Akane’s.

The schedule, which is probably the most important thing, is here. The roster is posted on the team pages. Can Haruka handle the hot corner? Their first game rightly puts them against one of the toughest (sounding) lineup in the tournament: Pretty Cures & Salior Scouts. I guess we’ll find out next week.

As for the nuts and bolts, Anime Baseball is actually just a simulated sort of thing, using a simple dice rolling system called Home Plate. I can’t even find it on BGG, so I have no idea how it works. The roster is biased towards what the guy organizing the tournament likes, but it’s pretty representative anyway. I’m going to assume the play-by-play data is available but you’ll have to get @Calaggie to export it from iScores.

Lastly, something to think about.

PS. This isn’t all that different than those replay fiction that turns into light novels, huh.