Monthly Archives: September 2013

That Was a Good Last Episode

Genshiken Nidaime E11

In English, “last” can mean “final” or “previous”; this pun is made possible by translation, although by syntax it infers the “final” definition in common use, as in “the last episode.” Instead, “The last episode was good” would suggest the punned meaning. Anyway, as you can see this is really about episode 11 of Genshiken Nidaime.

Octoballs

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Dehumanizing Uchouten Kazoku

By “dehumanizing” maybe it is better to call it “tanuki-fying.”

The Eccentric Family

Here’s a thought experiment. Rewatch Uchouten Kazoku. Whenever you see a human-form tanuki, try to imagine it as tanuki-form instead.

What does this do? When Yasaburo looks longingly at Benten (maybe at the ED, maybe when they’re walking in the moonlight, whenever), the meaning becomes obvious.

When Yashiro looks at  Benten behind his brother’s back and takes her doughnut, what does it look like?

Is this why Soichiro can’t stay in shape? Or rather, doesn’t that explain why, in a thematic sense?

The family of tanuki take shapes from humans to live in this society, but they cannot betray who they are, their blood so to speak–as tanuki, as fools, as whatever. When mom was living with her rescuer, she looked at him with those eyes, and it says everything universal that has to be said. It’s this message that goes beyond the bounds of what makes them tanuki or human or tengu. It’s like Yasaburo’s filial piety-like devotion to Akadama-sensei, even if he is not one of them, although now we’re treading on iffy grounds since I have no clue what tengu and tanuki are suppose to do with each other. It’s like when 8Ken has to eat to love (and to live). And you thought I was joking (entirely)?

Another concern I have in parallel with this is that unless we are mindful of the whole “blood” connection and in regards to what a tanuki is, it’s not entirely obvious that this layer of the story exists. Especially from western eyes, it’s too easy to forget that these human-looking things do not have minds and hearts of humans, although they too carry admirable qualities. In other words, think Natsume Yuujinchou. I mean, a tengu is a youkai. I’m not sure what qualifies for a transforming tanuki though. Maybe this is just a man-animal-supernatural sort of a sandwich. But we cannot subject Yasaburo and his family to the same standards as we subject other human beings in the same context. Or rather, this is how we can tell when the story is trying to make a point.

For example, Yasaburo loves humans. Think about it–he is the single visible tanuki that has extensive interaction with humans, within the story. The only other character that comes close to him is Mom, whose backstory explains why she does what she does. What does this say about Yasaburo? What does this say about Benten?

PS. It’s like “blood of the fool” in the way I draw out overarching themes across different shows that I watched recently. You know what they say about the human cognitive ability of pattern-seeking and forming.


OS! EGOIST

This post is about music from anime that gets panned. Not quite about EGOIST per se but clearly that one is one of those.

For the most part, EGOIST is just Chelly produced by supercell. I’m thinking that at some point or another Hiroyuki Sawano might have had some hand in them, but I can’t find out any links off hand. Sawano’s own soundtrack to Guilty Crown is also, perhaps, overlooked because people didn’t like the anime so much. It’s easy to say this because the similarly-sounding Attack on Titan tracks do much better with popularity. I mean, the same people did a similar thing for both shows, with exception that maybe Kyoujin OST is the bigger of the two. Pun-wise and in terms of the sounds.

Walking back the path of time via the Animusictourney, it’s easy to see how weaker soundtracks get lifts from stronger source material or emotional attachment to the IP. One of my favorites from a few years back was Sphere’s debut anime, Nijine’s Hatsukoi Limited anime soundtrack. And I kind of blurbbed about that. But who liked that show?

It’s times like this–by this I mean while writing this blog post–that I miss the old #MALKEIONBU, because I’d have at least a clue on what to listen for. Also because this particular section of the brackets just makes me cry. I would say it makes an old man cry but calling myself old is an insult to actual old people.

Shifting gears a bit, let’s talk about Os-Uchuujin. Or Os-宇宙人. You know what that song reminds me of? 90s rock music. In fact it makes me think of this song.

Because it’s pretty fly for seiyuu music. The thing is, Ogame speaks like a normal little (size-wise) Japanese girl. She’s not quite KaneTomo-class, but she’s still that shrilly Asian vocalist when speaking normally. You can tell from the video, as she speaks a bit in the beginning. The guys playing the song is a major label band and the lead vocal normally sounds not too different than the seiyuu-san vocalist anyway?

And of course, it’s all in the lyrics.

Which is all to say, it’s okay to dislike it and speak your personal biases honestly, but don’t discredit what you don’t know! That is not the spirit of things.

PS. Happy Birthday Kotori-san!

PPS. Happy Birthday Dreamcast-san!

PPPS. ⑨


Uchoten Kazoku: When You Got Sauce in Your Wasabi

By that I mean when you got saudade in your wabi-sabi.

Or when you got anime in your Kyoto-style life.

Or when you got moe in your tanuki.

I see why they like Kaisei.

Kaisei Ebisugawa - She doesn't go Hitode on them

More seriously, while there’s nothing particularly problematic about Uchouten Kazoku as a whole, the more I watch the show slowly unravel itself in typical Asian familial tragedy manners, the less I feel compelled by its narrative. Maybe it is partly due to the whole PA Works animation angle. Maybe it has to do with the relatively contemporary setting. Maybe it’s because Yuasa’s Tatami Galaxy set a false and unrealistic standard/tone to what I thought this sort of a story could be. It’s kind of like falling in love with somebody only to realize that person is not who you think it is, in a good, “hey I can live with this” sort of way. It’s fine and practical but largely devoid of glamour.

I guess this is the ultimate problem when every other show you get hyped about has to do with some social taboo like Twincest for the Win or A Little Sister Is Fine Too or Oh Man That Pig Is So Cute And I Want to Eat Him. And I’m not even talking about Silver Spoon. Fantastical Tanuki Family Bickering Foolishness has a tall wall to climb. But then again Kaisei is close enough for incest in some jurisdictions, assuming if she and her mate are human. I guess this is where Uchouten Kazoku could’ve really played things up. Let the tanuki be tanuki.

Which is to say, 8Ken will never make it as a Friday Fellow because what defines true love for him is some shallow shadow of its true nature.


Is Miku’s Future Magical?

I spent a weekend with Miku, and I’m tired as heck. The girl does know how to party though.

To celebrate her 6th birthday, the people behind what we know as the diva Miku put together a world-wide bash, focused on a big event on 8/30 at the Yokohama Arena called Magical Mirai 2013. It’s part concert, and part exhibition. Well, the pictures here probably tell more than I could.

Furufuru Future

What happened between my last comment on Magical Mirai and this post is that I attended her birthday bash at one of the delay broadcast showing via satellite (albeit delayed by a good 12 hours or so, lest we be raving at 1AM on August 30th). I actually watched a good chunk of it the night before the delay broadcast because it was being streamed live on Nico. In fact for people who can navigate Nicovideo, they can watch the 2-hour show, after the fact, here. Or you can just do what all the kids do and download it, non-kosher.

The NYC event was sold out and it got bad enough that whiffs of con funk started to percolate in the not-as-drafty-as-it-could-be indie movie theater–it was a very humid day too, which probably was what made it possible. A van with a satellite dish was parked around the corner at the venue, and this was only significant because the night before the live viewing organizers raised the possibility, via email, that the show may be cancelled due to technical problems arising from using a satellite dish. Thankfully the show was without a hitch.

Doing calls with glowsticks at a movie theater is not easy. We got in line to monopolize the back row, and that made everything possible. While in line we talked to energetic kids who traveled in to watch the show with their folks, in cosplay, with mad humidity, outside in line. It was a bit like a con except with even more tangled blue-green wigs. As per your usual Miku event, the attendees trend young, on the lower side of the average anime con-going age.

After the show we walked around the area to kill some time. One of us was a Len cosplayer but given the nature of things he didn’t draw much attention. I would say it’s surreal having him outside of Katz’s Deli but I’ve been at this gig way too many times to blink.

“Hanging out with Miku” continued at dinner where we talked shop, and again at the karaoke box where we had a blast, half of us tipsy, the other half didn’t really need the alcohol.

But you really don’t get to spend quality time with Miku (and company) until you pop in Project Diva, now available for North Americans. I have to say that the songs feels much more “textured” when you experience it through that bit of active listening. Words pop out from melodic moonrunes into things with meaning; half the time the video tells the story just as well, stuff that a dance can’t quite get things across. It’s like this Freely Tomorrow PV (straight from Mitchie M) means twice as much after playing the game. Every note during Miku’s Magical Mirai show now has more texture.

Which just reminds me of this from a while ago.

I mean, like, there’s enough Miku crap out there to be swimming in it all the time. You can make a youtube play list for days on end of Vocaloid-related materials. There are enough songs out there, pro or amateur, to fill terabytes of storage–and many of them freely available legally. And in the case of the 6th birthday live, there was enough milkshake to bring all the boys to the yard. It felt like the production team outsourced MEIKO to Tecmo or something. Safe to say, my world was permeated with this crap, at least for a weekend.

So, what does this say about Vocaloid’s magical future? I think “freely tomorrow” is kind of a good description. The sky is the limit. The problem is still that it’s the same elusive, slippery and somewhat impenetrable cultural hologram that Miku always was. It’s enjoyable but as superficial as any pop cultural trend–which is to say sometimes it’s rather deep. In Miku’s case it’s coated with the magic of being a crowd-driven, crowdsourced movement during an era where the world is changing in this exact way.

What is magical, I guess, is that there are still lots of people who are working with Miku as ways of making music and ways of expressing themselves. From cosplaying to MMDs to the actual thing (which now you can buy from Big Fish Audio for North Americans), Miku’s journey has always been magical because the way it has always relied on a crowdsource model–from a corporate POV (say hello to TOKYO MX/Crypton! And Sega, Sony, NND, and all the other sponsors at Magical Mirai 2013) it’s like the marketing engine drives itself. All they have to do is to sell CDs and DVDs and promote concerts and goods the same way they always have, and things just magically sells (like Mitchie M’s new album(lol aff. link. And like, Sadamoto drawing Miku? Is that magical or what.)). Great songs pop out of nowhere magically. Cool videos come out from NND and youtube, because people make them and it just appears. From another point of view, it’s like a short series of small miracles, where people embrace this copyleft-leaning model of sharing what is good and still able to make money because it’s exactly small and good.

But to me, what’s magical about Miku and her future is that it’s an increasingly international one. Miku’s fandom is still rather niche even in Japan, and I think these vertically-oriented silos will grow a lot if we factor in all the international fans. This is partly why English Miku is a thing. Or there’s a Mikubook. It’s just a problem about being able to make operating in this international, multi-lingual way work for the entities involved. To me, it’s magical that Miku’s Magical Mirai had a world simulcast of sorts. With English promos. What other 2D Japanese fandom does this?

PS. The King Blade X10 Mk.IIs are every bit they are hyped up to be. Miku tested, omo approved. Highly recommended!