Monthly Archives: October 2013


This might be the first figure I bought that was released on time and was delivered in time…for the season.

Lamp Miku

I’ve talked about how watching anime is a seasonal thing–the right show gets better when watched during the right time of the year. Maybe this is why I sang 2 summer-themed songs during the last time I went to karaoke. Because it’s right about now that I am sufficiently “on the other side of the fence” and grass sure as hell was greener during summer. Nothing against Autumn and near-freezing temperatures–after all I still prefer cool weather over warm weather–but this thermal gap…moe-ness is simply irresistible. Coming from a self-professed Nayuki fan, it’s a routine I can get used to. You know, the “wake me up when we go to school since I sleep through 50 alarm clocks” routine.

Lamp Miku, on the other hand, is routine if you were collecting those pop-ish and stylish Miku figures that seem to come out every other month or something. Or if you were just collecting bishoujo figures with translucent hair made out of PVC. It’s pretty neat, this thing. What’s also kind of neat is the Brilliant Stage Makoto Kikuchi. It’s like they finally nailed one. I’ve seen a lot of iM@S figures over the past couple years and so few of them got it right. It’s all about appreciating that Bamco-style uncanny valley (best seen in screen caps from the PS3 games, or, say, from that All For One game they just announced) and yet putting enough details in to capture the spirit behind the figure. It’s like translating 3DCG into 2D and recapturing it in 3D again. It’s no wonder that so few got it right, given how it is excessively meta and convoluted.

Man, if they hand VampKyun nendos, Lamp Miku’s backdrop would make an awesome stand-in.

Some pictures after the jump, both Makoto-kun and Miku:

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Everquest and Log Horizon…

Mayako Nigo rendered

So the guy who wrote Log Horizon novels, who is also the guy who wrote the Maoyu novels, plays Everquest. As someone who used to grind out late nights during my undergrad days in EQ, there’s a feeling, like some kind of radar signature, when I watch Log Horizon, that immediately identifies that “these are the same feels.” I immediately knew that whoever wrote this also did the same things I did, ran the same nasty corpse runs I ran, suffered through the same kind of mental drains that I did camping for crap, and all that, in EQ. In that way, Log Horizon is intriguing to me. And maybe only me, who knows? I don’t know too many people into anime that was into EQ at all. Anyone?

I always thought the stuff EQ put you through is nothing unusual by “today’s” terms. While that was true in 2002 or 2006 or even 2009, I’m not sure if it’s true in 2013 terms. I certainly don’t know how EQ is these days, now that it’s a full F2P game. Basically, no games today is as torturous as those early day MMORPGs; subsequent games simply have done the same things without the needless and painful details setting things up that way. Still, in a lot of ways EQ is the root of all these serious modern, western-style, full-immersive MMORPGs (along with UO, to an extent). World of Warcraft is pretty much extensively based on EQ, at least at first (I’d say all the way up to BC/LK era). In fact I remember getting into internet arguments about EQ2 versus WoW in terms of which is more of a derivative of EQ1, back in 2003 or 2004 or whenever it was. I think it’s pretty clear in hindsight. And with Sony buying EQ’s owner over time, I wonder how much of it bled into FFXI and now FFIV. Still, derivatives or not, EQ was a special thing back in 1999/2000, in a lot of ways, good and bad. And as someone who used to play MUDs, EQ was transformative in the same way Doom was transformative–its first/3rd person view changed the way the game was played.

Everquest’s impact on me is to the extent that I still think EQ is the game that defined me as MMORPG player. In episode 3 of Log Horizon, it explains that whole explore-new-territory thrill. As someone who’s done it (to an extent), it’s actually not so much thrilling as it is looking outside your window and seeing the sunrise, realizing you spent the past 12 hours in front of a computer climbing, I don’t know, The Tower of Frozen Shadow or something. You got to the zone boss and it’s bigger than the three of you can take on, so you call it a day after a silly wipe. And also because you got class in a couple hours. I really do not know how you can recapture that sort of exploration and adventure vibes in today’s MMORPGs, simply because it’s, heh, gone too deep in the database. It’s like the feeling of running in the plains of Egypt all by yourself, knowing no other soul came within a stone’s throw from where your character is standing, ever, because there were maybe 10k players for ATITD‘s first 3 tellings, and the thing felt more like “Full Gaia project” than anything. No popular game will be able to give you that sort of an experience, in this day and age. What we measure as popular has entirely transformed.

The lack of writing on this topic seems to reinforce my half-baked feelings about how relatively few people experienced EQ as I have, or as Mamare Touno. It’s all tempered by people who may have familiarity with generic MMORPG as typified by WoW. But WoW is sufficiently far from EQ in terms of “feels.” It wouldn’t send me into nostalgia trip every episode. It’s probably the only reason why I’m still watching the otherwise generic adventure anime. Well, “otherwise” because everything GOOD about Log Horizon, except maybe the moe or otaku elements, are basically the EQ-ness of it.

So in a way, Log Horizon anime is a great glimpse as to what drove a lot of people to play MMORPG during the genre’s formative days. It’s both about the gravity of social critical mass but also that the gameplay experiences built enough immersion to make adventuring a real feeling. Watching it and experiencing it second hand from media is certainly one way to share an otherwise elusive circumstance that’s within each’s reach.

PS. Full dive into nostalgia: I level an Enchanter for a while in EQ. From back then (I threw in the towel in Velious), it feels like the guy who is spinning plates while your party is focus-firing the mobs down. I mean, you literally went up to each mob and apply timer spells in order of your cooldowns and how long each spell lasted. And you sit the rest of the time (as a means to replenish mana). Actually you even do the same to your teammates to refresh their buffs. Needless to say if you are chain pulling groups of 4-5 a pack it really is like spinning plates. Enchanters do all kind of other stuff as well, being a utility spellcaster class, but that was their primary function in battle.

I mained cleric in EQ. So far we saw that one cleric (Yay same class as Yumi Hara’s character) from the Cresent Moon Alliance. At least back when I was playing, clerics are really must-have for high end guilds; you can’t really raid without them because they minimize the impact of wipes, and provides by far the best heal-per-mana ratios. In fact, you can only really field as many groups as you had clerics, because it’s a raid size cap in essence. Typical planar raids in Everquest was meant for 9 groups of 6, so that’s a lot of people.

Since Log Horizon starts you off at the level cap, it’s not clear what and how leveling from 1 to 90 is like. In EQ, it’s really the main game since it takes so long to level and by the time you cap, well, you at least know how to play your class (unless you bought your character or something).

Also, Shiroe and team … play on a RP server don’t they. It would explain a lot; or rather, how do Japanese MMORPG culture play out? Is it anything like the west? I guess FFXI players can chime in.

And then there’s raiding. I never really got into the raiding part of Everquest, despite being on a handful of them. That’s a topic I think more people can get into better because the core of it hasn’t really changed much, even if the dynamics in EQ was different than other games, and the hoops you jump through varied from game to game.

There’s also a big divide between PVP and PVE. I think that much is true for a lot of other MMORPGs, and in terms of not just game mechanics but culture and attitudes as well. It’s not unusual for two players to duel but it generally play out in retarded fashions in EQ, as it’s more about manipulating things like line of sight or casting range, playing to the Yakety Sax as one melee character chases another (melee or otherwise) in a circle around a pillar or something.

PPS. Everquest is kind of a crap game today. Although I guess so few people play it you can possibly relive the experience Touno lived if you got a group together. With just 5-6 people leveling together, with the right class combo, you can actually go through the far majority of the game’s content.

Re: Con Consumerism

Jäger Madarame

It’s weird! Because when I see people talk about posts like this, I feel like, “what’s this? Are we back in 2007?” Still, salient points are salient.  It’s noteworthy, actually, because, well, I might be OCD when it comes to things like this. Let me quote–

  • Find out who runs your event – and if they are a non-profit. Are the organizers of your con making money, or are they a non-profit that is required to put all that money back into the event itself? Hint: Anime Expo, San Diego Comic Con, and many local cons are non-profit. New York Comic Con and Wizard World? Hell no. In the past most con attendees knew this stuff; it frightens the shit out of me how few people know it today.

  • Read up on the history of the event. Sure, so-and-so author/guest of honor/star you worship may be going to a con in your city, but if that same con is doing stuff you don’t approve of (or their leader is a wannabe CEO type with a shady police history), don’t go. While you’re at it, let that author/guest of honor/star know your concerns via e-mail or twitter.

  • Go outside your comfort zone. So many people don’t compare conventions or even evaluate the other events they could be attending because they are obsessed with going to the biggest event possible. This is ludicrous. There are hundreds of Comic, Sci-fi, Gaming and Anime cons out there and each of them are very, very different, so shop around! Trust me, the smaller, local shows are an absolute blast – and some of them have free food!

Here’s the thing: None of this really matters. In fact, the blog post’s admits basically as much. Let’s say if all I care about is some guests that only show up at SDCC/NYCC, do I really have a choice? Not really. Sure, some guests show up at SDCC/NYCC shows up at other cos, but some don’t; and more often than not the fan’s engagement is probably not hardcore enough to drive to another con, even if close enough to travel by car, just to get that one guest. If all I care about is cosplay gatherings for a [insert favorite franchise here], do I have a choice? Generally not unless your favorite thing has gone meme like Homestuck or Kyoujin (and even so your gathering will likely be way smaller). If I don’t want to travel outside of daytrip distance, do I have a choice? While more so now than before, but it’s quite limited for most people still. I kind of want to address some sour grape-type ranting about these sort of things in terms of effort versus what you get out of it. At huge cons, the problem is multi-fold because you get critical mass of hardcore campers who would rationalize the irrational to get whatever that they want, and it drives up the opportunity cost of any activity (usually in the form of wait time in line), and it causes chain effects for cons trying to manage these messes that popularity creates. And because huge cons are like shining beacons (eg., cons that can spend real money to market themselves; big enough to gain word-of-mouth marketing powers, etc) that attract newbie consumers who don’t min-max their time at cons (mostly because they don’t even know they should approach those cons this way), it makes things worse for everyone.

The second OCD point I want to bring out is that there really isn’t an alternative. This is also why it doesn’t really matter. The situation is not approachable from the “My way or the Highway” style of consumption, which is weird, because that’s the default mode of dealing with unhappy purchases as consumers. You write a nasty review, you ask for a refund, you ask to talk to a manager, whatever. None of these things typically work for cons–and when they do, it’s because they are a genuine awesome con, which is rarely your average megacon. What does work is running one yourself. Compete. Provide the solution you wish you had. And obviously you can see that is not a trivial undertaking. Even just joining the megacon that you are “forced” to attend so you can improve the con from within is a very long shot, either as staff or as a local loudmouth.

The other way to approach this is, well, take the Highway to get your way. Create an alternative by overcoming your personal limitations. Of course, things are still complicated even if you are okay with not going to a con, or willing to spend more money to fly to a better one. It’s okay to prop smaller, better-run cons that serve your needs. This is the “Animazement” effect personally, since attending that con hits various personal sweet spots, despite the rather long ride to get there. But those are just my sweet spots, not yours or anyone else’s, and I’m the kind of guy who spends a good chunk of his disposable income this way, having attended cons since the 90s–not your average consumer. In the spirit of this, let me provide with some, I think, alternatives. Not quite alternatives to the bullets I quoted, but they’re probably more helpful. Maybe these alternatives aren’t available for you, but they could be for someone else you know.

Find out about the nature and tendencies of your event organizers. Here’s a detour: you might know both AX and Otakon are “non-profits” but do you know the MPAA and the NFL are also “non-profits”? Because they are trade organizations, or 501(c)6s. AX is run by the SPJA, which is also a 501(c)6. This means when you donate money and items to the SPJA, it can’t be a tax write-off. On the other hand, Otakon is run by Otacorp, and they’re a 501(c)3 educational organization, and money donated to them are tax deductible. So, like, what is the point of this? Who cares if Reed Expo (which is a subsidiary of Reed Elsevier, a FTSE100 company (a London Exchange index)) is a part of a corporation? Honestly? It doesn’t really matter. This is why it’s a detour. Heck, NYCC would not be possible if not for the throngs of volunteers every year. It’s not like everyone gets paid (money) anyway. The point here is about the culture of the organization. Otakon and AX cannot be more different in some ways, because of the culture and the transparency and the pay structure and countless other things that are inherent in the history and the leadership of those organizations. The visions of these cons vary, and it matters. There are positive and negative aspects to all these organizations, and different tendencies about these cons that sophisticated convention “consumers” are ought to know. Just because one con hires a couple full-time staffers and another doesn’t may not mean anything at all. I mean, just look at AX con drama for an example. And for-profit cons have their own benefits, such as leveraging more experienced staff and better consistency over time as a result of staff retention. It really comes down to the details and the competency and experience of the leadership of those organizations.

And yes, this means read up on the history. But that alone is probably not enough–look for trends. Farm their official forums (if available). Use Google to your advantage. There are sites that track cons. Talk to people who went to those cons in the past. One thing I realize is that a lot of small cons are poorly documented, especially if they don’t have much besides the dealer’s hall. I don’t know how you would approach those cons in that case, because I don’t really do those types of cons. For anime cons, guests are generally a major indicator–oversea or not, diversity, point and purpose of guest selection all play a role in indicating if the con organizers are competent or not. It’s complicated but basically the higher profile, the more expensive, and the more rare the guests are, the harder it is to handle them and to bring them over, and more likely that the cons have some actual competent people behind it. Cosplay photography in some ways are another point of documentation, something anime cons are full of compared to the rest. I think it’s okay to stay in your comfort zone, and go to just the big cons. It doesn’t matter that much.

What matters is the ability to make an informed decision. Informed decisions require a good grasp of what you are paying for and what you get out of it. What you can get out of a con depends on what stuff you know you want out of a con. But stuff you are missing out on aren’t going to come and grab you by themselves. The goal is to get beyond the “you don’t know what you don’t know” stage of things, which I feel describes how a lot of people engage these large cons. For those of us who are getting beyond that level of engagement, then that’s the next thing–just hit up a lot of cons that have good reps, and do stuff at cons that are probably up your alley. Compare and contrast. Go to both big and small cons. A lot of people don’t go to small cons because they don’t know the difference between a good small con and a bad small con, or any small cons at all. And you can perfectly go only to the biggest cons–go to the same cons and do different things, hang out with different people at different times, and discover that mega con from a different point of view. Don’t spend all your time in line, or if you don’t line up for things, try it once. Mega cons are multifaceted things and are complicated to run, and unless you know about these components of a con, you wouldn’t even know if a con is any good even if you attended it. Maybe you’ll find something you didn’t even know you like, who knows? I think it’s perfectly rational and probably a good thing to think about spending time, effort and money going to cons and balance that with what you get out of it. I don’t know if you can call that consumerism, however. Certainly most con attendees are a far, far cry from being a good consumer in this regard, but more importantly I think they don’t care to be because they’re happy where they are. I don’t know, it’s a weird thing where you either take it not very seriously, or really seriously. There’s not much of a middle ground.

Reactionary Posting: The Role of Crunchyroll from a Cash Flow Perspective


From this, I read that, and I’m like, LOL seventhstyle. But let’s just address this. It sure is better than the tl;dr I wrote last week about consumerism and conventions that I’ll post later this week.

First, the attitude seven took is simply unreasonable and it misses out on the big picture. I won’t get into it here, feel free to raise it in his tl;dr comment thread though. I will address the numbers.

TL;DR: CR actually pays quite a bit to the Japanese–probably tens of thousands per hit title.

Let’s say you pay $50 a year, that’s how much I pay for CR; during their annual black Friday sale they offer a $50 deal for a year of CR. It’s probably a lowball estimate because there can’t be that many freebie premium members at any given time to balance out the people paying full price, but who knows? It’s a nice round number.

If 200,000 users paying $50 a year or about $12.50 per cour (since IP runs for cours, let’s just say) then this season with 40 shows, each show gets (assuming even Steven distribution, I’ll get into it later) $62500 before CR’s costs. If we use seventh’s number for overhead (which is probably inflated because of various factors) then we’re talking about $7.50 per cour of overhead, or about $5 per subscriber per cour. That’s $25000. The $2.5 cost might be reasonable if we factor in not so much what seven is saying, but all the subsequent delivery costs (Akamai can’t be that cheap, right?), HR overhead, what have you.

Imagine if you’re the committee for Outbreak Company and you get a $25000 check just for streaming on CR. That’s $25000 more than if nobody used CR. I don’t know what kind of pot seven is smoking but that is money left on the table if people only fansubbed. Sure, this also means the production committee has to hire shoulder enthusiasts like this guy to produce the subs, plus other technical overheads. Let’s say they end up with $20000 left after all that work. Five grands for translation/subbing and other technical work is probably a reasonable estimate for 1 cour TV, but I admit this is just a guess along the lines of what I understand how much the Quarkboy-underling-types get paid. Five grand is also not much for a company to pony up to get an extra 20.

If an average 1-cour TV anime cost $2-3M to put together, it has just recouped almost 1% just from CR. That’s amazing. And you can be a part of that without even paying for anything, as this is just the benefits coming from the paying members. Free tier guys get to contribute using ads, and that ~10 million members is a lot of ads served. The expensive kind, video ads.

That’s also assuming people are watching any particular show equally, which is probably not the case. It’s prudent to assume some kind of long-tail situation where more than half of the shows this cour get only a fraction of 1/40th of that 3-month period, on top of all the other traffic paying member pay to view (and needless to say, non-paying members can watch whatever, although I don’t know how views and traffic breaks down). But there’s probably some popular shows that will get all those eyeballs. I mean, the corollary here is that 1-hr delay is the way to go. If CR pays out beyond the MG via their traffic, it pays to be as fast as possible. This is probably also why Daisuki isn’t doing a paid-delay strategy. Nor Hulu, FWIW. At any rate, CR loses money on some shows, probably, but will make it back on the ones that break the MG, and as per the long tail concept, a few shows break the MG by a whole lot. If the cost overhead for CR is low for all the loser shows, then it will be profitable.

Which gets back to what does matter: the minimum guarantee. You can forget all that math from seventh or from what I put down up there because in all these cases, as long as CR is a thing, they have to pay the committees for some kind of minimum guarantee regardless how well a show does. It’s guaranteed income for the committees. I don’t know what the MG is in these cases, but given the math we have it’s probably in the low 10ks per cour. Compared to the known MG for home video licenses, it makes sense. And it makes sense that the two can be bundled since one is a lot lower. The numbers are kind of in line at any rate.

To me, the biggest opportunity here isn’t so much that the committee can recoup maybe the salary of one grunt-level employee per show per cour, but it’s more of a marketing opportunity to test the water, to see how people receive your work oversea, to get some demographics data. It’s also a way to promote the work so people will buy the home video later on. And instead of buying ads, you get paid to do this kind of advertising? What a win-win. This is the stuff that could cost thousands of dollars for a multinational company to do. Instead, CR does it as part of their business.

But, sure, I get ya. Some people (myself included) don’t like ads on streaming internet tee vee. Some people like watching stuff offline. It’s easy to pull files from #news or wherever you go, I know how it works. But I don’t think it’s easier than flicking on my phone and have HD anime in my face < 30 seconds. Here’s my #firstworldnonproblem for you–I’m happy paying CR for the service they provide, because they actually do a pretty good job. Just ask FUNimation. So to take a middle ground, the diplomatic answer from Mamare Touno probably works just as well: don’t sweat it, but when you get rich buy lots of good stuff! Don’t sweat the little thing. It’s just $2.5 a month after all, at worst.

A Light Novel about Curling Is a Thing


Curling is a joke of a sport for Americans. No disrespect is meant by that statement; I probably would enjoy watching it if the opportunity arises and to me it’s as valid of a sport as any other, but that’s just my observation.

The other day at NYCC I stopped by a Japanese publisher’s booth, complete with a translated sample of a light novel pitch. The curling aspect of the proposed light novel was not the only surprise; that there was a booth about light novels was the bigger surprise. I think it’s kind of a thing at big cons like NYCC to see at least one Japanese media company going around without a very good idea what is out there in the marketplace in the US. Their pitch was to see if someone would publish their new “LANOVE” which took me a second to get. Yeah, it’s that bad.

The good thing about these guys is that they kind of know what’s going on and that’s partly why they’re trying to hit it up. It’s a light novel pitch because it isn’t even published (in Japan) yet. I took a leaflet and didn’t read it until well after the con, so I didn’t even know it’s about curling at the time, and it’s called “Skip.”

It’s not usual to see a light novel with one word title, so I guess there’s hope. Too bad the whole thing feels like a giant rickroll. You can find out more about these guys at their website.

PS. While these guys win the “most clueless Japanese exhibitor at NYCC 2013” award, the most gawking one would probably be 1st Place’s booth, which is actually very awesome except, like, man, pearl before swine kind of a deal. Any vocaloid enthusiasts attended their events?