Monthly Archives: November 2013

Anime Blogging at Its Best

Reproduced and transformed entirely without permission:

The kawaiikochans

LET’S READ IT DEEPLY!! KAWAIIKOCHAN NO SUPER KAKKO II ANIMATION TALK!! [Actually in strip 1 koma 1 but w/e]

Strip 1:

Koma 1:

Masaka: Kyou it’s “Kill la Kill!!” Genre is “I’ll Use All My Power!! AAAAHH”

Masaka: It’s really interesting, so let’s do our best with kawaii power!!

(Background: AAAHHH)

kawaiikochan.com – @kawaiikochans

T/L Note: “kakko ii” – cool, “kyou” – today

Koma 2:

Masaka: Kyaa~ What’s this?!

Caption text 1 [Indicate…side comment from Masaka?]: Episode 7 “Such a Dope…Which I love”

Masaka: A dishwater is also Famicom?!

Caption text 2: Was it really made?!

T/L Note: “machigai” – mistake

Koma 3:

Majide: There’s no machigai here.

Caption text 1: Episode 4 “The Sun Came Up, It Was Bad”

Majide: It’s certainly GB’s Dot Matrix display.

Majide: Therefore…

T/L Note: “sekai” – world

Koma 4:

Caption [indicate both speaking, graphics indicates Masaka speaking and Majide nodding]: In Kill La Kill sekai… gamesoft must exist.

Strip 2:

Koma 1:

Masaka: A harsh sekai with such battle, you’d think…

Masaka: “There’s no time for gamesoft! We have to battle more, ka na~” like that.

Masaka: Maybe minna needs gamesoft. [heart symbol next to speech bubble…probably should go in the text]

Masaka: But it’s not!

T/L Note: “minna” – everybody, “deshou” – right, “fascism” – form of radical authoritarian nationali[sic][i c what u did thar]

Koma 2:

Masaka: But it’s fascism. Deshou?

Masaka: Super ruler Satsuki-sama…

Masaka: As for gamesoft, she’d only allow one victory company.

T/L Note: “iya” – no

kawaiikochan.com – @kawaiikochans

Koma 3:

Majide: And there’s only Nintendo.

Majide: Therefore– iya.

Majide: Such a thing…

[Masaka has some question marks by her head.]

T/L Note: “Kanojo” – she, “kanashii” – sad

Koma 4:

Majide: Ryuko-chan will never get to play Sega gamesoft!!

Majide: Kanojo will– Kanojo will never know!!

Masaka: It’s kanashii. It’s certainly so.

From Kawaiikochan!! Gaming no Corner, 11/15/2013.

I have also inadvertently made the Kawaiikochans harder to read than it already is. Go me. And it does feel as if Ryuuko-chan is a Sega console in a Nintendo world. There’s a certain lyricism to it that is appealing. Like the whole ’80s schoolgirl thing the ED has.


Relationship between Viewer and Marketing Channel, How We Evaluate What Anime to Watch

Let’s do this Anime & Database thing.

Mako, haitenai?

And I don’t mean Anime Planet or MyAnimeList. I mean the way I report what I watch in a way where it can be further processed. Usually this means the MAL kind of way, for example, to keep track what you have watched, to keep a running clock of all that you watched, as a way to keep notes on what you watched (rating), and a way for people to collect aggregate data in order to provide additional services (my anime is better than your anime, recommendation system, etc). But that’s not what I mean.

I mean it in a way where the relationship drives the data, not the objects of the relationship.

For example, I always try to watch at least one episode of anything that piques my interest, each season. I think I skipped Megane-bu, for example, because while I’ve seen some caps that piques my interests, I doubt it can have a hold on me for even one whole episode. I guess for the same reasons I watched one episode of Freezing S2, but that’s more because I saw all of the first season. I clearly don’t always make the right choices, but I do try. But I also probably couldn’t even if I really wanted to do it, because my attention span is only so much and I can only spare so many cognitive cycles hunting out shows nobody is talking about.

I do this because in general, I don’t trust the average anime preview–they have a terrible batting average, and I can evaluate the same pre-release information just as well if presented on a plate; which is what most anime preview posts should do. Since, after all, most of us are just guessing; some are better at it than others, but the best (IMHO) also present information I care about. Like notable directors or writers, actors and composers, the way the marketing is put together, the release type, the back story to how the anime or IP came to be, what have you.

But even with a mountain of information (and surprisingly we rarely have this much before something airs) anime is such a visual medium that you really have to see it to believe it, so to speak. Unlike manga and light novels, it takes hundreds of people to make a TV anime–that’s a lot of places where things can go wrong. And then there are the original works where pre-release info is much harder to come by. And for that matter, in my opinion most anime come across complicated enough that few, if any, bloggers can do enough justice as a substitute for my own evaluation of a work. At any rate, a group consensus in the community might help guide my own opinion on something, but until you see for yourself, how do you know the consensus is full of crap? It isn’t frequently the case, but it has been the case before, and more over, I’m not sure how many people are just a part of some internet echo chamber or people with legitimate opinion that they care enough to voice in order to reinforce things. Is the community consensus even a relevant indicator? How do we even know on an individual basis? I imagine it is relevant sometimes, but few bats 1.000 with consensus–that’s weird and rare in a large enough of a community.

And even more importantly, once I reach a certain threshold of caring in participating in this nerd culture, I might as well partake the source material. I would rather poop on SAO, for example, because I watched it and found it enjoyable to poop on, than because it’s the cool kids thing to do. I owe it to SAO for at least that much. I owe it to my non-simulcast-enabled predecessors to enjoy this modern marvel (to illustrate another relationship I have with fandom that may be unique to a small group of people). It also counts for what little intellectual honesty that probably matters the most, at the end of the day.

Of course, it’s also kind of dishonest to enjoy a show because you dropped it like a rock 3 episodes in, even if that might be a perfectly honest thing to say. It speaks about your relationship with the scene as much as it does with the objective qualities of said anime. It is self-expression, purely speaking. (As opposed to constructive criticism or evaluation of the anime being dropped.)

The point here is that for every show that I watch, I treat the activity of doing so as a part of the overall experience that I have with a show. Maybe I watched some trailers. Maybe I read a preview post that talks about who and what is going to be in next season’s new shows. Maybe I follow certain animators or actors and they’re in so-and-so show next season. This is the sort of data that interests me, in that it captures why I am interested in a certain anime or how likely I might enjoy a certain to-be-aired anime. I might use that information to ultimately decide if I want to watch a show or not, but it’s just one aspect of a relationship, much like how watching the show is just one aspect of the relationship (see SAO example above). And to some extent any concerned fan would follow a similar process, I would hope. In a way for people who are still watching anime (a big assumption), word-of-mouth recommendations, marketing material and reviews ought to be not the only things we go by. Maybe those are just channels, and these channels relay the important stuff (like stuff you’ll find in a MAL entry like genre, director, etc) in which you have an existing relationship with. And channels are a built-in filter in a overwhelmingly noisy world, so to speak.

It’s in this way that we nerds naturally make decisions based on this relational data in order to make sense of a much more complicated set of data (eg., what’s on MAL), such that we can make good decisions (eg., what anime you will watch next season). And I think marketing is a step of most people when it comes to modeling the sort of information that we obtain, that we want to obtain, and what enable us to make good decisions. Well, this is nothing new, at any rate–reviews, blog posts, advertising, the usual stuff. It’s just that even these things are mediated by the relationship we have with the particular channel. For example, if we don’t like certain visual signals coming from one marketing campaign, some of us will write it off immediately because they may never encounter any false-positives when evaluating works carrying those visual signals. To use a concrete example, such as half-naked teenage boys swimming–a lot of people reacted to that visual signal, particularly because it’s relatively new and it generally yielded no false-positives.

Simoun is a good counterexample to Free, because it’s a very good example of a false-negative. If you understand why, then great, maybe people can understand my blog posts after all.

The picture is further clouded in that sense because now you have shows that serve multiple roles or aspects. The high profile examples of these are, say, Aikatsu or the more recent Precure shows in the past few years. Or maybe even Gundam Build Fighters. And like proper otaku media, it builds a narrative with its viewers in a self-selecting sort of way, and it uses wide channels common to mainstream media. It’s also a problem with the MAL-style of analysis. It’s unlikely everyone out of the hundreds to tens of thousands of people who watched a show did so for the same reasons. I would posit a step further that it’s likely a significant number of people watched a show for reasons not clearly marked in a “database” sort of way in a MAL (or any other) DB entry. I would say it’s likely that at least one person may be watching a show that I passed judgment on for reasons entirely beyond my scope of understanding and comprehension, beyond my calculus. And it might be a great reason, if you are that person. It even goes beyond a simple right-or-wrong sort of situation–that’s down right silly to work within that framework, speaking as someone who has gotten more OCD about xkcd.com/386/ the older he gets. For example, who am I to say that “Noto kawaiiyo Noto” is a bad reason to watch any show? And it wouldn’t be obvious as to why someone watches a show unless you’ve established some kind of relationship with someone to understand that is why they may be watching a show.

Anyway, this post is brought to you by the need to recognize and be cognizant of the signals you are taking in, often because the signals are never as simple as they seem, and this is a better database than the one based on IP. But that’s like saying vectors are better than bitmaps and looked at how far that got them, so what do I know…


Final Fantasy XIV and Game Food Culture

Marielle & THE NINJA

American food culture is horrible. I don’t think pointing at gamer food drives home the point, because it’s more an ironic ludicrous nonsense sort of thing. What it does show is that how corporate marketing drives food culture in America, so much so, that it dominates the mainstream thought; it’s more about profits than refinement of arts. The point I want to make, though, is that we will probably never see a US-developed game with a food culture as rich as, say, Final Fantasy XIV.

I mean, seriously. Take a look at this list–this is just what people can create at a few months since launch of the game. I mean, like, ugh, it makes me hungry while playing. Speaking of which, no thanks to Log Horizon, I took the plunge to another MMORPG. I hope it doesn’t impact my productivity–veteran MMORPG players don’t just know how to play the game, they know how to control themselves…right? And I think that’s my problem with Log Horizon (or why it’s great): playing an actual game with friends is just that much better of an experience. On the other hand, for people in the peanut gallery, maybe they can wax nostalgia hard to it. I sure did. The story itself is interesting but what can I say? It’s just one story, told by an NHK anime. You either find it appealing or not. It’s not really special; just like how everyone out of the hundreds of thousands of people playing FFXIV has his or her own story.

Anyway, FFXIV has a pineapple pound cake in it for crying out loud. I mean, when’s the last time your average CODer had some cheese souffle? I don’t even remember the last time I’ve had a pineapple pound cake, and I eat a lot of different sort of things all the time. This is like, Japan’s best foot forward for an internationally appealing audience. And it’s very similar what you’d see at a world-class Japanese food establishment, if you get what I’m getting at. This is their food culture, and it kicks the crap out of ours. It’s not to say Americans don’t eat well or don’t have delicious foods, but the issue is that unless you watch, say, Bizarre Foods America, you would have no idea what’s actually delicious that can be had in the US outside your local area. There is a different “food culture” in the US, but it’s a far departure from mainstream US food culture. More relevantly, the delicious part of American food culture is not glamorous or fashionable. So instead you have companies trying to create the Lowest Common Denominator sort of an appeal, and what you get is 20th century-style mass produced stuff that tastes pretty good, but is a far cry from what Americans can actually create in terms of a culinary heart & soul sort of thing.

It would be pretty neat if playing FFXIV means eating gamer food appropriate to the game. Mmm grilled trout. And this is also why food is a plot point in Log Horizon. I hate to say this but food culture might actually be one thing that anime has that western equivalent lacks.

And here is another thing: crafting MMORPGs. You know FFXIV is a big budget game when it incorporates the most elaborate crafting system in a standard dungeon-and-adventures type game. This is yet another thing I don’t expect most western MMORPGs to get. A good crafting game is not exactly a sandbox game like Minecraft or Second Life. Or I should say, in the genre of crafting MMORPGs, freer is not always better. I think of these more limited-form crafting games as a form of gameplay themselves, more along the lines of say, EVE Online, where the gameplay come in a more holistic sense with regards to player economy and other aspects of the game (means of using the goods or creating an epic item for example, desire and demand for trade goods and skills).  In short, crafting should be a game in itself. It’s like going into a dungeon, except it feels like a series of quests where your trade skill mettle is being tested, rather than clicking on plus signs to unlock talent trees or learn new spells.

It’s a bit like tabletop D&D where you need the right reagent to cast spells. Reagents are dumb these days, but only as a requirement for common spells. They ought to be how we look at trade skills–in a lot of ways that’s how modern MMORPGs treat trade skills. I think a successful crafting system has to marry both of these aspects.


Gundam Build Fighters

At 5 episodes in, Gundam Build Fighters might be the most delightful Gundam that I’ve seen. It’s not just the nostalgia factor–I can tell a Zaku apart from a GM, but not a whole lot more than that. In fact, that has been consistently the one aspect of Gundam Boyfriend (as passionately nicknamed by many) that gave me the cold shoulder. It’s like when I first started the road to iM@S fandom, I would recognize songs and characters but can’t put names to faces or songs. Same with the gunpla.

But what makes Gundam Boyfriend so great is that, well, the meta-ness. The fact that it went Xzibit and put a gunpla ad in itself on the Youtube stream basically sums up how I feel about the thing. I mean, Gundam BF is a gunpla ad, and not just in the “Gundam anime was made to sell toys to begin with” sense. Oh, and being able to watch it simulcast-speed on Youtube is a huge plus, too.

The other thing that makes Gundam Boyfriend fun is the relationship. I suppose that, to me, is the trademark of a Gundam anime. And if you cast wide enough of a web (like Valvrave) you will create that vibe just by inevitable coincidence of the ensemble framework. BF is not so keen on that scale yet, but this AU show is sticking to how AU shows typically are.

And it strikes me that ever since G Gundam, has there been any other tournament plot framework + Gundam mashup? When can I get my Nether Gundam on? I mean, it has to do it! It would be a lot more revolutionary if they actually used a Go To Koshien format for Gundam Boyfriend, but that might be too powerful to pull off.

Turn-A Gundam movie soundtrack

Others have graced upon the Fake Geek Girl subject so I won’t go too much into it. I just find it amusing to see that in a Gundam show. Idols are not rare things in Gundam universes but this one hits real close, and while it’s subject to your interpretation, I find this portrayal particularly honest?

PS. I wonder if anyone has applied the FGG framework on Air Master’s Kaori Sakiyama.


Old Ones Cover Pubes With Indescribable Blob, Customers Complain

It’s true.

So, part-confession: lately I’ve been reading/following some of the more naughty figures on MyFigureCollection. Or put it in other words, 18+ figures (although some are only 15+) that are usually costumed for “public” display, but the costumes are removable. What I found is that it’s actually somewhat educational. It’s like designing a transformable toy, there are design, sculpting and manufacturing compromises you have to make if you are going to create a figure that has configurable parts, and yet minimizing seams and components unlike what you see with Figmas and Nendos.

There are a variety of approaches to do this. For large figures (1/6 or bigger), often real clothing is used to cover up the figure, and because polyester is quite flexible, it’s easy to remove them from the figure. Moreover, it’s inexpensive; you’re just playing with dolls now.

However real clothing is not the easiest thing to put details on. The very gorgeous details in some of the well-known Max Factory or Alter figures are often digitally painted using robots (think 3D printers) and you can’t do that with polyester (yet?). It certainly doesn’t allow for the details you see in some of these figures. And it is a general rule that the more pliable the material is, the lower resolution you can detail it. Sure, fishnet stocking looks great with actual strings, but you can’t do flowing tresses on skirts at all.

Well, if you want a figure that can transform from tastefully naked to mostly naked, it can be difficult if it’s small. On the flip side, small figures are less expensive to reproduce in parts. There are some figures where you can swap out entire torsos from “clothed” to “non-clothed.” More often, though, the clothing piece is just soft PVC where you just have to carefully remove. Not only it can be a risk in damaging the clothes or the figure, it is possible to transfer paint from the cloth to your waifu’s unrealistically smooth skin. Not to mention in some cases you have fitting problems, where the outfit don’t quite fit the figure all the time.

Anyway, all this is just background. In reality cast-off figures have been getting more popular. I guess it’s lonely nerds thing (can’t really think of another use case), but also because the manufacturing and design has caught up and make it possible due to the growth of this market space. So what you have is that an ever larger number of figure collectors out there are buying these moe figures that barely have clothes on them.

Here comes Nyaruko. Max Factory released recently a Nyaruko figure which all she’s wearing is a Mahiru apron, and holding a crowbar. Very Nyaruko-like, if you ask me. Well, you can see a picture below.

Nyaruko @ NYCC 2013

During the period when she went on pre-order, people wondered if her “thing” is detailed. Of course, there’s a pecking order to that–wholesome labels like GSC/MF/Alter don’t do uncovered details. I assume this is pretty common for those Ikki Tousen-type figures that are extra showy, if the underwear is missing even. Naruko and MF is pretty clearly in that category (MF has other labels where they publish the more adult stuff).

The lingering question is answered when Nyaruko went on tour this past month and now that she’s officially off the shelf. And the responses are hilarious. The thing is, not only is her naughty bits not detailed, there’s a white blob covering it. GSC’s Kahotan briefly described this here back in April, when we don’t even know if the apron came off or not (it doesn’t by default):

Now for a little bit of extra info that I really don’t know if I should be writing on the blog… I may get into trouble for this. But I know you’re all dying to know, so I’ll reveal some secrets:

First of all, the apron won’t be removable. I thought it might be when I first say those separation lines, but I was wrong. Secondly, regarding what she’s wearing underneath… well, she’s not. But it’s not quite at the level you might have seen on certain other figures!

So what’s hilarious? The reaction on MFC on discovering the secret of what the Old One has underneath. Let me just quote

Although I’m not going to display her where it’s visible, the white blob bothers me a little. It’s enough just knowing it’s there… I would have preferred no details at all, like most nude figures.
Still; she is a great figure, and slightly bigger than I expected. Quality wise she is like all Max Factory-figures: Excellent!

[]

Indescribable cloth…..
At least I don’t remember that it appear in any season of this Anime. And I don’t think this Anime dares to show such part of the Nyaruko’s body. It’s absolutely not a hentai Anime any way.
Just like a decent gentleman, Max Factory was unwilling to show any detail of her secret part, so he summoned a piece of mysterious cloth to cover her.

[]

But we’re dealing with Max Factory here. If they had wasted any thought on giving her explicit detail, they’d have handed this project to their H-department, Native.
Now we’ll just have to live with a cute and sexy (yet censored) figure. Put her on one of the lower shelves so that the white goo doesn’t show too much ;-) Creampie, anyone? XD

[]

Yeah but it’s definitely not creatively censored at ALL. They could’ve had her legs more together or the back of the apron swooping in…SOMETHING else would be better than a white blob. I guess we don’t know for sure till people start getting it and find out if that comes off or what the accessories are.

[]

Yeah but I remember she said it’s not as “detailed” as you might think or something. Can someone who has this figure please see if that blob comes off? jeez.

[]

When you think about it, having that “blob” thing, as you describe it (haven’t seen it myself yet so I can’t tell how it looks), coming out of nowhere would make perfect sense. She’s an eldritch abomination assuming a human form, remember? So a weird thing appearing on such a character wouldn’t be that surprising. :p

[]

Is the menstrual pad a dealbreaker for this figure? ^^;

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That thing just has to be removable, IT just has too!
If not, then its One of the most weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on a fïgure.
I remember Mikatan being all enthusiastic about that thing…
don’t tell me she was a blobophile :s

[]

Ugh, it’s not even a pad, it’s like a white blob, what even is that. Couldn’t they at least go barbie and make it a bunch of nothing? Bandaid? “Censored” sign?
WHAT IS THAT BLOB.

[]

A decent gentlemen but not very creative. Come on, we could use some “convenient censoring” instead of a white blob. Make the back of her apron swoop in and cover it, her legs could be closer together or the one leg not so high up. So many ways to censor it nicely. I think this just draws more attention down there. It could’ve at least been painted skin color.

I’m sorry I’m just ranting so much. I haven’t opened the box yet. Not sure if I will. I do love her face, she is soo cute.

[]

That’s OK, I also hate this cloth. At first sight, I thought it was part of apron or underwear, but after scrutinized, it finds out that this white part never belongs to any part of dress, I don’t know where does it come from so it is really indescribable. I think using some apron ribbon to cover might be a good idea. On the internet someone said that cloth was a kind of special underwear for girls but I cannot verify it because I cannot just ask girls about that.

[re-ordered, formatting and links removed]

Well, I’m sort of indifferent. Fans of the series should understand why this Nyaruko figure is charming, and it’s not just because her cute, wide-face-like face. It’s definitely not just because she’s doing the hadaka apron thing. It’s because she’s doing it with her favorite instrument of trade, it’s because it says Mahiru, it’s because she’s stepping on a certain critter, it’s because this figure embodies the gap-ness of the character idea–a moe avatar of unbeknownst Lovecraftian terror.

But I don’t think that matters. Nyaruko is gonna Nyaruko. And figure collectors will buy what they like for whatever the reason. Or not buy what they like.

And this is just yet another chapter in the growing PVC bishoujo figure marketplace (and I’d include Figma and Nendo buyers in this group) where more people are buying, both because they like the look and because they are the fan of the IP/characters, and often time not both at the same time. It’s not a growing divide, it’s more like a growing source of laughter and face-palming.