Monthly Archives: December 2013

Autumn 2013 Wrap

Incoming train of thought–

I took a nice vacation at the end of the year (I guess I’m in the middle of it) so I was able to catch up on a lot of stuff. Like Valvrave. I really enjoyed it, more so than I expected at any rate.

I was wondering if CLAMP designed the characters instead of Hirao-face-looking group that we had, maybe VVV would have more legs. As is, it’s actually a very good story but it just didn’t get to flesh out. The plot and the symbolism and themes all make sense and it is a good, liberal (as in liberalism) message that would resonate with kids. But I don’t know, it feels like the right message but it’s probably preaching to the wrong crowd. It could also use another 2 more episodes to flesh the ending out.

This season is tricky because I couldn’t tell that White Album 2 has another episode, I mean, what. Nagiasu really seems like it went off a cliff this week, because there’s another cour after that? Don’t even bring up Samumenco, geesh. I’m still enjoying Magi, and as far as sports anime goes I really like the past few episodes of Ace of the Diamond, explaining some basic sports mechanics sort of things that are not obvious to most people. It also got “good enough” to be talked about, IMO.

Say what you will about Yuushibu and OBC, both shows are great, and I had a good time with both. I think I enjoyed Yuushibu a lot more in that meta context, also it probably wins some award for dragging out a Star Trek joke the longest. OBC was more of the ideal guilty pleasure sort of anime, because the show didn’t really go anywhere with its soft power digs. I mean, it’s not even bush league. It’s not even softball. It’s more like wiffleball. Kind of like that football game they played–you knew they could do so much better but they just went with whatever, lawl. A shame I guess.

I still think it’s incredible that people walk away from Yuushibu episode 1 and think it’s bad animation quality. It’s insane. I suppose this is how some people feel about Kill la Kill when I say it’s actually not really that great. I think what’s good about it is that it is an anime done in a way and in regards to subject matter common to B-tier Japanese live action TV and movies. Now finally we have an anime like this–full with underboobs. I mean, you can’t do that on TV normally. Studio Trigger’s newsletter is great and it basically confirms all this. Also, maybe it’s because I saw Hentai Kamen live action movie this autumn and it kind of makes me feel like Kill la Kill is an inferior version of that. I get the feeling a lot of people watch anime as a medium don’t venture outside of it, so this is all fresh and exciting stuff.

The best anime this season is a tough call. I would give Kill la Kill the most creds as the most stylish, YZQ for the best sakuga feast, Kyousogiga for the most arthouse and best first episode, VVV for the most daring in terms of story, and Arpeggio will win the “It’s not Girls und Panzer but it’s close enough” award. OBC probably has the best meta fanservice and Yuushibu has some…serious fanservice. Best ED is obviously Unbreakable Machine Doll and best OP might actually go to Galilei Donna. Best concept has to go to Samumenco for not only the most meta but also the best written meta that I’ve seen in a while.

I also feel compelled to give Gundam Build Fighters some kind of recognition, so maybe it will win Aila’s biggest buns trophy or something stupid. Too early to call it the best AU Gundam but it’s definitely up there.

That’s kind of how I feel about White Album 2 too. I really enjoyed the series so far but it lacks a few compelling components in terms of plot. It’s too centered on the girls and not enough on the guy. I mean, I guess I don’t want another Golden Time but Haruki is at least interesting enough to get a little more exposition. Speaking of Golden Time, I’m okay only because I did watch Natsuyuki Rendezvous, so I’m build for it. That said gosh yes Koko is a bitch and the whole ghost-in-the-amnesia thing is dumb can we please just slap everyone and hire Linda to cater to more underground parties? I do give it a lot of credit for making every one of its characters a lot of substance and it’s easy to understand them, even the weirder ones like Miss Denpa.

Golden Time is also surprisingly meta too. That Nana-senpai. Even shows like Tokyo Raven is pretty meta, when it’s a run of the mill kind of a battle mystery story. Is it really necessary? Even I think it’s too much, and I’m someone who loves the meta.

I still want to watch more Sekatsuyo, but I can’t get past episode 4. I should just jump to the Chiaking episodes.

Kyoukai no Kanata was a thing. It all makes sense but it didn’t gel, which is too bad. It is the sort of beautiful nothings that we’re used to seeing from Kyoani, which is by all means something we can never run short of. Did I like it? Yes, but I probably won’t watch it again. It’s funny, but when you lay it side by side to something like, say, Noucome, I would take Noucome every time.

Perhaps Noucome is the ultimate guilty pleasure, sorry OBC. If being funny is a sin, Noucome is worthy a Kotaku post about how sinful it is. Too bad they pegged it as just some solid comedy.

But what does that make Log Horizon? It’s not a guilty pleasure, but it is for me–I’m totally watching it to trip on old school MMORPG feels. That, and Yumi Hara going all osaka, which is only appropriate. It’s a good anime as they say; it’s like if Maoyu got a Fate/Zero treatment, except not quite. I mean, that story could totally be built up better. Log Horizon is appropriately less ambitious in the scope and in turn more down to earth, but it’s also somewhat less epic on the face. I guess you can’t have everything. And that is okay when all it is to me is a guilty pleasure.

In a busy season like this I still watched 4+ episodes of Gingitsune, which is solid, 12 episodes of Infinite Stratos, which is disappointing, and all of Walkure Romanze. Man, that horse show is actually quite good in the way that exploitative eroge about fancy and peaceful setting can be, all because it has a freaking koushien in it. I respect it as one respect a well-polished trope. The fanservice episode clever and outside of the box, which is another thing you kind of didn’t expect a show like that to do. Nakamura Eriko-sensei can speak English to me any time.

Viva Torture!


Year In Review 2013: The TsundereM@ster

A survey of where I am at this iDOLM@STER nonsense.

Last winter, my list was like this:

  1. Makoto
  2. Miki
  3. Takane
  4. Mami/Ami
  5. Ritsuko
  6. Iori
  7. Yukiho
  8. Haruka
  9. Hibiki
  10. Chihaya
  11. Yayoi
  12. Azusa

This winter, my list is like:

  1. Makoto
  2. Miki
  3. Takane
  4. Mami
  5. Ritsuko
  6. Yukiho (up 1)
  7. Hibiki (up 2)
  8. Haruka
  9. Azusa (up 3)
  10. Yayoi (down 1)
  11. Ami (new)
  12. Iori (down 1)
  13. Chihaya (down 3)

Why? I don’t know. I don’t even know why I bother to split out Ami, but this year I feel as if I am ready to take that position.

And that’s about where I am at in journey inside this forest called revenge I mean being a Producer. I guess I still can tell Ami from Mami. Most of the time. But at the top of my ranking I am still more or less the same. I dig my ramen-chomping 真祖. I dig the rice-balling do-it-all. Mami is still the purest extract of adolescence. I’m just glad Makoto (and new mom Hirata-san) is still a thing and back in black. Yukiho and Hibiki’s upward movement probably has to do with their seiyuu actually. I no longer temper my opinion about Chihaya in respect to my fellow producer-in-arms because they deserve better, and it should be okay to not like something more than something else?

Ritsuko's pose is the best

The truth is, I still like everybody. Even Chihaya. That’s why I’m still engrossed in this nonsense. Yes, I even like some CG/ML girls, but you wouldn’t know since I don’t even remember their names. I’m bad enough with names when it comes to real life people, and there are more than enough 2D characters I remember to fill a book, cut me some slack? But hey, AmiMami. That’s why I can say I actually want to be a Producer, because it’s pretty cool and in some ways I already have paid some cost to it. At the same time it is also why I can’t say I am a Producer, because like, I don’t feel that otaku spirit. And I certainly have not “paid the cost.”

And as I end up doing more iM@S fan things over time, it just gets to me that how deep and far stretching this fandom is. It’s old–approaching its 9th year now. It’s so wide that I’m pretty sure some parts of it isn’t talking to some other parts of it. People not only came and left, some came back and left again. It’s not only a normal mixed media franchise, it’s gotten too big in some ways. Given its roots in video games, the franchise is also very different than the ones I’m familiar with. Well, except Sakura Taisen I guess. I don’t even know if calling ourselves Ps makes sense in terms of what it means, and what your average fan does. I certainly look at that word with some amount of respect–perhaps too much.

But when you watch Winter Live from the concerts earlier this year and realized Azumin was doing it with the guitarist was straight out of Shiny TV/Shiny Festa’s version of Alright* I can only…not just make a face, but tilt my head as if Senjougahara heard something dumb out of Arararagi’s mouth. It’s as if I’m tsundere with this franchise mou.

Changing topics: the list of iM@S songs I can withstand over time looping has decreased. The nice thing is that there are more songs to be discovered in iM@S. Given there are so many, I am at the stage where I know I still don’t know a lot of them. I wish I can join some kind of Spotify iM@S-p playlist sharing group (if such a thing could ever exist). I guess the fact that the back catalog is so daunting is another reason why this fandom needs the fans’ own helping hands to get new people involved. A real rough figure indicate that I am probably at the 75% mark in terms of unique iM@S tracks “listened” if that.

Looking back to my usual im@s playlist, it’s still awfully in the “let’s get to know the songs” stage. Maybe I’ve moved on to the second semester of the first year in the course, but it’s a long shot. Maybe my wotagei credits will come in handy.

In 2013, the list of grindable music is now like this (sorta kinda):

Ai Like Hamburger – this one…is close to the edge
Little Match Girl
Watashi-tachi wa Zutto… Deshou?
Colorful Days
Machiuke Prince

Ready is off the list but I think I am okay with it as long as I am an active participant. Even if it’s just to vote for it. Surprisingly this list hasn’t changed much. I am still oblivious to Aisute’s music output, but partly that has more to do with my low opinion of it out of what I sampled. Some songs like KisS or Precog may make this list if I spent enough time listening to it, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. They need to be in games.

Being able to play it in a game helps a lot. I thought a big reason why I feel like I got further in this fandom this year had a lot to do with the English language versions of Shiny Festa on iOS. It got me to buy an iPad mini and I spent a lot of time playing it, just because it made sense. The iPad mini is also a terrific device to carry around, just on its own, so having the games with me all the time just happened.

At the same time, as much as I am currently in love with the franchise, I feel the warmth of the light–the light at the end of the tunnel. As I stretch myself to try to attend the next big show in Japan maybe I am finally getting to that point where I can say farewell with another obsession in a series of obsessions. It’s a gambit, because the alternative is just falling deeper in love with the people, the works, the music, and spirit and feeling both the high and low of it all. Having producers who will also egg you along in this foolish enterprise makes it even more fun.

Year in Review 2013 Index:

Wrapping Up the Story You Didn’t Even Know: Animusic Tourney Ends

It’s pretty long, the Anime Music Tournament.

I ran a bracket. There was a winner. I actually want to give presents to not just the winner, but also the person who came in second, because the winner won by way too much due to the way the bracket is set up and the way, well, the bracket is set up on my end. It’s complicated but let’s just say congrats to not just the loot-winning person(s) but also the song that won it all.

It’s not as rock as their latest album, which features this piece to open things up. It’s also more about Koeda (and maybe Chelly too).

In that sense, the post-Nagi Yanagi era of supercell as studio album publishing entity has taken somewhat of a turn. It’s welcomed because it does feel kind of played out during their second full blown album in which that winning song came from. It speaks more to the strange way supercell went from indie to pro than their creative powers. Well, maybe it always does speak to ryo or supercell’s ability to make music, its melodic arrangements, those drawing sounds of strings that peaks with the vocals and punctuated with rhythmic piano. But since Nagi Yanagi has already release her own studio solo album even before Zigaexperientia came out, thinking back, Today Is a Beautiful Day simply came out too late? Is this just how it rolls for the tie-in driven, mixed media engine that is supercell?

I guess none of that matters, because in the Anime Music Tournament it sure didn’t feel like people were really deliberating on songs within their finer details. They just voted, because that’s all it matters.

In that sense, the tournament is kind of a sinkhole of information; a lot of it went in, but it didn’t seem to give a result that reflects the information provided. You learn more about the voters and the songs from merely the nomination exercise. There were of course some dark horses or outliers, but in a tournament with 256 entries I don’t think there were even 2.56 dark horses? Maybe just 3? or 2? Certainly none of the top 4 were ranked lower than 10 so it’s all really just a waste of time in that regard.

To take this with a more positive spin, the Animusic Tourney was a great opportunity to wax nostalgic of a certain MAL music club, it’s good to hear from voices who complained about how lame the tournament is, from people who I’ve not heard talking about anime music in a while. And that’s really the best thing I can walk away from, that we have a dorky music tournament to serve as the nails in the coffin of a chapter in one person’s life. But it takes a certain something to pull it off. Can supercell replicate their magic touch? Will Zzeroparticle cry to us playing Tenshi ni Fureta yo?

Anyways, here is the loot list for our winner:

  • A JAM Project album…probably one of their best-of.
  • Adolescence of Utena OST
  • K-ON Season 2 vol 2 BD (Region A?) (This is the best stuff, this.)
  • Madoka TV DVD (Region 1)
  • Kira Kira (All Ages)
  • Random trinkets and one clear folder because, why not.

The second place winner needs to contact me, but he or she will get a JAM Project album…probably another one of their best-of.

Yeah, not kidding, I just have dupe JAM Project albums coming out of wazoo for some reason.

Year in Review 2013: Love Lab Is about Diligence

April is when I last spent any quality time with Rinko Kobayakawa. The self-titled virtual girlfriend from Love Plus is a neat headtrick: you play a game of maintaining your relationship with a piece of software that runs on a clock. Rather than maintaining your relationship with a pet animal by feeding it, taking care of it, and spending time with it, now you can do the same using your Nintendo DS (or a 3DS in this case, being New Love Plus).

Is this really that different than Natsuo’s stuffed boyfriend? Yes. Of course it’s different. But I want to draw you to the similarity to highlight what I think is the really great thing about Love Lab and what is great about great people: diligence. Oh, mild spoilers on Love Lab ahoy.

Riko = This blog post

A top-tier Love Plus BF has to do at least one thing–spend time playing the game. You’d be surprised, it actually takes a lot of time, and despite that the game in its latest rendition works okay for burst play, and you can always manipulate the clock to your advantage, but it takes time and dedication. An average date is somewhere upwards an hour or more. And you can go to them at least once a week if you are any good. I quit playing, partly because it simply takes a lot of time away from other things I could do that I consider similar in priority–like watching anime such as this Love Lab show.

The story in Love Lab is not particularly interesting except it is framed in a way that makes it interesting. Here we have a girl who is sicken like many of her disposition–with fantasies of romance. Without having actual experience but too much pent-up energy, she ends up pulling in a bunch of other girls who are not so much sick with fancy, but equally curious and seek to have fun with others. The way Love Lab tells its story is through the formation of friendships and the way people come together because someone out there crosses all the Ts and dot the Is, the kind of thing that impresses the valedictorian in an all-girls prep school. It doesn’t come overnight like some of the tricks Natsuo and Maki did to politely rebel against authority or pull a quick one on them. In fact, that they go as far as that is the surprise.

That isn’t the point I want to drive at; it’s a good example of how, when sufficiently cogently woven, the wool over the adults’ eyes will work. Pulling it is typical and expectant of a bunch of kids living in a high-class, high-pressure environment. It’s the essence of a “seishun” type story. Doing it A-Team style is, however, not. Nor the fact that they do so in the name of love. It’s like gaming god master race Keima from Kaminomi who ditches class in the name of lovevideo games, except somehow when Natsuo does it, it’s all ~scandalous~. Would it be scandalous to ditch class because you want to get really into the nitpickery details of Love Plus? Would it be scandalous to publish an underground newsletter for your campus to get really into the nitpickery details of romance?

Japan celebrates its diligent men, women and children. Love Lab likewise cooks more like Alton Brown than Julia Child (they don’t call ’em love handles for nothing). Point here is that love comes to all, those who are and those who are not. The issue is about framing it, and when we see these girls work hard to achieve this goal, we get wrapped up with them. That is the rub. A half-assed rebellion is the story some may be more familiar with in the story about Valvrave or Code Geass. Here, the rebels stick their guns towards the individuals that suppresses their wills, not the cultural expectations that both sides abides. Through hard work within the framework and thinking outside of it, the Love Lab members achieve what they want. It’s a rebellion within the rules. Perhaps it’s all a tad too close to that Yamato Nadeshiko spirit kind of thing that some find a little patronizingly misogynistic, but, that too, celebrates diligence.

Year in Review 2013 Index:

Commenting on Koebuta Rush

So Paranda describes what many seiota have been observing for the past, oh I don’t know, 5 years? I quote:

Seiyuu ended up being divided into two factions by fan opinions. The “jitsuryoku” camp contained seiyuu with true voice ability that get casted based on their own strength. The other camp contained seiyuu tainted with various unflattering speculation: they’re just idols, failed mainstream wannabes, casted from the couch (makura eigyou = pillow trade), they have a monotone voice (bouyomi), they’re only popular because of the agency’s monstrous PR power (gorioshi = Gorilla Push), and so on.

Within all of this bubbling resentment, the word “koebuta” ended up getting thrown around to describe fans that entered into the fandom because of the latter group. What it implies is that they like the idol aspects of seiyuu more than the voice acting.

The ones on the receiving end of the word took it in stride, and some even began calling themselves the term with pride, considering the detractors as elitist old farts. Besides there’s nothing wrong with liking seiyuu for other reasons so who cares?

I tried to leave a comment but his aging blogging software can’t handle the spam so it’s difficult. Besides, blogging the comment instead lets me rant on a little more.

(Let’s just say when I started blogging with this set of categories in 2008 or whatever, the category name “Seiyuu, Idol, Pop” existed, as is, for a reason. Also, all of this applies only tangentially to the other gender side of the fandom, although it isn’t too different. It’s a different can of worms I guess.)


/cracks fingers

The big picture in regards to seiota, at least as a reflection from marketing and fandom, is actually more complicated. Having seen in person more 90s seiyuu idol types in the past few years, it’s very clear that many seiyuu are general “personalities” in the entertainment industry sense of the term. People like Hisakawa Aya or Mitsuishi Kotono can fully be normal idols if they got the right break or if they won their respective gene lotteries; they carry themselves like showa idols. That’s because back then if you are a female and you work this business by acting or singing or whatever, there is just that one way to do things.

[As an aside, massive prop to the original 17yo because she’s able to continue to play the game.]

Today’s seiyuu idol is different than 90s style seiyu idol because what goes for “idol” has changed drastically. Think AKB48. A lot of people in the mainstream don’t think much of the average AKB48 girl, because they are basically simple, hard working entertainers, with as much talent as a girl next door. But that is just a perception–it’s not necessarily the reality of the situation. It’s both a matter of perceived talent (I think Ootsubo, TKTT, Ohashi and Ogura are all very talented entertainers and maybe even voice actors for example, FWIW) and the medium they express themselves, or play out their idol-job-ness-whatever. Today’s seiyuu idol is more down-to-earth, closer to the koebuta touch, but at the same time it shows off their weaknesses and quirks, because after all they are girls next door as far as charm goes. At the same time, because the demand for the overall package is higher, the talent doesn’t have to excel in the primary disciplines as long as she can make it count in other areas. And the more demanding you are on your idols while exploiting them in more facets via more media, more venues to produce the idol, odds are you will get idol talents who are well-rounded but may not excel in the core disciplines of anime voice acting. Well, it’s not to say they can’t do a good job–it’s just a matter of what fans perceive as good.

I mean for every Iwao Junko or Kouda Mariko you have a Satsuki Yukino or Mayumi Tanaka. To me the gap between those people as voice actors are pretty narrow, but some simply just got idol appeal so they got to go a step further career-wise. It’s just how things have always rolled.

Today’s seiyuu idol reflects today’s market reality. In the age of koebuta I don’t really think it is a problem, you know? It’s the same as saying there is nothing wrong with liking Hanazawa Kana or Hikasa Yoko as idols or singers. It’s the same with liking Tomatsu Haruka or Takagaki Ayahi as entertainers, because they are actually good at something, and voice acting is one of those more forgiving occupations where even if you can’t make the cut with RL acting (yeah sorry Kotobuki, you just can’t act), you can still do all right. And it is a great marketing vehicle for these people on the side.

But for the Hasshiis out there, well, good luck.

At the same time, there’s a lot of room for hard stats and context. I wrote what I did with what little that I do know. I think the way the voice acting industry plays out is part of that, as far as seiota factions go. It’s easy to be a certain type of seiota just because there are people, historically, who did it just on the side and you can follow them. But today’s mix media franchises and idol production systems complicate the picture. It’s okay to go all idol on a voice actress I guess, but it’s always a little bit weird to hear a Shindou Kei story or stumbling upon Shikaco’s gravure pics. Or deal with the Hirano Aya nonsense. And I guess that’s the hurdle we have to get over with. I also want to know how these seiyuu idols are typically cultivated. I guess part of that is how seiyuu schools do in terms of admissions and auditions, the pure seiota stuff.

Also, it’s a matter of technology too. Not many showa idols tweet. It’s like the one BIG thing I left out in my Madoka Rebellion write-up: the first 5 minutes of the screening was my favorite 5 minutes of the movie, as the seiyuu cast introduced themselves and the film to the oversea viewers. Giant AIPON OMG HNNNNNG. I bring this up also because thanks to high definition theatrical projection, and my 2nd row seat, I can see the bumps and skin imperfections on these girls with high zoom details. You ain’t gonna get that on your NTSC TV set back in 1989. Not even if you splurged for LD.

To answer Paranda’s question, if he is 60-40 then I’m probably like 90-10, but at the same time I enjoy all the koebuta stuff too, even if it’s to a lesser extent. I mean, HUGE AIPON OMG HNNNNG. The real difference is that I generally don’t like idols in the Momusu or AKB48 sense. I’m more about the White Album style of idols!

Bonus question: what the heck does this mean in the context of Million Live and Cinderella Girls? I mean, it’s like accidentally meta.