Monthly Archives: January 2014

Horizontal Adaptation of Ideas in Original Anime Concepts

If I smack Anohana with a Nagiasu-shaped noodle press repeatedly, what shakes out of it follows:

  • People in love with people in love
  • How more things change, more things stay the same, except things still change.
  • …and as a corollary, themes about passage of time in the physical versus passage of time in the emotional

It’s all really signature. I mean I don’t think the two shows have any overlap other than Okada, so it’s a good exercise in picking out what makes her writing tick. Nagiasu in many ways is a superior version of Anohana, except they have different goals narratively. [Edit: NISA licensed both shows for US distro, which might be the only other overlap!]

I was thinking about this while walking down a sidewalk in midtown NYC during rush hour. Invariably what happens is that you walk with a pack of people and someone is smoking. Then you think about Zvezda.


Zvezda episode 3 almost justifies the existence of this anime. It is the sort of thing that makes me go “Original anime are the best.” [read it like “SHOW YOU GUTS COOL SAY WHAT” is the best.] I don’t think about it so much when watching Anohana or Nagiasu, but the thought simply confirms by those things. Similarly I can look at all my favorites this season, and majority of them are original. I’m not even sure that I included Kill la Kill or Space Dandy in that list.

I think what makes original anime good is actually not that they are anime-original. It’s because of the telephone game factor. If Shinsekai Yori was an anime original it would have been gangbusters awesome. You wouldn’t have people who looked it up and get all icky because of the highly sexualized manga, and I wouldn’t had to suffer through the slog of the thing that is the current anime, simply because they could have applied the narrative structure better. Of course, the trade off is that fewer people vet any given concept, none the least are the audience for the original work. Although arguably that is kind of not the point in a lot of cases in the late-night category. Also it isn’t to say original works don’t get that committee’s touch, to put it nicely; that can happen to anything.

Makes me think what Kawamori had to deal with when he was creating the core items in the AKB0048 anime.

I remember reading some interview with the creator of Rahxephon and Mamoru Oshii. This was a part of the US release of the movie, I think? Anyway, the point I want to repeat here is that a part of Evangelion’s greatness comes from the contribution of many of the animators there. There were a lot of talented creators pitching in little things that made it great. This is kind of what I’m referring to by my earlier comment on Witch Craft Works. And I think it is this sort of originality that makes original anime neat.

And to give things some orthogonality, you can track original creators like Okada across works in this way. It’s like she’s basically refining her thoughts on the topics and coming up with new ideas. It’s not just her, either. I think Madoka’s success is largely due to this factor, tracing Shinbo, Kajiura, Urobuchi and even Aoki (albeit a lot less than the others). I also like how Madoka’s PR purposefully hype and hide, so to speak. Nagiasu took a different route by hiding it entirely, and its sales reflects this (other than the obvious genre gap here). Both shows are better for it, I think, sales aside.

And Zvezda too. If the November 11 joke wasn’t enough for you…

Catching Up With Aladdin, Magi S2 Thoughts

The Magnostadt arc leaves me with a weird aftertaste. I’m following the anime, up to episode 17 (which aired as a double episode this past week AFAIK, but CR pushed it out half a week) in the second season.

I think there are some spoilers, but I’ll keep it pretty generic. The thing is, this whole “magic users versus normal people” thing feels simply like racism. It’s something Magi has touched on throughout the course of the story up to this point, although previously in the anime the focus is more about class rather than race.

Scheherazade & co

Of course, Magi is a story inspired by Middle Eastern folklore. The characters are all fantasy but they clearly take on certain cultural cues. Leam is like Romans, Kou is like Chinese, Morg is probably a black person? You get the idea. One of the kids in the Magnostadt arc is Egyptian, probably. There aren’t any Jews or Arabs as far as I can tell but maybe they’re closer to Alibaba’s home tribes? If you read deep enough, there’s a mini-arc where Aladdin hung out with some central Asian nomads, almost Mongolian or Uighur. In that sense, I believe Magi is a well-researched story setting-wise.

To someone with a simple background in American civics and history, the whole Magnostadt arc’s conflict about mages and non-mages feels like the best of American racism towards the end of the Jim Crow law era, around the first half of the 20th century. It flirts with concepts like eugenics and a lot of ethically terrible things in the name of progress and raising the welfare of the country. The benevolent rule of the elite. Planned societies. It’s a step away from noblesse oblige, I guess, because the rulers of Magnostadts are not born noble, but made so. I guess that’s what makes the thing feel like good o’ fashion paternalistic racism.

The thing is, a lot of the themes in the arc felt as if they were just setting up the big social questions America had to answer the last 100 years. How do we live by the ideals of a society where all are created equal, when in reality they aren’t? And furthermore, just because some people are really good people, does it excuse the fatal flaws in their beliefs? In a way the hypo questions set up in Magi is flawed in some ways that give the story an easy out.

America’s method is through a lot of lawsuits, economic and political solidarity, and the occasional violent outbreak. And that’s just what we’ve resorted to doing recently. It used to be much worse–systemic treatment of human as animals, then second-class citizens, then as socially undesirables, then as people you don’t want to be associated with, and then what we have today, sort of. It also takes a long, long time. In that way, society evolves either through cultural change or through the purging power of time (ie., nobody lives forever). Perhaps the most unforgivable thing is how someone so old and so knowledgeable like Mogamett can cling to philosophies that better inspire college kids. The saying goes, you start out as a Democrat and you age into a Republican, or something along those lines, so the whole thematic exercise in Magi feels more like a hypo in a philosophy 101 class than something more gritty and realistic.

Here’s another saying that I believe in: Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Americans live racism like a part of our DNA. I get the feeling nobody in Asia has learned this lesson yet. I mean, they can barely repeat it in their pop media.

Anywhoo, serious race talk aside, Magi so far plays out like a “western” version of Twelve Kingdoms. Except instead of an elegantly told character-drive policy piece with a serious Chinese influence, this is a mangled manga adaptation that walks through the same paces. In exchange, we get shounen tropes instead of light novel-for-girls schtiks. Can’t say I like this more, but it certainly is interesting enough to keep me watching. I mean the way magi are being treated, it’s as if they are kirins for various countries. There’s an undercurrent where prosperity is ultimately a goal, and the question is to what extent do people go to obtain it.

Truth in Reporting: Winter 2014 Report Card Meta Edition

I am watching them anime. Other than Buddy Complex being the most notable omission, I think I’m ready to roll.

I just want to take a minute to point out Miao’s thin slicing this season. It’s your formulaic ANN-style review trolling which is to say, it’s based on narrative truths that reasonable people find agreeable rearranged without sense (or all the sense, on the other hand). I want to just highlight it for that–this is a relatively “weak” season in a long time. I think part of it has to do with a general shift in late night TV anime. Just compare it with 2010 (or even 2011). But ranking it seems like a futile exercise at best, so there’s no symbolic gesture of not putting Nisekoi in the first spot.

FWIW, he called Wake Up Girls Movie an OAV.

New shows (and long-absent sequels):

World Conquest Zvezda Plot – I’m on the hook for this show. The magical reality unnerves me. It’s uncomfortable. It’s too good to drop. Its vintage too accomplish to expect a “turn off the brain and have fun” show. Except when I try to run this by the grey matter, it is giving me all kinds of warning signs.

Wake Up, Girls – My favorite of the season. I’m not sure if I like them as an idol group however, even if by all means the anime has done its job. I also like how they sneaked in that Tohoku disaster reminder in there. Also blogging over at Jtor.

Seitokai Yakuindomo 2 – I marathoned the OVAs or whatever they’re called just before episode 1. So I went in with a lot of feels and fresh memory. I wonder if this is why nobody licensed it, by the way–the book publisher must own the rights of episodes 13-18. Is this the new licensing hell (say hello to YZQ)?

Wizard Barristers – So far so good. Miss Piggy is a very nice touch. What kind of a man gets nicknamed Hachi Mitsu? A Honey & Clover dropout?

Witch Craft Works – I am glad to be able to lay my eyes on this show. The manga is a terribly boring thing but the anime is a blast to watch; the comedic timing and direction are great. It is fun also to see by how much can the anime exceed its source material. Manga usually is created by one person or a small team of people; maybe half a dozen even for some weeklies, plus some editorial staff. On the other hand up to ten times more people work on an anime adaptation. Odds are any anime production team have at least enough creative power and experience to do the same, simply because so many more people work on any given project, and the core creative team are made up of some or all fire-tested veterans. So what happens when a lame but popular manga gets animated? Speaking purely from a point of view of “animators are people who draw a lot” I think this is what actually happens.

Nisekoi – Similarly. Although it isn’t comedy but just well-executed character drama, see also Bakemonogatari. You know Shaft.

Sakura Trick – Surprisingly engaging in the yuri fanservice way. Not sure if there’s enough to keep me interested, because unless they escalate it’s all a little boring. And if they do escalate every episode, they would be spending half the episode kissing each other by episode 12. Not that is a problem I think.

ImoCho – Okay, it’s actually kind of fun watching the timid, confused and probably traumatized girl trying to climb out of it. I’m rooting for her. It’s also kind of fun watching an anime trying to depict this communication gap between the two step-siblings. I wonder which kind of boys would take note?

Nobunagun – Surprisingly fun to watch but I think this anime belongs to the 1990s.

Nobunaga the Fool – I would watch this if it was actually faster paced. Right now it’s like Horizon S1 eps 1-4, which is just kind of confusing, dreary, but minus the shock factor of huge balloon boobs and the trope pandering. Jeanne is attractive looking and all but so far she is not really a part of anything because the show hasn’t revealed anything that interesting. It’s gotta hurry it up before it loses all its viewers. Needs its clinching moment.

Space Dandy – It’s hard for me to watch–I canceled my DVR service some time last year so it’s week-late Hulu for me. On the other hand maybe it allows me to try watching it like a normal person, which is…I guess people my age group generally don’t watch Toonami. I mean, I don’t remember the last time I was watching cable TV on a Saturday night other than the Space Dandy premiere. Anyway, it’s okay, I’ll probably ride it out if there’s an easy way to watch it.

Noragami – I would be repping this hard if it was on CR. I guess I will give Funi’s EVS some prop for having actually a good enough lineup, but what can they do to earn back my trust? I guess they did have that great holiday sale. I suppose the worse I could do is pirate it, because it sure is better than not watching it at all, right? Maybe? I guess it’s important to note that I basically don’t buy shows I haven’t seen before (other than, say, Mardock Scramble, because I read the book).

Nourin – I can take it or leave it. It’s one of those shows that I would probably watch it if it’s on CR. I guess maybe next year or next sale, EVS or not. 

SoniAni – Kind of like, the show I would drop except if I don’t watch all these shows on EVS, I would have time for this. So I do have time for this. And it’s hardly the most horrible anime. It’s like the most model anime, heh.

Pilot’s Love Song – Same. This show is weird in that while watching it, I’m okay. But after I’m done watching that week’s episode I kind of regret the use of my time. Probably would dropped it a long time ago if not for said EVS issue since this is a CR show.

D-Frag – EVS problem but it’s a pretty okay show. Very “bro” I guess. I think the problem is that it’s a little to convoluted and if you miss the internal logic it’s not that fun to watch.

Chuunikoi Ren – 2chuu2koi as I’d like to call it, but this is a nice change. Much more interesting right off the bat than season 1.

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha – I’d pirate this any day.

Mahou Sensou – Dropped because I don’t have the time. Seems okay though.

Hamatora – Dropped because I don’t have the time. Seems okay though. Actually fun to watch in episode 2, if a little predictable.

Houzuki no Reitetsu – Good, solid comedy. Dropped because I got over my Dilbert phase back in the 90s. This stuff is kind of like remaking it for kids going into the workforce in this decade. As an anecdote, when I find some kid at work who falls into all of the usual Dilbert traps, I just sigh and “berate” him directly. Watching Hozuki is like a waste of time.

Saki – Magical girls meets mahjong, the “we don’t have enough episodes so we’ll compress all that we skipped between S1 and Achigahen in 3 episodes but now we can get down to business” edition. Also a Jtor item.



Ace of the Diamond – This is a pretty okay koshien baseball anime. Literally.

Samurai Flamenco – It’s still interesting enough.

Silver Spoon – Yep. One season is hardly a break.

Magi – Yep.

Gundam Build Fighter – This is the Gundam of our generation.

Tokyo Ravens – Okay.jpg

Log Horizon – Finally, story.

Golden Time – Dropped because I don’t really have the time and can’t really be bothered with that Ghost Banri stuff.


Enjoying them all. Even Pupa (whose OP has that “Fantasista Dolls” effect). I think Strange+ and Seki-kun are neck to neck.


And that’s all for now!

PS. Several blogs I follow waxed poetic on Space Dandy after watching the first few episodes. Basically they all say the same thing, like what I said earlier on. I guess the thing is, it’s just a TV show, like everything we’re watching, you can take it or leave it, and you certainly don’t have to watch everything. Only tortured fans of the medium would, beyond “a thin slicing.” As long as you’re mindful of the usual disclaimers (ie., judging books by covers etc) you are okay. It’s not about “right enough” but knowing what you are in for and getting things working for those purposes. And I think with that in mind, 11:30 PM is way too early for Space Dandy. Proper late night anime is like, 2AM! Imagine watching an anime about putting your arm inside a cow’s anus at 2AM…

That IM@S Flower Thing

So this is a story all about how
my life got flipped, turned upside-down
And I’d like to take a moment
Just type it out
I’ll tell you how I became a P as an American.

Continue reading

February 2014: True Anime Japan

This morning I woke up to the news about how AnimeJapan is trying to pitch to a billion different IPs and attract 100ks of visitors. And that is well. I mean putting aside the splinter years of ACE and all that dark history, I think when cons like JX and AX have 100k+ of visitors (turnstile), while Japan doesn’t quite have a con like that (ie., Comiket is not like that), it’s sort of an industry pride issue. I mean, they’re calling it “AnimeJapan” and that can’t be more obvious. AnimeUSA peeps should be like, hur hur hur.

You know they mean business when one slide says basically this:

Anime Japan

I think they’ll hit their 100k count handily. I just hope AnimeJapan retain ACE’s liberal policy of region-free live streams.

But forget about that. I want to write a real life tourism plug for Japan for February 2014. Why? Here’s the list of things I personally want to see (of varying amount of interests, granted):

  • Sapporo Snow Festival/Snow Miku Feestival (Feb. 5-11)
  • Yui Horie’s next live (touring)
  • Love Live @ SSA
  • Ray is touring
  • KOTOKO is touring
  • Mingosu is touring
  • There’s a full-blown Uchoten Kazoku event (fhana!!) (I even could have applied for a ticket w)
  • iM@S @SSA (but you know this)
  • …there’s a MariIro event? LOL
  • ChanYui “Charming Do” promo meet&greets
  • FictionJunction YUUKA lives (with other FJs), and later individual lives for her and Kajiura teams in Feb.
  • Sumipe event
  • Yanagi Nagi live event (FFFFFFFFFFF can’t go, conflicts orz)
  • JAM Project is touring
  • Sakura Taisen Paris team kayo show (FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF I would totally go to this if I can get tickets) (Aipon is even in this) (Feb. 13-16)
  • Sphere 5th anniversary events
  • May’n is touring
  • Aoi Eir is touring
  • Yukarin is touring (with 2-day SSA live)
  • Milk Lariat 6S (lots o anime idols)
  • Yuki Aoi commemorative event
  • Junko Iwao birthday live
  • Chiaki Ishikawa concert
  • Nakagawa Kanon live (Kaminomi event)
  • Sakakibara Yui live
  • Steins;Gate events
  • ….And a lot more I didn’t list.

Despite being the shortest month of the year, February 2014 has way too many good events. And I’m not even listing things like movie screenings (Mouretsu Pirates!) plus not even everything has been announced yet. Granted on a typical month, there are a ton of events going on at any given week, but this is just crazy.

If you had to go to Japan for events, this month is it! Really, I mean, it has something for everybody. And a lot of something for a select group.