Monthly Archives: January 2014

Zvezda’s Magical Realism

I had to think long and hard about Zvezda episode 1 because it’s all I had to go with until yesterday, and I had to write something about episode 1 of Zvezda. I sort of understood what the “problem” was but only now can I put it into words. Let me just preface that Zvezda’s problem is not so much of a problem but a matter of perceiving certain visual/thematic signals and tuning into it. I have no problems with Zvezda’s first episode as far as its sort of whacky sense of world-building or its revealing outfits for our two pettanko groupies. In fact I really enjoyed the show, especially now with episode 2 down the optical nerve hatch.

Episode 2

The problem is more about what we ought to expect from looking at the visual cues about the world depicted in Zvezda. We begin with a flash-forward to see a desolate future, populated with ruined buildings and crumbled remains of a civilization. What stands is a Kate statute of yay tall, and a narrator. Then we see a mostly-mundane present with an anime girl holding exaggerated grocery bags and a curfew with silly purchase mechanics. The armored vehicles. Then we see Kate on a bike for children. The gas mask. Then it starts to slip right around there I guess.

But by that point we’re about half way through episode one. The rest of the episode is a magical beat-down of SDF forces. This isn’t Bombshells from Cat Planet but we’re operating on the same level, in some ways. Except Zvezda didn’t say a bleep. Aliens? Magic? Espers? Time travelers? Haruhi? This is the key information they withhold, and they hold it to your face.

For those of us who aren’t primed to look for that in episode one, I suspect you might have a better time than I. I wouldn’t know, however, because I was spending equal times mulling over how to explain this, versus looking at silly ANN links about how certain reviewer said it was selling something. Must have been a slow week at work?

Anyway, compare this sort of world building with, say, Shinsekai Yori, which is more about not knowing what you don’t know. Zvezda is kind of like you actually know you don’t know, so you actively look for things to fill in that gap in your mind, except of circle or square pegs it’s giving you half naked loli-shaped pegs. Not that I am complaining or anything.

Crowdfunding Is Just Danketsu, Isn’t It?

As someone who consumes a lot of iM@S crap, the word danketsu (団結) gets floated around a lot. The term just means unity in this context, but not knowing Japanese that well I can’t give you all the nuances of the term.


In my mind, the joy of fandom is partly based on sharing. It multiplies; it’s not a zero-sum game. It might be a zero-sum game regarding your bank account, but the things you get in exchange can be priceless, or so I think. So when the opportunity came for some bros and I to set up a flower wreath at the iM@S SSA concert this February, how can I say no? And by extension I want to share that joy with you as well.

You here meaning the fans of idolm@ster, and people who want to partake the joy of fandom. And it’s easy. The opportunity here is that you can financially back our plans to set up a ring of flowers decorated with a catchy English phrase (in the usual Japanese tradition of 2 or 3-liner plate) and a commissioned fanart, AND, send a message to the idols of iM@S.

What we will set up in the very near future is a page where you can donate via Paypal and it will give you a field to put in a short message. You can donate any amount (although Paypal does charge a fee so you have to exceed that) and then put in your message. It’s that simple. What we will do with your money is put it in our pockets to reduce our out-of-pocket costs of paying the flower vendor, the commission artwork, and making a booklet of your quotes. What we will do with your message is to screen it (this ain’t no im@s confessions), translate it into Japanese, and put both EN and JP text in said booklet. Because we aim to translate your words, you have to keep it short (maybe < 300 characters) and get it in before Feb. 1. Also because we plan to print it in a neat booklet. The flowers will be delivered by a flower vendor in Japan (Ever use an internet flower service to buy flowers for a wedding/funeral? Same basic idea). The booklets will be given to the idols at SSA (there’s a gift deposit box system setup for this).

We have been working at this for a couple months now, so things are already pretty much set design-wise. We are in the process of finalizing the deal with the flower vendor and figuring out how to print and deliver the commission artwork. We got an experienced call book maker on the booklets, so it will probably follow that kind of format. The total cost is still in flux but we’re looking at at least $400. Probably a chunk more depending on printing and shipping costs.

We’re also planning to print a bunch of the booklets for people who donated over a certain amount. Like $10 or $20. Not important but it just means we’ll have to pay for shipping LOL and do fulfillment. Also, we’re open to taking your donation in person if you happen to run into one of us, and you can send us your quotes via ordinary methods. We’ll figure out something.

At first, we want this project to be limited to American Ps. But it slowly expanded to English-speaking Ps on this side of the Pacific. Or NATO. Whatever. It’s kind of funny because our project has a USA-bent to it but I hope that doesn’t stop anybody. It’s also funny because we can’t just keep this to ourselves, by force or by will, it’s naturally “The World Is All One” kind of a thing. We do, however, hope that people will take this donation seriously. It’s not a big deal if you are not a fan, but I hope you consider liking iM@S! It’s the one thing that brings us together, and by contributing you become a part of it. This is not Kickstarter. This is danketsu. 

If you have any questions, please post in the comments below. Hopefully the site will go live next week. The deadline will be ~Feb. 1st, so think about what you want to write!

Wizard Barristers: On Consent Searches

In the United States, the Fourth Amendment puts a limitation on what the government can or cannot do when it comes searching a private individual. TL;DR – what cops can or can’t do to take your stuff. And it’s actually not that hard to get a good grasp of what governs when can a cop take some evidence from you in order to use it against you in a government proceeding (read: trial/prosecution/hearing). The rule of thumb is probable cause. TL;DR #2 – is there a reason to be suspicious of you?

In Wizard Barristers, Cecil basically recites this in front of the two officers who wanted to look into her bag after learning that she’s a Wud. I’m glad Umetsu didn’t use “Wug” because HAHAHA. Aside from that, it kind of occurs to me that anyone who can spit back the general rule for consent searches in a spot like that is probably pretty cool. From a law nerd point of view. And she did it with just a couple sentences.

I mean I can’t do it.

Cecil & Familiar

That said, all I know about Japan’s laws in terms of consent searches is that they’ve modeled their constitution with part to the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, which includes the Fourth Amendment. (See Article 35.) Which is probably why Cecil spit back the same legal rule (at least, in the Crunchyroll subtitles) as the American version of the issue.

You guys have your guns and tanks. I have my law stuff. Can I get a Penumbra-of-Rights-chan mascot? How about Ford v. Dodge-chan? But I guess since Cecil is just an average anime character, we have yet a long ways to go. By combining a crim-pro procedural plot and a magic sub-class of humans we are maybe half way there. Maybe the Butterfly partners (Chouno & Chouno?) have special powers regarding to law. That’s one level of meta that Umetsu can overcome for sure. It might be dumb, but I’m ready.

Episode one? It’s great, I like it, both jarring and unpleasant yet surprisingly fulfilling at the same time. This is the Umetsu that I know. It also takes the crown for the most “IT’S NOT FOR KIDS” anime this season in terms of the “ADVFilms” era of anime barometry. [Of course the most family unfriendly anime this season is Nourin.] So much for Watanabe’s new show.

PS. The site is kind of useful?

Modal Consumption Versus Textual Exception: WUG Step Edition

The public service announcement: Wake Up, Girls! pilot is a movie. Episode 1 of the TV series should not be watched before the movie is. You CAN watch the TV series by itself but that’s like eating a burger by not eating anything but the buns. Yea, you can have a meal this way but it is in no way a valid means of sampling a burger.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with eating just the buns or watching just the TV series, it is just that doing so puts you in a poor position to criticize, I would think. Of course you can still complain that the burger is too big and you can’t spare another ~26 minutes of your life to watch the full movie (it’s only ~52 minutes, or a tad more than 2 episodes long), I’m with you, like I still have a handful of shows to sample this season and we are on week 2 already. [If you remember, I’m one of those people who would watch Xenoglossia by skipping the middle entirely.]

It kind of boils down to this:

1. Do you need to watch the movie? YES.

2. Who made this confusion possible? Yamakan. Yep. Of course blaming everything on Yamakan is just SOP but the marketing for this show can be a little less confusing. I assumed he wanted to shoehorn the whole pilot in, and couldn’t do it in the allotted time, so, this movie.

Anyway, what I want to talk about in this blog post is how many blogs reviewed WUG in a “first impression” or “enough to pass for judging by the book cover” without watching the movie. As it were, it’s like like judging by Chapter 3 rather than even the Cover? LOL.


Methodology: I trawled Google Blog Search and Anime Nano. Then I added a couple from my RSS feed collection. If you didn’t show up in any of those 3 spots, I didn’t count you in. If you didn’t blog in English, I didn’t even look. I quickly read your posts to determine if you watched the movie. In one case it was not clear but I inferred that the blogger didn’t as the post didn’t contain information unique to the movie. Apologies in advance if I made any mistakes. I checked around 17:45 Eastern time on January 13th, so anyone after that (like this) gets left out.

I then also rated each impression as “rotten/not rotten” in Rotten Tomato style. The ones I can’t figure out I leave as neutral and ignore them. Given numeric or letter grades are rare in this context I try to use judgment and err on the “negative” side. If you drop or plan to drop, it’s a negative. If you keep watching, I’m more inclined to rate it positive.

Prediction: I’m hoping to catch a significant number (50%?) of reviews/impression pieces that do not include the movie, because they treat these seasonal review exercises in a rote, factory-like manner where everything’s the same. If they do fansubs, it’s just another download, etc. It’s albeit a little harder on a legit channel because the UI often gives more clue as to what a series has to offer, but the same can be said there probably.

As for the RT metric, I’ll let the results speak for themselves. I would think people who watched the movie would like it more than those who didn’t, because the movie is actually pretty good and the first episode isn’t visually good, not to mention the disorientation possibility for lacking the back story.

Results: Those who watched the movie: 13

Those who did not watch the movie: 7

Analysis: Looks like for people who cared enough to blog about it, most are at least aware of the movie and did watch it before shooting the crap. There are a few blogs that didn’t review the movie but acknowledge it. The rest, I assume, just didn’t know.

Some identified the movie as an OVA, which I marked with a *. I wonder what that means.

I’m actually hesitating counting Tenka Seiha as a minus because you can’t ever tell sometimes, but he seems to have dropped it so there it goes. Mahou Tofu is a true neutral; s/he would have to rate it >= 6 out of 10 to get a +, and I think it actually gets there. For the sake of negative bias, I counted it as neutral however. I think DiGi Kerot actually likes WUG, but his blog post is way too negative to count as a plus.

While only about 1/3 of the sites here skipped the movie, which is somewhat fewer than I expected, the bigger revelation is that a much smaller percentage of the bloggers skipped it out of ignorance. The rest skipped it ostensibly because they didn’t want to spend the time on it, probably because it is marketed as “extra” to the story.

What’s more surprising is that this Yamakan anime, more people seems to like it than not, across the board. If this was Rotten Tomatoes it would have gotten something like ~65% with ANN’s reviewers leading the way with pull quotes, LOL.

Conclusion: In reality WUG should’ve just labeled TV episode 1 as episode 2, and labeled the movie as episode 1. Problem solved!

The more important metric, however, is how rotten each side breaks down. That makes 4 of 7 positive, versus 9 of 13 positive. WUG may be statistically higher ranked for viewers that watched the movie, which is good–you would think ranking a better thing against a worse version of itself should have that effect. But really? I think it’s within the margin of error, barely. Could really go either way.

In order to improve this we will have to sample other anime and get some kind of mean and more samples to get a standard deviation. I think at any rate, it doesn’t disprove the judge-by-cover adage, or that anime blogging is just crap these days.

Screaming at the Calm of Tomorrow

Yep, that's her!

Watching Nagi no Asukara episode 14 after the 3-week broadcast break was like screaming my emotions out. If we imagine my emotions like my digestive system, it’s like throwing up–with the exception that all of it is stuck in my throat, and I can’t let any of it out. All I can do is cry on twitter. If I could actually translate this confusing emotion into a physical response like grief or elation, that would have made it easier. But it’s like being overloaded by the meta, I have no way to scream in a way that soothes my nerves.

The funny/ironic thing is, there isn’t even that much drama in the episode. Spoiler aside, let’s just say if we can consider the “character relationship flowchart” version of the romantic relationships in the show as some kind of elaborate papercraft, you know, like a fancy Christmas card or master-grade origami, then Nagi no Asukara just folded it and popped out something 3D from a 2D piece of paper. This omo-esqe analogy is my way to avoid the spoiler for you, but by making the story bifurcate like that and then… fold it upon itself, my mind just got blown at what results from it.

Part of it is also amusing because it is taking some key story ideas from the Onegai franchise, or it sure feels that way. Amusing because it’s got that vibe at the very start, now it is using a similar story concept and it is beyond my belief that we’re going down this road in a very “what if” sort of way.

It’s also a very otaku thing. A normal person watching Nagi-Asu is not going to have these preconceptions or unconsciously jump to conclusions about romance triangles involving Hikari like OMG HERE GOES AGAIN AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

The rest of you watching this show, I hope you’re having as great of a ride as I am.


PPS. They sure tried to keep cour 2 a secret, kinda.