Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sakura-Con 2014: Day 0-2

Sakura-Con is dated kind of badly; I like to hang out at home for Easter and I was really swamped work-wise before having to jet off to Seattle. But at the same time it’s the kind of convention that I look forward to a lot, because this is my first time visiting Seattle and the place is basically like LA/AX but with all the things I dislike fixed. The con is downtown and very walkable, it’s not super crowded, lots of great eats in walking distance, and wait for it–Japanese guests!

Joke aside, I didn’t even got that excited about the Japanese guests. They’re cool and all, and I still am a Masunari Koji fan. But you know what instantly make any anime convention great? THE IDOLM@STER. So in that sense, I got to meet Toshifumi Akai, who is one of the key animators on anim@s. He didn’t get to work on the movie, we suspect, because he was neck deep in Magi Season 2 at the time, along with Masunari. Akai’s main contribution, I guess, are OP1 where he animated a few key cuts and being an animation director for a couple others. He probably also animated some key scenes here and there. If I can scan Backstage M@ster I could show you the horizontal pans he did for one of the concert scenes. Anyway, this guy is a lot of fun.

It’s always great to run into Nagahama. It’s always great to not go to his events because you’ve been to all his events at Animazement, LOL, but I was pretty busy with other things?

I wasn’t able to go to the couple Titan events because they got packed out. I went to a couple Renji Murata ones but they’re kind of mediocre, mostly because the attendees were meh at the long Q&A sessions his panels became (didn’t even sit through the whole thing). I went to a couple Aniplex panels, probably because of timing and how it worked out.

The Friday night IM@S panel was pretty fun, but it was also very, very 4chan and that kind of sucked. Just because you have a smart deck that has good jokes doesn’t mean you can give attention to people who interrupt your panel for the luls? It needed mods.

I better get to the Sunday IM@S panel in a few. Meanwhile enjoy a tweet of Adachi’s Kancolle at work pic.

On Con, Con Meta, and Meta Cons

Kelts wrote about the “festivities” around AnimeJapan, along with the industry events that happened around the same time. Just excerpting because why not:

And in the two days following AnimeJapan, the second annual Project Anime Tokyo was held in the flashy UDX building in Akihabara. The conference is designed to bring together overseas anime convention organizers with Japanese studios for communication and collaboration. The brainchild of Marc Perez, CEO of the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, and Nobuyuki Takahashi, president of Studio Hard Deluxe, the first meeting was held by the SPJA in Los Angeles in 2012 at Anime Expo (AX), the largest anime convention in North America.

“One of the things we want to prove to the industry is that we (anime conventions) can promote them with very little investment,” says Perez. The conference is now a twice-yearly event held in LA and Tokyo alongside AX and AnimeJapan. “We also want convention organizers from around the world to share ideas and best practices. One of our goals is to eventually establish a joint charter, rules and regulations about things like bootlegging and piracy and so on.”

You know Project Anime? The con about cons? People sat in panels about cons and industry and press and what not. I think this might be what a commenter was referring to about SPJA. And the end is still just a matter of signaling and getting people to leverage available resources. Conventions may be an underutilized resource, if indeed they are still growing (and most signs point to yes, at least in America), so then there’s going to be some way where somebody can leverage these resources with Japanese businesses in a manner in which someone (likely in Japan), with all the access and resources available, come up and execute a more unified strategy to bring it to market, to market, to promote, to build and deliver.

Why do I keep saying this LOL.

But I’m not sure if this is something we can (even naively) say is good or not, because now we’re getting to the place where you have to roll up your sleeves and make your spreadsheets and decks sparkle like an idol on stage. And there will be winners and losers in the end of all of this, just a matter of how much, and how many.

Give the full article a read, I think it plays consistent with the overall theme about where fan money is going to overseas, what Japan is (or isn’t) doing about it.

I wonder if the  Anime Anime guy would get something out of Project Anime.

Anzu & co

PS. Studio Hard Deluxe? That sounds like an upgrade to Vertical, Inc.

PPS. Just how effective are cons at actually promoting sales of things? How about brand recognition and awareness? How about building up a fan base? It’s hard to say…

A Down Side to Easy-to-Access Anime

Let’s say, if you went to a typical sit-down restaurant in America and order some food. The waiter provides your table with a basket of bread as per custom at the establishment, and seeing you are very hungry the waiter decides to give you extra bread. Is this appropriate? I would think so, and most people probably wouldn’t even bat an eye.

Let’s say, if you spend a few hundred bucks and bought some late-night anime. The anime provides you with the content you thought you were getting. And seeing that this is the home video BD that you now own after parting a few hundred USDs or whatever currency, it provides some bonus material with extra T&A. Is this appropriate? I would think so, but some people calls this pandering.

Actually, it is pandering. But isn’t this wanted? Wouldn’t it be better to have this than not have this?

Hello again, old flame

This kind of made me think, in an orthogonal way, about the price of anime and the nature of its target audience. I am sort of pro-cheap anime in the sense that it makes access easy. And more access is better for access-starved international audience of anime, it’s hand-in-hand with marketing, as far as major areas of improvement for the state of the “anime industry” overseas. It’s more democratic. But I guess as with many things, there are down sides or unintended negative consequences to that. Well, maybe it’s not a negative consequence, but it’s naturally what happens when the signal-to-noise ratio drops.

There’s a fair amount of academic literature on the effects of internet and mass media and “noise” in terms of how to make the internet useful. I think we can apply the same idea to anime in that anime for the masses should be cheap and easy to reach. But anime for specific, intended small groups should be harder. And it is; in that naturally the marketing dollar isn’t there, fewer people care about it and fewer people talk about it.  But when what represents anime overseas is this small sample, what then? Cool Japan is not about Doreamon or Sanae-san but Evangelion or Pokemon right? I guess Pokemon is mainstream in that sense. But people don’t pass judgment on anime because they are in that niche. Anime is a marketing word, but that is probably a bad thing for the medium/genre in the long run, if you want to capture its diversity. Or rather, if you want to capture what passes for anime in the 21st century. Of course, the problem is also kind of the fact that there aren’t many anime titles that fits the Dragon Ball Z kind of profile in the 21st century; as in there hasn’t been more exceptions to the rule for companies like FUNimation to profit on. And all the anime-cancer sentiments is really built on this kind of mentality.

There’s this zone in oversea criticism that this is missed. It’s like all the people who think about anime in the framework of Mamoru Oshii’s works. Like, com’on. Maybe you’ll be more credible from Hayao Miyazaki’s framework. Can you just stick to Battle of the Planets and Speed Racer? Is this even relevant in the 21st Century beyond as a curiosity? Is Tezuka relevant beyond just his influence? Hasn’t anime changed enough in the last 50 years to, you know, come up with something new?

In other words, are people even watching the right anime? Is it because “anime” is too accessible, too plentiful, that people don’t even know what they really shouldn’t be watching? If the only way to watch anime is pony up some $50 or $100 to catch 1-2 cours of it, you probably would really want to know what it is before putting down the money. It makes people care. A lot more.

It also highlights the problem with marketing of anime overseas. There are little ways to “send signals” about shows as to who should watch what, from the homeland. And it’s full of lost-in-translation perils. If we have to rely on the likes of blogs that do season previews, then we are hopeless. I mean at least back in the days, people just hyped specific shows because they knew it was going to be something interesting as a reflection of Japan’s internal marketing and the buzz from its domestic fanbase. Now we just have people writing about every which thing, and it’s hard to say who knows enough or do enough homework to sift through the 50+ shows every season–if to just not get any one of them wrong, let alone more than a few of them right.

Maybe this is a call to people to watch anime in a way that treats it right–not just as disposable internet butt-wipe, a passing joke. Not every show is shovelware, not every show deserves your attention. But do enough to gain the appreciation for those the anime that you will fall in love with, before it happens. Maybe both you and the shows you watch will be better off as a result.

But I realize, the problem is also the general lack of easy-to-use tools. Which makes me think the Real Problem of Anime(tm) is still marketing. Which is odd/ironic, because most anime are just advertisement for something else. But it also makes sense if you think about it, and do more research. If people gets the right idea from marketing material on the get go, they wouldn’t even bother with a lot of the anime out there. But without the societal attitudes and otaku groups that form naturally to lay down the rules for people to watch whatever it is, what passes for marketing in Japan might not even work as is. Instead, oversea fans gets just piecemeal of all of this and who knows how effective that is.

Effects of Forum Participation in Con Guest Pulls

I have a lot of thoughts on this topic. I guess if the saying goes that American “anime fans” attend conventions, that there are a lot of conventions (anime or not) throughout the US and Canada, all year round, and attending these things cost a lot of money, then it pays (in more ways than one) to think about it. Given that I go to these things regularly nowadays, I think about them naturally.

One aspect of this is that many conventions are run by fans. They may or may not be for profit (eg., making money is the bottom line of the operation) but in general people typically don’t get into this business just to make a buck. More over, the cons that have a real draw (eg., guests and special events) tend to have a need to build up beyond just the usual convention alley-exhibit-screening complex. After all I think the tendency in convention attendance is that the big cons only get bigger, and attendees typically don’t go to more cons per year on average. Of course, the cost of having oversea or big-name guests means having a big enough presence in terms of size to afford it, and thus those cons are more feature-rich and better value for more attendees. It’s like a rolling snowball.

TL;DR, I wanted to know why this tweet is relevant:

The angle I want to take is to compare this with that and that.

Here are the 16 North American anime cons last year that went over 10,000 attendees, in order of total attendance:

  1. Anime Expo – 61,000 estimated total attendance
  2. Otakon – 34,892 paid attendees
  3. Anime Central – 28,692 total attendance
  4. Anime North – 23,952 paid attendees
  5. FanimeCon – 25,542 total attendance (23,430 paid)
  6. A-Kon – 22,366 total attendance
  7. Anime Boston – 21825 total attendance (21,200 paid)
  8. Sakura-Con – 21,000 estimated paid attendees
  9. Anime Weekend Atlanta – 18,363 total attendance
  10. Anime Matsuri – 14,989 total attendance
  11. Youmacon (14,496 total attendance)
  12. Otakuthon (13,357 total attendance)
  13. MomoCon (12,200 total attendance)
  14. San Japan (11,077 total attendance)
  15. Katsucon (10,686 total attendance)
  16. AnimeNEXT (10,283 paid attendance)

I italicized the 3 cons whose forum threads I linked to just above. They are the guest request threads. Give it a scan.

So some background: voice actress and talent Hara Yumi has been announced as a guest for Anime North 2014. Last year, voice actress and talent Nakamura Eriko has been announced as a guest for Anime North 2013. The pattern is that what kind of con invite people like these unless they are on an Arts Vision kick or someone on their GR team really loves IM@S?

I think the answer is obvious.

Rather just stopping there, I looked in the guest forums for a few of these cons (this is just how I roll, actually) and I didn’t realize after “ErikoNorth” (aka., AN 2013) the Arts Vision thing is … a thing. And if you didn’t know both Nakamura and Hara are represented by Arts Vision. The differences in the three forum threads I linked might not be obvious at a glance, and I’m too pressed for time to do any kind of request analysis, but let’s just say as someone who reads this regularly, the differences are there. It’s like AN’s offering is very min-maxed, where as the other two are balanced in contrast of their forum reuqests. As far as guest powers go, the top 16 biggest NA cons all do pretty well. Sakura Con, AB, and Otakon are all solid as far as forum-to-reality representation. AX is trickier because there’s a lot more industry influence, not that it isn’t a regular factor, but we can probably remove it as an outlier. Anime Central is actually a good example of what the average big con forum thread for guest requests look like. Once you hit below AWA, though, things are different. It’s like California and Texas cons just do things differently, so feel free to use them as a different sort of “norm.”

Because they look kind of like cons that are much smaller:  What forums? Facebook!

Maybe that’s just because most of the big cons today have been around for a long time (10+ years for pretty much most of that list, Anime Matsuri being the biggest <10yr con), but that sort of community, I think, reflect on the type of con they become in certain details. A-Kon being one of the oldest anime cons in America but no forums…another exception I guess.

It just goes back to say, when cons say “by fans for fans” sometimes it does actually mean that. And you don’t even need to staff to make a difference, just speak up.

PS. That all said and done, I think AnimeNEXT forum request is ripe for astroturfing. Of course I mean that by if that’s a con you will attend if the right guest shows up, go ahead and request it. Vince is a nice guy on the internets and he demonstrates that, at least, will listen.

Wizard Barristers Is a Great Procedural, But Just Okay for Anime

Procedural as a genre is a little less vague than slice-of-life as a genre, I concede, but I think Wizard Barrister is a pretty solid example of a procedural.

Cecil & naughty frog?

The one biggest issue about procedural as a general category is that it’s too “monster of the week.” I think this is actually one of the biggest problem that anime and manga narratives have overcome since the early ’00s. A good procedurals doesn’t mess with that stuff. In that sense Wizard Barristers go the other end–it doesn’t mess with that stuff (much), but at the same time it feels very much not-quite-a-procedural. Far majority of the episodic plot lines follow the “incident-investigation-trial” pattern to discount Wizard Barrister on a technical level, but you have people complaining that it doesn’t? Except it’s totally like that. Even the finale … is just like that.

So we have a procedural that is by the book, but it feels like a bunch of giggling school girls talking on a school trip. In this sense, Wizard Barristers play with another little often-seen complaint about anime characters not being adults. Except they act like not-adults?

I mean, yeah, what a great representation of adults in a professional environment! Or I should say, all the fun stuff people like about procedural shows, where is it in Wizard Barristers?

Speaking as someone who is interested in the actual procedures of criminal prosecution in this context, I have mixed feelings about the show, to say the least. But let me just say this: most, far most, people do not have any kind of a clue or interest in that, so maybe I come out ahead on Wizard Barristers because I actually do have some interests in the more arcane, and how different elements in the show try to evoke those details.

Today’s audience is pretty demanding, lacking of a better phrase, in terms of what they want out of a procedural. So in that sense there’s little you can do for a procedural as anime. I mean, what, Witch Hunter Robin and Conan are really the two shining examples of this genre, and neither are really all that great for what it’s worth in this context. It’s definitely a gap–the question is just that if this gap is too small to bother to fill.