Monthly Archives: January 2015

Cinderella Girls 04

Natsunee's Miku is great, busting her chops on this

This week’s episode… I guess I still can’t enjoy this anime for what it is, even if I do enjoy it for what it is. It’s just that there is more than what meets the eye.

I think let’s begin here. DiGiKerot spells out the basics well, and that’s where we have to start. What is up next is kind of the gap, lacking a better term, that ultimately describes a lot of these types of narratives.

The other starting point is Miku. Maekawa is a newbie idol working for 346Pro, looking to get her big break from the big idol production agency that she’s now a part of. The backstory that is yet present (but thoroughly hinted) in the anime is that she is pretty much a loner, and it plays out clearly between “cat” mode Miku and normal Miku. In the supplementary and manga material, Miku presents herself as a bookish, quiet if classy meganekko in her high school environs. She spends a lot of her time reading, aside from work and work-related activities, such as brushing up on things she needs to prepare for a job or for practice.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s a bit of a focus character in the past two episodes, just sort of painting some kind of background or basic level of where things are at for the Cinderella Project. As much as she’s neglected, the sakuga gods were kind on our senior cat girl, so it likely means something. Especially since she is probably the one character whose idol persona is the most clearly delineated from her normal persona in this grouping.

It’s easy to map this sort of an idea for idols as thematically similar to the concept of honne and tatemae? But it’s closer to what makes one’s professional persona versus who they really are. It’s less a facade and more a makeup. Or in Shirobako’s terms, armor. The difference here is that by default, idols are professional personas. That’s the tool or lens I’m using to look at this week’s episode of Cinderella Girls the Anime.

It is no coincidence that we’re seeing the story through some actual lens, of a camera. This is the gap in which an idol behaves professionally towards the persona, the product, they create as a part of their profession, versus the professional attitudes they extend to their coworkers. Which is also different than their innate feelings and inclinations and how that play a role in creating all of their secondary attributes, personalities. Putting these idols in front of an audience or a lens, it allows the story to make those the differences in three levels of abstraction.

And it’s necessary. I think the girls of IDOLM@STER all began as girls in front of cameras. And it’s the most terrible type of cameras that I know: video game characters from arcade machines or mobile games. They don’t get rich character development arcs; they get a fraction of your attention as you put in money or time in small increments (which is a major thing in light of the hardcore dedication of our early day Producers). It’s literally a few pictures and some voiced lines. The anime and manga take things to the next step and paint them as girls in front of cameras of a reality TV show. To that extent, we can enjoy the full experience of what it means to be an idol in the post-AKB48 world. To that extent, we can stick to canon and cast the anchors of character development without rocking the boat. This added dimension only has space to grow if we extrapolate from the TV screen.

And to that extent, character development has to go on in this way. Thankfully because this is an anime about idols, and idols being who they are, you can literally give Shiburin a camera and tell her to film something, and actually sell a video of what Shiburin did with that camera.

Deremas DVD photoshoots

Deremas DVD photoshoots

Watching Ohashi being the subject of this gag exercise, it feels strongly resonant of a certain Sabagebu episode.

That sidebar aside, there is also another purpose behind the camera-in-a-camera approach, and that is to frame not only the appeal, but the visualization of the appeal. By appeal I mean it in the English-taken-into-Japanese sense, that these idols are trying to make some attractive persuasive video clips for us.

I think this is where Toshifumi Akai flexed his MD elbows. It’s not solo episode for this A-1 animator but this Producer did basically owned it, taking care of all the direction and storyboarding, plus being the animation director. And it shows, with the same level of details as the prior episodes, from the escalation to the interplay between Miria and Rika, from AnKira’s stiffy jokes to even the awkward moment with Rina. I guess after talking to him at Sakuracon last year about IM@S I just have an added appreciation of his work in this specific context.

Which is also something to think about when Kirari did her candy spray. The camera went bonkers on that shot, which is just another way of saying that this particular idol don’t fit within the typical screens of your PR machines? Your interpretation is as good as mine.


Eventing 2015

[THIS IS again not A STICKY POST: Last update 2015/12/31]

Just want to put out there the “events” I want to attend in 2015 so far. Everything subject to change. Post will be updated…

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Lantis Festival Las Vegas, Or the Offkai Is a Con

Anisong World Tour Lantis Festival Las Vegas is the full name. In 2014 Lantis celebrated their fifteenth anniversary as anison specialty music label with four multi-day festivals in Japan, covering from south to north. In 2015 Lantis plans a series of oversea events, and Las Vegas kicks it off. Next month they’ll do a show in HK, and then SG, Taipei and Seoul. During Saturday’s event they announced that Shanghai will be their newest stop.

I went to the Vegas show, of course, because I want to support the Lantis label–it is the anison label that ultimately purposed itself to be the anison label since its initial days. Other more established labels have anime/stuff sublabels for this stuff, but throughout the years Lantis has been the one that keeps its focus rather than just coast on the big success stories. Of course it also helps they carry some of the stuff I like, some that shows up at the Vegas show. At any rate, it feels like Lantis does actually produce stuff I like, so the support I give them has a much more direct relationship.

I don’t really want to spend too much time talking about the two actual shows, besides that this is probably my first “anisama” type experience, where you have these clutch and swing-from-the-hip musicians do collabs and covers besides their main songs. I mean Choucho x Sayaka’s ENTER ENTER Mission was awesome, sure, but Bamboo’s Koi no Mikuru Densetsu really killed it for me. Maybe it helps that I remember how the calls went (it’s super easy). Super Driver was great. Go Go Power Rangers was great. It’s a baseline setlist and delivers more or less what I expected, with each collab and cover super great surprises.

Of course, seeing Sayaka, Choucho and Yousei Teitoku for the first time was good too. (And Bamboo…kind of.) It dawned on me why Das Feenreich is on an anison label after seeing them at the VIP session. A bunch of nerds! But I guess that’s not so unusual for metalheads.

Speaking of which, Lantis Fest Vegas is brought to you by Otakon (Vegas), which helped them with all kinds of things, and in exchange they did some collab events. I thought the collab was done well from my point of view, because I managed to pony up for a membership to OV despite not caring at all for its programming other than Sushio. I got an autograph from him on Sunday and he looked pretty much plastered. You can probably count on him to live it up!

The VIP event, on that note, was cool. It was super stiff, but cool. I think in the end it was more like we were kind of chatting with each side kinda. I spent most of my time with Yousei Teikoku so I didn’t see much going on with Jam, although that one felt more like just people taking their turns fanboying or fangirling them. I think I spent enough time grilling them in 2014 so I wanted to interrogate the fairy metal band more.

There was some snacks, sushi, and soft drinks. Nothing great besides this baked brie thing. Photo session was provided by Otakon and it was great to just fool around with all the guests.

What made this Vegas trip great was not only the Lantis (and Otakon) stuff, but that we got to hang out with all the eventers and what not.

We miss you brah!

The two tricks and tips as eventer that I/we picked up last year are the “viewing” and the “Joysound.” It sounds like a Kawaiikochan comic but being in Vegas, it’s pretty easy to pick up a “party suite” and set up “viewing” and “Joysound.” This means you can karaoke for a cheap price with a lot of people, and be really freaking loud at really late at night. Or if you don’t sing, doing calls to Jam Project concerts or ML 2nd sounded good too. This particular hotel even provided Blu-ray players for each TV they had, making wiring things up super easy. In addition we were about to deploy “advanced ‘viewing’ techniques” such that we did a real-time watch Cinderella Girls episode 2 along with the CG live-viewing Niconama. The hardest part was waking up at 6am to setup when you went to bed at 3am the day before. And that episode was hella hype!

But yes, the “party suite” and the massive gathering of online people meant that we had a better karaoke setup than Otakon Vegas, showing better programming content (at least more relevant to our interests), and more interesting goods exchanged hands (I picked up my C87 loot!) and we even had a cooking event or two in the suite (it is has a fully featured kitchen). The room block that we had had enough spare/separate rooms that we were even doing board gaming (mahjong and Weiss) at one point. There were spare PS3/PS4s if people wanted to game. We even had cosplayers, and I was part of a shoot? So in that sense I thought we have not only beaten the “con != offkai” thing into the floorboards but broken through to the basement by doing the offkai better than the con.

Of course, we’re not entirely serious, in that Otakon Vegas is probably good at what it does. I’m just pointing out that OV doesn’t have much in terms of event we’re interested in. It doesn’t cater to any of us other than what makes up for all the Lantis Festival-related events. And maybe that’s good enough. It just makes the whole purchasing decision aspect of OV a little hard to take.

On that note, it was great partying all weekend and hanging out with net and non-net friends. It’s so bizarre that we had an offkai from the offkai because so many circles of friends overlapped. It was also kind of interesting that we scored the right types of hotel packages to facilitate all of our IT and transit needs. Having locals who can VIP it up for us at the casinos and being able to drive people around was really wonderful, too, and a key ingredient of a good time.

Putting it all down and thinking about it makes me very thankful of all the people that helped making it possible. And it was something everyone helped contribute to some degree, from just having the luck to win a VIP thing or doing a lot of heavy loading like logistics or hosting or driving. Thank you all, you know who you are.

On an even more personal note, this event really helped satisfy my feeling about seeing team West Coast at least once a year, because I just did that. Now I can focus on doing the JP Eventer thing for 2015.

PS. Special shoutout to Kurotsuki, who by not being there still was able to be a crucial piece of the puzzle by connecting so many of us together. You were missed and I hope 2015 will be more awarding than you can imagine!

PPS. I hope I can share the photos we took in Vegas sometime. It’s hilariously lel.

PPPS. Slightly regretting not dogeza’ing or otherwise begging Lantis to come back to USA this year with an idol group. Even Star Anis is fine. Prefer Stylips/u’s/Million Stars obviously.


Lantis Festival Las Vegas

Just organizing my thoughts here, since I am going! When JAM Project came to SoCal last time I almost splurged for it until common sense got a grip of me. I guess this time there are a host of other musicians to make the push, plus the offkai aspect with some Ps and other eventers that I know. It’s probably my one west coast trip in 2015 as well, since I’m not planning for AX or Sakuracon. That reminds me, at some point I ought to do a 2015 event plan post.

Where: Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas. It’s off the strip and about a 5 minute taxi ride from Planet Hollywood. PH is also hosting Otakon Vegas at the same weekend.

When: Friday and Saturday. There are some collaboration events with OV, starting with the OV opening ceremony on Friday morning. Attendees of OV who have Lantis Festival tickets can enter for a VIP event on Sunday late morning with Q&A, autograph, and photo OP with Yui from Das Feenreich and JAM Project. Yousei Teikoku’s frontwoman does all their PR stuff I guess.

The slightly irritating thing is Lantis Festival is doing their oversea stops using Facebook as the main info source. You can check out the page hereI believe all the VIP tickets are sold out, normal tickets are about 60 a pop after online fees. OV charges a weekend price of 55 online and 60 at door, and there’s daily badge at 40. Otakon general members can get the weekend badge at 39 if you buy it online. Along with this is also a special deal with the buffet pass at $37. VIP ticket at Lantis gives you a loot bag with a t-shirt, a towel, and something else? There’s a hi-five session too and early entry.

The key vitals is the guest list and I’m sure you already know, but I just want to highlight that Hatsune Miku will do a special appearance. That will be an interesting set list. The JAM members will perform as individuals across both days, Makkun/Fukuyama/Kageyama on Friday and Dani/Endo on Saturday. All the other performances are the same both days. Choucho, Faylan, Sayaka Sasaki, Yoko Ishida, Bamboo/Milktub, Yousei Teitoku and JAM Project will be the main set.

The OV collab VIP party requires you to bring your concert ticket(s) to Otakon Vegas’s info booth to sign up. They will lottery out pairs of tickets (25) after the cut off on Saturday 2pm local time, and contact the winners. I think you have to respond and confirm or they will start drawing out alternates. So make a friend!

What I’ll be doing at OV is mostly nothing. I think there is one panel that’s vaguely interesting and one panel I might attend because I know some people working there? Then there’s the Sushio live drawing as well as his autograph sessions, but I might only go on Sunday. I suppose the dealer room will always be something to check out, and we can see who from CR is there so we can harass them about, I don’t know, WUG movie #2. Or gdgd Fairies movie.

The rest of the time, there hopefully will be some nice eats. We weren’t baller enough to re-enact the photoshoot for Monday Night Fever but instead we’ll just wear our happis around Vegas or something. Oh, there’ll be some live viewing too, and if internet works out, Joysound on Playstation. So it’ll be a good time.

Monday Night Fever

This also means, if everything works out, I can live watch CG episode 2 with a bunch of Ps! That alone might be half the reason why I’ll be there.


Young Animators’ Death Games

I googled this

I don’t know if it was a mistake, but I watched Death Billiards and Death Parade episode 1 back to back.

It’s a little bit cathartic in that sometimes a TV series just highlight what’s sad about anime as a narrative format. In the government-grant-funded one-shot, everything is put together in a way that needs no additional explanation. In the TV series so many of the things I liked about the one-shot are missing. In its place is lower-quality animation and slower pacing to suit.

At the same time, I know all of it before I even started watching these two things. I knew the compromises it has to make to stretch a concept 12 times longer. I knew it has to hold some cards back in the hand. But unfortunately many of those things Death Parade is holding back are the things I like about it. The receptionist with an attitude, the dry humor, the funky high speed cuts, the glossier look to life (or after life or whatever)?

Stripping away most of the things I liked from Death Billiards is a good way to show me what lies underneath all of it, and it’s not encouraging. Basically it’s some random unexpected competition that make people express their inner, hidden feelings and ends with a twist as people relive and gain catharsis over their final moments of death. I think that part of the show is solid, but isn’t it just kind of lame without all the trimming?

I don’t know if the strings-attached funds behind Death Billiards mattered, in that some things they could or could not do with Death Parade. Reusing its footage, for example.

The silver lining in all of this is that there will be a lot about Death Parade left to watch that nobody knows about since it has to depart from the initial head-trick of the first episode. At the same time, they can screw it up. I don’t want more Hell Girl. Anything but that please.

PS. Yeah dancing dancing don’t stop that dancing.