Monthly Archives: February 2015

Just some meta discussion on what’s going on with this blog lately.

I’ve kicked it up over at with some of the banal news content. The blog and the social media presence is nice but it’s the swan on the surface. Underneath we’re peddling a hundred miles an hour, running on hype between Scamco’s marketing, 10th, and Asapon North. A lot of stuff is happening, folks.

On this site, I really don’t have the time to blow things up. It’s more like ideas do come but I can’t put in the time to build them up with any degree of rigor that I like. I am also really behind on some Shirobako write-ups so I’m working those out first.

The Idolm@ster ideas tend to get first dibs, just because it’s front and center in my mind and the ideas gel fast and furiously. Well, maybe some more later.

Prepping for my Japan trip otherwise. is a helpful tool that organizes my event list, so linking it makes sense here. Some of my HPT fellows are building their own version of the thing, and it’s pretty neat. We’ve also built something that allows couriering and proxy purchasing of goods at events. The website is, again, just a nexus that hides all the stuff underneath.

As noted by the event blog post, I am going to Aisute. We’re bringing some flowers courtesy of @hananoki_flower. The shop takes cash and bank transfers, so it’s nigh impossible to pay them as a gaijin unless you got proxies who can pay for you (and those do exist in a commercial capacity). The hardest part remains working with them to figure out how the design goes. I await eagerly on what comes next.

Lastly, I just want to close out with some fhana. First, please read this translated interview. So while breaking in a pair of Massdropped AKGs I decided to put on a mix of Mono and fhana’s new album. Fhana’s new stuff is on iTunes US, so it was handy that I can play on a bunch of different devices. What struck me was how several of the band members wanted to talk about the climatic track on the album, white light. It’s the one that exhibited the most subtle arrangement layering and the one that actually stands out the most from the other tracks in terms of the repetitive bridge that flies underneath Towana’s large sound. It’s particularly egregious when the second chorus brings in the reverb from the guitar, and there’s this dueling duet going on in the background as the melody goes into the bridge and sheds the covering. I’m not sure how to feel about it, besides to admire that there’s this funny interplay between the sampler and the guitarist. But a string ensemble? I don’t know. As the song eventually makes it to the outro, the piano brings a sense of balance and conclusion, and I think it kind of represents the nature of this band, complete with the vocal just dressing the rain of sounds from a strange mix of sources.

It’s just like a vocaloid piece. Musically it doesn’t matter how much the lyrics meant, or if it’s Rin or Luka or Gumi, but that the notes are notes and the right ones hit the amp and pumps out the headphones. That ebb and flow. The signals. The sound following the form. And it’s within that space or framework that fhana expresses their message.

Mono, on the other hand, just paints. If you ever hear them live, it’s like there’s aural space-time where they pour their notes into the space with an almost-metaphorical air compressor. It’s pretty cool. I assume fhana is not like that but when bands try to recreate the same motifs live, it can vary drastically from the recording.

Seize the Moment

I want to talk about ARIA and CLANNAD a bit. These two titles form the basis of some kind of similarity, a thread, that connects a mentality and a vision and a group of fans who today identify with the type of works like ARIA and CLANNAD and Yokohama Shopping Log and Haibane Renmei and the like. These past-decade gems have their share of fans, pure and simple, but they weave that staple kuukikei emotional fabric that many other shows followed on.

I think that’s kind of what I took away from reading this interview of fhana. These guys are music nerds, sure, but like their music they themselves are creatively captured by the ideas in which weaves those works together. Now they do the same through their anison-inspired, aural canvas.

The image I feel the most connected to when I listen to fhana is actually an 2010s work, albeit barely: Sora no Woto . Debuted in January of 2010, its bright hillsides, rustic landscapes and Iberian motifs colored not just what we saw on the screen but the inclination of our hearts, that helped those who followed the story to its bittersweet conclusion. It’s that full-blast vocal of towana, the closed voicing, the genre fusion in which typified late-night era anison in which evoked those feelings via fhana’s offering today. Click on the link up there to get a sample of what I mean.

Below, on the flip side, is fhana’s latest music video promoting their new album. I think that’s a good example by itself.

Attitudes about Copyright


The preface here is that opinions are personal and I just happen to dislike the one kind of perpetrated here. I realize when you are dealing with concepts like Copyright and DMCA takedown notices it can seem mightily esoteric. But if I were to author (and I’m not qualified) a Dummy’s guide to best use copyright as an indie artist, this is not the tone I’d take. Of course.

That said, it is a pretty copyright-heavy approach to explain the tools of the trade. In fact if you understood what is infringement and what isn’t, all that’s left is the DMCA process which a lot of popular site has it automated or guided. If not all it takes is an email and maybe follow up. But that’s, in my opinion, heavy handed for an indie artist point of view.

Here’s the thing. Copyright is not a black and white deal. It’s different enough from stealing that I would avoid the comparison all together. It’s easier to think of it as correct or incorrect use and leave the value judgment out. Why? Because for indie artists using the internet as a way to make a living by using it to distribute their work, buying into the copyright framework that are crafted heavily in favor of the majors may ultimately be a policy negative for your livelihood. It’s the likes of Disney that wrote the rules that oversees the core framework that is part of the 1986 Copyright Act. If you don’t like how that company operates in terms of how they deal with artistic individuals, you might want to consider the rules these companies came up with to protect their intellectual property.

The leeway built into the typical Copyright regime allows each creator to do whatever they wish, ultimately. It’s not to say we should talk about Creative Commons or whatever in a piece aim to teach people what is left and what is right in the realm of Copyright law, but taking that perspective is a disservice. There has to be a more neutral one.

OK so my bones is basically the fair use part. Which the copyleft founders addressed over a decade ago. Which is ever the smaller slice today. Don’t even bother with unenumerated fair use. Just bullet out what uses are excepted and leave the four-factor test to lawyers. Because no matter how fair your fair use may be, if Disney’s high power lawyers targets you, they will probably win. If someone DMCAs your work, it will go down and you’re going to have a hell of a time trying to get it back online. Don’t even go into the “chilling” space.


  • DO NOT TAKE pictures words etc from other sites and say it’s yours, or use however you want because it looks good, etc. At the very least link back.
  • DO follow this Copyright stuff to the tee if you think it’s okay to hurt fellow indies for sake of the Man that’ll screw you over however they want whenever they want.
  • Good to learn DMCA takedowns but only use when you absolutely must.

One last thing: I wrote this reaction piece mainly as a data point in terms of how I have came to terms with the way copyright law has been shaped the past 10 years. In spirit, copyright legislation and jurisprudence have always been best viewed, IMO, as a way to regulate a subject, an industry. It’s not about rights (beyond the usual “ownership” BS, first sales stuff, and artists’ rights) as much as how to make a buck, and these giant companies that have made a fortune on top of it, versus the very things they were able to monetize–the creativity of individuals. I still firmly believe these things are not zero-sum; as in the copyright concept has a place. How it has played out just taxes my faith in how the alternative can ever be worse than this. I’m entirely open to other systems, but given the inertia we have in the present status, how any changes can go is beyond me.

Anzu the Healer

A popular portrayal of state manipulation of a populace is a quote from the movie Gladiator, where some Greek dudes say something about giving the people something or another. Well, that’s made-up ancient history.

Looking at the other direction, the future of Japan is not the brightest in some ways. This week some rich Japanese guy said they’re turning to robots and immigrants to support its rapidly aging population. It already is the oldest population in the world. If children are our future, well, then Japan doesn’t have too many to count on, per capita.

Can robot hotel bellhop keep my bags after I check out?

I want to point out these two ingredients: generational pressure as a structural stress in the lost gen Japanese (and their subsequents) and the simple fact that people crave entertainment when in these uncertain times. There is probably some academic term that describes the condition these cultural forces create, not unlike how cold Canadian air and jet stream moisture from the west cause a Nor’easter during the cold months of the year in the US Northeast. Please enlighten me if you know what it is.

Futaba Anzu

The term I have for Anzu, though, is a pressure release valve. Academics have long coined Japanese subcultural trends and identity politics in these ways. Sure, cartoon idols (or real ones, for that matter) are a significant improvement over slaves and indentured servants fighting for the death for the public’s amusement, as far as civility goes, but both can effectively diffuse tension.

As entitled as kids and young adults may seem from the eyes of the older generation, it is not a bad place to begin. Rights only exists when they are recognized. To recognize rights, you need to know about them first. And before we know, we have to learn. When you already are entitled to such, it is natural to demand it, regardless if privileges or rights may make a better label to the things Anzu demands (casually).

Of course, in another sense, Anzu’s demands is satirical. If we compare her to another comrade’s idol persona, Uesaka Sumire’s act doesn’t even “go there” really, as it is more Russophilia than it is Leftist.  Nonetheless these acts taps lightly on our ingrained, post-Cold War subconscious and remind us that in an increasingly individualized society, shared rights still exist. Together we are strong. Even if today such strong sense of unity that our fathers or grandfathers have is becoming a thing of the past, from lifetime employment to strong union protections.

And in a funny way that links right into 団結, which is one of the core tenets of IM@S thematically. Danketsu, as the term goes, makes that cultural ideal contextualized that fits the cultural norm of today’s society where people work together, even if they may be competitors. It’s really an oddish concept to just call it “Unity” as translations go, but such is the careful duality of the world IM@S portrays. I think it’s more like the “collaboration” strategy in a conflict resolution setting (as opposed to say, zero-sum competition or compromise), in which in a pop-culturally accepted, ideal communist world, the whole is greater than the sum of their parts, and despite our lazy selves, we work hard.

That’s why Anzu is best idol, right?

[I wish there was some English-language media study available regarding anime and games of the 2000s, because that was certainly a trend, these otaku-rehabilitating stuff. It would be interesting to read on how these works tried to achieve these goals.]

The joke aside, I think that by channeling to these subconscious stresses and fears and a way to address them in a pop culturally sensitive way, Anzu as a concept can be attractive.

It makes you wonder what is inside Kirari, too.

Decontextualized Free-to-Play Game Adaptations

I read this and I feel it is a good summary of the IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls anime in general. I’m sure it’s not context-free, enough dropped about card art and the unrepresented mass of CG idols. Enough is dropped about 765pro brand of IM@S. But Mikunyan’s position? Otou drops the ball there, even if it’s not all his fault.

[Recall episode one when Uzuki was waiting on P to get started? Imagine that but way worse for Miku and company. Then the newcomers who has been here for way shorter time than you debut before you. I didn’t even watch AKB0048!]

I want to talk about Kancolle. It’s pretty solid as far as what it is. It faces the same problem Deremas does, except when you run with a bunch of shipgirls there’s no cohesive mesh naturally to rope everybody together. In the mix you have the para-military context, a school context, and the cohabiting dorm stuff. Then they let the character development happen “naturally.”

I put that word in quotes because there’s nothing natural about Kancolle, for crying out loud. For someone who has not bought into the conceit it’s rather difficult to put myself into the same place with the same point of view. How do I empathize with Fubuki? Okay, you can establish her character and drop her in a somewhat less harmonious environment and let her (and the rest of us) sink or swim. But is that really enjoyable? If my twitter was not full of people tweeting Kancolle every wednesday I probably would not have enough motivation to summon enough willpower to watch each week. So Ts, good job tweeting spoilers.

It’s kind of like the type of viewers who are in Derem@s anime for Shiburin. Or Kongou. I’m okay with this, but that alone is not enough. I think in Deremas’s case there is a lot to be said that the system, as in the new content provided by the anime, can be interesting to watch. It’s a bit like the transformation sequence of girls to shipgirls, which has been doled out to we viewers in small doses. In Deremas, it’s a production agency, the way the idol biz works in that setting, and how that mirrors real life. My personal issue with Kancolle is that there’s nothing real life about Kancolle, for better or worse.

At the same time I think those two are good prima facie examples of the the series from a character point of view. Kongou is fun and off the wall, but totally a character and not really someone who has strong attachment to human realism. She’s a classic post-modern otaku character, a certifiable descendant of Dejiko. Shibuya Rin, on the other hand, is a much more traditional with typical character development behind her. It’s part of Derem@s anime’s mission to reconstruct these archetypes into well-constituted characters, after all, even if in Kancolle that is also what they want.

But in that sense both anime are very stereotypical of the Madoka-era pretty-girl anime paradigm. It’s about the girls’ feelings. That’s the one truth in Kancolle. That is the appealing point in Cinderella Girls. But that alone is not enough if you don’t have all the context. And if you don’t have the context, you are just functioning on animal instincts, motivations and impulses. In Kancolle’s case I don’t even think a lot of people want to get the context, IYKWIM.

German Engineering