I was looking up the voice cast on the PSO2 anime on ANN and came across this, just Zac’s part I’m talking about here:
Well, this show requires some context, doesn’t it?
And I won’t quote the rest because it’s quite long, you can read it in his first impression piece.
I think that’s fair and well and good, but it doesn’t go far enough. Well, besides that most late-night TV anime requires some context…???!!
First of all, this is not the first outrageously SEGA-inducing anime trying to sell a product. I mean, why make a straight-face infomercial? That’s so…mainstream. To target the JP otaku crowd they have already deployed the latest Standard Operating Procedure: idols. That is the Seha Girls Project from 2014.
I think the PSO2 anime has to be linked with that context. We already (and this is an international thing to an extent, but much more so in Japan/Asia) make mascots out of Sega’s various IPs. Just…search for Sonic. I think in a world swimming with mascots like Japan, you have to go deeper, as they say. So why not make an anime that is a literal
holeelevator that takes you to from no context to full metal jacket context? After all, PSO2’s stories are inside the game, if there’s going to be points made about the meta-game, the anime has to cover both sides.
In SeHa, the characters, who each represent Sega’s iconic consoles, revisit various old-time classics from the original Virtua Fighter to Phantasy Star even. My favorite might be the Golden Axe ep. The “entertainment value” of the show is its core gag-style comedy routines, also that you’re seeing cute girls revisiting our collective memory lane, probably. But if you take a 15-year-old who knows nothing about SEGA’s storied past since it quit the console-making space in 2001, how do you entertain them in a way that’s kind of unique to SEGA?
For the PSO2 anime, the watering-down aspect of this nerd soup is happening, and as we slurp its first offering it should not surprise anyone we find some naked commercialism floating inside the broth. The context of why the is commercialism so blatant here is because, well, the type of people who would be entertained by a late-night TV anime has already been accounted for. PSO2 is a known quality by all means. The form the PSO2 anime takes matches its target audience. It’s a compromise that takes the original game into account (can’t just be some guy stuck in PSO2) and the audience (thus the very archetypical lead-in ep1) into account. Unfortunately the side effect is that the commercialism is more naked than usual. It has always been there. Imagine if SAO’s various arcs used trademark names for their virtual worlds!
Well, that audience is certainly not quite Zac. I think the entertainment value of the anime has a lot to do with PSO2’s existing place in nerd lore, for both current players, past players, and people who are just familiar with it. In short, it’s just like most anime adaptations. When faced with something like a PSO2 (or perhaps this point could be made for gameplay-first, character-driven games in general) as the core concept I don’t know how many options you have. Not everyone is going to think Bahamut Genesis is the way they should go.
TL;DR – the context is a person who is familiar with PSO2, not this naked capitalism nonsense.
PS. There’s a Zac-ism here (his public persona is kind of a condescending ass when it comes to other nerd verticals outside of his own (films)):
Concerned that only losers play video games?
I understand what he’s getting at but it doesn’t even make sense. The better joke is “Concerned that only losers play video games? Guess what, you’re watching an anime of the video game–that automatically makes you a bigger loser already! What’s the worry?” And it kind of just further points out this American context switching (pardon the pun) that’s happening. The hierarchy in Japan is well-understood… or maybe better put, online games have more of that stigma than the traditional console fare. I suppose games like Monhon and the current SNS game flood have long put that away though.
Or alternatively, “Concerned about justifying your PSO2 habit to your friends and family?” would make a truer pitch.
PPS. Suwa Ayaka has a lead role for the first time, this could be interesting. I already liked what I heard in this episode. The anime itself is not my kind of thing, but it could be kind of thought provoking along the lines of this post…
PPPS. FFXIV anime wouldn’t have this problem. It would have the problem of existing in the first place, sure, but aside from that…
PPPPS. As I write this post the more I feel and think the commercialism is actually a form of irony that…I guess is too dull to cut through the cultural barrier. Maybe it should have been even more naked.