Monthly Archives: June 2016

Anime Expo 2016: Info

[Last update: 6/30 2pm Eastern, gonna head out soon so no more!]

AX is upon us again. After taking a break last year I’m back…for better or worse. Thanks to ACJ’s Anison Matsuri this year will be one layer more crazy than the usual barrage of AX guests that are now blowing up the event.  I mean, most US cons would be lucky to land 3-4 of these guests and I think AX has like 50+?? It won’t be just me feeling that Japan would have gotten better bang per buck if them, their industry reps, and others, were able to go to the other cons in the US and spread that love around, only because even with another record-shattering attendance figure, we’re well into the category where there’s too much things going on at the same time. Is it worth running your A+ game against every else’s A+ game? I don’t know. Well, maybe I do have some ideas, and you can ask me about it in person.

And as usual this is too much info for the poor con organizers, so it’s time to step up and dump some links. I’ll try to write this up for Jtor focusing on just the worthwhile ones. Will also try to update as info rolls in. If you have any things you want to let us know please leave a comment.

But first:

Mika & Rika

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This Is Dumb

It’s never too late to back peddle, but they never do.

I tried to s/Hane/Yui in that post and it worked for maybe 60% of it. I just want to say that:

The ZX-10R is a very fast bike

Hane did make trouble for her friends, such as running into problems with her bike while on a group trip–but that’s a plot device/reference. In fact this is a reoccurring theme about motorbiking. You often travel in a group but it is really loner activity, and being left behind is a running gag kind of a thing. Maybe you can take the next step and say that KyoAni’s K-ON took it as it is and let it resolve without explaining things, but Bakuon had a point to make and it had to explain it.

We never saw the extent where Hane’s sister took cared of Hane, but sufficed to say Hane is a straight Yui knock-off, so I expect the same degree of reliance.

When it comes to a newbie’s journey into music versus into being a bike guy, I don’t really see any differences between the two narratives in those two stories maybe besides that one requires a team, and the other is just something you do in a group. If you think Yui is dumb for making problems for others, you clearly haven’t had enough Tarous in your life. If stupid people didn’t play in bands, rock music would be a terribly boring thing to get into.

That said, Bakuon is also my top series of the season. The reason behind it is that I thought anyone who would ask this question is probably looking for a dumb answer, because it’s not exactly the smartest question to ask. And if you want to distill a catalog of like 50 anime into one for some silly reason, this would be a good choice.

Anime & Brexit

Think of this as me practicing how to write about current events. After reading over this post I felt the disclaimer about regional differences is needed, so here it is: The below discusses monetary policy and recommends certain action mainly from a US-centric point of view. Your local currency and economy may behave differently than mine or most, so these are not really suggestions as much as broad-stroke observations and predictions.

I used this image to distract myself from all the depressing Brexit talk last night

For the unaware, the UK has passed a referendum to withdraw from the European Union, which is, at heart, an economic and legal coalition of European countries. Within the Union, some rules of law applies across all member nations, as well as free trade between member nations. This leaves the separation of UK from the EU in a state of uncertainty as no country has left the EU in this particular fashion, and the UK is a major economic power in the world.

Let’s take a look at some immediate and longer-term impact of the Brexit event.

First of all, there are some political dominos that may happen as a result of Brexit, but the one that catches my attention the most is the possible split of Scotland and Northern Ireland (and/or other regions) from the UK. There are a lot of others, of course, but this one is notable because if we think of the EU as a single economic rule, UK pulling out means now we have another rule to deal with in terms of international commerce. If the UK splits further then we may have additional entity or entities. Looking at it from the aspect of copyright regional markets, it is not a big change in terms of the status quo, but like all the other factors driven by uncertainty of the Brexit terms, at least, it makes licensing anime into the UK more complicated. Or at least, it’s probably not going to be easier than the status quo.

Things will fragment into more problems when we hit existing contracts that deals with the UK and its territories as a whole if the UK splits, but this is hardly the first time the world ran into a contract like that. It is probably less problematic than an EU-wide contract that some private entities may forge, as this would be a first-time. Guess the lesson here is splitting up countries and economic unions are rather pains in the arse, to put it lightly.

Stronger intellectual property law is a key part of the US international trade agenda. Weakening the EU by Brexit may mean that the EU have less of a leverage in such trade talks, although the EU is not an area with great concerns when it comes to protecting media IP or patent protection. This is a minor consideration I guess.

I think when it comes to music licensing it might be where things gets most icky, as far as media goes, but the impact of that probably won’t be very big. Then again, licensing music from Japan is such a Don Quixote-esqe task anyway.

The immediate hurt of Brexit is in how the world market react to this event. The drop of the Sterling and Euro, and the rise of the Dollar and Yen are all natural reactions, albeit extreme, at T <24 hours. In the near term this will definitely be a problem, mostly for internationals, but markets will even out after the first shocking days, as UK prepares for its exit plan and the EU leaders prepare in kind.

For those of us who import from Japan, it will definitely hurt as the JPY rallied the strongest among major world currencies, as it does classically in this type of scenario (and also because the Franc, well, is in Europe). Things to watch out for are your pre-orders that hasn’t been collected on yet, as well as any orders in this month that some vendors charge at the end of the month. If it is any consolation, the JPY to USD was as below eighty US cents to a hundred yen merely 3 years ago, so it is something most of today’s more-affluent collectors can deal with. The USD also rallied versus Europe in general, so the impact isn’t so bad there.

It definitely is not good if your home currency is the Euro or the GBP, so times like this it might help to hit up your local joints before prices hike. Inflation is likely to set in for UK in the near term, although you can bet that regulators will quickly respond to anything to that regard, so this is more a long-term worry. On the flip side, if you reside in Japan, now is the time to send money home. What currency you are being paid in matters a lot, and likely if you are a weeb in JP, you’re being paid in JPY, so you’re pretty safe.

Along those lines, interest rates will likely lower, especially if the Brexit triggers more widespread downturn in economies. That might be good if you are planning on a large purchase by loan, like buying a house; or if you want to consolidate outstanding debts for a better interest rate. The only concern there is that in some regions, rates are already really low. It will limit what countries can do to ease their currencies, and maybe we’ll see others try that negative interest rate thing.

The redrawing of trade borders can affect also eventers, if intra-Europe flights are your thing. Budget carriers may have to change rates as Brexit moves on as a process, so it might be good to do your flying sooner rather than later. As you can see if Scotland make a move out of the UK, it will make that even more messy. It doesn’t really impact those of us outside of Europe, but flying to Japan is likely not going to get any easier for anyone anyway. Besides the monetary concerns of flight, going to the UK from EU nations may also get more complex on the point of visas and such, but that will be a major point in the Brexit negotiations with the EU.

As a matter of currency speculation, the Pound will most likely get much of what it lost back in the very short term. Exiting the EU will be a long process and it means more volatility, but it also means things can’t stay rock bottom the whole time. It’s likely that the main damage will be people on trips this coming month, and some folks staying abroad who are living off the GBP. On the long run, there probably won’t be much of a difference when it comes to most nerd purchases from Japan.

Distance On the High Seas

Such paint

It’s a good point.

At the same time, it’s also a failure as a “Cute Girls Doing Cute Thing” show, in that there’s not enough levity or enthusiasm to make this “K-On! on Boats” for example. Not being much of a fan of “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” shows to begin with, perhaps I’m not the best judge in this respect, but the constant reminder of the pseudo-serious issues at play sort of kept me from feeling as if the characters enjoyed what they were doing.

This all changed with episode 10, a straight-up filler episode dedicated to an equator-crossing festival. Nothing of much consequence happened during the course of the episode, but the important part is pretty much every character had a good time. It’s tautological, but in order for a “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” show to succeed, it needs (a) cute girls who (b) do cute things. Regardless of how you feel about Haifuri’s success or lack thereof with regard to the first point, I think you have to agree it wasn’t doing too hot on the second part.

I think there’s a fundamental difference in the way people appreciate “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” sort of stories, based on my own observation (warning: anecdote). One way is summed as “I enjoy happy people by observing and sharing in their happiness.” Alternatively, it’s more like “I enjoy watching people doing what they do.”

To that end, I disagree with Evirus completely on the point about Haifuri lacking levity or enthusiasm. It’s pretty much on par with Girls und Panzer, except in that story there is the levity of an afterschool activity, and not a life-and-death activity (save certain plot points later on). There is the attitude of students participating in an after-school club. In Haifuri, these kids, well, are doing actual school. Some people take their extracurricular activities seriously, but others do the opposite–the average is somewhere in between. It is not the case when it comes to what we are suppose to do in school, where our collectively-institutionalized souls feel the weight of coursework in the girls’ high sea adventures as assumed as Blumers-in-training.

In that sense Evirus is right on in terms of the core difference; one is about tea and pet turtles, the other is a class that lasts all season long. It actually sounds daunting.

However I think the other school of thought, which is to say, we have a bunch of high school girls acting out the fantasy of some military otaku, as they operate some older-than-your-grandma warships while shooting huge ordinances. (Nerd fantasies always have large ordinances, right?) The routine and spectacle aspects of the concept of girls-on-warships are collectively taken into the character’s weekly activities. In that sense it’s no different than K-ON or Bakuon or whatever-on-whatever-else. The Cute Girls are merely a vehicle. [Is there a meta genre of plot vehicle made up of meta of actual vehicles, kind of like Mad Max where the automobiles are actually driving the plot points?] The thematic points Haifuri drove through the latter half of the series are blow-by-blow by the book, as the matsuri episode sort of marks its climax as a CGDCT narrative. It never wanted to be K-ON, but a story about juxtaposing two contrary things while catering to the Admirals and military nerds out there. The unnatural circumstances are part of what is enjoyable, along with all that tension (as part of the unnatural circumstances).

I mean, ever wonder why there is no token otaku on the Harukaze? And why were there all these yakuza film impersonation going on? Because Haifuri is not about girls on a boat; it’s about girls in a war film. The conceit is precisely about silly young women acting out a story typically reserved for craggy older men as sailors. I guess in such a setup they could playfully make fun of equally troped yakuza flicks. It just wouldn’t work if Mii-chan and Koro-chan were the same actors as the films they portrayed.

Is this why the Fleet Admiral is a fat cat? Or why the girls get nicknames reserved for cats, too? I have no idea. But was Koro-chan funny? Yeah? Guess what.

Maybe it’s a mistake to say Haifuri is CGDCT, because it’s Cute Girls Re-Enacting a WWII Flick, which is actually a comical thing to do, not per se a cute thing. I think that’s kind of cute, but if it fails to make you laugh then the problem is wholly elsewhere. Maybe they were all just Re-enacting the movie Battleship, which would describe the sweet-sour reactions some may have with Haifuri.

PS. Things on the high seas happen both very slowly and all at once. There’s a great deal of lag between some events in Haifuri and they really didn’t exploit those opportunities for the more mundane things. I thought that was the one aspect they could’ve played out more, but I guess not if they want to mimic a more movie-like experience.

Eventing As a Sub-subcultural Marketplace

This post is partly in response to SDS’s comment about wanting to hear more on this topic. In a nutshell, during his recent trip to Japan, he went to the Love Live Thanksgiving event that was recently taking place. I remember reading about the event mainly for the giant LLSIF game they set up where nine different people can play by tapping separate buttons, and seeing it on a big screen. He also posits the “trigger” about choosing between that and a similarly-timed Love Live doujinshi event.

Just to speak out of my own experience, the past few Million Festiv@ls were like, the few times in recent years where I really wanted to go to a doujinshi event. Given my inclinations for doujinshi, it was more to get all those Matsuri x ??? books, or just seeing what’s out there and which fan base ships what or how did the fannons operated. I remember also about Comikets 87-89, when I would actually research the catalog for ML circles and seeing if there’s anything really worthwhile. It turns out thin books themselves are not where it’s at, but also accessories like card mats? Thanks, guys, that’s some next-level artist alley stuff. (By the way, Million Festiv@l 4 is coming up next month. There are also a few other series of IM@S-only events that are inclusive of ML/CG stuff as well.)

A bit of backdrop about these tiny doujin events. Like most Artist Alley types, Japanese booths nowadays also gravitate beyond the humble thin comic format, at least when it’s focused by specific IP like this. Fans buy merch–not just prints, but the whole nine yards of them. As a reference point, my last “set” purchased from Lunatic Joker last year comes in fancyass plastic folder (full art on it) along with a printed shikishi and a couple other misc goods. The book itself is lusciously printed with a color cover. The whole thing is like 2000 yen but the book itself probably could have gone for just 1000 alone. So you buy the set…because artists know they make more money this way. Perhaps one of the most well-known Million Live doujinshi circle/person, Taka, makes Mocho merch for all occasions and while he also has a series of fan books (mostly detailing Mochoisms on radio) and doujinshi (CG/ML/765 SD stuff) he makes a lot more on these polyester eventer shirts (that wicks away sweat!). Or why Bin1’s now-smash-hit Captain America collab translates into T-shirts and a book of prints. Or why there were so many ReDrop shirts in the crowd during IDOLM@STER 10th.

I guess, in a way that ought to be obvious, the communities within the fandom are engaged persistently. The “artist alley” narrative is a different sort of thing than the typical eventer stuff. Fans at an IM@S live show up in Taka shirts meant a certain context permeates those people’s fandom, for example, and this a particular sort of cultural currency that only pays off in that specific context. But this is the same and yet different than saying you are a Kikuchi Makoto producer, for example. Rather, these fan creation actually reflects more nuanced and specific/unique, composite meanings. It’s easy to be a MakotoP and wear a pin badge of her, as you can get countless official and fan-made pin badges of her. It’s another if you show up with custom black coat embroidered with Hirata Hiromi on the back (let’s congratulate her on daughter #2 by the way). Or a ReDrop Makoto. Or certain pins over other pins.

To paraphrase, official events like lives and such are not “canon” but rather “content.” Fans ultimately have varying levels of preferences in terms of the engagement they want to have, they can have (eg., oversea versus domestic; rich versus poor; student versus salaryman), and what’s available. But unlike watching an anime or playing video games, event-as-content is both ways, as in fans at the event exchange/create ideas as well as consume new content. If the defining mark of otaku entertainment is its cultural ouroboros of remixing aspects of fandom in subsequent work, eventing culture seems like the same thing but on hyper mode.

In the US, I really don’t know AA culture enough to make a statement convincing enough about how it works to the degree that it runs parallelly like Tumblr or whatever. The truth is that these cultural spaces generate its own kind of content, but at the same time it resolves around other contents in which defines these spaces as fan spaces. That much applies across the board. In as much if you have only so many days visiting Japan, what you do with your time visiting which space is entirely a matter of your limitations and proclinations.