Monthly Archives: August 2018

Release the Spyce Preview @ Otakon 2018

I was still working on my Otakuthon post before I went to Otakon, so uh, here’s the timely nugget first.

Otakon 2018 featured two premieres, High Score Girl and Release the Spyce. The latter seemed more feasible schedule-wise so I attended it. That said, I was a couple minutes late so I walked into the opening action set piece.

I wanted to write about it because this show is really up my alley. It’s a fun spy/ninja piece about a bunch of young women who gain superhuman powers after biting on special spice. Spice, as in stuff you put in food, not the drug from Dune. The main character is a 11th grader who stumbled upon the secret organization in her town, Tsukikage, after her 99.99% percentile perception powers let her spot some shadowy figures flying around rooftops one night.

The lead character, Momo, who is voiced by Anzai Yukari, is a “shopping street kid” type character who seemed to lost her father to something. I won’t go too much into it but a truck ton of foreshadowing was laid down during the 2-episode pilot. And yes, it is a 2-episode sort of thing, which is why they showed 2 episodes at the con I assume.

If you have been following the marketing of Spyce over in Japan, which I have in a very casual way, you would know they have had some live stages featuring the voice cast. The main gang of the story is the Tsukikage group of ninjas Momo becomes in association with, and they’re joined in pairs by master-student setups, where the girl each have to train a successor since once they get too old, the spice super power gimmick stops working. This is partly how Spyce features a really solid of current-day voice actresses. Only a handful has been credited online, but after seeing the full credit after ep2 I can say that this is a show that scores well on that front. Well, it’s a Pony Canyon thing I guess.

The other non-spoiler-ish info I can share about the plot, I guess, is that there is an enemy group opposing Tsukikage. And it seems they’re full of female voice overs, too. That seems like the initial main conflict for now.

There are a lot of pieces of the setting that tickled my fancy–the use of curry for example. There are a lot of spice-themed things in Release the Spyce. There are also some actual spy kind of things, like manipulative interpersonal skills and 007-esqe gadgets. There are some solid parkour animation here and there, and the action leans on movement more than clashing of weapons. The 2-part pilot even ended with a car chase. It’s also the feeling you get when you witness the two sides of a pun moving in slow collision in the form of a TV anime. It’s like when galaxies swallow each other up in the course of millennia, despite being an exciting astronomical event. Or maybe a super slow-mo video of a vehicle test crash. I like it when a pun takes on a life of its own I guess.

Momo and her shishou Yuki (CV: Numakura Manami) use a stick of cinnamon-like thing as their power trigger. One of the other girl uses a bay leaf I think. There are a total of 6 active ninjas in Tsukikage as far as episode 2, and each of the student-teacher pair use the same spice, for up to 3 different spices. The media-mix property is already getting a novelization and manga adaptation since earlier this year, so it’s probably written in there.

I’ll leave the big spoiler on twitter. Well, big on impact, very small on substance. Anyways, the series is slated to air in Japan in October. No word on international streaming yet, but I’m guessing whoever typically Pony Canyon works with being the good bet (HiDive?). The full credit roll of the two-part screening was translated into English, so I’m guessing that’s the case.


Is Revue Starlight Idol Anime? Depends on Who You Ask?

If you ask me, there is no such thing as idol anime. OK, maybe there are anime about idols, but that’s not what idols are about.

Idol anime is the new slice-of-life. Which is to say, English language fans can call things however they want, but they are probably wrong when they do.

Basically, it comes in the form of the media-mix IP Love Live, which spawns a bunch of anime, manga, games, music, stage events, whatever. That is par for the course for a lot of the media-mix IPs dating back to the late 90s or 00s. What’s unique about Love Live and its ilk is that they are focused on doing stage shows and live events as a driver for the IP. It becomes a way to reward and reinforce fandom this day and age, it is more engaging to fans (and in ad terms, it drives fans with massively high engagement). Also otaku kids in Japan these days are more about social and networking (and I see that overseas too). Live events themselves also have a lot of pluses in this day and age of seiyuu doing multiple roles besides voice acting, but that’s besides the point.

Invariably most if not all of these “idol” IPs engage its characters primarily, as my non-anime-nerdy friend would say, is like how a professional wrestler (in the WWE and NJPW sense) are like characters performed by the wrestlers, who would have these matches that are dramatic performances and deliver what passes for content to the audience and fans. I don’t know why people think Love Live was the first “idol” thing or the last whatever it was before, but there was definitely some kind of awakening in the west where people “get it.”

The popularity of Love Live and the fact that the IP bills itself as an idol story probably coined the term as such. But the mistake people make is to think Love Live is an “idol” thing. It isn’t. It’s just another media mix story with people who want to be “school idols”–just like how the characters in GaruPan are practitioners of “tankery.” It’s a made up thing that is as close to real idols as just teenage pretty people singing and dancing, trying to make it in some contextually fictional entertainment setting. SIF and Love Live are a work of fiction. But somehow people clang on to this “idol” idea and won’t let it go.

Part of it is obviously that Japanese idols are a real thing, and it is a cultural phenomenon. But I see more and more people who don’t understand the difference between the fiction and the reality. Just like how people apply the term “slice-of-life” to, say, Wake Up, Girls! or something dumb. At least in that verbiage misuse, it’s a made-up-term associated with nothing now being associated with something. “Idol anime” and “idol” generally refer to actual existing things, now being used by ignorant anime nerds to associate with totally different things, regardless of how relevant they are.

You can see this person who complain how calling “Revue Starlight” is misleading people, and it’s obvious. I wouldn’t call Utena or Sakura Taisen an idol anime either, but they are quite similar as Revue Starlight. (Would someone call Girls und Panzer a war anime? Or a tank anime? I guess it’s an anime about tanks, more precisely, an anime about fictional tanks?) But the real injustice here is that it pollutes the discourse on actual Japanese idols, as they are nothing at all like the stories portrayed in Love Live, IDOLM@STER or obviously Revue.

This is also how you get Aqours fans telling their management to not “overwork” the idols. [Which is, by the way, the most sanctimonious, paternal bullshit I’ve ever seen in western seiota fandom, and I’ve been in this fandom since the 90s.] This is not that different than someone who doesn’t know about actual tanks, and thought Tankery exists and a team of 5 people can service 7 tanks in a week, and it’s okay to shoot tank shells at each other???

I don’t know, a lot of this fictional stuff (eg., anime) are only meaningful if you have enough real life experience to contextualize the content. It is real sad if you don’t… It’s like people learning about Japanese idols from anime, when there are tons of real people who are actually in the scene they could read from. It’s fine as a gateway thing but it cannot be your only thing.

PS. I have maybe like 3-4 different draft ideas on this topic in this year alone. It’s really bothering me because while it’s good the Love Live’s popularity is a tide that raises all boats, so to speak, it also brings on a lot of people who are just plainly clueless about idol fandom, culture, and the things those idol IPs try to evoke, and there are not enough school teachers to feed the hungry masses on the Reddits of everywhichwhere. It’s as if only youtubers are their teachers on this stuff, LOL.