Monthly Archives: February 2020

On-Gaku: Our Sound

The local film festival always brings in a fresh haul, so I got to see this deadpan comedy at a screening last weekend. On-Gaku is a movie about some high schoolers playing in a band. It’s also about really guttural power of rock music and the comedic timing. Japan Times has a heaping-praise of a review on this, which does way better job reviewing the movie than I will. But, at least I won’t spoil it for you.

As a piece of anime, it’s probably as un-anime as it gets. It’s refreshing in the way that American animation that poses as anime is the opposite of, I guess? The jokes, the cultural concepts, the timing, the setting, the plot is all extremely typical of Japanese high school comedies. In that context, On-Gaku is exactly what makes an anime not-an-anime, yet it is infinitely more Japanese than, say, non-anime stuff that poses like anime.

But those are just the baseline in which the humor springs from. On-Gaku is a gag anime. Its straight-face plot is merely the path in which we start at the head of the joke and eventually arrive at the butt of the joke. If we are to take the notion of the “gap” and apply that analogy liberally to the movie, then much of On-gaku is just the viewer traveling the gap chronologically with still animation to fill the void. I wonder if this is an artifact of being an adaptation of a manga.

They say this movie took seven years to complete. I believe it because it would be a funny gag, and appropriate of character. Animation masterpieces like Jin-Roh took seven years to complete, too. On-Gaku is not quite that, but it is a rarity, if not an unique thing, this day and age given the style of animation it uses.

It is also a movie that can be spoiled badly, so I recommend you avoid any spoilers if you want to see it eventually. Just be prepared to go through a lot of deadpan jokes. This is the most deadpan piece of anime I’ve seen, possibly ever.

Is it good? I think it’s worth your time. It is definitely extremely Japanese in the non-stereotypical way, so if you are into it for the weeb factor, maybe this movie is not up your alley. If you are into animation, Japanese high school, rock and roll, and open-minded takes on music, then there’s something here. Oh, if you like anime comedies, too.

PS. After going to CG7th Osaka I have a deeper appreciation of rock music, so this movie was timely.

IDOLM@STER Concepts: Tantou vs. Favorite

In the age of Stan and Waifu, there has long been many different ways to say “love” in all sorts of contexts; forget about the Alaskan words for snow (it’s an urban legend of sorts anyway). The way the Greeks did it is what I was weaned on but in this day and age there are more ways to say the same things than ever. And it has been always the case as far as history went.

It just dawned on me on a practical difference between what IM@S Ps say “tantou” versus which idols a producer may simply like. To some Ps, there are no differences between the two. To others, they are entirely different things. And from where I stand there are no wrong ways to go about it.

(“Tantou” here means “in charge of.” A producer is someone in a position of responsibility over a project. In this case, it’s an artist or idol. It is not unusual for IDOLM@STER content to put the producer in charge of a project in which artists of the agency is then selected to participate under said project. If you talk to Japanese producers, the proper way to refer to your cartoon waifu is tantou, and while you may or may not be a wretched twitter critter, we all know what you mean.)

There are however technical differences. One is the basic understanding that IDOLM@STER is a game franchise in which the player is the producer, and the idols the player selects to literally produce, well, are the idols the player produces. Sometimes this is literally every idol in the game, sometimes this is even more (not all idols are really in the games if you think about it), and sometimes it’s just whatever the P wants.

If we extrapolate it from selecting an idol in games to engagement in general, the idols I produce are just the ones I will go out of my way to learn more, to read up on, to research, to think about, and to create content for. After all, it is all we can do to literally “produce” a fictional character. This is pretty much the same way anyone stans anyone else, but maybe there are some differences. Maybe there will be another post for that.

The idols from IDOLM@STER that I like, however, I don’t necessarily produce. Maybe for those characters, I just enjoy the content and call it a day.

This is most evident when you participate in IDOLM@STER content like a big live event. Your favorite or tantou characters, odds are, will only take up a fraction of the full show. The rest of the time you probably are still engaged in the content, even if it isn’t your favorite or it has little relationship to the idols you produce. Sometimes this does mean you might take a seat. But also, a concert is a concert, a show is a show–it’s enjoyable to watch and be a part of.

So while I don’t produce Syoko, I still have a lot of respect for the Matsuda twins and an affinity to the brand of rock that is X Japan. This is why the Kurenai cover during CG7th Osaka was a really special experience personally, especially given the venue, the setup, and the way things played out. These kinds of considerations were the reasons why I was even there in the first place.

I have been following Cinderella Girls since my initial baptism by MOIW 2014. What struck me as odd now is that while many idols from 346P are appealing to me personally, I don’t want to produce any of them. It’s a big reason why I gave up playing Starlight Stage, and also it made the franchise easier to deal with when I treat it like this bag of content that pops out hit beats once in a while, at arm’s length.

I try to go to a show every year still, because I do enjoy this branch of IM@S and I still know something about them. Plus, I never stopped being a seiyuu otaku and IDOLM@STER content is still some of the best kind of seiyuu content out there. An IM@S show (and this applies even to all the other branches) are often elaborate productions. Cinderella Girls lives are the most elaborate of them all, both because of the success (popularity and commercially) of the franchise and the style of the content that is conducive of big, bright, shiny productions at a large scale. That the franchise shows have been dome-sized the past couple years actually plays to the strength of the content and the material. That is contrary to my normal preferences; to me, domes are a negative otherwise–you are far from the action, it’s very crowded, the acoustics and view often sucks, and the seats suck too usually.

On paper, maybe I can call myself, at best, a Miho/PCS producer, because at least I roll for them. I also find myself leaning towards Tsuda and Tanezaki a lot, at least as far as seiyuu affinities go among 346P cast members. It is a production of conveniences. But I produces way more back home in 765Pro, which hopefully my actions speak for themselves.