Category Archives: English Language Modern Visual Fandom

Explaining Anisong World Matsuri 2018: Part 1

What does Anisong World Matsuri do? Can I eat it?

Continue reading

Dissonant Antarctica

I read this and like, I have a very different impression of Yorimoi. Let me quote:

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than The Universe) is remarkably well done. Before the season started, I fully expected it to be a trite “cute-girls-doing-cute-things” fluff piece about high school girls having implausibly canned adventures in Antarctica. However, it turns out Yorimoi adopts a serious attitude toward exploring the logistics required and examining just how something like this might actually be accomplished. I take it as a triumph of original anime that the story seems well thought out and enjoyable in ways that are often missing from anime adaptations of preexisting works, particularly when such anime try hard (to their detriment) to closely follow the source material.

Wait, so Yurucamp TV, a manga adaptation that is all about the details of doing camping as a bunch of high school girls in the fall/winter time frame, does not adopt a serious attitude towards exploring the logistics required and examining just how something like camping might actually be accomplished? Are we even watching the same things?

Disclosure: I dropped Yorimoi like 3 episodes in, as I didn’t buy in to any of the main characters except the tarento. It’s not a trite “cute-girls-doing-cute-things” fluff piece. It’s an “annoying-girls-doing-weird-things” piece, where I often find the characters obnoxious and incorrigible, for weird character development reasons I’m sure they’ll explore later but I can’t be bothered to care–or stick around long enough to find out. I guess it also doesn’t help that Antarctica is not that an exotic location to me, since I’ve read up about it over the years following research that was done down there, and talked to a guy who spent some time there. The show itself is well done, I think, but the posture came across as too full of itself and there’s a degree of calculatedness that runs against my expectation of something that’s more organic in the making.

Actually Yurucamp gets it. What Yorimoi might take a season to do, Yurucamp does it in 1 to 2 episodes. And in essence, it does what I want to see, and just keeps on doing it. How many times did the girls in Yorimoi go to Antartica yet? (I guess episode 8 by the time of this writing.) It doesn’t need that setup. I don’t need to be hit in the face with your quirky personality quirks every few minutes. That some people in Japan have the balls to make a story about high schoolers wanting to go to Antartica, in 2017 terms, is just too much for me to take seriously–except it’s a serious anime! I’d rather watch a show where a bunch of Japanese high schoolers try to raise fund for a summer vacation in New York City–at least I find their destination worth investing in terms of my emotions and attention span. After all, NYC too is quite far, basically it’s as far as another world.

It’s worth examining what “cute-girls-doing-cute-things” mean for each work. I’ve been watching anime since the 90s, at least following TV anime with any real interests, and this descriptor dates back well even before that. I remember watching Magic Knight Rayearth–cute girls doing isekai RPG but in a meta way–and that was already a pretty solid framing of this notion. If somehow the Kirara-manga-adaptation brand has altered this category by flooding the market with trendy cute-girls-doing-not-much anime, please show how this is the case. I can understand, say, shows like Jinsei or Anne-Happy, or something, don’t get into the nitty gritty–but they aren’t shows about doing something. I just don’t understand the criticism as applied to manga or light novel adaptation in which the details are omitted, in which we can apply “cute-girls-doing-cute-thing” tag to. Death March? That is not even in the same genre. Slow Start and Mitsuboshi Colors? Yeah okay, but they aren’t about doing anything specific really (well, Slow Start is about mental trauma, I guess, and Mitsuboshi is about brats being brats). Koizumi is like Yurucamp that they are both very meticulous about specifics, and adopt from manga. Does that leave Takunomi as the only show that fits Evirus’s description?

I just don’t think that statement has any merit. In the scope of things Yorimoi is well-put-together, and there’s a strong feeling of production value? But I find the writing and direction betraying the same expectation in a negative way instead.

Year In Review 2017: Twelve Twelves

Anime industry exists because it’s a miracle.

I’ve been really busy this month, despite the lack of events. But here it goes–trying to scramble something together to introspect a year’s worth of content consumption. Introspection is worthwhile, and a tradition of doing it is a good idea. I don’t know how much of it is entertaining or informative for someone not me, though. Still, here goes.

Continue reading

Net Neutrality’s Impact on American Anime Streamers, 2017 Edition

Reading softcore political propaganda in the morning is a good chuckle I suppose. I think with a lot of internet stuff, either the FCC recent moves or even the copyright issues detailed here are really difficult, nuanced policy discussions that have no good or right answers, and whatever decision that becomes law have ramifications that can be hard to fathom down the road, if we even assume the future play by the same rules we play by today. But as they say on Capitol Hill, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. It’s also pretty hard to work that internet mob mentality if you want to be careful and nuanced. It’s not like the issues of punching a Nazi, let’s just say.

The reality of the situation is, with a privatization of the internet, net neutrality is more a practical reality than an ideal that needs to be enshrined. Ultimately packets will go from A to B to C, because someone requested it and someone else made it available. The question is more of, what is a fair allocation of packets and bandwidth. In my mind, too often, the net neutrality debate is wrapped up by “free beer” kind of things than “free speech” as a result, to co-op a common analogy when it comes to these things. People’s desires conflate with what is actually fair, creating incentives to promote certain results that are actually not “net neutral.” FCC’s deregulation, as a result, may not be as bad as the worst case scenario as some people paint it as, and we might end up going there anyway with or without regulation.

The best example I can give is zero-rating. This is the now-popular practice where an ISP can provide a pay-per-bucket plan to an end user, but discount certain types of traffic from the bucket. This is technically not net-neutral; certain traffic are privileged because of business or whatever reasons–namely just so the consumer get a better value from the ISP since often these privileged services are very popular or are incumbent market leaders. In some cases this is a way to beat their path into a new market, the most ambitious example is Facebook serving free internet to India, which was blocked by the country because it would destroy net neutrality in that country. But isn’t free internet (and free smartphones to go with) good for consumers? Especially for a developing country like India, where people just don’t have money for that kind of thing. Anyways, that’s not important for American anime viewers, who are generally not poor by global standards.

The real way to look at this is to understand what internet is for. If you spend all day consuming media using your internet, well, you are definitely not alone. But this is not the real cause or case for Net Neutrality. The scare tactics about graphics of paying for each service from your network to have them enabled is already something adult Americans have to deal with in the past decades: that’s how cable and cable packages are sold. So what is cable/satellite TV anyway? It’s basically data pipes with services on top, where the services can be phone, television (on demand, linear, PPV, porn, whatever), or internet service. When someone “cuts the cord” you’re basically getting television services from 3rd parties that are not your cable or satellite provider, and it uses your internet instead of the dedicated pipe between your cable box and the cable company hosting and serving the content.

Which is just to say, the $10 or whatever one pays Netflix is just another way of paying the $30 or so one pays to, say, Comcast or whatever Time Warner is called today. It’s decoupling the platform and the services that lives on it. It’s stuff anime fans already have to do if the shows they want to watch is on Hi-Dive, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and CR. You’re gonna have to pay for all 4 to get all the available streaming anime this season (ok maybe not Netflix but you know what I mean).

What net neutrality’s worse case scenario is that some ISP X, for example, will offer you free Netflix and pay for its annual subscription fees, over all the other ISPs. If that sounds good to you, it’s already happening. It’s actually a net good for anime industry in this case. An anime fan might now be able to afford to pay for an additional streaming service she couldn’t before, or watch some anime on Netflix because it wasn’t streaming the season before KEK. Anyways, this is a good outcome at the expense of net neutrality. And in some ways, this is not what the fight against Pai and the FCC is about, that’s about Title II regulation of internet service providers.

The real problem with American internet service providers is outlined here. Cable companies are how most Americans get internet today, and they are regional monopolies. There is no effective competition, and if there are, it’s very token and often it’s shut down by law (RIP municipal internets). These ISPs often are money grabbing POS with bad customer service and terrible pricing. They have survived as some of the most hated entities in America because of the monopolies they have over us. We have no real choice for broadband internet that is affordable.

The break away for cord cutters is one way to cut into regional cable providers’ gravy train. Instead of $100 or whatever a month one pays for CATV, we can get a suitable alternative via Amazon or Netflix or a new crop of service providers, with only half as much of the money (or less) going to the CATV companies. There’s even internet-based linear TV via DirecTV (which, while terrible on its own, has been an eternal competitor to CATV) and a growing list of services. Even Google is in this game. This is the real posture between cord cutters and their cable TV overlords. It’s a fight to regulate a terrible situation made worse by unstoppable incumbents, and millions of lobby bucks and rotating door policies for people getting plush jobs once they exit from politics.

Net neutrality comes into play because the media market has been consolidating between content providers and service providers. With Comcast-NBC in the rear view mirror and ATT-TW in the distance, I’m not sure what there is to do for poor sods in America who will be paying more than ever for internet services and content services. The principles of net neutrality can help the people fight this fight, by pushing internet services companies into legal utilities. That said, the FCC, even before Pai and the Trump administration, is weak and ineffective at doing this. I think deregulation from the FCC is not going to make a huge difference in the long run, although it does deprive us one set of tools in fighting these terrible monopolies.

On the flip side, a strong FCC with enough legislative backing can really help us in this fight. I just don’t think it’s going to happen under this administration.

Let me continue the same topic with a very different take: Bottom line bucks. This is the slate at the start of 2017 from PC Mag, which I kind of agree with. We’re looking at one service and the boradband to use it, so that’ll run anywhere between $7-16 with Anime Strike in the mix. It’s on top of the average broadband price in the US, which is something like $80 according to this article. If you can live with Netflix and forego the rest, that’s a sizable saving, so you can see how zero rating can make a huge difference, even if it’s for a different kind of network service.

With the Net Neutrality scare scenario, the ISP overlords of America wants to provide a similar level of service at a lower price, with the caveat that some services are not available unless we pay extra, that is essentially “cable-fying” the internet. But if the services can compete with each other, that is generally going to be a good deal for anime fans because we would have the option to have more extreme a al carte options and shed additional costs mainstream customers can’t. Of course, that will depend on your own preferences. But we at least have competition of a perverse sort between the various streaming services, which is more competition than the old days.

It’s easy to see why Amazon decided to make Anime Strike an addon subscription–it’s like old on-demand anime for CATV customers, where you can pay a monthly added fee and get some anime on your one-stop-shop that is Amazon Prime. Too bad it alienates everybody else not in their ecosystem, albeit that is a shrinking number by the minute. If the scare scenario is that we have to pay extra for content we care about because it’s niche or an upstart, it’s already happening with Amazon video, or any other addons in which they want to extract that extra tax, may it be from the platform or service level.

So, then, we need to ask: what does net neutrality add to this? Is there any guarantee that we will get better services at a lower price if we regulate the ISPs like utilities? I actually don’t know. But I do know zero rating as a competitive means can lower prices, as pioneered from bucketed cellular service (which, compared to cable/broadband, is quite competitive in the US). I know that nerfing net neutrality brings the platforms and service providers together, giving ISPs more leverage to extract that tax. This is generally not a good thing for today’s service providers, because it opens the door for more hijinks with the dumb pipes trying to extract some value from the transaction stream. However, it’s far from clear how that will play out, and who would be the losers (well, all of us probably, unless you own the right stocks) in that game.

To sum, the irony is that net neutrality is not the best deal for anime fans. For people who use the internet for things most people don’t use the internet for, net neutrality is definitely way more important…and even so, something 99%+ of us can live without. Because the moment it stops working, well, it stops working. Until then, it’s a matter of how much money we are paying and what services we are getting out of our monopolistic dumb pipes. Just look at what Netflix did in their 180. It’s not even a matter of money making for incumbent services, it’s a matter of regulating an industry sector in a way that is fair to the public and cost effective to the consumers.

Here’s Another Manhattan Anime Con

I’m going to Anime NYC this weekend, but I’m not going to be there for most of the con. Such is when real life collides with hobby.

Anime cons in the NY area is really a mixed bag. Outside of the city there has been a handful of small events, and a couple big ones. In the early 00s we’ve had the CPM-associated cons, then NYAF, then part of the NYCC, and now not much else. Basically in 3 years of absorbing NYAF, NYCC had become kind of a hollow shell for anime content. I went there more to see bkub and random JP vendors than anything. Anime merch game in general is kind of lame out here, and most things you can buy online anyway, similarly priced without having to deal with a sea of people. I suppose NYCC is still OK for freebies (I’m long out of this game) and exclusives (too niche for me). The last NYCC I attended years ago all I remember was playing janken to get GSC photo posters of their figures.

The difficulty of running an anime con within NYC is multifold. It really comes down to not having a big enough space that’s affordable and have the amenities, and in a good spot. Javits Center is really the only place big enough and central enough, but it’s near a bunch of crummy construction things and tunnels. Things have improved somewhat over the years–now there are more food and open spaces nearby, plus a subway stop–but it’s still one of my least favorite event venues, with the only real benefit being all the things not in Javitz center that’s in the same city. That’s an attendee’s point of view, but the cost of putting a bunch of kids in a same spot in a city like New York is pretty high, high enough to make this kind of a challenge, I suppose.

Maybe an alternate approach for otaku exhibitions in an old and busy city is to break down the events by subcultural tribes, which is what teases New Yorkers more regularly. It’s like, instead of a circus coming into town you just have a clown march on one day, and go to the zoo the other day, and watch some broadway show the next. Yeah, there are some obvious downsides to this approach but so does every other approach that we know.

Anyways, I’m mildly excited to finally see Chihi, True and Ishida Yoko overseas, and going to a live with Chihi performing in it. I’m also kind of interested to get an autograph for Chihi but if it conflicts with my RL plans, maybe I won’t…

I wonder if Agent Hazap will send anyone there. Time to practice their salute? LOL.