Category Archives: K-ON

It’s Football Season

This is how I feel when Shannon Sharpe (Hall-of-Fame NFL pro and now commentator) this morning mentioned that the “Ravens will be better served with a little less Flacco, and a little more Rice”:

SUPAISU futasaji keiken shichae
dakedo genkai  karasugite… mou DAME
Ohnono nono nono no nonono

OK, yeah, actually I laughed at Sharpe (who’s known to have a mouth, so to speak) for about a minute. Then again, this is how I feel about Ray Rice generally. It has a lot to do with my Rutgers upbringing but he’s the man to electrified a local football program (along with now-NFL coach Schiano).

This post is brought to you by the strange realization that playing Space Chem from 12:30 AM to 3:30 AM makes the sunlight’s glitter just a little off.

Looking forward to MNF, though. And I’ve re-uploaded those “Asadayo~” tones. Help yourselves.

The K-ON Movie Is about K-ON

You know you’ve done it when I can approach a franchise as an “experience.” Down in Orlando, FL, there’s a place called Universal Studios where big-time American film franchises (and increasing, TV shows) get their own “experiences” in the form of a ride or something. In those situations the customers literally put themselves in a place where their senses are surrounded by stimuli that represents that franchise. The Harry Potter theme park down there is probably the best recent example.

I’m not exactly writing the K-ON film review that way, even if there was a K-ON event sort of thing at Universal Studios Japan in order to promote the film back in December 2011. What I’m referring to is that ultimately, K-ON has been about a singular experience. It’s no longer about the story (which in K-ON’s case, the story is not much to talk about in a very literal sense) but more about the way the customer associates and relates to the franchise. Coming in to the film as a voracious consumer of anime media is not the way to go, oddly enough. Coming into the film as a fan of K-ON, however, you will be surely rewarded with both the emotional revisit to that “Tenshi ni Fureta yo” moment and being able to again see the same girls on the big screen that you previously enjoyed seeing.

Well, basically I’m saying is it only works if you buy in to K-ON. I do, so I thoroughly enjoyed the film. However, I was really suspicious before going in to the film–there wasn’t much in terms of encouraging things to say about the film for the most part. After all, the drink-tea-eat-cake reputation is as honest and truthful as K-ON being an anime about high school girls being themselves.

The funny thing is, after all this, I’m not too sure what is particularly moe about K-ON. The girls are cute (in the Hello Kitty sense) and the subject matters they broach (in the movie, that’d be their graduation, music culture, sightseeing London from a Japanese tourist POV, songwriting, etc) somehow don’t quite mesh with that image. It’s a dissonance not unlike what I find attractive in denpa music. On the flip side, tune to “No Thank You!” or in the Movie, “Singing!” and you can see how this girl power band stuff work just like how it does on the Billboard Charts, even to the degree that it projects this illusion to what the K-ON show is about for people who aren’t familiar with the show.

What is K-ON about? It’s easy to take the movie in conjunction with the first two seasons and see how the movie fills in the gap in the overall story and let it continue to build on what we already know. After the credit rolled, I thought about why the movie was about these things, which kind of fall neatly into 3 acts: before the trip, on the trip, and after the trip. That’s the same formula K-ON uses to tell all its stories: pre keion club, keion club stuff, and when after it is all said and done. Supposing myself as a total K-ON newbie, I can probably watch just the movie and get a good idea what K-ON is really about. It does a great job summarizing and boiling down what makes K-ON interesting and attractive.

Part of it, naturally, is the animation. This is the second Kyoto Animation film that I’ve watched, and I am so thankful it is a good 40-50 minutes shorter than the last one. In fact, it feels just right; the statements about the K-ON movie being two or three glorified TV episodes glued together has some merit here, so it is good to see the film keep things tight and not overstay its cake-and-tea-fueled attention span. You can tell the production team scoped out their shots from London and captured the more expressive motifs among the character animation for the Londoners. It probably is as much of a travelogue as it is a matter of sympathizing with potential domestic Japanese viewers on their own personal experiences. Is Azusa really 17 years old? Certainly, in cat years. And that’s just a little thing.

I always thought the most impressive thing about K-ON was its ability to channel zeitgeist. It captures sort of the feeling about life that you wonder about or occasionally witness. Maybe this is why there are more girl bands in schools in Japan today than there were in 2008. Uncharacteristically, the movie almost makes some outward statements about this in the film when Sawako-sensei reflects on her own high school experience. Life was somewhat different then. Life is somewhat different in London. But in the end that may not really matter.

Music May Be a Thing

There are some spoilers, however light, in this post.

Some opinions for you to consider:

Continue reading

That Bandai Entertainment Thing

The writing was on the wall. It was interesting to see how they would crank down their operation. When the store got axed you knew it was going to happen. At the same time, you wondered how that impact Aniplex’s fledgling operation. I get the feeling thanks to their partnership, Bandai lasted longer and long enough to do something like, say, K-ON on single Blu-ray volumes.

Admittedly my perspective is really skewed–someone who would spend a lot of money to buy, say, Madoka CE or the Rakkyo set. I don’t really like what that implies. I mean, again, K-ON was a simple, bare-bones, $30/pop sort of a deal. At least give us something like Madoka’s release? But now there’s just one less player. According to the Justin/Chris write-up from Iyadomi, it may mean that more Gundam Unicorn-esqe releases. That would make an acceptable trade-off for someone like me.

It’s kind of sad that I’m more concerned about “will there be a Bandai After Dark panel at Otakon?” than any of this. Including the people that got let go! That sucks, man. I hope you guys get some time to enjoy your unemployment benefits and have no problem finding a new and better job.

In the midst of this, I think it’s important to note that Bandai’s shifting out of this new release thing because of a strategic restructuring from the Motherland. It’s that time of the year. It isn’t just because title X or Y didn’t sell well, or because they’re still doing single releases–if anything I think we will see more single releases in 2012. That’s what Japan wants. And when it’s done right, that is what I want, too. Actually I want whatever that is done right, single or sets.

And in the end, that is what matters. That and “what is going to happen to K-ON“? All those people pining for Turn-A Gundam, I feel you. But I’ve been feeling you for so long, I don’t know why you’re still worrying about a 1999 title. It’s not healthy.

Otakon 2011 Wrap

I always want to keep my post-con posts brief, but it rarely happens. Let’s see how it goes this time.

Makoto Shinkai

He’s pretty cool. He does have an art/animator background when he first worked on video games before making the switch to independent anime production. I always forget this. The other thing that was a big realization for me was how much of his films are based on his real life experience. I mean this is something most people knew about him, but it is much more, lacking a better term, low level. Like in 5cm all the little ideas thrown in there are based on something he experienced in some way.

As a person, well, he’s pretty amiable I guess. He’s also young/nerdy enough to get all your references. Or should I say, bro enough? I mean, as I said earlier, he knows what To Heart is.

I’m not going to go through all the Q&A here, and I’m not even ready to do that…got to get through some transcription crap first. But in general people asked the same set of 10 questions for him, and he gave the same 10 answers. A lot of the time the question’s nuances gets dropped and he’s actually pretty good at dodging. He also has some kinda-bro moments, to contrast with another young animator who is probably better spoken (and even more bro), when being asked about those “state of the industry” questions. And there are the Hoshi o Ou Kodomo questions, which are mostly pretty good actually.

I only asked him 2 questions, once at a press panel and the other during his public panel. The latter one is a spoiler for Hoshi o Ou Kodomo, so I’m going to save that for later.

Hoshi o Ou Kodomo: Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below

This is the one premiere that I wanted to see. No offense to the new FMA film, I would have done you if I finished FMA:B (just a bit over half way through). Yes you are stand-alone. No I don’t want to wait in line.

Anyway, back to Hoshi o Ou Kodomo. The reviews for this film was varying and I get the vibe of the film even before heading to Otakon. But what I didn’t know is how it truly measures to Shinkai’s previous works. We all know that Hoshi no Koe, Kumo no Mukou, and 5cm/s, all have this same thematic thread going on. It turns out so does Hoshi no Ou Kodomo! This is something nobody really talked about. And I now see why.

In a lot of ways the same themes that I love from his previous work play in full in Hoshi. The problem is more in that the narrative impetus is still mired in a way that I found as a flaw to Kumo no Mukou. Except in Hoshi, he doesn’t even really try to create that overall build up of tension that actually made Kumo no Mukou passably engaging to watch.

I think Hoshi o Ou Kodomo is engaging in a different way: it is much better constructed as a movie based on a series of interrelated themes. However, there are probably too many thematic threads spreading throughout the movie. It can be a heavy thing to digest, and Shinkai did say he wanted to make something worth watching multiple times.

As for the Ghibli-isms, it is very well warranted. I don’t think the similarities are superficial either, but it’s probably not in the way you think they are similar. Basically, recall the start to Mononoke Hime; the purpose of Ashitaka’s trip: to observe and find a way to preserve something. In that very same sense, the plot device to Hoshi o Ou Kodomo is some kind of self-searching journey between two unlikely companions, each carrying the same philosophical conflicts as symbolized by their characters: San is the teacher, Ashitaka is Asuna, Eboshi is Shin. Or like I said elsewhere, Ikamusume and Jerid go on a self-searching journey to the center of Earth.

The characters’ introspective qualities aren’t something that can easily be externalized. In fact, other than Asuna, you don’t really see any of it until the climax of the film. In that sense, this film just had to carry the audience to that point in order to realize its message. To do so, all Hoshi o Ou Kodomo had to work with was some action scenes, its Ghibli-esque looks, and Shinkai’s trademark background porn. The fact that he was able to put his clouds on the ground is already impressive and an unfair trick, LOL. I was hoping he would play with the visuals in greater leaps when creating the underground world, as it is a bit plain. But it looks pretty for sure.

What do I think of it? I think Hoshi o Ou Kodomo is a great answer to the question posed in 5cm/s. As a film, it is pretty but despite trying I don’t think Shinkai has created something for the general public. It just isn’t that entertaining for people who don’t slurp up thematic circle-jerking in the blockbuster film format (ie., most people). The whole theme of separation between life and death and the externalization of a need to shrug off loneliness are things that just don’t communicate well to children I think. It takes a person who’s experienced them to some degree to really appreciate those ideas, and thankfully children are usually not such people. The other whammy is that these themes are just dense! To really explore them in the work makes the film drag and kind of not as focused as it could have been.

In other words, great if you like thoughtful films, not so great if you just want to have a good time.

Bandai’s K-ON! Live Event

I went to the play-acting concert performed by the four dub voice actresses of K-ON US release. It’s actually kind of fun and sort of modeled after the Japanese show. It’s largely MC, and some theatrics of a real band. Azusa was played by this cosplay-musician. But it doesn’t really matter; nobody actually played their instruments. At least they didn’t lip sync AFAIK.

Alexd got spotlighted to sing the ending to Kagayake Girls! For the unfamiliar, that is saying this line really fast and repeated:

“Shiny Shining Shiniest, Girls Be Ambitious Shine Shine Shine”

Vee held a mic to his face. It was LOLS. Also, we were the only two penlight holders in the crowd. Just as well.

Figure Collecting Panel

Due to various other tasks I arrived at the panel late. It was a pure Q&A kind of fare and VManOfMana just want to chat with the crowd, with Andy and Super Rats. They were swamped with curious talkers afterward the panel so I just grabbed a free figure from the free figure guy (he was there last year too?) and took off.

I couldn’t hear very well half the time because the questions don’t get parroted back to the crowd so a lot of people can’t hear what’s being asked. The Q&A is pretty simple otherwise, as the guys addressed the questions by topic. What is kind of disappointing is the lack of figures actually at the panel on display. On the other hand I think that iPad works well to quickly pull up pictures of a figure being talked abot.

The Ladies’ Choice to Hentai Panel

Why was I there? Because, also, I know the panel organizer. It’s probably the first time I sat through an entire 18+ panel actually about anime porn. I hope it will be the last.

The panel itself is pretty entertaining; the issue is more that I already have a good idea what they were going to talk about, since I also helped them with some of the materials. What I didn’t know is what they were actually going to say for each of the clips they screened. Personally, I was pretty tired by then: 12:30am on Saturday? If it was Friday I might have been okay, but I really wanted to just pass out then. And I suppose in a room full of people watching porn is something I’ve experienced in other contexts (I have an Otakon story for you about this!) so I was pretty okay just sitting and chilling for an hour.

It’s all fun and games. If anything my only complaint is that there was this tendency to joke about real life. The very last commenter from the crowd that night brought this point up very well–I mean, this is ero anime. What are we suppose to do with it again?

Atsuhiro Iwakami Producer Panel

IwakamiP is pretty neat, he has “the right attitude” regarding some of this stuff. Unfortunately his panel was way too short and nobody really asked any good questions that is fit for a producer. Maybe except Wah’s Shinbo dig and the state of the industry question. It’s on bayoab should you care to look.

If you also read bayoab’s log on the Aniplex panel, they deferred the answers to some licensing questions to Iwakami’s panel. I’m not sure what is suppose to happen there. Iwakami did say explicitly that he will take license requests. And somehow there wasn’t any at his panel. What’s up with that?

What did happen was screening of a HD Fate Zero trailer, and an explicit nod that it will be simulcasted. In fact he raised this point during the Q&A about how Osaka was the first region getting Madoka OTA on Thursday nights; Tokyo region didn’t get it the day after. If you recall, this means a lot of westerners were watching the fansub of the thing even before people living in Tokyo could see it. He is aware of this and want to, using bayoab’s words, guide a healthy relationship between content producers and fans. Because it can be kind of messed up.

After taking 6 or 7 questions, Iwakami turns around and polled the panel attendees as to what anime they’ve seen. It’s pretty amusing to see how 80%+ of people already saw Madoka, and at least a third saw Rakkyo and OreImo, etc.

For giveaways, they raffled away volumes 1-4 of Madoka on Blu, a couple T-shirts and a plushie of QB, and that Takeuchi sketch of Fate Zero Saber. You can see the picture here. And for reference, you can see the companion sketch to that here, as it was donated for auction. It’s kind of too bad we spent all this time drawing raffle tickets, because the panel really could use more time doing Q&A.

And there’s this sad yet hilarious anecdote about Hisui that I could tell, but it’s something you had to be there to witness. Saber is truly his waifu.

Bandai After Dark

I guess this is the proper Bandai industry panel? Before that panel, on the schedule there was a Sunrise industry panel too, in the same room. Not sure what the previous panel was all about, but you can read Digitalboy’s write-up for some clips. Or you can go back to bayoab.

Besides the cool bean licenses, I thought this year they did a good job. Not as great as last year’s, but still pretty good. Things kind of ran long though; we had Hiro Yura playing a track from Disappearence again; he set up a table for some post-panel sales too.  The loot this year is pretty cool, except as usual it was things you could have gotten as freebies if you bought certain things. Yea, maybe I should have bought those Haruhi character singles from RS?

The big personal note here is that I managed to get a copy of Shackles of Night single from Hiro after telling him how I didn’t get it last year, despite having paid for it. Baller dude!

Actually another cool note is how Johnny Bosh dropped by the panel and killed a lot of time trying to play something on Taka’s ukulele. Vee also sang along. It was kind of odd, and that act ate up a lot of time.

I think the best troll happened at this panel too, when Napton said some lucky winner was sitting on a chair with a gift certificate taped underneath it. Everyone then proceeded to reach around and tear off…some consumer safety sticker. Nice! If you remember last year’s Bandai After Dark, there were like a bunch of prizes given away this way. So he got us good. This year, tho, because of time and room-clearing reasons, they couldn’t do it.

Miku Live in LA: “MIKUNOPOLIS” Behind the Scenes

Like I said earlier, it’s 90% of coverage of things that happened at AX. Which is great if you couldn’t make it this year or can’t make it to all the vocaloid events (which is probably almost everyone). I’ll just talk about the notable and interesting bits.

They showed clips from Fox News coverage of the event. A couple of the Toyota commercials as well. Yeah, those Anons drew a loud reaction.

There was a slide during the presentation which contains the cover of the deck for the pitch of the Miku Live in USA Tour plan. Mr. ASCII Media Works EIC-san (who ran the panel) specifically told us to note that originally it wasn’t targeting LA or AX as the only event where Miku can appear. Which is probably good, as far as false hopes go. But who knows?

They also reported what sold and what didn’t at Mikunopolis booth. Basically everything sold out except coasters and phone charms. Not that surprises anyone.

The interesting thing for Otakon is that a new line of Miku merch is being pushed out. You can buy it now–Vocaloid tees: Miku, Len/Ren, Luka and Kaito. I bought the Len/Ren and Miku ones. More importantly they are not $40 like the Cospa ones. They’re not even $25; probably can be had for $15-20. The back of the shirt prints that they are Crypton produced. Which makes me wonder what was the big deal with those Viz license announcements…

At the end of the panel, Fukuoka-san did brisk business and sold some Wowaka CDs and that PV DVD that they were hawking. He put together a nice deck!

Chemistry Concert

Not my kind of thing, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were selling penlights at their table. White ones, pretty powerful. Has a lot of modding potential… Not that I am going to.

As for their act, I think they are very good. It also feels like AAA back a few years ago–a lot of fanfare, but not a lot of relevance. Except Chemistry is actually kind of relevant, having done songs for a few popular shows. I’m only really familiar with that one FMA song and their Gundam UC contribution. The R&B duo are pretty pro.

Kylee Concert

I was late, and as a result I missed probably a good 3-4 songs. The show was barely 40 minutes long. It was still fun, even if I missed all the songs that I know except the one Heroman theme. She has a real band, and it worked out well besides that nobody was really moving. She seem like a well-groomed girl. She needed someone to open I think. Kind of ironic that I missed out on her doing Vacancy. Com’on! You only have so many songs.

Rave with DJ Saolilith

So while I lament not being able to hit up DJ Saolilith’s panel, I did get to see her set at the rave. I’m not sure if this is the second or third year that the con rave is located in Hall D, which is all the real musical guests play at (sans Hiro Yura &c). I got in just in time for Saolilith’s act, because somehow the queue didn’t empty out or something.

It’s the second time I’ve been to Otakon’s rave proper, ever. The first time was like… 1999? Maybe even earlier? Back then, the rave room didn’t smell like a giant funk pit; the AC works if you didn’t stand in the crowd. Friday night at 11:45, I was feeing a little tired but the hyper environment kept my spirits up.

I don’t think I can regirgitate Saori’s setlist here, but let’s just say when K-ON ED2 came on, I was already sold. Then there was the Nico kumikyouku stuff. And Love.EXE. And it really helps when I can recognize all but like, 3 tracks she spinned. Good times.

The first third of the songs I was standing towards the back of the hall, just to take in what’s going on. A breakdancing circle appeared soon enough and one of the people I came with peeled off to do that. Another couldn’t tolerate the environs anymore and headed out to a panel. Link and I eventually braved the front lines. Which is easy to do, since it’s a rave, not a concert; people aren’t packed up front.

At some point during the rave Saolilith pulled out a water gun on us. I think that was not necessary, but I got sprayed. I think the crowd was maybe 6-7 bodies deep only anyways, I was about 2 bodies away from the stage. For the encore (she did 1 song) she jumped down and did a little thing. I couldn’t see because she jumped into the denser side of the stage, which is opposite to where I was.

At least it wasn’t weird to wave my penlight around! That is one thing the con dance has right.


I ate the same thing Friday as I did Sunday: Cafe 100 for Breakfast, dinner at Sliders. Lunch was optionally something from Jimmy Johns, and like most other customers there I think they passed the Otakon test with flying colors. I’m inclined to dock them points for providing not-as-fresh-as-it-can-be bread (I see them hauling out of boxes en masse), but something had to give. It was good, but Potbelly’s is better, albeit more expensive, slower, and farther away. That is fine for the slower pace, Sunday PM last-meal, which is what we had. I picked up some coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts on Sunday to keep me awake throughout the day, but that’s about it.

Thursday routine was very routine: Pickles, Tir na Nog, Pickles. Food-wise, Pickles is actually the place to go on Thursday, simply because their happy hour is great stuff. Wings or nacho or pizza, it’s all pretty decent. Pitchers of beer made short work of all that. I got the Shephard’s Pie again. I also had a slice of Sicilian pepperoni pie at that Italian place inside the BoA skywalk area, it was good for what it was.

I’m not used to this cheap beer thing, but it was kind of nice being able to stumble into Bandai After Dark after having 4 drinks. For the same amount of money I probably could only pay for one by NYC standards.

Pickle’s fried pickles are still good.

Sliders dinner fare is relatively limited; it is really just a bar. But it was pretty delicious when I got the food there. Maybe I was just hungry at the time. Day 1 I had the chili dog set. Day 2 I had the Chesapeake chicken wrap. Both days we split the nachos. Their chili is pretty good.


Wah did two Omokage Lucky Hole songs; I missed the first one because it took place during a press event. The second time I followed up with STRAIGHT JET. HORRIBLY done STRAIGHT JET I might add. Wah’s performance is quite commendable though.

Yeah, that ice cold water really is only a dollar. I’ve only bought it from the dude once, a couple years ago. Inflation-free memes are the win.

What isn’t are tolls, parking and cost of fuel. Sigh.

Baltiport is a total jinx. Lance also needs to update the home page!

Guide book app is definitely a keeper. All cons should use it if they could. It’s actually not the most intutitive thing. For example, it was hard to set alarms manually–and there are plenty of times that you wish you could do it from your “to do” list. Or manually add to the schedule or something. How else are you suppose to keep track of booth events? Also, 1 hour is not enough for alarm. Some events need 2hr or more! There also needs a better way to slim out the main schedule, although I suppose manually scrolling up and down is not a major issue as long as there are not 100s of events to go through (Otakon got close to that). The ability to cross-reference dealer room locations is quite handy, and on that front it beats the pocket scheduler. For quick references, tho, not as fast.

Directors Panel

Just read SDS’s write-up.


I was in the dealer’s room for a net total of maybe an hour and a half. A third of that was waiting to get an autograph from Shinkai and chatting with people. A third of that was buying things from Bandai’s booth, the Otakon loots (Madoka charity poster and con shirt. I’ve gotten one every year, why stop now?), and checking out Kinokuniya. The last third was to buy those Vocaloid shirts.

At Kylee’s and DJ Saolilith’s autograph sessions, they were selling CDs. I got one from each of them, but they didn’t have the goods at the time. I gave them my address. I think the same company may be doing this stuff? I forget if Chemistry had their share of missing CDs. Yura didn’t.

Those CDs weren’t cheap, but considering the very weak dollar versus yen, it was okay. Kind of like how AAA distro was selling figures on Sunday; that Gift Saber Lily for $140? Are you for real? Bandai was selling some Lantis CDs that came with promo posters. I bit on one. Price was fair, all given.


I’d hit it again.

Every year there is something different or special about Otakon from my POV, and this year is no exception. Makes me wonder what next year has in store! Even if what is “different” or “special” can be positive and negative things. Like, I was talking to some folks after the con over IRC and I learned a few things about the charity auction results. Kind of neat, like how those wrist bands and badge add-ons totaled up a good third of the proceeds. Kind of not so neet of seeing that Saber sketch fall below a grand. Or Watsuki’s Sanosuke for about $300-400. Some futae no kiwami is called for somewhere.

Still, a good time. Big shoutout to all the brothers and sisters out there for making things work the way they do. Even more appreciative of staffers as I get older, and the same faces I see at cons, fans or industry alike. And of course, the special visitors domestic or abroad.