Category Archives: Tamako Market

FREE Willy, the Swimming Anime

I think I can make 99 jokes based on FREE, the newly announced Kyoto Animation project. This TV anime will hit the airwaves in July 2013. It’s roughly the same anime people have been clamoring for since the Animation Do KyoAni commercial of the same subject matter aired a couple months ago. Today, the characters have names, voice acting, and are part of some story.

I don’t know, really. After Tamako Market I’m definitely skeptical about another original Kyoto Animation work. I still like/am biased towards original works, so I’ll definitely be watching it when it comes out, even if the visual signals are clearly saying it’s not for me. And it isn’t as if Tamako Market was not fun to watch; just nothing special short of that one episode.

As for the ongoing discourse, to put it broadly, it’s all about Kyoani putting their foot down on female-targeting fanservice. There’s a lot of different reactions out there actually, but what is kind of amusing and bothersome at the same time is the meta-ness of it. There are probably more blog posts and reactions about people who might be against this manflesh anime pandering than actual complaints about the anime, let alone complaints about the anime being manflesh pandering. I’m sure there’s a healthy contingent of whiners, those so-called moe otaku or whatever, but isn’t that true for just any other anime out there? Shouldn’t all this complaints be characterized in a way where it’s normalized against some average? At this point it feels like people are just having fun against a strawman, and yeah, arguing against a strawman is pretty fun.

The way I see, it’s a simple formula of KyoAni fanbase clashing with the truth that there are probably a helluva lot of girls actually working at Kyoto Animation, slaving away at your Hyouka or Chuu2Koi, and now they are doing a project that flies their flags, so to speak. That goes against the typical work Kyoani has produced, so naturally some people are kind of irked. Like all those people hoping for a Full Metal Panic work. (Funny thing is you can’t even really make fun of these guys (at least not full bore) because FMP is at least a cut above, say, an eroge adaptation). I like this–this flag flying–because people tend to draw their best when they draw stuff they like. But, really, just how many girls are working at Kyoani today? Why do I get the impression there are a lot of them?

To take even a bigger step back, I feel this is just an anime hipster kind of thing to do. It’s like there’s this overarching dialog over there in the video game scene about women and sexism, and anime peeps are just making their own version up, in a monkey-see-monkey-does kind of way. I mean, it’s too disingenuous to even call it prosecution. It’s just silly. It doesn’t even address any of the core issues, or real issues involved.

For one, this is about fanservice. It’s clearly not about moe (or anti-moe or whatever). Yet moe gets flagged, why?

Second, more people need to watch Tsuritama. Or KimiBoku. It’s not otaku entertainment if it doesn’t have discourse, and without familiarity of the discourse I don’t know if you can really make sense of it. Like a good doujinshi, it needs context, it’s from fans, to fans. You really get a nice dose of it in the promo material for FREE. In fact I think that’s part of the problem–so far the various promos offer little in terms of what the show will be like besides the fanservice part. There are high schoolers swimming, and…?

To circle back about fanservice and moe, I think maybe it’s more about misidentifying Kyoani fandom? There was all this hoopla about Little Buster and Air and Kanon, after all. I think it’s just yet another chapter in KyoAni’s varied history–from Munto to the Kanon remake to Haruhi-isms to Yamakan. Now this.

And like every misleading narrative, it distracts attention from real issues, like the regularly-issued bomb threats for Kuroko’s Basketball events, or, well, Kyoto Animation hasn’t been able to do an original anime to make a living off of. Will whining about whiners whining about the homoerotic undertones or manflesh or whatever of Free, change any of it? Or improve the lives of women interacting with anime? Doubtful, unless you count the good feels those tumblr campaigns or laughing at internet strawmen bring home. It’s normal for guys (especially nerds) to get squeamish about the naked body; it’s not normal for BL doujin events to get canceled because of bomb threats. I think it’s just sad when people can’t get that straight.

TL;DR – just another day on the internet.

Tamako Market

In a nutshell, it’s two things.




To be fair, it’s also a pretty enjoyable anime about the way of life in a tightly-knit community. It’s also about the adventure of a strange, talking bird. I’m not sure if any of those take away the feeling to crave mame daifuku after watching Tamako and her family crank them out like prideful craft-masters doing what they’ve been doing all their lives.

Tamako Market is also one of those weird things where there’s very little to say the more you include in it. It’s more a microscope into the very small lives of a girl and the people around her. It’s easier for me to talk about episode 9 than episodes one to twelve.

It’s weird, because I can’t say the writing was bad; in fact the writing was excellent. Maybe the concept was just so pedestrian? Was it just managing expectations? Was it yet another example of how Kyoani fails to handle itself despite the source material? Well, it was enjoyable and a good time.

If I had to describe Tamako Market with an inept metaphor, it would be a microscope. It’s one thing to read about Kyoto and see it in an anime, it’s another to live there, to experience the moment. With a show like Tamako Market, it blows up the everyday and put things into perspective as if you were a plucky 16yo mochi maker. Suddenly, you can believe that 7 gods reside in each grain of rice, or that birds can very well talk when sufficiently exotic. Or how hanging out in a quaint espresso bar upstairs across the street make you realize just how everything really is. It is True Tourism IMO, in that it is more real than you being actually there: hyperreality.

By the way, so they do make these in the States. Now just need to figure out how to get a box of these…

Winter 2013: Played Out

I think we’re at the point of the season where new shows are either cleaning up from their explosive and intriguing pilots, or holding on to its cards until the final stage of the game. I feel the lull.


I think this is where a lackluster anime can really fly its colors and get people’s attention, now that the TV anime mix has stratified from sedimentation; the unforgiving centrifuge of short attention span will float those Senren Kaguras on top and hard campers like Shinsekai Yori and Psycho-pass on the bottom. Not that either is particularly value-assigned good or bad, mind you, and certainly that means the Jojos of this world is probably somewhere in between. Man, what a show that is.

But is there anything really outstanding? It’s kind of like how all this people who harp on Magi, either way? I mean, yea, I see animation mistakes and the like, but I wouldn’t call it bad. Or else nobody would watch anything SHAFT makes (at least on first pass). At least there has to be that proverbial cabbage, and it wasn’t there anywhere this season. But anyways, why do people chime after Magi, besides that it ended a story arc in the middle of the season? Maybe that was it. At least it didn’t do what Chiyomaru’s Robotic;Notes (almost) did, which is grow a little too long in the tooth. No matter how moe Frau is, we want to know what happens next.

It reminded me of that show with flying panties a few years back. I mean, all you need is just a little bit of whack. Maybe Kyoto Animation can make Tamako Midori burst into a tango duet with Dera? Or in Magi’s case, a cute Haruka Tomatsu character doing a gap moe dance routine (and unlike Frau, that clip is spoiler-free and context-free). Or maybe what it takes is Urobuchi killing some more people gruesomely in his Psycho-Pass (surely that is tired). Maybe it has to do with gothloli maid character bouncing around in a dance routine with a bunny sharing the same rack size with Kurokami Medaka (complete with hair color change)? I’m looking forward to that. (And I hope someone tells me Medaka’s are larger, because they may be.)

That said, if there’s anything reassuring in Winter 2013, it is that boobies only get you so far. Who’s still watching Senren Kagura again? Maoyu’s sacs of fat is a somber reminder that boobs are really no big deal in the real world–we all have them, it’s more about how you use it. It’s much like how SHAFT, try as they might, can only do so much in Sasami-san episode 5 because that material is so Haruhi in this post-Haruhi environment, that the Based God herself (CV: Asumi Kana) goes meta over her own desires, in which becomes the plot driver. At least now we can claim that the combination of Haruhi anime with incest is actually a thing, or Haruhi with untranslatable puns is a thing. Plus the only booby character is the loli (who is fully clothed at all times, God willing). On the other hand, adding the right amount of boin (and it could be in all forms, from Kanade “Boin-chan” Oue to the cast of Da Capo III–Da Capo Sakura Drift) does give your show a little bonus juice. It’s about time we’ve gotten that formula right. (Is calling Kana-chan “boin-chan” the, uh, the 1000AD version of “Titty-ko”?)

On the other hand maybe this is why Aniplex is going for butts in Vividred and Lantis & ASCII Media Works are putting money on the surging idol trend. It is free market at work, folks; the industry is growing to meet your ever finicky and ephemeral demands. The only question is which people group are they taking feedback from? Surely not from people not paying any money into that exorbitantly problematic financing model. Maybe the final hook from Vividred would be the “OMG my body is an elite combat machine from the future and I’m just a plucky 14yo girl who wants to make friends using world-destroying weapons, but now I can’t do anything because I’m a zombie like Grandpa and I will never get married.” That would be such a cop-out. A more direct way to make sales is to just give us some bonus throw-ins, like how they deal with those rednecks from Osaka.

Or if you’re like me, you’re still glued to this show called Hyoubu Kyousuke, because it’s actually the most anime-y and best anime-y anime on the air. Why hello there Aya Hirano. If I had any regrets, it would be that shipping Hyoubu and Hinomiya is probably the canon thing to do, even if one (or both) of them is a real lolicon. I almost regret to be able to introduce the show for those “oh why are anime full of teenagers” crowd, but Hyoubu Kyousuke does work for them.

What is up with all these lolicons, anyway? I think there are probably a couple more than usual this season. Not that I actually keep track–it just feels weirder. It’s just like how Oreshura takes that oddish turn as it continues to introduce the girls in a mid-flight attempt to boost its solid if lackluster drama, borrowing from both Haganai (which continues to be problematic, for better or worse) and maybe even Chu2koi? I don’t know and I don’t even. It’s probably way too hopeful to expect it to be like Sakurasou, since I think a lot of us were expecting Sakurasou to be like Tora Dora, which is already way too hopeful. Does that mean Hocchan > Asumiss > Yukarin? It feels that way certainly when it comes to luck of the casting draw.

I’m starting to think Asumiss is the Morgan Freeman of the otaku anime world. でんがなまんがな! Or maybe more appropriately, PUCHIM@S!

Winter 2013 on Short Attention Spans

Maybe it’s because there’s almost a dozen short form anime this season that is getting unrivaled amount of attention, but there are not too many things keeping my attention, speaking purely from an anime perspective. Here are a few things that I’ve been gnawing on mentally. Bullet-bolded style?

I really enjoy Maoyu, but somehow it falls short of compelling. I guess it wouldn’t be right to say it is not compelling, as after each episode I wish I had the next one queued up ready to go. To me this is the #1 healing anime this season, partly because it models this really romantic take on a couple whose lives are driven by what they do, not by the romance between them. It is illustrated best by Maou’s hug pillow, both in a literal way but in a way where you actually see what’s going on. In my own experience interacting with people like this, it’s not always obvious. It’s kind of how two working couples can stand their time apart but really treasure when they are together, and the hug pillow is a short hand for that togetherness. It is also some other things, but Maoyu can speak to that itself. I also love how it’s just straightforward, unabashed plot and setting crap 80% of the time.

However it’s not compelling in a way where the Zettai Karen Children spinoff is–that’s just some solid anime. If there’s a quotient for “anime-ness” in anime, this show is full of it. The direction is competent and the plot, while somewhat veering into the path of way-too-familiar, stands enough between the ZKC references and that the setting does have some meat to it. It’s a great primer for people who want to engage the franchise and story without their skeevy-radar go off too much. Not that is a real problem for me anyway. It’s one of those rarely-sung title that somehow pops up on my to-do list every time a new episode comes out, and I make the time to watch it as soon as I reasonably can. For the record, I watched all of 2 episodes of the original Zettai Karen Children.

The Infernal Cop skit where they’re shooting underwater is still the best.

Is it me or Osaka Mama is actually a really serious moe anime? I mean it is serious about moe, not that it is serious.

Magi on CR seems uncensored. Magi on TV, maybe not?

There is no fog layer

That’s some choice words, Alibaba, for your animator-gods. That got me wondering–if we were to treat Crunchyroll (and by extension TN and FUNi) as channels of their own rights, shouldn’t fansubbers actually care more about raw sources? A Girls und Panzer with and without Katyusha is a world of differences. The broadcast’s calls impact these things, things that can drastically impact the viewing experience  (besides givens like the translation).

Cancer watch: I mean, is there some kind of cancer that is killing anime this season? Vividred Operation? Oh hey. I think if people actually cared about “moe cancer” they would’ve long figured out that it’s just the same handful of people making all this stuff they’re supposedly peeved about.

I thought Sasami-san episode 4 was wonderful, as usual. But I have no words for it this time because there wasn’t any room to talk about it outside the meta. Unless you got a creation tale or some legendary myths about Amaterasu’s body splitting into two or something. You would think given enough time, Shinbo’s work might actually approach that FLCL-esqe sensibility where it only makes sense because you’ve seen the anime in this exact way. This might be the closest he has gotten to that, yet. I mean, it made sense, right? I think another reason why I had little to say about Sasami-san episode 4 was because it is full of fanservice.

Anko mochi is the sweetest. And by sweetest I don’t necessarily mean taste. Tamako Market made sure of that, although in the end it may still sell short of its universal status as the default combination between mochi and filling.

Confession: I was never a Yukarin fan. Outside of Galaxy Angel I just never had anything to latch on. Her solo performer act is a spectacle but for me it was more relatable as an incubator of wotagei moves and an area of study of 2.5D culture than the content. I was still impressed at her moves in Oreshura though. As for Oreshura, unfortunately besides the Jojo references and how the girls may be cute, I’m not sure what else it has going for it. Oh, right, I love the color designs in the OP and ED.

It’s just the me who wants to play Ni no Kuni talking. He knows there’s no way I can watch all this anime and finish the game before 2014. The other me says that Kurousagi deserves my time every week. I’m inclined to agree. It’s not just that she’s a, well, bunny girl in the purest sense. She also is a very alpha-female kind of character that fanfictions would ship for protagonists and self-inserts. I mean, perhaps, if SAO had her instead of Asuna, I might have actually finished watching it. Maybe that’s it–I like girls who are treated like guys by the story (as opposed to the narrative)? I would ice her any day (speaking of games).

It’s kind of like, when people compare Maoyu with Spice & Wolf, I would say, “Horo would’ve eaten the two serfs.” I am kind of glad I skipped on Dog Days completely to go to that camp with Mondaiji. Maybe it is for the best.

Vividred Operation: Vivid Green is Miku, Vivid Blue is Kos-Mos, and Vivid Yellow is Mami (with a hint of Saber). I think that is really cool and I am almost shocked, after the fact, that it took this long for an anime to pull it together.

And that’s the end of my blogging attentions span. Maybe playing long, grinding JRPGs help to grow that. Somehow I doubt it.

PS. I’ve got to stop reading Peter King on Mondays. With the American foosball season over, maybe I will.

Dera Is Excalibur Is Black Beans in Tamako Market

I can’t help but to feel two things while watching Tamako Market:

1. Hungry for mochi.

Truth is, Tamako Market right now is exactly constructed like mochi. By “like mochi” I mean its mouth feel. Now to be specific, there are a wide variety of mochi-type foods out there, but in this Tamako Market, we’re constantly shown the mame mochi, which is, from what I can gather, one of the region’s famous combination. Mame mochi is kind of like a daifuku, except instead of a filling you mix in whole beans in the thing. Well, I certainly have never seen mochi like this anywhere other than stuff from Kyoto, although I am still a novice about this food. I mean I didn’t even know what chikara udon (udon topped with mochi, usually fried) was until I looked it up–it sounds like it could be pretty good! As much as I like mochi I sure am not very knowledgeable about the Japanese varieties, I probably should fix that.

I think in order to understand the nature of rice-eating in Japan, you really have to know mochi and its large varieties in Japan. I think they go above and beyond almost any other rice-as-a-main-staple country in terms of the weird thing they do with it. Like, what the hell is this?

It’s kind of the subtle yet super-pervasive thing about certain aspect of Japanese life, I gather. In some ways that really is what Tamako Market feels like to me. It’s enjoyable, white rice-product. Except the bird.

2. Feel Excalibur.

By Excalibur I mean the Legend That Began in the 12th Century. By that I mean the joke in Soul Eater in which this…perhaps insufferable creature of mystery (CV: Takehito Koyasu) but also the embodiment of a great power. And by great power I mean both his ability to beat the bad guys and his ability to fascinate and irritate, perhaps in equal measures.

Dera is like the black beans in the mame mochi. Dera gives it texture, flavor, and excitement. He can drive the plot to unpredictable places, introduce new characters and break up the monotone, everyday life.

It’s more than just filling and flavor, I think. Let’s look at the daifuku. Daifuku can be had anywhere these days, from Korea to China and beyond. I can go to my local H-mart and get it. The daifuku only a hop away from what the west calls “mochi ice cream” which is served in half of the Asian restaurants I frequent in NY. It’s a hit with the world. And a daifuku, in its basic configuration, is mochi with anko paste as a filling.

Sorry Anko, you’re great but Dera is better–or maybe not better, but more interesting because it’s unique. The anime community’s had Ankori Pasta Rice since when Momotato still blogged the world. It’s been done before, and it will continue in the future. We’ve had so many cute-girls-do-life shows. Now we have a cute-girls-do-life-with-a-talking-bird anime. It’s a safe twist, like tasty black beans mixed in mochi. But it’s a different taste; a taste closer to possibly my favorite K-ON song:

You make my heart throb, it may be love, I scurry
I can’t stop this hungry sensation and get dizzy

A piping hot plate of curry
Motivate me with a single spoon of spice
I don’t want mild, I want medium spice today
It’s an adult’s flavor

Meat, vegetables, and a secret hidden flavor
It’s the greedy loving heart of a growing girl

I love you!
Bubbling boiled curry
Let me experience two spoons of spice
But that’s my limit, it’s too spicy…I can’t
Shocked, shocked, shocked
Oh no no no no no no no no no no
A bit of curry and plenty of rice

Well, curry is probably a league above anko or mame but it’s too much for a comfortable show like Tamako Market.

You still might wonder how I get Excalibur vibes from Dera. I don’t even know, honestly, but I like both characters at this point and I think there is something faux-gentlemanly about the two creatures that is both endearing and sickening. It’s that duality which gives a distinct flavor to this show–not quite like spicy curry, not as extreme as bitter melon, but it is perhaps a little sweet and sour? I think as far as something like that goes, Dera is rather mild and, perhaps most importantly, amusing. At least he makes sense, and that goes a very long way.

But that’s just me. I’m sure plenty of people prefer Tamako Market like vanilla ice cream made with LN, bird-free. There’s a great comfort to biting into a solid, but appropriately soft chunk of mochi in which I think is partly conferred by the show in terms of its feelings, but I don’t know if one could build an interesting story with only that. A little bit of magic here go a long way.