One giant postscript that I should’ve added last post is the stuff that happened in 2020 after the world went into shutdown mode in the early days of the pandemic. Well, regarding anime music at least, there were a lot of online collabs in 2020 that are worth remembering and calling out as a result of musicians and similar types who lost gigs from the shutdown and had to make do with online and remote stuff, some free, because what else are we going to do other than Animal Crossing?
This better serves as its own post to remember what happened anyway, so a list. Also, I am not going to remember all the ones worth highlighting so any help in the comments is a great add.
The Seatbelt online project was pretty rocking, and the online Tanabata stream was really frigging good. I can’t understate how good that was. Like, that is once-a-decade level good. In addition to the big show (which has other YK stuff), there were a bunch of Youtube releases of re-recorded songs from the show. I even bought this vinyl, lol.
YOASOBI struck gold late 2019/2020 and Yori ni Kakeru was the third or second-most covered song in anisong-world, in 2020. I don’t know:
The First Take did fill a void in 2020 when we were void of the usual variety shows and live performance footage, so check out their channel. Even if they started in 2019, 2020 was a good year for what they do.
Then there are things like Yamamura Hibiku’s covers, which is in line with what indie artists do, pandemic or not. Maybe the song choice?
If you watched Kurocon, it was quite the covid event and we brought marble to our first show! They had been doing a lot on Youtube during the year. Micco from marble has her own covers during the lockdown here. Acoustic sets from some of their hits are on their official channel.
Koori no Torikago – Amamiya Sora (Kimi to Boku no Saigo no Senjou, Aruiwa Sekai ga Hajimaru Seisen ED)
Fascinate – Velvet Rose (IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls) – Technically 2019 even though the CD came out in 2020. I just didn’t know about this song until 2020. Would have put it up in the previous section otherwise.
WOW WAR TONIGHT ~Toki ni wa Okose yo Movement~ – Mizuki Nana, RACHELL (D4DJ First Mix) – This cover is historic. Also I love the DJ WILDPARTY reference animation, it feels just like the real thing.
Kimi ni Aeta Hi – Itou Miku, Kito Akari (Adachi And Shimamura OP) – A proper seiyuu duet.
Parade d’amour – Opera Seria Kiramekiza (IDOLM@STER Million Live) – Managed to channel chills for me the same the way as Generations 04.
Hyakka wa Gekka ni Chirinuru wo – Hanasakuya (IDOLM@STER Million Live) – Appropriately time froze for me in that January weekend, and maybe for the rest of Million Live kingdom.
Kiseki no Kane (Taisho 29 ver.) – Shin Teikoku Kagekidan (Shin Sakura Taisen) – This song still has so much over me 10+ years later.
PS. Some more music.
Waver – Tadokoro Azusa – The title track of her self-produced album technically isn’t released until 2021/01/27 but it’s good!
Hana no Ame – Ueda Reina – I am tickled pink by this art project. Or her earlier album.
Wahl – Roselia – Nice album.
Sky Full of Magic – Lapis Re:Light – Generally a lot of fun, all the songs. Wish it included the Sky songs though.
Delicious Smile – Wataten 5 – Special image album from Wataten and it’s a great bright holiday spot in a dreary year.
PPS. I’m ready to put Database back on the list, but is NHK?
We’re almost at the end of a very wild year. Thankfully time stops for nobody, not even for a boss-level, once in a lifetime year that is 2020. It certainly didn’t stand still for me, else I would have published my 2018 and 2019 review posts!
For many people in the EN speaking world, everyday has been replaced by a new reality. Grappling with Anime blogging seems not only quaint but completely ineffective today as a way to communicate. That said, it’s never only, or mostly, about communication–I write because I want to put words to the things on my mind, how I feel, and really it’s just another way I talk to myself. Talking to yourself is normal, right? It sure seems normal in 2020. In our attention-based online economy today, maybe this isn’t a bad idea. It’s as if you are practicing the golden rule in the most non-platonic fashion, which is better than what I could say about a lot of things out there. In a way it’s like becoming a virtual streamer, where you journal about yourself publicly but also as a performance, just not that extreme.
The impact of coronavirus is clearly detailed in hindsight, even if we are still in the thick. Cons are cancelled. Concerts are cancelled. In-person entertainment all basically shut down. I can’t even go out to eat with friends or visit them at home (well), at least for a while. Online versions of these things became, over time, the substitute. Instead of flying to Japan, I can stay up and mess up my sleep schedule and watch these live streams. Also a lot more of them become easier to buy-in overseas, and can be time-shifted. It’s gotten to the point where I have more lives I want to buy than I actually watch. Is this what living in Japan and having access is like? There were online watashikai, online autograph sessions, and more online stuff on social media and just overall. It is WILD to Zoom seiyuu, let’s just say.
Having more online things for oversea fans is great but it doesn’t make up for the lack of in-person events. For starters, it isn’t just a substitute. I think after we get through the tumble of COVID, these online things are still nice to have. There’s more margin for the stay-at-home streaming solution than theater live viewing and such–we’re paying nearly the same to watch at home versus at a theater, right? Folks who went to watch in person can time-shift and double dip (as I would sometimes want). And then there’s explosion of virtual youtubers this year–HoloEN more like HolyEN.
From an anime-centric point of view, maybe it’s important to remember that as an industry, things didn’t change a lot. Some folks mitigated the impact by working from home. Projects were delayed. Some didn’t matter that much. As an example, I think the story behind Vladlove is worth looking into, which you can now watch the first episode on Youtube (RIP BlooDye).
Anyways, despite what one may say about the state of anime in 2020, there were a list of usual suspects, some better than others. The first vtuber anime series aired in 2020, appropriately. Numerous sequels and one-season tries dotted the slightly less busy landscape, marking the first calendar year in a while where there are fewer anime than the year before it, by a lot.
Personally watching anime isn’t a thing that got impacted from the pandemic. If I spent more time at home, there are the aforementioned large quantity of media from seiyuu and vtubers to consume, plus good ol’ regular TV, things on Youtube, plus old anime. There are still your general bags of free-to-play mobile games, and an occasional console or PC title (where do you play Genshin Impact?). I actually have a rotation going on for login bonuses and some light grind (D4DJ Groovy Mix is actually kind of fun?). If anything I watched less this year than prior, but I think I averaged out pretty close to even. If I crown one mobile game for 2020 it would be Princess Connect Re:Dive though. On that note…
Overall, my favorite shows in 2020 probably are all over the place. When you set the tone in 2020 with Eizouken or Dorohedoro, there aren’t much you can do to match, let alone overcome. On the comfort side, same can be said of things like Koisuru Asteroid or Oshibudo. There was even the new Sakura Taisen thing which, well, was a thing. Nami wo Kiitekure was comfort food (I literally made soup curry during quarantine and it was good).
I guess I’m just going through the seasons in order now? Maybe? These are just the top cuts from what I finished. Ascendance of a Bookworm season 2 was badly needed since that period of early summer was likely the hardest time for most folks. It made shows like Kakushigoto just that much more poignant. I also found myself leaning towards mainstream titles more this year, if you include things like the last of Shokugeki no Soma, Railgun T, and Major 2nd Second Season (I skipped first season…probably for the best), and stuff going on like Dai no Daibouken, Yashahime, Attack on Titan, and Jujutsu Kaisen.
Since I played Princess Connect JP, the anime was a big deal and quite fun, and more importantly it wasn’t too disappointing. Teibou was the surprise show for me that season despite being a tough starter. Sane procedurals like Kitsutsuki Tanteidokoro was good contrast to my usual palette of shows. I mean, I can’t expect Listener to wash away Tsugumomo S2…or Re:Zero season 2 for that matter.
I had some fun watching Tower of God and thought God of High School would be also fun, guess I was wrong. Rental Girlfriend provided enough, uh, juice for the Summer I guess. You sure need some juice to power through OreGuile S3, I guess. Or Maou Gakuin.
Beyond another Monster Girl anime (which is surprisingly OK) and Uzaki (which is surprisingly tame), there was Deca-Dence, which I’ve spoken about. I feel that has to be the biggest let down of sorts this year. Akudama Drive and the latest Jun Maeda anime (the cake didn’t rise again, as it were) aside, there were other interesting nuggets, like Golden Kamuy S3, but also surprising items like D4DJ and Assault Lily.
With the last 2 weeks of the year, I recently rewatched season one of Mariasama ga Miteru, which is soothing, and low-stakes, for something that could be called the Catholic school yuri bible-level masterpiece of an anime series. Hearing so much vintage Ueda Kana brings me back to a haughty and spirited performance as she played the underworld goddess in Babylonia. It’s the bridge in which 2020 felt started on the right foot. It was supposed to be FGO’s big year–and for the most part it has been, especially for EN. I was hyped about CG 7th Osaka. That bluray came and went, and I made clips of the concert for listening on the go.
The washout on concerts did a huge hit on IDOLM@STER and Love Live. Somehow D4DJ and Bandori are hanging in there, but the more conservative big company take meant that Shiny Colors really got screwed over with having to rely only on the game to launch Noctchill. We did finally get that no-audience concert stream, but it just isn’t the same. Million Live is on its 7th year, so maybe we can live just with Kanshasai (or, in another word, Chupa) and THANK YOU over Zoom? There isn’t even new cast lol.
D4DJ, on that note, did as well as you could have imagined. It did not really feel that it was hit by the pandemic much, but this was more of a case where we don’t know where they would have gone if they didn’t have a pandemic blocking packed raves from happening. The anime seems like a godsend for this series, which breaks some ground being streamed on Youtube. I mean, if late night anime is an advertisement for your media-mix franchise, may as well make it the most easily accessible thing, right?
As 2020 wore on, the impact on day to day life definitely diverged between countries that did well (many East Asian places) and countries that did badly (many western nations) on managing the pandemic, in terms of events. If there was ever a compelling reason for otaku to support science-based policy for their local governments, this was it. Fighting the pandemic and fully reopening the economy were never at odds with each other–only completing the former will make the latter possible.
This was the most clear to me when I watched Asakura Momo’s live tour this year–having won tickets to the coveted Fukuoka stop, then having it cancelled, then again having it reboot in Makuhari Messe Event Hall, with social distancing, then finally shown as an online stream. I’m glad at least I got to see it.
Well, at least I didn’t spend money doing pre-lottery and having that cancel on me like Shiny 2nd. Somehow that didn’t bother me as much?
To backtrack to an earlier train of thought: the move to online did enable some interesting new formats besides just youtubers youtubing–Cinderella Girls did a 24-hour stream which is probably the one and only of its kind. It was a festival of sorts, and there were a lot to take away from the festivities. I mean, it’s a lot of fun variety shows and weird in jokes, many of which didn’t really land to be honest. There are still interesting technology at play, such as that AR stuff that youtuber concerts use, but to some interesting effects. It’s the kind of thing you think about–did the pandemic make it happen? Yes. How about IM@S website reboot and the two assistant-producer youtubers?
The usual chika idol game fared poorly with COVID–many idol groups disbanded or members left in 2020. I think this just cannot be helped, since they are on the extreme end of how musicians make living through the live concert experience. That said, 2020 was when the world discovered things like, SoundOrion and Dialogue+, both projects really getting into the swing in 2019 and had to kept going in 2020, or else. Some of the other groups went pretty quiet this year. And then there’s A応P which is going to end… In a way, you’re kind of glad that some things ended before 2020, so they had proper farewells.
A similar story can be said of Lapis Re:Light, which hit its anime stride in mid year this year, but the live content is all on freeze, so instead we can watch it on Youtube. It’s not bad, but it just does not feel the same for something so new. You wonder what the producers and planners of that IP was thinking when they put together the full product.
It’s definitely a tale of many different stories when we look at the response to 2020 from various entities from Japan putting out this content. Let’s just say, thankfully, this also meant someone like myself can prop up an online event like Kurocon, and have it work out. I don’t know how much I can say about two events we did but it’s definitely something very educational. All of us are dealing with a new reality and trying to make it work, with varying success.
On that note, here’s a couple podcast episodes from Anisong Talk from Kurocon’s namesake, which sums up kind of how I feel in general regarding anime songs. Overall I think there have been pretty solid entries from both anisong groups and seiyuu artists in 2020. If I had to pick one to rep it would be Ueda Reina, and I hope to see her first live, which is postponed to early 2021…sometime? Maybe? Not looking that likely but gotta carry that hope.
And while people may talk bad smack to 2020, and I respect that, we need to also remember the good things that also happened this year. I think a lot of the good that happened in 2020 reflected our collective effort to make a bad year better. It is humanity’s lemonade after being given lemon. So as the clock tick towards new years, cheers! Bottoms up, with your cup of kool aid of peace and hope.
Originally I was going to write up a recap for 2019 (and finish my recap of 2018), but I just didn’t get around to it in late December due to work and other unexpected things taking up time and attention. This January, I’ll try to work on them.
The plan was also, instead of a list or list of lists, I was going to write in bigger strokes some of the trends and the big picture view of some stuff; thus.
For starters, we are right in the thick of the next wave of original content localization, with more free-to-play mobile games being ported to English than ever. FGO being a top-10 gross revenue game in 2019 is a big deal, one which doesn’t even seem odd as Japan has always been a powerhouse when it comes to video game/electronic entertainment. But for those of us who followed this franchise from the start, it is a surprise that no one could have really seen 20 years ago.
The meaning behind it is that unlike manga and light novels, we are doing an 180–these incredibly (comparatively) effort and cost-intensive properties can have their showdown across the Pacific because they also make a truck load of money. Not even One Piece or (and?) Naruto can make a billion US bucks in a year (and yet they are still gated heavily by their publishers…oh well). Let along random B-grade light novels. Or any print books for that matter.
On the other hand, it’s easy to translate books and manga–that’s why escalation is so rampant. And it’s relatively easy to localize anime and the non-online kind of game content. As an IM@S fan I know all too well the problem when Bandai Namco is your game’s publisher, judge and executioner all in one, and that multinational beast is going to face some challenges in this ever-evolving landscape where there’s a lot of money to be had only if they could agilely maneuver to fight for a piece of the biggest pie in all of electronic entertainment. So Money is only motivation–the rest is incredibly difficult work (in some cases).
How that trickles down to the nuances of why someone loves some anime character is harder to see, and that’s where we introspect with our 20/20 glasses on, looking into what has happened to gleam some insight to produce, hopefully, good foresight.
Eventing culture is both being normalized and regurgitated overseas. The best example I can give is the flower stand thing. Like, why do people do it at cons? Does TGS have flower stands? I guess for the event? It is kind of weird to do it for the guests of the event… But as per the usual case with weeaboo culture, this is basically the morpheus strip where the West take whatever pieces of the culture they want from the East and repurposes it for their own, usually out of context (or only in the context of Reddit, Youtubers, and random blogs). It is what it is on some level, and it’s mostly fine as long as it’s only kids blowing disposable income to stan some Asian celeb, and remain mostly fun and games.
And that’s just flower stands. I think there are other examples, but let’s keep it under control and make sure it doesn’t cost pain or suffering, or even minor irritation, folks.
Thanks to largely Bushiroad pushing their more niche, event-tie-in content into English, we also see more of it via their guests appearances and Chara Expo USA. It is still a different story regarding localizing concerts, but live viewings seems to be taking off.
If we think of anime and games (and as I write this sitting in a hotel at Arizona, attending TaiyouCon, pro baseball) as what connects the West and the East, the long terms growth of anime films (both the snobby kind and the TV anime excuse kind) necessitates the same distribution overseas. The growth of anime movies for struggling theaters out in North America is a bright sign. I just think how the Konosuba film did in 2019, and of course, Promare, covers that spectrum quite nicely. It is also still a shame that Americans won’t get to see Shinkai’s new film until 2020 but the rest of the world have already put Weathering With You to bed now. I think that’s just because it is a stupid business reason but it is still unfortunate.
Speaking of the Konosuba film, some anime con better bring Takahashi Rie to America in 2020. Isn’t it amazing that so many theaters in North America screened that little pre-movie intro interview?
From the con front, I think we are well in ripe territory for competent, for-profit entities to provide actually good anime con experiences to adult fans in the anime side of things. In my view, the biggest barrier so far is actually that profit-seeking motive trying to outthink execution with galaxy-brain approaches. It is much sensible to copy what already works and just focus on how to execute better. And I don’t mean just con runners, but also service providers for cons. I think we still have a long ways to go when many cons aren’t even done picking the lowest hanging fruits. As attendees become more sophisticated and well-off there will be more headroom for growth.
In this decade, I hope, there ought be more scalable way to make sure that basics like line management and registration are not messed up for any con. We were already there for the most part in the 2010s, and even more so as fan con management services provide more layers of services such as RFID badges and badge mailing. We really shouldn’t have ticketing server screw-ups, even for high-demand weeb concerts (and better ways to handle those as well other than just an online rush). There are just not too many events with that many attendees.
This is also on top of existing developments. For example the cruise cons, the resort hotel cons, and that fans are doing their own hanger-on events on top of cons. Wota Peace Party is one such thing, and I wish there are easier ways for enterprising fans to plug into a con and cons to help those fans leverage these experiences so they can run their own “panels” so to speak. There are no reasons to be strangers, you and I. It’s about time for the Room Party to grow up, and maybe that could happen in the next 10 years.
As for con programming, I also think it is high time we actually import Asian best practices. I want more engaging guest panels based on their entertainment skill strengths. If Aniplex is going to fly Yuki Aoi to NYC, it would be a damn crying shame to not have her perv in front of your attendees. That’s what all the fans know her for! I mean why else did you spend all that money? What for? There are other examples like this. I know it can be hard to actually think about the content of the panel from the perspective of putting up a show–most industry style panels are closer to marketing to exec decks than actual fun stuff, but there is no excuse to put on $10000s of HR into an offsite location and just have them read off a spreadsheet. It is a poor use of money, time and effort. I’m glad at least some folks get this, but please put some of that money into use to bring us enjoyable context that properly flex the guests charm points. You want to make fans, you want them to be engaged, so it’s time to go all the way. Don’t fly 1000s of miles to meet us and only stumble on your last step.
Also related to this but coming from the other side of the world, maybe the next 10 years is when Japan-hosted otaku experiences will actually take off. Or I hope. The Love Live concert tours (and the upcoming Numazu tour) is something that Japan has really tried to do with wide ranges of outcomes. More often than not it doesn’t work, but guided tours are an easy way to bridge the gap, given if the fandom is old enough and reach critical mass of eventers. The work I’ve been involved in the past 10 years with showing some Producers the ropes probably helped, but the only horn worth tooting is the greater Bushiroad-Brand fandom that brought in the folks through their work with both the mothership and their fellow fans. Eventers all across the English-speaking world also helped to cobble together enough information to funnel folks far and wide into Japan, paving the way for more to follow. I think it’s rewarding to see the little drops of participation all of you contributed bearing some long-term results. And this just goes back to why some folks are so hung up on flower stands LOL.