Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Frieren Thoughts, One Season In

I think there are two aspects of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, or Souzou no Frieren, that really work well together to carry the story. One is that it’s a really emotional story. The other is that it builds a narrative that is well-layered. The two together works like a sieve of sorts. Instead of a Gunbuster-okaeri payoff you get a slow drip of the mono-no-aware (or as the kids say, “vibe”) over a longer period of time, in much smaller doses, as the story unfolds layer by layer accordingly.

From 30,000 feet up I think Frieren is repackaging the story also told by other cyro-timeskip plot devices, where you have some weak interactor that carries memories from times of ancient past to the present or future. This character is living history out itself so each generation connects with each other much like subsequent scenes in a movie featuring the same protagonist; or a TV show in this case.

Spoilers ahoy.

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Bang Dream: MyGO!!!!! Anime

I just finished watching the mid-2023 TV anime (web anime?) Bang Dream: MyGO!!!!! and it is definitely a remarkable work. The weird part about my watching experience was that having tried and failed 2 episodes in, back when it was airing, then I watched the live-action band play in person, then I watched the first 7 episodes again, then I watched the same band play in person yet again, then I finally finished the series.

For starters, it’s definitely a series better binged. The non-linear narrative does the series a disservice until you make it to episode 3. MyGO’s strength, and to an extent all character-driven series like this, is character-based emotional investment. Without that, the dramatic “ball hiding” or “mystery” is just too surface level as a pull for me. Until I care, I’m not going to want to know, and this is why the back story retelling finally makes it possible. Yes, do the 3-episode test, but at least this many episodes.

Spoilers ahead.

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The IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE! Anime!

Here is another topic that I have a million takes and I have to time box to get this out. And I did it in only three hours. Anything is possible.

Kotoha chasing after Chupa with large knife (ML ep7)

In the overall context of 21st century Japanese media-mix content mills, we have to judge things on a sliding scale. By that I mean here is a media property (the Million Live anime, or Miriani henceforce) that is probably best described as a way to on-ramp new players into one sub-brand of the IDOLM@STER family. By players I mean there’s an ongoing (F2P) mobile game which is I think best described as a way to engage with content that is regularly updated. That in its own is a major context with its own baggage, many long-winded blog posts, et cetera. You can find some of them on this very blog, for links to a thin slice of these here.

Yes, gacha games fund all these extravagances. As a Umamusume player (and fan) there’s another blog post-to-be (or a draft to be discarded) about the interaction between Uma and IM@S content and fandom, because with Million Live I see the parallels right there. There is also the oft-unspoken backdrop of children’s entertainment and just how much Aikatsu I see from Miriani, and why there was a big exclamation on top of some folk’s heads (like mine) when they said it was “nichiasa” or “Sunday morning cartoons” when they first announced it.

It is a long journey from the smokey Japanese arcades of the 00s to Sunday Morning TV Tokyo 10am time slot in 2023, but that’s not what this post is about. That said, being a Sunday Morning Cartoon means more than just the time slot, but also that the show fits that time slot. This is to the detriment of many English-language internet viewers that you can find, like this reviewer. These are the (cloth in which you cut a ChihayaP from, but I digress) type of people you’ll most commonly see. To them idol anime is not just Love Live and IM@S, but things like Selection Project or (I shudder to think) Chance Triangle Session. Those are fine shows, but on this “sliding scale” those are all the way at the other end of the scale, the irrelevant otaku bait end of things. Where are all the Precure, Pripara, and Aikatsu people? Do the average proto-ChihayaP understand there’s more to IM@S than emo-emo vibes?

Which is to say, unfortunately you can, and should, still square Million Live with the original IDOLM@STER TV anime and the subsequent Movie, both which are celebrated and officially marketing material used to promote the Million Live anime before it started the theatrical run (what). And as someone who was able to enjoy that “golden era” e? tempore… I don’t think it is the best decision, but it still made all the sense in the world.

Which is just to say, a Million Live anime in the nichiasa form with its 3D anime style (lovingly crafted I might add) completes the rehabilitation of the property from Mami singing Agent Yoru o Yuku on NicoNico Douga to, uhm, Asterism singing dear… It may still be performed by someone U149, but it’s actually rehabilitated? All I am trying to say is, the more things change, the more it stays the same. It’s like the IDOLM@STER stuff, but in a different packaging, probably one that’s less suitable for the average adult anime viewers from the west.

Over the years since Million Live Theater Days has gotten from this weird “baton-passing” game where the 765PROAS team getting to chill off from their 10 years worth of hard work to the 37+2 kouhai members, it has gotten more, I think anyways, female-player friendly, more trendy, and more mainstream-sensible. Maybe that also alienated more players who liked the older stuff, and players who might find one of the other IM@S franchises more to their liking, but that carved out the niche for Million. I think this will come to the fore even more when Shiny Colors anime come out very soon… But comparing that with the U149 (as in the unit) anime which stuck closer to the original animas formula (because there are few enough of them) it’s pretty obvious Million Live anime is going somewhere else.

Unfortunately, this means unless you are already on the bandwagon for awhile, Miriani might be surprisingly not-your-taste. And that’s fine.

Again, to zoom out a bit, IDOLM@STER as a franchise is going to be 20 years old in about 2 more years, which by any reasonable measuring stick, is way too long for an otaku property given that it is active this entire time. Do you consider Gundam an otaku property? Or Macross? We are getting to those franchises’ level. Million Live is its marquee “glue” that connects 765Pro to, uh, Profit, I guess, so it really has to walk a high wire act that is the high road.

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IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE Anime and the Meaning of Spoilers

The real qtpie in ep1

I have a lot to say about the Million Live TV anime, as you could imagine. I think the thoughts will not make it as blog entries unless there’s some way to get that angle and tackle just a part of this iceberg piece-wise. And yeah 90% of this opinion is underwater, and all of it is not-so-hot-takes. Maybe part of it is wet, I don’t know, but there ain’t any large boats to ram into.

The main thing I want to address that has more of an expiry-time nature to is the vastly asymmetric distribution of the media content. As you may know, the Million Live TV anime, all 12 episodes, was screened publicly in Japanese movie theaters about 8 weeks before episode 1 aired properly. Some countries also got screenings of the first 4 episodes, before episode 1 aired. Some fans could, and did, watch all of it before other fans watched even 1 of it, just due to regional availability. It has been a hot minute since an anime like this existed for a property that is contemporary, current, and I’m into. In fact since the dawn of speed subbing and simulcasting, it only really happens for theatrical works. But you know, Miyazaki Hayao’s latest film screened in Japan only about 2 months before it screened in the USA, so we’re working with about the same time lag I guess.

What’s bad is not just that now talking to fans in Japan means wading into spoiler territory, but they fundamentally see the series in a different light than those who haven’t seen the anime see the series. Granted, I am more like, I don’t know, waist deep, in spoilers myself as not only I’ve seen eps 1-4 already (I guess it’s a perk of going to Japan multiple times a year), I also am not particularly mindful of reading spoilers.

The worst, however, is that the main point behind screening ML anime in theaters is that they can make some additional revenue from selling theatrical merch tie-ins, aside from actual theatrical run revenue. It’s also market validation. It’s in-game tie-ins for the hardcore players and fans. I get it. I know why they want to do this. But as an oversea fan it sucks because there are entire swaths of my twitter that I can’t really access, LOL–not because I want to dodge spoilers, but because they talk about things I won’t get until I see the show.

Apple Watch?

Anyways, it’s time to put that aside for the next 11 or so weeks and figure out if I can travel to Fukuoka for Million Live 10th Tour Act-3 and still enjoy the show. I will have all the new songs (another thing forced on us while we are info-asymmetric, CD releases) by then, but if my math is right we will only be on episode 4 or 5 at the time. I’ll need to find a local theater showing the rest, like how they’re doing it at Toyosu, showing all 12 episodes right now. (Did I mention the tie-in with ML anime at Toyosu all this time? Another way to part money from the locals I guess.) Isn’t it nice to watch an episodic series and decided you had enough of waiting and just binge the rest in a theater? I digress.

The new units and units songs seems pretty swell as the second batch of them are now previewed on Youtube. I can’t wait to see the rest of this. First batch at this link.

No straps with binocs, a nub mistake

PS. As someone who occasionally have a pair of binocs at concerts, I know how this feels.

PPS. Just some related thoughts on concerts. We all know that formally, ML anime actually was delayed. It probably meant that we are a year late or so, that the end of the series translate into the start of 10th tour. Putting aside that 9th was in January and 10th Act-1 was in April, this would be a natural lead-in. At this point, the ML anime Blu-rays are too late (Volume 1 comes out Jan. 10) for the lottery for Act-4 in late February. I guess they can always put something special in there (I fully am expecting it) but I guess we’ll see.


16-Bit Nostalgia

Just to quickly check: the opening song to Comic Party is also called ????? (Kimi no mama de), the same as Amagami anime OP (second OP to Amagami SS), which is now going to be a bonus track for the fifth volume home-video release for 16-Bit Sensation ~Another Layer~. It’s a new TV anime airing on a streaming service near you.

I am not too sure how to view this. Personally watching the first episode felt not so much a huge nostalgia trip, but witnessing necromancy. It’s triggering memories from not from a past life, but two past lives ago. Looking back, my journey as a person and as a fan in respect to “otaku culture” and contents has definitely, well, gone to places. Maybe another way to say is that I’ve grown old, grown up, grown tired, or just put it all past me to a degree, so much so, that I am even a bit guarded about my nostalgia and just how much of it is worth recalling.

It’s not an exaggeration to say I was really into some of this stuff back then; but we all were. I don’t find that aspect particularly notable, even in 2023, when those of us back then are now, at least, middle-aged men and women. Personally, I was most intrigued by memories of being into I’ve Sounds, which was part and parcel with Kanon and other older Visual Arts titles. I never really was into the games short of Type-Moon’s, maybe… the aesthetics was more what spoke to me, and in some ways the core desires about having some character put into that position, the main girl in the galge, that Konoha somehow stated in ep1. I think there’s an undeniable attractiveness which centers the classic moe idea that just is not really talked about this day and age, which is not about the gap so much or what defines moe itself, but the always-changing ways in which that is brought forward in a fictional depiction.

Which is to say, Type-Moon actually is way too new for 16-bit Sensation. I think while I was still living my first life, as continue to lean on this metaphor, that title came towards the latter part of it. Maybe this is why I don’t hate vampires so much. Which is just to say, I probably have a bigger problem with necromancers, because fundamentally what dead creatures resurrected differ from the same creatures when they were alive. It’s not to say 16-Bit Sensation did this, or aspire to recreate, or anything along those lines, but invariably it’s got to ward off the smells of inauthenticity by suspending our beliefs somehow. It would be a logical thing to do: let old timers nitpick how the anime got it wrong to distract them from the ludicrous time-traveling premise. Certain forms of inauthenticity are features. But we need not to get too bogged down on this; just by actually having graphical assets from Grandpa’s eroge closet in the anime is powerful enough of a dose.

And I think this is also the only sensible way to approach 16-Bit Sensation; the story is about an otaku-joshi illustrator who suddenly traveled back in 1992 so she can make the galge that she dreamed of making. That is pretty wild, by 2023 lingo, and really not at a point where we can take it on after 1 episode.