Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Omonomono Newsletter, August 4 Update

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The dog days of August

Omonomono Newsletter, 2021-08-04

Maybe Wednesday is the hump I needed to get these out. But this English-subbed music video sure is something, Ms. Kito!

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Info Ghettos

An ongoing thing I think about over the years is the level of discourse in the fandom verticals I follow. I think it’s a practical, rubber-meets-the-road sort of thing where fans discuss, organize, and understand what they’re doing, what they are consuming, and the impact of their actions (as well as the action of their content providers). The drive to seek to understand is often an underpinning force behind the reason why fans seek out things, from pilgrimages to simple literary analysis.

It’s not to say that a more sophisticated discourse is better, but rather the general rule is that you want to have many different discourses–possibly as many as possible to the extent that some discourses might prohibit others, so we don’t want just those. It is kind of the fallacy to think humanity can only do one thing at a time: feed the poor versus going to space, for example. Or to think a character can only be shipped one way (in a serious sense). There may be a list of priorities that may be important to a fandom, but individuals within it will have varying priorities at all times. In general, people will think what they think, and we always have to fight our tendency to want to monopolize or manipulate it, to allow everyone the space to express themselves within the allowed bounds. It’s extra credit to make the space safe and conducive to additional discourse to let that fandom flower, as I think humans naturally will blossom even if you just leave them alone and provide the bare minimum.

In as such, this is what fandom ghettos are like–just masses of people left to do what they are to do, unorganized and generally letting their previous training guiding them. I think that is probably okay, as far as a human condition goes. I also think we can do much better, assuming enough attention, human resources, money, and will (political or otherwise) is present. After all there can only be so many discussions about who your favorites are. The more discourses we have, by nature, there will be some that are more sophisticated as we come up with more new things to talk about.

To that end, I think it’s easy to think we can elevate that discourse by leadership: leading by example, specifically. I think one of the best example is the Sakugabooru folks. It takes some level of sophistication to talk about sakuga, even if on some level it’s one of the most visceral thing about that particular type of fandom. Anime news is another, although that’s closer to acts of, say, translation and retweeting an announcement where the “discourse’ Is largely one-way and can be extremely nuanced and complicated, and given it is one way folks don’t appreciate how that is until they try it themselves.

Which is to say, it’s not really the only way going forward. I use the term ghetto in part because, unlike nice neighborhoods, they cost very little to maintain and to live in. If your community doesn’t have gates, there’s no gate keeping so to speak. And at some level, we all start with basics like simple favorites and go from there, so as a fan mature over time, ever stage of that journey needs some degree of respect and attention in order to get folks moving up the chain, if that’s what you want. Every step of the way is important, but especially the first.

I also use the term, in part, to highlight a level of inequality and that discrimination does occur in fan spaces based on where people live in figuratively. It is not a coincidence that some forms of entertainment are attached to status and wealth. In the age of mass media and social media, this might not be as big of an issue since massively popular content are often democratizing as well as extremely attractive to everyone, even those in high towers, but discriminatory attitudes persists both ways, from the top looking down and vice versa.

Where am I going with this post: Anime Tube and ANN’s coverage. And some meta stuff. There are a few more highlights.

  1. Professional media/journalism operate with some kind of means to some kind of ends that are pretty well spelled out. It’s definitely admirable that some sites expose predators in the industry at some risk (being female and harassed by internet mobs is a real danger). But I think this is a situation where we put ourselves in. We can do better. In this day and age there are a truck ton of “anime fans” and unlike video game sites, anime sites are still quite rare, at least in English. We need to gather crew on media and press so we have the right people with the right tools and experiences to deal with the issues (and dangers) of a profession that is covering things loved by (tens of? hundreds of?) millions of people worldwide.
  2. Social media has taken a lot of the work out of traditional media in the anime space. I think there is even more of a reason for authoritative sources of information to band together (informally) to make certain information available. It is about crafting narratives, and this is really hard to do when there are only 2-3 major English news site that covers “the scene” in depth. There are also several sizable sites that do the opposite, and really just click-bating with tabloid content (or worse). I think this is a real need that is being filled by Youtubers, and this situation can be observed across all different fan spaces (and non-fan spaces).
  3. All of it is just to say, if you build it, they will come. Unfortunately it’s also one of those things where it isn’t as if people have not tried before. I used to write for such a site, some might remember, that tried this. But frankly no matter how willing the spirit is, the body is weak.
  4. Let’s not forget how a group like Anime Tube can even get this far–it had to survive in the vacuums where the light of reality had little grasp on the way a company can go about the business of streaming anime. The moment they step into that light, they are probably toast. Frankly lit or not, anime will continue to be consumed, but maybe, just maybe, it’s good for the community for content to be tied to the rest of the apparatus (a visible and clear relationship with, say, the people who create the thing to sell toys or whatever).

Fans can and should take responsibility and I think with sites like ANN being where it is, some fans have. But when it comes to this Japanese cartoon, games, and comics stuff, industry are not really sowing it where it needs to be done. Part of this is in marketing budgets, part of it is the gap between western publishers and Japanese publishers. Some of it is just unsophistication (arguably the MPAA/RIAA only “got” all this in the last 10 years, for a point of comparison). Part of it is the Galapagos syndrome the entire culture of Japan has regarding doing business. There are many other factors still.

Which is all just to say, it isn’t even fair if fans can meet corporate half way. We are their paying customers, they really should go as far as they possibly can. Unfortunately, that’s most of the time not even half way. In that sense, the one thing I’m most grateful for Crunchyroll is its ability to slosh around the community and be a bridge to connect the consumers with the “source” which means, yes, they too run a news site. Yes, they post new seiyuu and anisong music videos (bless them) guised as articles. We are at the point where PR needs to be in English first, let alone actual reporting (heroic as they were at times) that ANN seems to pride itself on. There’s such a huge swath of news that just die in the void of the language barrier that there is no end to what needs to be translated, spun, and thrown out there.

I think if Netflix want to spend 10 million in the next 3-4 years to do an anime news/community site, that will do wonders for this entire sector. They can afford it and there will be results from this outreach type work. The work Bandai Namco is doing with Gundam (if Netflix can work it out) and gunpla may mean there’s a path there for that series. Who knows? But what makes sense is the full package, not just the anime by itself. Maybe this just means we need more slumlords today.


Omonomono Newsletter, Apr. 27 Update

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This post is brought to you by a 12-hour maintenance for Umamusume game.

Omonomono Newsletter, 2021-04-27

This Past Week

Animator and director Osamu Kobayashi passed away on the 17th due to cancer. You can share your condolences with this project, who will present comments from oversea fans to the grieving. Maybe time to remember him through that episode of Ekoda-chan.

Maybe I should report births too, because I think I didn’t write about Kanako Nomura’s newborn on 4/2.

Japan raises the flag on State of Emergency, because you guys know how crowded Golden Week can be. It gave all the eventers a scare since some weekend events had to publish statements about it. Next week though…

More details on the BigWest Macross stuff.

Naruhodo.

The Restaurant to Another World probably do not follow COVID protocols.

The Hime Cut ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Japanese fashion sure is a thing. Speaking of the himecut, mizuki sports the most hime of all himecuts:

On that note, do you remember Slayers? Do you want to wear some?

Also, Slayers VTuber CV: Megumi Hayashibara is also now a thing.

Tangentially: Sony has a video strategy?

The Demon Slayer movie debuted in US this week (Thursday night and onward) and it had the biggest box office in the country on Friday. I am a bit surprised–not very, given this is a hit film in a COVID-ravaged country that still loves films in the theater–but it beat Mortal Kombat is still quite impressive. It also helps that MK does…overlap with that audience somewhat, which is kind of curious. Did it make it harder or easier, actually? Needless to say the film did well for the full opening weekend–well for a [insert qualifier here] film. Variety says it’s a foreign language film, except a lot of the Demon Slayer screenings were dubbed (and pendants would let you know about that Passion of the Christ film had the biggest opening for a film actually in a foreign language). It’s not the biggest anime film opening in the US, because the first Pokémon film in the 90s (which was released only dubbed) did better. CR says best in the 21st century, which is lols. Or you can be an ANN and say it’s second. So yes, for an anime movie, Demon Slayer Mugen Train did really well on opening weekend.

Get well soon Aniki!

Confusing web radio with hosts sharing names to begin?

WWE anime?

For the late horse trainers. Zombie Land Saga had a Vtuber stream where Yugiri snack-mama smacked the audience, but dropped a note about Umamusume, which is interesting given since her taking over the role from Yuka Aisaka, Rika Kinugawa hasn’t done much.

On the Mind

State of Emergency declared in Tokyo as Japan faces the current surge (3rd?) is cancelling and otherwise affecting a lot of events. It’s also a giant bother for folks locally. The Olympic torch thing is just unfortunate. The real fear is that wave three is going to amplify as a result of Golden Week, replaying wave 2 (New Years break), creating higher numbers there. Which is all just to say these things are insignificant compared to what India is facing.

Kamaburn makes good points about these two shows, but sometimes all I want is to look at is the JK getting laid, I suppose. It’s an interesting dichotomy in between doing the right thing but indulging in the fantasy. I think this is basically the mark of a responsible adult in a way, this sort of almost-hypocrisy.

The new season of Kobayashi Dragon Maid anime begins properly in July but there’s already a “short” running this season.

Still trying to catch up on some new shows. Horse racing and baseball aside, my biggest hurdle is the Funimation Now app on Apple TV–it outright doesn’t play all the shows I want to watch this season. It used to be just a few shows this wouldn’t work on–and I invariably I end up not watching those just out of habit. This season I tried using Airplay, which doesn’t work with subtitles on an iPhone. It does work fine when I use my Chromecast, or watch on PC, but this is unbecoming in 2021 to have a streaming app not work on the basics. Maybe I should request a refund?

The Aniplex-produced original about time traveling AI was ok? Better than expected.

Something more light hearted.

Events

With the State of Emergency going on in Japan, it’s hard to say for sure any event this coming week will still continue as is. Most are making some adjustments. I also forgot to post about Chokaigi last week but that’s continuing online this week until 5/1.

D4DJ PKPK and Photon Maiden.

My horse for this week – Healer Girls is a seiyuu acoustic/acapella unit? Anyways, you can buy the ticket on Zaiko until 5/7 for 4/30’s show.

Luna’s event this weekend seems like a big deal?

A Yuruyuri stream.

Tenno Sho Spring is still on, right? LOL.

Personal Note

Kurocon is afoot, or at least the work. Between that, work, family, and Umamusume lol my time orz. Which guests do you guys want to see this July? Let me know. I’m secretly hoping the versus mode in Umamusume actually drop before the con so that could be integrated somehow.

Long Reads

Not so much long reads but just want to promote this long listen.

Cheer up with Azusa.


Super Cub, Super Clean

In the anime for Super Cub, high school orphan Koguma has no life until she purchased a used Honda Super Cub for ten thousand yens. That’s about a hundred US dollars.

It’s a price that’s only really possible in Asia, because the Super Cub is much more prolific in that part of the world so there is a robust used economy for it. A brand new Cub retails for about $3000 in the United States. It’s also a sort of plot twist that only signals the age that we live in–our life can change for the better with just a little bit of something. A smartphone app? How quaint. How about this motorcycle that help jumpstarted the Japanese economy back in the 1960s?

High school girls riding motorcycles is already the kind of thing that bucks the norm in some ways: RIP to mopeds I guess. The Super Cub today is the world’s most produced motor vehicle, it also exists in a wide variety of forms. The postal Super Cub (MD90) that Reiko rides is a good example, which looks just like the purebred Cub that Koguma rides once you add the splashguard part back in. The step-through chassis is a big plus for high school girls, other skirt wearers, and folks with issues straddling a traditional bike chassis, which is partly what makes the motorcycle popular, at least before scooters completely took over Asia in subsequent decades since the Super Cub’s international launches. Honda’s DNA for utility in their vehicles is possibly best expressed in the Super Cub, with its reliable engine, tubeless tires, semiautomatic transmission, plus the aforementioned design and chassis–the most Japanese bargain you could have in the post-war Twentieth Century.

I’m just subtly raising one point: all of this is, well, old. The Super Cub light novel and comics project was partly created to commemorate the 100 millionth unit sales of the Honda Super Cub. That it feels like an ad is besides the point. The fact is that this is history in the making, the keyword being history. All of us celebrate Super Cub not for what it is per se–an extremely practical personal transport for a developing economy–but what it has been.

When Reika took to remove the rear storage of an aging Super Cub from the local credit union with Koguma, there was this shot:

Reika applying solvent to a screw beneath the motorcycle

The fact that a high school girl is taking WD40 to a screw in order to remove the vehicle accessory is evocative. I don’t know how else to describe this. It’s like when children do what adults do, or what men do what women do, or vice versa? The Super Cub is a vehicle that broke gender bounds in motorcycling, especially in the bike’s marketing. And by design, thus the skirt wearing point I raised above. So this is probably some of the strongest tribute you can give it. Like, this is not even a moe thing anymore. This is just a weird nerd moment. (Although Super Cub the anime still has that slant to it, it plays very safe.)

The computer graphics hardware portrayed the motorcycles in the show are kind of clean. But taking some solvent to a rusted-in screw is SOP. The color palette in the Super Cub anime is, in a word, drab, but somehow various moment in my mind that’s associated with gunk: the smell of motor oil, the smearing of machine grease, the discoloring of rust–all replaced simply by a tone that I describe as time-worn? When Koguma went to the bike store it did not seem like, well, it was the cleanest place. When you travel to that part of Japan, I suppose, it feels that way to the people who live there. (As opposed to the people who go there to camp.)


Umamusume Observations: April 2021

Just jotting down some thoughts about the game. Take it as you will. A hint of a spoiler for S2 of the anime down there but it’s not much of one.

Also this is one of those annoying articles with an image. in. between. every. paragraph.

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