Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Year In Review 2017: Twelve Twelves

Anime industry exists because it’s a miracle.

I’ve been really busy this month, despite the lack of events. But here it goes–trying to scramble something together to introspect a year’s worth of content consumption. Introspection is worthwhile, and a tradition of doing it is a good idea. I don’t know how much of it is entertaining or informative for someone not me, though. Still, here goes.

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All You Need are Friends, Craft Beers, and Board Games

It also helps a lot if you have a nice twitter account.

As 2017 wraps up, we are 20 years into a world where late-night, paid-for anime of Japan started to be a thing. What does it mean? Well, it means this type of otaku are now older and many are starting to move on to other stuff as they move on to new stages in life. In the next few years we should see more signs of the generational changing-of-guards that has already happened once since last decade. The churn of hits, may it be anime, game, manga, memes, seiyuu, songs, live events, or whatever else that gets peddled onto our collective consciousness, will trudge on. You and I, on the other hand, can take it or leave it.

That light-novel-turned-anime Imouto sae ga iire ba (A Sister’s All You Need) is the story of someone who is taking it. And when we do it, we do it our way–surrounded by friends who appreciate who you are, nice alcoholic drinks, and social gaming (board games in this case). This is actually a pretty common way to have a good time among my friends, and I imagine it is a common way to have fun across the board among young adults old enough to have money to spend, in the developed world.

The fact that Imotosae taps into the creature comforts of those who are employed (and the money you can buy) to me is already a huge boon, in that it doesn’t just name drop random craft beers or board games, but portrays the characters whose lives in which those luxuries make sense to be a part of. It’s a bit of an adult thing when it talks about taxes, and/or how you can maximize your deductions in various ways, as much as it discusses how common relationship hookups could happen, just like how it’s an adult thing to bring back craft beer souvenirs.

Anime isn’t for kids, right? Legal drinking age is 20 in japan!

Imoutosae is also over-the-top in terms of the comedy it tries to deliver, because let’s face it, that’s not why we watch anime usually. I think it makes a lot of sense to consider the effects of, say, naked Kanikou wrestling to get her point across to an equally naked Myaa or Kaiko, with what we’ve seen in Eromanga Sensei. In both the purposes seem to be similar, but the point of one is about this imouto freak who writes light novels and the other is about an actual little sister who have these hardcore characteristics.

Truth is however, that this wave of otaku is growing up, and what struck a chord with them will get pivoted to fit better with an older audience. It’s the shift in paradigm where the IP ages, but also changes. No longer we play games on carts, but we download patches and content patches over time as these games grow older with us, to use a video game analogy. It’s table stakes to have cute, adorable characters; to win you have to ante up something. In this case we have a story about a bunch of young adults, which is a lot more affecting than a story about a bunch of goofy but loveable teenagers.

Which is to say, what about Kani Nayuta? She’s a bridge between two realities.

For better or for worse, Imouto Sae will turn around and focus on the little sister in the show, so we’ll see how that rides out. I’m not hoping for much. It’s to the extent in which I don’t want to sell this show to anyone really, despite my enthusiasm for the show, and the ability to point to why I like it fairly clearly.

Another way I enjoy Imoutosae has been that it doesn’t really give a damn about the fictional aspect of itself. It allows some outrageous takes (Chihiro’s ass being one). But watching that Once Upon a Time play-through this past week really put a spotlight in terms of the silly things it comes up with. On some simple level, what goes into a light novel can be the replays some writers put together during their D&D sessions. That isn’t so different than Itsuki’s episode-1 pitch where the character’s sister served her (breast?)milk for breakfast.  In that sense, where and how do you have a discourse in which that kind of thinking serves as a baseline?

Or that for Myaa’s brithday, Kanikou wrote her a short novel which materialized her fantasy via Kanikou’s vivid imagination? I think this is the kind of plot device that just doesn’t happen in this genre format–closest thing I see it ever would be like, say, AnoHana the movie (but they made a fireworks thing?) or Whisper of the Heart (but that piece treats art in a more generic way). It’s quite something if you think about it.

Which is all to say, in order to sell some Blu-rays, Bandai Visual will uncensor the audio track, which is the most delightful meta take ever. In a season with Anime-Gataris I’m glad the current meta has well-outpaced its commercial variant, even in the commercial implementation. The whole existence of Imoutosae is about the delivery of the things I care about, and others like me. So far it has not erred.


The Hardest Things to Animate, Fall 2017

Are cute girls cooking.

Before my mental gear switches into “all retrospectives, all the time” for the rest of the month, let me just talk about this season’s slate and other related things. As a bonus for each episode I will give it two ranks, how much I want to watch the episode as it airs, followed by how often I do end up watching the episode as soon as a new one is available. For both values, 1 is the highest/soonest and 5 is the lowest/slowest. The goal is to give a numerical representation on how competing time and interest factor in how I view these shows. Some week/weekends I’m out all day and have to prioritize my down time, you know!

THE IDOLM@STER SideM – When I returned from Japan after attending IDOLM@STER 10th anniversary event, I felt that the franchise has become a “home” where my “heart” returns to. SideM’s Jupiter-focused episodes are a great summary of this concept, this past week and from the start. In some ways this show is exceedingly watchable for a male-idol franchise, for a more general audience. Watchability rating: 1, 2 – Because I want to be in a good state of mind when I watch it, so I don’t always do so ASAP.

Wake Up Girls Shinso – The franchise reboot without Yamakan now gains Yamakan as the most annoying cheerleader. I think the series does feel different without his involvement, and it unfortunately suffers from some severe production issues. The focus on MayuC is okay, as with the introduction of RGR (Ranga…neo ranga…) and looping in the large I-1 cast and all the spinoffs. It’s still WUG and it’s still something channeling the ideas presented from the original, but more tightly written because it doesn’t have to couch itself with depicting a post-311 Tohoku. As a fan I have a lot to say about this show but nothing is really important? LOL.Watchability rating: 2, 2 – Too many live action episodes that don’t get streamed on CR, because of production issues, throws off my timing on these.

Imouto Sae ga Iire ba – I know it’s written by the Haganai guy, and I found Haganai generally disturbing and at times offensive. ImoutoSae is like the same pivot the Oreimo guy did to bring us Eromanga Sensei, and I am really enjoying it. It feels like instead of debating politics of shooting people and blowing up things, it’s much more interesting to debate video games where players shoot people and blow up things, as an analogy? This is the meta level take on an already really meta thing, which is “that database” I occasionally refer to. It deserves its own post later. Watchability rating: 1, 1 – My favorite this season.

Kino’s Journey is good for just being something very easy to watch, can’t say the content is good or bad…probably because it’s a mixed bag. Watchability rating: 3, 2 – Easy to watch does mean I end up watching it sooner rather than later.

Food Wars is always a delight, a modern shonen battle story. Not much to say besides this new turn of event is kind of meh.Watchability rating: 2, 1 – Not top of my list but such a page turner, plus I can watch this with company.

Netjuu no Susume is a ton of fun in a good J-drama kind of way. I call it the soul food anime this season.Watchability rating: 2, 1 – What happens next? LOL.

Just Because is good on a technical level, but a little hard to watch. It’s great once you can get into it though, and I like how it manages around the typical pitfalls of adolescent romances. And that animation…Watchability rating: 2, 2.

12 Taisen is a fun, filtered Nisioisin thing. The upside is people die, the downside is that it becomes a guessing game, and not a story? The high production value makes it not that annoying, with somewhat a toned down Nisioisin-ness? Watchability rating: 3,2 – I kind of dread watching it, but once I start it goes down easy.

Blend-S fanservice is top notch, but I hope they lean into that shipping stuff which made Working compelling. It’s doing it so very slowly… Watchability rating: 2,1- Mostly compelled due to social networks.

Girls’ Last Tour – I picked up this show from SNS word of mouth. I am slightly biased against this seiyuu cast, but the story is a little compelling and it’s a good show to relax to. Also, I’m not up to date on it, LOL. Watchability rating: 3,5 – 5 because I’m behind by like a month plus.

Urahara – Another show high on concept and I like it for that, but execution is lacking–not in the way you think. It’s just the fully lack of tension makes it a little hard to follow. And it isn’t because nothing drastic happens in this show…well, maybe nothing is really that drastic. Like when aliens invade earth in Kekkai Sensen versus when aliens invade earth in a Barbie movie? I don’t know. Watchability rating: 3,4 – I’m a little behind.

Kekkai Sensen – It’s going into “same o same o” territory which means it’s great for fans but so so for everyone else. Still fun animation, as TV anime go. Watchability rating: 3,3 – I just don’t feel the compulsion to watch this, and at the same time you can pick up or drop this series at any time in any fashion, it’s so easy to get in and out.

Magus’s Bride – Sleigh Beggy? More like Slight Boring. When people hyped this up in the early goings of this season I was interested. Now I’m just letting out some giant yawns. It’s not even a let down, I expected this too self-important of a show to miss the mark, if the 3-episode OVAs are any indication of the story. So far it hasn’t really deviated much, if anything, it was better when the story came and went without all this magic-setting pretension. Maybe the manga is better. Maybe people should have just not hyped this show. Watchability rating: 2,2 – For healing type anime it works pretty okay, a little more upbeat than your usual variety.

Konohana Kitan – I like it but more for seiyuu and for cute being cute, otherwise this story of otherworldly hotspring hotel run by foxgirls is sort of just okay. Tho if it can produce episodes like episode 8, consistently, it would get promoted. Watchability rating: 2,2 – Maybe 1.5, 1.5 rather?

Houseki no Kuni would be higher tier if not for the most uzai Kurosawa Tomoyo ever. This is one of those cases where while I appreciate the acting, having pre-animation dubs removed some limits on how annoying she is. Also the story is just kind of silly even half way through? Like, yeah I know Phos is different later I still cannot take this show seriously. It’s not even a matter of the visual language (eg., oh noes she’s gonna go Kizuna Ai on us), but just the attempt at tonal shifts in the show is not something I can take seriously. Watchability rating: 2,3 – I end up getting to this later because it’s not on CR so I have to pirate it the old fashion way, sigh.

Anime-gatarisBig bang theory the anime. It’s full of really peak jokes, so just for those I can say I am glad Anime-gataris exists. But it’s got a taste of what I remember from the late 90s when Japan makes anime with a western audience in mind. Now it’s China, I guess. Watchability rating: 3, 2 – I end up watching it because it’s on CR and I tend to have more free time on Sundays, after all.

Two-car is by no means bad, but yeah who would watch this show? Other than me? Or yuri fanatics? Or people actually into the sport? It could be more of a comedy I think, and that would really make this show ring. As is, it’s got a mandatory low-conflict tension every episode and I’m not sure if anyone should care. It’s kind of an elaborate exposé, maybe. Watchability rating: 4, 4 – It’s not bad, just hard.

Ousama Game: LOL what is this trash. I guess it’s fun but it sits at the bottom of the “I have no time to watch anime” ladder of shows to cut. Watchability rating: 3, 5 – I’m a month behind I think.

Fate Apocrypha – A bigger yawn than slight yawn. To be fair I’m only halfway through and haven’t watched any in a couple months. Watchability rating: 3, 5 – This is an Anime Strike show, and you know how that is.

Mahoujin Guruguru – I’m still like, just 1/3 of the way into the series. Probably because I want to marathon this and have not had the time. Watchability rating: 2, 5.

Some other random stuff this season:

Pri Pri Chi-chan still delivers. The Rietion anime is really fun and even not totally stupid always, just sometimes. I don’t think I would watch this show not for seiyuu purposes, but I can see myself doing so if it’s something I end up watching on regular TV for some reason. Watchability rating: 1,3. – It’s short.

Cingeki S2 is fun. More of the same from the first set of episodes but I like how it gets awfully meta. Watchability rating: 1,1. – It’s super short.

Osomatsu-san S2 – When I saw that first episode I knew it was time to call it quits, and the subsequent episodes played out my expectations. You can’t go over the top the same way twice. Open to coming back to this show if it gets better though… No rating for shows I’m dropping.

Welcome to the Ballroom – It’s a good show but I think I’m going to drop it, despite the delicious interaction between the dancers. I’m not opposed to catching up but I don’t like this particular angle they’re going with in terms of the sports and character development. No rating for shows I am dropping.

I watched that Blade Runner anime. I would not dissuade anyone from watching it but it’s just okay. No rating for movies and one-shots.

Man I wanted to watch Heaven’s Feel but missed the local show dates. It’s still going to be in theaters when I go to Japan though, so lol. I guess the new Garupan movie series will start this month as well, so that’s something to look forward to. No rating for movies and one-shots.

I finally got to watch Genocidal Organ, despite missing it earlier this year (twice?). It looked good. It is a bit neutered compared to the book, not for graphic violence but for the implication it makes at the end. Also, the effect of the plot device doesn’t really come across to me that well, which is unfortunate. Otherwise it’s a solid action vehicle for animation? For all the fun we make of the verbose expositions you see in Type-Moon works, sometimes that is exactly what’s good about the thing and it’s nice to have a heavy dose of it as long as it doesn’t ruin the film. No rating for movies and one-shots.


Here’s Another Manhattan Anime Con

I’m going to Anime NYC this weekend, but I’m not going to be there for most of the con. Such is when real life collides with hobby.

Anime cons in the NY area is really a mixed bag. Outside of the city there has been a handful of small events, and a couple big ones. In the early 00s we’ve had the CPM-associated cons, then NYAF, then part of the NYCC, and now not much else. Basically in 3 years of absorbing NYAF, NYCC had become kind of a hollow shell for anime content. I went there more to see bkub and random JP vendors than anything. Anime merch game in general is kind of lame out here, and most things you can buy online anyway, similarly priced without having to deal with a sea of people. I suppose NYCC is still OK for freebies (I’m long out of this game) and exclusives (too niche for me). The last NYCC I attended years ago all I remember was playing janken to get GSC photo posters of their figures.

The difficulty of running an anime con within NYC is multifold. It really comes down to not having a big enough space that’s affordable and have the amenities, and in a good spot. Javits Center is really the only place big enough and central enough, but it’s near a bunch of crummy construction things and tunnels. Things have improved somewhat over the years–now there are more food and open spaces nearby, plus a subway stop–but it’s still one of my least favorite event venues, with the only real benefit being all the things not in Javitz center that’s in the same city. That’s an attendee’s point of view, but the cost of putting a bunch of kids in a same spot in a city like New York is pretty high, high enough to make this kind of a challenge, I suppose.

Maybe an alternate approach for otaku exhibitions in an old and busy city is to break down the events by subcultural tribes, which is what teases New Yorkers more regularly. It’s like, instead of a circus coming into town you just have a clown march on one day, and go to the zoo the other day, and watch some broadway show the next. Yeah, there are some obvious downsides to this approach but so does every other approach that we know.

Anyways, I’m mildly excited to finally see Chihi, True and Ishida Yoko overseas, and going to a live with Chihi performing in it. I’m also kind of interested to get an autograph for Chihi but if it conflicts with my RL plans, maybe I won’t…

I wonder if Agent Hazap will send anyone there. Time to practice their salute? LOL.


Letting Yourself Go: Netjuu Is Neat / Sakura Quest In a Nutshell

Lets herself go” is exactly what I’d say is happening to Morimori. I’ve been watching Netjuu and while it’s not my favorite of the season (ImoSae is by far my favorite) I think there’s a lot to be said about this show.

This reminds me a lot of another anime I watched recently: Re:LIfe. There is an element of fancy that largely sets on a mundane configuration that makes more sense as J-drama material than anime would. In this case, it’s probably easier to do a MMORPG look in anime than it would with live actors, and on a certain level anime and voice acting do a better job than, say, showing the same deadpan shock face of Aragaki or something.

I think what makes Netjuu work is not just the delightful voice acting that Evirus pointed out (and it’s not just Noto and Ueda, much of the cast is good as well, but man are those two great like this), but it’s a nice headtrick compared to the other video games relationship stories of recent. Gamers is the one that sticks out to me, and along those lines there are others you can think of, probably. It’s cliche to have a romance budding from MMORPG buddies–10 years too late I’d say–but in some ways the deal of having an ikemen becoming interested in you to begin with out of a chance encounter, and then having to overcome that l33t NEET barrier is what drives, well, mainstream hits like Densha Otoko. It’s a makeover. It’s just nice that gaming is so in nowadays!

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Related to my last post, check out ChaosT’s post on Sakura Quest, as if you didn’t watch the show. There are a few other notes I want to drop, mainly on immigration and population growth.

Using USA as an anecdote, population growth by demo generally slant towards immigrant sectors. I think the trend globally has been that towards established economies, population growth via natural birth have slowed when breaking into demographics and ignoring immigrants.

From an outsider point of view, it’s a no brainer as to what’s happening to Japan. Maybe nobody really knows why some people stop having so many kids or whatever, and this is something that could be caused by varying things differently for different people groups. And maybe it’s not satisfactory to just call Japan’s isolationist and xenophobic tendencies as “racism.” It’s a lot deeper than that term now has come to mean things. I can only speak for myself, but the feeling has long been that some of the people of Japan would rather perish than to change their ways, and now they are getting their wish. It’s a form of racism, I suppose, but it’s not really about discrimination, and it’s not even an unwillingness to compromise–it’s more like they’re unable to seek alternatives. It’s like a form of racial segregation gone wrong, or in evolutionary terms, when a society or set of cultural customs become unable to change in a way to continue its existence, it will eventually goes away and become extinct.

It’s not insidious per se. It’s like in a hypothetical world where everyone rides buses, only white people can sit in front of buses. Unfortunately for the hypothetical bus riders, it turns out sitting in the back of the bus drastically improves your survival rate in bus accidents, and these buses have accidents all the time. And the hypothetical people deciding who gets to sit where on the bus aren’t evil about discriminating against non-whites, compared to their greater desires to have white people sit in front of the bus for some other reasons not connected to continuous survival of white people in this example. Hopefully the people in this hypothetical can take a lesson from Sakura Quest and get bus-on-demand via their iOS apps; the racism can be dealt with later when people stop dying.