Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Eventing Do’s and Do Not’s

Since I sort of just tossed up my thoughts there, some people might want an easier-to-digest version.

  • Do what you like.
    • The problem is some people like to do things that are stupid/dumb and are context insensitive. So for those people, no, don’t do what you like if it’s those dumb things.
    • There are things that are common sense. It’s a vague and grey area so I’ll leave it at that.
      • But know that it can be a grey area, so have some grace/mercy when dealing with such.
    • Try to not be KY. We are KY I know but do your best.
    • …and some of you are just trolling, so welp.
    • Unfortunately this also determines if you are yakkai or not. Honestly? It doesn’t matter, from a western point of view.
  • Learn about the time/context/place of the thing you are at, and the things you want to do.
    • Wotagei is a type of nerd dance style and is generally inappropriate at a public venue, outside of chika idol shows, anikura, etc.
    • For anime/2D idol/anison fests, calls are appropriate usually, and even if you don’t want to do them, sometimes you should at least learn about them and do them for show at critical junctures?
    • Learn about the acts and the show you are at, if you can. Why are you there, anyway? Festival events are different than solo lives for this reason, usually.
      • Go prepared. Learn ahead of time. Watch some live footage. Read concert reports. Get an idea of calls if not learn them outright.
      • Send flowers, bring gifts, make call books, whatever. But these are bonus round items, don’t get your undies in a wad if these things don’t work out.
        • Definitely don’t make trouble if they don’t. Instead, think positively as a fan, what would you do to make the best of it?
      • Meet other fans! Socialize!
      • Don’t get hung up by penlights or stuff that are secondary to your enjoyment of the show.
      • If you learn what you should do, you can also avoid what you shouldn’t do. And maybe, just maybe, you can get more enjoyment out of these events.
  • Don’t cause trouble, especially if you are a foreigner in a foreign land, but when you invariably do so, just play dumb and be yourself :)
    • To paraphrase a good teacher, if we are to enjoy these gifts that are the reasons in which we attend events, the best way to get along is with love, respect and charity.
  • It’s okay to [insert any Frequently Asked thing here]. Just don’t do it when you know it’ll cause problems. If you don’t know, it’s better err on the safe side. Or you could always ask some people who are also going to the same event, or the management if necessary.
  • Bonus: Don’t get hung up on jizos or house tigers. It’s a waste of your time, it’s a waste of my time. People have the right to enjoy themselves by doing nothing (or even sitting down at a seated venue), or by having a good time “moving” (assuming it adheres to the rules). Yes, there’s a fear that young people or people who don’t know any better may get the wrong idea, but this fear will never end if you let it control you from having a good time. Yeah, there will be people who go too far and need to be disciplined, removed, what have you, but don’t let that get in the way of your fellowship.
    • But it does make good whine material and troll bait.
    • As Tadokoro Azusa said, “So what?”
  • Extra Credit: Go to different live events, learn what it is in different countries, for mainstream and indie bands, for EDM, metal, pop, rock, country, classical, opera, whatever. Widen your perspective. Go to a Hanshin Tigers game and watch real cheering.

Theater Dayz

So much to unpack. But let this be the prelude and I’ll just build on it.

The rhythm game IDOLM@STER Million Live: Theater Days, launched the night I was packing for Anime Expo (day -1). I put in a fair amount of hours and money in the game since and we don’t really have a real event yet. The first “event” is actually just a period of time where activities in-game will yield more rewards, and you get a free 30-stam drink every day.

Since I can’t talk about how events affect this game, I can talk about the other stuff–which is rather noteworthy. To put it simply, this is the game we’ve been waiting for since Shiny Festa was first a thing. It takes the next step that Deresute didn’t quite take, which is to build out hakomas-style dance groups (fixed at 5 members), but also with audio mixing. Granted this is only available for one song, Brand New Theater, but we expect Thank You, Welcome, and Dreaming all will have this option available.

Watching and playing Brand New Theater in Theater Days (avoiding the Milishita nickname for now) is a trip. It is enough proximity of an experience to watching S4U modes in PS3. This is something that I can call authentically “IDOLM@STER” which has been now recreated in a new video game. On just this level, Theater Days is a success in my book…at least comparable to Shiny Festa.

The main interface of Theater Days is full 3D with characters moving about the screen like…ships passing in the night? They just glide to and from designated points in each “room” and other than a few pre-scripted things, they are just kind of there. I guess this is the limitation of randomly-generated character events than carefully-scripted ones you find in the in-game menus of Platinum Star or BanG Dream. I’m nonetheless grateful that at least on an individual basis, the idols that appear in the rooms, lobby, hallways, or whatever, do the things we want to see them do.

Unlike Deresute, I’ve been playing Theater Days with 3D as much as possible. The 2D mode is pretty lame, but it does what you need it to do–which is nothing but static background that you can’t even affect (outfits/SSR make no difference). Indeed, this game is meant to put the fact that IDOLM@STER the Video Game Franchise is about 3D-rendered idols dancing and singing while you do things, front and center. The gameplay even forces a gameplay pause during the bridge of each song so you can watch the idols strut their stuff.

I feel this is the main charm of the game. And at the same time it’s something that the market has been kind of weaning off of. Most players these days are groomed to play them without these enhancements, in order to squeeze the battery life a bit longer. The hardware in the wild probably still has a ways to go to make the Theater Day vision 100% true, but we’re pretty close, if you have a modern phone (GS8, iPhone 7).

The rest of the game is very much similar to Deresute. The team composition, leveling, training, awakening, and limit breaking all play more or less like modern rhythm F2P games that now flood the market. I won’t belabor this and rhythm game aspects of Theater Days besides to say that flick notes sure are PITA. And probably the one most notable thing is that Theater Days have many quality-of-life upgrades over Deresute, such as removing inventory management all together, so you never have to deal with duplicate cards or putting cards into dorms or whatever. Not too important of a thing, but I appreciate it.

Of course, Theater Days is still in its early days, and it isn’t as feature rich as Deresute, although you can kind of see they plan to feature-match all the basic stuff down the road. It’s also kind of buggy on the edges, and talks to the server a lot. The core game works pretty well, so it’s not like BanG Dream which can still cold crash on my phone (happened just today in fact…).

And yeah, it’s invariable to compare Theater Days with Deresute, and so far it’s a helpful guide. There isn’t a room of SD stuff you can play with, but I think that’s intended (no such thing in ML card game). The gameplay adds a “shigoto” mode which in effect, lets you progress using stamina to get a random commu, rather than to play a song. Maybe it’s a QoL thing too, but commu with idols is also another hallmark of the franchise. It’s important and heartening to see this feature being put it to in the game explicitly, rather than just story that you unlock.

One last note in regards to the early days of Theater Days: the gacha. Unlike Cinderella Girls, you can reasonably “collect” all the Million Live characters off the bat. In fact, with 765Pro characters in the game and getting new voiced lines and scenarios, I really wanted to at least get those 13 first. It would just be like OFA! LOL. The harsh reality is that the initial gacha layout gives 26 R and 26 SR, splitting the full cast in half. Since there is no “friend point” gacha you cannot roll for Ns, as N cards drop only by completing songs and work, and at a “fairly low” rate (given that this is a compu gacha you’re aiming for). The characters whose only non-N cards are SRs are hard to get. Also since the SSR rate is at a blessedly 3% it meant that you had a higher odds of pulling a SSR than a specific SR. With the first new batch of limited SSR/SR, that ratio has changed a bit so you have 0.388% of pulling a SR (excluding the promoted SR) and 0.338% of pulling a specific SSR–almost the same IMO. But it’s hard to get all the Ns. As of this writing I have 48 Ns, 24 SRs, and 7 SSRs. I only was able to complete all the Rs.

So, let’s talk about the meta stuff.

I’m still struggling to incorporate Kaori and Tsumugi into my brain, on an emotional and intellectual level. I don’t think there’s anything unusual about it; it took me over half a year to get into Million Live properly so I expect to get comfy with the two project 39 members by winter this year at the latest. I certainly don’t dislike them, but it would help to see them live in October, yeah?

There are some fanon forming and reforming around Kaori and Tsumugi, and it’s kind of a fun time seeing it happening as it goes. The game itself brings life to Million Live by introducing the characters to more people and to opportunist artists, so hey, not complaining about that.

One of the more subtle threads about the two new characters is how in effect, at least at this point, the less refined characterization necessarily meant they are caricatured to a degree, replacing existing ships or roles in well-established tropes or jokes. I think Fuuka is really feeling it. Hopefully this is just a temporary thing while Mugi and Kaori spread their wings to come into their own selves.

With SideM game also on display (prereg period ongoing now!) we get a glimpse of the hydra that is IDOLM@STER as a game franchise. LOS is clearly taking a different path than TD and SS. It’s sensible to see that the boy side take a different route than the girl side. And it makes me wonder if we’ll get another boy-idol spinoff…

What’s probably the most noteworthy is Taneda Risa and Tanaka Kotoha. Kotoha is plainly not in Theater Days, and this is a huge move relatively. This speaks to me that IDOLM@STER is done with seiyuu switching if the circumstances can help it, and this is an internal decision. If anything, we should infer all the more that Tanechan is coming back, and it is just a matter of time. Just like how SideM anime announcement confirms that Million Live anime will happen, and it is also just a matter of time…

I guess I can take heart that at least the management is committed to doing the right things, but it’s hard to see what’s good about it. Tanechan is not Kotoha. But if Tanechan is coming back, then we need to keep that seat warm for her… Maybe there is a temporary compromise somewhere that makes up the room for improvement. Namely, just put Kotoha in but keep her voiceless?

Please get well soon & come back Tanechan, we all miss you (and not even just in Million).


On the 2017 Spring Season Light Novel Meta

When light novel anime is making statements on light novels we know we are in some kind of a twilight zone. I guess it’s not that unusual to see YA lit turn into cartoons for teens and young adults (and some older adults, too). I just want to highlight some of the scenes I’ve seen and think about it a bit.

Tsukigakirei to me is the one that threw the first punch. To put it into categorically database-y terms, the jock girl and the quiet, book guy hooked up because they have, I guess, similar dispositions? The draw for viewers is this charming 15-yo pairing doing what junior high schoolers do so well, but the boy in the story has this career tangent about becoming a writer. At one point he went and interviewed for a publisher who encouraged him to write light novels, because that’s likely the (only) audience who will find his works interesting. He snubbed the idea, because in his heart he’s a classicists, as his soliloquies are often dotted by quotes from the likes of Dazai and Souseki (thus the name of the show). He writes serious fiction…for young people. Well, good luck kiddo, at least you got that snobbery attitude down, hope the rest of that hipster lit writer bit will follow. Lastly, it’s important to note that Tsukigakirei is an anime original–in some ways it’s a lot easier to write in a reactive attitude that snobs light novels without being one itself.

Eromanga Sensei is the story about young makers of light novels. It involves at its core a light novel author and his shut-in adopted little sister, who also is the illustrator for his books. It’s really that simple, but the story is about how a series of weirdos come upon the “light novel protagonist” (a well-meaning but appropriately appraised insult used within the show, no less), while the little sister becomes slightly more adjusted to society after a series of tragedies that traumatized the unfortunate siblings. As a story where most characters are involved in the light novel industry (illustrator, writers, a couple editors, and a bookstore employee/owner, plus one dick-calling classmate), it has a lot to say about light novels. Most of the time the story only make sharp comments about the industry (as a fan-critic would, thankfully at least) as part of the jokes Eromanga Sensei trots out every few episodes. Its main thrust is providing an enjoyable show (well, to me at least, but I understand it’s not for everyone) while calling you names, and calling itself names. I think there’s definitely a market for this stuff, but I also understand why some might find it too, I don’t know, meta-kinky, for straightface (or even one degree removed ironic, FWIW) consumption.

Saekano season two is not about light novels, but it has a main character whose day job is writing light novels. Instead, the work the team in Saekano tries to complete is a visual novel. How do visual novel relate to light novel (Saekano is a light novel-turn-anime)? This is a deep question, but in a honest-to-goodness media-mix world it’s all a spectrum, as part of the drama towards the end of the series relates to another media-mix IP that’s not a visual novel, let’s just say. The focus of the story and the theme in the story this season largely rests on the creative process and how to create stuff, what motivates people, and so on. The romance angle is pretty well done in this context, but it’s no puppy love story. I think ultimately it makes some very compelling arguments from perspective of someone who’s been doing it a lot, in as much in this season’s meta, Saekano answers the question asked in Tsukigakirei very well. More importantly, Saekano plays with an even tone for the most part, with our Mr. Ethics showing us what not to do the whole way, no matter if they are creating a light novel, a visual novel, or just any creative-creative thing. Actually, you should read this to get a sense of what I mean. This story is as much about producing as it is about creating.

I watched Rokuaka and find it unremarkable on the meta ground as far as light novels go, although it demonstrates, to me, the strength of an anime based on the medium. Danmachi’s spinoff is on this season as well but I have not touched it (yet?). I dropped Clockwork Planet, but it is pretty much just straight-faced as well. There’s not much to say about Sukasuka, perhaps aside from its post-rock style title. Are there any other light novel trash about light novel trash this season?

It’s safe to say we’re beyond peak Light Novel Anime. I think things seem stabilized, but this level of self-awareness is only possible after a full embrace of this mode of media. We’re technically past an inflection point, but I’m not sure where things are going. I’m not so much into forecasting on the industry level on this, but I think Eromanga Sensei is a standard bearer in this regard; it’s very much a version two, after carefully adjusting from version one of the thing. Its success(?) or failure(?) will be informative.


Eromanga Sensei

Eromanga Sensei anime is the Gamera of late night anime, in the Roger Ebert sense. Speaking as someone who saw Air Force One but not much in terms of giant city-wrecking turtle movies, I’m on shaky grounds to appraise either. Eromanga Sensei is in my wheelhouse, though. A little bit of spoilers ahead. Also some Oreimo spoilers ahead, too.

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Sweet Soul Sister

It’s a bit of “lore” but just want to put it out there rather than let it languish in my draft folder. It’s nothing special, really, but also a little neat. Basically, ZAQ is good.

For those who don’t know, ZAQ is a musician who is signed with Lantis. She herself has a solo musician career as a singer-songwriter type. But that’s an inadequate description of the kind of stuff she actually does. For starters, she writes a lot of songs for other Lantis projects, and that includes fellow musicians and anime projects that come attached. Her first big hit is also her debut single, Sparkling Daydream, the opening to Chuu2koi, and in that show she wrote the opening and ending, but only performed the opening as a song in her solo library. The seiyuu unit from the anime made up the vocals for the ending single. This is kind of the pattern for a lot of her work. It works particularly well for her, as someone who is multi-genre and covers classical to rock to ska to even hip-hop, which gives her a lot of options to work on anime-wise.

Over the past few years this has added up to that maybe half of the songs ZAQ worked on are actually hers, but due to the way anisong world works she ends up performing a lot of them during her solo live events anyway. To me, based on a handful of Lantis acts that I’ve seen in person outside of their concerts, it’s almost more like, Lantis artists tend to be music nerds who are also kind of otaku, and I feel ZAQ embodies this idea well. Granted she isn’t really an otaku…sort of. It’s just that she carries herself across this mix of nerd and music in a way that makes you think, huh, yeah, maybe…

Anyways, here’s the thing. Lantis runs Million Live’s music. ZAQ writes for Lantis projects. ZAQ has written a few songs for Million Live (here). Out of all 7 or so of them, though I want to call out one: Sweet Sweet Soul, a song that was released earlier this year. The details of the thing is right here, in ZAQ’s own words on her own blog.

Soul’d Out, basically, are the people who wrote Sweet Sweet Soul. They were a mainstream hip-hop group in Japan back in the 00s, and it was the group that got ZAQ into hip-hop music. I guess she’s only 29 this year, so that means when Soul’d Out’s biggest hit (Yakitate Japan ending) in 2005 she’s 17? Anyways, she was pretty excited to write the lyrics about our three young idols and give their take on hip-hop, but I think it’s more exciting for me to see how Soul’d Out left their mark in ZAQ’s musical DNA.

PS. I actually can elaborate on this post a bit. She did a lot of research on IM@S when she wrote the lyrics to Rebellion. I think there’s the general awareness of the care needed to handle the franchise, and she said something to the extent that I know this is probably not very Hibiki-like, it’s pretty cool so I went with it. And there is our red of truth or something.