Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Random Thoughts, June 2018

Just some free wheeling thoughts.

  1. Eventing is expensive, but it is a good stress relief for me.
  2. Unfortunately eventing causes backlogs on my weekly viewing. I’m slowly breaking them down, but I really need to prioritize Hinamatsuri, so it’s up next. When I went to Japan last month and saw Rietion do her solo stuff, it was really good that I had been up to date on Hinamatsuril. It also had been good that I was fond of the show, and her character Anzu. It made the event just that much more better. But what was surprising was that Hinamatsuri wasn’t even the most crass anime this season. That title belongs to Golden Kamuy.
  3. Golden Kamuy is a western. I didn’t know I wanted a western as an anime until I started to watch this. It’s a great blend of cartoon humor (of the dick and poop variety) with good world building and a compelling overall story, but also these elements that are undeniably Western, such as a “white man” working with a “native woman” surviving outside of the civilization. It’s even got a murder hotel episode. It also makes me think of the Quintin Tarantino films that evoke this kind of a feel but going at it via “cool” rather than “soul.”
  4. Soul is what I’d use to describe Megalobox. It’s a bit of a regressive work thematically because it wants to have two dogs fight each other, no matter what. If salvation of our souls come down to this kind of depiction it is no surprise humanity can’t have nice things. At the same time it is a pretty somber homage to the whole Ashita no Joe concept, even not including the literal homages. The package overall felt like it has a lot of soul going for it, whatever that means, so I guess it is okay. I just slightly struggle with its science fiction roots.
  5. Maybe this is kind of like Hisomaso, where the story is very clearly about women in the JSDF (and in Japan generally) with what they do with their lives, but I cannot be bothered with it because of 1) fighter jet dragons, 2) fighter jet dragons, 3) this aesthetics + fighter jet dragons. So goes the level of discourse.
  6. Which is also to say, Shokugeki no Soma this season does a better justice of Hokkaido than Golden Kamuy arguably, and that’s a feat worth celebrating. In as much I want to give a SO to food celebrity Tony Bourdain and his passing, it is works like his, and this, that really brings out the soul of why people eat the way they do.
  7. Recently I’ve seen people refer to IP/cartoons/games with idol characters as idol things. I see why, but I feel people are not really using those terms to describe those things while understanding the differences between the two. It bothers me because the performance of people pretending to be fictional characters is different than the performance of people who are, as described best as, idols. An actor acting as an idol is going to do the same thing as real idols on stage, but they’re not the same. One goes home from a job, the other is in actual idol industry. More importantly, one is fiction, the other is reality. At best it is some kind of reality where fiction plays a role, and it deserves to be recognized differently than the other kind of reality that I’m referring to.
  8. This is also a funny way where fiction and reality blurs, and a lot of Westerners don’t seem to realize the difference–it is admittedly not the easiest difference to keep in mind, and part of it has to do with the way language evolves. This headline is one example of what I’m talking about, and it’s probably the most egregious mistake I’ve seen (partly because it’s just wrong, like if this was written by a JP site it would probably get corrected by industry). On twitter people casually use the term but that’s where it also happens.
  9. Otakon this year will coincide with a demonstration involving that Charlottesville white supremacist group in downtown DC, which will likely draw not just counter-protesters, but a lot of police. It’s reasonable to be aware and concerned about it, but it is unlikely to repeat the same tragedy last summer because, frankly, the police failed big time in Charlottesville. The DC police will unlikely repeat–it has protestors just about year-round.
  10. Otakon…I guess summer is here. Back to worrying about the party I will throw at AX and how I’m dying trying to break even! LOL. Are you going to AX? Please come to my party and have a good time. We are even trying to bring a new JP DJ to the lineup and I’m dying to announce him.

Enjoying the Grancrest Wars

Oh, hey, finally that Sakugablog post on the Record of Grancrest Wars. I say finally, because this show has always been a wild ride on the animation front since its early days last season. The visuals are laden with artistry, if unpolished, and you wouldn’t think twice about it since the story runs on at a neck-breaking pace.

A hair of spoiler material ahead, but nothing that ought to matter.

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Don’t Be the Past; Join the Future

Gacha is here to stay. It’s not going away.

I think it’s really cool and interesting, given my vantage point as a westerner into Japanese (and in a lesser degree, Korean and Chinese) mobile games, to see the wide span of people who stand on the scale of micro transactional free-to-play business model. In some countries, for example, lootboxes are banned. That’s got nothing on the elaborate gacha schemes Japan’s mainline nerd gaming is running on. It is also pretty clear that resistance to this model is gaining some steam over there, as examples of ruined bank accounts get tens of thousands of retweets in the form of youtubers showing off. But in the macro scale, nothing is slowing the drum beat.

When you give your game creators three times the money for the same amount of work, as Japanese gamers gave up as much in mobile gaming than three times their population in US mobile gamers, you will encourage more people to make video games. This is fundamental and it is the rising tide. Console gaming is still going to stay–everything is going to stay. It’s just that more people will be making games for the market where the money is. It’s just that more PR, more attention, more news, and more glam, will be going towards these new games because that’s where the money is. Maybe the Pacific is still a great barrier in terms of what hits mainstream and what doesn’t, but it’s just a matter of time before gacha continues to invade beyond its early footholds that may be a Final Fantasy or Fire Emblem.

The reaction should not be fear, it should be trying to understand how this mechanism can work in video games, in as much as anything else can work in a video game. We survived 3D graphics, Faye Wong music, Disney, the shovelware era, e-sports, Jack Thompson, Valve, and Shemune 3 is even getting made. I don’t think gacha is a bad thing–it’s more like bluetooth.

I see it this way. When Bluetooth took off as a technology in practice, it was in the 90s and early 00s when people used these obnoxiously cheap headsets from China with their Motorola RAZRs. They were literally that, cheap headsets from China. They were not known for quality until when Apple got the “courage” to ditch wired connector for audio and got in their own BT implementation in recent years. The technology has always been there, it just needed companies to better implement it. Radio waves of digital signals are always just that. If your wireless connection can download hi-res audio flacs, then there’s no reason why it can’t go straight into a DAC in/by your ears. However today people associate BT audio with crap, despite you can get stuff like aptx HD or LDAC over Bluetooth which is capable of lossless audio transmission at CD quality. But in general, the public never associate high fidelity audio with Bluetooth because it is still widely and poorly implemented in tech, at least not enough to change the story on it.

The same applies to microtransaction and F2P games. The art of incorporating these things: horse armor(supply/demand) , pay-to-win versus free-play player trajectories and game balance, the experience of buying stuff in game, and the whole nine yard, is science and art combined. But since the world really opened the door with massive scale F2P games with microtransactions in the late 00s, it was more a story of abuse. The reputation of this business model is ruined by some big players who got big quickly at the expense of sustainability of their business as well as the concept. What’s more are the people who spent $10000s on these games and ruined their lives as they were preyed on by various designs that encouraged people to spend more without showing them what they were getting in exchange, at least not in a clear way. It’s a gambling problem revisited. Those stories were billboards to play on that narrative. It reinforces the negative experiences for some and validated the opinions those who did not have the first hand experience.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of boycotting these mechanics, gamers should learn about them and understand that they are not going away. They should instead encourage developers to take MTX more seriously, build it into their game as much as they build their paychecks into their lives–it needs to be just as important as all other parts of the game. It needs to be responsible (be fair and nice to players), sustainable (respectful of the player and other devs), and educational (to show people how it can be done right).

I mean, the best thing I can say is, as an IM@S P over the years, I have seen what gacha looked like in the OG Deremas game, then in Million, then in the various (failed) Playstation efforts for the main line games, then in Deresute and Theater Days, and now in Shiny Colors. There are things that devs did right (Deresute and TD models) and things devs did wrong (Platinum Stars). It was incremental improvement to see the various switches, levers, and things people liked, wanted, needed, being added or taken away.

And fans need to still let devs know–I think this is happening regardless. As we move towards a more patron-like model (F2P games are basically 10% of the players subsidizing the other 90% of players since they make up 90% of the revenue), indie gaming and other more targeted style of content delivery, it’s utmost important to build that communication channel between developers and players. Short of that, devs need to do better to survey the landscape and look next to them.


Game Saves World Billions in Productivity with Region Block

[Below is parody content?]

Popular movies and video games have long since been correlated with productivity loss. For example, popular science fiction franchise Star Wars has been the lead in this category, when its blockbuster film launches lead to countless students and employees to call out to go to the theaters on release day. Similarly, the recently launched Japanese video game, THE IDOLM@STER: Shiny Colors, cause millions of dollars in loss productivity, following its recent launch last week.

In a stroke of genius, the developers of Shiny Colors limited the game for play to Japanese internet users only. By region-limiting the HTML5-based game platform, Bandai Namco has saved an estimated $50B USD in productivity loss, experts say.

The free-to-play video game platform is the latest entry in the popular franchise, THE IDOLM@STER. The Japanese-gamer oriented properties started in 2005 and has spawned countless video games, TV shows, movies, and tie-ins of all kind, such as a mixed-reality VR theatrical show. While domestic audiences still beared the brunt of the damage in loss productivity, the prudent business move limited the damage to just Japanese domestic businesses.

“It is a noble sacrifice,” said financial analyst Akihiro Nakamura from UBS. “The joke was that the devops were going to all call out sick and play during launch, but the region blocking already saved us millions across our Americas and Europe branches. Despite their best efforts otherwise, Bandai-Namco is still going to boost their prospective stock price for this fiscal year just on the preliminary revenue projections.”


Spring 2018 Anime Selections

Here are some impressions, as per usual. On a personal note, I recently signed up for HiDive, and it doesn’t have Apple TV support, which is what I use to watch probably 75% of anime these days. It also doesn’t have Chromecast support, which is what I use to watch ~15% of anime these days (only usually because I’m at a friend’s house or Apple TV is having issues). The two technology platforms are kind of interchangeable, since I use both at home for various things. The rest of the time I watch either on my phone (because I’m on an airplane) or on my PC (because I happen to be in front of it), in that 10% remainder. It also means HiDive is kind of worthless to me right now.

The problem with HiDive is that it doesn’t support how I watch anime most of the time. If it takes less effort to me to XDCC some files and watch it on Apple TV via Plex, than load up the video I want on HiDive, cast my whole phone, then hit play, this competing product is just a waste of my time that happened to cost money. Would it be OK for me to subscribe and not use it? I guess so. For now, the only real way to watch stuff on HiDive, short of inside a browser, is that I can dial up a video on my phone and stream my phone Airplay/Chromecast-like, but this sucks if all you have is your phone, and not a second device to play with in your living room. It is very much a first world problem, but this entire blog is more or less a first-world-issues only site.

That’s not even mentioning all the bugs in the Android app. And how the web version is making the same mistakes that plagued FUNi’s website back when they were solo on the streaming. Anyways.

On a less ranty, but still ranting, note, I picked up the EN version of BanG Dream game, administered out of Singapore. It’s perfectly fine and provides an updated experience than my first run-ins with the original JP version so long ago. They fixed most of the tuning issue with stamina usage and event point system. The more fleshed out exchange system now has some balance with grinding up character training mats. There are more songs you have access to right out of the gate, if just the newer covers alone.

Playing it also reminds me what I didn’t like about the game, which is having to put up with songs you don’t like or don’t want to listen to during multiplayer. This is why I almost never choose Random for song selection, anyway. Oh, and the usual abusers in the game that coast or outright cheat.

Then again, I get why some people instant-disconnect after the song selection screen. I really don’t have to want to put up with one more listen of Shuwarin. I’ve not fallen that far yet but it’s getting close. It would be really great if the game lets you blacklist a few songs!

OK, enough sidebars. Here are the initial offering (which is bound to shrink as the MLB season wears on).

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