Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

On Million Live, New IM@S Game

In response to this, I’ve got almost nothing. Let me quote:

In short, the reason you likely won’t be seeing the Million Live anime anytime soon isn’t due to some odd bias against it, and it definitely isn’t because they’d rather chase the wallets of evil women ruining your cartoons. It’s far more straightforward than that: there’s simply no one around to make it right now. One of the reasons this franchise has consistently had high-profile adaptations, sometimes in spite of messy production schedules, is because it’s been supported by an immensely talented group of creators; even as the key staff is reshuffled, Idolmaster‘s production backbone has stayed the same, and that can only mean good things.

And by good thing he and I mean:

The real reason to wait to be honest, is for Taneda Risa to recover. It is one thing for Theater Days to leave out Kotoha, but you can’t do that with the anime. The industry/technology isn’t there yet! There’s more to say on this matter, in that you can speculate about the A-1 pipeline, the order of Million Live anime and SideM anime, and other things. With Darlifra and SideM close to each other it could mean a lot of things, one is that Million anime won’t be in 2018.

As someone who’s a little invested in Million Live, the point of having an anime really is just so that these guys can now render our favorite characters and idols in the same ludicrous settings that Million Live is known for, at least among the producers who are into the mobile games. So it really is Fukushima’s crew or bust. It’s a bit unfortunate that this segment of the IDOLM@STER franchise is so “narrow” now, but the hope is that when they produce something really good, people will come to appreciate it on the merits, idol trapping aside. It’s as good as GamiP’s confirmation that this cast and crew will be tapped to make the show, whenever it will be.

As for the new IDOLM@STER game on the Bandai HTML5 platform, I’m thinking it’s going to be international. The titles they picked seem to say this to me. That will be the big hope I have on it. And like how IDOLM@STER is a franchise that rides on the first generation of new hardware and platforms, this one will be something that can live or die based on its reception with the players and existing fans. I’m not really holding my breath on it because it does nobody any good, at least without more details anyway. Plus, I’m too busy caring about the existing things I have control over, like how much to spend on Theater Days gacha, or how I’m going to see the 765AS live next January.

PS. One of the best way they could do with Million Live anime is to have episodes in alternates, where one is based on one of the ludicrous events, and the next based on the main continuum. In some ways the 4th PV is paving the groundworks for this delivery style already. The big challenge there is how do you execute these gag concepts into full-length episodes, while not totally upsetting the overall atmosphere of the series. Another benefit of this is that the episodes can get outsourced easier and allow for more freedom in crafting the animation. I guess we’ll see what happens.


Summer 2017 Anime

Just to recap, on the first day of Autumn?

Re:Creators – A lot of this story is fun and enjoyable, but it also kind of rubs me in a wrong way? Hard to explain. But I think Aoki’s direction is quite compelling so I’m sticking with it even if it turns into Aldnoah Zero again. I’m a bit behind on this one. For some reason I skipped the seiyuu/recap episode, and I should go watch that ep because, after all, it’s a fourth wall thing with seiyuu! I am kind of over the whole aspect of this story being a dumb fanfic, so I’m ready to enjoy it, but the story is now a bit slowed down since the first half.

Fate/Apocrypha – Pretty fights but overall dull. Coincidentally this is just how Fate Grand Order is, LOL. (Psst go play Magireco it’s way better in every dimension.) I’m also quite behind here so I’ll need to catch up.

Gamers – Not sure if this is fun because of relationships or because of games. I guess, like New Game, I dig the style. It has a pretty tiresome romantic thing going that eventually sheds the video game thing and just deals with low-esteem introverts and obviously low-esteem extroverts not being extroverted enough. Hoshinomori is great, I dig her a lot, possibly because she’s kind of the third wheel thing. Thematically speaking, Gamers is interesting in that it focuses on the divides between hobby, friendship, and romance, but I feel it’s not really poised to go home on that front.

New Game – It was a little slow going into the second season but it was fun seeing the, uh, employee mobility within this company. The new characters brought the drama but they were slowly growing on me as well. Kind of sad the new ED was not as design-y as the first ED, but ah well. In a way the assets in New Game surpass New Game anime itself…

Knight’s & Magic – Fun little show about the meta driving the present in a way that makes science fiction fun. But it’s trapped in an isekai shell that at least doesn’t get in the way. I hear the anime keeps to the good parts of the books, so there’s also that. I will miss this one, just because the anime packaging is so tight, for the most part.

A Centaur’s Life – To me this show is the winner of this season, it wraps around some of the same issues other shows this seasons dealt with, but in a way that suited my tastes the most. If anything, sometimes it feels like an American sitcom, which is probably not the best thing in this context. I do like how it takes on some plain philosophical questions, not as core, but as extra bonus.

Classroom of the Elite – I feel the draw of Yojitzu, besides fanservice and crazy characters, is the mystery element. The actual educational system and the plot are kind of drab, and frankly the pace of the anime is too slow. If it wanted to make comments on human conditions or Japan’s societal issues, there are better way to do so. Well, in its own way, it is a story about high school kids doing high school kids things, so it can be endearing on those fronts.

In Another World with My Smartphone – It’s Aho Girl or this, I went with this, now I feel kind of bad. At the same time, this is the kind of show you don’t need to check your brain at the door to enjoy, because you need it to understand how bad it is, and derive enjoyment from the badness of this show. And by bad I mean it’s just a poor production. The fluffy, softcore fantasy aspects of the story is enjoyable if you let yourself enjoy it, I guess. Despite having a lot of opportunity to play the smartphone joke up, it refrained from doing so.

Aho Girl – It’s dumb. I enjoy it to a degree but I couldn’t finish it–I wish the dosage is smaller.

Tsuredure Children – The Tsuredure Children are all right. It’s perfect because it’s  just all what’s good about romance anime boiled down and condensed. I feel that really added to the comedic effect of the series.

Sakura Quest – Long trek completed. I enjoyed it a lot, although it was more a slow burn than any great heights or valleys. I think the 2 best parts of the inaka experience are the sceneries and the people, but short of the former because your countryside is boring, then it’s the latter carrying the show. If anything Sakura Quest is stocked full of weirdos and fun people, in a normal folks are never really that normal kind of way. You can see it even in the way Sakura Quest credits itself with the storywriting by its own character.

Tenshi no 3P – Lolicons ahoy. I enjoy the music aspect of this enough. The story is even more soft pitch than Isekai Smartphone, although arguably it has an edge because they do play the lolicon jokes and threaten viewers with loli fanservice. Goes to show that among otaku, lolicons are not even the worst!

Magic Circle Guru Guru – Dragon Quest inspired cartoon is actually great. I am in the middle of it, but will catch up.

Restaurant to Another World – This is one of my top watching of the week, which I follow as soon as the new ep is out (Knight’s & Magic is the other). I dig that opening song. The story is healing and the food is delicious-looking. If there is a minus it’s that for a non-Japanese eater the food selection is kind of keks at times, and you will be teased by this show into wanting to eat what they’re eating.

Princess Principal – This is oddly fun, but I feel this is also a bit too wishfully fancy. I’m quite a few eps behind so hopefully I can catch up.

Welcome to the Ballroom – It’s just OK to me, but the animation is delightful to watch. I guess I’m a little fatigued by the character composition and the way how they are used in the plot. It’s kind of formulaic in that it tries hard to do its own thing, but I don’t want that familiarity it tosses to the viewers as a guide.

My GF is a Gal – This is kind of fun, a simple-minded but honest fanservice anime. It kind of played too close to textbook towards the end, for better (because it avoided being even more misogynist) or for worse (because it got real dumb fast). Towards the end, I’m not sure if it’s just a production thing or they decided to give the larger boobs minds of their own. It got kinda puri puri in terms of physics?

Still in the middle of PriPri Chiichan.

I’m holding onto Made in Abyss for a marathon, hopefully on my trip to Hotch Potch?

PS. That Nora Stray Cat anime short…has a whole episode (#6) where they showed footages of goats grazing, and the voice actresses dub over it. On a related note–that it’s not exactly anime–I’m still watching Agent Hazap, it’s worth it for the intelligence.

PPS. I didn’t mention much that I dropped, other than Aho Girl. I guess the Reflection counts? It’s the kind of show I’d watch 15+ years ago, because it’s kind of intriguing despite the other shortcomings.


Animelo Summer Live 2017

Today is September 12, as I write this, and I have finally fully physically recovered from my Anisama trip. And that is not counting some lingering bronchitis-type symptoms that could take up to 2 months to clear up. Sup, I am getting old, is what.

To be fair, going to Japan for 3-4 days and concert it up in the humidity and heat does take a lot out of you. I think the kids who run and mosh with their crazy jumps at the outdoor stage are something. This is not an activity that I can recommend middle-aged Americans who are not in their best physical shapes to do; namely, try not to go all out at idols and spent 6 hours going out some more at various anison and seiyuu singers. Not even counting the in-between time, which invariably means you’ll be walking around a bit, even if lounging back.

That said, Anisama is the Comiket of Japanese eventing, and it’s worse in terms of stamina in a way. My conviction grows stronger now on my second trip that this is both a festival and a trial. This time around the lineup is way more powerful than last year, and they pulled some items off my bucket list, such as You & Me duet between Motsu and Yukarin, and seeing the SOS-dan get back together. I don’t even think I had that latter act on my list because I did not expected it to be possible.

Continue reading


In Defense of Poor Taste

Isekai Shokudo is the story of the Resturaunt in Another World. I enjoy it a lot but the truth is, the restaurant is a Japanese establishment serving non-traditional (but by all means traditional by popular Japanese culture) Japanese cuisine. By Japanese cuisine I mean it in the “General Tso’s Chicken is American cooking” kind of way–may it be panko-battered fried prawn or a crepe stuffed with fruit–the style of cooking served by Nekoya’s chef is undoubtedly Japanese.

For better or worse, the dishes served in Isekai Shokudo is perfect for foreign tongues. I imagine most westerners will be fine with what’s served at Nekoya up to uh, the natto pasta?

Elves likes natto pasta?

Only Japanese people like natto. I mean this sincerely. It isn’t to say foreigners can’t appreciate its deep and earthy flavors or its unique mouthfeel, but there is a reason why we think sushi and ramen when we think Japanese cooking, and not, say, natto senbei. Or even Japanese-Italian cuisine FWIW.

I had some really good natto senbei on my trip to Oarai earlier this year and while it has an initial smell and taste that triggers a fight-or-flight response, the rest of the experience was surprisingly rewarding and full of umami. But gosh the barrier of entry is pretty high. I’ve had also normal natto, and chopped up natto. I would be lying to say I’m a fan, but I can eat it. But I’m not too far from this guy when considering odd foods. Like, for most Americans (whose tastes I probably have the best grasp), natto is probably as difficult to get into as a magical door that opens once per week in random fantasy locations.

As a culturally foreign guy who loves to eat I find Japanese cooking pretty much both the least exciting and most expert kind of cuisine and philosophy. In a land where good eats is everywhere, sometimes you feel everyone is more or less making iterative improvements on known winners rather than really making something bold, where porting local cooking to faraway towns to tease local tongues count as adventurous. To me selling natto to anyone outside of China, Korean and Japan, maybe, seems way more of an adventure than any Japanese endeavor.

So it is just a better question to ask: What kind of a fantasy is Isekai Shokudo? Is it a fantasy where people can unite over a good meal where needs of the body, mind and spirit are met? A fantasy that a Japanese-equivalent of a diner can suit the taste of its Tolkien-esqe cast? That Japanese cooking alone can achieve this? It’s not a hole I want to dig because I don’t believe it leads to anywhere nice, but I might have to anyway.

I mean, how many degrees removed is Isekai Shokudo from, uh, this? You can shift races and shift cultures, but in the end it’s the same foreign nonsense, same wishfully positive reactions, over the same mundane Japanese food. It is not a rejection of that, yeah, I sure can use a nice pudding ala mode right now, but this is not the healing foodie paradise that a person tainted with multiple cultural perspectives can really enjoy. At least, I can enjoy it until we run into NATTO OVER PASTA EEEEW. It’s not cultural imperialism, it’s just a flight of fancy too much for me, a wake up call, so to speak.


Some Thoughts on Magireco, HatchiNine, Msute & Milishita

I have some kind of a mid-season anime thing going but I also want to capture these tender sprouting opinions, fresh off the grill. Not to mention on some level, what’s the difference these days…

Theater Days I opined a good amount already here, so just to update, I’m definitely getting used to Kaori and Tsumugi. I guess they fit well, after all, as engineered, but what helps the most is seeing other fans going at it. Kaori particularly is the kind of idealistic being that engenders a quick reaction.

The first competitive event has come and gone. During the event period, I went to Otakon and was ranking in Million Live vanilla as well, so I only managed tier 2. Got my 3* PST Shiho and I was just happy that I managed a FC on Shooting Star MM, so I can clear all the checkboxes and make a neat screenshot.

How was it? As someone who expected fierce, greemas-like competition I got somewhat part of that in Theater Days, which should surprise no one who knows Million Live Producers. If anything I thought T3-5 were too casual, but my non-greemas producers did not fare that well either. Is this how Deresute is today?

All in all I think if I had the extra 3-4 hours in the ranking period I could have gotten T1 without any issues, but life just didn’t let me have them. So yeah, to me Theater Days ranking event was about the right amount of hard, which is not that hard, but hard enough to be a real challenge. I might not try for tier 1 again though (Matsuri rewards excepted).

Hachigatsu no Cinderella Nine, or Hachi9 as I spell it, is basically the Princess Nine or Taishou Yakyuu Musume of mobile games. I got turned on to it when I noticed Takagi Miyu was guesting on an episode of the mobile game’s radio show, hosted by one of the five Walkure girls whose name I can never remember (Nishida Nozomi). I checked out the visuals, the concept, and eventually the game itself. I was sold very hard, let’s just say. In short, Hachii is my aesthetics. It’s got that good mix of shoujo manga x sports manga x actual baseball thing. It’s snappy. It’s a game focused on character development, and not so much managing a roster or doing any rhythm game nonsense. Imagine if Oofuri was not about middle school boys holding hands? A-1 did a couple animated bits for it. The voice cast, asides from the aforementioned two, includes the full HRR cast and some more of those baseball nerds in association.

The game ultimately is what sold me. At the same time I did not spend much time in it, the game isn’t really primed hard for competition or is that community that hardcore. In a nutshell, the game is a pile of mini-game type things, each playing towards a type of statistics or currency that you accumulate as you go through what the game offers you. During events, typically what you do is trade stamina for a chance at a RNG against an opponent team, whichever team with higher score, boosts and other abilities included (including weather conditions and what not, and spot checking your roster against theirs, to keep it concise), usually wins each given game. Winning a game gets you prizes, which you can use invariably to either roll the gacha, or upgrade your players. Upgrading players is a complex thing in Hachi9. There’s straight up levels. There’s your player’s mood/condition. There are plus and minus traits you can upgrade or remove. You can awaken cards. You can level up skills and there are like a dozen of those for each given player, and skills benefit your team differently for each position your player happens to be playing.

The mini-games outside of actual matches are basically Msute-ish, because that’s also made by Akatsuki, the same developer as Hachi9. Basically a bulk of the game is story modes that you can unlock as your coaching rank goes up. During each story mode, your goal is to do the best possible (at the end of each story mode run you will get a letter grade) in order to reap the most rewards, as more rewards allows you to unlock/upgrade your characters more. Each run of the story mode is broken into chapters. Each chapter is a series of commu interspersed with a training game (think FGO-style card picking but with a deck you build with 9 players instead of 3, rarity included). Each round of card picking reflects 1 week out of the full time period, which usually runs for 9 months or so (9 * 4 worth of moves). As you pick cards you increase your 3 base stats (str dex end I guess?). Those are consumed in order to unlock traits at the end of each story mode run. While you pick cards, each round, some players are eligible for leveling up, and the more powerful you pick for a particular suit (red orange green purple) the more they level up. Each time a player levels up, you get into this second minigame that lets you try for these colored orbs which also is prereq to improve your team’s chances at the tournament at the end of the story mode, and as material for unlocking traits. The better you do in both of these minigames, the better you will be rewarded at the end. Some weeks you don’t train, but you play games instead, so those are just  your typical vs computer matches.

That’s a very high level description of the main minigame mechanisms. I also glossed over a ton of details, and probably have some inaccuracies since I am still quite new at that game. Awakened cards go up in rarity, which is cool, but this also means actual SSRs are a little bit devalued. Melding a copy of a card (or something appropriate by the same player) also unlocks stuff, so dupes are welcomed. By the way, players call you director (kantoku) in Hachi9, which I thought was the final straw that broke my “THIS IS SUCH MY GAME” back.

This brings us to IDOLM@STER: SideM – LIVE ON STAGE. It’s made by Akatsuki, and so far most people are familiar with its bond-based minigame/stage otoge combination by now. It’s definitely much more casual if you came from Deresute, but I personally think this is more what IDOLM@STER is about. It was not a pure otoge, and somehow it has become more and more so, out of laziness or limitation, whatever. But we can do better. The bigger question is can the market appreciate it?

I’m not going to play Msute seriously, but I did the “reset marathon” thing and start with a SSR Tsubasa. It’s a good way to learn about SideM, so I am just doing that. Funny enough all these other mobage is just taking my time away from this one. I can say just by messing with it for a couple days, I have more than doubled my SideM idol knowledge, LOL.

On that note, the system in Msute feels right at home coming from Hachi9, and it comes down to enjoying the mini games and the stuff available as story and character development. The gameplay is not hard but I’m no otoge player so it works for me.

Lastly, a bit about Magireco, or the Madoka mobage. The full name is Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story: Magia Record. So Magireco. It’s basically the same game as Fate Grand Order, but shelled with widefaces. What’s different is that it’s an improved version of FGO all around. It also has one of the best gacha animation I’ve seen, where when you draw a magical girl you get her transformation sequence. Too bad the draw rates are terrible like FGO.

Shamelessly so, the main “Mashu” character is Mocho, so I’m playing it. Shamelessly because Aniplex put Trysail in this game front and center. In this game you play the role of a fledgling QB and guide your group of magical girls to…something. Well, it’s Madoka. The graphics and visuals reflects all that we have known and come to appreciate about the franchise regarding magical girls.

I guess the last note to make on Magireco is that the developer has built a check in the app to see if the app has been installed from the play store, which makes sideloading tricky. Nothing you can’t get around. I personally had some issues but was able do continue playing after cloning the app. Maybe I’ll fix it in Japan or something.