Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

“Wotagei 101”-type Panel Thoughts

Since someone asked about this and I have definitely thoughts on this over the years, it’s time to write them down. Basically, a dance cover group out in DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) called μnite hosted panels at Otakon this year and last year to teach people the wotagei thing. Or the idol thing, I guess. I was asked by some guy to provide some feedback. So here it is.

The context doesn’t matter that much–I guess it’s an anime con in the US/Canada, and a panel at said con. So we are talking about pretty low stakes to start. And that it’s out here US East Coast.

These are extremely low stakes. Like I’ve rarely seen better jizos. And that is okay.

I’ve spilled some ink on the topic very generally, but in redux, basically, there are layers.

  1. Common sense layer: don’t be a dick, don’t be obnoxious/KY, obey the rules (to the degree that it follows common sense).
  2. Wota layer: do the calls, do the right colors (if any), do the right team coordination, wotagei responsibly
  3. “It’s art” layer: do what enhances the show for yourself, for the artist, and for everyone.

We can wax poetry for the 3rd layer all day long, so I won’t here. But we could, over drinks.

If we assume a panel at a con with a title “Wotagei 101” is mainly about education, then I am assuming we should be presenting information about layers 1 and 2.

And layer 1 is really a thing that should not need to be taught, at least in this format. It’s maturity and life experience. Go to events, see for yourself. It can be any live shows or similar events. And sure, Japanese idol events are not the same as, say, a free concert in Bryant Park during a summer night, or a Babymetal concert–actually that one is kind of the same! So maybe, yeah, go see Baby.

(Joke aside, metal is a great gateway to eventing. It sets the “average” high bar–things can always be more crazy but on average metal shows are more crazy than non-metal shows. At least in the States. There are nutsos in Japan as much as any other country but the average is well below the States I think. It’s more like, there is an initiation, a learning curve, in which kids get their tigers out of their system after a while. If you do a lot of headbanging I guess it accelerates the process.)

OK really joke aside, after a certain amount of life experience I expect most people to get for layer 1. The complication with layer 1 is when you get into the weeds, there will be differences between a con concert, an AX con concert, a Japanese anime-content-style concert, an underground idol show in Japan, and all kinds of different shows where different protocols are needed. The best example I can give is attending a similar panel at Anime Next this year the panelists pointed out even when you wave lights at a Japanese live for anime content, you don’t go all out and extend your arm, you do it so you your arms/stick don’t block the view for people behind you. People do not fully extend at certain types of shows. This is kind of a big deal that people rarely ever talk about. Even if it’s kind of a “layer 1” sort of thing.

Then there’s the other kind of knowledge I have liberally spelled out in this post–there are different kind of concerts in which different rules apply, but also some same rules apply too. How does one know what to do at an Aqours concert versus an idol concert? I mean most people at Otakon probably don’t know the difference. And does it even matter?

These are the kind of knowledge that forms the first steps to go from layer 1 to layer 2, and I wish more panels covered this.

But that’s not even the truly important kind of knowledge for layer 2–which is what to do when the song comes on, for the person in that particular time and space at that event.

We really should be teaching this. Maybe people learn it when we do Days of Dash or Rising Hope, but there’s a lot more to it. I think there is room for a panel just teaching people anikura moves. But that isn’t even it.

Before anikura you need to learn non-anikura, which is the standards: The calls and moves for the anisongs if they were performed at a proper venue by the right people. Then that is the real platform where wota can jump off into the deep end.

I talked to some folks about this and I feel we could do a lot better to address the knowledge aspect of all this. From attending, say, the Fakku sponsored MOGRA events, and other anikura stuff, my feeling on the matter is that people are hype and a lot of people actually know the music. But people don’t know what to do when the song comes on.

So it could be the ankura-style stuff or the normal wota stuff (which becomes more background and less crazy during anikura if people were doing wotagei or foolish anikura wazas, and less intimidating). People need that association.

Maybe what a future panel could do is go over the actual moves and cut the rest. Like, spend 5 minutes doing the very basic (could be a tutorial video). Then we would do each song’s “special part” like twice, once demo and once with everyone. Or once “live” style and once “club” style.

This would equip everyone with what to do. If we can get an cover for actual anikura at an anime con late at night, so much the better.


Slavery In Another World

Just want to put this post here as food for thought.

Why is slavery such a common plot device in isekai web novels? It’s something I’ve touched upon in earlier blog posts and Twitter threads, but it’s only become a big question within the last year or so, thanks to The Rising of the Shield Hero‘s general popularity with the Western anime community. What was once a curious oddity within the light novel subculture has gotten much more visible now. And thanks to America’s fraught history with chattel slavery and persisting political issues regarding how that history is taught and remembered, isekai slavery is a more controversial topic there.


As a result of all the recent chatter, I became curious about why slavery became such a trend on Narou in the first place. I stumbled upon a story called よくある異世界奴隷事情を現実的に考えてみた (“I Tried Thinking About the Common Isekai Slave Circumstances Realistically”). It’s an essay/short story that explores the topic. I thought it was interesting so I reached out to the author ε-(´∀`; ) and obtained their permission to translate it. Here is the translation:

https://frogkun.com/2019/07/01/i-tried-thinking-about-the-common-isekai-slave-circumstances-realistically/

Well, first of all, thinking about fake slaves sure beats thinking about the KyoAni fire. My condolences to everyone involved but I am just not ready to deal with it. I can use a powerful distraction. Second, Frog-kun please talk about slavery not when everyone is at AX? Thanks.

I’m just going to go scattered brain a bit. For one, regardless if there is (and there is) a difference between how Westerners view chattel slavery versus East Asians view chattel slavery, this is kind of neither here nor there. Putting it in context, we have some light novel writers writing slavery into their works, and it’s not off to assume that these Japanese people are integrated into Japanese society, in the early years of this century. Maybe there are some light novels from the 90s still being turning into anime today but when it comes to this particular discourse, it’s not really as much as historic as it is people using history to interpret a modern thing. Maybe we want to draw from slavery of the past to explain a feeling a writer may have yesterday. And these feelings are byproducts of living beings, in Japan, in the 21st century.

That being said, it feels like slavery, at least in the cases I have encountered in light novel adaptations (as I don’t really read light novels…) are closer to the kind you find in eroge, which is basically just different takes on sexual slavery. I think there are some cases where it isn’t, but invariably the negative space between the enslaved and their benevolent masters allow viewers (or fans, more specifically) inject sexuality into that. There is some notion of devotedness in which are on display at the foreground. It is not unlike how, in Shield Hero, Raphtalia lives for her master, and it is a malleable relationship in which we can interpret Naofumi in a variety of roles (provider, guardian, best friend, parent, lover, brother, etc).

Of course, these fictional relationships are ambiguous, partly because they lack modern analogues. Or rather, their modern analogues are too real to fit a fantasy work of mass consumption by a largely escapist audience. The real problem, similar to my idol rants, is that slavery still exists (both chattel and sexual), and it’s kind of cheeky to lay those into your light novel inspired by entirely different reasons.

The irony of isekai stories about slavery is that, well, for just about everyone involved in these isekai stories–writers, editors, publishers, distributors, retailers, readers–is that modern slavery is effectively a wholly different world that doesn’t overlap. I mean, we call with a different term–human trafficking. Maybe eventually that isekai novel about modern slavery will be the ultimate transcendental brain meme.

To put it in to other words, if people are more familiar with the problem of modern human trafficking (which Japan always be, maybe somewhat undeservedly, maybe not, always a big player in Asia), all this slavery discussion might become less relevant. Naively, I hope at least. I see it the same way as “idol” discussions out west–if people actually knew what idol culture is in reality, they wouldn’t confuse it with fake idol video games and anime. If people knew what modern-day slavery is, they might not kinkshame so much or confuse fantasy nerd self-inserts and bad philosophical signaling with the horrors of real-world slavery.

It’s almost like we are literally talking about slavery in another world. LOL. It’s the sad state of affairs when people cannot separate facts from fiction, because they don’t know what are facts, either due to misinformation or plain old ignorance, and a stubbornness to accept new information.

And it is kind of chilling in some sense. The human trafficking issue in Japan is very similarly patterned–when impoverished youths are exported into Japan and work the sex trade, only because they really have no option, we merely substitute magic spells and metal chains with systemic socioeconomic oppression. Yeah, they may live a much better life as a prostitute! Sure beats being a prostitute in a poorer country. They can afford healthcare! LOL. But com’on.

PS. Ever watch YOU wa nanishini nippon e? They interview some of these laborers under the TITP program.

PPS. Dr. Stone is basically an isekai isn’t it.

PPPS. The prevalence of slavery in isekai works today (of a certain style I should say) may very well be a symbolic representation of the yoke of the tools of society on its people. It would be way too raw to write about real human trafficking, but it is comfortable (for some) to enjoy magical slavery where one’s master is kind and takes care of us. After all, it would be ideal to find employment where your bosses are kind and takes care of you. For example. And of course don’t you rather want to be the boss and not be bossed around? Thus, isekai slavery as a proxy of human relationship in which the gears of society is proxied as magical slavedom now is a thing.


Anime North 2019: Wrap

I should add a huge question mark to this post, in that I YOLO’d Anime North to see Toda Megumi during Memorial Day weekend (in the States). I skipped Friday, mainly because of work reasons, but I carpooled with fellow Million Live P Moy Friday night and arrived in Toronto early Saturday. I stuck around and went home Sunday. It was a really quick sort of a deal.

Toronto has this great aspect to it for me in that it’s a well-equipped city that runs on Canadian Dollars, which currently has great rates against the USD. Road tripping again this year was fun, now that I know the routine and can just pace myself.

The con only gave Toda 2 signkai and 1 panel, so it was fortunate that I was able to catch the panel at all, and the signkai on Saturday. She was more or less what you would expect and she approached the oversea panel challenge in a fairly fun kind of way even if the crowd was pretty quiet.

I did prereg and picked up my badge pretty fast. The rain on Friday and Saturday was more annoying than any crowding, although there were a large group out and about in the parking area as per usual Anime North. Parking was quickly going by the time I got there at around 10am.

I didn’t really expect to do much at Anime North this year nor did I. The rain definitely put a damper on things. There were other exciting exigencies, which I’ll detail later.

Toda’s panel was not really eventful and now a couple months later it’s hard for me to recall much. There were some Japanese guys asking her role in New Game. That and Million Live were the bulk of it. She did end up going to the Falls and downtown Toronto, and seemed to have a good time? She also got a nice view from the CN Tower, which is a nice deja vu moment for me.

I asked her about weight training because she tweeted about it around that time, but it was mostly her training for more stamina for Fukuoka. I was kind of out of it due to lack of sleep so it was a bit more embarrassing than usual to think about to that experience.

For signkai, we talked about Meisou Mind being her favorite song, which she also mentioned during the panel. I had Makoto gear on so, lol.

The remainder of the weekend was for The World Standard, the fun Avex Trax backed idol group. Fun because, well, they’re fun. They are also in the middle of their prime years as idols, ranging ages 18-21 I think? Wasuta had a nice turn out since GTA is now a tiger’s den, but a lot of Japanese visitors also flew in. All of Wasuta’s events at the con were Saturday and Sunday, so that was nice for me, had I cared enough.

It was a crash course in learning about the group. I have only heard of them maybe a year-ish ago but before the con I looked them up on Twitter and IG. Not bad but still kind of stilted. I guess that’s what it means to be a Japanese idol this day and age.

Their live show Saturday night was fun and reminded me of WUG a little lol. Definitely some of the dance moves and the way their live videos are used are similar. I went to their panel Sunday. Really the only thing I did there, plus a signkai, on Sunday. Then it was time to bid the con farewell.

What else happened at the con? (Foregoing my usual postscript…)

  • We ate at a new steakhouse and it was great. The dessert was tops. We also “heard” game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at the steakhouse. Toronto is serious about their Raptors. “Heard” because it was a really loud crowd.
  • On the way to GTA I realized about 4 and half hours in that I left my passport home. Well, we ended up getting into Canada anyways because I had my Global Entry card. The thing does not substitute for a passport, but at discretion of the Canadian officer they could let you in. The main thing is, you can re-enter the States with it. If I was denied entry I at least can drop off Moy so he can mass transit into Canada, so we got to the border earlier than planned. As a result of this we ended up with less sleep than initially planned Friday night into Saturday, and we ended up stopping at a charger somewhere south of Toronto to have breakfast and kill some time. I didn’t even get to eat that complimentary breakfast at the hotel in Syracuse…
  • We stopped at around Niagara-on-the-lakes to buy booze to bring back to the States, on the way home. With just Wasuta, we got lots of time going home.
  • We also stopped to eat some pickled pizza in Syracuse.
  • Saturday was a pretty straining day, so after we were done with Toda’s events, we ate at Zets and I just crashed pretty hard.
  • Wastua girls were at the con exhibition area Saturday giving out flyers to their show. Their show was pretty decently attended and probably what you would expect for a 25k+ con.
  • Some JP fans definitely came and camped for it, and I saw some signs of at least normal wota behavior.

Toronto isn’t too far from Buffalo, so I guess the wings are legit enough.


Anime Expo 2019: Wrap

I went to AX and had that very special, only-at-AX experience, then I went home. Unusual for this year, I went to AX from Japan, and invariably flew from Tokyo to LA on a plane with JP industry on it. It also meant I had to pack for Japan and LA before I left, meaning I probably omitted a few things in the process that could be useful (like more WUG stuff for repping it).

Also, my body doesn’t really know which jet lag symptom to apply so I just feel generally fatigued now. It did not help I flew back on a redeye from LAX to EWR but at least I had the faux premium economy [booking a premium economy seat on flights that has the hardware but not selling the software] experience, which is something I cannot complain, even as someone who somehow has airline status.

Nor can I really complain about any of my flights this trip, both to LA and just in general between leaving for Fukuoka and coming home. The funny thing was, I wanted to see what flying is like for the JP industry side, but I ended up getting a bump to business so I really was in a strange, strange place that doesn’t give me any stalking options. The business cabin on that UA 787-9 was the older style which proved to be spacious if not very private, but I can’t complain about that. Oddly it probably served the most expensive meal I had all trip until I blew it open at M-Grill.

As usual AX is about eating, so let me get that out of the way first. We went to a Hakata-style yakiniku place one night (Aqours Earthquake night) and it was great, because after the grilling we also had motsunabe. I don’t mind it after eating it twice in Fukuoka. It is my kind of food.

The M-Grill trip was great too because we got a ton of pineapples, plus the meats were great as usual. Again, the MVPs have to be that, the chicken heart, and the ribeye.

I also had the privilege to attend the “dimsum panel” at a Shanghainese place, as well as some home cooking for homesick Chinese expats who were doing the AX thing without going to AX. Giant vat of slow-cooked chicken soup? It felt more China than any con.

Other than the earthquake, which I won’t go into detail here, the other relevant thing was that Yard House lost power that same evening. Great if you just got brews right before, not so much if you haven’t gotten anything. or had to wait until the power comes back to pay. They had to shut the place down and evac because the grills all had to shut down as there was no ventilation.

Continue reading

Wake Up Girls Songs Tiering

Just because an idol group ended, it doesn’t mean the fandom stops. That’s super true when the idol group really wasn’t an idol group–they are simply assassins, adventurers, and aberrants that were hired to be a party, and that gig is now over. Now they’re back at work simply being assassins, adventurers and aberrants. Also, when the group exploded like a supernova ramping up to the final live, WUG!’s life as a star kind of ended but it made the loudest bang it ever did in its short life. As a result I think it’s worth mulling over some of the music, maybe you might find something.

Personally though, I’ve been listening to a lot of WUG music just the past 12+ months, actually since March 2018. It’s about a year since that tearful day when the Final Tour was announced and the associated disbanding announcement, but forget about that. I’m just trying to write down what I’m thinking after grinding on WUG music for a while. The purpose of this post is largely me just rambling about songs, yes.

(Before I get started, just limiting to WUGchan songs that they have performed. Not including non-WUGchan solos here to keep things manageable.)

Intro tier: Do these only if you specifically want to. Moreover, I’m not listing every WUG song in this list, so you can consider those also in the “don’t do except if you want to” category…just not intro tier. Like you can do HIGAWARI Princess for the idols you love or their solo event solos…that’s fine obviously. Well I’ll call the ones I know out in the list. But I wouldn’t need to tell you that if you know about them.

  • 7 Girls War
  • Tachiagare – This song is quite special to me now, and I imagine that is true for most WUGners too, so when folks casually do this song as a chika idol cover or at anikura I might cringe. It doesn’t bother me so much anymore, but just a PSA: Think twice before doing it. This tier list should help with it. I won’t tell you to stop either if you wanna. Go right ahead, and thank you for showing WUG some love.
  • Kotonoha Aoba
  • One in a Billion – Great song with May’n Tie-in and it’s one of their better-known tie-ins, even if the anime is not the kind that will have hardcore fans. A lot of people heard and loved this song (if sales ranking meant anything). The joke was, as the one WUG (well WUM) song not sold by Avex, it outsold all the other WUG tie-ins at that time. Anyways, people know this song, for whatever the reason.

One step up: Good representative songs, and at least shows you know more than just the OP/ED.

  • Gokujou Smile – This ought to be THE go-to song for people who wanna tribute WUG. It’s their most fun song and the lyrics are pretty amusing. The calls are the best, though. It’s got everything you want. Also see my prior write-ups.
  • Sugao de Kiss Me – This song is actually a ton of fun for anikura (the hipster kind). (Use April Fools version for the non-hipster kind at your own risk.)
  • Suki no Skill – The tie-ins from 2016-2018 were all quite good. People might know this song, and as anikura DJ you can point to them and say “these are otaku that appreciate late night isekai light novel adaptations.”
  • Koi de Ai de Bokun desu – See above, but it’s a dumb manga adaptation that is far less popular for some reason. This is also the secret Yoppi oshi song. In this point in time there might be more Yoppi oshi than fans of Renai Boukun. Sorry Guri.
  • Beyond the Bottom – A powerful song no matter who you are, where you are, and how you feel, and it goes beyond the fandom gates.
  • 16-sai no Agape – I don’t know where this really should go, so here it is. It’s the derpy idol song for girl idol units, but at this point it is salve.
  • Shoujo Koukyoukyoku – This is more “Appreciator tier” (see below) but I think a lot more people know this song from the WUG movies. And it’s really an enchanting song that will forever prime my emotions due to how strongly I now associate it with WUG Final Tour, so I just had to say that.
  • Jera – This is the one cool I-1 song that WUGs would do and people would die if people would look in their old footage.
  • Little Challenger – This is a fun song that really captures that early WUG energy and some pure idol fun. Kind of like 16-sai but more anime.
  • WUG ZOO ZOO

WUG Appreciator tier: The good stuff people find out by farming WUG’s catalog more. And we come to the reason for this post:

  • 7 Senses – It’s a song that is only good because it grew on you, LOL.
  • Chikatetsu Labyrinth – I did not really understand or appreciate this song until WUG Tour Final. It’s a powerful tune with different genres in it, different rhythms, and styles. That brass section gives it a mainstream feel without feeling too forced. The way they ended that in Final part 3 was some really powerful entertainment.
  • Jewelry Wonderland – This song is solid all around. It’s got a melodious progression to it that makes it hard to dislike despite the choice of how some of the instruments that were arranged. It sticks in your mind but doesn’t worm, and overall just very good composition.
  • Polaris – It’s a simple song that makes us cry.
  • outlander rhapsody – After dragons were slain in WUG Final Tour part 2 I think people opened their eyes finally as to how this song could go…
  • SHIFT – Similarly, this song is just very good because it is another showtunes-y and not-very-idol-y track that gives WUGs some range. The routine, song and dance aside, it’s just a well put-together kind of a fair (reminds me a bit of Chikatetsu actually). Really wows. And it sits a bit in languish as a c/w to Suki no Skill. Too new to be picked up and during a time when WUG was struggling a bit.
  • Bokura no Frontier – Great song, great vocals. It’s the overshadowed tie-in among the other hits but it’s probably my favorite in that batch…it’s the most representative MONACA x WAKE UP, GIRLS! song in my mind.
  • Heartline – Putting aside what happened to this song in Sendai for Final Tour, this song is just a charming tune that should get more play. The calls are fun by default, and also for furicopy.
  • Seventeen Crisis – It really pairs well with Platinum Sunrise but this song has the power to bring down the house, just it’s so rarely played up as such. Such a waste.
  • Shirt and Blouse – For OG WUGners.
  • Tight Rope Runway – I am thinking only I appreciate this song LOL. It’s got a more barebones arrangement that makes it kind of EDM-y in that 90s style.

Beyond the borderline: special songs because they were special and not as much because they are good, or just outright no bueno for other reasons. Or other special exceptions.

  • Sayonara no Parade – LOLOLOL
  • Doyoubi no Flight – LOLOL it’s not that bad. But kind of a downer like the other new songs from Final.
  • Kotoba no Kessho – Yeah….downer a bit?
  • Umi soshite shattaa-dori – LOLOLOL
  • Sakurairo Crescendo – Shoutout to Sendai and Airi. What a wonderful little piece she’s got for a solo. Do this only if you really, really mean it.
  • TUNAGO – LOLOLOL
  • Taiyou iwaku moeyo kaosu – Please use the original version unless you want to rep Myu or something LOLOL

Any WUGners out there, want to add anything? Comments are all yours.