Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

Omonomono Newsletter, Apr. 27 Update

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This post is brought to you by a 12-hour maintenance for Umamusume game.

Omonomono Newsletter, 2021-04-27

This Past Week

Animator and director Osamu Kobayashi passed away on the 17th due to cancer. You can share your condolences with this project, who will present comments from oversea fans to the grieving. Maybe time to remember him through that episode of Ekoda-chan.

Maybe I should report births too, because I think I didn’t write about Kanako Nomura’s newborn on 4/2.

Japan raises the flag on State of Emergency, because you guys know how crowded Golden Week can be. It gave all the eventers a scare since some weekend events had to publish statements about it. Next week though…

More details on the BigWest Macross stuff.

Naruhodo.

The Restaurant to Another World probably do not follow COVID protocols.

The Hime Cut ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Japanese fashion sure is a thing. Speaking of the himecut, mizuki sports the most hime of all himecuts:

On that note, do you remember Slayers? Do you want to wear some?

Also, Slayers VTuber CV: Megumi Hayashibara is also now a thing.

Tangentially: Sony has a video strategy?

The Demon Slayer movie debuted in US this week (Thursday night and onward) and it had the biggest box office in the country on Friday. I am a bit surprised–not very, given this is a hit film in a COVID-ravaged country that still loves films in the theater–but it beat Mortal Kombat is still quite impressive. It also helps that MK does…overlap with that audience somewhat, which is kind of curious. Did it make it harder or easier, actually? Needless to say the film did well for the full opening weekend–well for a [insert qualifier here] film. Variety says it’s a foreign language film, except a lot of the Demon Slayer screenings were dubbed (and pendants would let you know about that Passion of the Christ film had the biggest opening for a film actually in a foreign language). It’s not the biggest anime film opening in the US, because the first Pokémon film in the 90s (which was released only dubbed) did better. CR says best in the 21st century, which is lols. Or you can be an ANN and say it’s second. So yes, for an anime movie, Demon Slayer Mugen Train did really well on opening weekend.

Get well soon Aniki!

Confusing web radio with hosts sharing names to begin?

WWE anime?

For the late horse trainers. Zombie Land Saga had a Vtuber stream where Yugiri snack-mama smacked the audience, but dropped a note about Umamusume, which is interesting given since her taking over the role from Yuka Aisaka, Rika Kinugawa hasn’t done much.

On the Mind

State of Emergency declared in Tokyo as Japan faces the current surge (3rd?) is cancelling and otherwise affecting a lot of events. It’s also a giant bother for folks locally. The Olympic torch thing is just unfortunate. The real fear is that wave three is going to amplify as a result of Golden Week, replaying wave 2 (New Years break), creating higher numbers there. Which is all just to say these things are insignificant compared to what India is facing.

Kamaburn makes good points about these two shows, but sometimes all I want is to look at is the JK getting laid, I suppose. It’s an interesting dichotomy in between doing the right thing but indulging in the fantasy. I think this is basically the mark of a responsible adult in a way, this sort of almost-hypocrisy.

The new season of Kobayashi Dragon Maid anime begins properly in July but there’s already a “short” running this season.

Still trying to catch up on some new shows. Horse racing and baseball aside, my biggest hurdle is the Funimation Now app on Apple TV–it outright doesn’t play all the shows I want to watch this season. It used to be just a few shows this wouldn’t work on–and I invariably I end up not watching those just out of habit. This season I tried using Airplay, which doesn’t work with subtitles on an iPhone. It does work fine when I use my Chromecast, or watch on PC, but this is unbecoming in 2021 to have a streaming app not work on the basics. Maybe I should request a refund?

The Aniplex-produced original about time traveling AI was ok? Better than expected.

Something more light hearted.

Events

With the State of Emergency going on in Japan, it’s hard to say for sure any event this coming week will still continue as is. Most are making some adjustments. I also forgot to post about Chokaigi last week but that’s continuing online this week until 5/1.

D4DJ PKPK and Photon Maiden.

My horse for this week – Healer Girls is a seiyuu acoustic/acapella unit? Anyways, you can buy the ticket on Zaiko until 5/7 for 4/30’s show.

Luna’s event this weekend seems like a big deal?

A Yuruyuri stream.

Tenno Sho Spring is still on, right? LOL.

Personal Note

Kurocon is afoot, or at least the work. Between that, work, family, and Umamusume lol my time orz. Which guests do you guys want to see this July? Let me know. I’m secretly hoping the versus mode in Umamusume actually drop before the con so that could be integrated somehow.

Long Reads

Not so much long reads but just want to promote this long listen.

Cheer up with Azusa.


Super Cub, Super Clean

In the anime for Super Cub, high school orphan Koguma has no life until she purchased a used Honda Super Cub for ten thousand yens. That’s about a hundred US dollars.

It’s a price that’s only really possible in Asia, because the Super Cub is much more prolific in that part of the world so there is a robust used economy for it. A brand new Cub retails for about $3000 in the United States. It’s also a sort of plot twist that only signals the age that we live in–our life can change for the better with just a little bit of something. A smartphone app? How quaint. How about this motorcycle that help jumpstarted the Japanese economy back in the 1960s?

High school girls riding motorcycles is already the kind of thing that bucks the norm in some ways: RIP to mopeds I guess. The Super Cub today is the world’s most produced motor vehicle, it also exists in a wide variety of forms. The postal Super Cub (MD90) that Reiko rides is a good example, which looks just like the purebred Cub that Koguma rides once you add the splashguard part back in. The step-through chassis is a big plus for high school girls, other skirt wearers, and folks with issues straddling a traditional bike chassis, which is partly what makes the motorcycle popular, at least before scooters completely took over Asia in subsequent decades since the Super Cub’s international launches. Honda’s DNA for utility in their vehicles is possibly best expressed in the Super Cub, with its reliable engine, tubeless tires, semiautomatic transmission, plus the aforementioned design and chassis–the most Japanese bargain you could have in the post-war Twentieth Century.

I’m just subtly raising one point: all of this is, well, old. The Super Cub light novel and comics project was partly created to commemorate the 100 millionth unit sales of the Honda Super Cub. That it feels like an ad is besides the point. The fact is that this is history in the making, the keyword being history. All of us celebrate Super Cub not for what it is per se–an extremely practical personal transport for a developing economy–but what it has been.

When Reika took to remove the rear storage of an aging Super Cub from the local credit union with Koguma, there was this shot:

Reika applying solvent to a screw beneath the motorcycle

The fact that a high school girl is taking WD40 to a screw in order to remove the vehicle accessory is evocative. I don’t know how else to describe this. It’s like when children do what adults do, or what men do what women do, or vice versa? The Super Cub is a vehicle that broke gender bounds in motorcycling, especially in the bike’s marketing. And by design, thus the skirt wearing point I raised above. So this is probably some of the strongest tribute you can give it. Like, this is not even a moe thing anymore. This is just a weird nerd moment. (Although Super Cub the anime still has that slant to it, it plays very safe.)

The computer graphics hardware portrayed the motorcycles in the show are kind of clean. But taking some solvent to a rusted-in screw is SOP. The color palette in the Super Cub anime is, in a word, drab, but somehow various moment in my mind that’s associated with gunk: the smell of motor oil, the smearing of machine grease, the discoloring of rust–all replaced simply by a tone that I describe as time-worn? When Koguma went to the bike store it did not seem like, well, it was the cleanest place. When you travel to that part of Japan, I suppose, it feels that way to the people who live there. (As opposed to the people who go there to camp.)


Umamusume Observations: April 2021

Just jotting down some thoughts about the game. Take it as you will. A hint of a spoiler for S2 of the anime down there but it’s not much of one.

Also this is one of those annoying articles with an image. in. between. every. paragraph.

Continue reading

Umamusume: The Finer Points

The theme song “GIRLS’ LEGEND U” from the game Umamusme Pretty Derby starts with this phrase: やっとみんな会えたね! It translates loosely to “We finally get to see everyone.” Mixed into that is the marching horns and battle cries of the cast in an anthem. It is the banner theme song of the core product in a media-mix property years in the making–partly due to a multi-year delay between the initial release date and the actual release date. It’s really cute that the song tips the hat to the delay. In fact, in a way this song tips a hat to the strange journey of the video game from conception to coming out on our phones, tablets and PCs: Don’t stop until you finish.

But we can farm a lot more out of GIRLS’ LEGEND U than all that. Much more. Woven into the instrumentals are these thematic strings that you can also get a good glimpse in the bridge, as well as different parts of the game as background music. Having the theme song of a thing synchronize musically with the other background pieces of the thing isn’t unusual–it’s rather expected, especially in video games. But also the song itself tells us more up front–really, what I want to write about isn’t the song, but horses.

Umamusme is about horses…girls, of course, but it’s really about horses. Specifically, the legends of horses IRT to horse racing. I would call Umamusme a game about HORSE GIRLS’ LEGEND but the titular song is, instead of HORSE it’s… U for Uma? Umapyoi Densetsu (うまぴょい伝説) is the first theme song for the franchise from 2016 and the title really says more or less the same thing, just more horse than girl.

On paper, the conceit of these alternative character-based franchises (ships, guns, katanas, cities, appliances, etc.) are as database as it gets. You put these things (and animals in our case) in the otaku database machine and create a character story out of it. Bundle a bunch of these and tie it together with a setting and a few themes, and out comes a media franchise.

In that sense, Umamusume is no different. But the big difference that I can see between Umamusume and the garden variety ones out and about, is that Umamusume has been imbued, at least from what I can tell, a spirit that is horse-like. Horses are large, majestic, temperamental and sensitive land mammals. Horses are social, in that they exhibit social behaviors such as pact mentality, dominance, individuality, competitiveness, and others (such as being able to be domesticated). They play and court. It’s easy to translate a particular natural aspect of horses into anime characters, and I see that being a very strong underlying pattern in the Umamusme franchise.

It’s easy to see this in the characterizations of all the horsegirls. It also helps that the “good girl” trope resonate well with the audience–our racing horses all are good horses (and presumably their rights owners wouldn’t allow otherwise). I mean there are so many of them (even just in Japan alone) and the ones that people commemorate enough to put in a video game are already legends themselves. Of course they are good girls. Even if you run into problems like making El Condor Pasa into a she… Doesn’t that break grammar LOL.

Contrast this with, say, things that are based on WWII heroes or weapons of destruction. How do you channel “the military” except only superficially? You can do a lot more when you’re channeling legends about racing horses, it turns out, maybe because it’s not problematic.

And I think this is where Cygames really flexed their muscles. You can directly take what is lovely and endearing about these horses and put them right in the game, down to the way their tails wag or the way their ears twitch. It’s beyond the whole sexual aspect of furry appeal–we are talking about making fiction where you combine the best of what racing horses have to offer with typical otaku tropes. (And including the sex appeal as appropriate, as it never was gone, just not in the fore.)

This to me comes across like all the strings in the instruments throughout the game BGM. Cygames was tasked to make Umamusume a game that conservative Japanese businessmen would gladly sign over their legendary horse brands over to, so I think a certain level of restraint was needed throughout the entire Umamusume experience. The characters (and the cast, FWIW) are still going to do the same rigmarole, the same toe taps and dance routines. Tracen Academy is extremely generic but it does adhere to a classy all-girls school vibe. Symboli Rudolf and Meijiro McQueen can walk down the school yard gracefully, while Vtuber Gold Ship can jump kick the trainer while it happens.

That is the framework that allows things to happen, but what endears us is the individual stories themselves, and how it’s executed. For me, the game taught me the one behind Rice Shower, who was put down during her final race due to injury. It’s sad, sure, but the story in the anime and game makes it a lot more approachable due to the execution and details. The most famous of them all–Haru Urara–only got as popular as she did because of marketing/promotion and production, after all. In a way, Umamusume is the same pitch, but for a lot more horses besides Haru Urara. When these horsegirls channel their named legends, it’s where the magic happens. Even if it’s extremely normal/boring like Special Week, it is still endearing that our mother-loving, Hokkaido born glutton became one of Japan’s best.

Which is all to say, GIRLS’ LEGEND U is a great piece of music, and you can tell by hearing someone playing it on the piano. This is some great composition fit for a sweeping orchestra. Instead we have a bunch of seiyuu grunting calls about winning races. No matter how you cloak it, a good story will shine through–and that’s what Umamusume really is about, putting into character-stories of racing horses, their lives, and their struggles.

PS. There are other finer points to Umamsume Pretty Derby. So far it has largely inherited many of the QOL stuff that I love about Princess Connect! Re:Dive. It being a raising game doesn’t quite translate into how not to make it into the same kind of “menu hell” that JRPGs can be, but I see some small glimpses of hope here as is. It is also kind of time consuming given each raising run takes a good half hour, at least. There are many little touches in the game and in the IP generally that I wish I can highlight but it will make several post at least. Anyways, I’ll end with this video.


Omonomono Newsletter, Mar. 9 Update

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Omonomono Newsletter, 2021-03-09

This Past Week

Haruka Terui got married! She married not an ippanjin, but a professional go player. Parnyasu is a seiyuu in some notable works like Yukiyuna and Momoka from CG, and visited Sakuracon that year that I couldn’t go (like most years). Personally I follow her mostly through SS Channel twitter… But it does make sense that she married a go player.

AX is online again. I don’t keep tabs of all the cancel/postponements here, but it’s worth noting the online ones at least, which I will in the Events section. AX is a big industry event however, so I guess people will continue what they did last year on that end.

Megumi Hayashibara is back on Shaman King remake? Trailer here.

Vtuber Mori’s collab with Priconne is actually pretty okay, once you get beyond the cringe. It is an oddity for sure–officially collaborating with the publisher to create new content based on the product which is owned by the developer who has basically no hands in it? I don’t know, but it can certainly be worse.

This fhana pic

Wake Up Girls 2-year disbandment anniversary!

The Seiyuu awards 2020 happened. I think Kokochan winning the influencers reward is the one we all can agree on. Kotori Koiwai has been on a tear on social media during COVID times and shilling a lot of stuff, working that influencer biz. Her home studio also lets her produce things that otherwise would take a third party, making doing business under COVID protocols easier. Anyways, cheers to Kokochan, Reina and other winners!

On the Mind

Normally this would be a blog post riffing on Evirus, but winter camping is considered self harm for some people! I’m so glad they did the episode about sudden dropping temperatures and that can kill people. Maybe better to leave it as a footnote here.

I wrote another primer on the Umamusume game. Maybe intro level enough when paired with the other helper sites and tools. Then, I wrote a raising guide.

Events

Kurocon replay is this Saturday. Also, remember to change your clock for daylight savings, Americans. The rest of these brought to you by Boglecord. Hint: Sunday is packed.

Wataru Hatano live this weekend on Saturday..

Daoko show on Saturday, which supports overseas with some EN instructions.

Restream of Roselia x RAS from last month this weekend–I hear it was good? This one can be timeshifted until 3/30.

Happy Around on Sunday.

Archive stream of Macross Delta live from January.

Ikimonogatari anniversary stream concert on Sunday.

LiSA acoustic online live restreamed Sunday.

Anisama Nights II stream, which is something from last year. They haven’t really ever shown these Anisama Nights event before by my recollection so it’s actually very curious.

Ueda Reina’s postponed event from last Summer is schedule for Sunday with a live stream.

Personal Note

It’s horses all day and Priconne JP and EN in the gaps. Not a lot other than trying to find time to catch up on snooze, some piled up work, and thinking I should clean my place and very, very slowly getting to it.

During the quarantine months I cooked a lot more–to be sure, I normally cook my own food. But thanks to not going anywhere I ended up cooking the things I was craving for due to inability of travel. Turns out most of the time I just want to eat tebasaki in japan. I suppose a lot of the things I can half-ass get here. Kit ramens go a long way if you get the right ones. I can get sushi grade fish and cut them on my own. Other noodles dishes aren’t too hard to make either. Karaage isn’t hard, just a bit annoying to deal with the oil. I even made hitsumabushi once but lacking a lot of the picked vegetables didn’t help.

Long Reads

Umamusume is a big deal in my head, but it is even bigger in other people’s. Read this article (in JP) if you can.

It’s been sitting on my list of to-watch for 2+ weeks, but Gen Hoshino talks about his subcultural past in Nakamura and Kajita’s YouTube show. And pt2. He is a man of culture is all I can say. Also Wasyagana is a good show too, even if I don’t really watch it.