Category Archives: Popular Culture

Anti-Immigration Is Anti-Eventer

In the USA, immigration is in the mind. The new President’s administration has all sorts of issues, but this one is a major killer as it affects, and very personally affects, not just those of us who travel overseas to events. I cannot count the number of students studying in the USA who came from abroad, and I love how they culturally enrich this country. More importantly, they make up a good number of the con population who travel for guests, so they are also my siblings-in-arms. It’s these people that make up the largest affected population segment, I think, which the changes to the US visa system affect.

Beyond that, the Trump Administration has hollowed out a lot of top positions in the DHS hierarchy and that will have a slowdown effect in terms of processing of visas and the like, as the new administration sort things out. This means if the Daisuki guys want to run that lovely Anison Matsuri this summer, they better get a jump on the roster so the paperwork can begin, if it hasn’t already started. Anyways it’s hard to speculate the impact on the rank and file process for applying for various vias at this time, let alone for another few months. I have to wonder how this impacts other cons?

When I landed in JFK terminal 7 this past Monday morning, it was below freezing. A handful of worried-looking people were at the international arrivals exit and there was a sign (in English) telling people where to find a lawyer. The newspaper-headlining protest crowds were absent, but it was also Monday morning, and not the weekends anymore. Still, it’s the kind of thing that may dissuade some folks from traveling to USA, even if it’s for an offer to come attend a con, just saying.

I think this sort of governance is so bad that it even hurts those anime-girl-headed turds that harass people on twitter, even if indirectly. It’s unbecoming and unfortunate.


Clinton’s Copyright Platform Is Probably Good for Anime

Iowa Primary

United States presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton recently revealed her campaign platform on tech, and here’s the relevant segment:

And she will encourage stakeholders to work together on creative solutions that remove barriers to the seamless and efficient licensing of content in the U.S. and abroad.

Since nobody else has done one of these yet, at least nobody interesting, here is probably all there is to it in this election. Given her opponent Donald Trump’s current style of campaign so far, it’s hard to say if there will be a policy document for the Republican side. Of course, these are just campaign promises, which don’t translate into actual policy implementation all the time, or if the implementation would ease international licensing. It’s just merely on the table as an idea.

And when it comes to relatively fringe issues like international licensing, having that is way better than usual. For example Obama gave some pretty vague statement about reforms on IP during his campaign, and other than the patent reforms that went in during his second term, the current President didn’t really do much during his time in the Office. Historically it’s just not a subject area that gets much lip service during any presidential campaign. The past couple cycles have been a little different, and obviously I think a lot of hot topic issues today are tech oriented, so it’s nice to see some splash over to archaic copyright law.


Anime & Brexit

Think of this as me practicing how to write about current events. After reading over this post I felt the disclaimer about regional differences is needed, so here it is: The below discusses monetary policy and recommends certain action mainly from a US-centric point of view. Your local currency and economy may behave differently than mine or most, so these are not really suggestions as much as broad-stroke observations and predictions.

I used this image to distract myself from all the depressing Brexit talk last night

For the unaware, the UK has passed a referendum to withdraw from the European Union, which is, at heart, an economic and legal coalition of European countries. Within the Union, some rules of law applies across all member nations, as well as free trade between member nations. This leaves the separation of UK from the EU in a state of uncertainty as no country has left the EU in this particular fashion, and the UK is a major economic power in the world.

Let’s take a look at some immediate and longer-term impact of the Brexit event.

First of all, there are some political dominos that may happen as a result of Brexit, but the one that catches my attention the most is the possible split of Scotland and Northern Ireland (and/or other regions) from the UK. There are a lot of others, of course, but this one is notable because if we think of the EU as a single economic rule, UK pulling out means now we have another rule to deal with in terms of international commerce. If the UK splits further then we may have additional entity or entities. Looking at it from the aspect of copyright regional markets, it is not a big change in terms of the status quo, but like all the other factors driven by uncertainty of the Brexit terms, at least, it makes licensing anime into the UK more complicated. Or at least, it’s probably not going to be easier than the status quo.

Things will fragment into more problems when we hit existing contracts that deals with the UK and its territories as a whole if the UK splits, but this is hardly the first time the world ran into a contract like that. It is probably less problematic than an EU-wide contract that some private entities may forge, as this would be a first-time. Guess the lesson here is splitting up countries and economic unions are rather pains in the arse, to put it lightly.

Stronger intellectual property law is a key part of the US international trade agenda. Weakening the EU by Brexit may mean that the EU have less of a leverage in such trade talks, although the EU is not an area with great concerns when it comes to protecting media IP or patent protection. This is a minor consideration I guess.

I think when it comes to music licensing it might be where things gets most icky, as far as media goes, but the impact of that probably won’t be very big. Then again, licensing music from Japan is such a Don Quixote-esqe task anyway.

The immediate hurt of Brexit is in how the world market react to this event. The drop of the Sterling and Euro, and the rise of the Dollar and Yen are all natural reactions, albeit extreme, at T <24 hours. In the near term this will definitely be a problem, mostly for internationals, but markets will even out after the first shocking days, as UK prepares for its exit plan and the EU leaders prepare in kind.

For those of us who import from Japan, it will definitely hurt as the JPY rallied the strongest among major world currencies, as it does classically in this type of scenario (and also because the Franc, well, is in Europe). Things to watch out for are your pre-orders that hasn’t been collected on yet, as well as any orders in this month that some vendors charge at the end of the month. If it is any consolation, the JPY to USD was as below eighty US cents to a hundred yen merely 3 years ago, so it is something most of today’s more-affluent collectors can deal with. The USD also rallied versus Europe in general, so the impact isn’t so bad there.

It definitely is not good if your home currency is the Euro or the GBP, so times like this it might help to hit up your local joints before prices hike. Inflation is likely to set in for UK in the near term, although you can bet that regulators will quickly respond to anything to that regard, so this is more a long-term worry. On the flip side, if you reside in Japan, now is the time to send money home. What currency you are being paid in matters a lot, and likely if you are a weeb in JP, you’re being paid in JPY, so you’re pretty safe.

Along those lines, interest rates will likely lower, especially if the Brexit triggers more widespread downturn in economies. That might be good if you are planning on a large purchase by loan, like buying a house; or if you want to consolidate outstanding debts for a better interest rate. The only concern there is that in some regions, rates are already really low. It will limit what countries can do to ease their currencies, and maybe we’ll see others try that negative interest rate thing.

The redrawing of trade borders can affect also eventers, if intra-Europe flights are your thing. Budget carriers may have to change rates as Brexit moves on as a process, so it might be good to do your flying sooner rather than later. As you can see if Scotland make a move out of the UK, it will make that even more messy. It doesn’t really impact those of us outside of Europe, but flying to Japan is likely not going to get any easier for anyone anyway. Besides the monetary concerns of flight, going to the UK from EU nations may also get more complex on the point of visas and such, but that will be a major point in the Brexit negotiations with the EU.

As a matter of currency speculation, the Pound will most likely get much of what it lost back in the very short term. Exiting the EU will be a long process and it means more volatility, but it also means things can’t stay rock bottom the whole time. It’s likely that the main damage will be people on trips this coming month, and some folks staying abroad who are living off the GBP. On the long run, there probably won’t be much of a difference when it comes to most nerd purchases from Japan.


Of Minimum Spends, Weekenders, Panels and Health Warnings

Just a bunch of random thoughts.

megumin

A Korean Liver apparently tried to make UO ramen by pouring UO fluids into instant noodle. What happened was the hot water vaporized the UO fluid, and it causes burns. As you can imagine, bad things happen if you inhaled it. Said Liver went into the ER for this reason, although he was smart enough to evacuate his home when the smells came so he ended up without much damage. As someone who enjoy UO kanpais let me be clear there are some responsible way to do this and please do not play with glowsticks in any other way. I also feel bad for proliferating this practice but I guess it cannot be helped to see…uh, the Darwin Awards apply? I don’t have a link to this because all this is screencaps shared on SNS. Do people even hyperlink anymore? Is this something that cuts into internet’s openness?

The trip to see ML3rd was technically a weekender. I took 4 days off, which is more than a typical weekender (this is like an Anisama weekender) and I spent the extra time to enjoy some company with the guys and to game airline fares (namely, having 3 layovers both ways). There is also much to say to ML3rd Makuhari trip than the two lives themselves. Will I get to it? Will I get to talk about Kawaii Kon? Sigh.

There is some thinking behind Japan’s aging and shrinking population, namely the young people of Japan and the shrinking workforce. There’s some hewing from foreign press or English-language news on this, mainly in terms of the economic, immigration policy or what have you. Enabling more elderly and women into the workforce is likely to have an impact with otaku stuff. Fujo pandering works will likely grow as more women get into the workforce, as there will be more disposable income available over time. The fact that anime and manga (and kakkin mobages) tend to target young people might be a counterbalancing point but this day and age adults enjoy them too (clearly) so I don’t think it’ll be a big deal. In a roundabout way, this also explains why Japanese cartoons target adults more and more, because where are all the kids at?

Speaking of kids, I’m enjoying Haifuri mainly for Mocho and the Trysails. If you drill into the cast for this show, it’s full of seiyuu who do idol works. Three of them are in Deremas, two from Nanasis, two WUGs, and vets like Kobayu…with Asumiss and Kanaechan (I don’t think they’re vets?). This is some serious seibuta material and enjoying it that way actually works. It helps that the story and concept isn’t bad. I’m blogging it at Jtor BTW.

I’m doing a panel at AnimeNext. I’ve gotten the skeleton of it down since early this year but sometime between now and then I have to flesh it out. It’s really about Bandai Namco and their management of IP… Okay it’s about IDOLM@STER but not the characters? Come and see. AnimeNext is in Atlantic City this year and that’s a bit of a pain to get to, but I’ll persevere. As long as they don’t schedule that panel on top of Kouno’s stuff… Excited about Kouno Megumi for sure. ZAQ concert is almost like icing at this point, but it does seal the deal.

Ahhh Chokaigi tomorrow will set my summer in motion. Probably.

Anime-wise I’m still trying to 1-ep everything. Definitely falling behind a bit, and not picking some stuff up. Like I don’t want to rewatch Unicorn but the TV series might get me to finish the OVAs finally. I’m also cleaning house on a few shows from last season. Like Dimension-W…need to marathon it soon.

With Anime North firmly in the front of the windshield, I think planning for it is going smoothly. We were able to book a venue and all in the nick of time, and hopefully the public-facing information for our offkai will be available this week…before whatever happens at Chokaigi derails us. Or whatever AX seems to have up its sleeves.

I saw some dubbed anime in theaters during FUNi’s screening of Empire of Corpses. The film itself is worth a watch. It mixes elements such as steampunk, zombies, and philosophy about animated corpses and souls with a good dose of BL. The sum is not my thing (and honestly I would not approach Empire of Corpses on those terms unless I am a marketing shill) other than the great animation and the philosophy stuff. The dub worked well because the characters and setting are international, with a lot of British and Russian characters. It still robbed me Houko in a funny role and Hanakana being the token female lead. Oh well. In a couple weeks they’ll show Harmony, which is something I am a lot more familiar with.

I am still jetlagged, mainly because work asked me to pull some late shifts since I returned from Japan. It’s not fun but I can live with it. Weekender training has some use after all.

Million Live Believe My Dream! event beckens. I am raking for two. Given how much I’ve spent on this game this month I think that’s the very least I can do.


Theme Cafes and Mobage

I was reading some twitter tweets to Swallowtail, the famed Ikebukuro butler cafe. It struck me that these are the kind of things well-executed theme restaurants do. And then it also struck me that this is why I play IM@S Million Live, because it is a well-executed game in a similar manner.

It may or may not be fair to say that theme restaurants are gimmicky. Well, they are just normal eateries with a focus. Andrew Zimmern went to one that’s a prison-themed place. I went to an IDOLM@STER themed cafe (I suppose a cafe or a restaurant is an equally important distinction). I don’t know what is different between the two other than the focus and the type of food each places serve.

Hit-Girl?

If we consider social games or mobile games in that sense, they are gameplay-as-a-secondary-offering games with various themes. And it’s about how these themes execute that makes them or break them, at least for some people. If you want to dine in prison, as a theme restaurant patron, what does it mean? What should go into it? Perhaps it still should be comfortable, but in a way that reminds you that you are in a prison. Perhaps the food should reflect thematically. The atmosphere of the place might be prison-like. It goes on.

And by “secondary offering” I merely mean it is not the central point, as much as it is at best just as important to the purpose of these games or restaurant, which is about some kind of entertaining user experience. Anyway, I don’t want to belittle somehow these things as games or not. Just like I wouldn’t belittle a delicious meal served by cosplayers or by just about anyone else.

Things are a little more vague when we talk about details. To put it in context, when we dine and review the experience, it is usually things like service, quality of food, the value of the meal, if the taste meets the expectation, atmosphere, wait time, and other things like that. In video games, it’s about similar things, except we would translate it to how fun it is, the complexity, the learning curve, how the gameplay integrate with the game’s narrative, how polished the code is, what have you. Like your average yelp or whatever review.

It’s entirely possible to rate a game based on the number of idols available in it.

Ever read reviews like these? And think it’s retarded? I guess that’s kind of like rating how good a buffet restaurant with how many dishes…wait. I guess it just goes to show how video game reviews seem to be a little oddish when put into that “casual” point of view.

But details nonetheless. Like the cylume color of Shiho’s card for Liar Rouge is white and not red? Or blue? Or brown? Because fans called it out on them? Or the selection of images that may make up a collage which tells a narrative behind an ongoing event? Or how the CD releases coordinates with in-game events? Or how in-game cards nods at in-fandom jokes?

Well, that’s par for the course for these character-collecting social games. It’s the extra mile a game like ML goes that impresses me over the other ones I’ve played. But I think this case can be made across the genre, especially when they’re mixed-media franchises with room to collaborate between all of these things.

But for those of us who are easier to please, or who might be open to these kinds of experiences, what values is the execution, the exquisiteness, the finer details of life. It doesn’t matter if you are tapping against rings shooting out of a moving beat or trying to figure out how much money you need to spend to win, it’s more about what it brings to you; what it buys. For those of us that time and money can actually buy things that make us happy in this context–it might be an after-meal espresso or a pile of “energy drinks” that replenishes your in-game stamina–is it worthwhile?

Yeah, it is closer to gambling (the casino style) as a lifestyle and entertainment than, say, buying a book so you can read it on your own terms, even if it exists somewhere in between. But I don’t think the world would want only one or the other and never both, to exist as options for anyone and everyone. At the same time, if you’ve ever been to places like Atlantic City or Las Vegas, these are pretty crass institutions. When a dirt-cheap looking mobile game can deliver (I still feel like Cinderella Girls is just a glorified pachinko interface, at least the Japanese one) the same experience on your budget smart-whatever device, maybe it’s time to rethink all this.

It also explains why there’s still all this resistance from what typifies as “gamers” to accept mobile gaming. I don’t think of it either way, other than as long as people are comfortable with this sort of things coexisting.

Which is also to say there are not much in terms of maid cafes and that type of theme restaurants in the US for much the same reasons. It’s a pity.