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Otakuthon 2019: Wrap – OTAKUSON

When the word dropped for Otakuthon this year with its concert lineup, I decided to go despite the somewhat more fitting lineup out at the usual Anirevo event. Otakuthon, in Montreal, is a cool city to visit because it’s as European as it gets in North America, and frankly it’s not that far from me.

I was able to carpool with 3 other folks and split hotel with 2 others. The good exchange rate between USD and CAD helped. What didn’t was our tough schedule leaving so late, and the strong storms in upstate NYC which made driving challenging in rare spurts, both to and fro.

The tough schedule was a late arrival into Montreal and getting up early to move my car, and to work remotely for the rest of the day. I did sneak out of the room to get an autograph from the lovely Marina Inoue, who played a role of Japanese CV here to see her fans and dispense answers to questions. She took on a pretty strong persona and it felt a bit intimidating, but she was enjoyable overall to see in person.

There were two autograph sessions and a panel and it was fun as you would expect. I missed part of the panel due to another autograph session with Rica Matsumoto, but overall it was pretty educational.

For Matsumoto, I was only able to see her at the autograph session on Saturday. Frankly the con didn’t do a good job keeping her events on time. The lineup and the handling of the guest didn’t sync up in terms of info, and I see how the line control struggle to implement whatever they were doing from the industry group that brought over the guest.

JRock North did what they could for TMR, Matsumoto and Faky, another Avex Trax idol group. Unlike Wa-suta, Faky has a lot of international appeal with 3 multilingual performers. One of the even speaks French fluently and that won her tons of brownie points in Montreal. You can look them up here. The group recently just had a member change so 2 out of 5 were finally getting a song that’s coming out just now? Well.

Here are some Youtube teasers for their new single, which they performed at the con: Akina (From California), Hina (New member from Kyoto), and Taki (New member from Tokyo, speaks Fr/En/JP). I guess the rest will come up shortly…

Somehow Otakuthon also scheduled all their Japanese guests on top of each other. I wasn’t able to do much else besides get 2 autographs and catch part of the panel for Marina. I didn’t see Faky’s panel, nor Matsumoto’s panel, nor TMR’s panel… And also there was Miyavi’s stuff by Fake Star and I didn’t participate at all in any of it.

Oh yeah, TMR was great. His abridged set is collaboration with another Nishikawa brand, TNNK. So it was TMR x TNNK. TNNK is mostly just his later output from Thunderbolt Fantasy and the like, and it was great since I dig those songs a lot. I had a good spot for the live too, thanks to premium badge.

Otakuthon this year had a $200 CAD premium badge. The concerts were 20 or 30 each. I went to two. So I am still spending $95 or so on top. I also got some perks from going to the TMR concert, like a poster watashikai/handshake. Well, I’m more here for the luls and to enjoy the show, so it was not a big deal. The badge helped me get a front-ish seat without having to camp much, so I think value-wise it was a push. If I wanted to I probably could have gone to another concert on Saturday if things were less CF than it was.

What else did I do? I got an autograph from Irie, which I will have to frame somewhere. Takkyu Musume is great stuff. There was fooling around with the locals at night. I mixed some drinks and sang some karaoke, while trying to buy Million 6th SSA tickets.

Overall Otakuthon was fun, laid back, and I approached it kind of small. Part of it was that I also worked for much of Friday so not much was getting done. Montreal is a fun and enjoyable city.

PS. I drove to the city, and dealt with the EV infrastructure. It was educational. Montreal uses its Electrify system and FLO, which is largely interoperable. The parking situation in downtown is kind of bad, but I still only paid less than 50 CAD for the weekend. There are some street-side chargers which are level 2, and the Indigo deck under the con also has level 2 chargers.

I also rode on a Lime scooter, which went live in Montreal just a couple weeks ago. It was fine. I was going somewhere out of Downtown but since I couldn’t park in that area I ended up walking half of the way.

PPS. La Banquise was dinner on Friday, Reuben’s Deli was dinner on Saturday. On the way up we stopped in Queensbury NY at a local diner, and on the way down we stopped at Albany for Five Guys (even if we had only 4 Guys). Aforementioned scooter ride was to get some bagels at St. Viateur to bring home. There was a huge parade on Sunday downtown which obstructed traffic but celebrated LGBT rights, a push in my book, so I had to uber, ride, and walk to get those bagels.

Also, I finally got to have some orange julep. It’s a Montreal specialty that probably most closely resemble SunnyD but more like actual juice. The recipe is really more just orange juice with flavoring extract and egg whites.


Late Night Parenting, Summer 2019

Just want to note that Uchi no Ko is about a helicopter dad and Okasuki is about a helicopter mom. Both are terrible and why this is the best consumable entertainment for this day and age.

I wonder what made both programs air on the same season? It’s like one is on the giving end and one is on the receiving end. And because they air in the same season I can’t help but to compare them.

I really like Okasuki in that the Mom character is both an oil tanker load of main female trope but, add a lot of “mom” to it. Mamako does a good job I think, in that you can feel the irritation of a child who is just sick and tired of his mother being mom. Good job, in this case, is that I can pick up that feeling well, and yet not let it overrun the tone of the show.

Well, the tone of the show is kind of not good, to put it mildly. It’s got that strong, late night meta-fantasy isekai harem stench all over it, except it isn’t quite it. I don’t think it’s a bad package overall but it is kind of hard to swallow personally. Maybe I just don’t have a mom fetish.

It’s in that contrast that we see Uchi no Ko, or something equally long of a title as Okasuki that I won’t repeat in this actual post. Let’s put aside the fact of the main female character and her various plot events and attributes for now, but look at Uchi no Ko from the “dad’s” point of view. I think it is a pretty powerful look at a very naive and small-brain perspective to parenting.

I’m harsh on this because it isn’t even wrong, it is just not the way to go as a storytelling style. And in that sense the cover in Uchi no Ko is that he isn’t her real dad, even if essentially that’s who he is. It’s sort of a fantasy fulfillment, if you look at the overall story and how it ends. Which is why we are all in the present and now for the child.

There is also a timelessness to Uchi no Ko that is amusing, but right now the early going of the anime is making all these parent feelers tingle. It’s an easy way to write a parent-child relationship while having the audience dote on Latina like that. It’s like a parental fantasy in which you “build” your child like a slime builds his SimCity world while being really adorable. In that sense, at least Uchi no Ko is not entirely shameless (yet?), and deploys some emotional nuances.

It’s certainly a much more comfortable thing to witness than parading humorous MILF tropes around. But I think that might just be a matter of preference, since children do grow up (and then we can talk about Araoto).

It’s maybe more like, when you do world building with a fictional world, okay, we all do that. But it’s kind of weird when you’re writing a story in which, in essence, is a MMORPG character creator. It blends the weirdness of a “cartoons come to life” meta with standard anime character development. The end result is just kind of silly on one end, and icky on the other.

In a way this has been also the isekai genre’s strength. The genre takes away one layer of meta for us, and ever more steadily, otaku anime today get right to the point.


“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.


Otakon 2019: Wrap

This was my 21th Otakon, and it was the 25th Otakon. I enjoyed it, it was fun and kind of laid back.

Laid Back Camp, the new Fruits Basket, and Tensura were the three big IP being pushed at the con, guest-wise. We had director, producer, and CV Hara Sayuri for Yurucamp; CVs Iwami Manaka, Shimazaki and Furukawa for Furuba; and lastly director, character designer, and CV Kobayashi Chikahiro for Tensura. Well, those and Promare (Koyama, Wakabayashi, Imaishi). On the side we also had the usual Maruyama panel, but Nagahama also did a thing, so that was cool. Inoue Kikuko had a thing also, both a panel for her and a panel for Mix with producer Suwa. Well, I wish I could have gone to all those.

I went to see the music producer Wada Kaoru, who has produced a ton of anime soundtracks over the years. Only got him to sign Princess Tutu though… I also wish I could have gone to his panel. I might be beholden to my past as an anime OST kind of guy but I am innately interested in this stuff…

It also feels like this Otakon had a lot of conflicts for JP guests, it was conflict-town all weekend. I don’t know why but it felt like by committing to getting Yurucamp signs I missed out on everything else. On the side, I was able to score autographs by industry purchases (Funimation’s lol twitter thing aside), and just hitting Wada Kaoru’s line is e-z mode. It was a nice haul in that sense because I even got a couple light sketches, without doing a lot of work.

Guest-wise, Otakon always hits my spots when it comes to non-seiyuu, but this year it wasn’t off the mark either on seiyuu, making the situation sort of annoying. But somehow it felt completely opposite of how Acen was.

Music-wise, there were 4 things going on at the con, practically–Nano, Diana Garnet, the Nujabes tribute group, and Bradios. I caught the latter half of Bradio’s set and they were great. I wish more bands like them gets US booking. I missed out on the Nujabes tribute concert despite buying a priority ticket, because I kind of had too much food and am tired? LOL. Should’ve went. In retrospect, it felt like the scheduling of Bradios concert could have been a lot better.

Sunday’s usual concert slot went to Nano and Garnet. Garnet was better this year than last year. She did that medley stuff but her original songs are alright. The tie-in with Dragon Marked for Death is actually great, so maybe she can do that one more at more shows. Feels like she’s destined for Otakon though, just in terms of who would pay for her to come and do stuff… I guess on some level she is still mostly a panda and doesn’t have that millennial appeal, even if she is talented and an overachiever in some sense.

Nano, on the other hand, brings in that usual neutral-tone, positive energy that is also as dark as her eyeliner. I don’t know how to parse her appeal but the music always do more of the talking than anything, so it is easy material to get in to. I should have brushed up on her songs before the show, but most of it were tie-ins I have watched.

I did go to her panel and that was really my first look into her as an artist. It was both informative and not really turning my light bulb on, I guess. It could have been more illuminating. As an asian-American of sorts I wonder how she feels about America.

Big reason why I was able to hang out with friends at all at this con is Hara Sayuri. The woman who plays Honda Mio has a following and I happen to know some producers? What a coincidence. I got my penlight signed but I was really on the fence on what else to get signed, so I ended up with a shikishi as my second autograph. I liked how the line for Yurucamp was literally a very laid back camp, and the line wasn’t even that long. It was just the right length (and long enough to possibly be looped actually)…

The guests with Meshiya were pretty friendly too, director Kyougoku worked on also Yama no Susume so it’s a nice drop that I did. Rest of the time they were polling us who we liked most in Yurucamp while Meshiya telling us to pick Chiaki. I yielded on day 2 and said Chikuwa.

There were both a solo Hara Sayuri panel and a Yurucamp panel. In the former Hara panel we just asked random questions, varying from Yuru Camp and IM@S and about Detective Conan. She gave a straight answer to the Detective Conan one, which was kind of like Nano’s “favorite anime and why” answer. Is she also a shotacon I have no idea.

You can really tell Hara is brimming with a certain kind of sharp energy underneath. Rather than to say she is intelligent, it is more like she is sharp. Small difference but that’s how it came across. She opened the panel saying she had a really long delay during their layover in Seattle, and they missed their original flight due to long lines at immigration. In the end they took a red eye to DC so they have not had real sleep for over 24 hours by the time the panel had started. But it made her more hyper? I guess.

I ran out half way in the second panel, dedicated to Yuru Camp, to get an autograph at the Bannam booth for Tensura. I didn’t have to do that, in hindsight, but I did anyways just in case. It was kind of a long hike to get into the dealer’s hall.

The Fruits Basket content at Otakon was great if you are into seiyuu entertainment. It was also great just in general for fans. There was a genuine “second generation” feel and Iwami Manaka is also kinda like the real deal Honda Tohru, which helped no matter if you were female-leaning or male-leaning, interest-wise.

The most amusing thing was in line for the watashikai and seeing the excited fans getting emotional after their chance with them face-to-face. It did not “happen” in the same manner for me but I enjoyed it nonetheless. These are the real jewels of JP guests that needs to be brought over, but it’s not so simple. And “enjoyed” it short I think.

I mean, for starters I think FUNi did it correctly, other than messing up the ticket distribution. Secondly I think it’s good that they took a lot of questions ahead of time, because that also seemed like a better way to do it given the style of the people on stage. It’s not a perfect method but they did it the right way.

I wasn’t able to attend any Tensura stuff. So it was just mainly Fruits and Camping. I was able to attend part of the MIX panel, and got a glimpse of Kikuko-san!

Let me wrap up by saying I had a blast at Otabrew again. It was a great way to meet some more people I normally don’t see on my normal con tracks, and good to hear what’s going on. This year the brews were real nice and I need to figure out how to get that nitro blonde stout from Modern Times Beer… The panel part was fine too, I enjoyed it.

PS. This was great. Like, Kikuko-san just walking around the con in cosplay? Maid cosplay?? LOL.

PPS. There were some tributes to Kyoani at Otakon. There was these drawing walls set up and one company was doing crane collection at the exhibit hall. I guess what I did was rep Liz merch at Eleven Arts, who also had some cheap good movies…

PPPS. Food-wise, we were pretty tame this year. I hit Yard House. We went to Otabrew without eating before that. Sunday night we had early dinner out around in NoVA at a Korean place. It had fairly authentic and fairly cheap food, which I cannot complain. It is the only photo-worthy thing probably.

I was just going to get some jjajangmyeon but well. Ended up getting both.


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.