16-Bit Nostalgia

Just to quickly check: the opening song to Comic Party is also called ????? (Kimi no mama de), the same as Amagami anime OP (second OP to Amagami SS), which is now going to be a bonus track for the fifth volume home-video release for 16-Bit Sensation ~Another Layer~. It’s a new TV anime airing on a streaming service near you.

I am not too sure how to view this. Personally watching the first episode felt not so much a huge nostalgia trip, but witnessing necromancy. It’s triggering memories from not from a past life, but two past lives ago. Looking back, my journey as a person and as a fan in respect to “otaku culture” and contents has definitely, well, gone to places. Maybe another way to say is that I’ve grown old, grown up, grown tired, or just put it all past me to a degree, so much so, that I am even a bit guarded about my nostalgia and just how much of it is worth recalling.

It’s not an exaggeration to say I was really into some of this stuff back then; but we all were. I don’t find that aspect particularly notable, even in 2023, when those of us back then are now, at least, middle-aged men and women. Personally, I was most intrigued by memories of being into I’ve Sounds, which was part and parcel with Kanon and other older Visual Arts titles. I never really was into the games short of Type-Moon’s, maybe… the aesthetics was more what spoke to me, and in some ways the core desires about having some character put into that position, the main girl in the galge, that Konoha somehow stated in ep1. I think there’s an undeniable attractiveness which centers the classic moe idea that just is not really talked about this day and age, which is not about the gap so much or what defines moe itself, but the always-changing ways in which that is brought forward in a fictional depiction.

Which is to say, Type-Moon actually is way too new for 16-bit Sensation. I think while I was still living my first life, as continue to lean on this metaphor, that title came towards the latter part of it. Maybe this is why I don’t hate vampires so much. Which is just to say, I probably have a bigger problem with necromancers, because fundamentally what dead creatures resurrected differ from the same creatures when they were alive. It’s not to say 16-Bit Sensation did this, or aspire to recreate, or anything along those lines, but invariably it’s got to ward off the smells of inauthenticity by suspending our beliefs somehow. It would be a logical thing to do: let old timers nitpick how the anime got it wrong to distract them from the ludicrous time-traveling premise. Certain forms of inauthenticity are features. But we need not to get too bogged down on this; just by actually having graphical assets from Grandpa’s eroge closet in the anime is powerful enough of a dose.

And I think this is also the only sensible way to approach 16-Bit Sensation; the story is about an otaku-joshi illustrator who suddenly traveled back in 1992 so she can make the galge that she dreamed of making. That is pretty wild, by 2023 lingo, and really not at a point where we can take it on after 1 episode.


Anirevo 2023 Summer: Wrap

After being teased about great seiyuu guests earlier in the year, Anirevo comes through with Itou Miku, Ohashi Ayaka, and Machico along with veteran Morita Masakazu. Their big summer event delivers on top with Animusix concert and Hololive shenanigans.

For those who have been to the big anime event at Vancity, it’s likely old news for you, but this kind of sleepy con is actually the ideal hybrid of Western con culture with Asian sensibilities. Yes, it’s run by Chinese people, but I think they’ve done a good job overall. First off there’s appropriate tiering to better monetize the smaller demo of con goers and keep things cheap enough for the masses. What’s more amusing to me was while waiting out in line to get in on an early Sunday morning, two clear-eyed Japanese tourists was wondering about the anime event and the nearby cosplayers in display, and wanted to go. It’s that kind of an Asian-cosmopolitan mix. Just random Asians of all types walking around the waterfront on a sunny Sunday…

The 3-day event starts in the morning where people linecon to get their badges. With premiere I was able to get around this and line up for a nice spot during opening ceremony, while meeting up with friends from nearby and afar alike. I also ended up working for much of Friday morning and didn’t get back to the con until late in the day. I guess I also went out to eat with some friends at Richmond since nothing on the schedule was particularly a big draw. I guess this was the day I could have met Takadera-san again but it just didn’t work out time-wise.

Morita was suppose to have a photo and autograph session on Friday, but those were cancelled due to some issue on his end, probably related to his physical condition. He was able to make it to the Friday evening panel which I was able to catch. It’s all good stuff. At the time we were hoping to use those sessions to figure out how the con will deal with line control and photo sessions for the rest of the weekend, because the rules and setup are different this year.

Since I sat out of the Hololive stuff, I ended up having an early supper with friends who weren’t going, and a later dinner with friends who did. At the end I felt pretty tired after all the walking, working, and socializing…and having to wake up early for Eastern time work activities. It does make waking up early on Saturday easy? I also went to Richmond for a late lunch, which might make things more tiring (but more fulfilling).

Somehow when the big day came, we got down to the premiere line nice and early, and was easily in the first group to go in. We also had pretty good positioning thanks to the splurge on hotel. For some reason, Anirevo decided to schedule the 3 female seiyuu photo and sign sessions at the same time, so unless you have premiere you can’t really hop them. There were various issues with the premiere lines for those sessions, but I was about to get 4 out of the max of 5 Saturday gets, so I considered that good enough.

The Saturday concert was, well, very delayed due to technical issues from the 2 Vtuber openers. It was just real-time karaoke streams, but one of them were unable completely to do anything, and the other one had 3 songs, one which suffered from audio sync issues.

The other half of the show features Hasshi, Mikku, and Machico in that order, each performing just 3 songs. Set list here:

Anirevo, I hope you got your money’s worth, because this concert was so, so short! That said I am pretty happy with what was in the concert, so maybe it’s okay that each only performed THREE songs. I don’t mind paying more if the concert was longer, but I also flew in cross-country mainly for this so your mileage will vary. If there was a silver lining, it was that it was easy to go all out for all 9 (or 9.5) songs, since it was so short. It was about 45 minutes for the 3, including the encore.

We spent a few hours camping (since before 2pm) for a show that was suppose to start at 7 but didn’t really start until 7:45. OK maybe it was more than just a few hours, now that I wrote it down… It was good social time with friends who flew in, and a few who didn’t. We mostly got front row seats, and even the friends who were non-premiere had decent seats. That said the room wasn’t full, maybe 80%? Or less? Still we had a huge room this year, twice as large as prior years for Anirevo main event, so that was probably fine.

I’m also super glad we got Wagamama Mirror Heart because some of us were there mainly for that song, or it’s a big reason. It was special to see Hego and get that 1-on-1 treatment. She was pretty much exactly what you would expect, and in 10 years in, her answers to the Q&A (mostly straight-laced) are as solid as they come. If anything it’s a tad too rehearsed, but maybe we just don’t ask really good questions.

Same could be said of Mikku, although there was slightly less anticipation to her songs than her photo sessions and Q&A. I’m just glad someone asked about Anyuri and Mikku dragged Natsukawa into the answer. Otherwise, Mikku really kept her answers on point and short, which help go through more questions than the others.

Machico was a bit more giggly and fun in her Q&As, but otherwise the formerly-Horipro answered similiarly.

Other than the lining-up being different, the autograph session this year differed that you can only get a shikishi signed (and they charge you $20) versus your badge (free). No personal items is kinda the compromise we had but I think this was OK. No photo tickets, but the spirit of the photo booth this year wasn’t really different than prior, just that the demand is higher. So high, in fact, on Sunday the printer ran out of ink and paper.

Yeah I looped a lot. This is what a friend did for Itou Miku:

I didn’t do much better… I mean if the photo booth for Miku on Sunday ran out of people to shoot and there were no line left 30 minutes into a 60-minute session, what were you suppose to do? Nothing?

We stayed at the Pan Pacific using Amex FHR, and it was pretty okay. The hotel’s main clients are cruise goers who need to hang around Vancouver without going far, as it’s literally part of the terminal. It’s got 5 star service in a 4 star accommodation, in a way, so it was more for us the ability to use the lounge, and be literally the closest hotel to the entrance of the con. Vancouver hotels in August are sky high in price so we split many ways to make it affordable. Maybe next time we’ll stay at another similar hotel in the vicinity.

The guests also wrote about their trip. Miku about the whale, Machico about the lobster they ate? Hasshi said something. I did this thing that Machico has confirmed delivery. We could not have been finished with it without your help.

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Otakon 2023: Wrap

What an Otakon was this year. I got some insider look at how the sausage was made this year, so at first I was a little apprehensive. But it turned out this year was actually better than the usual years because the seiyuu guests came through big time.

There were actually 5 JP voice talents at this con, so that’s already above-average. There were two of them actually older than me, so props to Otakon for catering to its boomers I guess? One of them was Ikezawa Haruna, who is best described as literary princess as seiyuu-turned-SF purveyor. She also writes her own SF and more importantly, came up with a very welcoming way to describe some of the key cultural notions that she represents, so to be able to present them in a very brand-ambassador-y way. It’s clear to me that she has put a lot of thought into the world of voice acting and SF lit. She embodies two things that I am interested in (RIP Haikasoru), in one package.

The panels Ikezawa presented were a lot of fun. The SF lit panel was cohosted with Jim Vowles, the long time Otakon chair/GR dude. Nobody really brought up SF lit when Ikezawa was just asking it from the crowd, which struck me as humorous. But she was mindful and had statements on things like generative AI, labor, and the concept of kawaii. She is a voracious reader it seems, so she name dropped her recommended Seiun award winners during the SF lit panel. She even namedropped Haikasoru and how it died, lol. There was just so much I want to actually discuss with her with SF, despite how poorly-read I am.

In her kawaii panel, Ikezawa explored the concept of kawaii and about character creation from a seiyuu-voicing-mascot point of view, which was also refreshingly rare. It’s not just a biographic perspective, but it was discussed kind of like an academic-abstract style with real life examples and audience interaction. Only if my law school profs were cute seiyuus kind of vibe?

I think just her content made Otakon for me. Otakon was always more of a cerebral con versus the average anime con, with creators who geek out their own stuff. More over, its Japanese guests had consistently delivered really high quality content on this. Just ask anyone who went to Kawamori’s panels, for example. So Otakon was a great fit for Ikezawa I think. On Sunday Ikezawa also cohosted a dubbing-around-the-world panel with MX dub legend Mario Castañeda and FFXIV’s Alisaie CV Bethan Walker from the UK. That one was more normal, off-the-cuff, but for those of us not familiar with dubbing in other countries, it was definitely enriching.

The other senior Japanese voice actor, Iwao Junko, talked about her life experiences. Unfortunately I was only able to go to her panel on Sunday but it was her telling her story from the start to today. She gave us a nice present by singing the lullaby from Card Captor Sakura and it was just quite amazing for an early-Sunday-morning Otakon panel. I also talked about the one thing she dropped about Shine Post here. If I hadn’t have to work on Friday I probably could have went to her other panels, unfortunately.

The voice actor fun times continued with TMS’s crew. They brought over the editor for the manga and two seiyuu from the upcoming anime adaptation of the Four Knights of the Apocalypse, which is the sequel to the Seven Deadly Sins. Having to see us horse out with Nakamura Kanna was just delightful and I am floored that I got something signed. Somehow this also meant we went to all of TMS’s presentations, which was, I guess, fine, and I took some very basic notes here.

Turned out a fellow trainer that we hung out at the con with was really into Narita Top Road, and here we were. It wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that seeing all the interaction we had with Nakamura, and, more over, the anticipation to it as the days leading up to the con, was a big source of joy at and surrounding the event. At the same time, Nakamura is still a newbie seiyuu. I don’t know how many characters Nakamura has played, nor how many times had she interacted with fans to this degree, I only hope we have given her some good memories to take home with.

Having to work the day job one out of the 3 days at Otakon does crib a lot of my exposure. I missed out on the creative team on the Quints anime, and I missed seeing Watari again this year. I also somehow missed out on the Yaiba concert, probably because I had to find time to eat dinner between all the things.

I even almost missed all the Kawamori/Macross stuff, but I did get to sit in on his panel with Aramaki for a while, and it’s more or less what you’d expect. Even the Q&A was pretty okay. On the Macross note, I did buy some Big West authorized Macross Delta stuff. I mean, what merch are even there to buy for Delta? I got a Mylene badge, a Walkure badge, a VF31 pin and both YF19 pins.

I was able to drop by in Idolspace, which is Otakon’s ever-slightly-better indie idol content track. This year they had even more programs than ever and shows lasted into the night. There was even a separate idol show. This Phoebe person seems, I don’t know, amusing. Got to see also a friend belting it out. The Aniwaza folks which are a wotagei group were doing degen stuff at the Idolspace also. Feels like that area is just full of that “stuff.” How do you articulate that chikaidol-driven wota stuff versus the normal music things you see at otaku events?

I also got to see some rare guys like Dave, the usual suspects working autographs and GR, and LOL this guy–

Joke aside, it was a rich Otakon experience, the convention did its best to not get in my way after things started. Worries like how TMS might block us from getting Uma autographs melted away in the sheer force of opportunity. Even autographs were super smooth and not super crowded versus prior years for some reason.

There were plenty of time to hang out with friends too, we had time to spend with Sujay which was amusingly unexpected. It all made me warm up for that same party-with-friends vibe that I hope we can recreate in Vancouver in a few weeks. I really appreciate all the folks I got to hung out with.

On a more personal note, I probably got more random loot shipped to me home over the weekend than I got from Otakon dealers. It was pretty crowded but the room was laid out very well and spread out, so it didn’t feel bad. Artist Alley also wasn’t too bad. I did walk it this time and it wasn’t bad, just nothing jumped out at me, no more than the occasional bunny Karin from Blue Archive would. Still I probably spent like, $100, between the one collapsible penlight from YeahLights, the con shirt, and at the Macross booth.

PS. Foods. We went back to the Cuba joint down the street on Sunday and did not really take any pics, sorry. Inflation sure was a thing. Also spent and ate more at the Dignitary just because it’s so convenient.

The real culinary expedition was at Busboys and Poets, which is a solid soul food chain by most means. I guess it’s suppose to be more African-inspired? The fried chicken was very solid.

PPS. Yeah I also have an AX post coming up soon-ish..as soon as I finish watching ML10th act 2 I guess.


Otakon 2023: Day 0

I’m so behind on the news cycle in that I basically didn’t comb my usual news sources for about a month and an half, but I had gotten back to this. Anyways, going to be Otakon this weekend and taking it easy.

The main draw this year will be not just the usual set of creators, also whatever Macross news that’s going to get out this year. I’m glad there’s at least a con that draws Kawamori to it every so often. Somehow, Watari also returns.

I’m probably going to see if I can get to see Haruna Ikezawa somehow. She is not only a fairly established seiyuu for a while, but also now a SF author. I’m actually not sure if she does that much dubbing these days, but the 00s were dotted with her voice.

I mean she was a regular cast member on Marimite! There are four more seiyuu showing up at Otakon, three of them are fairly unknown and the other is, uh, Iwao Junko. Junko Iwao makes her return to the East Coast. I’ve seen her a couple times now but please go see her at Otakon too, this veteran seiyuu is a lot of fun to see in person.

As for the other three, one of them is only really known for her role as Narita Top Road from the Road to the Top Umamusume Youtube anime–Kanna Nakamura. Only that Nakamura and fellow newbie Shou Komura are here on behalf of the new Seven Deadly Sins anime. Also, Runa Katagiri is with Kia Asamiya (or whatever his other anime staff name) to promote Asamiya’s new project. Guess I’ll try to pop out and see.

Given the terrible state of my PTOs this year I will probably have to work at Otakon for a day, but again, just going to take it kind of easy where I could. Otakon this year boasts a big guest list though so I think there’ll be something to do every day.

PS. When will I get time to watch ML10th Act-2…? I think I still need to watch Uma 5th Wish somehow before this weekend…

PPS. A former version of this article omitted some seiyuu and I regretfully apologize.


IDOLM@STER 18th Stream, SideM Thoughts

This is just the thoughts from this particular Producer, so take it as you will. Just reacting to some other folks from this morning (evening JP time on July 25) when the 18th anniversary stream dropped its usual payload of news and inter-brand interactions.

I’m lurking in a couple community discord servers for IDOLM@STER. Some SideMs are gnashing teeth. Others are just putting them to perspective. You can see some of that in the Youtube comments. I think perspective is important, as it can highlight the way forward out of this hellish situation. But I think some empathy and compassion is good. More over, these emotions and momentary problems are probably something that will come and pass with time, without us doing a whole lot.

One thing I noticed is that many of these online communities are surrounding the core game product. This is Deresute, MLTD, the Enza Shiny game, and what have you. Players of the console 765Pro games kind of dissolves into the background as old(er) people who bring up obscure data points (see above about perspective) but it’s not tangibly linked to the community. The band of IDOLM@STER branding is not that strong.

I think this is invariably the case when all it takes is a smartphone or emulator, and Qooapp. All these free-to-play games have no doors, effectively, other than being in Japanese. And just like how anime culture in America is a rainbow regurgitation of the same thing in Japan, a lot is lost in the translation. Or more precisely, a lot is missing in the localization of a media mix IP, that wasn’t even localized to begin with. Localization outfits are just publishers, they are not marketing firms with a hand in the media mix pie who want to sell rights to merch or whatever it takes to do SideM Ice Cream.

I would feel way less secure as a SideM P if all I had was the game and not the concerts, the live streams, the music, the anime, the comics, and the fandom at large. I really think this is part of the answer to Bannam dropping the Growing Stars game, but not much of this has come. Anyways, it has been disconcerting for some Ps and things have remained uncomfortable.

I remember seeing the SideM announcement at MOIW 2014 intermission. I was there at my first IM@S concert and still feeling a bit overwhelmed. Yes, even back then, we, collectively (Japan?), know that joseimuke stuff was taking off. Women buying 2D dude merch was a bigger thing than it was ever before. It was a force to tap into, if you are an opportunist. So at some level, SideM joining the fray was already a bit, let’s just say, sus, fundamentally.

At any rate, SideM fits this scheme, and I bemused around then, even, that Bannam was a tad late. But the dice were cast, and we’re in it together. Will IDOLM@STER as a business translate well as joseimuke content and media mix strategy? Despite hindsight being mostly 20/20, I think the answer is still unclear. To some degree, we see where it was successful. We also see the missteps.

I think one clear thing we can say is that Bannam executed the SideM vision with some urgency. Vision 2.0 started with IDOLM@STER 2, which introduced us to Jupiter. These guys are the lynchpins for the SideM franchise and connects us from today back all the way to origin. SideM also provided a home Akizuki Ryo, which we cannot say enough to thank for. Maybe this is at SideM’s cost as a female-pandering franchise, but ultimately it was just one person in a group with 46 or 49 idols. These are, in the big picture of the 18 years of IDOLM@STER, large, franchise-altering moves. They’re on par with Shiny Colors dropping a new unit every year from 2019 to 2022. But I didn’t think Bannam and the SideM team played this up well. Maybe because they were urgently trying to solidify this brand?

I believe urgency was why SideM took the path of Million Live, almost carbon-copy from web game to app game. It was definitely why SideM had a TV anime first, well before Million. But did this urgency pay off? I’m not sure. I can say that the transition to the app game did more to harm it than any other decision for the series, because SideM LIVE ON ST@GE was not up to the quality and standards set by the other games in the series. If rushing was a big factor towards the cause of it, it was just a bad decision.

In 2021 we got SideM GROWING STARS, which is being shut down this month. The circumstances surrounding the shutdown is still a mystery. But we probably got here only because the mistake that was LOS. Still, we should properly credit who credit is due: Bannam needs to own the bad treatment for this franchise at the closing of the game. SideM now does not have a game platform to put all the character content on top of. I think that’s actually okay, but it invites envy and criticism.

Objectively speaking, what SideM is doing is becoming more lean and agile. New character media mix franchises often start this way: announcements, casts, recorded songs and drama. But this is sort of the opposite business strategy for IDOLM@STER, one that hasn’t really happened until the launch of Shiny Colors. It is still a really weird way to see an IDOLM@STER brand exist. How can players be players without an ongoing game? Until this existential issue is resolved, it stands to reason that SideM players and producers are going to have their undies in a knot.

Given this blog and I am very silver-lining oriented, this is the best spin I can put on it. Bannam did what they could, they pushed the franchise and hit all the high notes until the Covid years. There is not much left to execute for SideM in the Vision 2.0 game plan.

So, because I have nothing to lose if I am wrong, you should take the following prediction as far or as close as you want. I suggest that the 6th franchise in IDOLM@STER canon might be also joseimuke. KominoP said it started 5 years ago. What started 5 years ago? So again, I have nothing to lose if I’m wrong, it’s going to be joseimuke, and 2.5D oriented. I mean it makes sense. It’s the one arrow missing in the quiver of the IDOLM@STER franchise. I want real life Haruka tripping on stage, just like how I really enjoyed my time at the Umamusume stage performance. SideM did rodokugeki. Is this why IDOLM@STER was so slow to this punch?

Because, on paper, the only threat to IDOLM@STER is Umamusume. Bang Dream is for kids! D4DJ is … also for kids. IDOLM@STER is for boomers! Love Live is actually just not-iM@S and belongs to Bandai Namco anyways. That’s why the franchise want to expand and add, it needs to grow to replace the warm bodies that will graduate from the series because invariably, as long as SideM or Million or 765Pro continues to exist, Bannam will make mistakes along the way. Rightfully so, it’s okay to quit when these entertainment IPs stop being entertaining.

Except Cinderella Girls–it continues to grow, and Cygames seemed to have hit the winning formula. Doomposting, unvoiced Producers continue to cause chaos and rub people the wrong way as entitled pricks. One person’s bug is another person’s feature, I guess.