AMV as Performance Art

Just want to opine and pine on a fandom thing out west, the anime music video. TL;DR is that Twitter has killed the AMV, much like how overall, social media transformed blogging, cosplay, and fandom in both general and specific ways.

First of all, I liken AMV like performance art. It’s like what you do in a very elaborate and purposeful Vine (RIP). There is always power in putting motion to music, and this is why it is only exaggeration to say AMV is dead or someone or thing has killed it. But that scene isn’t growing, at least from the consumer side. Just like stand up comedy or theater tropes in the age of mass media, those things will still continue to exist, just in a different way, not like how they were before cable TV or the internet, for example.

The big “get” in my mind is how AMV is different than, say, fan art, fan fiction, or the doujinshi, in that it is not really a platform. People make AMVs because they evoke emotions, because they are funny, or dramatic, or whatever. It’s not because the latest fad is the Emperor Penguin or the Shoebill, and Bin1’s modus operandi is to cross anything with IDOLM@STER. Or that you’re using a fan-fiction-concept content publishing platform like an actual fanfic or a slash artwork, because you thought your idea needs to be put into form.

Well, which is not to say people make AMV not for those reasons, but people don’t watch AMVs for those reasons. Instead, they go to a booru or tumblr or whatever. If you put a bunch of people inside a convention programming room and show some cool anime that solicited their emotions along with English-language (usually) music, that would be pretty neat. Just like how MST3K to, say, Lensman anime, can be pretty neat in the same setting, but it doesn’t mean people care about Lensman anime or even want to touch it with a 10′ pole.

In a nutshell, people made AMV because they were cool, not because they wanted to express something unique to the medium. It isn’t to say there are no AMVs that were made like that, or people who think differently than what I’m describing, but that’s not what AMVs were known for. Cool animation put to almost-random songs is definitely how 99% of AMVs are.

To look at things differently, in this day and age, JP MADs still exist and new ones continue to be relevant, but they too have been changed over time to fit the social medium paradigms of the day. JP side focuses largely for comedy (which is probably the main flag signaling the difference in why people created MADs vs AMVs, considering the genre gaps), and as alternative narrative platforms, a bit more like vlogging or fan videos (at least from my IM@S lens bias). But the odds of people finding relevance of a supercut loop of Toradora, in 2017, is much higher than anything Naruto to Linkin Park, just because of memetic reasons. Those reasons live on, even if nobody watches the original video anymore.

As someone who grew up as a fan with cons, in a way, I have some fond memories of AMV viewings as I used to go to them all the time. I stopped only because it took more effort to follow than what I was getting out from it, and while it’s easier to make an AMV than ever, I pursued it only as a fan of the source material. I think it’s fair to say a lot of people don’t follow AMVs anymore because of social media changing the way we consume these little things. We don’t typically put the enjoyment of such on the same level as what we are fans of. But even if you are, and you check out the AMVs to your fav works, that’s really just a recipe to find interesting narratives but mediocre works. It’s about people who are talented that keep at it and still do it to convey an actual message, not just to put cool scenes to nice songs. Performance art is fine by itself, but it is no longer relevant in this cultural economy, unless you take it a level higher.

Too Bad the Idol Diet Hasn’t Made a Diet Joke Yet

It’s actually fair to say Idol Jihen, or Idol Incidents, is similar to an Aikatsu arc. The story are as similar to children’s cartoon (or my stereotypical understanding of such) as late night anime gets. It is just a framework or vehicle to put some database, database, in your anime.

But I think it’s better to look at Idol Jihen as a headtrick. The fact that idols are your congressional representatives, and sometimes they solve problems using idol powers, are the trick. The teach is how to be active politically, and what it means.

If your President was an idol, would you support him or her? Would his or her political opponents be old and fat men and women dealing shadily in the night inside expensive eateries? More importantly what otaku character traits will your President have? Is he or she a Honkers or Kasumi? Or an Amami Haruka? Or Shimada Mayu? This is what most of us care about, but this is also the part that’s not really important in the larger scheme of things. I think I speak for all the lolicons in the world that the weaponized feelings of children is a great plot device that we can use more of, at least in moderation. It makes for a great distraction, to not let yourself engage the material critically.

[This is similar but different than Akibastrip anime, which is using social involvement and caricature of Akiba’s socio-economic problems to identify, well, stuff to market? I think? I’m most likely wrong but can someone explain to me how Akiba’s Trip isn’t just a giant Earphones plug (along with all their guest musicians/seiyuu), sponsored by Maidreaming?]

Idol Jihen, for example, doesn’t solve episode 6’s ghostly problems with magic of Aomori Ringo Powers (they are delicious) but flat out is making a stance on dreams of space (a very otaku-friendly position) being chipped and kicked to the curb by more pedestrian monetary concerns. It would be pretty true to life to say that people in national lawmaking bodies bicker about how to spend pork, that is a summary of episode 6 in half a sentence. In that way, Idol Jihen is extremely convincing because the narrative is akin to low-effort propaganda. Just talk to people who care about NASA and NASA’s budget over the past 50 years and this is basically their position in a nutshell, but the way that narrative came about in Idol Jihen is rather, what’s the word, romantic yet pragmatic?

I could go on in detail about the issues in Idol Jihen, but I just want to point at one more thing: the sense of principled governance. One of the best shield behind criticism in politics like this is that you are advocating for your constituency. Sure, everybody says this, even if s/he is outright wrong and knows it. Which is why every villain in Idol Jihen breaks that trust as an elected official, and when it isn’t (such as episode 7), the point was about having internal consistency and being a person of principle. It’s a strong and clear signal. This is good, in that the stories in Idol Jihen honors the core tenant of government by principle, and the vilification is about the kind of behavior that people typically vilify in governance–cronyism, autocracy, putting the power grab before the common good.

PS. If you want to go one more meta up: Idol Jihen is as blunt as a trout, because nuance is a losing strategy in politics. If you are explaining, you’re losing.

Avex Ban

For people who care as to why they can’t import certain Avex things, you can pursue this or that. Truth is it’s likely that none of these guesses are on the dot, although in general we can all agree that this is an internal business decision on Avex’s part. The main facts we should keep in mind are:

  1. Amazon Japan has been cancelling or not fulfilling certain Avex orders, and as others mentioned it’s largely in regards to CDs.
    1. It’s key to know that this impacts CD, BD and DVDs.
  2. CD Japan is doing it unilaterally following their email announcement.

The Sakugabooru theory is largely due to Avex Japan wanting to pay deference to Avex Asia and to discourage people from importing. This has to do with mostly music sale, and does not explain why Avex would block video sales. Ultimately, the prices between Japan and, say, Taiwan releases of anime are wide, and the latter is translated into Chinese; OTOH you don’t need subtitles to enjoy some WUG music. Justin over at ANN mentioned things that are not really related to music sales, and at any rate he didn’t quite address why they would not sell CDs besides that it’s a business decision to defer to regional publishers.

The good point about Avex being a very internationally focused company is important to take to heart–this is where Sakugabooru’s link to that investor business deck makes sense. Avex did establish a North American entity last year, but it doesn’t really make a lot of sense in light of the sales ban. It’s likely there’s something internal that’s happening that leads to this decision, only to make sense when some other things, yet-to-be-announced, happen.

The main problems with all these explanations is that they don’t highlight where their guesses don’t make sense. Yes, a relatively small percentage of sales go internationally, but the impact on retailers are not going to be even. They are not just going to eat their shoes. Nor are we in the 90s anymore, when region-based sales for e-commerce is hard to do. Export-focused retailers will have a lot to lose (CDJ is probably the biggest victim of this), and I don’t think you can hand-wave it away unless you are an Avex exec, willing to make concessions (not publicized of course). It also does not explain why CD Japan said that the ban applies only to a majority of titles, and not all titles. It’s not going to be explained by the production committee rationale, at least not by itself.

It’s safe to say that multiple reasons are behind the ban, partly due to business decisions, licensing agreements, and the general climate of the industry. It’s really weird, at least IMO, that there’s this anime Blu-ray lens hovering over this discussion since Avex’s ban doesn’t really impact that–it’s largely related to their music business first. And here’s another point where the committee/anime video licensing POV doesn’t make a ton of sense: It’s not like the committee on Yuri on Ice are made up of companies that never produced other works, works that have Blu-rays published in Japan and then exported. Yeah sure each committee and contract is different, but it just doesn’t ring true to me that there would be this difference just for Avex’s titles. Or rather, it would mean there are a couple companies in play which are having some issues elsewhere, causing this result.

Anyways, I am impacted by this as much as all of you, since being a WUGner means buying Avex products. I think it’s important to realize this is happening not because Japanese people are xenophobic, but because the Japanese music industry is ass-backwards when it comes to internationalization. (Xenophobia might be a related root cause, but solving that isn’t going to fix this kind of issues.) It’s got nothing to do with the handful of eroge makers who banned exports (and I’m really weirded out that people would make the connection with, say, Visual Arts, even though that shouldn’t be so weird).

Your guess is as good as mine as to why Avex decided to not allow retailers to export things. We can take shots as to reasons why but I can say with some certainty that it’s not just one reason why, given just how a lot of these reasons don’t make sense by themselves.

PS. I wonder if other folks impacted (and … hopefully people actually impacted, not just a handful of people who can’t import Takkyu Musume) have figured it out, and if they have more facts to share. So far all the anecdotes I’ve heard personally are from anime Blu-ray importers and WUGners, which is a teeny tiny bit of the iceberg.

SideM Anime And Million Live

TL;DR: Here I quote tablody-matome blog Yaraon for the proper verbiage: アイマスサイドMが先にアニメ化され、ツイッターのミリマスP達、精神を病み始める: When SideM anime gets announced first, Million Live Ps go into nervous breakdown.

To preface the context-heavy post, in brief, getting a proper TV anime treatment has been the dream of all fans of IM@S since forever, because the franchise today is as prominent as it is despite of the missteps the managements have committed all along the way. From the TGS incident to Xenoglossia there were a lot of bad moves–and by that I mean literally bad for their bottom line and alienating fans–that the management had to recover from to get to the point that they are today. Long-time fans of 765Pro suffer it with their staff and cast to get to this point, so the feeling we cheer for during Producer Meeting is one of mutual support and as people who have been through the ups and downs over the years.

To be clear, a lot of pre-SideM Ps are interested in SideM. They might not be into the series but they are cheering it on like what producers do. Sure, there are also plenty of people, producer or not, who find it difficult to support all branches of the IP. This sentiment is more prominent and easier to see in 2017, when massive event plans roll out along with the mobile game juggernaut Deresute. When you tax your fan base to the max, straining cracks do form. Do people remember 10 years ago, when we had maybe 2-3 IM@S events a year? In 2017 it’s like, 3 events a month.

And this isn’t something limited to Million Live Producers, who are understandably a little salty–I would know since I am one–but it’s worth writing about because there’s a thick context behind it.

  1. SideM tour was announced ahead of the live–this sounds like great fuel for “the sound girls make when they’re excited” on top of the SideM anime. But no, this gets announced 2 weeks earlier? Something or someone messed up.
  2. The grapevine on Million Live anime has been that A1 is busy with all these projects for 2016-2017, as of 2015. Why 2015? That’s when ML anime was first “teased” by the trailer similar to how CG got a trailer just months before the Dereani TV series being announced. Fast forward to 2017. The word from the same grapevine has been more or less the same, but it’s a matter of time. As a separate note, SideM may or may not carry with it the Anim@s tag in terms of the production team, but Million Live both uses Anim@s illustrators for in-game art and is basically all but confirmed to be A1 or else. (This is basically the sins of Xenoglossia being repaid.) For the record, CG is an year earlier than ML, and ML is about a year earlier than SideM.
  3. Unlike SideM, Million Live is both a reboot of 765Pro and its own thing. This is why there are songs for the 765Pro all stars in Million Live, and their characters appear in ML game (in a non-cameo basis) as well as the excellent Gessan manga (which is kind of like the bible for MiliPs in terms of those who care about story and development). Oh, the Gessan manga ended. Oops
  4. ML4th Budokan is a month too far… But in terms of timing, SideM anime details won’t emerge until 3/15, so it’s really just hitching a ride on SideM 2nd. ML4th day 3 (if they were to announce ML anime then) is 3/12. Which goes up to point #1…
  5. ML anime, basically by indirect admission, is coming soon. I have separate rumor to confirm but GamiP’s behavior at least acknowledges this, for his apology only makes sense in this way.
    • Basically, during day 2 SideM 2nd, GamiP came on stage after the anime teaser to apologize to people waiting for ML anime, that SideM anime is announced first because guys walk with longer strides or some joke. The idea is the demand is higher so it got higher priority–or because they’re locked into the Anim@s crew for ML.
  6. For who reading into sakuga tea leaves are a thing, too, understands what this means when you’re stuck waiting for that same prolific crew. A lot of us are OK with Dereani but a lot of us are also weary of that production given its issues and delays. And as you can see, delays with these things do happen. A part of us want a good work that is given the time to be produced, but we also realize we can only wait so long in this war of idols.

This really doesn’t have anything to do with “fujoshit” or anything like that (and those who think this way probably should be kindly educated). It’s just that Milim@s Producers have been waiting for a while now, and in some ways, the future of our original ladies depend on it too, because surely they will also appear in the anime…

I guess the key thing is that Million Live anime is a big deal, although it’s just Milim@s Producers who are too psychologically invested, I guess. And until we know what SideM anime is actually going to be detail-wise, it’s not something we should assume in the pessimistic direction.

Winter 2017 Anime

So instead of going about things normally, I have been watching Legends of Galactic Heroes on a binge. That said this is sort of a weak-ass style of binge where I am only 40 episodes in after starting 3 weeks ago. With that said, LOGH episode 40 is a good place to take a breather. Just to say the obvious: This show is great and I’m glad I am doing it. In years past I’ve casually tried to start, and last Cyber Monday I picked up the translated novels on Kindle so I started reading the first book–only to stop because it feels kind of lame. Kind of like how Guin Saga initially felt. But there’s this epic anime I could watch instead, hmm.

Interspersed between all this are my usual eventing and at least one work-related trip, disrupting my usual viewing schedule. Such is life.

Kemono Friends – This is setting my meme world on fire. It’s a bit like MLP set in Humanity Has Declined. Or rather, the last humanity inside a dead mobile game? It’s tanoshi and sugoi and all that, and this friend who likes to blog recommend approaching this janky anime on its face. It’s nothing really special, until you unwrap this layered zoo to get the meta. It’s actually not a bad show, but it’s definitely not meant for everyone. The amazing thing about Kemono Friends is that I don’t think there is anything to “get.” If you just think about it, there’s enough content and bread crumbs to get you going.

Gabriel Dropout – I sort of enjoyed this show, but it’s not as funny as the play time warrants. And I don’t even mean this kind of sand-counting sense of humor. I enjoy the jokes but they are too little for too high of an investment. I’ll probably trudge on.

Chaos;Child – This is kind of why I trudge on Gabdro because the alternatives is to watch more dreary things like this. That said I’m a few eps behind so I’ll try to catch up, because I like the concept. I think this is the kind of stuff these semicolon IPs do best, except somehow only Steins;Gate had a decent anime…? O;9 was such a wasted opportunity…

Yojo Senki – This is hilarious, but also kind of dreary. I think the main weakness is the occasional focus on some existential BS, and not a little girl doing ruthless war stuff. [His Yang comparison I find a bit in poor taste, in fact.] Thankfully the balance of it leans heavily on the latter so it’s good so far. As far as these kind of fantasies go this is very satisfying. It would be even better if it wasn’t Y.Aoi behind the helm though.

Demi-chan – I don’t really know where this show is going so I’m along for the ride. It has harem aspects but also plainly focused on these half-human, daily life issues, and I think it does an admirable job on that. The characters come together in a way that isn’t terribly annoying and I really enjoy the cast, so it’s on the short list.

LWA TV – LOL licensing. Why Netflix…

Minamikamakura – The setting really wins here but I’m a little slow on this. Maybe I’ll catch up. The first couple episodes reminded me some stories I heard when Lawson took some anibloggers there to find obscure temples, up and down the mountains…

Kuzu – Is it me or this show is a lot of boring? I guess naughty sex is all there is for it? I’m curious so I might stick with a few more.

BanG Dream – It’s basically Love Live but better. Forget Aqours. So far I like it except that Arisa character is like a less charming Nico and as the characters say sometimes, Kasumi can be really annoying. I guess she’s just a Friend who likes weird guitars. I actually enjoy it except for literally Arisa, and the need to get myself to ignore the Hard Push. If gorioshi had a name, it’d be called BanG Dream, in that this is the least natural and most artificial story of a band coming together since forever. And it airs in the same season as Fuuka. That said I think there isn’t enough to make a call on this show yet, outside of the production issues.

Chain Chronicles – The characters were a little familiar but that’s where the show ends, considering my history with the game. The story is familiar, however, so I had fun following it along. I’m not invested in the characters so I think it’ll get dropped (currently at 5).

Rakugo S2 – Same o’ but more seiyuu rakugo is good?

ACCA – It’s like LOGH but without the charm, which is probably not a normal comparison but at this writing, attention span burnt on ACCA probably fills the same need as a couple episodes of LOGH. It’s curious enough to keep following.

Konosuba 2 – Still good.

Hand Shakers – I would watch it if I had more time, but not so much lately. After 3 episodes at least the girls are cute? After K I don’t know why people complain about Go Hands, other than some of the business practices. Yeah it’s a bit of eye torture, but so was K.

Maid Dragon – I like this enough for the animation, but the story doesn’t require the deft hand of comedy to play on beat every time, which is a bonus in this case because I’m not sure if humor is one of Maid Dragon’s strengths. A hint of plain nerd works like a dash of vanilla essence in a simple custard and it makes everything come together.

School Girl Strikers – It’s alright. Not sure if I’ll watch beyond 3.

Seiren – It’s not as much a brain-press as PhotoKano but it’s not that good. The gamer girl so far is at least beyond garden variety attractive and so far Seiren has done a good job with the side characters. I’m not sure I can stay with it without at least a back-of-the-knee moment. The deer mating is cute but not enough… (BTW Shikaco is in this anime as bus-ko which is, what, this joke almost tells itself.)

Idol Incident – Partly what inspired me to watch LOGH, gonna be honest. It’s not terrible but unless you’re into that political narrative it’s not particularly fun, since that’s where the jokes are. I might keep going but it needs to have some good jabs! Too soft so far.

Akiba’s Trip – It’s technically partly what inspired me to watch LOGH too, because it’s not that different than Idol Incident. The collabs and cameos are great in the show though. Is it any good? Saa…

Tekketsu – Ooops she did it again! Joke aside I really enjoyed the catch-up from last season, and kind of am glad, in retrospect, that I did it now and not at the end of the second season, for spoiler dodging reasons. It definitely is the “least” Gundam of recent memory, just something about it is different, and it’s hard to put a finger on it.

Fuuka – As a stereotypical example of a fan of Seo’s works, I can only deeply apologize that it exists, and it’s going to egg on some cool seiyuu collabs (as it has already done so). The main story is just a side dish. FWIW I stopped following his crap after I”s so Fuuka is mostly new (but yet so familiar) to me.

I tried Masamune-kun, and it was OK but I’m not in a mood for something this substantial. The two Granblue Fantasy episodes were spot on, except one might wonder if the right characters are going to appear. One Room was LOL.

A fairly fun season of shows that I look forward to every week, I’d say. Kemono Friends, Yojo Senki, ACCA, BanG Dream and Demi-chan probably are the ones I mind the most.