Reviewing the Interspecies Reviewers

Interspecies Reviewers the TV anime was a fun and thought-provoking series, but it only seems that way if you are in a certain contextual zone. The executive summary is not too much more than that a fantasy RPG-type universe group of adventurers got a side gig as brothel reviewers, and crowdfunded their escapades using some funky bulletin board distribution system powered by centaurs.

Fantasy Brothel Yelp was not what I had in mind when I first watched this, and it suddenly dawned on me why this is such a gripping concept for me. It’s basically the same reason why I blog anime: I want to wax poetry about a fairly niche interest and talk about it with like-minded folks. Some of the very early anime blogs and tumblrs are not too far from what makes up sample review entries on Interspecies Reviewers, or Ishuzoku Reviewers.

Early on in its broadcast run, Ishuzoku Reviewers kicked up some storm because of the explicit content and how some TV stations and streaming services dropped it. There was a satellite/cable only, uncensored version of the show being broadcasted. It wasn’t really uniquely racy content-wise, at least what you see. The subject matter, however, is quite explicit. I mean, to use memes to explain, this is not some Virgin softcore, skinnymax-style. This is about Chads going around having sex with prostitutes of otherworldly natures, many times per episode. They talk about not even just the physics of the thing, not just the various kinks, of course some being off-limits in general. Put aside even the kinks that are forbidden in their fantasy worlds. There are just some pretty bread-and-butter brothel talk that is just not appropriate anywhere but within the association of sex work patreons. If it isn’t obvious, know this is not appropriate material for TV generally, anywhere. The meta-ness of the story made any of its explicit content worse than it actually looks like. People trying to understand it from the manga alone probably has no real grip on its explicitness.

Without the bounds of reality, Interspecies Reviewers plays out some really funky fantasies (like the Eggs episode or the Undead episode), as well as some borderline Twilight Zone concepts (slime magician, large quantity succubi), but obviously it is light-hearted and for laughs. It does do some things tongue-in-cheek, nodding at its own fantasy being fantastic, and the real world being entirely different in some aspects. It also demonstrates an open-mindedness that can exist in that fantasy vacuum about gender, about the marketplace, and about the circumstances of those who ply the trade.

It’s in this context that we see some really progressive and also regressive takes, all in the pursuit of pleasure. But of course, it’s important to never forget the underpinning and the cultural space in which Interspecies Reviewer can be an acceptable work, that it is light-hearted enough to be taken as late-night anime and taken-at-value enough to not get too riled up by the fact that even if this is fantasy, it only exists in a society where a very developed, a very real, and very accessible sex industry thrives.

And that is a totally different topic, one I’m not interested in reviewing (but like the Dragonkin who became a wizard at the end, definitely interested in knowing more of). Frankly, it’s very difficult to even participate beyond the borders of that country anyways. If I were to write about it, it would to extend the thought I’ve had and shared with some folks about exporting things like theme cafes and maid bars, which is already very Galapagos-y to survive outside of Japan. It’d die on contact without great care. The rest of that service industry is a huge iceberg a mile deep and a mile tall, and I don’t know even the shadow of it.

CG7th Osaka Rocks

Rather than recap I just want jot down all the thoughts and feels from the live. This bid to try to get this post out ASAP didn’t really work, but I fear it would have been only worse otherwise. But first, the setlist can be had here:

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Seiyuu Gravure, 2H2020

There’s a handful of seiyuu photo books coming out and I just want to list them here. Maybe you will find it useful.

Chihara Minori’s Hawaii photobook likely has the fruits of her recent trip there. She did it as a fanclub tour package too, so it will be extra nice for those folks who made the trip. Personally, it felt like just last year which I got her 10th anniversary book.

Minori Chihara 15th Anniversary Photo Book “Minoreal” – 2020/03/18

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have Million Live center CV Yamazaki Haruka, putting out her first proper photo book. It is more of your typical sophomore product designed by the voice actress, featuring her in various situational outfits. It’s also only available at some shops only, like Minorin’s.

Haruka Yamazaki 1st Photo Book “On to Off” – 2020/04/11

Koiwai Kotori, who might be best known as a MENSA member and the voice behind Nyan-pasu, is now also well-known audiophile in recent year(s). She’s done a lot of stuff the past couple years promoting personal audio equipment, doing ASMR stuff, DJ-ing and even writing songs. When she’s not plugging crowdfunding projects or recommending BT IEMs on twitter, she’s shilling her own IEM pads. Seems like her upcoming photo book will feature her and all her personal collection of earphones. It’s got a wide release.

Kotori Koiwai 1st Photo Book “Earphone Headphone Kotori Zukan” – 2020/04/30

Any other I’m missing for the next couple months?

On-Gaku: Our Sound

The local film festival always brings in a fresh haul, so I got to see this deadpan comedy at a screening last weekend. On-Gaku is a movie about some high schoolers playing in a band. It’s also about really guttural power of rock music and the comedic timing. Japan Times has a heaping-praise of a review on this, which does way better job reviewing the movie than I will. But, at least I won’t spoil it for you.

As a piece of anime, it’s probably as un-anime as it gets. It’s refreshing in the way that American animation that poses as anime is the opposite of, I guess? The jokes, the cultural concepts, the timing, the setting, the plot is all extremely typical of Japanese high school comedies. In that context, On-Gaku is exactly what makes an anime not-an-anime, yet it is infinitely more Japanese than, say, non-anime stuff that poses like anime.

But those are just the baseline in which the humor springs from. On-Gaku is a gag anime. Its straight-face plot is merely the path in which we start at the head of the joke and eventually arrive at the butt of the joke. If we are to take the notion of the “gap” and apply that analogy liberally to the movie, then much of On-gaku is just the viewer traveling the gap chronologically with still animation to fill the void. I wonder if this is an artifact of being an adaptation of a manga.

They say this movie took seven years to complete. I believe it because it would be a funny gag, and appropriate of character. Animation masterpieces like Jin-Roh took seven years to complete, too. On-Gaku is not quite that, but it is a rarity, if not an unique thing, this day and age given the style of animation it uses.

It is also a movie that can be spoiled badly, so I recommend you avoid any spoilers if you want to see it eventually. Just be prepared to go through a lot of deadpan jokes. This is the most deadpan piece of anime I’ve seen, possibly ever.

Is it good? I think it’s worth your time. It is definitely extremely Japanese in the non-stereotypical way, so if you are into it for the weeb factor, maybe this movie is not up your alley. If you are into animation, Japanese high school, rock and roll, and open-minded takes on music, then there’s something here. Oh, if you like anime comedies, too.

PS. After going to CG7th Osaka I have a deeper appreciation of rock music, so this movie was timely.

IDOLM@STER Concepts: Tantou vs. Favorite

In the age of Stan and Waifu, there has long been many different ways to say “love” in all sorts of contexts; forget about the Alaskan words for snow (it’s an urban legend of sorts anyway). The way the Greeks did it is what I was weaned on but in this day and age there are more ways to say the same things than ever. And it has been always the case as far as history went.

It just dawned on me on a practical difference between what IM@S Ps say “tantou” versus which idols a producer may simply like. To some Ps, there are no differences between the two. To others, they are entirely different things. And from where I stand there are no wrong ways to go about it.

(“Tantou” here means “in charge of.” A producer is someone in a position of responsibility over a project. In this case, it’s an artist or idol. It is not unusual for IDOLM@STER content to put the producer in charge of a project in which artists of the agency is then selected to participate under said project. If you talk to Japanese producers, the proper way to refer to your cartoon waifu is tantou, and while you may or may not be a wretched twitter critter, we all know what you mean.)

There are however technical differences. One is the basic understanding that IDOLM@STER is a game franchise in which the player is the producer, and the idols the player selects to literally produce, well, are the idols the player produces. Sometimes this is literally every idol in the game, sometimes this is even more (not all idols are really in the games if you think about it), and sometimes it’s just whatever the P wants.

If we extrapolate it from selecting an idol in games to engagement in general, the idols I produce are just the ones I will go out of my way to learn more, to read up on, to research, to think about, and to create content for. After all, it is all we can do to literally “produce” a fictional character. This is pretty much the same way anyone stans anyone else, but maybe there are some differences. Maybe there will be another post for that.

The idols from IDOLM@STER that I like, however, I don’t necessarily produce. Maybe for those characters, I just enjoy the content and call it a day.

This is most evident when you participate in IDOLM@STER content like a big live event. Your favorite or tantou characters, odds are, will only take up a fraction of the full show. The rest of the time you probably are still engaged in the content, even if it isn’t your favorite or it has little relationship to the idols you produce. Sometimes this does mean you might take a seat. But also, a concert is a concert, a show is a show–it’s enjoyable to watch and be a part of.

So while I don’t produce Syoko, I still have a lot of respect for the Matsuda twins and an affinity to the brand of rock that is X Japan. This is why the Kurenai cover during CG7th Osaka was a really special experience personally, especially given the venue, the setup, and the way things played out. These kinds of considerations were the reasons why I was even there in the first place.

I have been following Cinderella Girls since my initial baptism by MOIW 2014. What struck me as odd now is that while many idols from 346P are appealing to me personally, I don’t want to produce any of them. It’s a big reason why I gave up playing Starlight Stage, and also it made the franchise easier to deal with when I treat it like this bag of content that pops out hit beats once in a while, at arm’s length.

I try to go to a show every year still, because I do enjoy this branch of IM@S and I still know something about them. Plus, I never stopped being a seiyuu otaku and IDOLM@STER content is still some of the best kind of seiyuu content out there. An IM@S show (and this applies even to all the other branches) are often elaborate productions. Cinderella Girls lives are the most elaborate of them all, both because of the success (popularity and commercially) of the franchise and the style of the content that is conducive of big, bright, shiny productions at a large scale. That the franchise shows have been dome-sized the past couple years actually plays to the strength of the content and the material. That is contrary to my normal preferences; to me, domes are a negative otherwise–you are far from the action, it’s very crowded, the acoustics and view often sucks, and the seats suck too usually.

On paper, maybe I can call myself, at best, a Miho/PCS producer, because at least I roll for them. I also find myself leaning towards Tsuda and Tanezaki a lot, at least as far as seiyuu affinities go among 346P cast members. It is a production of conveniences. But I produces way more back home in 765Pro, which hopefully my actions speak for themselves.