Hotch Potch Festival

The IDOLM@STER ran a 2-day live event where the 765Pro All Stars and the Million Stars collaborated on two nights of live performances. The info from the official site is here. This blog post is me trying to describe and unpack what there is to unpack from my little feeble brain. God knows I am not really steep into lore (the type who would look down on people because I produced Hibiki from the Arcademas days, as the joke goes–that joke is also an example of what kind of unpacking I will be doing here) so this is just a fraction of what’s made up of Hotch Potch Festival.

Conceptually on paper, or at least as the live pamphlet and the live MC go, Hotch Potch is about a nabe where good ingredients gets put into the pot, and some ingredients are synergistic. Maybe some are not, and maybe even worse some counteract. The idea is if the nabe is good, all the ingredients are playing some role(s) to improve the experience.

Of the 52 Million Live + OG guys, 48 are present. We didn’t have Tanechan, Ibuibu (who was in Okinawa as part of Everying final tour), Matsuda Arisa’s Rietion, and our favorite baseball tomboy represented by UK-Mrs. Trunks. Tanechan’s outage continues, and I believe this seals Jireha, Blue Symphony and Thank You @ Budokan. Originally I thought they’d do at least Thank You, but nope.

On paper, this combine live between Million Stars and 765Pro All Stars is an extension of what IM@S Taiwan has done. This means we’ll get 765Pro classics, and some of the Million Live songs that originally features 765Pro idols. On top of that we might get a new song (ToP!!!!!!!!!!!!! namely) and some fun collabs.

Well, I guess that’s exactly what we got, in hindsight. But what we got was not what we expected. Or at least, I don’t think anyone expected Ai LIKE Hamburger, Merry, or Honey Heartbeat. I didn’t think anyone would have called Sweet Sweet Soul, Kyouki Ranbu, or “Surprise! It’s Aimi on guitar!”

Before I go too far off the rails, here is the set list for both days (25 songs each) and the last time since they were performed by IM@S. Merry was last performed in IM@S 5th, so that’s 7 years since. Smile Taisou is runner up (I mean, OMG?) as it was last done during 6th. My own favs like Little Match Girl and Hamburger were last done during Festival of Winter and 8th, just over 1700 and 1400 days ago respectively.

This factor alone was dynamite. Not only was the surprise you experience in person something to grapple with, the fact that your IM@S bucket list is being checked off was another thing to deal with. It can also be hard to grasp the significance sometimes, like hearing Curtain Call again–last performed since 10th–or realizing Hasegawa Akiko and Kugimiya Rie are the only two original singers, AND 765Pros, who have now performed 99 Nights?

Just to sum up this intro thought, the one feeling I got from Hotch Potch Festival is “pushing” or “continuity” in having Million Live perform with the 765Pros. It might just be my cynicism. It might also be that when I see the Taiwan set, I see that it is a “best of” of Million and 765Pro with a couple bones thrown in there (Jungle Party and Persona Voice) for Million Ps hankering for that 765Pro crossover. That was entirely appropriate (if not the best) approach for Taiwan. For a domestic show, though, there are so many ways to do this live, that a “hotch potch” approach might be invariably what comes out of. That the only real gap was not having 765Pros do their assigned Million songs in the way that Million Ps would probably want to see (like, where’s my 5p Eternal Harmony?). Instead we got a lot of top Million sets in the show, and we were able to see the Millions do some cool 765Pro songs–stuff they could have also done during the Million Live solo shows as Million 1st and 3rd had.

Don’t get me wrong. The result here is quite desirable and I would not have minded either way how things turned out. If anything, that both days the show clocked in at about 4 hours was the real problem–I wanted more, a lot more. There are a handful of songs they could have done to wrap things up better, but probably couldn’t due to logistics. Some songs, as I mentioned earlier, were sealed by who wasn’t there. There were not enough time of the day, in a way, to do all the songs we’d like. Every incarnation of this vidja idol nabe had to have some stuff saved for the future, and some stuff cut as compromise. Such is how it is.

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A World without Calls Is a World Full of Yakkai, And Not Yakkai at the Same Time

The way it suppose to go in Japan at a live viewing is that people get excited, cheer, and do calls to the performances they are watching. Or you can do one of the things that is customary to movie-going, like kick back and have a soda with your popcorn. It’s not anikura, it’s not a house party, it’s a concert being screened at a movie theater that’s open to the public.

But the problem with American¹ fans is that people don’t know, or don’t do, calls. I say this because it’s plainly what I’ve observed. At the Aqours performance at AX this summer, some people were doing calls, yeah, but I’d say it’s less than 25% of the audience, and that’s a very generous guesstimate. (As a point of comparison, less than 10% was doing WUG calls… maybe close to 1% once you exclude the pit rows.) At the Aqours 2nd screening I attended in NJ, it was nearly zero. During Koiaqua a few people did some calls, but that’s pretty much it. Where’s all the jimo ai calls? I attended that screening because, well, jimo ai! Gotta rep your local event.

Let me take back one thing: It’s not really a problem that nobody does calls. It’s a problem only because some American fans, as per standard operating procedures of cultural appropriation and regurgitation, only take some aspects of eventer behavior of Japan, and not all of it. And then we add our spin and own it. To compound all of this, your average attendee at these viewings are in their early 20s, and are likely just young and don’t know/can’t know any better. The result is a mix of things that don’t quite work well together…at least at first.

The way to channel hype during an anime-idol anison performance is via calls. Calls is not waving your penlights, per se, it’s using your voice to sing/shout/say things along with the song. Glowsticks are bonus. But in America people don’t get this. Some people even think it’s like a rave. If people do calls together and do it in sync, it’s actually really cool, especially for songs that have elaborate calls or songs built for call-and-response. But nope, Americans don’t do calls as a general rule. And I think it’s really because nobody is here to teach them through examples (it’s not only know-how, but dedication to lead it in public). Blu-rays and live viewings don’t quite cut it, at least for seeing in person what calls can do.

If you master calls, then you know how to “be yakkai” in the right way. It’s a lot safer and a lot more fun. Then we can finally have a proper yakkai discussion as Japan has it.

The reality of it isn’t something governed by rules or singer preferring people screaming or not at their performances. Yes, it’s a matter of etiquette–not so much as a set of unspoken rules to be proper, but as a courtesy to everyone else. Yes, it’s a time/place/context sensitive thing, but that is so bare basic of a description that it doesn’t begin to explain why things happen whichever way. And the reality is it’s so much more than that–enough that I don’t expect the average American person who likes Aqours to go to a screening to know. The gap is not just cultural, but also one of language, customs, and it’s something you can really only learn by attending lives in Japan and see how it really is. It’s not something you can really write down and explain unless you are already familiar with these kinds of things from a different context, try as I might.

This is why I don’t think your average Aqours fan at a live viewing in America can even begin to grasp it. They would have to attend a Japanese live first to know how it goes. It’s just not a reasonable expectation of people in their early 20s or late teens. Instead, they will do what they can, which, for the most part, I find acceptable, but it’s a different set of things, a different set of expectations.

So I think people can really do what they want, within reason, at US live viewings. It’s America. Freedom reigns. Just don’t do anything you shouldn’t do? It would be bonus points to be considerate of people around you, though.

Still, there are some simple guidelines. For example, at a dark movie theater it’s probably best you don’t start a party train, just because you don’t want to trip and fall and hurt yourself or someone else. This happened at my live viewing, and it’s the most yakkai thing I’ve seen at any live viewing. Nobody should do this at a movie theater. If I was staff I would stop it, because of liability reasons.

Obviously, don’t throw lights or king blades or glowsticks inside the movie theater. The chances of you hurting someone with it is a lot lower than someone tripping and falling, but this shouldn’t even need to be said. It’s not really that yakkai, just dangerous. Plus, if a bunch of 20yos want to behave like a bunch of 10yos there are better ways to do it, and you can do it in a way without painting a bad image of Aqours fans. I guess that’s no big deal, though.

Oh yeah, be considerate of other people is a pretty simple rule of thumb too. There might be people watching the live who aren’t as into it as you are, it might be nice to be considerate of them. Sure, maybe you only get your jollies off if you are allowed to act a certain way, but consider the trade offs and if this is a problem you personally have to deal with. After all, this is a delayed viewing of a concert that you could have went to see if you didn’t spend all your money on avocado toast or some nonsense LOL.

Avocado toast and live viewing, that’s a combo I can get behind on. Sure beats flying for 14 hours one way to watch a show. It’s so first-world of a problem, the “live viewing yakkai” issue, that I wish my fandom had live viewings so I can complain about them. Which is basically everything except Vocaloid and Love Live.

Who is yakkai at a JP live? The best example I personally witnessed this year had to be the guy who, in his best “yakkai voice” screamed out some nonsense (not even ietaiga) during Ippun Ichibyou Kimi to Boku no. It resulted in the guy being hit (didn’t see this part). It seems kind of extreme, but when you kind of ruin an emotionally pregnant silence by yelling, the consequence is kind of deserving. I think physical violence is overreach in this case, but at the same time that guy is an asshole, so it’s two wrongs that don’t quite make a right–but they make a nice anecdote. What’s relevant here is that I don’t think American yakkai are even possible at this level, since their game are limited by the general lack of public coordination among fans in general. It’s easy to stick out as a yakkai in a sea of uniformity, it’s hard when people are just chaotic and doing whatever they want. In a room full of yakkai, there is actually no yakkai?

So what I recommend is, instead of being crazy, just do calls? Lead calls, do calls, make other people learn the calls. Because Japan will continue to write songs that have calls, since it’s the thing to do and it’s way fun. Americans, please go learn them. It’s free and you don’t even need a penlight most of the time! And calls are free to evolve too, once enough people know how calls work. Sure, people are free to not do calls, but the idea here is calls can fill the gap that yakkai people probably should be doing anyway, and it guides yakkai people into do the right things. If you are at an American screening and are telling people to not do house tigers, you probably don’t even know what typical yakkai looks like, let alone actual yakkai.

¹TBF some Canadians I’ve ran into know their calls. Like, there are some tricky calls in IM@S and the GTA and Montreal Ps I ran into did know them. Can’t say what the Liver community is like up there though.

Episode of Jupiter

Here’s my actual hot take, after I dried it from my tears. There are some spoilers for Episode of Jupiter (#EOJ) in this post, but they target mostly people who are invested in the series already. If you are new or don’t care, keep going!

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Authenticity Is Two-Edged

A couple related topics. More like, how do I write subtitles for blog posts in lines of post rock tracks or A Centaur’s Life’s episode titles.

The West’s pursuit of authenticity misses the point

To riff off SDS here, I don’t know why this particular facet of cartoon idols need to be highlighted. If you wanted escapism, do you want a dose of reality in your escapism? How much? Do you want the bottom of your Large serving of soda from McDonald’s to say “You’re fat”? But clearly since I don’t quite get where he’s coming from, I probably am missing the memo on what spurred the post in the first place.

That said, SDS’s post does a good job highlighting the one aspect about Love Live that it shares with classic Yuri, which is the whole garden of otome thingy. At the same time, his overly-tropified understanding of that go-to-koushien thing is kind of tired. It’s like if you were to make a teen drama revolving around a high school sport, you might have one of the top players to have some conflicts about going pro versus going broke to win a game or something. I mean, talking to my soccer-mom-class coworkers I hear enough juice about their kids’ sports drama that reality is always going to be more strange and messy than fiction. Youth’s fleeting nature coupled with that once-in-a-lifetime achievement in a once-in-a-lifetime setting can be the perfect spark to ignite the mono no aware inside you.

It’s not about a thing. It’s about you, what’s in you, and how you feel about that thing.

What is really anime in a world where nobody even knows what anime is or how it’s made?

Is Neo Yokio anime? I think to some people anime is a class of media entertainment, and based on my casual observation as an American who attend cons and observe some other fans, yeah, for certain people in certain demos, it has a cultural meaning, weight, definition, context and more–a specific signaling of a set of ideas and values. That anime and games like Scott Pilgrim or Pacific Rim or Neo Yokio can speak to us and engage us in a similar way as anime does may be enough to say they are anime or what have you.

But to me this is ignorant of how the sausage is made. Yeah, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter really isn’t butter, but you may treat it just like how you treat butter. It also means in the 19th and 20th century lots of important men in suits litigated and set Supreme Court precedence over marketing, distribution and production of butter and butter-like products. Because I guess, people cared about butter a lot back then.

But if you’re going to say Neo Yokio, RWBY and Shelter are or are not anime in the same post, at least care to identify which one is not like the other two. (Hint: Only one has Arai and Kouno Megumi in it.) Or are they even alike? Is ScarJo’s Major more anime than FLCL’s Haruko? Is Kamiyama’s Major more Hollywood than, well, Neo Yokio anything? I think there is a dialog about culture being mixed with a dialog about what is or isn’t figurative butter, and that are going to just confuse things even more.

Also, I feel part of the problem is the lack of insight that’s in digestible pieces. Even the wokest Anitwitter are only beginning to be rid of people who can’t be bothered to know to stop using “budget” as a kind of excuse about TV anime. In the post-Sakugablog world, there are still much to do to at least get people on the down low enough to understand the Japanese process, and what that means in practice, and why Neo Yokio might be more anime than you think, and why Shelter is basically completely anime, and why Avatar isn’t at all.

What I can say is that Rooster Teeth, the guys who made RWBY, do not survive at near-poverty level to make their anime, nor are they part of the system that Japanese folks have build in which sustaining the development of new anime production talent is a major struggle. They own the copyright. When I see in the news about the Young Animator Project and how Japan’s government funds are going into indie production, I am happy that cool stuff are being made to give youngin some experience. This is the kind of “anime” that doesn’t exist in the vocabulary or awareness of “Is Neo Yokio anime” kind of discussion. The folks who made Avatar, which is as anime as anything that’s not actually anime, also are not a part of that industry–if anything they are like, the polar opposite. Which is to say, when it comes down to the entertainment of individuals, it’s nice to talk about, but it’s not really our business? I enjoy eating steak and watching anime, but I wouldn’t confuse the two activities, although I would care about the time and money allocated on both activities. Perhaps you could discuss how Star Trek Discovery locked behind CBS All Access can affect the amount of time and money someone allocates to a Hi-Dive subscription to watch LOGH? But this is pretty tenuous and really do not matter if one is “anime” or not. It’s more like, are these products affecting the same market seg in a similar way? This isn’t even what’s being discussed, anyway. What is really being discussed is a form of identity tagging, for lack of a better term.

Truth is, anime (as I know it) is not anime (as you know it). 

Personally, my framework is similar to Kelts’s in his Japanamerica book, where we live in on a rolling oroborus where the snake eats its tail yet it also keeps growing from the head. It’s really about the regurgitation of cultural appropriation. Japan takes what they like, make their own version to satisfy their locals. Rest of the world take what they like from Japan and make whatever the hell each of us (groups) like, with little respect to the original. This is why Japan is weird (and every time I hear Japan/anime is weird in this kind of discussion I go ugh). What the Neo Yokio guys think is anime is not really anime for a significant segment of people, such as a lot of folks in Asia, for an example. This is a ghettoized kind of a thing, like how only certain fans in English-speaking countries can appreciate (unironically) the term Japanimation, and what that word meant for a bygone era. Which is to say, what is anime is a socially and culturally sensitive and specific thing. The Black American experience is not going to be the same as the Asian, Hispanic or White American experience when it comes to anime, even if we are more alike than we are different, especially when compared to the South American anime experience or the French anime experience. (By the way, the term defined as sakuga in this discussion of anime is as ghetto as Japanimation, lol) What appeases Japanese anime fans and what resonate with them are probably not going to be the same as what stokes the fire of fans in English speaking nations or Spanish speaking nations or whatever. You’d realize that it’s kind of awesome that Pokemon and DBZ have the kind of international penetration that they have, if you think about it enough. It’s not until you appreciate our differences that we can appreciate how similar we are? I guess.

The sad thing is that fandom is driven to seek others who think similarly and like similar things, so the reality of this situation is probably clearer to people who hop fandom circles and other wide-eyed outsiders who dare to look inside this kind of dumb and messy situation. No big deal.

But I’m more interested in talking about how the sausage is made, so everyone should go brush up on their sakuga blog backlogs. Ultimately, 99% or more of anime still comes from Japan, made mostly by Japanese people, created by mostly Japanese core creators, for the Japanese market. I don’t really care about these western-regurgitation edge cases today, even if for people who are fans of those things, that could be 100% of their lives. That’s not what is anime to me–these things wouldn’t exist without the original, all Japanese sausage (and the sausage factory). I mean, even before Neo Yokio, there’s a lot of Chinese anime we have to deal with first! (And as a point of clarification, we should just call Avatar, RWBY and NY as American anime, because that’s what it is. Harder cases would be, say, The Red Turtle.)

And ultimately, this isn’t about gate keeping. This is about knowing what is what–you ought to know what you eat. You ought to know who made the things you are a fan of, how it’s made, why it’s made that way, is it ethical, etc etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s anime or not. If you don’t know and you have an opinion, maybe it’s a really good opinion, I don’t know, but it might just be a bit uninformed. People in Japan don’t really have hangups like, what is anime. They deal with sausages like how anyone would deal with sausages, and we ought to do likewise.

PS. This coming season, a seiyuu who goes by the name Takeda Rarisa Tago plays a regular role in Shobitch, as well as being the latest addition to Cinderella Girls (Yuzu). Takeda is a 3rd generation Brazilian Japanese, and joins the ranks of Bridcutt Sera Emi (or as I prefer: Sarah Emi Bridcutt) in “wow she’s got a weird and long name” in the anime credits. I’m guessing if someone want to translate Takeda’s name into English, it would be Larissa Tago Takeda, where her mom’s family name is in the middle? I still think Ru Thing is the weirdest name once you translate it into English, LOL.

Which is to say, it’s not even about Korean in-betweeners or, my favorite, Indonesian shiage teamsters. It’s about the process, it’s about how it’s being made. It’s about the flavors.

On Million Live, New IM@S Game

In response to this, I’ve got almost nothing. Let me quote:

In short, the reason you likely won’t be seeing the Million Live anime anytime soon isn’t due to some odd bias against it, and it definitely isn’t because they’d rather chase the wallets of evil women ruining your cartoons. It’s far more straightforward than that: there’s simply no one around to make it right now. One of the reasons this franchise has consistently had high-profile adaptations, sometimes in spite of messy production schedules, is because it’s been supported by an immensely talented group of creators; even as the key staff is reshuffled, Idolmaster‘s production backbone has stayed the same, and that can only mean good things.

And by good thing he and I mean:

The real reason to wait to be honest, is for Taneda Risa to recover. It is one thing for Theater Days to leave out Kotoha, but you can’t do that with the anime. The industry/technology isn’t there yet! There’s more to say on this matter, in that you can speculate about the A-1 pipeline, the order of Million Live anime and SideM anime, and other things. With Darlifra and SideM close to each other it could mean a lot of things, one is that Million anime won’t be in 2018.

As someone who’s a little invested in Million Live, the point of having an anime really is just so that these guys can now render our favorite characters and idols in the same ludicrous settings that Million Live is known for, at least among the producers who are into the mobile games. So it really is Fukushima’s crew or bust. It’s a bit unfortunate that this segment of the IDOLM@STER franchise is so “narrow” now, but the hope is that when they produce something really good, people will come to appreciate it on the merits, idol trapping aside. It’s as good as GamiP’s confirmation that this cast and crew will be tapped to make the show, whenever it will be.

As for the new IDOLM@STER game on the Bandai HTML5 platform, I’m thinking it’s going to be international. The titles they picked seem to say this to me. That will be the big hope I have on it. And like how IDOLM@STER is a franchise that rides on the first generation of new hardware and platforms, this one will be something that can live or die based on its reception with the players and existing fans. I’m not really holding my breath on it because it does nobody any good, at least without more details anyway. Plus, I’m too busy caring about the existing things I have control over, like how much to spend on Theater Days gacha, or how I’m going to see the 765AS live next January.

PS. One of the best way they could do with Million Live anime is to have episodes in alternates, where one is based on one of the ludicrous events, and the next based on the main continuum. In some ways the 4th PV is paving the groundworks for this delivery style already. The big challenge there is how do you execute these gag concepts into full-length episodes, while not totally upsetting the overall atmosphere of the series. Another benefit of this is that the episodes can get outsourced easier and allow for more freedom in crafting the animation. I guess we’ll see what happens.