Year in Review 2014: IM@S PSYCHO

Belated Happy Birthday Iku! Great way to ring in the new year!

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Housekeeping, Expelled, Lantis Festival Vegas

I think I’m going to pre-order these three from CD Japan for early next year. So I’ll link them here for my own benefit (lol aff links):

  • WUG Best Collection – If we think of idols as a music industry thing, then I’m totally not a fan in the sense that I don’t buy the CD/BD stuff. Just merch. Kind of like how people feel about WUG regardless of the anime. Anyway, grab all/most of their songs here.
  • Haramii’s First Live BD – Mainly for the tokutens, but Haramii is lovely anyway.
  • IM@S CG St@rter Best – 14 existing chara songs on one disk, featuring the main 14 idols the anime will focus on.

And a few recent items:

  • Ongaku Shoujo album – Did I tell you about the time at AWA we talked to someone who worked on Ongaku Shoujo? Also Seto can sing so no complaints from me.
  • Yanagi Nagi’s Polyomino – New album! And with the bonus CD stuff.

I’ve been pretty delinquent with buying crap this year. More like, the crap I buy are not the usual stuff. They tend to be (equally) worthless things like doujinshi or happi from events I didn’t go to. What can I say besides they are swag? Like, they are swag, not that they are swag.

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Angela rotated

I went to see Expelled from Paradise, the 3DCG movie directed by Seiji Mizushima and created/written by Urobuchi. The movie comes from Graphinica, which is probably best noted these days as a photography and CG studio for some Aniplex shows (they worked on both moviem@s and anim@s). This season they’re doing the CG for Your Lie in April. They’re also credited for the memorable transformation scene in Penguindrum.

What sticks out more to me is that Itano is the chief CG action guy. You won’t see it here but he has a team just on all the action CGs. And it really shows. Like, REALLY. If you’re a fan of Itano’s action choreo and designs, it’s a must watch because the movie follows a very predictable Hollywood-ish plot (ie., lots of opportunity for eye candy and action sequences), and the second half of the movie had a couple awesome, jawdropping cuts. At least for me anyways.

When I saw the credits at the end I was having a Shirobako moment.

On a less technical note, Mizushima’s movie unloads all his tricks. It’s bang-bang all the way, although towards the end I’m not sure if the film has laid it enough on in the first 90 minutes to get “corny” on us. It has all the tricks you would expect a Japanese mainstream movie, except the crafting feels still like an Urobochi film, which means basically it’s as subtle and as graceful as a raging bull.

The main character in the movie is a kinpatsu twintail teenage tsundere with large jugs, voiced by Kugyuu. OK, now point out the one thing in my previous sentence that don’t belong. That is basically the problem of Expelled from Paradise allegorically.

Oh, before I give the wrong idea, Expelled from Paradise is a Toei animation film, even if it’s still mostly Graphinica? It’s also not all 3DCG, there are some 2D animation (mainly faces). It tickles my funny bones a bit, like how Karen Senki sometimes is too cartoony for the feel of the show.

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The PR engine in Lantis Fest Vegas is in full swing. I know because I’m getting PRs and Otakon is actually tweeting something about them. I also know because there’s a “rumors” channel I’m a part of and someone even got a part-time gig to canvas forums, SNS and sites with Lantis Fest Vegas stuff.

I also know because now I see those silly preview videos for Otakon Vegas/Lantis Fest. Com’on Otakon you can do better than this. Das Feenreich needs a bigger PR budget. It’s all but confirmed, but Sunday at Otakon Vegas there will be some panel or signing or whatever. We’ll see.

Sushio at the con, hopefully, means a jolly time.


How I Watch Anime

This is a long form comment for this blog post. Chaos-kun does good work and I feel the call to pitch in:

I am genuinely interested in how other anime bloggers approach watching and writing about anime – so in a rare show of audience solicitation: let me know in the comments or in a post of your own how you go about this blogging malarkey.

Haruka & the Crabs

But, see, I don’t write about anime. I watch anime, and I write as a part of that experience. My horse is squarely in front of the cart. The funny thing is I also write for a site where the writing comes before the anime, or at best together. In short, writing, discussing, participating in the fandom for anime, may it be for a specific title or thing or the broader identity-political community and everything in between, greatly influences my watching.

It’s actually similar to how having a “theater room” and nice a TV (or projector or whatever) and sound system can have an impact in how you watch anime. In that sense you get out as much as you put in, except in a different way. For example, a long-time observation is that anime viewing in the west is a largely decontextualized exercise. It’s like how you might watch a comedy about an indigenous African interact with a Coke bottle in the ’80s, you can do the same with Americans and Europeans with Japanese cartoons. All I want to do is be able to not only have the option to re-contextualize my anime (like, for example, understand all the references; but also understand how Japanese fandom interact with anime and how anime answers back;  how anime is a part of their lives), but also be able to enjoy it for what it is, with or without context. I mean, all I seek is understanding. And it isn’t like I can’t enjoy Star Blazer or Robotech, I just can’t stop there.

To use the anime diet analogy (we’ll come back to this in a moment), it is the difference of being able to digest the nutrients of what you eat versus being able to understand the palettes excited by the food particles that went through your mouth, and write it down in floral and verbose texts to put on a blog post. The latter is why I write about anime; some anime is friggin awesome and I have to deal with what happens after I watch it. The former is kind of like the true enjoyment value of what I’m watching, or maybe the educational or thematic payload. This might be part of what makes B cinema fun to engage in, but I think the analogy stands to all kinds of other entertainment.

In that sense, I enjoy watching anime because of both. There are plenty of crap anime, guilty pleasure, plain pleasure, kind of guilty, tits and ass, or whatever other people call it. If it fits my constitution and I have the time for it, then I would watch it. This is also why I think of Africans and Coke bottles because you have people complaining how something is of poor nutritional health and others are saying it tastes great and have less filling. I’m like, geesus, nobody said you can’t drink light beer, and nobody is forcing you to. Except instead of light beer it’s just some late-night TV anime.

But when we go on the long haul, things are different. A balanced diet is the turning point between an obsession and a lifestyle. I say this partly as a warning–being in fandom for some time I’ve seen people falling in and out of it, and for all sorts of reasons. Some people may OD and burn out, but that may not always be a bad thing. For others because they have found balance in how to incorporate this anime hobby thing into the way they live, and are comfortable of the sacrifices they make for it, they are still doing this anime thing as if it’s 1989. I’m not judging, but each should judge within themselves to make the right decision. Well, rather, only if you are in the long haul and sufficiently distant and comfortable with the thing can you make a rational one anyway. Although for some the rational one might not even be the best one.

It’s like when I think about a friend who has a series of NAS and dozens of terabyte+ drives, who spent thousands of dollars and who-knows-how-many hours on his rigs, where a majority of that storage is just BakaBT seeds, I question the point behind the exercise. I’m not really judging, but at some point you can go beyond that point of balance. It’s just coming from someone like me, who at best downloads some fansubs just so I can delete them after I watch them (I’d rather spend money on anime goods than another HDD), it seems a little alien. But at the same time I feel my money is just going into a drain somewhere given the nature of what anime goods tend to be in this part of the world, where has you can always use a NAS. It’s like the difference of living to watch anime and living where anime serves as a specific aspect to the way you live.

[This is why I have no love for US DVD/BD releases outside of Aniplex and the occasional NISA boxes; they feel like POS. It’s like I can spend $400 on those R2 Fate/Zero BD sets and be like, “hey Mandarake is still selling them for 2/3 of what I paid them for” just because of what I actually bought in a physical sense–a finely, thoughtfully craft collector’s item. Not some wannabe, crappily crafted collector’s item that makes up far majority of such releases in R1. Because that sort of context matters not to Americans.]

But that is just more context and background. So when I make caps from CR for my too-legit-to-quit anime writing gig, I basically use the “view in dedicated window” feature, pause wherever, screen-cap the window (720), and paste it in a psd file in photoshop. In that psd file I have a pre-defined selection that crops exactly where the video is. The only real challenges in capping a CR stream is the seeking of a streaming file, and accidentally capping with the timestamp pop-in within the image. The occasional CR watermark may show up but I stopped giving that a damn. Oh, I guess sometimes I do turn off the subs, case-by-case.

This is a rather laborious method than hot-keying every-so-often to do a screen cap (or what some people do which is use some program to do it for you then sift through that), so instead I make sure I watch what I do episodic-blog at least more than once, so I already know which scenes I want to capture. Naturally, I don’t episodic blog much here, because just this one aspect of blogging kills any momentum I have about blogging anime. And when I did, I basically used a camera. Remember my Xam’d posts, guys?

After I’m done capping I use some simple Photoshop features to save for web, and resize/crop when it needs to be done. That’s basically it. And as you can see, FUNi’s streams is simply uncappable using this method, so to hell with that.

But the funny thing is, even with a file (of the right format) it still takes me a good amount of time to cap. I just take too much time thinking about that, and it doesn’t really make my life that much easier. Because all of that teeth pulling makes up my think time about writing about anime.

Ultimately, when I blog about anime it’s because there’s a specific idea or ideas I want to express, or some specific thing I want to say, like an observation or even a funny little detail. Without it, it feels really retarded to just have an opinion on something. I need some kind of context to put it all together. A story, a narrative, a gut feeling. Whatever it might be, that should what drives what you write.

The great anime for blogging, for me, are the shows that fills me with these things after I’m done watching them. The ideas come easy. I know where to screen cap. The words write themselves. So that tends to be the stuff I write about, because they fight the crud in the way of enjoying anime to the fullest. Also it would just seem I have more to say, and higher chance of something worthwhile to say about it. The opposite is true too, both in that some shows I watch don’t really fill me with ideas so I don’t write about them, and shows that I have a hard time watching and understanding typically are shows I don’t write about either.

As an aside, I love anime bloggers who are actually thoughtful about what they write. Almost as much as those who put sweat equity into what they write. Those people are good people.

I rotated this image...

The way I watch anime  has changed over time along with the nature of anime and the technological advances and changes. The way I write also reflects that change, but in ways that don’t show up in a typical blog post “made for consumption.” In a sense that makes my writing much harder to understand in a gut feeling kind of way, because it’s as if I’m cracking inside jokes to myself. Anime fandom has gotten younger and more vibrant, where as I am not so much. Compare to my younger self, today I am probably more interested in appreciating anime for what it is than the stuff surrounding it, but only because I’ve gotten beyond all that jazz. Ironic, I guess, but it’s more like there’s a fine line between worrying about blogging than worrying about having something worthwhile to say. Now THAT is ironic.

But that doesn’t make me immune to the minutiae. Right now, my number one worry is that dead Sony receiver of mine. The low-end receiver went kaput like 2 months past the warranty. LOL. The HDMI inputs don’t switch right anymore, and maybe this week I can score a low-end receiver for an appropriately low price. As you can see I don’t put a lot of stock in sound, but probably more than many, like everything else about my anime viewing habits.

So for now the annual introspection series can wait till next week. As you know, all I’m going to write about is The Idolm@ster anyway.


It’s Not Comedy

I’m not a huge fan of portmanteau, so consider this a factor of bias.

Dream team

I was reading the APR a few days ago and someone made a comment on how Shirobako is a dramedy. It was like a trigger, in that I thought several things in rapid succession, like, what drug is Mike on? What is dramedy anyway? Is Shirobako a what? What was it again? What does it even mean? I guess he is based in Socal so the language flows a certain way? Is this just me overreacting?

Well, in a specific context, the term dramedy means the same as, and as far as I can google, dramatic-comedy or comedy drama or any combination of those two terms. It also means more or less what it says–a hybrid of sorts specifically in the TV/radio drama sense. In a more rigorous scheme, many dramatic-comedies are probably still just dramas. The term (or the hybrid genre) grew as a factor of mass marketing and a need to distinguish different types of TV shows.

Because, truth is, everything is to a degree comedic. Most sad stories have moments of levity and humor. Most happy stories contain serious themes. It’s not something categorically you want to spin out meaningfully in earnest discussion. And again, really something specific to American mass entertainment (TV/movies) and its subsequent development thereof.

The “triggering” nature of this line of thought stayed with me a while and I ran into a couple pieces which reflects these. For starters, there’s an interview with comedian Chris Rock that might be worth reading for various other reasons, but let me pull one part here. [Bold for interviewer, some formatting removed]

I don’t think people understand how hard it is to write comedy. The gestation period, the trying out of jokes, the whittling them down — a lot of people may not understand that, in some ways, drama may be easier.

It’s not may. It is easier.

Go on.

It just is. Hey, man, I loved Gone Girl. Loved it. But you could probably get other directors — I’m not saying they’d make it as good as Fincher, but you could get it from beginning to end and get a reaction out of it, where you can’t really do that with comedy.

Every moment has to pay off.

In this sense, comedy’s really fair. It’s not like music, where you can hire Timbaland and he gives you a beat and a song, and even though you can’t sing it’s a hit. Comedy, especially stand-up comedy, it’s like: Who’s funny?

It’s a ruthless marketplace.

It’s the only thing that smacks Hollywood out of its inherent racism, sexism, anti-­Semitism. It makes people hire people that they would never hire otherwise. Do they really want to do a show with Roseanne Barr? No, they want a thin blonde girl.

But she’s funny.

She’s just funnier than everybody. I’m not even sure they wanted to do a Seinfeld show, but he’s just funnier than everybody.

He’s not a matinee idol. He’s Jewish, nerdy. And recently he said publicly he was somewhere on the autism spectrum as a comedian.

He bores easily. I bore easily. Not because I’m on some spectrum, but because I hear so many conversations again and again. So many people come up to you, and not enough people try to take into account what you’ve heard already.

Let’s put it this way. Take Anchorman. Now switch the directors of Anchorman and Gone Girl and give them their movies to do. Adam McKay’s going to get closer to Gone Girl than Fincher is going to get to Anchorman.

Absolutely.

It’s not even close.

Okay, but Woody Allen—

I don’t even think Woody does comedy. I think he does dramas with jokes. They’re all sad at their core.

It’s pretty clear, in my opinion, Shirobako (and majority of TV anime) are dramas. Sure, they have jokes and can be funny, but that don’t make a comedy by itself. It’s the Teekyuus and Azazels of the world that are comedy, when I (and others) lament that nobody blogs about comedy. Because it’s friggin hard to write about comedy. It’s friggin hard to make a good comedy, let alone doing this whole Japanese cartoon dance across the Pacific (and Atlantic in some cases).

Which comes back to Shirobako. The director of the show, Tsutomu Mizushima, is known for comedy. His auteur voice honed in Crayon Shin-chan, which is pretty much the home of modern children comedy cartoon in Japan. Long story short, Mizushima brought his comedic touch to the humorous moments of Shirobako. And Chris Rock says as much. [Some formatting removed, Bold for interviewer.]

I would love to be a 60 Minutes correspondent.

What would you want to cover?

I would cover anything. I mean, I’d be in Ferguson right now, and it would be in-depth, and it would be funny.

It’s hard to do funny in journalism.

No, it’s not. It’s all in the cut.

What would you do in Ferguson that a standard reporter wouldn’t?

I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people.

Shirobako’s dramatization aside, isn’t it just presenting to us the everyday realities of the anime production desk? Since the 90s there has been a lot of otaku-oriented stories with otaku and people we desire within; but this one is about industry folks, not you and me. It’s not to say racism in America parallels the moe cancer, but the way we tell either story follows the same principles behind telling stories. I can see why someone can think Shirobako is a comedy. It’s in the cut. And Mizushima cuts it a certain way that brings a certain levity. But it is not, say, the Office. Or Wagnaria. I feel that Shirobako can seem light because we are cutting pretty close to the bone and to home; it’s also part of the dramatization package to protect both the show and the people it talks about. Most of all, the humor helps to make a dry topic fun to watch.

I don’t fault Mike (who is a swell guy AFAIK) for dropping the most cromulent, triggering portmanteau (for me) in a random internet comment sort of thing, but that’s just misleading TV gossip language and it makes me sad. Which is to say a lot of people out there probably don’t even know good comedy if it punched them in the face, because they don’t even have the life experiences, the current events, all that current-events wherewithal that Chris Rock referenced, to really get it good. Nothing wrong with that; we all have to start somewhere. So let’s. And in my opinion the first step is to get out of that consumer-oriented mind set, that overly database-minded idea that comedy is just yet another flavor like slice of life or sports, a row in a table. It’s a wholly different animal.

But really, the language, the level of discourse on comedy, on the anime social network stuffs, is so rudimentary that if something stood out it’s not even recognizable. Do we ever get beyond timing and puns?

PS. Wikipedia on dramedy is redirected to comedy drama. If you read the talk pages, dramedy basically gets laughed out into tragicomedy, which is really more than what anyone needs to know.


The Derem@s Anime: Leading Up To

This is just otaku doing what otaku do often, and sometimes best: excessively nitpicking in an irrational way:

They cause some concern: the new anime is no different from the old one.

For starters let’s ignore why he thinks it’s no different from the old one. Let’s talk about rather what exactly is not different. To me Anim@s is a character-driven, series of dramatic set pieces that drives an overall theme forward along. The plot orients around what typically passes for idol industry–development of entertainment talents oriented as musical artists. Will Derem@s be the same? Probably. We’re not going to pilot the Kisaragi here.

But how can it possibly really be all that different? You can’t take the idol out of IM@S–not even out of Puchim@s, which is so far from the Anim@s in terms of outlook and concept. I think Author should just rest assured that there are no Rika or Mika, no Uzuki, Shiburin, or Mio in Anim@s. How can you have same flavors of character stories if the characters are so different?  How can baked turnip taste like leftover turkey?

I’m not sure there is any real reason to assume we’ll get a GBFT, mainly because unlike those two shows Derem@s is just a different concept to begin with. Let’s use the leftover analogy: you might heat up leftover turkey and it could be good, but that would be a half-hearted way to eat after Thanksgiving. Do what my family did: bake a second one. I assure you it will not be at all like leftover. Doubly so when the second turkey is actually a turducken in disguise (well, we actually didn’t). When the work is created with conviction and can stand on its own, I don’t think it’ll be a problem at all. And for the CG anime project to be successful it has to be like that. Take a cue from Bahamut–the two Mobam@s games are wildly successful financially, I don’t see how they can really botch it after getting the production formula down via the various Anim@s projects.

And it seems they are baking a new turkey. They’re putting the limits at 14, which is perfect (if Anim@s is any indication) and will curb concerns about “how do you even do a Cinderella Girls TV anime” issue. The point about taking place in the same world is probably just a way to establish some continuity in character cameo and make collaborations possible (after all 765pro characters are in both Mobam@s games), and not some indication that they are are actual sequels. The fact that they have not said they will be sequels puts it to rest to a degree.

Which goes back to my first assumption: what the heck is the guy thinking that Derem@s is anything like IM@S to begin with? Maybe it’s just a matter of perception. I mean, I suppose it’s not impossible to confuse a pachinko machine with an arcade cabinet.