[Last update 10/25]Continue reading
Some years ago there was a “locked box murder” anime based on a fantasy low-tech RPG kind of a setting called Rokka, or a sweeping war against the darkness that takes place in a magically locked “room.” Sure, it was adopted from some books but it was a giant mislead for an anime-only person like myself.
It was a case of bait and switch because the show promised a grand setting with fantastic characters, while spending most of the first season in foggy, dank confines. It isn’t even a dungeon–it was literally just this place and the area surrounding it, while the heroes trying to find the traitors and escape the trap they were in.
Instead of some sweeping setting, Rokka spent its time developing the psychology and back story of the hero and heroines. It’s a bit like how Astra Lost in Space is not Star Trek, but it is about kids exploring space featuring a grand conspiracy written into the backstory of the characters. Viewers and the various characters explore both that backstory in the context of staying alive, meanwhile solving the puzzle together.
I guess the two share in the core some kind of overt puzzle in which we have to solve, that drives the story forward. It is the thing that causes overall tension in the story. In Rokka there were various battles, while in Kanata no Astra there were worlds to explore.
I don’t know, at least the latter has what makes Star Trek, well, Star Trek. The former is still a giant tease even if you broken out the concept on paper. Or a blog post in this case.
Why was Rokka such a mislead? What were they thinking when they created the show? It still bothers me to this day.
This year, Anime NYC brought in some mad luxury guests. Kugimiya Rie probably is the headliner, after Lantis Festival 2019’s lineup of JAM Project, True, ZAQ and Guilty Kiss. In the middle there’s old man Tomino being weirder than ever, as well as the director and writer behind Code Geass the movie and Yukana. There are also fresh youngins like Itou Miku, shilling Bang Dream and Fragtime. There was a surprise visit from Tanezaki Atsumi. Ise Mariya came to the States again–I’m going to go to the same con she traveled out of Japan for this year all three time at this rate–but I missed her panel. Yuki Aoi and Okubo Rumi rounds out the industry heavy fire power with their Fate/GO promo. And that’s just the most notable ones. I got a signkai with Science Saru’s Eunyoung Choi, which was nice! The mangaka/writer duo for Dr. Stone was hard at work, location scouting the USS Enterprise earlier in the weekend. I didn’t even see TAa (well, I guess I saw that group in the hallway), or people like Vofan or Poppy. Poppy. LOL. And this is not even all the JP production or artists at the con. There were way too many guests. I’m just glad a lot of them don’t have a lot of engagement or are outside my interests.
To me this is the first half of the recipe of happiness. The other half is competently executing the “con” part. The pre-con communication, the online sales, the right autograph process, the right ticketing process, the at-con line management, et cetera. And for the most party ANYC 2019 did okay. Other than the Lantis Fest line craziness I think everything was good, but that did sour my experience.
The funny thing was by Sunday I barely had anything to do at the con. Outside of Kugyuu programming, there were not much going on. This is great! Please program your top tier seiyuu guests outside the other ones. Granted I still missed on all the Yukana programming, but that was more my fault than the con’s. The concert only was one day this year, which helped also make time for the crazy pile of programs going on saturday.
Not having to get up early and go to the con was a nice bonus. I still end up getting up pretty early all 3 days, but at least I was at the con unlike prior years, and two of the 3 days I commuted from home, not from my friend’s place which is much closer to the city.
Yes, overall, ANYC 2019 was great. It leveraged the vacuum of NYC anime con-ness and blew up big. It was run by folks who knew what they were doing, and by people who had enough vision and capability to host a large con 46k strong. I’m glad this is my local con.Continue reading
As someone who goes to concerts once a blue moon, I have some criterias as to the quality of the venue. Here is how I ultimately judge it: if I had a good time at the venue, and if I will likely have a good time at the venue, then that venue is good. This is similar to the “tears” criteria.
That being said, every venue has god-tier seats and you can have a personal encounter with Jesus anywhere. I don’t think that ought to make every venue good; or rather, it’s for any given person at the venue, how good will their seats be.
In Japan I have a bias towards taller venues, just because stacking people vertically gives them a better sense of intimacy. That, plus short people aren’t always shafted this way. It also means more seats have acceptable views, even if in the end there are not too much of a difference of god-tier seats from venue to venue.
As I get older and are less min-maxing my experience based on cost, I also come to value amenities like ease of transportation, the amount and diversity of restaurants around the venue, and how good the seats are. This is particularly a thing I dislike about the Javitz con center in Manhattan, because it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, and not very well-serviced by subway stops. In Japan I sat in some uncomfortable seats, as a fat guy in a country of skinny small people, so you really appreciate venues with nice seats.
After proximity and amenities is fidelity of the performance. To explain, every live show should come off as exactly what you think it should. For a band in a live house, it’s literally that musical performance in which you engage with the group on stage. For a typical band (in anisong terms, say, fhana), it means you have to engage with the act on stage through its performance, and that means via the sound and what the band is doing on stage (largely, making said sound). For a “karaoke-style show” which is most idol-character content, it’s the way the CVs on stage dancing and bringing their characters to life (which is also largely about the sound, but not as much). For a flashy light-and-sound show, it could be also about (what I call) the production value: lights, on-stage displays, fireworks, whatever. I mean if Mizuki Nana wants to do her song on top of a whale, more power to her.
These things are not really related to the venue, but the venue can add or subtract from the fidelity of the experience. If you are all the way in the back of a flat arena (or outdoor field), and you are living up the show through the screen near you, that is taking away from the experience. You might still experience the full thing, but it won’t be as good as if you were close enough to not have to use the screen. This is just one example. Generally, this is often related to intimacy, but some venues that are small can still have really irritating aspects that knocks your experience back via poor sound stage, blind spots (usually due to support pillars), weird acoustics or what not. At the same time, some venues can boost this if they sound really good, or have unique features (like using the roof of a dome as a laser show display).
So my calculation goes as such: what are the odds of me, entering this pre-sale lottery, will be able to buy tickets that give me an assigned seat that doesn’t suck? To use my last concert for example, which was in Tokyo Dome, you can bet that far majority of seats are not going to be great, just because it has a large capacity. But how many seats are still acceptable-to-good? If this is a large value, that means this venue is on the way to being a good venue.
(And as an aside, what is a good seat in a huge venue? The performance and performers move all around. If you are in A block Arena, you might get a close view often, but it becomes no better than, say, F block Arena if the performers go to the center stage. Maybe worse because they’re not even facing you. Well, that is the kind of thing that factors into the calculation. And yes, it vary from the type of show as well, if I haven’t made that clue obvious yet.)
What makes Tokyo Dome, in my opinion, a decent dome venue, is that it has fairly modern seats, especially towards the home plate area. It is also a very vertically-structured ballpark (like a lot of modern ballparks), so even up in tier 2 or 3 you get the feeling of proximity to the action. This, on top of its prime-time location and amenities nearby, makes it a good venue. It also helps a lot that it is temperature-controlled! I had G block Arena seat for a day and I was able to see okay from the venue, and that is the back-most Arena block. I need to use the screen, sure, but it was not terrible.
- Proximity: 6/10 – It’s a bigass baseball stadium, but fairly close even on upper levels
- Amenity: 8/10 – Convenient, centrally located, modern
- Fidelity: 7/10 – Better sound than average venue of this size. Flexible production.
- Odds of getting an OK seat (OOGAOS, or OogaOs, or Oog@Os) – Fair
Let me rank the other venues from my eventing trips this year as a sample.Continue reading
The Ascendance of a Bookworm reminds me a lot of Inside Bill’s Brain. In a season where Dr. Stone also runs in the background, it’s pretty easy to see why that particular fantasy is fancy, where in Bookworm, the lead character struggled to get anything done given her circumstances, in the same amount of time.
The fundamental concept in world-building fiction is really a mapping of thoughts, the inputs, the modeling and the guiding principles behind how one relates to the exterior environs. In fiction, we have the luxury of moving that perspective outside of ourselves and inject unrealistic boundary conditions and shortcuts. A thought experiment is the kind of fiction in which we inject somewhat more realistic boundary conditions (and still unrealistic, or no weirder than undead cats). In JK Haru, you could tie that to prostitution and weave a powerful narrative about human condition as encoded in the language of isekai radobe. I think anything can be built by anything in fiction, and to an extent, real life. Compare that to a biopic/Netflix documentary, when we dig deep into how one person connects to the huge thing that person is doing, a similar image surfaces.
Putting aside Bill Gates’s reasons behind his quest to eradicate polio, I think of Main’s quest to become someone who has access to the tangible niceties enjoyed by bookworms in the same way. She wants to encode information as words in print, and to weave a set of words to depict a world in which Main lives in, through the fairy tales of her isekai mother. It is like building a world on the remains of another, minus the empires at war. Well, I guess there’s still Boko Haram in Africa.
Of course, this is only an interesting comparison because the Gates foundation has billions of dollars and massive resources at its disposal, compared to Main. The recap on Bookworm is that a book-loving adult woman got the usual “ran over by a truck” treatment and is reborn into a young girl in the Other, born to a middle-class rural family in what seems like late medieval Europe. Literacy is rare and the Main, the main character, has to first learn to read–well, she has to first find someone who knows how to read and make him teach her that. Books seemed very rare as well. As the story goes, Main became obsessed in creating her own book since she cannot purchase any. She then tried to obtain paper, or clay tablets, or wood tablets, or making papyrus paper, what have you.
And eradicating polio seems kind of hard compared to make paper at home in the 15th century, if you are a poor little girl. Well, maybe. Given that 1000s of species go extinct every year I don’t really know or can measure just how hard, given each’s comparative power levels, lack of a better term. And Bill is a smart, resourceful dude, definitely a 0.1%-er in terms of not just wealth, but as someone who is known as a smart business guy and a savvy technical guy. He is also a bookworm.
So maybe they’re tied? In her new world, Main might as well be its Bill.
PS. I mentioned JK Haru, because that story share a lot with Bookworm in that one aspect: A lot of the time (so far) Bookworm is focused on not just the world-building power fantasy, but the fact that knowledge portability does not always translate to power portability. In Gate or Slime, for example, the respective main characters gained tremendous power in the opening minutes of the series. In Bookworm, this seems to be entirely the opposite–and arguably Main is a better world builder than anyone in those series. It’s a great demonstration of how the isekai genre is both great (in distilling that power injustice to separate it from present-day reality) and terrible (in reinforcing that injustice). On that note, I kind of guh’d at Chouyoyu (Because how are these people any good? If this is “smart” for Japan then that country is in trouble) and I tried Noukin and couldn’t get into it. I’m okay on Isekai Cheat but behind. Am I missing anything worth checking out?
PPS. I can use an isekai fantasy where someone just runs a NGO.
It was a thing.
In a bid to stave off jet lag and fatigue, and partly motivated by procrastination, I want to tackle the two-day festival taken place last weekend at Tokyo Dome now rather than later. I tweeted it enough, but in summary:
- Bannam has a lot of stuff! But IM@s is where it’s at, for this show.
- All the idols in under one roof is all one.
- While it was short on the collab department, there were still some great ones.