Category Archives: Franchises

Autumn 2014 Coverage

I haven’t watched everything I wanted to yet (this almost goes without saying these days), but here goes.

Shirobako – This show is by far my most favorite thing this season. Chalk it up to my aniota senses, but if there was an anime made for the anime otaku, this is it. It’s not to say non-anime otaku will not enjoy it, or that all anime otaku would, but I get the feeling for people who don’t just enjoy watching anime, but also the craft of it, it’s a special treat. It’s the memo our TV anime industry guys writing for the rest of us.

Rage of Bahamut – Mappa really pulled out the stops for this one. I really don’t like the main dudes so far but the show is really good overall. I did try out the mobile game some years ago (around the time when Kamiyama did those commercials). So far this is nothing like the game.

Vanadis – It’s another pulp swords & fantasy story, and it’s got both what I like and dislike about this category of anime from Japan. I’ll stick with it a bit but well-endowed valks only go so far in 2014. Chaika might be filling my quota for this.

Celestial Method – Solid show featuring the usual little girls and their CVs. The big hook for me is that Nansu takes the lead–perhaps the most capable of the Torahamo group. And I think as long as the story goes that way it will be a watershed moment for her in my book. Given the nature of the story it’s not for everyone, but it works for me so far.

Akatsuki no Yona – Solid show I would watch. Dropped after 1 ep because it’s not for me and I won’t have the time.

Amagi Brilliant Park – Kyoani male fanservice vehicle. If you think of the theme park in Amaburi like this anime, the entrance fee is validated when you see the four fairies do their schtik. Or whatever Bunta-kun’s actual name is. Or both. That said no simulcast means perpetual omo delay on watching this. It’s no Hyouka so I’m not holding my breath on the other stuff. Ayako doctrine x2 this season is a good thing.

Cross Ange – If the cavity search is to get people to talk about Cross Ange, it worked perfectly. I keep saying, though, that an anime which premise is sexy ladies riding transformable flying-bike mecha in skimpy outfits fighting dragons that shoot lasers and MIRV fireballs can not go wrong. Cross Ange dares me on this point, but I think it knows where it stands on things.

Twintails – Fun show. May help combat my lack of sentai intake; actually at this point there are no other draws for this besides that sentai angle and the usual seiyuu factor. Hearing Marei say lewd things is actually not that lewd? She’s really good at it.

G-Reco – I like it a lot, but not enough to keep watching weekly. Will try to catch up hopefully once we approach 1-cour, especially if I hear good buzz.

Gundam Build Fighter Try – Not as engaging for me on the uptake compared to GBF, and I have mixed feeling for the main character (the ero aspect aside). I even have mixed feeling for the other main characters, but the trio concept is novel. I guess I never really took to Reiji anyway. Still, the concepts and fight scenes are good, so I might stick with it. Having it on Youtube makes things easy.

[Insert complaint about FUNi's website here.]

Your Lie in April – Good stuff, but short of sublime. At episode 1 it has not gotten my attention yet, at least episode 2 did better.

Log Horizon S2 – Despite the somewhat sketchier production values, it’s more of the same, which is good, because it was already good.

World Trigger – JUMP trigger warning more like.

Trinity Seven – Demon Lord harem high school concept with Harami lead is a sure sell. It knows not to drag its wet feet here so at least it’s passable entertainment.

Yuyuyu – Reminds me of Kyousogiga, which is a mixed blessing. Will stick with it till 3. Madokagellion is fine as is but I think it’s going to skew a little.

Girldfriend (Kari) – Fun fluff, seiyuu quiz. Say it with me everybody, CHLOE LEMAIRE.

Fate/stay night UBW – This is the version that hopefully would solve the “need to play the game to enjoy content” problem Type-Moon has.

Inou Battle – It’s true to the spirit of chuu2, and the way Trigger takes on a “sit in the club room all day” type anime is intriguing. Enjoyable, but ultimately a futile thing to try to watch. I’ll forge on a bit more at least.

Garo – It’s pretty cool on episode 1, but not sure if I can spare the time to follow. I suppose now as good as any.

Still to watch: Psycho-Pass 2, Seven Deadly Sins, Terraformars, In Search of the Lost Future.

Continuing on Chaika, Log Horizon, Ace of Diamond.

Shorts – Karen Senki, Yukarin waifu anime (I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying), and SeHa is AOTS.

PS. Real AOTY is the iM@S movie, right? Right? Having the ability to rewatch parts or all of it on demand is a power I need to wield more responsibly.

PPS. Real destroyer of my free time is SSA blu-ray OMG I can watch this all day (and I will)!


Shirobako 02 Notes

I think the plan is I will do this on Jtor, but since I’m still working on the intro post let me jot down some notes here in the form of a blog post.

Couple items worth noting: 2ch tries to map the Musani staff to real life people, and for the most part it works. Then there’s this comment from another fellow seiyuu aficionado: “Hahahahahahaha damn if only the seiyuu were THAT pretty hahahha.”

What’s amusing is that while there’s this direct mapping between characters and real life individuals, when we go into “prpr mode” (for the lack of a better term) I think our way to judge stuff changes. In a nutshell, the anime/manga character style is a form of caricature. As a rule it’s not life-like in details. Shirobako applies already a pretty life-like approach to the character designs (in a way that is reminiscent of a lot of the prior PA Works shows) but I mean, just take a look.

Shirobako S2 via Conflag

Fellow koebutas can agree, I think, that Kayano has that puppy-looking eyes going, and for me they’ve really captured her visage by doing the eyes/bang layout right. Nakahara Mai, on the other hand, is a lot more difficult to capture using the anime/manga style because her distinguishing facial features are more the way her nose and facial bone structure are, giving her that sharp look. It’s hard to portray those things when most anime characters don’t even have a pronounced nose to speak of. On top of that, when you have kind of a late-night moe anime thing going on, Kayanon’s puffy cheeks are easy to reproduce relative to the more mature looks you get from Nakahara and Itou. That said, I think Itou Shizuka’s forehead/hair go a long way to represent her character in the anime, so that one was easy to pick out just at a glance, too.

I wonder if they took that into consideration when selecting the seiyuu they would mimic. I suppose there was a casting call for these three girls who had to voice as themselves and then voicing a character within the anime. If you think CV: Casting Voice is meta, Shirobako is one layer more!

As for the actual comment about pretty, let’s just say even accounting for the “3DPD factor” there are pretty anime characters and not-as-pretty anime characters. I think even in Shirobako you have that range of visual beauty–just look at our 5 protagonists. So no comment here about if not-Kayanon or not-Nakahara is prettier than their real life counterpart (uuuuh).

By the way, what Kayanon demonstrated in episode 2 was a page out of seiyuu school. If you listen to seiyuu radios it can be a treat. Like what Hayami Saori demonstrated at her Otakon panel, for example…

As for the episode proper, I loooove the way how the plan comes together and the way anime uses anime-only powers to demonstrate what it is really meant when Arupin has arrived. I loooove the way how they make Maruyama a bit like the patron saint of struggling TV anime productions. The way they add him during that meeting scene is both lovingly done and funny in the sense that they make clear he doesn’t really contribute in a tangible way. Can we have a Shirobako-type anime but instead produces a movie that takes 7 years to release? LOL.

PS. Onee-chan is Nu. But she doesn’t get an anime character cameo! WTB anime Nunu please (fat chance, I know).

Episode 02

PPS. Speaking of the ED animation (as last week’s ED is actually the OP animation), it’s done by the core team, directed by Mizushima.


The Memo That I Forgot to Write: The IDOLM@STER Movie: Beyond the Brilliant Future

Happy Birthday, Hibiki!

Fans write love letters to the creators of their favorite things. Creators write love letters to their fans. This is the IM@S movie in a nutshell. I feel that is the central concept behind everything related to the IM@S movie.

The IDOLM@STER Movie used to have this English subtitle, “To the other side of the sparkle,” which is a very literal translation of the “kagayaki no mugougawa e” tag line. Actually I’m not sure if it’s a subtitle or a tag line, although subtitle probably is the right term here. As you might think, this story is actually about one’s inner darkness and how to overcome it.

It’s not even that different than the two idol anime I enjoyed a long time ago: Perfect Blue and Key the Metal Idol. The whole idol biz, even from the 80s and 90s, were really about that gap between the sparking on-stage side and the internal strife side. I think this is why when an AKB48 shaved her head, it was a big shock. I mean, it’s just hair in the end, right?

To that end, Moviem@s (henceforth) nailed it. The bulk of the movie is actually a traditional idol story although the critique is as softly pitched as it gets. That’s okay, this is IM@S, not WUG. And because it’s cartoon, fat idol is a-okay too.

Oh, spoilers. [As if you can really spoil the movie.]

I thought this movie was long, and it still is long. I think it could have been much tighter and shorter, or much tighter, period. It’s really the main complaint that I’ve heard from everybody. The pacing is only a problem because there’s all this extra stuff that, IMO, ought to be cut. They should’ve done a director’s edition instead if they want to give us the better bang per buck, charging us like $110 for the entire proverbial enchilada. [That said, I hope someone re-encode a sub of the Shiny Festa OVAs.]

One “feature” (it’s not a bug, really) of the Moviem@s home video release is that it’s jam packed with goodies and omake material, both on-disc and off. The result is a package that’s over 3 pounds. It’s heavier than a 13″ MBA (2014). It means shipping it EMS costs like 6000+ yen. That blows major buttocks for us importers, but the goodies and omake material probably does make up for a lot of it–the 2nd coming of Ogi Star Memories, for example. As someone who has four copies of Shiny Festa, the OVA on blu-ray is a pithy consolation prize.

The only other issue I have (and it’s a good thing) with the physical release of Moviem@s so far (having not gotten my hands on it yet) is that the Aniplex+ special edition sure is OP. I half regret not ordering it and instead gunned for HMV’s. Partly because the cost between the two are not very big (HMV has a 20% discount, so that’s about 2000 yen difference) but that baller Starpiece Memories-themed box! It is so classy, Aniplex. Who does your packaging concepts?

I still want a Kido-chan cover of Jibun Rest@rt.

Maybe I’ll talk about my impression on the ML girls, now that I’ve fallen into that hole after first seeing the movie so many months ago. Let’s get it out there: my first impression of the ML girls (and partly why I fell into that hole) has a lot to do with the theater greetings I attended. During the intro and talk sessions, the voice actresses each pitched for their characters–so I got 7 ML character pitches essentially. Kana and Shiho get a pass, because in the show they’re fairly well-represented, even if Moviem@s Shiho is somewhat different than ML Shiho typically. Anna, in particular, gets the shaft, because she has this “on” mode where she’s super cute idol-chan, versus normal Anna. Moviem@s Anna is basically normal Anna the entire time. You can get an idea of Anna’s “on” mode if you watch Sora no Method, i think, as Nansu has a major role in which she plays a character with a disposition that equals to the average of the two Annas.

Nao is great–I love how Yuiton is literally her character. It’s like a teenage version of the real Yuiton. Mocho, on the other hand, plays the idol ideal version of her seiyuu idol persona. It’s a bit like how Takane is not like Harami, but Takane is a Harami ideal. It’s a hard analogy to get I guess, because Takane is not the sort of character that dotes over something easily. Serika, on the other hand, is all sorts of cute, much like Mocho is all sorts of cute–to the degree that not just fans like me, but even other IM@S casts, call Serika Mocho. They are however still quite different, in a way that Serika supports Mocho and vice versa. There’s a strange but uncanny combination going on between those two.

I sort of blanked on the others, and it’s sort of amazing that I even remember Nansu because she had a very ordinary but memorable introduction. Zekki was cute but it was a struggle for me to remember. Mikku…well, still to me is a Stylips first, Million Stars second. I don’t even remember her character (Yuriko) unless she talks in some way.

[In a way, which ML character stands out to me is probably not unlike which idol stands out in AKB for any one otaku. This is pretty amusing in retrospect.]

At any rate, that is part of the context that is missing from a normal consumption of Moviem@s. You guys didn’t go to a live show where M@sterpiece was the musical climax of a 5-hour-long 2.5D lovefest. There’s no fan events surrounding that stuff. I tip my hat to whatever promoted the IM@S event at AFASG, because that’s really the beginning.

Well, no, where I live, anime is the beginning. But anime can also be the end. Moviem@s happens to be both. It is entirely fair to judge this book by the cover, or go into the movie expecting what you typically expect from an idol anime. It’s also entirely a shallow read. If you liken a wickedly epic concert to a religious experience, then Moviem@s is the New Testament of that religion that’s called WE ARE M@STERPIECE and M@STERS OF IDOL WORLD. Does that make the criticisms on its superficial construction less valid? Not at all. It doesn’t engage the work completely, but that’s okay.

And maybe I’m 25% done with talking about Moviem@s? It has been a long time coming. This memo is never going to end.


Shirobako, Identity

When I was little, I was the type of kid who liked to ask why things are the way they are. Discovering what things were and how it worked was an amazing feeling when I was just a child. I wasn’t very handy, but I also liked reverse engineering things. I think I got that from my dad, who also did it habitually. The difference between me and perhaps someone who did took something apart and see how it worked was that I tried to model it in my mind and internalize how it works. To me, writing things down was symbolic, it was the act of putting some kind of physical representation down that reflected, expressed or symbolized something that was in my head. In that regard, I’m not too different today than so many decades ago.

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The Idolm@ster Movie Is a Million Live Advertisement

Hey guys, I don’t know if you don’t know, but most anime are some form of advertisement. So why are you complaining about that Mlilion Live is being advertised in the Idolm@ster Movie (Moviem@s henceforth)?

As someone who has been enabled by Moviem@s (and many other things) and started playing Million Live after my trip to Japan this past February, I enjoy my Scamco-driven animated promotional material. Speaking as both a customer and a victim in this sense, the fact that they have to charge money in order to let us watch this stuff is probably way, way, waaaaaaay more obnoxious of an arrangement in this process than the mere audacity for the sprawling Idolm@ster franchise to introduce its next generation of money shakers and movers through advertising. It would be weird if they didn’t try to advertise their games.

On the other hand, buy the Blu-ray, one says. Well yeah I was a hair’s breadth away from buying my second copy after pictures of the Aniplex+ edition flooded twitter a day or two ago. It’s so pimp. But I already put in an order from HMV, which ships with a bonus wallscroll featuring, guess what, the Million Live girls. Isn’t that infinitely more insane? I’m spending hundreds of $ on advertisements. [And shipping.]

Imagine if you are watching TV and all the ads are paid content? But wait, what if the ads were better than the TV program you were watching? I mean, it sounds silly, but the scenario isn’t that far-fetched. In some ways that’s what is happening. If having the Million Stars in Moviem@s jarred you from the fantasy world you were living in, congratulations, Scamco whiffed and couldn’t bring some full-body characterization to the seven girls (Minako, Anna, Serika, Shiho, Kana, Nao, and Yuriko) and thus enable you. Good for you.

But to me, I see it a courtesy. They’re telling you what’s going on, and in some ways focusing the movie away on the ML girls and on the 765Pros is what everyone wanted. It’s just there are some issues to the movie given all these arrangements, and to some degree the results may disappoint some people. If you look at Moviem@s as some kind of as-is, commercially available, hourly-fungible disposable entertainment, you’re missing the point. Moviem@s, for Producers, is IM@S’s totem that embodies the past and future of the franchise, of the idols, of our emotions all together. It’s our M@sterpiece. Of course, it’s perfectly okay to miss the point, but don’t expect any sympathy from us if you stopped yourself from having a good time.

What I recommend, actually, is just watch Moviem@s a bunch of times. This stuff actually has a lot of rewatch value, and you wouldn’t even know it.

PS. By the way I’m just glad Matsuri and Fuka make appearances in this thing after all, as these two are my top ML idols today. There’s a weird time-wrap effect going on when you revisit the thing that enabled you, and you have a different appreciation all together. What’s funny is that the content is even “new” because, well, it’s not some telescoping introspection for years past. It’s barely 8 months!

PPS. The CG concern is real and I understand it, but it is, in the larger scope of things, trivial.