J-Music Canon

Kotori Otonashi, former idol

Japan Time’s article here, via the last bastion of non-anison that anison familiars can tap into.

Without a canon, Japanese pop won’t blast off

Really? I mean, really?

I think the point is well-made in the article, about there is not much of a canon visible outside of Japan. I don’t necessarily disagree with that exactly. It’s just that with or without canon, J-music can make way into the rest of the world given enough support. The problem is there isn’t much support in terms of music-as-is from the labels and even artists. It’s totally a galapagos syndrome thing. Japanese pop won’t blast off with or without canon because the industry just doesn’t really care about this side of the Pacific.

Canon is something fans and press and critics can debate with each other with. We’re just not at the point where fans can, partly because of the fragmented nature of J-music as a result of lacking that direct support over the years. So to me the complaint about context is a bit putting the cart in front of the horse.

That said, the use case we’re talking about–how does someone begin to explore Japanese music–is big enough of a problem, but organically I think most people would deal with it the same way as with any other scene. Start with the popular stuff, branch out and explore. Access (if you can get around the illegal stuff without issues) is better today than ever before. The notion that this day and age people read books and magazines to discover music is as ludicrous as ever, anyway, so I assume the average teen in the USA has as much problem finding “canon” in English-language scenes as a Japanese teen in Japan. Which is to say, I guess this is why idol music is really big there, huh.

Context, however, is something I really enjoy studying these days, and it’s the greatest enabler. So I can see how not having it is a big issue. But we all had to start fresh somewhere. J-pop is shallow enough and sufficiently per se enjoyable that as a sell to your average, newly cultured middle class of East Asia, it works. Anime is a common sell overseas, too, precisely because of context. So I don’t see canon as context as necessary at first. It’s just when you obtain it, the feels come. This is where I agree with the original article.

Do give j1’s list a read, it’s obviously as debatable as any other list but mine probably overlaps a good deal. [Mainly because mine is comparatively miniscule LOL.]


Argevollen’s Fog Episode

Obscure IM@S reference

When someone asks me for a bad anime, I probably won’t point to Argevollen. It’s not a good anime either, so I’m not sure where precisely it occupies in that continuum between remarkably bad anime and maybe even above average anime. Mediocre? Maybe just average?

Argevollen does provides entertainment with a target audience in mind, and it’s not quite the same core Japanese otaku demographic. Well, I mean, it is, but I think a lot of people enjoy a semi-mature story about this science fictional setting, steeped in the routine fares of war with Battletech-like robots. Speaking of real robots, this is probably the itch it scratches personally. [The show also prominently feature traditional tanks, so take that as you may.]

There is a recent episode where the merry band of protagonists resupply, repair and relax at a countryside village just behind the front lines. Think of a rural Japanese town with 5-story buildings and a shopping street, with the full conveniences of modern Japan. The antagonist faction makes a surprise advance on their village, and the troops hastily evacuates the village while repairing their precious prototype robot, making a last-second retreat across the single bridge connecting the village and the path away from the battle lines. In the first half of the episode, the protagonists visited and enjoyed a hot spring in town; in the second half, the battle in town took advantage of seasonal fog to make the retreat less deadly. It’s hard to explain how these two halves are connected by words alone, so here’s some fog.

Argevollen ep10

Argevollen ep10

It’s times likes this that when an otaku is being pandered to, I don’t really mind. Yeah, unfortunately this is partly because the show is not good, so you have to enjoy what you get, but given how Argevollen is distinctly not a fanservice vehicle of the stereotypical sense, the few scenes of female (and male?) nudity really stand out. What’s more, this sort of humor is baked into the show, not unlike how a rum cake has flavors of rum. How to acquire a taste for such humor is the least of Argevollen’s concerns, should anyone be concerned on how well received these kinds of late-night TV anime would be. I mean, I don’t even know why I appreciate dry, subtle but remarkably silly things like this. Perhaps this is just yet another example of how one can approach a show as it is and enjoy it, despite its lack of redeeming or remarkable qualities.


In Context of Giant Robots: Captain Earth, Aldnoah.Zero

[There are some spoilers for Aldnoah.Zero and Captain Earth.]

Magical

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Summer 2014 Mid-season Check-in

What style of hip hop is this? I mean, what it sounds like is that there’s a basic melody that somehow got strong-armed into a southern hip-hop style by whoever is arranging this mess of skinny-arsed girly Japanese idol seiyuu talents? What ftmm I mean seriously. Keep it at “ニー to the ソ” please. Anyway. It’s j-trap?

I just want to begin with an anecdote. During the weeks leading up to Otakon I was pretty burnt out of going to cons and doing “have to do” things that aren’t really “have to do.” Namely like, blogging, writing for Jtor, etc. I kind of just want to stay home, watch lives, play OFA, catch up on anime. But that wasn’t meant to be. Instead I ended up doing cons and all the stuff associated with that, plus a lot of hours at the day job. The result was for at least a couple weeks I had to really pick and choose what I watch on a Thursday–that’s often the last day I can watch anime freely (as weekend meant partying it up somewhere) and for all of my backlog, I have consistently went to Locodol as the show of choice.

I want to think that is a ringing endorsement for Locodol. The cute show is surprisingly educational and it really does a great job managing my expectations. That is, I didn’t expect much to begin with, and still don’t. In that sense Locodol is even thematically consistent–who expect much of local idols anyway? Turns out the anime about local idols educate you as much about them, and is surprisingly competent and enjoyable, just like a good local idol act.

At the same time I want to compare that with Nozaki-kun. For me that show is the same schtik but with an entirely opposite approach, as it lampoons a hallowed genre of anime/manga that leaves me with a lot of unmet expectations. Yea, I already “got it” that it’s all the same, because unlike local idols, shoujo manga as a genre has been around the mainstream consciousness for decades. By episode 3 I was already dead bored of it, and it sounds like things hasn’t changed. With that said, by all means it’s an enjoyable show, just not worth my time.

Which is again, to say, I don’t think that endorsement for Locodol is actually that big of one. I don’t know about you but when I watch anime I think about what fits my present state of mind and condition so I can enjoy both the time I spend watching said anime and the anime itself as best as I can. Given a tired, fatigued, and burnt-out person, something light, humorous and mentally engaging works well. Which is to say, again, when I only watch Zankyou no Terror when I am bored doesn’t mean it’s on the bottom of my favorite-things-list this season, it just means it cures boredom because having Megumi Han talk down like a psycho villain is kind of fun. And honestly learning about hipster anime is somewhere not very high on my list of to-do. I still have a lot of Space Dandy to catch up to.

So it shouldn’t surprise you that I haven’t caught up to Dandy (see earlier comment about “have to do” but aren’t really) and instead I’ve been watching Argevollen. It’s the sort of show that I like in the 00s, so it’s nice to see that here despite the rocky start. I basically dropped that show and picked it up again because episode 4 was so much better than 1-3 (put together)–or that the first three episodes were kind of terrible, and episode 4 was okay. And things kept up with that pace at least up to where I stopped last.

Similarly I’ve been watching Akame ga Kill. It’s not terrible, it’s not great, but quite rewarding to watch. Similar to Aldnoah.Zero, I guess, minus the neck-breaking pacing and silly writing. The quality of writing on Aldnoah.Zero is a mystery. It’s clearly not bad, in the English-teacher-grades-your-paper-a-C kind of bad. It might be bad in a tumblr-is-problematic kind of way, but it hasn’t tripped any warning flags for me. So I guess calling it silly is the most accurate thing. On the other hand, there aren’t such internet nonsense to distract you from Akame ga Kill.

I’m kind of watching Sabagebu, but it’s gotten a little old so I’ve put it on pause. Maybe if I have to plan a road trip or a long flight and have to catch up on shows, I might give that a shot. Sure doesn’t put me to sleep as fast as Monogatari series. Also I appreciate that it’s an anime relatively devoid of sexual fanservice. That makes watching the show easy in public, like on a train.

Speaking of trains, I am actually up to date on Rail Wars. It’s terrible, cliched stuff, but the production values are okay and there are some interesting aspects to the show. And by interesting I just mean Vania600 (and trains, obviously) and the nice seiyuu cast. I still wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, but it sure beats watching Blade Dance or something for the seiyuu. [I am not watching Blade Dance (drop at 2). I'm not watching Momo Kyun either (drop at 0).]

Now the best, and I mean that in a very sincere way, seiyuu vehicle this summer, if not all of 2014 (except WUG perhaps), is Hanayamata. It’s outright the best of what Chihayafuru can offer visually, and on top of that you have moe out of the nose, and then there’s that music video for the OP. I think I died a few times watching it. The anime itself is heartful, if also clumsy. But that just adds to the moe. I recommend it for people who like that kind of shoujo-y material. It’s like back during the Love-Hina days people would either ask or state outright that Love-Hina is shoujo. Would people do the same for Hanayamata? I hope not. But that shows how far we’ve come along. Oh, there’s this music + dance aspect to Hanayamata too, which is more like cake on top of cake than icing on top of cake.

I also can’t help but to make comparisons of Hanayamata to Chihayafuru. The Madhouse production styles and influences aside, both are about very Japanese things that foreigners probably don’t know about. Both are about forming a club and all that jazz, too, but one is probably less accessible than the other, and one has that sports stuff the other doesn’t care for.

I also can’t help but to make comparisons of True Tears and Glasslip. That one is fully warranted, if not almost intended. It has so far all the problems with True Tears except the two worst things (harem structure, incest…although for some those are desirable I suppose) and most of the good stuff about True Tears except several of the best things. It has upgraded from “none” of the best to “several” because last week’s episode there was a repeat of naked unseen gymnastics. Unseen fanservice is by far the most extreme. Unfortunately I’m not sure what else to say about this twister from Junji Nishimura. I suppose you can chalk one up on writing a script that is realistic yet unrealistic, which is something all too rare in late night anime.

As for the other non-sequels that I’m (not) watching this season, I never got back to Barakamon, although I think enjoying it at episode one is good enough. I did get back to Jinsei, Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo ESP. I think I will enjoy watching them, should they be on Crunchyroll or something. Sorry, FUNimation. This season especially, pretty sure I watch 90% of my anime via CR Chromcast, Android app (LTE streaming works like half the time on my commute), or at other people’s homes. Only when I watch Terror and cap Hanayamata on my PC, that I watch anime on the PC. Or when I work from home and can have that luxury, I guess. I’m not going to pay an extra $10 so I can watch some average-tier anime ad-free when I’m streaming on the go, mainly because I can always watch CR shows already that way.

Not to mention they’re finally bringing over more Vita games I enjoy. Better remember to preorder Project Diva 2… For what it’s worth, Akiba’s Trip (2) is not incredibly terrible. Just like the anime I like to watch?

Anyway, Tokyo Ghoul is the one that intrigues me the most, but I didn’t really enjoy the first two episodes at all (other than Hanazawa being who she was). Tokyo ESP got me with the first episode, but it’s the only episode any Ga-rei fans need to watch out of obligation. I might try both shows once more of it comes out and I have a gap of free time (yaominglaugh.jpg).

Jinsei, on the other hand, has this.

Which reminds me, I better work on that idol presentation, I finally got the narrative down. I haven’t got my eyes set on any of these five, but they tend to drift to Ayaka Suwa, whose Million Live character I happen to main.

PS. I am watch a lot of continuing shows too. Some feel like stand-alone 1-cour things like Ilya and even SAOII. Speaking of which while Kiriko doesn’t cut it alone, SAOII is not a bad watch so far. Also glad we’re finally on the TIM WAKEFIELD arc in DiaA. I have my own thoughts on the knuckleball in this context, so I want to compare notes thematically here. I’m also dropping some second seasons, like Free S2.


The Problem with Turn-A Gundam as Comparative Analysis for Aldnoah.Zero And Why You Should Do More

I read this and it just reminds me why I don’t read that much blogging these days. It is missing the essence that makes the comparison compelling–context.

Aldnoah.Zero.full.1746655

Nonetheless, the article raises some good points. I think it can do a better job using another show for the point of comparison though. Like, Nadesico. Both Turn-A and Nadesico are product of their times. If we go back 15-18 years the world of the teenage, male protagonist in a giant robot show is different that how it is today. The post 9-11 world brought us things like the Celestial Beings and Eden of the East. But the whole giant/super mecha genre, as far as that protagonist dude goes, has already ran its course by the time we got Evangelion, and that predates both.

These two shows that dates after are probably better framed in that we’re getting different spins on them. Nadesico, for example, has a harem cook who doesn’t really like fighting but was thrusted into the position. The tragedy (and thematic concern here) is that ultimately he goes back to devoting his life to fighting in order to “end it” for good, even if he does end up with somewhat of a happy ending.

In Aldnoah, we have a stoic dude who uses some commodity components to go up against specialized, overpowered special mecha that are piloted by people who probably could do a better job using their nice giant robots. It’s in essence the antithesis of Gundam, where some angsty teen pilot some super-power tech and blows up the sea of commodity components. Sounds like a thematic statement to me!

It’s all the more funny to see the comparison to Turn A in that context, because in that show there were no commodity components. Everyone’s giant robot is some fossil from the earth or from the moon. It’s one of the more fascinating aspects about Turn A, actually. Imagine wars where once you lose your equipment, it is irreplaceable.

The comparison with Nadesico doesn’t fare better, but it is. In that show, the Jovians used their exo techs to create a lot of autonomous fighting machines, which is the commodity components Earth forces had to go up against. In that sense, both sides developed different ways of fighting that suited them, using some similar, newfound and game-changing technologies such as the phase transmission technology. The funny thing about that is how the story takes a turn via the super-robot inspired Jovian special units, making good on real robots versus super robots. In terms of Aldnoah, which is probably a step down to non-robots versus real robots, I wonder if you can actually make a point about all of it. In that sense, Akito’s luck or drive or circumstances, whatever, allowed him to be an effective element on the battlefield. What attributes that Inaho possesses which enabled his success in these skirmishes, so far, are not an unique element, merely uncommon. Perhaps he is in the right place at the right time, so there’s also that.

With the latest episode bringing (or maybe merely upgrading) the White Base trope, I guess it isn’t unfair to compare Aldnoah.Zero with every Gundam and Gundam-like anime out there. But I think whichever show you use, the approach has to be the thematic and not merely on superficial aspects. And to get that far you have to get an idea what the context of these shows we’re evoking.

Now, someone please do one with Gundam Build Fighters, because it would be fun to see someone possibly talk about that one UC dude who lost because LOL, wrong genre wrong show. I mean a big reason why I walk the meta path as a fan is because otaku mecha genre is an ongoing dialog between fans and creators, creations to creations, and ultimately it’s a disco hall where themes commingle, not so much like a database but more like an orgy where things sometimes don’t make sense, and it’s okay. And that’s really what makes Aldnoah.Zero stand out, it’s like that one straight line in a sea of noise, narratively.