Wota Life, North America 2014 Version


As I try to get a grip on the AX wrap for the year I have to confront the reality that is in front of me. Truth is, if you told me 8 months ago that Yumi Hara, Altima, [TBD2], Angela, WUG, Marina Inoue, Saori Hayami, Ami Koshimizu, Ai Nonaka, KOTOKO, Elisa, Yui Ishikawa, Mai Goto, Ryouka Yuzuki, Halko Momoi, Babymetal are coming to the US and Canada, I would be like LOL you are drunk. It also didn’t help that I went to Japan in February and got entirely hosed into the Producerhood of Idolm@stery, so even people like Tsukigami Luna and Toshifumi Akai can generate big time feels for me. And I mean, who are they? Sushio was the sakkan for episode 17 (AKA Makoto episode) of Anim@s? The what?

The fact is this is just pain for the DD. A lot of these guys are great but are only going to attract people who are scenesters or just like a lot of things. The WUG-chans, for example, voiced just a handful of things among all of them. I-1 Club will win every time if they held those voting things at American cons, even if they too are more or less current-gen or upcoming voice acting talents. Yui Ishikawa marks a point where Titan really puncture the mainstream discourse, but besides that most anime con-goers don’t even know what else she has done. It’s standard fare for seiota. But then on the other hand  you have the Hayamins or Amisukes of the seiyuu world, the kind of guests that you only expect to see twice a year–between AX and Otakon, really–because there are so few anime cons that deal seiyuu to begin with, and there are so many seiyuu to choose from.

But this has been an abundantly blessed year for the North American idol/seiota/aniota complex. And I didn’t even list old timers like the Gundam dudes (Ikeda-san!) at Animazement or Morita at AX.

There’s value to be a DD, and there’s value to be someone who is more devoted to the causes of a few (or just one)–basically you can survive such a wonderful but harsh convention schedule. The value of doing all these things is that it’s incredibly fun, but I can understand why it’s sometimes good to hold back and just stew at home about not being able to go to these things.

That being said, who knows what remaining cons will bring over as guests? And I’m already looking at 2015 with a weary eye, partly with IM@S 10th on the horizon.

Wonder if there will be JP fans coming to chill out with Hayamin at Otakon? There was an Aoi Eir fan that came just for her, and sat right behind me. He went pretty nuts given the number of times he hit me LOL. Would be cool to do an offkai again!

Anime Expo 2014: Days 0-3

Ami & Yuzunee

This AX I’m just going to ignore the fact it’s disappointingly thin guest-wise with the fact that it really actually is packed full of people from Japan who are interesting to see in person. It’s like seeing Mikatan in person along with the president of uhh Native, and seeing them asking a fellow P which boob size he prefers. That guy happened to be an Amimami P so you can figure that out from there.

There are other things like this. Hiro Takeuchi is with Yamakan again and Yamakan’s panel is actually just a WUG panel. Which makes sense, he’s sold out to the IP. It’s like seeing yourself in the videos Hiro took during the Acen concert as they play snips of it for the panel.

We had a P dinner with Luna Tsukigami and he’s a pretty cool Miki P with the stuff to back it up. We had also a Miki cosplayer doing some major assists.

Traveling to AX this year is new because somehow I got in a rental car. Day 0 was kind of impromptu because we hung out with new guys this time around and it’s delicious as usual. Food-wise there was a dimsum meal snuck in there and it was great.

I thought I did a balance of hanging out in groups, in small groups or large, by myself, and doing press. I kind of wished I did more press but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Of all the premieres at AX, I was looking forward the most to Ninja Slayer. But that clashed with the focus panel with Yuzu-nee and Amisuke. Originally I was going to sneak out half way from the seiyuu panel and go to NS, but Yuzu-nee/Amisuke’s panel was way more awesome than it had any rights to be and I forgot about Ninja Slayer. If you saw Amisuke’s Tokyo Encounter episode, it’s kind of like that except Yuzu-nee and Amisuke are both high tension boke-types, and there’s no Sugita to bring them down. Safe to say it’s up there in terms of seiyuu panel quality.

We did talk to a guy who attended Ninja Slayer panel and it sounded just like any other Wakabayashi-level panel. Yeah, he was here to present it. I scored a throwaway poster and well, it’ll be in the loot shot if I can put it in my luggage.

If I had to score my AX in terms of what I accomplished, in the category of the Exhibit Hall, I totally failed. Saturday was my first day where I had time to actually roam the room, but it’s mad packed and felt like hellish. I just went from event to event. Like, there was a IM@S and Love Live battle event at the Daisuki booth which was luls. I should’ve cosplayed Kuniyoshi if I knew it was happening.

I probably didn’t score very high on autographs too. Missed Butch, only got Trigger once. Did score the big one with Yuzu-nee and Amisuke though. Yamakan…well. I got a Miyu sticker out of it? Bonus would be seeing Uki Satake and getting an autographed board from Minami prez.

Well, I’ll take a break and think about it some more for the wrap.

Anime Expo 2014: Oh Mai Gad Not Disu…

I think the smart thing to do for me is to quit AX. I had to pull some magic out of my butts and owe coworkers favor. Anyone looking for a job in NYC? We are hiring.

That said I guess I am going to AX anyway. I will probably fly out tomorrow but if things don’t pan out the way I wanted it might mean flying out the day after. I don’t know. Yeah, that kind of a situation. Nonetheless, I’ve got AX kind of set up already. Here are things to watch for.

Untitled 2

Before I forget, guidebook, guidebook, guidebook.

Angela & King Records. At previous cons when the two attended they set up shop at the booth doing autographs for people who bought their stuff. I don’t really think they’ll receive a super-warm welcome in SoCal but maybe the fans will prove me wrong. At any rate this means you can hit up one of their autograph sessions at the booth easily just by buying their oversea-only compilation CD (or any of the other neat merch. I recommend the BEAM shirt if you can fit it). Details on all that, and their K event, here, here, here, here. Oh, I guess the autograph sessions are at Kinokuniya’s booth.

Did I mention the official con autograph area is in the game/cosplay room this year? Exhibit hall will be wall-to-wall dealers.

Sekai Project…these guys are another outfit/startup trying to localize JP indie crap. By indie I mean doujinshi-ya in the form of games and books and what not, and by that I mean they sit kind in between MangaGamers and the more game-y outfits. And also since I’ve hung out with one of the two founders on a bunch of time now it’ll be fun seeing them trying to pull this legit-ly. They have a booth in the morass of the exhibit hall and I’m highlighting it because Luna, the Japanese illustrator/mangaka, is taking commissions. And doing autographs, if you want to pick up their kickstarted doujinshi on headphones. Details here. They’re also going to sell those kickstart-only scrolls at AX.

FUNI will be doing a Zankyou no Terror premiere.

Aniplex will be doing a big one for SAO2, but also something for Adonah Zero along with Butch.

Project H has some H matsuri at AX and…well, probably nothing that remarkable but something to think about.

JAST, MangaGamer, and Sekai Project all should have cool announcements. Especially that third group.

There’s an announce for a license at AX that will lead to some guests (dub actors) at Otakon. I guess we’ll find out this week.

Aniplex: Here is their page of goods stuffs. Should be pretty exciting, all around.

FUNI: This stuff. A step down from usual, because this is what they do for the usual cons. AX typically gets something a tad nicer.

NISA: Nothing special going on, their usual PR guy left the company about a month ago and you can totally see how it kinda collapsed. Actually it’s not that bad but HR transition is something I am all too used to pyohohoho orz. They owe their fanbase an AX update, which is probably due out today if God willing. From the other licenses you can kind of figure out what you can get, and it’s not like the drill hasn’t been “go to booth to ask first thing” anyway.

MangaGamers: Haven’t heard anything other than they have announcements lined up. Not sure what they’re doing special at the booths.

JAST: Likewise…

Fakku’s big announce with going legit is going to be a lingering question, which their panels Saturday may help answer?

In other 18+ news, there’s going to be a lewd figure panel co-hosted by Mamitan (Francis) and Mikatan, who now works for Native (!!). Must attend, if just to see Mikatan in person.

Kyoto Animation will be a presence at AX, they will screen the first two episodes of Free season 2, which means you get to see episode 2 before Japan. Cool huh? There’ll be Q&A afterwards. There’s also a booth, seems like the one ex-Kyoani intern from US will be helping out there. No goods though.

(Wait, Yamakan is at AX too huh!)

Mirai ni Neiro will bring their usual lineup of Ps. Details here. Wataame, Kagome P (woot), UtataP (!), Sunzriver, buzzG. Also that Mikumentary Documentary person.

On that note, while there is no Meet the Guest scheduled for 2014 (boo) Nihongo de OK is still on. Details here.

Crunchyroll is solid on my radar now since WUGcen. They’re doing this a bit niconico style which is not the worst thing. Details on this updated forum thread (that’s a tad ghetto but I can deal). Key takeaway so far is that JP Jojo producers will be on site to take questions at the Jojo dub screening, and Aoi Eir is showing up on the live stream on Day 1 2:30 Pacific. Actually there’s even going to be a giveaway there (and online) so worth checking out. Their physical store at the con will also have limited items for sale (that Kurisu for $75 is not bad). Oh, I guess there’s that Love Live thing. Hahahahaha.

Anyways, IM@S Panel is right after the KLK event on Friday. I’ll be there because the guys running it are uhhh organizers of some notorious oversea Ps. Especially the main guy. Bring your KBs (from the KLK event w). There’ll be a cosplay gathering for IM@S at the Bamco booth, which is at the far corner towards main event, inside the exhibit hall. Tentatively Saturday afternoon?

Not sure if they need more endorsement but go to Sushio and Nakashima’s panel. It’ll be a great time. I’m going to make time for Ninja Slayers panel for sure.

Giovanni’s Island…I want to go but it won’t fit anywhere.

21+ Lounge has some idoling events, but also these guys LOL. Details here. I might show up, who knows.

…and that’s it! This post may update over time.

PS. Side note but Otakon will do their music guest announces next week right after AX. Starting with a guess-the-guest probably.

Exploring the Concept of Controlled Chaos from No Game No Life

Basically this

I think I’m on the brink of something large
Maybe like the breaking of the dawn
Maybe like a match being lit
Or the sinking of a ship, letting go gives a better grip

It’s the difference between living with the world on your back, or living with the world on Atlas’s back. It’s the heart of gamification that underlies the premise of No Game No Life. The fact that our protagonists are considered worthless human beings in light of their pre-existing surrounding and god-tier miracle workers in this alternate universe is fancy and enjoyable to some degree. But just how are we suppose to enjoy Tet’s giant chess game? Just how unreal is a virtual reality in a fantasy world where gamers game and gamble everything and anything from nipples being non-existent to people being non-existent? So meta.

If the ultimate idea at the end is sort of the head trick that we’re headed, as far as character development goals and thematic understanding of what’s happening, the show is full of them in other ways. The common anime/manga/game/light novel trope about having fun while doing it is a common one; but to me the trick was more about how using that concept as a trick to get somewhere else. In that way, when the Kuuhaku extended their hands to Izuna it felt like a “hello kids, the moral of this story today was XYZ” moment and it makes me want to point fingers at a certain type of people who talk about plot and character development. You know who I’m talking about. That is never really what makes this show special, much like how the Warbeasts never get what the Kuuhaku is trying to do.

It’s easy to say that I enjoyed NGNL enough to link to a Kotaku article, gasp, but more over my enjoyment and endorsement exist in light of, and over, my objections to its flaws. And I just want to talk about that–it’s about letting go and let yourself enjoy that head trick. Don’t be a Steph. Which is basically anyone who rated this show below a 7 on MAL.

Joke aside, I do want to mention its Steph shaming schtik, which depends on what context you are coming from, can rub people the wrong way. I came from the “Yoko Hikasa makes the best tease character” angle so all the Steph jokes are a delight. Just to know that it’s merely a head trick–to the extent that fanservice is definitely biased in this series towards our garden variety harem setup. In those ways, NGNL feels rather mundane, and perhaps it is. It’s a little bit like Seitokai no Ichizon in that the real strength of the material is what they actually talk about, eg., not the fact that Mafuyu might be a fujoshi, but that Mafuyu takes a fujoshi point of view in the otaku culture roundtable. Or that there’s a otaku culture roundtable to begin with. NGNL does the same thing, not only in that as gamers would know it’s more fun to talk about games by playing games rather than just talk about games in a room, but that the act of talking about games while gaming is really the end game. It’s not so much that we’re watching a light novel adaptation take on Gal-Gun, but we’re talking about how the anime take on Gal-Gun along with the characters in the story.

For me, the persistent and well-distributed meta–like yeast in the biblical dough–is what holds the show together. No Game No Life occasionally shows you the seams, but in good faith usually. The few times it didn’t I can probably forgive it on the grounds of “go read the light novels” as even in its worst moment, it’s still better than, say, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. The thematic consistency about letting go, holding on, and how those things interplay with each other is kind of the obtuse way to describe the effects of gamification and the various head games Sora and Shiro play with each other and with the rest of the world, including viewers like us. Anime is the perfect medium for this kind of a narrative.

Franchise Positioning: LL And IM@S

Happy Birthday Hidaka Ai!

I’m just thinking about how to approach that material for my hypothetical panel, which is now rejected from Otakon programming. I find myself approaching this mainly from a business model point of view. It’s hard to say what is special about … this thing. What is this thing anyway? Cartoons? Or cartoons with idols in it? Or cartoons with idols being the main schtik? Invariably you have to talk about the media mix-ed-ness of it all, so naturally it becomes a discussion on the business.

One approach I was thinking about is comparing different well-known “idol anime” situations and see if we can gleam something. To jump to the point, one key difference between Love Live and IM@S is the sort of businesses they are. One is a video game franchise with stuff spun off it. The other is pretty much that idol concept from the first iteration.

I also want to highlight and examine what makes Love Live, seemingly, a franchise more friendly to women. That begins with first ascertaining the premise–which, really, all I have is that more women attend the live events than most other 2.5D idol events featuring an all-female cast. I wonder how that compares to the female Oukokumins out there. It also begs the question about how does live attendance factor in, which can be explained but only with so many words, unfit as a sentence’s clause. It’s also another angle where IM@S stands in stark contrast as a video game franchise born under the shadow of the declining arcade scene. I recently watched the bonus Blu-rays that came with the UNMEI Live CD singles and when Pyonkichi took an informal poll, the hands went up were about 10%, at most. Which is probably roughly the same as SSA in Feb as I remembered, maybe a little worse for those 2013 live shows, given how much of a maniac you had to be to get in to the smaller event.

But that’s kind of how far I could go. I can make an argument about how Love Live does a pretty okay job channeling that “utahime” feeling, a modern polish on the “I want to grow up to be an idol” idea with more Niconama streaming and less Fancy Lala. But that’s just interpreting the text. It doesn’t mean much in that I can see how these narratives can connect to both men and women, as IM@S has its fair share of similar stories to tell. Times like this I wish I can read doujinshi from circles that have done these kinds of analysis.

There are other low hanging fruits in this comparisons, of course. I think the depth and extracurricular context around IM@S, partly as a result of its age, also adds something that both encourages certain behaviors characteristic of its fandom, but also deters. It’s the kind of unintended walls with maniac behavior that happens with fandom, although in these cases it is more about intimidation than inaccessibility. For example, it’s easy for me to make no mention of how it feels to be in a crowd of grown men jumping around to the rhythm, but that can be intimidating even to someone who is simply new to the situation, let alone others who might have other causes for concern. Love Live started from scratch a few years ago and nothing other than the status quo of wota culture was in the way.

[By the way, that live 2-BD set is so good if you want a preview of next generation powerhouses...namely her, Koroazu, Machico, Yuiton and Mocho (happy birthday!). Also, we gave Tenchan a new nick: 10ch. Who are these people? Use this list.]