Producers Gonna Produce

Some quick observation from Dereani or Anidere or Deremas Anime or CG anime or whatever the hell we’re calling it.

Fuurin and Shiburin

1. The producer is the ultimate head trick given in the adaptation space for these games. If we think of the evolution of harem works since the 80s and 90s and up to today, terms like “self-insert” or “potato-kun” might be the image you are thinking about. However at the same time in works where the focus is on the “girls” or as far as features go, that’s why anyone bothers with such works, you can think of the protagonist male-dude as a shadow or a negative space. That’s where a creative adaptation can really flex its muscles. In recent years these kinds of “harem-esqe” (as while most of these are harem, some aren’t) works started to actually paint in stronger protagonists, especially coming from a light novel heritage/line, because an interesting protagonist is a major draw for any reader, player or viewer; let alone how such a character can give one work some distinguishing merits over its competition in the crowded marketplace.

In Animas, the producer was a literal camera trick in the style of Ocean Waves in episode 1. The producer revealed wasn’t just an introduction to who he is to the idols, but it revealed how Animas was going to approach the adaptation. In that sense the same happened in Deremas Anime. What’s probably key here is that in the first episode we focused on actually three characters’ development: Rin, Uzuki, and Producer. In Animas, only one character got a lot of development: Producer. (Okay, and maybe Haruka.)

In a nutshell, the games are LOL-meta in how it reflects this tendency in the importance of the player in IM@S (games) as it does in the anime. And it seems Deremas Anime is going full throttle in painting in that negative space, versus a more mild treatment we got in the 765Pro P.

2. The net effect of this is that for some parts of the Deremas Anime episode 1 experience, I am reminded of Puchim@s. That is another take on the IM@S concept, after all. In that anime P actually got arrested. It’s also a good example of how important the P character is in IM@S in general, as well as in the adaptations. It’s the rudder to the ship, in a manner of speaking. Which is just saying what I just said.

3. From this point, it only makes sense, given the 346Pro concept, that there will be multiple Producers in Deremas Anime.

  • It wouldn’t be realistic if one huge agency has only one producer, nor is it realistic to expect one producer to manage the countless number of CG idols.
  • Inter-producer dynamics would blow my head off, and I think they’re gunning for this. Ritsuko’s role change in 2nd Vision paved the way for this anyway. It’ll be natural to see it extended in Deremas Anime, which is a social game with multiple players together as a core conceit, and it’s a game where players typically produce a small-small subset of all possible idols.
  • Going with that, it would make sense our Kuzuki-sensei-like P is a newbie along with the other New Generation idols, learning the ropes together.

4. The first episode of any new anime is important, but in IM@S’s case, it’s super-duper important. I’m glad it turned out well.

5. it’s A-1 at their A-game. Details will come later but that is some Kyoto Animation level storyboards LOL. There were not only the signature frame cropping and liberal use of “large aperture” shots, but a fairly cinematic approach to the storyboarding with lots of quick cuts.

6. It’s a lot of idols I recognize and a lot I do not recognize. I can facially ID maybe 80% of them but I only know maybe 30% of their names. I’ve been playing CG for only a couple months after all. I mean, you have to be a hardcore CG P to get everyone, and that’s not exactly the same thing as an IM@S P in general.

7. Yes, Nation Blue, the eventer in me picked it up immediately, and since I was trawling twitter anyway it was nice to see this tweet right around that time.

I’m tempted to go through the episode blow-by-blow but that’s kind of time consuming. More fun if you do it yourself.


Ringing in the New Year

The folklore about the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac is a race. So it seems appropriate that Japan would put up a bunch of idols in a literal race while wearing animal things. Thankfully by “Japan” I only mean “in the game IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE.” That being said the Japanese count these days and old ways slightly differently so I’m not going to get into that nitty gritty for sake of familiarity.

NEXT LIFE Hibiki

Over the holidays there were a lot of people writing and blogging about interesting things. I’ve been taking my time reading through them (think of it as an elixir for the post-new years blues, I guess). As you might notice there’s been a bunch of anime production type write-ups, with a bunch of animators here and a bunch of seiyuu here. It’s detailing stuff I normally don’t get to read and wish there was more resources like this in English. It’s practical and something I enjoy reading.

So rather than lamenting that nobody is playing ML, here are some notes about the latest Million Live event, or as the game calls it, 招福!アイドル干支マラソン–Good Fortunes! Idol Zodiac Marathon. Can I call it a day now?

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Cultural Differences in Sports Anime And Manga

HN Matsuri Tokugawa

Ed from Vertical wrote a blurb about sports anime and manga and it is, in my opinion, the baseline. He covered a few things that are challenges or causes why sports anime/manga just don’t take off in the States.

Viz tried promoting Slam Dunk with the NBA. That didn’t work. They marketed Whistle! with US Soccer before a World Cup. That didn’t work. They partnered with the NFL for Eyeshield. That didn’t work. Were their plans perfect? No. But they sure tried and with some of the biggest brands in sports. Sports anime rarely seems to work in English. So tying in anime fans to their respective manga is almost pointless.

Story-wise most sports anime are high school based. That poses a problem cause the structure is different for sports in Japan vs the US. Sports in the US are league based, so teams play full seasons before a playoff tournament. In Japan high schools are almost entirely tournament only. So where in the US kids train thru playing games; in Japan they train to play games. Also as these works are fiction there is a lack of familiarity with characters and teams. It may be hard for casual readers to understand the rules of certain games if they aren’t already fans of that sport.

I would also say there might be some social resistance as faces and names are not what people see from their heroes in the US.

If you drill down on examples, yeah, Slam Dunk, Eyeshield, etc all have additional factors and issues as far as why nobody gave them a damn outside of Asia, but a fundamental one is the contextual one. Just like sports culture is ingrained in America mainstream consciousness, the same is for Japan. And when Japanese writers create sports stories they rely on those assumptions and cultural norms, which often don’t translate well to the States. High school level sports organization is entirely a different bag than the Japanese one for all the popular sports like baseball, basketball, etc.

I’m thinking these differences  even comes down to what people are looking for in entertainment in terms of narratives involving sports. Why do people read ESPN? SI? Or write Breaking Madden? Or watch 30 for 30? I don’t know, but I feel that’s kind of the mentality that ultimately has to be catered to for Americans to care about sports fiction.

And in order to get over that hurdle, maybe what it takes is either for people to buy in on the context (eg., anime fans who dig characters and the tournament plot), or for people who are in for the giggles and can live without it (eg., Shaolin Soccer). It’s like sports comedies.

It makes me wonder if anime/manga sports comedies actually have a shot at making it in the States. It’s never been done in a serious way, as far as I know. And probably not something like Teekyuu…

I wonder how anime/manga fans would feel about something like Friday Night Lights. Or maybe if someone made a manga adaptation. That’s the kind of issues, I am assuming, that western audiences of “sports” media would enjoy.

At any rate, I think we all need to understand this before going forward. Maybe it doesn’t really mean much; what are hits are hits. I do know that in general I don’t enjoy sports manga mainly for these kinds of reasons. The narratives about real life sports leagues, teams and players are so much better than what Japan’s fictional ones have to offer, partly because the fictional ones are usually about something else entirely different.


Year In Review 2014: N-Listing

Just trucking along. Happy 2015 guys. Still celebrating Christmas for 12 days right?

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Year In Review: Lonely in a Sea of a Million Stars

If all I’m going to talk about THE IDOLM@STER this December, there are just two takeaways I want you to get even if you care nothing about them:

1. The mustard seed parable

2. The future, or how I started playing the mobile games.

I already explained the mustard seed thing. So.

Tokugawa Matsuri (Prologue Rouge)

Part of the otaku identity is a sense of self-inflicted loneliness. A lot of people–geek culture stuff–talk about it. This is particularly an amusing thing when I was reading on the GG/game culture stuff and how people found solace and identity through video games. At its extremes, that sort of identity politics can seem cultish, perhaps, but that is nowhere close to idol otaku who’s fell in the deep end, that I can see almost first hand.

But what I have to describe is not like this at all. It’s more like, because I started on the path of THE IDOLM@STER: MILLION LIVE, I begin to walk away from established IM@S fandom, at least in a way. It’s really ironic in a way because back in 2005 or whenever First Vision era started, that’s how people feel about Producers. Before it was cool thanks to Nicom@sPs, Producers meant you sat in dinky, smoky arcades and poured money while sitting down in front of a touch screen. I mean, like, how is that different than those of us who were grinding away at a Stamina Event in ML and had nobody to talk to, because nobody (who speaks English) plays ML? And yet for the past 3 years looking for Ps was what I wanted to do deeply. It was weird, familiar, and almost Ouroboros-ish.

Part of the problem is that the English-language IM@S community…is inadequate to say the least, if not outright a textbook example of the problems with online gamer communities. I mean, much of it is just 4chan, and I just didn’t have the time for that. It’s time I can spent playing the various games. ML was kind of an after thought because oversea scenster kids online are all chasing CG, if they were chasing IM@S at all (well, they all got shipdaughters now).

At any rate, let’s fast forward to today, where at least Derem@s Ps are getting a reprieve from loneliness through the growing player base for the mobage oversea, as well as from the upcoming TV anime. The Milim@s Ps are still a group missing in action in English. Newly engineered away from the tobacco smoke of the dying arcades, forged in the foundries of SNS and the 2.5D media mix school, Million Live is a wholly unique creature even by Japanese standards. But I fear the fandom for IM@S overseas is not ready for this pivot. I’m not even sure if they are ready for Derem@s, the poster child of gambling-like gasha schemes with an impossible-to-collect-them-all roster. After all, these games are no longer games of yore, where things like gameplay and concept can be understood without the meta, without the bizdev concept, where Da-Vo-Vi meant something other than gameplay concepts. There is no incentive for people to take the (possibly expensive) dive into a game where the rewards is just the same as any other gamer group identity–you are a P. Produce an idol (or three or however many). Except the rest of that support infrastructure–starting with the IM@S movie to the player base to the LTP and LTH to the numerous events to the region-locked radio show–is not available for oversea Ps. It is fully turned towards the Japanese 2.5D otaku.

It’s not like you can take these girls and run with them in a doujinshi. There aren’t that many ML doujinshi even, and those who traffic in the categorically pornographic, unauthorized doujinshi scan scenes can attest. This past month was the first Milifest, which is a ML-specific doujinshi event. It was the first doujinshi event I actively wanted to attend, ever.

Where am I going with this? Basically it becomes impossible to be really alone unless you go out of your way to be. Over the course of this year, since I started ML, I met people who play and now we have a small group of people who play the game both casually or seriously, and everything in between. I even started CG. Perhaps I am fortunate. If I am someone who latches onto new trends, then this is the one I did for 2014. If the people planning the IM@S franchise wanted people to play the game because of Moviem@s, well, it worked, at least with me.

But it just means for every whine about how ML were shameless tie-in characters or are underdeveloped fillers that dragged out an otherwise already draggy movie, they have a point and I can only nod and agree to an extent. What posed itself as a negative for some is just an opportunity and eye-opener for me. I’m not going to defend the shameless money-gathering scheme they’ve set it up, because in exchange I had a blast in 2014, in a big part thanks to those profit-driven enterprises!

It’s was a spectacle.  That’s the thing I enjoyed the most about 2014 x IM@S, at least looking back. The spectacle. The advertisement in Japan. The seiyuu lives. The oversea news. The new games and anime. Meeting new people. It’s exciting and fun.

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