While I’m sitting home, working from home, and eventing from home under this COVID-19 scheme of things, the world keeps on ticking. Just because life may have paused somewhat for me, the world has not. Which is just to say, I feel like this blog could use a change.
I thought about doing a newsletter type format thing for this blog for a while now, and maybe that makes more sense. Of course, to make a proper email newsletter, it’s a different type of syndication. I will probably still post the letters on this site for posterity sake. It is going to have a similar voice.
Nonetheless a newsletter format of journaling seems a bit more appropriate for the things I’m thinking about. It takes a lot of time to germinate ideas worth the while for public posting, and then survive the iterative review I do. It’s not like my unpublished draft count is going down… Only a portion of what I write is gets published in the end, no matter how stream-of-conscious the rambling gets. I don’t have a formal clipboard process but that might change as a result?
In short, below is an example from this week. I’m not committed to a set schedule, but I’ll aim for a weekly schedule. I’ll post them in the emails at least, and probably on the blog too, as I go. You can subscribe to it by entering your email below. At some point those emails will go out, when I figure out how this works anyways. Meanwhile I’ll post them on the site for now.
Talking about Gundam and Macross in 2021 feels quaint, but such is the world we live in.
Omonomono Newsletter, 2021-04-12
This Past Week
On April 8 (or 9 in Asia), hell froze over. Or at least, anime hell. The agreement and settling of terms between Harmony Gold and BigWest means that finally, international release of Macross properties will be allowed, limited to all the character and branding outside the original Macross/Robotech line. Essentially those shows are freed of the threat of lawsuits from HG and the two buried the hatchet, without modifying existing licensing terms of the already-licensed properties. If the recent industry reports means anything, that’s 30-40% more revenue for those Macross titles! If I was Kawamori I’d be pretty happy about that.
Not to be outdone, reports have it that Netflix will produce an exclusive Gundam live action film with Legendary Entertainment and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. The director has a history of creating video game type content, as well as films like Kong: Skull Island. I guess it could be worse.
There’s a collab event in Deresute with Zombieland Saga. Zombieland Saga has a seiyuu idol unit which is wild that now we have anime idols collaborating with anime idols. I suppose when Deresute collaborated with Princess Connect Re:Dive earlier, there was already idol collaborating with the 3 idols in the game? But not like this. It’s not Cygames eating their own dog food, well, sort of.
Re:Stage live shows is this coming weekend. Saturday is Hortensia and KiRaRe, and Sunday is Tetrarkhia, Trois Anges and Stellamaris. I really like some of the music (and performers) in this series so I will probably check out the archive.
Equally (if not more) impressive is the anime Hibike Euphonium live concert this weekend. By all means it looks great. The singers and cast members are going to be there. The archive lasts until May!
With MLB in gear and some family situation my free time has dwindled greatly. Hopefully I can continue to churn these out. There’s a new anime season going on I hear?
So far of the first episodes I sampled, That 86 anime seems to resonate the most despite its shelf-bought porcelain heroine? A lot of stuff on the usual sampler radar for the next few weeks and I haven’t even gotten to all of them.
April Fools came and went. I got my IM@S Tekken game, I guess?
Omonomono Newsletter, 2021-04-05
I gave up–just going to use the Newsletter plugin for WP going forward, which will use my hosting’s mail server. Just a lot easier. If you want to manage subscriptions and such, it should all be the same via that link at top, or click here.
This Past Week
All of Megumi Hayashibara’s discography is on streaming. Hype. Takes me back!
I do appreciate major US brands taking a break from the 4/1 frivolities during this present situation. In fact every major service should be shutting down those “oh you did this a year ago, 懐かしいな” engagement crack until we’re out of it. On the flip side, some non-major brands do play up that 4/1 thing, it’s largely a miss. I don’t know, it’s not worth it unless you’re an insular Asian island nation whose marketing don’t leak out into the rest of the earth much.
Shiny Colors is moving with their month-long free rolls, adding 2 new characters in the game with the tour. Nagoya stop was a lot of fun to watch and just a great stage show to appreciate. Minor technical issue aside, there’s a lot of care in the overall songs, the setlist, the outfits, and I just can’t get Straylight in Cages with Masks out of my mind. If you asked me 10 years ago that IM@S will have the best seiyuu cyberpunk content I would not have quite believed you. That said, maybe that’s more on me than it is on the rest of you, so a blog post may be coming.
In terms of things to watch personally, MLB is back, which means I will have less time to watch things.
Speaking of which, the two-way monster that is Shohei Otani not only smacked a 450-footer home run in his opening day pitching performance (???) and making him the first AL pitcher to do so since the designated hitter rule being implemented in the 1970s, but also the first Jujutsu Kaisen respecter in the majors with his new walkup song.
And speaking of music in the ballpark, on April 1 in Japan, this tweet, made by a non-Japanese account, made the rounds. While seemingly innocuous in that MAD/AMV/Mashup spirit, I just find it amusing that once JP found the tweet so many of them made references to Shinnosuke Abe.
A long watch this time. The JRA has finally a proper video collaboration with Umamusume. Hitomi Ueda, the voice of Goldship, and Kaori Maeda, the voice of Nice Nature, talks to three Japanese horse racing announcers over teleconference (I guess they were in Tokyo and the JRA folks are in Osaka). Why? This is the fact/sports documentary aspect of Umamusume Season 2 explained. The older chap in the video is Kiyoshi Sugimoto, a legendary Japanese horse racing announcer who has retired. He actually called the Tokai Teio Spring Tennousho race which is also fully reprised in the collab video below.
If you’re interested in the actual race that is the inspiration for the final episode of Umamusume season two, it’s also on Youtube (officially via JRA no less).
Just a note–I might be trying out different newsletter services and providers in the coming weeks. I didn’t mention how I switched last week–which was just using my blog’s own hosting instead of MailChimp. That might be better in the end, but deliverability might not be the best, I don’t know. Thanks to Substack this whole sector is now buzzing with 3rd party providers helping hapless writers do IT, so there are more choices now than before especially for non-marketers.
Feel free to ping me if you have any concerns or are not receiving them. The email this week is going to go out on EmailOctopus. Probably will try something different again next week? I don’t know.
This Past Week
It’s not exactly anime, but the best anime this year is now on Netflix worldwide except a few regions that have separate licensing agreement: PUI PUI MOLECAR.
Tsukihime Remake gets release date: 8/26. Supposedly this will have only Ciel and Arc routes but loaded with new content so it has about as much content as the original game. The new cast is also listed, along with announcement for a new Melty Blood game. Details in link.
The annual report from the AJA is out, covering the year 2019. It does mention COVID but no numbers from the past year. English summary report is worth noting but a bit more rah-rah-go-industry this time than usual.
There were a bunch of news out of Anime Japan, but most of them are newanimeor game tie-in announcements. There were a few stages where the performers sung their newOP/ED live too. Notably Megamiryo… Cosplayer unit doing the songs sure is a thing now! Oh, Netflix is also doing something… but they actually announced a stream to do that at AJ rather at AJ itself. And instead of me delaying this post by recapping AJ news, just read this.
On the Mind
Horses, but the anime. Umamusme Season 2 concluded with a pre-show live stream with a nice cast, and you can catch it on Youtube. The season finale is also magical. It takes home the idea behind transforming horses into people and then telling it like an ESPN 30-for-30 elevates a story with sports, not glorification of cool military gear, problematic political actors, or other things that have a lot of baggage.
Charming dork Azusa Tadokoro has a one-off online concert this weekend! I am looking forward to this a lot.
Japan Online Fes 2021 Spring starts this week weekend and will run also next weekend. Couple Bandori groups, Sayuri, ReoNa, and a lot more on the artist list.
Short read, but sports–Masahiro Tanaka somewhat confirms what happened last year in Florida, as some feared his family were targeted by racists. I guess it’s not personal, but here’s just to say that even voicing FUD have a chilling and negative impact, and it’s reason enough to make loud statements to push back against that kind of stuff even if people may have a right to voice their fear, doubts and uncertainty. A society without sensible self-restraint is a society without nice things, and I want to live in a society full of nice things.
Go watch Season 2 of Umamusume, then read the real thing. (Where’s part 2? I have no idea.)
Thursday I saw this news going around about Japan’s Coca-Cola pass and I’m like, the US have them too, even if it’s different that it is a loyalty program and not a subscription. Of course, since Kotaku is unfamiliar with both Japanese vending machines and Coca-Cola vending passes, a number of mistakes has been made.
WEP episode 10 has a bunch of sakugabros online working on it. Kind of neat. Also the whole transsexual spectrum thing they did with Momoe is quite nice–really stretches the viewers’ notion of what it means to be trans and the definition and ideas that boxed even trans people’s notion of what being trans is. WEP 11 is also a great twist and I hope the series concludes with both feet on the ground.
This was news actually a bit before the article, but Bushiroad did buy out Frontwing. Nothing unsurprising here if you ask me. VN conglomerates have a lot of great IP and as that sector continues to dry up, it present some opportunities. Bushiroad is commercially opportunistic, but as an IP generator I think they are still a step or two behind the actual giants in the industry. So the match makes sense as Bushi continue to fortify on the male-interest side.
On that note, Shiny Colors announced a new unit over the weekend and released the seiyuu on Tuesday, as it has done the last 2 years. Also a month+ of free rolls plus other 3rd anniversary bonuses. The new “other” character Luca Ikaruga isn’t in the new unit but her CV, an Aoni talent, shares a name with a Stardust talent. Just something to know.
On the Mind
The new Shiny Colors unit–one of the two characters is the sister of Hazuki, the assistant/staff of the production office. This is a weird development but also exciting because you don’t know where this is suppose to go. In old times the assistant herself is the idol (or ex-idol in Kotori’s case) but this is a good development generally. The Nanakusa name also seems to suggest we won’t have more than 7 units?
Horses, work, and Shiny Colors feels right. It’s been a busy week trying to do all that, on top of Priconne (in EN does everyone just get their Kyouka for free or what?) and ARMooo grind in Theater Days.
Also–I’ve been using MailChimp but I want to simplify more for this newsletter thing, so I’m trying a few different things. Hopefully nothing different will happen for the readers and handful subscribers out there.
Also, i☆Ris member Azuki Shibuya is graduating at this Sunday and you can watch their last 6-people live here.
A bit out of scope but I’m trying to get the code to watch this Non Non Biyori event. You just need to buy the OP single and the code is inside. There’s some Million Live release event this weekend as well that were postponed from last year, now online–too bad they’re limited to Animate lottery winners.
I stayed up to watch both Shiny Colors 2nd live shows last weekend and am still suffering for it. If I get more tired than I do on the weekdays, on the weekend, it just makes the coming week all the rougher. The problem is even if I sleep in (and I did on Saturday), the following day just gets screwed up due to the time lag. The only option is to wake up “early” on Sunday and suck it up, but invariably I sleep too late to make a full recovery Monday. Anyways, this just means I am almost sure that I’m only releasing this post later in the week so I can make up sleep.
Baked oats–anyone into these? I’m not but am curious… Since the corona lockdown I’ve been cooking a lot, as said, so often time I would google up recipes. Naturally now my Android phone’s google feed thing recommends me weird food trends inspired by the attention economy.
On that note, those Sharp high-end rice cookers are now customized for IDOLM@STER and on sale. They are really expensive, 1 liter capacity, IOT…things. I want one lol. It even has auto-stir feature which means you can cook curry or other stew-y things in it without burning the bottom? Not a pressure cooker though.
The theme song “GIRLS’ LEGEND U” from the game Umamusme Pretty Derby starts with this phrase: やっとみんな会えたね! It translates loosely to “We finally get to see everyone.” Mixed into that is the marching horns and battle cries of the cast in an anthem. It is the banner theme song of the core product in a media-mix property years in the making–partly due to a multi-year delay between the initial release date and the actual release date. It’s really cute that the song tips the hat to the delay. In fact, in a way this song tips a hat to the strange journey of the video game from conception to coming out on our phones, tablets and PCs: Don’t stop until you finish.
But we can farm a lot more out of GIRLS’ LEGEND U than all that. Much more. Woven into the instrumentals are these thematic strings that you can also get a good glimpse in the bridge, as well as different parts of the game as background music. Having the theme song of a thing synchronize musically with the other background pieces of the thing isn’t unusual–it’s rather expected, especially in video games. But also the song itself tells us more up front–really, what I want to write about isn’t the song, but horses.
Umamusme is about horses…girls, of course, but it’s really about horses. Specifically, the legends of horses IRT to horse racing. I would call Umamusme a game about HORSE GIRLS’ LEGEND but the titular song is, instead of HORSE it’s… U for Uma? Umapyoi Densetsu (うまぴょい伝説) is the first theme song for the franchise from 2016 and the title really says more or less the same thing, just more horse than girl.
On paper, the conceit of these alternative character-based franchises (ships, guns, katanas, cities, appliances, etc.) are as database as it gets. You put these things (and animals in our case) in the otaku database machine and create a character story out of it. Bundle a bunch of these and tie it together with a setting and a few themes, and out comes a media franchise.
In that sense, Umamusume is no different. But the big difference that I can see between Umamusume and the garden variety ones out and about, is that Umamusume has been imbued, at least from what I can tell, a spirit that is horse-like. Horses are large, majestic, temperamental and sensitive land mammals. Horses are social, in that they exhibit social behaviors such as pact mentality, dominance, individuality, competitiveness, and others (such as being able to be domesticated). They play and court. It’s easy to translate a particular natural aspect of horses into anime characters, and I see that being a very strong underlying pattern in the Umamusme franchise.
It’s easy to see this in the characterizations of all the horsegirls. It also helps that the “good girl” trope resonate well with the audience–our racing horses all are good horses (and presumably their rights owners wouldn’t allow otherwise). I mean there are so many of them (even just in Japan alone) and the ones that people commemorate enough to put in a video game are already legends themselves. Of course they are good girls. Even if you run into problems like making El Condor Pasa into a she… Doesn’t that break grammar LOL.
Contrast this with, say, things that are based on WWII heroes or weapons of destruction. How do you channel “the military” except only superficially? You can do a lot more when you’re channeling legends about racing horses, it turns out, maybe because it’s not problematic.
And I think this is where Cygames really flexed their muscles. You can directly take what is lovely and endearing about these horses and put them right in the game, down to the way their tails wag or the way their ears twitch. It’s beyond the whole sexual aspect of furry appeal–we are talking about making fiction where you combine the best of what racing horses have to offer with typical otaku tropes. (And including the sex appeal as appropriate, as it never was gone, just not in the fore.)
This to me comes across like all the strings in the instruments throughout the game BGM. Cygames was tasked to make Umamusume a game that conservative Japanese businessmen would gladly sign over their legendary horse brands over to, so I think a certain level of restraint was needed throughout the entire Umamusume experience. The characters (and the cast, FWIW) are still going to do the same rigmarole, the same toe taps and dance routines. Tracen Academy is extremely generic but it does adhere to a classy all-girls school vibe. Symboli Rudolf and Meijiro McQueen can walk down the school yard gracefully, while Vtuber Gold Ship can jump kick the trainer while it happens.
That is the framework that allows things to happen, but what endears us is the individual stories themselves, and how it’s executed. For me, the game taught me the one behind Rice Shower, who was put down during her final race due to injury. It’s sad, sure, but the story in the anime and game makes it a lot more approachable due to the execution and details. The most famous of them all–Haru Urara–only got as popular as she did because of marketing/promotion and production, after all. In a way, Umamusume is the same pitch, but for a lot more horses besides Haru Urara. When these horsegirls channel their named legends, it’s where the magic happens. Even if it’s extremely normal/boring like Special Week, it is still endearing that our mother-loving, Hokkaido born glutton became one of Japan’s best.
Which is all to say, GIRLS’ LEGEND U is a great piece of music, and you can tell by hearing someone playing it on the piano. This is some great composition fit for a sweeping orchestra. Instead we have a bunch of seiyuu grunting calls about winning races. No matter how you cloak it, a good story will shine through–and that’s what Umamusume really is about, putting into character-stories of racing horses, their lives, and their struggles.
PS. There are other finer points to Umamsume Pretty Derby. So far it has largely inherited many of the QOL stuff that I love about Princess Connect! Re:Dive. It being a raising game doesn’t quite translate into how not to make it into the same kind of “menu hell” that JRPGs can be, but I see some small glimpses of hope here as is. It is also kind of time consuming given each raising run takes a good half hour, at least. There are many little touches in the game and in the IP generally that I wish I can highlight but it will make several post at least. Anyways, I’ll end with this video.