(Sticky) Eventing: 2020

[Last updated: Oct 23, 2020]

Last year’s note here, my Eventernote here.

Continue reading

Dig Delight Direct Drive Disc Jockey: First Mix: Hopes

What is there to say about D4DJ’s TV anime? My approach to this is multi-fold. And personal, as my usual style…

Continue reading

TV Anime Thoughts: 2020 Autumn

Just freestyling about in and on a particular Autumn afternoon. A lot of shows I won’t mention despite that I am still watching them, and some I don’t watch might get mentioned.

Is this season good? I think so–Corona has done a number to a bunch of shows this year, so even these low-budget-feeling programs like The Boy Who Loves Slimes and Standing on a Million Lives anime with Lantis OP/ED but actually Isekai are surprisingly good Entries. Actually The 1M anime is worth a deeper look. It’s probably the most overflowing-with-kindness take on a pretty deep introspective subject, not to mention it’s one of the weird isekai anime that has a non-isekai slant that isn’t someone logging into an online game. Except it kind of is someone logging into an online game. Anyways, it’s odd and unique. Ever think about the Great Filter? This is getting to that.

Boy Who Loves Slimes, or By The Grace of the Gods, is like a male-centric take on the healing isekai subgenre. Kamihiro is basically a lot messy and clumsy take compared Iguchi Yuka’s little Myne (Main?) from Ascendance of a Bookworm. Koroazu is serviceable here (I guess it is hard to play a child who used to be a worn-out salaryman) but way less spirited than Moroha from the Inuyasha full-blown sequel. I mean this is how you do a proper franchise reboot. I kind of didn’t bother with the original Inuyasha but I am enjoying the Yashahime anime quite a lot. Maybe it helps that there isn’t this Fushigi Yuugi template it tried to walk on. Thinking back it is really hard to like a series when you don’t really care for the two main characters.

The new formula is also breathing life on Major 2nd. Major is one of those popular baseball manga/anime that I would never like despite it being a popular (in Japan anyways) baseball story. Because it is the most hollow, pointless baseball story that manga-fying everything came to represent. Like, you can (and people have) create a manga about just about anything, including various sports and even more mundane or weird stuff. However Major 2nd is not like Major at all in my estimates. It actually respects the sport instead of bending it for the services of its characters.

The other interesting thing about Major 2nd is the whole male-female physical development thing and how puberty is a weird time for athletes trying to compete, to say the least. Like, talk about a topic that isn’t represented much in anime. But this is great. This is the wholesome afterschool TV program that I crave, not that I care particularly about this one item, but the way Major 2nd pivoted completely from its diehard post-reconstruction rhetoric to something people would actually care about in the 21st century is a good study at any rate. In that it actually cares about its authenticity. If you are going to be a story about something extremely real, ie., baseball that everyday kids can play in school, it really helps to also be extremely real in the portrayal. At least, as translated into the medium.

This is also a thematic issue that I’ve seen in recent years. A lot of original TV anime programs fail to capture viewers despite being very interesting. I think two great picks here are Deca-dence and Listeners. But on the flip side you look at (really dumb) serial works turning into anime, they tend to have more of a pull. Major 2nd is good, to something more bling-y like Jujitsun Kaisen, or genre-changing to the likes of Tower of God anime. I think that other Korean cartoon adaptation is the epitome of this–God of Highschool is basically everything nobody cares about but would gladly turn off the brain and watch. It’s like, maybe something to fill the gap between Kengan Ashura adaptations (now that is a fun fighting “anime”).

(For a point of contrast, compare God of Highschool with Akudama Drive (an anime original), man, the difference is clear.)

Is it just that, having the first editorial and publishing go-around culls the silly stories that you’ve seen from top creators? Tomino needed G-reco TV to make the G-reco films, I guess.

There may be some types of works in which we can be easier on. Wandering Witch provides that once-a-year kind of experience, where you can also shut off the brain to enjoy some thought-provoking fable chill-vibes. In this particular case the stories don’t cut as deep as, say, Kino’s, but it is also somewhat positive. It’s like social media is full of luls, but people end up being more glam and positive than they typically are, just because it’s good for engagement. In other words: We live in a society. Indeed those works engage us from that side of life.

The pure-pure fantasy side of life is good this year too. Media-mix projects (original anime works, let’s not forget) like Sigururi and Assault Lily are bringing the heat and excitement, or as much as you can get with a bunch of girls. Sigururi is particularly noteworthy because it reminds me of Garupan without all the problematic stuff you get from, say, another season of Strike Witches.

Well, Road to Berlin is fine. I enjoy it and every girl is great in that show. It’s just a bit tiresome after so many years? Maybe my tastes have evolved since then–between Kancolle, Azure Lane, and the barrage of similar bin of things in this very niche. It’s not like “isekai” where a whole world of themes can be explored…literally. Strike Witches first aired in 2007, that is a long run for a limited set of themes!

(As an aside, the gay formula in all these Bushifam works and others just reminds me of Golden Kamui which resumes this season but it gets even gayer than before. In some sense these shows all follow the same formula? I guess even Aachi & Shimamura.)

Other media-mix original anime works also seemed to hit their stride this season for me. A big, big one is D4DJ First Mix. I should write about this separately. The third Bushi-fam-linked-work in anime for this season is NijiGaku anime, and that one is also turning out way better than its predecessors. On that note, even Ochifuru is a lot of fun and I’m enjoying this collective of personas. Drop Out Idol Fruit Tart is a bit like a wonky 00s show but with updated and modern sensibilities. The cast is interesting too, with the cross section of interesting new seiyuu-idol talents.

If there was a miss among all the big gun media mix shows this season, I would say that is going to be HypMic. But even as it stands, it’s serviceable enough and fun to watch. I guess it helps to explain the characters to people who are not neck deep in that fandom, despite the songs were so hype 18-24 months ago. And yes, it can be really CRINGE. But that isn’t anything we didn’t know going in from the very start.

That and Dai no Daibouken are the two shows that I didn’t expect to enjoy this season, but ended up following them beyond 3. It feels like Cygames really should learn from Dai no Daibouken in terms of how to create a compelling RPG story that is between all the Rage of Bahamut things they made (see above regarding interesting original stories that failed) and The Grand Blues which I support as an anime series purely on the Teekyuu Principle but it is the most extravagant waste of time and resource I’ve seen lately. At least the Cingekis and whatever Bushiroad made can serve on its face. This is utterly worthless for non-players and except eccentrics like myself.

Actually, the problem is pretty clear once you’ve taken a moment to think about it–Granblue and Cygames in general spends way too much time grandstanding on their own junk. Maybe it’s kind of atmospheric, but this is kind of a shell game that isn’t selling to people who were not already buying.

I really enjoyed the One Rooms this season so far. I really miss this particular version of Rietion, and that Tomita Miyu act is quite enticing.

The dogeza anime is amusing enough, once you remember it used to be shittweets and now it’s an anime short. But I think the Joy of Sugita Tomokazu can be better found in Sigururi because they’re their own unit there. I mean, Sigururi E4…

It’s a funny coincidence that we got Iwakakeru anime this season, which just reminds me of this. That said, the rock climbing JK team is compelling because it’s something I don’t know about (competitive bouldering in Japan) and the main girl is interesting. That it is over the top is OK, keeps things fresh I guess, but the other characters seems really oddball and maybe the tone of story has to play into it, which makes it also oddish and over the top.

If thinking about adaptation gets this rant to this point, the one main counterpoint this season is Tonikawa. It is also kind of a cringe show but if the entire original story is a mental gymnastic trick, what does the anime have left to do? That said, I liked the OP a lot (possibly my pick this season while Jujitsu gets the ED) and, well, the source content is solid. If I had a nitpick it would be just Akarin’s version of Tsukasa is not a great fit in my opinion. She does a fine job here, that said.

A fitting way to end this post is thinking about the Maeda Jun anime this season–it isn’t that frequently we get a show of this heritage or caliber. It’s decidedly less grim than Charlotte, but way more compelling already. I think that might be due to the animation and direction being really spot on? The timing works. The characterization works (especially on the supporting cast), that the low-key skit nature of the dialog between characters work. The Day I Became a God is probably both in the running for a late-inning comeback homerun, or forgotten to the test of time like other interesting, well-made, original anime TV series. That in itself is kind of exciting.

If there is a thing about finesse in telling a story via animation, this year showed it to us what it means. It’s hard!

Seiyuu Work: M

I read this and I’m like, either this brain is too small or it’s just not how it works. However I appreciate this point of view, focused on the male voice actor side of things.

But to look for – in a prospective seiyuu – qualities way far from what being a seiyuu entails, already tells us how the industry has shifted to the point that talent agencies believe that only seiyuu with good looks, that can sing and act are the ones that will be successful in the future. [emphasis removed]

What they are forgetting is that most of these seiyuu, unfortunately, will not survive the industry unless they are extremely lucky.

With the seiyuu rankings, the abuse and manipulation in the seiyuu industry that lead to some – unworthy seiyuu – to rise quickly in the ranks and snatch roles from talented voice actors that didn’t even had a chance due to rigged auditions – in which power plays and favoritism end up deciding most of the main cast in anime series – it is hard for seiyuu to thrive.

Is this fanon leaking? I don’t know…

Based on the handful of older seiyuu who’s given talks in the States, seiyuu industry started out as actors and actor-like talents getting into dubbing. Eventually specialized talents called seiyuu became a thing and really blew up in the 90s–and in a lot of ways the requirement for this is just a specialized actor with additional training/education.

The fact that a lot of the popular male seiyuu nowadays climb the entertainment industry ladder by leveraging fan fame because of their solo activity is pretty much textbook entertainment industry stuff. To me this is more of an indictment that you can’t grow your career purely on voice acting, especially if you are expected to be the primary financial provider in your family. There are only so many ways to monetize fame (traditionally, anyways), and if you make it long enough to be a veteran, there are only so many ways to you can continue the career outside of regular dub roles, such as being a teacher or write a book. I can see a lot of older female seiyuu working mostly just behind the scenes while married with children, because that option is open to them and they don’t have to bust their butts making a buck. I am not sure if I can see any successful men doing this short of the rare SuzuKens (who probably make as much as his wife actually) out there.

So it isn’t seiyuu are becoming like tarento–they are actors to begin with, and it is just like how things were many years ago. Just like how actors sometimes also show up in variety shows and whatever, except they don’t have to as much because they are paid a lot more doing acting on popular TV shows and films.

Yes, seiyuu have to do tarento things because voiceover alone doesn’t pay much, and it’s hard enough to get regular roles in a super competitive field. Even if you make it, it doesn’t really pay until much later, which means you have to “keep” making it, or expand the zone to get into other things like all other types of acting, music and general purpose entertainment. Plus, doing all these jobs open doors that might not otherwise be there.

It’s probably super important to highlight what makes a seiyuu a seiyuu–a set of specialized skills reflected in a seiyuu’s ability to create a character voice or a narration voice based on the customer’s needs. It is not something that is that easily done, and like acting there are different ways or styles (schools of thought) to accomplish this, which is going to also impact how seiyuu work with ADR people, directors, and other people running the project. This is the skill set that made seiyuu a distinct profession, which is not something the average generic JP geijokai tarento will have. In fact most people don’t have it. While any actor can probably do a dub, working with actors and specialized seiyuu are different, and it is something sound directors can figure out–still, directors would want seasoned veterans over people who are not experienced at voicing, no matter if they are tarento or not. That’s why they cost more.

On that note, the other major problem on that article (and the writer) is on “rank” because, again, ranking is not some controversial fandumb. It’s kind of boring. Voice acting in Japan is largely unionized work in which the major agencies agree on a set of pay scale, and industry-wide most agencies follow suit. Internally, each agency have varying systems on ranking their new hires and paying (and charging) out, and rank advancement. There are cases when a seiyuu’s career facilitates going freelance once it reaches a certain point. Different agencies have different priorities in terms of talent management (family friendly work vs. eroge, for example; or voice work versus general purpose versus seiyuu idol). Some agencies don’t do the ordinary cut until you are at high rank and is flat rate until then, etc. It can vary a lot.

Having followed IM@S over the years, it’s a good case study. Every time a new branch launches (although I’m not sure who is that for CG) some seiyuu gets on board as their first role. For example, Eriko Nakamura, Asami Shimoda and Manami Numakura. You can see what happened to them, and wonder as I do why Eriko isn’t married yet? Good for her. But those 3 are still doing well enough to stick with Arts Vision, which is still one of the largest seiyuu agency out there.

If you look at Million Live, there are now a handful of freelancers who have left the mothership, the latest being Asuka Kakumoto. Given it’s been over 7 years that these talents have been with the company, their future careers are well realized at this point. The three Spacecraft Millions each have achieved some degree of success, although arguably none of them are successful; at the same time, being able to participate in a project that do not have an ending in sight and is already relatively popular is a silver bowl of sorts, it is an auto-win.

Which is just to say, with the Million Live anime on the horizon does this mean Asuka gets to keep more of her gyara? Is it because of some internal rank issue? I have no idea, but these do play a role for someone who doesn’t have a lot of jobs otherwise.

More commonly, freelancing is a thing that happens when you think your career has either plateaued or you have a spat with management. Mostly the former. My hunch is also that managers are really in short supply, especially skilled and well-connected ones that can really develop talent. What happens when the manager that helped you out in your first 4 years gets bogged down with newbies and you think the agency isn’t going to help you much more, and you are ready to take on some administrative work to earn back some fees that otherwise goes to management? Again, there is already a pay scale for major work, and freelancing gives flexibility to let you take on smaller jobs or jobs that your agency would not have accepted, it’s not a bad option for established talents.

Deca-Dence’s Early Landing

The Deca-Dence twist was great, so why had I stopped caring by the end?

There is a simple answer to this question. It turned a movie-type plot into an anime series. In a way I applaud the Scamp summarizing the problem into a sentence, but it doesn’t quite unpack the full issue. Deca-Dence spoilers ahoy.

I too thought Dece-dence was a fun show that is quite compelling maybe up to the point where the plan was put together to blow up the monster farm. The narrative has already taken a split between POV of Heybot Kaburagi and POV of Natsume. In as much as the humans in the show are just there, or maybe better put, victims, Natsume gets relegated to that role which gave the beating heart of the story a bit too much emotional distance.

This means Kaburagi’s side of the story has to tag team, and frankly this Heybot-invoking story just doesn’t have the intrigue to carry the intensity the same way that Natsume-could-literally-just-die-any-time, while surf-spearing alien-looking bugs. In a way, the Heybot gimmick worked against it when you have this contrast and it isn’t consistently played for interest, as the second half of the story was mostly in Heybot-POV.

Which is to say, the final boss critter was a powerful monster but was way less fearsome than the doomed-to-fail-but-not mid-series mission where the game devs planned to kill off the over-accomplishing players and humans. Deca-dence was never a game in the first place, by playing up the game aspect, the story has emotionally cheapened its core asset.

Which is also another way to say, the story while had enough gas to go all the way, it was probably too introspective too quickly. The gimmick had to survive 12 episodes (roughly 240-250 minutes if you take out repeated parts), which is probably 120 minutes too long all said and done.

NijiGaku Anime Visits My (Not So) Familiar Digs

Been somewhat enjoying the new Love Live anime this season. My take is not far from this take.

Let’s discuss the real-life locale aspect. Odaiba is this funky east-Tokyo zone with big shopping malls and other leisure complexes. This planned community is not that … community-y and most people go there to enjoy the sea breeze and the wide open park spaces, among the eats and shopping nearby. Zepp Tokyo and Zepp Diver City are the bookmarked ends of this zone for me, although I did walk around past both at least once.

I just find it tiresome that everyone wants to point out the stuff in Big Site’s central/west halls because it is the inside of the school, but that part is the dumb nerd part. I was more stoked about, in last week’s episode, the car museum inside Venus Fort, than anything thus far.

I mean, I get why people like to talk about Big Site because that’s their only reason of being in Odaiba as I am no different: Having spent hours and hours inside Venus Fort myself to attend events and waiting for people around the various Zepps is the only reason why I was there anyway. Having to go to Diver City to find food so I can survive a full day of eventing is not how I’d like to enjoy it. Like, I want to visit the Noitamina Store for once. I walked the whole stretch between the two Zepps, which is pretty nice, when the weather cooperates. And I’ve seen those food vendors. The big ferris wheel is great place to take bocchi selfies, but not at night.

Besides the (missing) Gundam outside Zepp Diver City, that entire area can be an outdoor stage for concerts and idol festivals. TIF is famously held there, plus other idol events. Other famous tourist things including riding the Himiko into Odaiba. It’s a great way to get a short night cruise when the weather might not be the most cooperating.

Which is just to say, if all you know of Odaiba is from Comiket, you really don’t know Odaiba. For one, Big Site is on the Ariake side, and it’s more residential/business. Second, there are a bunch of smaller event spaces in that the vicinity towards the Gundam. Setsuna performing on the steps outside Diver City is sacred idol territory being used by an idol. It goes on. Watching TIF earlier this year will give you a rooftop view of Odaiba’s skyline, much like what NijiGaku is trying to do at times (and will further invoke in the future).

Odaiba is wota territory, thin-book nerds from overseas probably should take note.

PS. On the anime itself, I think it is good. Only if Sunshine was like this I might actually love Aqours. It is also four years too late. In a post-Shinymas world this take on school idols is refreshing but only because the discourse is both divorced from that PreCure/Aikatsu/PriPara context yet it is dragging this otaku-centric franchise one leg into that public-friendly kiddy pool. I think it’s fun and fine, but it is one generation too slow to capture my imagination.