Omonomono Newsletter

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 It’s not like my unpublished draft count is going down… Only a portion of what I write is gets published in the end, no matter how stream-of-conscious the rambling gets.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.

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Million Live Theater Days Closet, Round 2

Just want to talk about the now-ongoing voting for the next round of outfit SR cards for Theater Days. Happy Christmas, New Years, and cheers to another day commemorating the late civil rights leader.

Million Live Closet Reburn logo

For background and recap, the mobile-rhythm-idol-gacha game IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE: Theater Days (MLTD hence) has an election where players can earn ballots and vote for one of the 5 choices of outfits to be available (in gacha, but at least it’s not impossible to get for free) to be implemented in game later on. The second election has started today featuring the same 5 outfit choices from last election in 2019. Like last time, the voting is separated by each idol, but the choices are the same: a spring “one-piece” dress, a “china outfit” dress, some kind of swimsuit, a waitress or “maid” outfit, and whatever “sexy spy” meant. Spirited debate between players did occur in 2019 and will occur again, although every character now only as 4 choices as 1 of them have been implemented. Overall it took about a year for everyone’s Closet SR to be added to the game, although some were faster than others. It took about another year for the Closet cards to be added to the medal pool (free to play pool). There has been like 3 support tickets since in which you could have picked it up, so I don’t think it’s particularly egregious, given that the voting itself is part of the fun.

Unlike 2019’s election, we now actually know what the outfits look like and what the card art looks like, as well as the gist of the commu you get from pulling the card. This has further lowered the stakes of the Closet voting “game,” but the long wait time since 2019 means there’s still some significant incentive for Producers to rally up behind their ideal outfits. To me, a core aspect of IDOLM@STER game series is collecting the various outfits, so this event keeps being relevant to many players, yet still in a way that is “gloves on” versus, say, the annual Cinderella Elections. No P loses out on anything important in the end.

Thanks to Fleur from one of the MLTD discords I can read some tea leaves after the initial hours of voting, and give my own opinions on all of them. I will also highlight some meta undercurrents, as they say. This is super early impressions, so things will change!

The 2019 election breakdown was:
Spring One-Piece: 14
China Dress: 21
Swimsuit: 2
Maid“: 10
Spy: 5

For one, there were some close battles from the first election that will leave the losing team seek re-election. I think most of them will end up winning, especially the second place outfits that were, as I put it, “on the right side of history.” Not every character’s Spring Dress or China Outfit looked good, I think that’s the big lesson learned. Only two idols selected the swimsuit, and waitress was significantly under-elected given people didn’t know what it really was. Both of those outfit categories can run a wide range, but now we know what they are. That being said, I’m still not sure if anyone else would look as good in that specific swimsuit as Karen.

To sum it up, though, the overall trend this year will be Maid versus One Piece. This would be the default template to break out of, whatever the P-hiveminds decide for each idol. Part of it is the aforementioned dynamics from 2019, but part of it is just math, as the possible choices are reduced.

I will walk the rest through one by one, with my favorite pick for each, plus what I project the eventual winner is using the very limited, unreliable, current data. Disclaimer: this is extremely preliminary data from less than a day’s worth of voting. Things will definitely change for some of these, especially ones projecting for One Piece dress.

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Tea Review: Kimikura’s Himekura from Yuru Camp

Do you ever just want to sit back and relax to a cup of tea? That’s how I feel these days with the holidays with the latest COVID wave and with all the things happening to wrap up the year at work.

To do that, I popped open a bag of Himekura. So here it is, a tea review, just in time for the Winter Solstice.

Himekura is the collaboration tea between Shizuoka tea maker Kimikura and Laid-back Camp. You can find more about this product tie up here. As of this writing, I think they discontinued this product, so I don’t know if you can still purchase it anywhere. The Kimikura online store doesn’t even link to the product anymore. But what’s on the internet stays on the internet, so go to the link there to see some more PR for the tea when it was announced earlier this year.

Let’s do a bit of Sencha 101 first. Sencha is Japanese green tea leaves (ryokucha) that is either steamed or boiled so that it stops fermenting after the tea leaves are harvested. Then it is dried and processed similar to garden variety tea. Unlike Matcha, sencha is consumed like typical green tea in rest of Asia–steep the finished product in hot water (~175F) for a bit, and drink. Japanese people drink sencha as a matter of course. Matcha is fancyass stuff reserved for those cultural moments, or increasingly, in confectionary and cooking.

Himekura is fukamushi style sencha that has been aged over one summer. Fukamushi sencha is steamed for “a long time” as opposed to typical asamushi sencha. We’re talking about 90-120 seconds for fukamushi versus 30 seconds for asamushi. Also, of course, fukamushi sencha is something that originated from Shizuoka, so of course the collab tea is fukamushi. Typical sencha are steamed and retains more of its bitter profile. You can read this for more info (which is what I have paraphrased). In this case, it’s aged in addition before roasting, all of which will take the edge off your typical sencha and it will yield a milder tea.

Fukamushi sencha has a soup-like quality, it is smooth and milder than normal sencha (such as what’s inside an Itoen tea bag). Once you add the aging, the result Himekura tea makes for a mild and sweet front profile with the deeper sencha taste that follows. As the tea cools, the sweetness yields a bit to a fuller-body taste that typifies the familiar sencha experience. It’s actually quite rare to have a sweet tasting tea that is purely just tea leaves (sans any additives), so that is nice.

The overall effect is that it is calming and soothing. It is Rin-right-on-the-bag feel. It’s perfect right now. As an aside I even fell asleep during my very first cup of Himekura, so I wager it works.

At about 1480 yen per package, and each pack containing 15 tea bags, it’s not even that expensive considering the boutique nature of this product, or that it is licensed character goods. Then again, I’m well aware that high quality tea can be in the hundreds of dollars per pound–at 2.5g x 15 we’re saying this tea is almost 40000 JPY per kilo. Well, it does come bagged. I think this is still in line with that this is a tea drinker’s tea ultimately. I don’t think it will be a crowd pleaser, unless you whip it out at the right time.

As typical with sencha, especially deeply steamed sencha, it sort of disintegrates during the roasting process. Basically this means a lot of tea marries into the hot water while it is steeping. Having a short steep time is important as well as getting the temp right (which is always important). The packaging says 30 seconds at 80C or 176F (my kettle has a button for 175F, which is typically the temp for green teas), and yeah, it works.

Tea is something humans have imbibed for many millenniums, and it’s good to know that there exists anime collab teas that actually kicks me in the right spot, as an East Asian tea snob. The last time I got anime tea, it was really punchy, umami-forward sencha and it was a tough sell for my not-quite-everyday-Japanese palate. Think of it as “morning tea” versus “vibing in winter camping” tea, I guess.

You can read up on this collab and Kimikura here. The Shizuoka tea shop sells all kinds of stuff online, including other teas that are pretty similar to Himekura I think, so it’s worth a jab if you are into exploring regional Japanese teas.

Goodbye, Sayaka

Actress and singer Sayaka Kanda was found dead on Dec. 18 at the hotel she was staying at in Sapporo. The circumstances as far as I am aware of come down to these two articles. Since it is an ongoing investigation, I’ll refrain from inferring from the fairly well-known set of circumstances surrounding her. It’s kind of on brand that ANN just namedrops Sayaka’s parents without any footnote–Seiko Matsuda is one of the most popular Japanese idol ever, and Sayaka’s relationship with her star-lit parents had been turbulent (and public). But first, I want to extend my condolences to her family and all her friends, colleagues, and fans…especially the fans of her characters. Well, as one of those, I’m writing this to cope, partly.

Sayaka Kanda was a geinokai royalty, who most recently got on my radar from her work in Idoly Pride. Recently she was on a live stream to celebrate Mana’s birthday–the “ghost” character who were later on implemented into the mobile game. It’s not the first time I’ve seen or known her, but as I don’t follow Sayaka’s musical roles, it’s the first time I’ve seen her perform in character as such. Well, yes, also Idoly Pride staff put her name on the little chocolate name plaque on Mana’s birthday cake, because she was Sayaka Kanda, she was somebody?

It turns out Sayaka played a lot of roles in other pop culture notables even before 2021. Her biggest role might had been Frozen’s Anna in the Japanese dub, but she nerded out in Danganronpa, who she provided a character voice to as well as sang a song for as TRUSTRICK. Like others of her age, she was into vocaloids, which you can see her covers on her Youtube channel. Her music career went along these routes, probably because she had an affinity to it?

Needless to say, Sayaka was a talented, multi-role sort of a performer. But, the reality is, does it matter? Personally, I am emotionally hit by waking up to this news today–a tragedy that a popular 35-year-old dying is bad enough, but that she played a character I like in Idoly Pride means this character fundamentally will now also be impacted. It’s a reminder when people passes away, it creates a figurative hole in the world bigger than the size of that person’s direct impact. All of this hit on me is for an IP that’s almost a year old. It only took a year for me to attach so strongly to someone who plays a character I like. It’s really about the distance in your head, and there are few ways to shrink that faster than doing that idol routine.

I’m not sure if I can still play or look at Idoly Pride the same way. I don’t know how the cast feel about Sayaka’s passing, but I hope the best for them. As a fan and player I just hope the management of the game do her contribution justice and do so respectfully.

Me? I’ll probably continue to put off that newsletter, LOL. I have some post ideas lined up and I just want to throw them up as soon as I can.

Cowboy Bebop, Again

I’m not too interested in the actual thing that is Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, aside from some technical aspects–the music, the Japanese dub (which I don’t get in the US), and the overall reception. To me Cowboy Bebop is like the Civil War–it’s all done in the past. You still see the occasional Confederate flag, and kids learn about it in Youtube videos, but that’s pretty much it.

However what’s never done is the Spirit. And I’m all for the Spirit of Cowboy Bebop to descend onto the popular discourse yet again, and this time with the largest crowd it ever had. I still remember seeing Watanabe at BAAF talking about The Movie and how if it made a million bux in the North American Box Office they will make more. A million USD is about one and a half million USD 20 years later, adjusted for inflation, so that’s a tiny fraction of what Netflix spent, which is still not a lot versus other TV remakes today.

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Omonomono Newsletter, November 17 Update

Wow I didn’t update my blog for like, a month. I did get a lot of rest that I promptly had to “use up” though LOL.

Sign up for these as emails here.

Omonomono Newsletter, 2021-11-17

I’ll save the personal updates later in the relevant section, but I’m mostly back to your regular operating schedule. A lot of minor-ish interruptions did happen since I last wrote but, anyways.

Just as a note on COVID in Japan, but the vax rate is over 75%, and as of this writing, the highest among G7 countries. Helps when the biggest nerd event requires it basically.

That Erii Yamazaki music video is 4k. But hmm.

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