Saturday, December 26, 2009
Hello Otaku readers, and others who shall not be named.
So CNN Go has run this “rise and fall” style list about anime as a viable contributor to popular entertainment. Notice I use the word “contributor” and not “product.” This is because this article glosses over any actual business or strategy issues which had to do with the stated outcome, and only puts emphasis on the cultural fan aspects of the back and forth between Japan and the rest of the world which always has a certain color tint to it in terms of which land mass you’re standing on. This is not to say that emphasis on the “fandom” aspects of pop culture development and distributive interpolation between otaku japonica and the rest of the world is misplaced, but rather is only one half of the delicious black and white cookie that is the anime universe we all seem to share space in… in one form or another.
In particular, it was point for year 2005, on the early shift of the style of commercial anime being made that had me raising the out of bounds flag. Not that it’s wrong in describing what happened, but it leaves out the necessary “why.” The “Densha Otoko” thing is something that seems to be a likely source of directional change if we apply a Hollywood style trend-chasing idiot flash in the pan mentality to the Japanese entertainment industry. But that’s not really how it works, one need only compare that popular anime with the hero with the yellow hair who wears orange and must increase his fighting ability under the tutelage of great masters in order to defeat his black haired blue wearing nemesis who has evil powers to save the girl he likes… no not that yellow haired orange clad fighter, the other one. The Japanese entertainment business is a business, and a Japanese business at that, meaning that Japanese business sensibilities are going to be what steers the wheel here and Japanese business sensibilities are quite the opposite from trend chasing, and much more in the “stick with what works” camp. Just look at how long the LDP was running things? (The "stick with what we think works" strategy at least)
Well then what’s with the change in focus? The answer is two fold. First; there really wasn’t a massive shift in the type of content being produced, only in how much of it was being dumped into the U.S. market, and second; the reason is YOU. Yes American otaku, I hate to do the bubble bursting again, (you've heard it here before) but you are NOT part of the anime market. Your existence means next to nothing to most IP producers here in Japan, and yet you keep thinking that somehow the fact that there is such a strong fandom in the U.S. has some sort of bearing on what happens in the boardrooms of Bandai or Pony Canyon or whoever is bankrolling the next project. Well at the risk of alienating any more American otaku, let me just say that you mean nothing to the anime industry and it’s your own damned fault. Why you may ask? Because you’re not profitable in the least. The American market has simply sucked up content at an astounding rate, without providing any net present value for the companies that outlay cash to produce them. It’s folly for me to think that I could actually convince some anime fan that in early 2008, watching fansubbed episodes of Gurren Lagann and then cosplaying as Kamina or Bachika is really an insult to Gainax and other Japanese companies, but believe me, that’s what it is and that’s what those companies feel with a high degree of impact. Here they are having made this product, ready to license it to the U.S., and you are in their face saying “I’ve already seen it and so don’t need to pay you or your licensee anything… thanks for the free show.”
So in short, the reason that anime has become so very Japanese-centric is because anime is Japanese, and only the domestic audience provides these companies with significant revenue (revenue as opposed to profits… revenue is what you use to pay your staff and keep the lights on). America in this instance, save for a few properties and Puffy Ami Yumi, is more or less worthless, since none of what the fans do in their media consumptions benefits the actual producers in the slightest. If the U.S. market could actually earn money, then you bet these producers would care about appealing to it. But since American fandom seems intent on pissing on the hard work of Japan, by watching fansubs and de-valuing licenses before they can ever be capitalized (like I have said before, if the core audience watches the title online before a broadcast license is in place, then that potential license becomes worthless since the core audience has already seen the piece and so any station airing it can not guarantee advertisers that a certain amount of people will watch, making that property worthless), then it will be a long time before Japan cares what works in the U.S.
The reason anime is declining in general even in its domestic market, is because the Japanese market itself isn’t what used to be. There are a few reasons for that, like JPY stagflation, prohibitive costs, change in lifestyle of the average Japanese citizen, but the main reason is the age-bulge. I’ve gone into this before, but the basic reality of it is that a ridiculously percentage of Japanese are now over 60, and it will just keep going up for a while. You know what people over 60 don’t do? Watch anime (except for Sazae-san, which I’m sure you’ve never heard of), and they don’t really buy manga either. They travel Japan, play golf if they’re able, and watch cooking shows and the “Go” channel (yes, there’s an entire cable channel dedicated to people playing that game). So much of the anime produced is for the outnumbered Japanese youth that see nothing but the bleakest of bleak economic futures where they will have to work to support mom, dad, grandma & grandpa x2, and god forbid any kids they might have… From SaiKano to Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 the future sucks if you’re under 30… or 40 for that matter, and a massive cataclysm might just make your life easier if you actually live through it.
Each generation has something that speaks for it. The fact is, that in the U.S. at the time, anime spoke for huge chunks of Gen X and Gen Y mostly because it simply was not the Hanna-Barbera Americanized crap that the baby boomers seemed to think would last forever. Not because anime had some universal appeal outside of Japanese cultural sensibilities. Akira was simply “cool” in the U.S. because it had very high quality animation, cool motor-cycles, and all kinds of action (like when that guy got shot a whole lot and there was blood everywhere… dude yeah… heh cool). The socio-political themes of late 1980’s Japan were completely lost on American audiences, but they were in Akira none the less. This is s symptom of anime that would last a decade, with each culture superimposing it’s own experiences and identities onto a medium which (at that time) lent itself so easily to that activity by having character designs and settings that were so ethnically and culturally ambiguous as to not give the slightest pause to totally immersing oneself into the story. That’s either not possible or necessary now, and the Hot-Topic Twilight crowd now seems to be where merchandisers and licensors want to go… leaving celluloid gravestones in their wake.
And now for something not so completely different:
Warning: Otaku-Fandom rant to be forthcoming.
Real anime fans out there, yes that includes even you weaboos, should be worried about this. The reason is that the Darwinian wheel of fandom spares nothing that shows weakness. Fringes of abhorrent behaviors of human society will always try to climb on board the weakest platforms of popular culture. One of the major casualties that we can look back on which has happened recently is the anthro or “furry” fandom. Here’s a fandom which, in the 1980’s was just another indie comic genre that had everything going for it. Now, it’s associated with everything from skunk fuckers to pedo-freaks. Anime is showing some dangerous cracks in the façade where this kind of thing is going to sneak in and ruin it for the rest of us. Much as I often agree with the guys over at Santoku Complex in defending fictional depictions of anything ever (since it’s fiction, so that’s that) I believe there IS a line that can’t be crossed.
For example, horror movie fans can watch whatever kind of slasher, chainsaw dismemberment movie they wish to, because it’s a movie, but putting that notion into practice, is not a good thing. So although I am a very staunch supporter of the rights of the individual to consume drawn/animated/CGI artwork of anything they choose, I have to draw the line when the type of people who advocate putting that into real practice jump on the fandom bandwagon proclaiming it as a manifestation of lifestyle. No. No no no. People who support the freedom of expression and common sense notions of a drawing being a drawing have to stop at some point when it comes to giving the inch that would become a mile to the actual pedos out there. The whole “Freedom-tan” notion and the organization behind it are an example of something that crosses the line, just a little. The reason is, that the reason they defend such properties is because they obviously believe in putting such notions into practice. No, not everyone there does... probably not even half the people there do, but there's going to be that 10% which is going to paint the other 90% in that light. To have this associated with Japanese pop-culture, is an insult and a serious problem when it comes to having anime and other japanese pop culture products being taken seriously as a commercial product.
First: no, you’re not Japanese, don’t think that adding “tan” to the end of your mascot/slogan/mission statement/whatever, gives you an insight into actual Japanese sensibilities. You don’t live in Japan, and by doing this you're really not gonna make many friends there because believe it or not, while tolerated, this kind of thing is regarded as more or less creepy, because you're never sure if these guys are gonna take that fandom one step too far into real life.
Second: The basic ideas of freedom here, is to allow for freedom of expression, such as those within the Constitution of the United States of America. While noble, this is by no means universal, and may not apply to you in the same way or at all, since you have a monarch on your money (UK, Canada, Australia, NZ ), or might be living down the street from a monarch like in Tokyo, Thailand, or Brunei. I can't fucking stand when some retarded American starts jumping up and down about "constitutional rights" when they're in another country... They don't apply you dumbass, and this attempt to superimpose them onto other countries with different cultural sensibilities and (more importantly) different laws based on those sensibilities, is the dictionary definition of "stupid American."
Third: While it is deplorable that someone would be prosecuted for having fictional depictions of anything which in practice is illegal (such as murder, terrorism, drug use, underage sex, dog-fighting, dolphin BBQ, etc) having actual film of that criminal act being committed, is simply having evidence of a crime that has been committed, and that leads straight to legal gray areas of all sorts. If you were trading real snuff films it might be the same.
I could go on forever, but the basic premise here is that anime fans had fought long and hard against mainstream media to make sure that commercial markets did not associate the genre with nothing but sex and violence. We succeeded and anime become (albeit an unsustainable) genre of entertainment. Now, that anime is showing weakness as a commercial property, pedophiles and skunk-fuckers are jumping all over small bits of the darkest depths of doujin manga and 2am anime and calling attention to it as if it was a validation of their genuine desire to have sex with 8 year olds. So far, the only defense against this kind of infiltration has been to make the genre profitable, creating a large group capable of drowning out these pedos so that they would go somewhere else. Now that anime is losing money, they’ve come in like a hoard of locusts to claim anime as some sort of champion of a pedophiliac lifestyle that should be accepted because they say so. That’s like an axe murderer asking for an acquittal because he genuinely “felt like” hacking someone to death and that desire is part of his personality that you shouldn’t impede. No sir, I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. However I may not agree with your philosophy of action and I will fight to the death should you attempt to practice such action on me... and my own freedom-tan will be right there with me.
If anyone out there has read the Japanese story of 蜘蛛の糸 (The Spider’s Thread... a good read if you're studying Japanese, not too much kanji) this is the situation anime fandom is in. We are climbing up a thread, up to a level where we can exist as a viable industry. On the thread up which we climb, come hoards of the deepest darkest souls that the underworld has to offer. Should the climber become too distracted by them, or fight them directly, they shall fall and be dragged down to the depths from whence they came. Anime otaku must simply keep climbing forward, even if it seems as if they are about to eclipse us, the forward climbing must not stop.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
So in the world of anime, blah blah blah some stuff happened and yeah whatever. Listen people, Japanese Graduate University takes up all your time and then makes you borrow more from people you know and makes you its bitch. There was lots of stuff I wanted to post about, but just couldn't. There is lots of stuff I want to subtitle and get out there, but it's gonna take some more time. That's just the way it is. On the up-side, My campus is right next to Shogakukan HQ here in Tokyo and I go over there to study their business model sometimes. It's amazing what just dropping this school name can do.
So yes, there shall be posts again, but not until after finals. @_@.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Yeah, that's just what I want to see the morning after my alarm clock was replaced with my apartment doing an impersonation of a martini shaker at 5am. Something that reminds me about the current anime based on the end of the world magnitude earthquake that the news keeps telling me we're overdue for.
Also, the Tokyo Toy Show video is not as awesome as to be acceptable to our standards.... (that may mean what you think it means), so it's coming from another source. Stand by.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Well it’s not that messianic, but it seems official that the Akira live action film is totally DOA as of a little while ago. I think I can participate in the collective sigh of relief with much of the movie watching community to know that “Akira” will not go the way of Speed Racer, Dragon Ball, and Street Fighter, and descend into the collective utter crap-fest that is the cinematic evolutionary branch of “Hollywood Re-make.” Such a feeling however, must be tinted with a shade of regret for what might have been. Could an Akira live action be a good movie? Sure it could. Would it have been? Almost assuredly not. The only way to make it a good movie, would be to re-make it, shot for shot, with as much of the original story intact as possible. What would have happened though, is the inevitable “new vision” or “updating” or “tweaking for a new audience” that would have run roughshod over any actual script/technical advisers they had on the project… if any. I could see an ending where some Caucasian looking Kaneda modding his motorcycle A-Team style with rockets controlled by a PSP or some shit, for a final showdown with Tetsuo who doesn’t have psychic powers or a disgruntled anti-social youth culture mind set, rather he’s been taken over by some A.I. which runs all of future-mega-tokyo-robot-land and slowly turns him into a cyborg which allows him to do shit like fling garbage trucks at Kaneda while rolling down a highway all i-Robot style as he rides on his future-bike to the center of the city to finally free his kidnapped love interest who was invented for the movie and is played by played by Kristin Kreuk. And they wonder why people don’t bother going to movies anymore. Thank you “Legend of Chun Li.”
But whenever the noodly appendage closes a door, the great Flying Spaghetti Monster opens a can of awesome somewhere else. Futurama is finally getting the Family Guy treatment and is getting some new episodes made. I like Futureama a lot, but after feeling so fucked over (not as bad as “who is Cartman’s Father fucked over, but fucked over none the less) by the Family Guy “DVD Movie” (that shit was so bad I actually gave it away in front of a Best Buy to prevent someone from buying it and wasting their own money), I didn’t get that into the Futurama “movies” even though they were cleaver, a fun watch, and animated just fine. But, I am happy about this new development and hoping for Hulu distribution, even though from here in Tokyo I have to keep going to new lengths just to get around Hulu’s international filtering bullshit (FYI it works better if you… wait, no they’ll probably find out about that just that much faster if I spill the beans here). I know what you’re thinking and don’t even start.
The resurrection of Futurama is a positive outcome of an otherwise dismal development of producers being terrified of new and creative ideas in Entertainment, aka “Hollywood is out of Ideas,” which is so awesome when you see smart new films like “The Hangover” beat total shiat like “Land of the Lost.” It’s not that I want to see movie theaters go away, but they are the single only collective group which still enables the MPAA and their stifiling of the creative process. Labels and studios would gladly leave those fuck-wads in the dust if theater box office receipts dipped low enough to make them less relevant. The fact that the MPAA is a private and not a government organization will allow movie makers to drop their participation in the “voluntary” rating system without a single bit of interference.
But the “out of ideas” disease is unfortunately in full swing here in the land of Otaku culture as well, as we get ready for more reboots. One which I am particularly loathe to see is the Azumanga Daioh manga republication. It’s the same story… drawn again. This time however the art is disturbing much more on the Yotsuba side of things. Now artists can get better and one look at the early atrocities of Kozuke Fujishima when compared to later works, show that this is an almost universally good thing (except for Rumiko Takahashi who has gotten worse, and Masamune Shiro who went from meh to awesome to crazy). Not in this case however, where the signature style of what made Azumanga Azumanga are gone, only to be replaced with what looks like lazy practice drawing. The notion that time and money are going into something we’ve seen before and not something new. You can see Azuma’s poor excuse about pulling a George Lucas on the series on his personal site here (Japanese). Look for the new and improved Azumanga Daioh anime to have the airgun replaced with a walkie talkie in the matsuri scene, and for the character of Tomoe to be played by Jar Jar Binks.
If it sells books then great, but if the story is the same and the art has less detail, then I’d rather have something I haven’t read before.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The case of Christopher Handley has ended not unexpectedly, with results that put commercial artists, manga collectors, and everyone with an internet connection in the cross-hairs of a potential witch hunt perpetrated at the discretion of the self appointed people's puritan protectionist police on the front lines of what they like to call “the culture war” but what most of us who live here in reality call “you’re too old and can’t handle things in the outside world now go back inside, you’re missing ‘The Factor.’”
The guilty plea in this case is very much the worst possible outcome for members of the public, much worse than if he had been found guilty by a jury. Oh sure, the sentence is reduced and he isn’t facing the same severity as he would have if he had been convicted which is a real possibility since from what I hear he had some stuff nasty enough to make the admins over at Encyclopedia Dramatica look like members of the Bristol Pailin abstinence movement. With an uppity District Attorney waving federal charges and threatening the worst if he has to show grandma on the jury those nasty pictures and how poor little Chris’s ass has no chance of coming out of this unscathed, to expect a real fight was probably too optimistic looking back. So he may have received the best legal advice for his own individual case, but in reality it was the worst decision that could have been made. Because a guilty verdict has something that goes with it which a guilty plea does not: a chance to appeal. Appellate courts are great arenas for this kind of thing to be sorted out when it comes to legal vaguery being taken too far, and are now something that Handley will not have access to unless he can prove he was unduly influenced into taking a plea. My entire education in legal matters comes from watching every season of Law & Order 5 times and reading Fark way too much, and even I can tell that this guilty plea legitimizes a law which has “unconstitutional” written all over it. In the past, obscenity legislation of this type was used to criminalize possession of novels, and would always depend on the interpreting the meaning of “obscene” which means different things to different people, and therefore has no place in legal regulations of any kind. I don’t know what leverage they had on this Handley guy, but his guilty plea is really going to screw the next poor sucker they decide to make an example of (I am thinking a police raid on a furry convention).
So now we have a person, being treated like a criminal engaging in a criminal act with a criminal instrument, only it’s not really that, and somewhere someone is abusing an actual child, not a drawing of one. I am sure the police originally thought that they were going to find actual child pornography that this guy had, and when they didn’t, they decided to go for it and punish this guy anyway because cops aren’t about to use up their time and miss out on the reward of putting someone in jail, you can’t expect them to really be capable of proper behavior in legal matters. The blame for this most recent erosion of constitutional rights has got to land 50/50 on the idiots who actually wrote it, and Handley himself for selling out on a very important duty to set a legal precedent. When what is legal or not comes down to a matter of opinion, even if that opinion is a popular one and generally accepted, it is still opinion (I’m not taking about what is legally considered “expert” opinion). Since assessing the age of a cartoon character is both subjective, and technically impossible it can not be the basis for enforcement of a law. How old is Bart Simpson? He was in 4th grade in 1987… so was I, yet I can buy beer and he can’t. You know why? Because he’s not real he’s an abstract concept, a fictional character. If I draw him getting shot, I won’t be booked for murder, and although the equivalent of this case’s imagery is unpleasant to think about, criminal proceedings for “abusing Bart Simpson” are just as ludicrous as a murder charge.
For further reading on some of the specifics of the case, Matt Thorn has compiled a linked list to not only some of the actual court documents in the case, but other opinions more informed than my own. Which you can find here.
Thanks to Sirkowski for not only pushing the boundaries of epic win in his delightfully offensive Miss Dynamite series, but also for clearly illustrating that when all that separates a sketch of regular internet jiggle, from part of a felony criminal enterprise is a word bubble, then there’s something wrong with the law.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
So CPM exit stage-whatever can come as not really a surprise, since if you just look at their sales and acquisitions, and combine that with the fact that they were a home media company, and not a media-media company (I’ve written about that set of cosmic rules too many times already). I am actually surprised that this took as long as it did. Next on the block, I’d put Media Blasters, since they’re already being sued by Color West Inc, in what I can only assume is going to be a growing list of bills that don’t get paid. Rather than imploding, I see them moving to a much cheaper city/state, and dropping a lot of anime in favor of live action cult schlock. That scenario is no guarantee though, and they very well might go the way of the dodo within a year. Is this “early retirement” for CMP’s master and commander? It could be… but after talking to the JOD himself at this year’s TAF, there might be something to come from this yet. Time will tell, and the market will either be there or it won’t.
Next on the agenda is this thing. I can’t say anything about it… I want to care, I really do, but after the crap that was BGC 2040, and the swine flu celluloid abortions of both Dragon Ball and The Legend of Chun Li, I just can’t get excited about this project at all, no matter how much I love BGC. This live action project has some things going for it, and some things against it. So far, Hollywood isn’t involved, but this is a neutral aspect, since if they are going for a combined Western/Asian cast, you’ll probably want to have actors that can actually act… and if you’ve ever seen a Japanese or Korean movie with gaijin actors in it before, you know that it all too often looks like they just grabbed someone off the street. So if they want good actors, a Hollywood Studio might work its way into the project, and then the story, designs, and everything good about the concept will die right there as they demand changes for the post 9/11 American consumerist SUV driving movie theater audience that somehow manages to pump money into pieces of pure cinematic shit like Ghost Rider or Wanted. Seriously, who pays money to watch these things? Well as time goes by, we’ll see if this is even real (remember in 1999 there was all that “live action Ninja Scroll” talk… still waiting on that one).
So the holdouts are running out of ammo, and the Russian winter is closing in on the anime market as we know it. Some big boys will still be left, but most things are going to fundamentally change. It is the rebuilding of the decimated landscape and the form it will take which is going to have far reaching effects for years to come. In the absence of any kind of Martial Plan for the new way of doing things, there will be a few major directions we can see from our very early vantage point;
A new, old-world-order, where properties are rarely licensed and domestic productions continue to follow the American dumbed down style with few notable exceptions like Avatar and Teen Titans and so on. Previously, this kind of thing was spoon-fed to a captive audience, when fansubs were available to only an intrepid few who knew how many VHS tapes could fit in a Tyvec priority envelope. With fansubbers out there now doing their best to devalue a license the moment a show hits the air and take money away from the creators and rightful owners, it will be interesting to see if that ongoing will effect the popularity or potential of domestic American animation (once it pulls its head out of it’s ass and stops making pure shit). Or will we have a new version of media delivery which allows anime producers to circumvent the losses they currently incur with fansubbers devaluing their licenses, which will allow them to make more money to make better titles, and also actually take the American market into account. It is interesting to hear American otaku audiences complain about a lack of input and effect on the Japanese production companies, when it is this same otaku audience that is blatantly consuming the product while at the same time pumping exactly $0 back into the system. It’s a big market, but an unprofitable one, so why should producers cater to it?
There are a few factions that are racing to get their version of the next step in Anime market evolution across the finish line first. With dubbing into English now seen as more of an option rather than a requirement when courting a large enough American audience, the rules of the game have definitely changed. That’s why I would watch what Crunnchyroll (and other services like it that may pop up) does pretty closely. They have a shot at something, but it’s no slam dunk.
Quick trip to FUKUOKA... it's a happenin' place.
Friday, April 24, 2009
The sad fact, is that yes, us anime fans must not forget where the programs, industry, and the fan’s impact is according to mainstream media. Which is not awesome enough to not have it canceled for figure skating. Now are more people actually watching figure skating than Shinchan? No it’s probably around the same, BUT what’s not the same, is the rates that TV Asahi can charge for advertising during Figure Skating, along with the added pressure from the sponsors of the actual event (those signs on the side of the rink get a LOT of airtime, and don’t think JAL isn’t putting pressure on someone when that happens.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
A large entry in the “we saw this coming” category for 2009, Cartoon Network has finally let their mission statement die a horrible death after languishing away for a year or two on Terri Schiavo life support. Cartoon Network has decided that animation is not really where it’s at, and has announced plans to decimate both their regular programming and Adult Swim lineup. Now, while Adult Swim had long since been killed by the likes of Squidbillies, Giant Baby, Assey McGee, Tom goes to see the poop, Saul of the Mole Men, Super Jail, and all that crap (I never thought a show on Adult Swim would be so bad that I’d long for the return of Stroker and Hoop), this represents a real sift in the overall direction of the channel, much more so than a bit of live action here and there. The only channel out there right now that could provide animated content for audiences over 5 years old (save for Nick’s Avatar, but that’s over and done with) is now on it’s way to being “not so much.”
Can anyone identify what kind of craft these are?
According to Green Tokyo, the Gundam will be unveiled on July 11th and stay up through August 31, and according to progress reports the skeleton legs are up as of now.
The Gundam sculpture will displayed in Odaiba's Shiokaze Park (潮風公園) just north of the Tokyo Maritime Science Museum. It is accessable via the Yurikamome monorail line (NOT to be confused with the Tokyo Monorail) at either the Daiba station on the north end or Fune-no-kagukukan station at the south end of the park.
This amazing exhibition is something that I and hopefully some of the rest of team あ!PoN will be covering for those of you who can't make it over to Tokyo.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Oh yes dear readers, after a quite literally sobering moment in which one realizes that they may indeed be running out of chances to turn their life around from the mess they’ve worked so hard to make it, I had a visit from an old nemesis of mine, one; Sal Monella. Now me and Sal don’t go way back, I’ve only encountered this scourge once before, less than a year ago when I unfortunately ended up passing him on to two other people. Sal has this ninja like ability to hide in the most unexpected places (Damn you import store!).
Long story short, I am now coming off of being incapacitated. It was a quick battle which had me claiming epic victory much faster than the last time (which had taken almost a week). The reason you may ask? One Mr. Jack Daniels you may be thinking? Contrary to popular belief, he can’t really help you in this situation, he’ll just make it worse. No, this ongoing situation was brought to a quicker (though no less painful) end, by one Yakult-san. So Samurai Yakult, I salute you.
In the mean time, there wasn’t much to do but gaze out the window while in-between rounds of microbial combat. And that’s when I noticed that Jack friggin Bauer was here in
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Something has always bothered me about “The Princess Bride.” It starts with farm-boy Wesley going off somewhere via sailing ship and then the news that his ship was captured by the “Dread Pirate Roberts,” who is such a bastard that he kills everyone on every ship he ever does pirate things to. After a few years Wesley returns as the Dread Pirate Roberts to rescue his princess. Initially the princess hates him for killing her one true love, but then once she finds out he IS her one true love, she’s so elated to see him. She apparently has no problem that since he’s been gone, her beloved farm-boy Wesley was such a bastard that he killed everyone on every ship he ever did pirate things to (everyone; passengers, crew the captain’s wife and 12 year old daughter, nuns, a doctor on the way to help some beleaguered colony somewhere… everyone). This princess biatch and the audience are supposed to think nothing of the fact that this guy has racked up executions of mostly innocent people in the triple digits. I’m sorry but no matter how heroic he comes off there has got to be a huge take-a-number machine full of people who wanna kill his ass to avenge some family member he probably cut the throat of and let them bleed to death over the deck of his pirate ship and then kicked their lifeless corpse into the ocean.
To an equal extent, the same sort of forgiving eye is often turned to the world of pre-Meiji
Modern literature and entertainment from “Blade of the Immortal” to “The Last Samurai” glosses over much of this kind of thing for the sake of making a good story, and that’s ok if you you can keep in mind that these are works of fiction. This kind of romanticism in historical settings is more or less required for works such as “Ninja Scroll” or “Zatoichi” to be entertaining. To be entertaining you more or less have to be fun, and it’s hard to do that if you pack all that human misery of real life into it. The problem is when this gets taken too far, and we end up with tripe like “The Last Samurai” or things that make the Shinsengumi look like cool heroes rather than the more true to life Gestapo with swords. The same kind of view is also applied to world history with Hetalia, but that’s not exactly the same in the way it treats things. But since they are coming from a set of different set of historical literacy, iIt’s important to take context into account when dealing with historical anime titles. Think about it, how many people actually knew what the “House of Toyotomi” was when it was mentioned in "Ninja Scroll"...really?
The Meiji restoration is increasingly being seen and reflected in pop-art as something that was somewhere fundamentally was "done wrong". There’s a notion that there was a serious degree of “Japanese-ness” that was left behind in the Meiji that could have otherwise been brought into the modern time we have today if things were different. Of course anyone who knows the political climate of the Meiji and the history of
Even in the Kenshin OVA, Kenshin’s decision to choose a side is very relevant to the era’s political climate, which if you’re a guy like him you just can’t escape (though this is lost on American audiences who only want blood and guts). Ruroni Kenshin is worth a another watch if you try looking at it from a historical perspective. One thing I disliked about Ruroni Kenshin though, is that it had all the late 1990’s weaboos trying to use terms like “dono” and “gozaru” in Japanese, which sound stupid, since in Japanese this way of speaking died out a century ago (it would be like a modern English speaker using terminology from the Victorian era).
Apart from older history, anyone familiar with the political and cultural climate of
Also, I know I keep mentioning this, but the animepodcast.net interview with TM Revolution is coming soon.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
1 week from Today.
This year I will be at the TAF starting March 18. I like the TAF. I was once denied this in ’04 when the sleaze in charge of the NY office actually stole and hid my ticket that the board bought and paid for, so that he could go by himself in order to skip the fair and go to soapland. So I up and went to the Ingram show in
Anyway, I shall soon be reporting the goings on of the epicenter of all things anime. If anyone is interested in the exhibitor list, it can be found here. That’s a lot of booths to hit up in 2 days before the place gets really crowded after the general admission begins. This event is part showcase, part trade show, and part p.r. extravaganza, all designed to both show the world that anime is doing fine, and secretly find a way to stop the ever impending doom that is haunting the industry by finding this year’s holy grail full of money.
Stand by for some video and other kinds of stuff at あ!PoN. Should be some good stuff.
According to an article I read in the last week of February in the daily Yomiuri, it would seem that there is going to be a live action version of Fruits Basket. Now this is more than what you think a live action would be, because this is actually a stage show. Now I don’t know if this is because of Fruits Basket director Akitaro Daiichi’s penchant for doing Chambara on stage (I don’t think he’s involved), but it does follow a Japanese tradition of sorts of bringing anime titles to the stage. While not exactly the same as the atrocious Disney musicals we are seeing on Broadway at the moment it does exemplify a kind of osmosis of how popular culture, entertainment, and fandom, all work. The membrane between what, by American otaku definitions, is anime and what is not anime in Japanese culture is a very busy two way street. The concept of what makes anime unique, is much more imbedded into the American market since there is a huge sprawling domestic creative landscape to compare it to. Such is not so in anime’s home stadium, where Hana Yori Dango or Maison Ikokku are still Hana Yori Dango and Maison Ikokku when made into a live action TV show.
It’s an all male cast. I will not be checking that out.
Friday, February 20, 2009
A year ago today, a ditz with money to burn* ended up putting thousands dollars into the hands of the art thief* Todd Goldman. Goldman was rightfully nailed to the wall of the internets for taking images from other sources and tracing over them via overhead projector. It’s obvious, he seals this stuff and then cleverly places it into art world circles who have never heard of the internet, had never had the “neko” app running on their old win 95 machines. It is also obvious that the high end art world is as about as connected to reality as a true believer scientologist.* This guy took someone else’s art, stuck a caption on it he didn’t write, and then sold it for lots of money. Money the real artists will never see.
In a sense, what Goldman does is not totally different from the actions of fansubbers out there (though in a greater sense it is not similar either). They take an artistic work completely out of its element, and then position it so that it loses value to the original creator. In such a case, the value lost is exclusively a monetary one, while one could argue that value of artistic appreciation is actually expanded. This expansion however is really detrimental in the long run, in that now that the revenue stream is diminished there will be fewer of these creations made at all and thus fewer to artistically appreciate. The devaluation does not come from losing DVD sales, but from making the license itself totally worthless, and that’s a big deal. But that’s also something you’ve heard here before.
As long as art has value, art will be a business. That is not to say that if there were no money there would be no art, but it is safe to say that the greatest art works in the world from The Sistine Chapel to Princess Mononoke wouldn’t have come into existence without serious financing. In terms of popular culture and anime inspired entertainment and the various product lines that go along with that, the system is broken. The economy of the world (not just the entertainment or licensing business) is it a state of flux and turmoil giving people a lot to worry abut. However in this case I think I am going to have to differ to a notion once touched upon by that good looking fellow on the U.S. $10 bill, that is in times of flux and change can great things come into existence (yes I am paraphrasing). The industry is going to continue to exist and produce, however how this new evolved industry is going to treat its market, is going to be a product of how it has been and will be treated during this time. Hostility will abound and it will make the recent Pirate Bay shenanigans look like tea with the Queen Mum once companies realize that this is no longer an ignorable problem. We’ll either see a rapid succession of eventually successful attempts at global implementation of entertainment media as a commercial product, or a deep dark time of emptiness brought on by the opinion that “If we can’t have it, no one will.” Let’s hope for the best no?
Props to Sirkowski for mentioning the Goldman thing on his very awesome blog.
Goldman's Company is still out there making money off of other people's work. Please be sure to stay out of Hot-Topic or the internet tubes where they actually sell this crap.*
FYI I am living permanently in Tokyo as of the time you read this... probably. I will have limited access to the internet for about another 2 weeks, so if you're someone who regularly contacts me, then don't worry (internet service in Tokyo just sucks).
*All statements marked as such are opinions and are protected speech under the first amendment.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
After being waylayed by some nasty jetlag and having a tough time breaking out of it (It's been 5 days and still no progress, I am firmly living on Japan time whether I like it or not) I realized that there is at least some silver lining to this mess: I'll be back in Tokyo before March 2 2009.
Why is that important? That's because that's the day when all the poor suckers in the USA and Canada get screwed by a thing called Daylight Savings Time. I can't express how much I hate DST and will truly relish living in a country where that ridiculous practice has always been seen for what it is and never even tried.
I have tried to do the "up all night" thing to try to readjust, and have failed without exception by 10am the next day and then it's lights-out following a good 15 hours of wide awake starting at about 5 or 6pm. Maybe a convention will help provide some decent reason to go all the way and shake it off.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
If something bad is going to happen in your life, it’s going to be this reject month of the calendar. February sucks, and for those of us who can remember when Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday were two separate holidays, know that nothing is safe from the ravaging misfortune that this month shall visit upon those of whom fate has deemed worthy of punishment. There is of course, an upshot to all of this, and that is every once in a while, you get to escape unnoticed and watch these horrible things happen to someone else. With the month of darkness only 24 hours old, there has already been an abundance of schadenfreude (thought it seems that it would have its genesis in the previous month, but lets not get all wiki-nerd about dates and shit).
First entry, very a unprofessional piece (No, really. This is not going to have any kind of relevance to actual industry topics and will be written in the style of a retarded 11th grader. If you’d prefer the regular dry and uninteresting banter that this blog has come to embody, skip to the next color).
Someone Set Us Up the Baum. Or, karma is a bitch. For so many years the walking pimple of the internet Eric Bauman of Ebaum’s World has made money off of other people’s work with his little tag and watermark. For years the virus riddled poorly run website supplied n00bs with cheap thrills until they learned that only n00bs go to Ebaums World and then quickly jumped ship like rats on the Titanic. If you actually know nothing about what I am talking about - you fail the internet. To avoid the criminal penalties as such, please inform yourself by watching this fine documentary film. (Links to Youtube).
Now I am not opposed to shamelessly making money by breaking the unwritten rules of the internet, but only if it’s me. This guy makes the mistake of taking some .com investor money a while back, and now he and that site are now a footnote of a footnote in the great economic collapse of the Bush years. Ebaum being fired from Ebaum is such a nice thing to find out, but then to see the little jerk try to rise from the ashes with some Tuvalu hosted (that means .tv) forum for expressing his butt-hurt lowers your cholesterol just be reading it. It just shows how things come back to get you in the end if you are a dickwad (although that’s not really true at all if you do the math).
It’s not a problem until it happens to you. Or, Poor baby. (Article)
Big name studios get all boo-hoo over DVD profit margins being too low, after forcing prices into the crapper in the first place. It is simply amazing but not at all unexpected that every American industry under the sun which has a publicly traded company or two in it, is now banging on the door of the U.S. Government with their hands out asking for bailout money. Enter the elephant in the room of the movie business into the equation: Movies don’t make the same amount of money as they used to.
- Rather than rightfully placing the blame for this on the fact that all of cinema from America and the world hit the market almost all at once in such a new format, meaning sales of DVD titles were never going to even sustain a plateau at such levels.
- Rather than rightfully placing the blame for this on the fact that this massive dumping of movies and TV into the market would force prices to stabilize at an incredibly low level. Only to be jacked up at whiplash speed thanks to price minimums.
- Rather than rightfully placing the blame for this on the fact that Hollywood movies suck, and now have to compete with TV and world cinema at the exact same price.
- Rather than rightfully placing the blame for this on a distribution and retail system gone wildly out of control.
There are imaginable but not yet attainable ways out of this, one of the most impending of which seems that in the future, the studios will cut out the middleman. That’s right, Circuit City was just the beginning, and soon even Best Buy and the biggest of the big DVD sellers Wal Mart will eventually no longer bump up DVD prices to twice of what they really should be, while at the same time putting studios in danger of financial ruin from the dreaded “return.” It’s not there yet, but eventually movies will be sold directly by the studios to the customers. Welcome this, for it is your new god.
Now I’d be in favor of a government bailout if it meant it spread in such a way as to go into development of an infrastructure for digital film delivery or direct studio to consumer sales, and also go into funding of original films (no remakes, franchises, or otherwise shitty regurgitations), not because of some artistic integrity bullcrap, but so that the bailout money doesn’t just get funneled back into the same broken system that says it needs bailing out in the first place.
However, since the first industry to get a bailout was also the first to ruin it for everyone else by giving out billions in bonuses and trying to sneak $70million corporate jets through the back door, I doubt the U.S. congress (some members of which actually believe the earth is only 6,000 years old) is going to feel like bailing out Hollywood producer types like the Weinsteins or Eisners. So better grab that copy of “Critters 2” on DVD, since like the Hummer and the no money down McMansion, it’s going extinct.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
As I sat at home in New York chomping on my New Year's foie gras, I never thought I'd be making a post like this so soon.
Basic Food & Drink Tips in Tokyo.
Don't eat convenience store food or KFC, McD's, MosBurger etc, more than once. It's crap. No matter where in the world you go, a plastic wrapped sandwiched with the crust cup off and pre-packaged microwaved burrito/hot dog/gyudon is not what you want to be eating. Would you do that at home? Then don't do it here. There's a universe of great cooking in Japan no matter whare you are.
Stay out of chain resturants, whether they be Japanese or international chains. They suck in your country and they suck here. You didnt come to Japan to have dinner at Outback for fucks sake. Don't worry about the menu or anything, resturants are businesses and they want customers because they enjoy ...what's that thing that businesses do.... oh yeah making money. Most places won't care if you come in and are clumsy with the menu (as long as they're not being slammed with a huge crowd at the time). Learning Kana, Katakana, (and the numbers 1-10 in kanji helps though. If you're not retarded, it should take you a week of 1-2 hours of study per day to nail it down to almost second nature). There is one exception: in Shinjuku, there is a Krispy Kream. It is awesome.
Many but not all resturants close in the middle of the day between lunch and dinner. This is less true in tourist heavy areas, but then again tourist heavy areas tend to have crappy tourist traps that overcharge you for a plate of sushi or bowl of udon with lemongrass in it. Plan for this, it's worth the wait.
Look for uniforms. No, not on the staff, on the customers. Real food is only eaten by real people, and nothing says real people in Japan more than a uniform. Postal, Utility co, Construction, it doesn't matter. If there are uniforms at the tables, the food is gonna be good.
Izakaya. Americans; ever go to a run of the mill diner and know what you want to order before you even see a menu? That's because most diners serve faire so similar, that it's almost a universally known menu to most people who know them. In Japan, this is the Izakaya. With a few reional specialties, most of these places have the same type of menu. You can be confident that even if you can't read a word of the offerings, that if you know the basics and know what you want, they'll bring it to you. If you live in/near New York City, there are a few Izakaya type places that you can practice this with (one of the more popular being called "Kenka" on St. Mark's place). Keep in mind that much like with diners and lunch counters, people don't go to these dives for the "ambeeaance."
Vocabulary. Learn these words: Muryou; Free. Tabe Hou-dai; all you can eat. Nomi Hou-dai; all you can drink (yes they mean booze, though you usually need a group of 4-5 or more), Margarita: ok, don't go into a place looking for a Margarita, because they'll probably end up bringing you a Margarita, so if you want a Margarita and not a Margarita, make sure you specify that you want a Margarita and not a Margarita.
Beer; Although beer out of a vending machine is a wacky novelty to just about everyone else in the world, only to this once if you have to just for the sake of doing it. Vending machine beer is going to taste exactly how you think it is going to (that's Stella-skunky by the way). And the machines are almost gone now too, the only ones that exist are now in private buildings which have limitations on who can enter. Also Japanese beer only recently figured out that there are actualy types of beer out there other than pilsner/light lager (aka McBeer). There are actually some interesting dark porters coming out of Yebisu right now, and most resturants have embraced the American Black&Tan which is a layered pint of half Stout and half Light Lager (or Pale Ale), which in Japan is called a "Half & Half." (FYI don't ever order this drink in Ireland or you're likely to get punched in the face, since Black & Tan means something totaly different there). So for beer in Japan, expect the German style to proliferate, and only drink where they have "nama" which means draught. Also, don't think you can guage Japanese beer from outside Japan, since it is brewed locally wherever you are (for example, in the USA Kirin is made in California and upstate New York, Sapporo is made in Ontario Canada, and Asahi is also made domestically except for those half liter cans). Finally, in Tokyo the concept of a "pint" is nonexistand, but in Osaka it's standard (I told you Osaka was better). If I lost you at "pilsner" then you're not a beer drinker anyway.
Wine; With apoliogies to the French and Itaians, this is very much a luxury item. Many establishments which offer wine (there are a lot in Tokyo) much like the USA offer it by the glass, for what seems like a very good price. However that's actually bullshit. When I ordered a glass of Dolcetto D'Alba for what I thought was a good price of 600 yen, I was more than a bit dissapointed when I was brought a massive Bordeaux glass with about 2.5 ounces of wine in it (that's just a tiny bit more than amount you'd pour for a simple free tasting). This concept was hammered in whin I went to the basement of the local department store where they sell the sake, and saw a bottle of Sutter Home cabernet from 2005 selling for 35,000 yen (that's over $35). Even the Australian lables aren't as cheap here as they are in the U.S., and don't even ask how much the Chateu Nuf de Pap was selling for. If I lost you at Dolcetto D'Alba, then you're not a wine drinker ainyway.
Sake; Called Nihon-shuu, it has unfortunately fell a bit out of favor with it's own domestic market. This is the best bang for the buck in these parts. Unlike the paint stripper known as Sho-chu, Japanese sake is very mellow and has as much of a spectrum as Europien stye beer or wine. There are full bodied dry ones that could almost be described as tannic (Dai Ginjou), there are fragrent fruity ones which go well with almost anything from sushi to icecream. There are dessert sakes, bitter sakes, and seasonal sakes. There are even aged sakes (which may not really be a great idea, but hey... whatever). Things like terroir and climate play a heavy role in the final product. Add to that the fact that about half a gallon costs about US $20, and it's mana from heaven. If I lost you at Dai Ginjou, then get out there and learn you some about this art form. A good and reasonable priced U.S. Domestic brand is called Momokawa (Peach River) from Oregon. For imports, look to Tenzan, Akita Homare, and NamaHage (mention Shirayuki, Gekkeikan, or Kurosawa, in my presence and I will punch you in the face).
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Now that I am here apartment hunting in Tokyo, I am not keeping totally up to date with anime business news, so please enjoy this filler arc filled with cultural observations and such.
Incorrect assumptions about Japan and Tokyo that media around the world have made, and their debunking:
1) Internet access is so fast and proliferated here! (Washington Post). I read this somewhere on a list of countries with internet access and all that. It’s also more expensive and not as "proliferated" as you'd think. Actually, it's total bullcrap and most of
2) Tokyo is restaurant capital of the world (Some French Idiots). No. No it is not. I am from the real restaurant capital of the world and the Michelin franc-tards that came up with this crap are about as connected to reality as North Korean schoolchildren. Remember, these are classist wine snobs who never ever pay for a single meal they eat and consume fewer calories per day than a neurotic Parisian runway-model walking monument to eating disorders. Their findings don’t apply to the “little people” who actually have to think about how much a dinner out might cost and feed a family or even just a girlfriend. Actual international cuisine in
3) Tokyo is full of weirdoes and you’re a foreigner and you’ll never have a nice time unless you hang out with other gaijin foriegners (Lost in Translation). Where do I start? This is a terrible movie made by terrible film makers and is nothing but some sort of personal ego stroking from some crappy personal experience. The only way you’re going to have a miserable time is if you’re miserable already, and that means you’re in for a miserable time no matter where you go. Right Sophia?
4) You can just show up and get a job and apartment someplace just like you could in some minor town in the USA. (As portrayed in Mega Tokyo). The thing I can’t stand about Mega Tokyo is the absolute lack of any kind of real knowledge about Japan that that idiot Gallagher has. The amount of paperwork, permits, and all kinds of other stuff you need to get one of the few types of visas that legally let you work any kind of job and get an apartment is both annoying, and surprisingly involving. Also, this is TOKYO, not some podunk town you're used to, it's the most expensive city in the world to live in and it would be like you and your 19 year old ass showing up in London or New York and landing an awesome job and apartment in the city just like that poof. And guess what, discrimination is TOTALLY LEGAL, so businesses and landlords can flat out refuse to deal with you simply because you are not Japanese and there's nothing you can do about it. You can't just show up and expect things to work out., There is plenty of information out there already about this so that’s that.
5) Tokyo is the place to be and it’s so cool and all that (Tokyo Metropolitan Government). Maybe I am biased, but the truth is, Osaka’s better. That’s just the way it is.
6) Beer in Vending Machines (you heard that from me in an earlier post). This used to be very true, but since I got here I haven’t seen one friggin beer machine. Apparently I am not going crazy though, and there’s actually a reason I can’t find any (they got banned). But, with all the 24hr convenience stores around, it’s not like beer is going to be hard to find.
7) This is heaven for all otaku and coming here will fulfill all your dreams and such (Weeaboos). Believe it or not, there are more pro golf shops here than places to get anime or manga. Tokyo, along with the rest of Japan, is no place for your self-diagnosed Asperser "cant behave properly in public" bullshit loud talking, disheveled dressing, free-hug self expression, of your individual individuality. The shit you see characters do in anime do that kind of thing specifically because it’s a work of FICTION. In the real world, that kind of behavior is not what you do, especially here in Japan. Do it in public here, and some public safety officer will actually come up and tell you to knock it the hell off.
8)You thought this list was actually going to have 10 items. I never said this was a top ten list.