Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Trouble at Tokyo Anime Fair 2011; No silver lining on the publisher boycott.

Kadokawa throws a hissy fit over foreign entanglements.

The upcoming 2011 Tokyo Anime Fair is now home to some controversy as 8 companies (with Kadokawa being the largest it seems) have withdrawn from the TAF in protest over the Tokyo Met. Government’s new regulations regarding manga “content” and regulating (sort of) who can buy what… in Tokyo at least.

Although this is a “city limits law” and it may sound as trivial and rediculatarded as Pennsylvania liquor laws and just as easy to get around as simply driving across the state border to buy beer the proper way, in Japan this is actually a real problem for the following reasons;

1) Political landscape: Japan literally is Tokyo at this point. It’s a major problem that had had a great effect in pushing Japanese society past the event-horizon of absolute collapse. Everything is in Tokyo, government, major company headquarters, industry, and above all it’s the source of all culture from TV fashion and technology, to traditionalist activities like publishing and Sumo. 2008 says that Japan’s population is 127.7 Million, and the Greater Tokyo Area is 39.19 Million. That’s over 30% of the population and the GDP of the area alone is $1,759,000,000,000. Yeah it’s got that many zeros and it’s bigger than Canada, the country. So, much like the disastrous Texas textbook situation, something that effects business in Tokyo is going to have a national impact. Japan really needs to spread out and separate some government operations from the private sector geographically, but that’s a whole other post in and of itself.

2) Stupid Gaijin: Like the unending trouble caused by the artards who drive the Sea Shepard, this new regulation is a result of foreign intervention in what the Japanese consider a domestic matter. Most of the uproar over the objectionable content in these manga is coming from very non-Japanese, Valerie Solanas-brained, porn-banning, artist-assassinating, breast-beating, kvetching screaming, moan mamas, ...and Unicef (yes that Unicef that was caught with real child porn), and also the U.N. That’s right, the same organization that thinks it’s a good idea to put Saudi Arabia in its Women’s Rights Agency (read that again, let it sink in) is leading the charge against naughty picture books in Japan. Granted, these are some of the nastiest pictures which I have no desire to see, and the people who get off on this crap are living breathing arguments to the favorability of implementing a style of law enforcement that is half and half “Minority Report” and “Law & Order SVU,” but they are drawings not photos, and that is not even half enough reason to really care in the grand scheme of things. I hate to have to defend the kind of freaks who like this kind of thing over at sankaku complex, but there are much more worse things happening in the world. Real genital mutilation continues in Africa and other countries, Iran is executing 16 year old rape victims for violating the dress code, and child labor picks 1 or 2 out of every 5 coffee beans in your hipster morning drink of choice (hey tea or hot choccolate drinkers, don't think you're off the hook either). Yet for some reason, people think that ignoring those problems in favor of forcing their will in assigning moral propriety upon the comic books of Japan is totally worth their time. But in reality, the complaints by white Europeans and Americans against this material being made and sold in Japan smacks of colonialism, and is as stupid as the English telling the Spanish to stop bull fighting, or PETA demanding sushi be called “sea kitten meat” because it bruises their fragile sensibilities. The more the rest of the world tells Japan what to do… the more Japan is not going to do that… and before you go dismissing that kind of thing as immature, think about what would happen in the U.S. if the rest of the world signed some resolution condemning the 2nd amendment and demanding it be abolished, after all it does far more real damage to human life than these manga could ever do. All of a sudden the “Don’t Tread on Me” banners seem totally reasonable.

3) Making it worse: Those directly involved are only exasorbating things. This is really being made worse by Kadokawa and the rest of the companies themselves, not by simply withdrawing from the TAF, but in holding a competing event (seriously guys?). This legal resolution was for “self-enforcement” more or less of the manga industry in terms of who can buy what kind content. Yes, in the Japanese way of doing things, that’s still a big deal, but it still means that if the issue stayed quiet for a bit, it would more or less just go away. But no, they’ve got to make a big deal out of this and put the government in an impossible situation; either further crack down and actually enforce what could have been ignored without notice, or risk the loss of business from other completely unrelated industries (pharma, auto, textile, IT/software, tourism) in some sort of international protest because now this mess is in the f-ing spotlight. There are really better cases to “up the anti” on in terms of publishers vs. the government. Think about this situation and look at the best case scenario for either side… yeah both suck, so why are we doing this?

If you are an American and you’ve ever read a manga, it’s impossible not to feel some sympathy for these publishing companies stepping out of the TAF, as this legal restriction would be a clear constitutional violation if done in the US. Here we have the TAF which is put on by the Tokyo Met Government, the same government agency that has just told you what you can and can’t publish based on the reactions of a bunch of foreigners who have never bought a single product your company makes, have never been affected by such products (beyond self inflicted moral outrage when informed of their existance), and couldn’t even read the damn books even if they did get their hands on them. So these publishers are wholly justified in giving the finger to this show if the money they have to pay to exhibit there goes straight into the pockets of the government organization that is telling who they can and can’t sell comic books to. Remember, this is Japan. In the USA, things are permitted unless they’re prohibited. In Germany, things are prohibited unless they’re permitted. In Japan, everything is prohibited, but anything is possible. The “self-regulation” aspect of this mess could have meant anything from “forgettable” to “do it or else.” Kadokawa has taken the repercussions of this mess from intangible to very tangible (the tangibility being the lost revenue from exhibitor fees for the TAF), which is a very dangerous thing to do in Japanese politics. Philosophically, I must support this decision and this group (honestly, I wouldn't give my money to an organization that just made it harder for me to do business as part of a sad political capitulation), but realistically, there is no way this will end well.

When your building is this big and then some, your "guidelines" are more actual rules.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You keep on using that word... The JBPA, Apple, and Copyright


I do not think it means what you think it means.

The JBPA brings up a copyright problem, but do they have a solution? Then again, why the hell should they solve Apple’s incompetence by design?

So in what’s pretty much old news by now, the JBPA and three other groups have slapped Apple with an “angry letter” regarding the apple app store and the sea of illegally available manga that resides therein. Much like in similar situations, the Japanese rights holders are angry and concerned that their commercial IP is being distributed by entities who aren’t licensed to do so, and realistically… that’s a very reasonable way to feel. They are also upset that, while it seems the Apple App Store can instantly take down an app that has fart noises or boobies, they seem to leave the copyright diligence up to the copyright holder. This kind of action of a huge company passing on expenses to smaller content providers is all over the history of the fall of the anime industry in the US, when small home media labels were bombarded by all kinds of chargebacks and “so sue me” kind of contract violations from giant retailers and national distributors. Unlike Craig’s List, or eBay, Apple’s app store is directly selling units of commercial goods to the public, and this situation would be no different from WalMart or Sears simply not checking at all to make sure that the products they sold were real and not counterfeit or stolen, instead leaving it up to the manufacturers to send people in to browse the isles and then raise a red flag if they find something wrong. Businesses just can’t do that.

Apple has a lot of growing up to do, and with Jobs at the wheel, they’re never going to do it. He’s still way too bitter about getting booted from Apple the first time, and he was never ever a nice guy. Sure, both Jobs and Gates dropped out of college and "computer genious" and blah blah blah, but while Gates seems to have left college because it wasn’t moving fast enough for his super-brain, Jobs seems to be the guy who left because he pissed everybody off in record time. Just compare the commencement speeches the two have given (look them up your damn self), and the whole personality difference starts to jump out at you. And while Gates is long gone from Microsoft and busy giving away billions of dollars to charity, Jobs is parking his $130,000 sportster with no license plate in handicapped parking spots whenever he drives down to the office to bitch about the new iWhatever being the wrong shade of off-white. He’s made the mistake of letting his company become his identity, and that never ends well.

Apple is now bigger than Microsoft. But it never learned how to really be that big, and so is still acting as if only a small portion of the market is watching what they do. They’re also still designing products for that small portion of the market, but are always first across the line with the features people never knew they wanted. Apple has the potential to remain a majority stakeholder in the emerging world of mobile devices, or pull a Sega and shrivel up again.

That will depend on many things, including how they deal with this manga issue raised by the JBPA. Apple has plenty of quantitative people who have been able to point out that doing even a minimal amount of copyright diligence on these apps (beyond the major properties like Harry Potter or Beyonce) would end up costing so much, that Jobs would fall behind in the imaginary dick measuring contest he has with the rest of the world to see who has the most money. But in reality, that’s just too f-ing bad. Let’s remember, this isn’t the “app exchange” it’s not some Mac BBS or Macworld cruise where the top of the pyramid get together and trade crap with each other. This is a formal division of Apple, the company, selling digital products made by third parties. And a large company like Apple, who is going to sell these digital products, has to do that diligence whether they like it or not. Microsoft knows stuff like this and would have crunched the numbers beforehand to see if it was worth it. Manga publishers have an existing protection under international copyright law and should not have to use their own limited resources to police another company which violates that protection, especially if it’s a company bigger than Microsoft.

It is also important to note (accordig to the Financial Times article) that the bulk of the as yet uncovered infringements are Chinese translations. American otaku will once again undoubtedly gripe when the obvious is mentioned, but if they’re unhappy about the insignificance of the American market compared to the Japanese one, they’re really not going to be happy about how small the potential Chinese market is going to make the U.S. look. What does a 10% sales figure look like in China? It looks like one third of the entire USA. The high population, close proximity to Japan, and lack of cultural hurdles in product acceptance that manga is up against in other parts of the world, makes the Chinese market the only ripe fruit on the tree at the moment. Combine all of that, with a super strong Yen and a hyper expanding wireless market in China, and you have an environment where the only strategy that’s going to get any attention is that of expansion in the Chinese market. Don’t be surprised if it turns out that the money that Japanese companies are pulling out of the U.S. operations ends up going to Shanghai and Hong Kong.

One could argue that he Japanese side of the equation is part of the problem in that they’re doing what they have always done, just bringing up piracy issues without addressing causes or coming up with a proactive solution. But it's actually not true in this case, in that the solution that they are proposing is that Apple do what any other retailer do responsibly; Make sure the stuff they sell isn’t bootleg, fake, or stolen. Apple is not “putting a buyer and seller together” or simply “providing a service” for people to buy and sell directly. They are straight up running this show, and with that comes certain obligations as a global retailer… And like a French tourist in New York who simply can’t understand why they aren’t allowed to smoke on the subway even though it’s late and it’s their birthday*, Apple can’t seem to figure out why those same obligations that apply to the “other companies” like WalMart, Amazon, Dell, or the pawn shop down the street, should also apply to them. Do I really think there’s some sort of mentality at Apple that holds a “rules don’t apply to me” stance? Sure, in Jobs’s head there’s gotta be, but there are enough smart people at Apple who actually have to run things over there that they know this is just a case of keeping costs down to keep their stock as high as it can be. So combine those two and what we’re going to have is a situation that is going to get bad enough so that the royal bean-counters eventually have to approach the king, who probably won’t want to budge on principle until he can actually see money coming out of his pockets (and then you know he'll blame someone else anyway).

Now there are some otaku and Mac fanboys (notice I didn’t say Apple there) who are so religiously into this "Apple as a whole can simply do no wrong" idea, there will be no reasoning with these people. But lots of Mac fans out there might simply notice that this is a case of Apple entering an industry and not playing by the rules which naturally help the smaller players. To see Apple shit on smaller businesses out there, in a kind of cliché Captain Planet sort of way is a sad thing to see indeed. If nothing else, to see that Apple is acting like a real life OCP, should snap a lot of people out of any idealogical daze they're in. The “…have a scale problem but not a willingness problem” (FT article) is such a non-excuse and is patently rediculous if held up to legaql standards of other businesses; “McDonalds wants to make sure the food they sell is up to federal standards, but we just don’t have the man-power, so the customers can look out for that ecoli on their own” or “Foot Locker wants to make sure that all the Nikes we sell are actually made by Nike, but that’s up to Nike to send their people in here and check, we don’t have the resources to do that” …and so on.

Perhaps I’ve been a bit redundant here, but Apple seems to get a pass all too often when it comes to entering an industry and doing it “their way.” But this is actually just the way of “I’m big and tell you what to do haha” and because this M.O. has an Apple logo on the front of it, people seem to reign in their otherwise hostile reaction. This time I am hoping that most otaku out there see that the JPBA is an organization that represents lots of publishers, small companies that all put together aren’t worth as much money as Apple farts in a day. The JBPA is the little guy in this story, and Apple is damaging their business by selling stolen goods, plain and simple.

"The Japanese have hit the shores like dead fish.
They’re just like dead fish washing up on the shores."

-Steve Jobs, 1985.

Way to see the future Stevie, those Japanese never got a foothold in the computer business did they…? Think his opinion has changed much?

Watch how many mac-boys start crying foul at that one. But at least they can have a place to go in Tokyo to pray 5 times a day to the mighty Apple.

*That French thing is based on a true story which happened at Jay St.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Xmas in Japan

ahhhhh ...xmas.

It's actually starting to get to me, but there are things about Life in Japan (not just Tokyo) I miss, and the upcoming Holidays are starting to tug on the ol' nostalgia heartstrings. One thing that seems to remain the same however is Chanuka and Kwanza coming and going without anyone really noticing -snark-.

It would seem however that some Cross Cultural Christmas Creep is ...Chappening between Chapan and Camerica. (ok I'll stop with the retarded illiteration). Yes friends, there is no greater shame than someone who calls themselves an Otaku, yet remains ignorant of the connection between the beloved Colonel Sanders and Christmas in Japan. (Link. Another Link with creepy accompanying photo, and finally to bring it back to grown up land, a more reputable Link).

Yes friends, the Colonel owns Christmas in Japan, where he dawns his santa hat and provides round-eye style deep fat fried poultry to the masses for $50 per order. You'll see some refrences to this in the popular culture of the Land of the Rising Sun, but none more concentrated as the short contribution they make to Duane Johnson's very classic and skillfully made AMV (back when there was such a thing), "Dare to be Stupid."

It's somewhere in there I didn't upload the thing and only know it form other sources... Hey, I've had this thing on VHS since 1997 so ....get off my lawn!

So here I am, sitting in my jail cell of a room with a TV on, always looking for ways to make obscure connections between marketing and Japanese pop-culture (I haz MBA, I kan make teh smrt) when I notice a KFC commercial air that was obviously made for domestic U.S. audiences.

Now, while KFC has been running Holiday themed advertising for years (was it KFC that did the Lake Wolbigon spots way back when, or was that Wendy's?) the particular spot that has aired this year is different. Now the following observations may not be new, since by living in Tokyo I was not watching American TV last December, but the observation none the less is the following; That while many winter holiday advertising from KFC (and many other entities) has taken a Xmas "flavor" so to speak, this seems to be the first that I've seen to explicitly suggest purchasing and eating this KFC product on Christmas itself. The message of "saving time" is simply, don't cook, buy and eat KFC, not "it's a Kuriisumasu thing" that those gaijin celebrate.

Is this a correlation = causation instance? Um no. The reason that Japan loves KFC on Xmas is very far removed from the reasons that an advertizing agency believes that this will be effective in boosting sales, or the Yum!Brands Marketing Department believes it would be profitable to keep a significant number of KFC locations open on Christmas. Still, it's nice to see yet another creepy Christmas cross cultural commonality ....c-develop between Japan and the US, if not for this one being one of the few examples of the door swinging the other way.

So there you go, you American Otaku. Now there's no excuse not to sink your teeth into a piece of golden deep fried awesome. Whether it's to bring the family together, or to avoid them all entirely, get to a KFC, where they'll charge you 25% of the price of the same than Japan will, because America has illegal immigrant labor pick lettuce, slaughter chickens, and work in food-factories for less than minimum wage, all so you can buy 12,000 callories provided by the cheapest third party for the lowest bid price. ...Enjoy.

... I miss Tokyo, but not it's prices.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Caffeinated Fan Service

This is going to cover some concepts that on their own are not substantial enough to make a post in and of themselves (that's saying a lot since this blog has previously spent an entire post detailing the subtle nuances of the Angry Whopper). Therefore they are all going to get put here, in this lovely collection of things Japan, juxtipisitions of previous assertions, and other points of interest. There will be photos of things and such.

Happy 50th Birthday, Sanrio. While Hello Kitty isn’t 50 yet (she’s 36 and still single), Sanrio was founded 50 years ago on August 10. Little did they know that the pushers of a cuteness factor stronger than crack would end up creating branded booze. Still haven’t found any of this stuff around though. Someone go buy some and let me know if it sucks or not.

Second:A while back I was on the Ninja Consultant cast of the pod, and mentioned 眠眠打破, the Japanese wake-up energy drink pronounced Min-Min Daha, and which literally translates to “don’t drink this.” Ok no not really, it actually literally breaks down to “Abolish Sleeping Sleep” or maybe "rid the sleep need" more or less, and is so powerful that if you slammed this with a shot of Makers Mark it would make Four Loko look like baby formula. 5 Hour Energy is gecko piss compared to this stuff. But I mistakenly described the label in the show (I was actually describing the slightly cheaper competing product which is not as awesome), so here is what it actually looks like:

Now, Chuck Schumer temper-tantrums aside, the reason you’re not gonna see this stuff being hauled into the US en masse, is that many of these Japanese drink supplements contain things like: Ephedra, guarana, caffeine, alcohol, animal brain fluid, and nicotine, and can range from genuinely healthy to something like MY GOD IT’S FULL OF STARS!

ThirdLast post turned into a doozy, with a plethora of different issues and directions that discourse could go into. I’m inclined to just let it die at this point, since the whole political-ness phase has already come and gone with this blog with the participation in Everybody Draw Mohammad Day.

What I do want to do though is mention the other side of the equation in regards to the notion of groups making wholly incorrect assertions and an inexplicable refusal to submit to facts, because the facts come from a source they can’t understand. Younger generations are just as (if not more) susceptible to falling into this kind of behavior, and one need only to look at the sadly abundant number of Anime Music Videos on Youtube out there that use songs wrongly attributed to Weird Al Yancovic. From “Ugly Girl” to “What if God Smoked Cannibas,” moronic teenyboppers keep labeling their crappy videos using these songs as being by Weird Al, when a mountain of evidence including Weird Al’s own press releases says otherwise. Because their illegally downloaded version of that song they got from Limewire or whatever has “Weird Al” as the artist, they are going to defend that blatant falicy with a sidestepping fervor that is rivaled only by creationists.

The difference here, is that these moronic boppers making such mistakes are more of a bottom-up dynamic, where various checks and balances are in place that prevent what little damage these notions are capable of, whereas the previous SCOTUS example is a top down dynamic, capable of sweeping and unchangeable damage to how we live.

FourthZOMBOOBIES! Yes friends, the success of Walking Dead makes me hopeful for more zombie-tastic media entertainment across the board, including High School of the Dead. Before leaving Tokyo, I had to just take one more chance to go to Animate:

Interesting business model. Reminds me of... oh yeah.

After visiting 2 locations in 1 day (awesome), I ended up at the flagship location over in Ikebukuro, where I violated the no photos policy and saw this:

Want a closer look?

Just in case you aren’t sure if that is what you think it is,

Yeah totally. While I usually roll my eyes at manufactured controversy this is just awesome. In reality, as I’ve been catching every episode that has come out so far, even I am getting to the point where the T & A is becoming over gratuitous (bullet dodging boobies …seriously?) and starting to distract from the overall awesome factor of the show as a whole. So despite the presence of two huge annoyance factors that American anime fans often face; 1) Anime’s love of guns while the Japanese don’t knowing the first thing about how they actually work or how fast bullets travel etc, and 2) the unending Japanese deficiency when it comes to actually learning the difference between “R” and “L”, I am still going to keep HSOTD near the top of my “it” list. Dead Ruck? RUCK? What the Ruck kind of Rit is that?

Opinion. S.2847 and why the movie Office Space is still relevant:Dear President of the United States;
Oh please please please sign this bill. My opinion of congress has from one of 99% worthlessness to only 95% for actually getting this through, and if you sign it I might actually forgive the fact that you've turned into a neutered sicophantic mirage of what I voted for, and I'll come out and vote for you again if I have to (but not in the rain, it will take getting rid of DADT for me to do that).

This whole commercials-louder-than-the-show thing is another prime example of business consultants run amok, looking at a short term gain while forgetting about the rest of the future. These same people who thought that was a good idea, would advise a car salesman to quit, based on the staggering savings created from not having to print any more business cards. They would advise burning the window frames and a wall or 2 in your house to keep warm in December. But what's that you say? February's cold too and now your house has gaping holes where windows used to be? Well fuck February, I'll have my consulting fee and be long gone by then so February is your problem which you can hire me back for. I'll just have you burn the chairs and beds that grandma and your kids were using, but don't worry, we outsorced them to Malaysia so they're not using them now... see you next winter.

In urban spaces this practice has actually gotten someone fined for violating a late night noise ordanance, because they were watching a quiet show, went to the can, and while they were in there the commercials came on 10x louder than anything else, and the old lady next door complained and caught it on a decible meeter (apparently she's got nothing better to do).

S. 2847, or The CALM Act, is little more than empty calories in terms of solving real problems, but comfort food has meaning... seriously, can you remember the last time you ate carrots or spinach? How about the last time you got your hands on a Chocodile or chowed down on good foie gras? Yeah, you know which one you gona remember. That's what this bill is... a worthless gesture turned into an intense memory. Teabaggers and Treehugers alike have got to put aside their differences and put the volume controll of the TVs in our own homes back in the hands of the people!

So that's that. I got my new computer finally. My old Toshiba ended up going kerplunk in August, taking all my contacts and emails and files with it, so it's nice to have something that I can configure the way I like it.


Friday, November 5, 2010

But Honestly Monica... What the Cook’s Source Magazine theft of intellectual property can tell us about Schwarzenegger v. EMA

Once again, Gen X and beyond is getting screwed by the Baby Boomers.

No, I’m not talking about the recent midterm elections, in which for whatever reason, over 65 voters turned out to vote almost 2 to 1 over the under 30 crowd. Once again it looks like younger people in America have (rightfully so) given up any inkling that their voice genuinely counts in any kind of open arena or community in which the baby boomers have entrenched themselves. Some of this comes down to life-style, with younger people tending to have jobs that are much less forgiving in terms of scheduling flexibility, and tend to be in sectors that have “election day sales” where entitled boomers argue about paying too much for a 90% off made-in-China thing they don’t need on their way to vote for “family values” while muttering about how the youth of the country don’t give the boomers enough credit for the “revolution” of the 60’s or the inflation-fest of the 80’s.

This subject is something I’ve talked about before, and anyone who likes anime or goes to a convention is used to the uber-wide social gap of understanding which is why your mother never understands your jokes or why she gets confused by the “I’m on a horse” ad and it’s various parodies.

Case in point #2, the “because I say so” self-important opinion gambit, where boomers often believe that because of their age and experience, their all too often ill-informed opinions are not only valid, but can somehow trump arguments that are in the right, just because that factually correct opposition comes from a gen-x or gen-y source. It is an insane trap of self delusion whose apex seems to be the notion that the “government is going to get involved in your Medicare.” ...yeah.

There’s a point... wait for it.

Take a recent real world example of this in media; Cook’s Source Magazine totally cluster-fucks it’s way into internet famous-ness (that’s totally a real word). Apparently, it’s not plagiarism if you and your old-media take it off that wacky internet that the kids use. TL;DR version of all that is; a food blogger Monica Gaudio posted a recipe/article for an apple pie or something on her own website. This was later found, slightly altered, and re-published by Cook’s Source Magazine with Gaudio’s name on the byline, however Gaudio was never informed or compensated. When confronted, Cook’s Source Magazine Editor Judith Griggs notes she’s got “30 years experience” in the publishing business, and then acknowledges the situation. Finally she follows it up with one of the most obtuse notions ever, that being that everything on the internet is Public Domain and perfectly usable as content in a for-profit publication. It’s a textbook example of both the baby boomer gap of understanding how new media and technology work while at the same time playing the “my opinion carries more weight than your argument simply because you’re too young to understand” or more accurately the “because I said so, child” maneuver. The belittling of importance of media, simply because it’s in a form that uses new technology that one can not understand, often leads the boomers to violate codes of behavior, and explicit laws out of a sense of self righteous ignorance, which almost always leads to the detriment to younger generations.

Another footnote in the making of “Making 'Generation Screwed;' a Baby Boomer Production” ...I just made that up.

Why is this important for an anime / Japanese pop-culture blog?

No this didn’t happen to me, my posts are simply too crunktaculatastic to be reprinted in old media. But recently, the issue of “violent video games” the replacement boogey-man that replaces Twisted Sister and the Tipper Sticker, has in fact made it to the Supreme Court of The United States of America. Scared by a medium of creativity they can’t possibly comprehend but believe they can adequately judge, the boomer generation is trying to regulate free speech by using scare tactics. Now, banning a violent game sounds as ridiculous as banning a violent book to those who can understand both of these mediums, but you have to be born after 1975 to be able to know that.

What should scare the crap out of everyone reading this, is that the panel of SCOTUS judges in this case has consistently demonstrated their inability to notice that it’s not the year 1970 anymore. Moronic questions demonstrating the lack of even the most basic knowledge of how email and cell phones work, the inability to correctly spell or pronounce Nunchuck, and a notion of under 18 year olds as non-citizens which do not have first amendment protection, are all things I except someone’s angry grandmother to spew forth, not something to come from the soo-preem-fuking-kort!

Yet it is this untouchable cabal of culturally and technologically illiterate bunch of boomer-mentality superiority of opinion judges, which will either strike down, or support a law which clearly violates the U.S. Constitution but for the fact it’s being applied to a medium which these people can not understand. Change out “video game” with “book” in this case, and we wouldn’t even be here.

Kotaku has put up a piece that gives a hopeful picture that the outcome won’t be retarded, but let’s not forget, if you're reading this here, you are coming into this with our own superior understanding of how this technology actually works, and how it is not bound by specific age groups (the “video games are for kids” notion). Conversly, the SCOTUS is fumbling around in the dark, putting their hands on inventions that they’ve never seen before, all while looking for the oil lamp to shed some light on the situation.

On the bright side, it seems that Kagan knew what Mortal Kombat was, although she relegated it to “something her clerks did,” thereby demoting it to a plebeian activity of the younger generation in her mind I'm sure.

This one could go either way.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Brazil; The rising Yen's effect on manga and anime

How America is still killing the anime business, but this time it's not your fault.

Ok, take a good look at this:

You see that? That’s the reason that I wasn’t too sad to leave Tokyo, but more importantly, that’s also the reason that this is the wrong time for animation producers in Japan to “see the light” in terms of using other markets as a source of revenue (and thusly, as something they’d ever care about regarding feedback and other market metrics).

For anyone who doesn’t know what that is (as if anyone at all is reading this), that is the long sad decline of the exchange rate of JPY to USD (if you don’t know what JPY and USD are, then just get off the internet... no seriously get off and go eat paste or something).

Now it has been established that domestic Japanese market conditions will (eventually) have studios and publishers poised to see the light in terms of exploiting other markets outside Japan for their IP. The various other aspects outside of the Japanese population curve however, have conspired to make this prospect for North America not only unattractive but a downright Uber Greek Tragedy. See, just in time for Japanese companies to realize that to keep revenues at current levels, they need to tap the U.S. market, U.S. money becomes essentially worthless in Japan (and the rest of the world for that matter).

So what can we do? Well what can you do...?

Coming back to America I had to just have a seizure walking around looking at how cheap all the crap in our stores is. A folding chair, which cost me $40 in Tokyo, was $7.98 at an office supply store in upstate New York; 1 table fan was $14.95 at Walmart rather than the same thing at Tokyo’s Bic Camera which sold for $70... and so on. So the only thing you can really do, is as a country, stop buying cheap Chinese crap. ...yeah, I didn’t think so. So as long as China won’t raise it’s currency, as long as the U.S. has to follow China in order to keep Wal-Mart and the other 90% of retail consumer goods in business, and as long as Japan remains insulated and protects their economy (which will keep the Yen exactly where it is)... then you, the American anime fan, have just been demoted to the same level of contribution as Brazil. Although last time I checked the USD was still about 10 JPY ahead of the Brazilian Real when you adjust for the factor of 100 (dollars vs cents). And while both are losing out to the serious currency issues which seem to never want to stop for the yen, it's not really a lot of difference when you look at it in terms of being able to contribute in the market for IP.

Personally, I think it's going to get much worse, and my own pick based on nothing other than me pulling numbers out of thin air is that it's going to go down to 72 JPY per USD before it gets better on any significant level.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Leaving Japan

Japan; Love / Hate / Meh.

It seems as if I am destined to return to the USA and soon. Losing the all powerful otaku street-cred that comes from living it Tokyo is one of the few things I’ll miss about this place. In all honesty, I’d probably stay if I could (read; “could stay with a career and salary sufficient enough to maintain a specific standard). That shouldn’t bee too hard, and if I was more motivated I am sure I would have accomplished that already. Tokyo is nice, but the fact that I can once again no longer have my windows open because of the construction going on across the street (now in it’s 16th month) simply sends in too much noise and dust. least it’s not 100 degrees out anymore.

About 10 years ago, I was in this exact same situation almost. Living in Japan, just finished a degree, and looking at returning to New York with an uncertain future, spending a few months of doing nothing until finally getting to work again at a company which was best described as an airplane that never left the gate, but the pilots kept announcing the cruising altitude anyway until we ran out of fuel. Leaving Japan then was the first of a long line of life-destroying mistakes lasting almost a decade. Now the reset button has been hit, and I am looking at the horrific and inescapable fact that the worst events I’ve gone through are about to be thoroughly repeated. A few years ago, I’d care about that, and it might have served as a great motivation to get out there and do whatever it took to stay, but those days were dead and gone long before coming to Japan in the first place.

So yeah, I’m kind of just on autopilot and need to snap out of it. Maybe being back in New York before the end of October (and it may be permanent), might get that to happen.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Naruto is a Chicken... Your argument is invalid.

Life in Japan:

So in the universe of product tie-ins that involve Japanese convenience stores and anime, Lawson is now offering fried chicken nuggets packaged with their famed chicken mascot "Karaage-kun" seemingly cosplaying as Naruto. There's nothing special about the actual contents of the package, but of course, after doing a deep dive consulting session for Lawson, I just feel too drawn to getting one. So here it is, the latest anime thing to be found at convenience stores. (this is no longer true though, since the Sunkus in the lobby just started selling limited edition Dragon Ball Z figures).

Actually, the only tie-ins that I am always guaranteed to fall for are the Lupin III ones. A while back, I had to drink 12 Roots Black Aroma cans (the big ones) over the course of 4 days to get the whole promotional set. I am watching Green vs Red as I write this, and it almost makes up for not being at Otakon. ...almost.

In the last scene of Green vs Red, they chase the new Lupin through Shinjuku down Yasukuni Avenue. I live on Yasukuni Ave in Shinjuku, and I can hear police sirens outside right now... cool.

Tokyo... Sometimes, it actually doesn't suck.

Like today.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Anyone going to Otakon 2010 can you pick me up a t-shirt (XL) and a program book? I am very much the opposite of happy that I am not going to be there.

Thanks for the quick reply.


Monday, July 26, 2010

You've got red on you: Zombie Apocalypse and the anime counter-argument.

In re-reading the previous post, I was all of a sudden reminded that there's a significant example of the exact type of "solution" evolving out of the current gulf between anime markets. High School of the Dead, is airing at just about at the same time in Japan and the US, (or at least as close as reasonably possible, I mean really). Now, good on them for doing that, it's really one of the only ways that anime can circumvent the erosion of sustainability in the US market which comes from fansubs devaluing licenses. However, this is an example of the embryonic stage of that, and is in no way going to be a final template for how to do this. I'm sure that American fans have become so used to consuming fansubs, that there are pirated copies on the internet still serving the exact same people that the Anime Channel is counting on watching through their own distribution channels (either cable or online). It's going to take an ongoing pattern of this type of distribution to make a real dent in this problem, and this title is not only just the beginning, but by nature of it being first on the learning curve, it's also a weak example.

I've been doing my best to catch High School of the Dead at 2am here in Tokyo, and therein lies problem#2. I don't know when the Anime Network airs this thing (I just don't feel like looking it up), but I am fairly certain that the first siring does not happen at 2am. Now for those of you thinking that the reason for a 2am time slot is because of content, it's really not. The same cable package that gets you AT-X gets you plenty of other content in the middle of the day which makes the boobie-jiggle and brain smashing factor of HSOTD look pretty tame (though that is a portion of the explanation for 2am). Sure it's not for kids and could be on late, but there is no way this property can compete with the more valuable programming that's on at 11. So it ends up at 2am because the top of the pyramid is going to be committed enough to follow it there, and everyone else is not necessarily a group that can be counted on. So, the HSFTD pull factor might be stronger in the US than Japan, and now we come back to the cultural divide, where the top anime programs in Japan only have a few which also occupy a major spot in the US market (DragonBall, One Piece, all that).

To talk about High School of the Dead itself, it's been a long time since I've gotten into an anime series enough to stay up to 2am, but this one looks worth it. Smashing zombies is fun, oppai are fun, and the mid to high level of Japanese youth angst isn't actually the driving force of the story. I am sure it's being censored to high-heaven on American TV so I would be interested to see how the DVDs end up. I don't like to buy DVDs in Japan, because they are just much more expensive, so whenever I see a Japanese movie I like, I check to see if there's a US release first. If there is, I just add it to my list of "pick it up when I go back home" and wait for my next trip over. However, if it is censored (Kill Bill anyone?) I'll go out of my way to get the original work of art to make my own decision about it, not deal with the version destroyed by the MPAA or FCC. That being said, I think the sexualized scenes in the series are a bit overboard, but at least I can make that decision for myself.

But this series is worth checking out if you like zombie flicks(there have already been references to Shaun of the Dead and Zombie Land) and some animation that is a real step above the rest in terms of quality. The only downside, is that the series uses a lot of flashbacks of the same footage to save money. But it's still totally worth it. Also, look what I found.

WTF Japan;
So sometimes Japanese TV works a bit differently in terms of commercial breaks. They run just about the whole show commercial free, and then run a 10-15 minute block of informer-style adverts. You can't really tell from the image, but this commercial is for premium WHALE BACON. Yep, get your premium whale meat delivered right to your door for a great price. Call now. So... who wants to see a review of a whale bacon omelet? OM NOM NOM

Finally, you can hear some more ranting on the Ninja Consultant Podcast.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Galapagos Effect in My Manga? It’s more likely than you think.

How the Margaret Barbaree situation can show us potential problems for the future.

A three part series on why anime and manga stand to become less relevant to Americas, and why there’s nothing you can do about it.

Part I;

While the recent events in Florida conger up fond memories of the “good old days” when manga and anime were the spearhead of true counterculture, it is a reminder of an endemic habitual problem of cultural separation with manga (and the anime that is produced from it) across international borders.

In these “good old days” fan communities could hold a special solidarity together, one that could only come from the collective misunderstanding, cultural mistrust, and feelings of ignorant repugnancy from mainstream Middle America which was directed at those subversive perverted unchristian Japanese comics and cartoons. This kind of story is indelibly marked in any otaku who is old enough to have actually bought a VHS tape; Morally overzealous sheltering parent is appalled that a book in the library might contain a reference to something other than good ol’ 1950’s family values (sex, supernatural powers, profanity, etc) and flips her lid because the mere fact that it is a COMIC makes it deliberately aimed at 11 year olds and couldn’t possibly be geared towards another audience.

According to the story the complainant mother said her son “lost his mind” when he read the book, and “Now he’s in a home for extensive therapy.” I would have to say, that “losing your mind” isn’t exactly easy and the only singular events that can trigger such things usually involve traumatic brain injury or smoking lots of crack. The fact that he’s been put in an institutional environment (basically jail with therapists) to "repair the damage" and isolate him from the rest of the evil world leads one to believe that there is a very P.Z. Meyers explanation that can be assumed: Bible thumper mom + young sheltered son saw cartoon boobies = freak out of a Margaret Perrin GOD-WARRIOR magnitude. It reminds me of a time when at Anime Crash we got a letter from some Christian ministry in Texas admonishing us for selling the “occultist poison of Japanese animation” to young Christians. They really hated Sailor Moon for some reason.

Other facts that should tell people that the source of the problem in this case lies not with manga, but with this Margaret Barbaree person, is the fact that her unsupervised son surreptitiously removed this book from the general stacks of the library and then took it home. HE STOLE THE BOOK, he didn’t check it out. Now this woman has refused to return this stolen property and has taken to using deceptive political techniques to get people to sign petitions to “ban pornography in the library” which she then re-brands “ban all anime in the library” (yes she did call it anime). Granted the manga in question Gantz, is probably not what I would recommend for an 11 year old, but this lady has as much credibility in her anti-manga cause as if she wanted to ban Playboy because her son stole one from a news stand.

Part II;

Why the hell does this matter? Well it’s certainly not a harbinger of some sort of neocon movement where the tea-bagger birthers are going to storm the likes of Jim Hanley’s and the CBLDF and start burning things. The problem here is more abstract.

Japan is “turning Japanese,” to use the phrase. There have been political speeches, economic seminars, and countless articles written about the Galapagos Effect shaping Japan’s future. This has been recently highlighted by the article about Japan’s “Digital Homeless” concept (you can see my apartment in that photo there), where high-tech gadgetry mask a very low-tech culture and life-style. Where technological innovation and service innovation live in two separate universes are the ATM machines which can do everything from count your change to write all your transactions in your bank book for you, but that completely close when banking hours are over. Corporate offices where everyone works like crazy but then everyone takes lunch at the exact same time, bringing tasks in progress to a stand-still, and employees who are given extra medical insurance and told by their companies to get checked up to combat potential alcohol abuse, but the next day receive a memo telling them that not attending this week’s nomikai (drinking party) with the boss would be bad for their career. In Japan, there is no negative stigma to being 31 years old and living in your Mom’s basement, because if your family is rich enough to have a basement in the first place, you’re in great shape.

The Galapagos Effect is most prevalently felt in terms of the technology and development of products in Japan. Phones that do things no one but Tokyo kogals need, cars that get an extra 0.2 km per gallon but all look the same, and TV subscription services that think it’s much more important to have that extra bit-rate than to develop original programming and provide a website where subscribers can communicate with each other about why they like the shows that they like. In Japan, that’s progress, but to the rest of the world, that’s meaningless. Japan has given us extraordinary innovations like instant ramen and the air-bag, but the people who develop these things are the exception, not the rule.

There’s also the generation gap, which is incontestably the most pronounced in all of recorded history. The “graying of Japan” will effect three things more than anything else:
1) Public spending: Get ready to see a lot more money go to retrofitting infrastructure with elevators, escalators, and resting spaces, along with policy put in place regarding any new construction.
2) Japanese pharmaceuticals: That’s the new power industry of Japan. People with macular degeneration don’t give two craps about 1080p versus 1080i. The DO care about the ability to properly give-a-crap, in the quite literal sense. Get ready to see some deregulation in the laws which govern the sale of pharmaceutical products and advertising (which here in Japan are very very tight… so tight that it is ILLEGAL for a non-pharmacy store to sell… wait for it… aspirin). FYI another company that is going to get a bump from this are the beverage companies like Asahi, Suntory, and Kirin (have Suntory and Kirin merged yet?), because the “drinkable health supplement” market is not as tight as pharma and these companies know it.
3) Advertising: Pay attention, because that's to do with Part III.

To answer the earlier question however, the basic crux of the argument is that Japan is changing as all cultures do, but unlike other cultures, there seem to be no inroads for future influence to come from outside, and the previous few sources of outside influence are long past the possibility of resuscitation. English speaking ability among students is down, the rate of students studying abroad is down, no real immigration is happening, Japan is a political joke (going through prime ministers like sticks of pockey at an anime convention), it had to bend the rules to maintain status in the G-20, and there’s a general malaise that no matter what anyone does, the rest of the world all has it’s eyes on China. It’s like the older sibling who gets demotivated when the younger one shows up and gets all the “awww how cute” attention.

The economy and culture is changing into its own unique and very disconnected introverted species.

Part III:

OK, so why the hell does THAT matter? Well that matters because if you are outside Japan, you DON’T matter. Japanese advertisers have Japanese products to sell and Japanese TV ads to buy. Ads on TV pay the bills at the end of the day for anime. These ads are now catering to this new Galapagos Effected audience, who don’t necessarily have totally different tastes (yet) than the rest of the world, but definitely a different thought process and hierarchy of priorities. UniQlo the clothing retailer and designer is one of the biggest firms in Japan and just won the Porter Prize for innovation and profitability. But you won’t see them advertise on anime (much). That company has enough money to make their own anime series if they felt like it, but they don’t. That means anime titles are going to get developed which specifically can demonstrate that they can get viewers that advertisers are going after, and those viewers are responsive to certain advertising while other types are not effective. This dynamic has become dissimilar enough from other cultural groups outside Japan, that the actual content of the anime is becoming less appealing.

For Manga, it’s still sales that pays the bills, but that doesn’t mean they will stay relevant. How manga is consumed by people in Japan is well known (daily train rides, down time, and the ever present manga-kissa). These people are all going to have lifestyle trends that move towards the more detached, and just like the Galapagos Effect is internalizing sensibilities towards technology, ways of doing business, and politics, it is internalizing tastes in entertainment media including manga. Since many anime titles are developed from manga, this trend has quite the ripple effect.

Stories and ideas that make for good reading in Japan, will continue to diverge from the kinds of subjects that international audiences can resonate with. If you’re an American otaku, chances are the kinds of titles you like, will continue to be gradually less relevant. At the moment, there’s nothing you can do about it, and the reason is simple. You. Don’t. Matter.

I’ve said this before, but every time I see a thread like this it just makes me want to scream about how ridiculously introverted it is and then send angry e-mails to people at AWO about the same thing. You may consume and really love anime. You may even understand the tip of the iceberg of Japanese culture because of anime, but you are not helping anime. As a matter of fact, you’re actually doing the opposite, and it’s insulting. By watching fansubs or reading scanlations, you are taking away any chance these works of art ever had at finding an audience in America that can support the people who work to get these made. Once that fansub is out there, the property’s freshness seal is broken for all time. No going back.

America had its chance. Japanese companies licensed properties that American companies said in good faith that the titles would resonate with American audiences and they could expect $x amount of TV ad revenue, $x amount of home media sales revenue, and $x amount of value to be added to other licenses like merchandise. Each title is different and each title got valuated accordingly. To avoid self-contradiction I will maintain that often the home media rights were inflated in the heads of the American licensees and they were seemingly willing to pay exorbitant amounts for titles that needed lots of expensive localization and overhead which was all very unrealistic to be made back in the then current state of the market. On the whole however, these numbers were actually not that big, but they did depend on a high percentage of very involved fans accessing these products (or “productions” if that makes you feel better) through the channels that licensed them in order to make revenue that would then be shared with the licensor. Japanese companies would take the proformas given to them by the American licensees and add them to their accounts receivable, which is s short term asset, and a factor in many important ratios which indicate a company’s solvency, credit rating, and things that a company needs in general.

What happened was that bootleggers (or fansubbers, it’s the same thing) got copies of these products, they localized them, and then they distributed them before anyone could even come up with a reasonable number of how much they were worth. This made the value of any license, $0. Companies didn’t initially notice this, and so they licensed properties that had long since started their product life cycle in the American market, and thought they could provide royalties. Fansubbers, and people who watch fansubs who think they’re not hurting the industry, you are the reason that the Japanese publishers and production companies don’t care in the least if you like what they produce or not. They owe nothing to you, and you are the reason that an entire generation of Japanese media professionals believe they lost the American market and the potential sales that could have come from that… sales that would have earned enough money so that they didn’t have to fire their friends.

So if Japanese companies couldn’t be profitable in their licensing to the American market, and if every time they did licensing something they would have to write off losses, then they are going to do the next best thing. Ignore America. Ignore you in their business, ignore your input, and ignore what stories or genres you would like to see. They have no reason to care, and so now the Galapagos Effect has worked its way into anime even stronger.

The American market has lost any chance to have significant input in the kind of anime productions that get made outside of directly investing. Get used to being on the outside looking in. And if you want to see more anime and manga covering the topics you like, and in the style you like… go make your own if you have the time and money. Or manga will eventually be as alien to Americans as mayonnaise on pizza. Still different, still uniquely Japanese, but quite unappealing. Difference in and of itself does not exclusively create appeal.

Welcome to Japan. These aren't the droids you're looking for.


There's always been something different about anime and manga from American sensibilities and sometimes the mainstream still pitches a hissy: That's good.

Japan is becoming more introverted and the kinds of things that appeal to the Japanese market are not that relatable to the American market no matter what. Creating fewer titles that anyone in America will like/follow: That's Bad.

The American market contributed just about nothing in terms of revenue to anime companies, so despite how many anime fans there are outside Japan, it will not effect mow many of those unrelatable manga and anime titles get produced. That's really bad.

The only way to fix that is to make the American market a source of revenue so that it can have any clout in the evolution of manga and anime: That's Impossible.

This problem goes away if it can get a foothold in China, after-all, 1% of the Chinese market is all you would ever need to stick around and stay healthy (that would be 136 million individual sales by the way).  Will companies ever think that the Chinese market will be anything other than the Wild West any time soon? probably not.   Will that get in the way of making lots of money? probably not.  So there's hope here.

To Commenters:
FYI; This blog for some reason gets lots of Japanese (and now Chinese) Spam ever since this. So the comments were moderated, BUT lots of messages still end up in the que. If your comment and it doesn't show up, it's because I didn't notice it in there during a purge.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anger Management

Food With Thoughts.

How does one manage anger in a country so polite it makes Canada look like a nation of drunk Serbian nationalists? Well they use an international fast food chain to bring you “The Angry Whopper” from Bah-gah-kingu. That’s right BK has looked up “spicy” in the dictionary and has apparently found the word “angry” next to it.

So without further anything, here is the Angry Otaku’s look into an edible source of anger. Or is it that the burger is angry and not causing anger…? Oh right, who cares.

So there is the campaign going on. Burger King locations in Japan are apparently comfortable serving food that is emotional unstable! According to this official document on display down in the depths Shinjuku’s Keio Mall (between the JR and Toei entrances) there are some 3 different levels of angriness that you can request. As you can see, the direct translation of the levels on this sign are “meh” “watch-yo self” and “ZOMGWFT you be crayzay!"), no really that’s totally what it says, now go watch a fan-sub because you know all the Japanese you’ll ever need.

Back to the story here, being the adventurous type and loving spicy food in general, I asked for the strongest level.

As this BK didn’t have a dining area, I had no choice but to get it to go. In Japanese, “to go” is said “ore no oshiri o mitte” You should totally go say that to every Japanese person who works at a fast food place… actually just start saying it all the time that way you’ll never forget.

With a level of Japanese efficiency that makes you curse the day you have to return to the U.S., and deal with the products of a broken education system, the smartly uniformed staff had my order ready in under 3 minutes. Had I not been the only customer, they still would have had it ready that fast because I’m important dammit! Now, for an angry piece of BK broiled kick-ass, it was surprising to receive it in an unassuming BK brown paper bag, designed for the snively likes of chicken nuggets or gender-confused teriyaki burgers or any other emotion+menu item. This is an ANGRY WHOPPER and it could tear that helpless paper asunder with it’s anger-ray sesame seed eyes and tomatoes of fury! However I was assured that no chains or Kevlar were necessary as the Angry Whopper is kept in perfect hibernation until the inner wrapper is removed. Ah-so.

So let’s see what’s under there.

It did look pristine for fast food at first glance, with just one sauced up jalapeño falling out, indicating a massive amount stuffed inside. So far so good, and the sauce had that distinct smell of being spiced up deliberately with B-grade pickled chilies (hey it’s BK, not casa de awesome), all accompanied with plenty of onion. To confirm this, there needed to be some checking under the hood.

Immediately the “double tomato” or in Japanese the “futatsu no oppai” (remember to ask for this loudly if you like tomatoes, or just ad “ja-nai” if you don’t) was something that struck tones of some high quality burger-ness to follow, but alas here is where our problems start. They were so thick and slippery that they immediately started causing a loss of structural cohesion between themselves and the lettuice/onions layer. They had to go if this thing was going to still resemble a Whopper, Angry or Otherwise. Normally this isn’t an issue on the regular Whopper, but the extra peppers down there were adding to the slippery plant matter pile. There was also a mayo-like sauce on it which caused concern that it would dampen the awesome hot-ness.

After getting through about half I realized that someone here was angry, but it was most definitely me not the Angry Whopper. The spice level would be what many of my friends call “ooowwww that’s WAY too hot!” which is what I call, “getting there.” But with a little augmentation from some smuggled in Mexican awesome juice, we were back on the true angry trail.

I want to get another one of these. Although angry, it far surpasses anything McDonald's has been able to come up with, with the “Big Texas Burger” being the only thing that comes close. Wendy’s sadly is no more, and MossBurger isn’t what it used to be and has nothing new that isn't topped with a fried egg, while the Freshness Burger chain thinks it’s ok to use frozen ready to cook patties that look like they came from Topps and charge 3 times as much as everyone else. No dear readers, if you are in Japan and find yourself hungry, then the next step should be to find yourself “angry” (unless you’re a vegetarian in which case …this might not be the country for you ...ya pansy).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20th, 2010

You know what that means...


Are you mad? Well I can't see why. Maybe you can explain why. ...just try not to blow something up... or riot... or set someone's house on fire... or stab someone... or just make threats. Don't agitate, educate.

Now you may say that I am agitating, not educating, but I would say I am teaching a valuable lesson about American rights, human communication & learning, and the internet:
A) American Rights include the law's protection for saying things that in other places of the world would get you killed. Europe thinks they have this but they don't ever since they criminalized what they too broadly define as hate speech. Hate speech falls into two different categories... Speech that hates you, and Speech you hate. However you may not like it, BOTH kinds are protected by law in the United States. From advocating the legalization the the most ghastly of narcotic, to the reprehensible act of defending Adolf Hitler, everything between and beyond, is legally protected. It can only be killed in one place, the arena of public opinion.

B) It has long been established that reasons without explanations are not reasons but orders. Much of the time these reasons turned orders are hurled at people who see no authority in the party from which they originate. The originating party is then further frustrated by the non-compliance/non-understanding of what they believe to be logically sound reasoning. What is happening is that several steps are being skipped. One party is expecting another to fully understand the tacit knowledge they all take for granted as to why they say what they say, and the other responds with equally tacit knowledge as to why they are defensive. The missing steps are that both ideas need to pass from tacit, to explicit, and then back to tacit, before the other side can understand... think about it, have you ever truly learned anything any other way?

C) Seriously, welcome to the internet. This is where the most glorious and hideous conceptions and recitations the unfettered masses have to offer. You WILL be offended. You WILL be insulted. You WILL feel helpless against it. Take a lesson in humility that somewhere, someone is doing something that is the most insulting thing possible to you... with words, pictures, or abstract actions. And ask yourself, if your electricity went out an hour ago... would you feel the same way? The internet does not come to you. You go to it. Time is better spent on other things.

Dedicated to the cowards of Comedy Central, and the coward Molly Norris.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Procedural Update

I will be in New York during the end of May.

Coming up before that: A tour of the Gundam Cafe in Akihabara.

-The Angry Otaku

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Greater Divide:

You’re REALLY doing it wrong.

Way to go Comedy Central. You really were able to cut your balls off and forget your mission statement in record time. Actually, since it’s a Viacom Company, it never really had balls to begin with and since the mission statement of any Viacom division is “make money” they are really doing the correct thing and protecting economic assets that might otherwise get damaged (do you know how much it’s gonna cost to hire a new secretary after some towel-head sticks a shiv in her right in the middle of Broadway and 43rd? Not to mention the wrongful death suits her hyucklebuck red-state parents are gonna go on a rampage for). So first thing’s first, let’s just all make sure that we know this is Viacom protecting itself from losing money in lawsuits, and not actually giving a shit about their employees (believe me, if you have ever worked for/with Viacom, you’d know they don’t give a shit about you or anyone else).

So because of this, I am not really mad about the censoring of SouthPark by Viacom, because it is impossible to be surprised at this development. If it’s not surprising, it’s not really angering, just more a source of lamentable frustration. What does get me steamed is that Viacom actually has the balls to claim that they are doing this censoring to protect actual people and not their bottom line, but again, since this is such an obvious lie and totally expected, it’s hard to get worked up about it. If Viacom was my magical money tree, I’d do the exact same thing, even knowing that the only threat is coming from some New York City (raised Orthodox-Jewish) convert yuppie whiney pig-fart, who got all antsy in the pantsy to prove he’s just as hard core as the other towelheads even though as a child he had the end of his wennie cut off and sucked on by a drunken bearded freak (yes that’s how circumcision works kids). I’m talking about this guy...who apparently is the only one with his chastity belt in a twist over images such as;

don't fuck with this guy... he'll burn you ...with fire.

But you know who may not care about getting more money? Matt and Trey, and they are the ones I am looking at in this situation. It’s hard to be angry at anyone but them. Why? Because all the other parties involved, Viacom, towelheads, fans, the MSM… they all reacted exactly how historically they have always reacted. It would be out of character for any of these players to not do what they did… except Matt and Trey. Where was your plan B? Why isn’t the uncensored footage leaked out there? Where is the indignation? Why the sound-bite-only silence? This one is worth going to the mat for. This one is worth putting everything on the line, and showing the Viacom Lawyers your shiny ass and saying “I DARE YOU.” This one is worth transferring (how many millions of dollars do you have?) all your liquid into a non-freezable bank and giving a big middle finger to everything those MBA suites like to crunch numbers about at the end of every quarter (yes I can smell the irony).

Fucking around with us and not telling us who Cartman’s father is was one thing (yes, we still remember that). Shilling for “censor-approved only” comedy and valuable TV time by compromising artistic creativity? We won’t even bother to make fun of you on 4chan.

Try not to let us down.

Epilogue part 1:
"For great justice" some Annons took 5 minutes out of their schedule to hack the crap out of the website that posted the threat in the first place, Revolution Islam. Who knows how long that will last, so here's a shot FTW.

Epilogue part 2:
Apparently there was also a really creative protest to the kind of puss-ing out and manufactured rage that this situation created, but the person who started that has also pussed-out because they're a panzy. Obviously she got some people who know exactly where she lives and yada yada. If you're going to do something ballzy, either be prepared for the nutcases, or do it with some secrecy. It's like if Anonymous showed up at Scientology HQ with their home addresses and SSNs printed on t-shirts. Molly Norris, Fuck You. Just a few strategic moves could have prevented them from finding you. You chose to do something courageous and put your own name on the line, then backed out when it wasn't "indie" enough or you got death threats (which you should publish in full) and you pulled out of the activity. This means you are either a pussy, or such an idiot you didn't realize the slobbering koran freaks would come after you. Those are the only two possibilities: If you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen, and #1)You couldn't take the heat or #2) You were too dumb to know you were in the kitchen in the first place.

I talked about this to someone and they countered with "well I don't see you putting something out there that would earn the wrath of militant Islam jackasses" which I say, I do in fact have something ongoing out there right now and you'll never guess what it is. No, really, you'll never guess. That's the point. It's out there and has been seen and talked about and received its share of indignation, but good luck tracking it back to me. That's by design, because I'm not an idiot.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Great Divide:

You're dong it wrong.

So apparently it took a few years for Constantin Films to realize they were the source material for a popular meme, but only a few moments for them to react in a way that would have only seemed logical over a decade ago. If you’re reading this, chances are the only reason you know of the existence of “Downfall” is because of this meme. The parodies had not escaped the attention of the actual makers of the film, and director Oliver Hirschbiegel has even been quoted as supporting such parody creations. Although this kind of parody is not protected under fair use laws, the fact that value for the film is generated from these activities should be obvious. Apparently, the people who work at Constantin are such marketing geniuses, they can not understand the source of value for their film in the English speaking market and why having such a thing is not only valuable, but often so very unlikely in the first place and should feel quite fortunate. This kind of thing has happened for so long now, that there are business school cases written about how companies like Constantin have fucked up a great source of publicity because it goes against the grain of “old media” thinking.

(see, all he needed was some "re-branding")

Of course, most of everyone reading knows that it’s not only a dick move, but unprofitable as well. However the crux of the matter is that while fans and people in the know are aware of this kind of thing, they have still been unable to articulate exactly what is happening in terms of this meme helping the film’s sales, and why it is important. The fact is that these companies simply have not been illuminated to the actual principle as it operates, that once a piece of media has passed into the level of public meme, not only can it not be stopped, but should be taken advantage of. So lets look at the situation:

This thing shows up on the internet and eventually becomes an anticipated regular to most major news developments from the death of Michael Jackson to the victory of BluRay over Microsoft in the battle for Hi-Def DVD industry standard. Before too long, hundreds nay, thousands, of people who otherwise would have never heard of this film were looking it up on IMDB and sure enough I am sure that someone somewhere bought a DVD of this movie because of seeing the meme. But that kind of purchase is the exception, not the rule. In reality, this kind of meme awareness high speed take-off rarely means that there is any increase in actual packaged media sales beyond a fraction of a percent. The Academy Award™©® nomination would have a stronger effect on sales, since it broadly reaches a narrow cluster. This kind of thing is not something that increases sales with a narrow reaching of broad clusters. But it's also not about sales.

It's not the increase or decrease in sales that is the real source of value here. Although intangible and abstractly qualitative, it is the awareness and commonality across very different segments that can be taken advantage of and felt in terms of other areas such as new IP development, or (in the short term) getting the thing into some rental accounts. In the end, it's not about protecting "good" brand awareness by pulling the video, but avoiding "bad" brand awareness by making sure your company's actions do not come off as seemingly as douche-tastic as possible. In a singly publicized move, Constantin Films has gone from having a fairly innocuous brand status of "the company that made that Hitler movie that get remixed on the internet" and brought it straight to "that evil company that doesn't know how to relate to how people interact with media."

Now I am pretty sure that Constantin Films is not so retarded that they actually think they are losing sales or really being financially hurt because of this, so that only leaves two other options, both of which lead to the same conclusion of absolute douchebagery and dickishness. Option one; some cock producer (obviously not the director since we’ve established he is happy about this kind of thing) thinks that the “art” of the film is somehow being corrupted and like George Lucas they want to control everything that happens with their “baby” of a film. Second possibility is that people at Constantin are Hitler fans and don’t want him made fun of. I’ll go with option #2 since this blog has yet to pull a Godwin. So I will say right here that I firmly believe that Constantin Films are Nazis and love Hitler, and that's why they filed the take-down notices.

If there were ever a textbook case of what not to do in terms of marketing and brand management in the digital age, it would be Constantin Films and Downfall. Hopefully, this episode will lead to the actual downfall of this sadly uneducated and misguided company. But as an individual incident with individual players, this is just another short term flash in the pan of the universe that is internet shenanigans, and in 6 weeks no one will care, let alone 6 months.

(You know who else invented the first non-smoking campaign?)

Now the thing is, this is actually indicative of how far behind the media industries of other countries are in terms of where they should be, and Japan is no exception. It’s strange to come from an American generation that has to groan and roll their eyes when told to do such ancient clichés like “think outside the box” or “give 110%” in what we do. The fact is, that in countries like Germany, China, and Japan, “think outside the box” is actually still considered groundbreaking and using that phrase in a sentence in a non-ironic way can still have people take you seriously.

So what do we do when the mindsets and operational expectations of consumers are so far advanced from the old world media that produces the entertainment content they are keen to purchase? Aside from what Shogakukan has done with Viz (at least in part), the basic Japanese strategy has been to simply ignore those segments that are more advanced in their thinking than you can be. Companies simply go on to make what they make, and neither take advantage of, nor pay much attention to viral awareness indicators like internet activity or meme status. That’s not to say these companies don’t realize something should be done. I just spent a month-long consulting gig at a Japanese media company that wanted to “activated” their viewers in some sort of “new community” but had no intention of changing what they were doing in the slightest. The sad fact is that most of these companies still believe that they can take advantage of internet-born marketing phenomena, while retaining pre-internet strategies and business models.

People have accused the recent Shogakukan request to take off the scanned manga out there to be part of this misunderstanding, but that is in all honestly bullshit. Shogakukan properties have just as much right to as much protection as novels or other commercial media have. Raw scans lead to scanlations, which don't necessarily take away sales, but ruin the value of a license. This is something I talked about before way back when, in response to Justin Sevakis and fansubs, so we won't rehash that here.

Welcome to the future, you’re the only one here.

Speaking of tackling people that are "out of touch", the recent post by Miss Dynamite creator has, on his blog, posted an example of the kind of level of head-up-ass syndrome that I thought was only relegated to urban legend at this point. But then again, it involves a government agency, which might explain why they're so behind the curve of understanding.