Friday, January 21, 2011

Antarctic Press takes a gamble, steps into Sarah Palin's crosshairs?

Repeating History: Antarctic Press once again fails to understand fair use.

So long time manga publisher Antarctic Press, the company that brought us Ninja High School, Gold Digger, and all kinds of furry abominations, came out with this gem:

Can "Furry Sarah Palin" be far behind?

Doing this is a bad idea because Antarctic Press seems to not have been able to learn the harsh lessons of its own past. Way back in 1994, they got nailed for publishing hentai doujinshi of characters they didn’t own the rights to (Dirty Pair) under the name H-Bomb, and like that crazy aunt that keeps betting the kids school lunch money at Bingo, they don’t seem to realize they have a serious problem. The original incident is detailed a bit more in this episode of Anime World Order by none other than MEEEEE, so go take a listen (it's 6min 50seconds in).

I can't find the H-bomb cover out there, but the hypno-butt says you don't mind.

Now it would seem as if AP is making another mistake as to where the line actually is drawn when it comes to protected parody and fair use.

I can already hear the weaboo-tards now going “nuh-uh! That’s totally protected and fair use like an AMV or fanfick and she’s a public figure and blah blah blah!” Shut the crap up. Weaboos know dick about copyright. Here’s why it’s not covered legally:

This whole thing is a for-profit commercial enterprise. You wanna play, you gotta pay.

Yes, you can draw as many pictures of Sarah Palin as you want w/o any licensing, and they can be in subject anywhere from super flattering to downright obscene. Yes you can write and or distribute these to anyone you want to... until you start making and selling merch with her likeness for profit. Then copyright comes into play.

Antarctic is looking at a potential major issue here because:

1) They are charging money for this comic and distributing it as a commercial FOR-PROFIT product. This isn’t some political cartoon in a newspaper. Sara Palin the Person/Brand is the foundation of this product, so unlike something that uses political likenesses, like the long running and painfully unfunny Doonesberry, the use of Palin's image in this isn't protected by Hustler v. Falwell as some have speculated (which was about libel anyway). Palin has no real lible case, but has a really good civil copyright angle and the fallout is just going to be about royalties. Antarctic isn't in criminal danger, but still putting themselves in very real legal danger of injunctions and expensive civil judgements.

2) They mention Sarah Palin by name. Of all the titles in the AP political releases, this is the only one that’s not far enough in the grey area (remember that pr0n changed the spelling just enough). Palin is a person and also more importantly a very powerful BRAND. She’s also a private citizen and not a politician (for the moment). There is NO DIFFERENCE between this comic and making another commercially sold comic like “THE ADVENTURES OF MICHAEL JORDON” and using his likeness and the logo of the Chicago Bulls without getting the rights to do that first. You do that and see how long it takes you to get sued. There is something like that happening now with Lebron James, but in that case, all the licensing has been done properly.

3) Palin is a media whore. The moment she’s sensed she’s been too far out of the spotlight, she’s gonna fire up the legal team and sue the crap out of Ben Dunn and the whole of Antarctic, just for the extra publicity. Win or lose, the legal nightmare alone is gonna hurt Antarctic, and it's a perfect opportunity for Palin to get back in the news withouth having to mention the word ARIZONA.

I can't bring myself to think that Antarctic Press is actually under the impression that fair use and parody are keeping them indemnified on thisk, but as I've stated, they have done this kind of thing before. I would like to think they’re just taking a gamble that the Palin camp is gonna let this one slip by. That’s not gonna happen because; see previous point #3. This thing is already being fed into the 24hr news cycle and in 5 minutes the whole world is gonna know about it. They’re already walking a dangerous line with the commercial Obama stuff, which has already become an issue from previous instances, and this Palin thing is not going to go in AP's favor if it goes to court. Antarctic would have a better chance if they just made a comic out of YOU and your wacky adventures (yes you reading this right now), since you probably have a smaller legal team.

I could be completely wrong if the Palin camp actually signed some sort of deal with Antarctic Press. I haven’t picked up my copy yet but something tells me there isn’t any agreement in place.

I did a lot of comic trading back in the buble and even once mentioned it in a previous post, so my advice is to buy this thing. Buy as many as you can and see what you can do on the short sell (meaning wait for this to get mentioned on CNN and FOX and your local news, then plaster them all up on eBay). Because the C&D letters are probably gonna start flying, and not just to AP, but to Diamond, and some of the larger retailers, which will rip them off the shelves. This thing is going to be worth at least a few bucks over cover for the novelty/controversy (probably not much more though, once the shitstorm dies down). I would actually take one to an inevitable upcoming Palin book signing/campaign stop and ask for a signature. If you do that, be prepared to not only get bounced from the event, but dollars to doughnuts says her private security will try to confiscate the thing from you as well.

So once again the Hong Kong cinema bootleg mentality has reared its head in terms of manga in America (I know it isn’t what fans would call “manga,” but AP is a company that’s done more for manga in America, more than a lot of people would care to acknowledge).

This could be the final screw up for AP though, and their final contribution to pop-culture history could very well be their actually becoming history thanks to this. Ah Antarctic Press, you were always in the room, but still we hardly knew yee.

You thought I was kidding about Furry Sarah Palin didn't you...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

5 Reasons Harry Potter should be dead. A non-news pop culture post

This is a joke post, and not the kind of thing I usually blog about. If this is your first visit to this blog, please read the other posts if you want serious insignt into the anime and licensing business.

I was struck with inspiration back in December and wrote this down over a few minutes. Then I noticed this video over at, and figured I'd throw this out there.


1) Hagrid is an idiot.In the very beginning of the first film, Dumbledore clearly states that he’d “trust Hagrid with his life” basically without a second thought. Yet only a little further into the very same film, not only is Hagrid giving Harry and his friends the dirt on the Sorcerer’s Stone, its former owner, and exactly how to bypass the monster that guards it, but in the very same sentence we find out that he’s been giving out these little tidbits in darkened corners of Victorian wizard-pubs to just about anyone who buys him a drink. Need to find the secret entrance to Dumbledor’s office? It’s nothing that plopping down a magical beanie baby and a few double Jagermeisters in front of Hagrid won’t get you. Combine that cognitive deficit with the penchant he has for bringing all manner of deadly creature into exactly where he’s not supposed to, and you’ve got the living breathing reason why Hogwarts School spends more on insurance than the entire damage control budget of B.P.

With a track record like that, it’s a miracle that all of Hogwarts hasn’t been destroyed in a terrifying series of explosions involving giant spiders, unicorn blood, and the militant wing of the House Elf Liberation Front.

2) Ron is an idiot too.
From almost killing Harry and himself by driving a flying car into a very non-flying train in the 2nd film, to acting like a drooling idiot when Harry and Hermione disappear and then reappear almost instantly in front of him through use of a time turner in Prisoner of Azkaban (seriously Ron, you go to fucking wizard school, and you act as if that’s the first magical shit you’ve ever seen!) this ginger coat-tail rider has only helped Harry stay alive through his dumbfounding ineptitude, which causes him to inadvertently become a human shield by stepping directly into harm’s way at just the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) time. In a single film (Half Blood Prince), Ron shows himself to be someone who is extremely susceptible to the placebo effect, while at the same time incredibly unconcerned about eating an entire box of random mystery chocolates left for Harry, who he KNOWS has a whole hoard of dark wizards hell-bent on killing him. Let’s not forget that this was AFTER the whole Barty Crouch Jr infiltration, so there’s no excuse for not being more careful. That’s like Anthrax showing up at your sensitive government office tomorrow, and the first thing you do is sprinkle it over your donut thinking it must be powdered sugar.

So in Deathly Hallows, are you telling me that THAT Ron Weasley is gonna have the wherewithal to track down Harry and arrive just as he is drowning under the ice of a frozen pond in the middle of nowhere and heroically drag him to safety? Sorry Ron, but even with ten deluminators, the best GPS in the world, 3 Sherpas, and the transporters from The Starship Enterprise, the best you could hope for is to end up face down under the ice with Harry, dragging him down like a lanky redheaded boat anchor while your face gets frozen in that surprise-horror look you make at least once per film.

(seriously kid, you’re gonna die with that look on your face).

3) Voldimort is NOT an idiot.
Don’t get us wrong, Voldie is a slightly unbalanced evil mastermind and likes being in the driver’s seat, and likes being the center of attention, and being the one with the most power, and torturing the weak, and killing muggles, and …well you get it. But he’s not stupid, and the powerful leader of a murderous organization with the singular goal of world domination isn’t going to throw away a chance to lock in his ultimate victory through the death of his arch nemesis, just because it might be someone else who pulls the damned trigger. This guy is perfectly willing to have a child Harry’s age assassinate Dumbledore, and is constantly delegating orders of violence and mayhem to one division of his followers or another. If one of his minions (or a bad case of food poisoning for that matter) killed Harry, the only thing Voldimort would do is take slightly longer to pop the cork on the wizard champagne.

Look, Al Capone’s always associated with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, but he wasn’t anywhere near the thing when it happened. King Xirxies didn’t personally kill and then chop the head off of Leonidas, he left that to the hired help. Even Charles Manson had other people get their hands bloody with that whole murdering thing, while he hung out back in his drug-filled naked hippie shack having a good time. History’s most badass crime bosses have always known how to delegate and be comfortable with it. The notion that Voldimort would somehow put his entire operation on hold and issue standing orders that no one else is allowed to kill the one person that he wants dead more than anything, just doesn’t make any f-ing sense. There’s no reason what so ever that an evil genius with the foresight of placing 7 "get out of death free cards" here and there (just in case he’d need them later on) would end up behaving like a retarded version of Captain Hook. In fact he doesn’t, and when Wormtail has the chance to off Harry Potter and hesitates for all of 5 seconds, that enchanted fake had of his reaches up and pulls a Luca Brasi on that tubby bastard for NOT killing HP fast enough. Voldie wants HP dead so badly, that he’s probably even willing to partner with any allies he can find if it helps to get it done.

(Even Hitler and Stalin were BFFs up until they ran out of group projects).

And these allies would even include...

4) Muggles:
Muggles outnumber magic people quite a bit, and Harry has got to spend at least half the year putzing around Little Whinging surrounded by all kinds of muggle-ness, while his only protection consists of spells which seemingly are only able to stop magical crap, and being watched over by the occasional auror. Granted, an auror isn’t someone you want to go up against if you are planning on zapping someone with blue lightning from a small wooden stick, but with the majority of wizard-world denizens unable to tell the difference between an iPod and a hand grenade, a straight up muggle style assassination seems like a slam dunk.

Why send a Dementor to attack Harry on the playground when some experienced ex KGB hitman can empty an entire AK-47 into Harry’s face before anyone even knows what’s going on? Why worry about some magic charm, when you can just have a fake delivery guy show up at the door and stab Harry through the lungs when he goes to sign for it? Even if you didn’t want to go full ninja, you could at least have a P.I. track him down the old fashioned way, which would lead you to...

5) The Dursleys:
This clan of degenerates perfectly fit the notion of an incredibly depraved English version of American Trailer Trash (whatever that may be in British... like weglyjads or hizzlegumps). The Dursleys are the kind of people you expect to see show up on the local late night news for sabotaging a rollercoaster because their kid is too fat to ride it, or setting the neighbor’s dog on fire in retribution for some imagined offense that only makes sense to them. They obviously have nothing but vicious contempt for Harry Potter and everything he stands for, and zero scruples when it comes to actually caring what happens to him. The only motivation they seem to have in tolerating him at all is a fear of Dumbledore or whoever coming along and ruining their day if anything happens to Harry.

Remember how in the wizard world, kids basically fling around solid gold Krugerrands to buy candy bars with and such, and no one even bats an eye? Well here in muggle-land that kind of mad grip will pretty much elevate you to “Saudi Prince” levels of entitlement enabled douchebaggery. Do you really think that the Dursleys aren’t the type to accept a sack full of solid gold coins in exchange for leaving the doors unlocked when going away over a long weekend so Voldie can send some enforcers in there to straight up murder the hell out of Harry’s ass with brass knuckles and a cricket bat? Carlo didn’t even get that much in exchange for getting Sonny to the tollbooth.

There... ok. Got that out of my system.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Identity Crisis, what does "Otaku" mean?

The label of “Otaku” and what it means for community and industry.

For the sake of clarity let’s just stick to the strictly American definition of “Otaku.”

Long ago, there was a Ninja Consultants podcast which asked if one of the hosts, Erin, could be both a hipster and otaku at the same time. My answer was yes, but thanks to the late hour of the recording session (and totally not because of that vodka I drank), I wasn’t able to articulate why I came to that conclusion, even though I was the only one who thought so. Recently I had a little epiphany about how to correctly explain how one can be a hipster and otaku at the same time. My inspiration came from an incident about a week ago, where I was actually able to spot a purebred douchebag in the wild.

A Douchebag in the wild. Crikey!
Mmmmmm, smell that TAG Body Spray.
The train was moving, so the photo isn’t great... but still, just look at that.

From the retarded looking sunglasses in the subway, to the sneakers that are trendy enough to get into the night club, this guy had the whole d-bag gambit covered. Energy drink, hoody under a sport coat, stupid hair, giant ring, and the date-rape apology flowers, all combine to make this an amazing find so far from Jersey Shore territory.

“Hipster” is basically the same, a hollow vapid set of criteria that are the result of specific and quantifiable brand profiles and manifested marketing matrices in the deliberate choices in outward appearance and social activity of the individual. Though the Hipsters themselves will tell you the opposite and insist that they are so indie that their shirt don’t fit. They project this outward appearance and subscribe to a limited set of behaviors because the commercial media they consume has told them to. The true irony of the term “hipster,” is that it singularly describes a very specifically defined market demographic cluster.

“Otaku” is not like that. While “Hipster” and “Douchebag” define specific singular groups defined by the multiple aspects they project, “Otaku” labels a diverse group unified only by a singular activity of liking anime and manga. So “Otaku” is too diverse and too broad to be an effective target of concerted marketing efforts. This is not to say that there is no top of the pyramid within this group, just look at anime conventions. But even at these conventions, while the lion’s share of attendees do fit into a rather narrow demographic set (age and so on), if you really look at who’s there, you’ll see many different clusters which respond to very different marketing.

It is impossible for Otaku and Hipster to be mutually exclusive, because the defining activities one can engage in to be both to not conflict or cancel each other out. So although it’s very possible to be one and not the other, this is not a zero-sum situation, much in the same way that people of the same ethnicity or nationality can be different religions.

This isn’t “indefinability” or even “intangibility” that makes Otaku a valuable thing that can’t be fully penetrated by commercial marketing mechanics, but rather this quality of formlessness (yeah, I know all those words are next to each other in the Thesaurus). "Otaku" as a phenomenon is like water, in the sense that it takes the shape of whatever vessel it’s in, and so as a business, you’re marketing to that more definable vessel, not the Otaku-ness inside. This is why Apollo Smile and similar creations have failed in the past. The imagined target cluster is actually a combination of other clusters that have a more dominant role in customer behavior. This was the true source of that flavor of disingenuous which seemed to cover everything that Apollo was. Much like the buzzword new media marketers will talk about "organic brand creation," the only effective brand ambassador entities that can be called “Otaku” are ones that come from bottom-up and not top-down. Being an otaku is going to be a lot less fun if that quality is ever taken away, since the obvious logical thing it’s going to turn into is “Weaboo,” a terrifying prospect to say the least. But like the term “Hipster,” “Otaku” is sometimes intentionally used when describing one’s self, and also deliberately not used by other people, so it's got that going for it at least.

Again, all of this is prefaced on my own definition of Otaku for this particular case, which is not the Japanese definition (which is horrifying) and of which there exist English speaking examples like this freak here. (That link is dead because the nutjob who made it got all butthurt, but you can see bits of it here ... the crazy starts about 1:45 in).  He's obsessed with a jpop star he'll never ever be in the same room with). Yes that’s real and yes that’s 11 kinds of messed up. I would define “Otaku” here as a combination of media consumption habits, accumulated knowledge, and some other stuff. I hesitate to get too far into defining it with quantitative measurements, which leads to the problem I just mentioned of what happens of Otaku loses its portability between other groups. That is the strength which keeps this term out of the realm of being a commoditized managed-brand, and as much as I like business, I am happy to leave “Otaku” right where it is, an intangible product of the collective identity of fans.

See, an Otaku can have this in their office, and Hipsters don't work in offices (they write indie music while keeping the beard hairs off of their ironic ipads while being noticed by other hipsters and the occasional member of the stroller mafia at coffee houses). ...actually, I don't know what happened to this thing... it's gotta be around somewhere.
- I actually did have a much more thorough written explination with some ven diagrams based on actual data from icv2 and some Japanese sources, along with trend and perception mapping... but then I realized that that's giving it away for free. So if you want them, I'll send them your way when the check clears.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stupid is as Stupid Does; Japan / US relations after Wikileaks

Anti-whaling shenanegans make things worse, not better.

Another circular point, but it's probably worth it to keep reading.

OK, real quick, one more time; "hey rest of the world, you can't tell Japan what to do." In the history of the world, Japan is a country that's only given into absolute ultimatums exactly once, and that case involved nuclear weapons. The retarded antics of the Sea Shep-tard are so painfully obvious as counter productive, that its South Park moment has come and gone, but much like the true power behind the one ring to rule them all, the mote that is the source of this particular stream of stupid are well hidden within cultural illiteracy.

The Not-Guilty Perspective

There is disinformation ging out on both sides, indicitive of a complete abandonment of any kind of sense of reality based compromise and have devolved into some slobbering conflict of absolutes. Neither side is going to be able to bring this to a quick end now. Anti-whaling forces would be happy if you conjoured up mental images of endangeres species being hauled up onto the deck of a boat and dismembered while their relatives are forced to look on while Cruella Deville looks on and cackles. Now, the hunding, killing, and processing of these whales isn't pretty, but two things to remember; 1) Minke are not endangered (and are also delicious), and 2) This criticism is coming from Australia. A country that spends government money encouraging people to kill and eat it's own national symbol. That's right, Australia, who doesn't like Japanese whaling and whale meat for an almost non-existant whale meat market not in Australia, is wholesale offering KANGAROO MEAT as fun for the whole family. I wonder what it looks like when they poke holes in their necks so the blood can drain out and then rip their skin off so they can bring us this:

Double Standard Alert! ...Fire up the barbie.

I'm bringing this up to show the absurdity of the notion that somehow a Whale outranks a Kangaroo in the "humans are gonna eat us" lottery, even when that animal has the status of a National Symbol goin' for it. It'd be the same as if Chick-Fill-A USA offered fried Bald Eagle and then sent idiots into Canada to tell them to stop hunting Caribu. Yes, it's exactly that stupid, and the reaction is going to be exactly what you think it is. Australia killes 2 Million Kangaroos for meat in a single year, where the number of whales killed by Japan and Korea in the same year is under 2,000. So it would seem that the life of one whale is worth like... 1,000 Kangaroos? Are we going by weight, or intangible animal souls or something?

The Guilty Perspective

Japan went through some very terrible times right after the end of WWII. Ever see the end of Grave of the Fireflies where those two kids starve to death? Yeah, that was happening a lot. In order to avoid that, the government was introduced to a great source of food that was easy to get. Whale meat. And guess which country provided the dessimated Japanese merchant navy with everything they needed to hunt those floating bento factories? Hint: it wasn't Mexico.

But does any of that really matter any more? No, not really. There's lots of other food to get, whale meat isn't popular and it's expensive, and in reality it's bad for you because of pullution in the oceans. The Japanese "scientific reasearch" excuse is such BS and everyone knows it. But like the classic Tail Spin episode where the Sea Duck was mistaken for a flamingo because of simply being labeled so, if it's labeled that, then it is that, even if it's not. That's how Japan works. Like many things Japanese the government turns a blind eye to (read this), the basic strategy was to just put aside some patient hope this issue will go off and die a quiet un-noticed death. ...and now the Discovery Channel has put this shit so far in the spotlight it's going to take 10 years for this issue to go back to where it was in 2005. It's become a high-profile, wedge issue that has entrenched itself into the Japan vs The World "Culture War" similar to the French and the battle over Foie Gras.

Kobayashi Yoshinori’s whaling manga (dead Kangaroos on the lower right).

Now, Kobayashi is a wing-nut moonbat who was probably driving one of those black van "expell the foriegner" protests that used to park outside my apartment on Yasukuni Dori (not for little old me, but because this was across the street). But his level of crazy is not the point. The point is that HIS point is powerful enough to push things to extremes on the domestic Japanese end while Paul Watson's douchebaggery is pulling the extreme on the other end. The end result is that this issue gets further and further away from a quickly feasable solution in a very Carl Rove like fashion.

The Peanut Gallery: How this relates to anime

The only reason I'm bringing any of this up, is that (I forget where I was, it might have been online) but I was involved in a conversation with an idiot otaku who said something along the lines of they were going to "stop downloading manga and anime" in protest of this Japanese whaling thing. That's right, in an effort to somehow hurt the Japanese economy, this person was going to stop STEALING from it. And this is the real problem that anime and manga face from the rest of the world. This otaku (and many others) are under the rediculous impression that their consumption, appreciation, and enjoyment of this media they acquire without paying for it, somehow in and of itself adds some sort of tangible value to the creators.

So here we have this person, who basically thinks they are taking some sort of tangible value away from a company that provided a property that they were consuming illegally. How exactly that was supposed to work, they couldn't articulate, but their head was still thick enough to resist actual logic and the realization that their fandom adds zero value and makes zero revenue to the vast commercial process of creating an anime or manga. The sense of intellectual vacancy in this kind of thing is overwhelming. This person hasn't vowed to not buy a Toyota, or pull their investments from Japanese firms... nope, just stop doing something that adds no value to the Japanese economy in the first place.

Otaku may have an emotional connection to anime, manga, and the various character goods that go with them, but you're not a customer if you're looking at scanlations, you're less than worthless to the manga artists, their assistants, and the publishing staff. You may as well be a Kangaroo, waiting to be blead to death and cut up, cooked, and served at a charity dinner to raise money to buy new equipment for the Sea Shepherd.