Friday, May 26, 2017

Get Off My Lawn: Miyazaki out of retirement, again.

So "Your Name" does all kinds of awesome, and 5 minutes later Hayao Miyazaki announces he's not "retired" anymore for the second time.  The official story is that he saw a Studio Ghibli short animation and was all kinds of motivated to do it better.  There are two problems with that explanation:
1) It's total BS it's much more likely that he doesn't like to be a figure who might one day be surpassed by someone or something else in the animation industry, and so he's engaging this Saraharu O type strategy of making sure no one gets a chance to do that no matter what it takes.  But much like big O there, it's not going to last forever, and he can't stand it.
2) Even if that stated official reason is 100% true it doesn't make the situation any better.  Like Vladimir Putin can't stand to see the Russian government run by anyone else, Miyazaki simply will not stand to see Ghibli continue without him.  Now we could take a look at Earth Sea and say to ourselves, "well maybe that's a good thing" but whenever someone is motivated by something like that, the results are inevitably tainted. 

You go sit in the corner and think about what you've done.

There have been rumblings out there.  About what it's like at Ghibli when Miyazaki is actually around.  Some of them disturbingly mirror descriptions of what it was like when Steve Jobs was around the office.  Now, my big smug I told you so aside, it's at least obvious to everyone now that Steve Jobs was a massive gaping dickhole, as nice to be around as a flatulent badger with a toothache, and about as technically "creative" as Thomas Edison (that means he was good at stealing ideas).  So no matter what some palpably perceived public persona permeates people's minds, there's always that potential of it being erroneous either through organic processes or deliberate interventions.  

Am I saying that Miyazaki is just as bad?  Well I'm saying it's possible that he is. He's coming back to a studio where he can walk around like God, where no one will ever tell him "no" to anything, and jumping back into a field that has seen some serious technological advancements that he undoubtedly does not completely grasp.  Thankfully Miyazaki is actually genuinely talented and we probably won't see anything like Jar Jar on the horizon, but like Jay Leno, he's still barging back in even after stepping out and having others take the torch, only to be displaced by his desire to still be the main ingredient in theatrical animation.  The Baby Boomer motus operandi as it were.

Nobody does something like that unless it's to win at something.

He's doing this to spite someone or something that he's fixated on.  Yes, I could be completely wrong, but I'm the Angry Otaku, if there's one thing I know all too well it's the bitterness and spite that can only come from fine aging over years, and this smells exactly like that.  The guy is 79, a bajillionaire, and openly admits he has actually no fun doing these things.  His ability to communicate with people who are generations younger than him, which any production is going to depend on, may have atrophied or just disappeared all together, and he seems like the kind of guy who has one of those "don't make eye contact" rules that applies to most people in the office.  Yes, I am a glass-half empty kind of guy.

Imagine getting stuck in an elevator with this guy.

If you're reading this and wondering how I could say such things about such a "nice old man" I would just reply; "shut the hell up, you've never met the guy" you're just going on visuals alone and the fact that you like the movies he creates or stamps his name on.  If you think about he's also got be (inadvertently) responsible for at least a few cases of Paris Syndrome since his films seem to depict some sort of Disney-fied provincial Europe that never really existed but his Japanese fans end up thinking is completely true to life accurate.  Much like what was done with Steve Jobs, his brand identity, and company he's associated with are all being portrayed in the most benign and flattering light as possible, not only from their own PR efforts but by a press and media that simply can't bring itself to even ask the questions that may lead to image-shattering revelations.  They would just rather not look behind the curtain, and you can't even really blame them.

Everything's fine!

So until Miyazaki starts driving around a McLaren a Mercedes with no license plate and parking in the handicapped spot a-la Steve Jobs, I am going to hold out hope that this really is just him coming back to make more movies just for the sake of making more movies... but I don't think that's the likely version of what's happening.  Come back in 6 years and we'll see what happens.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

You're Not Helping: Why some fan-based "marketing" is actually not that.

It's still piracy, even under that egalitarian labeling you've put all over it.

You otaku should pay way more attention to them than you do.

At The Japan Society in New York on Wednesday, May 17 2017,  there was a buzz in the air; Manga Manga Manga.  How does it come to exist in English speaking markets, what does the future hold, and all that jazz.  From e-book/digital distribution platforms, to content that appeals to international audiences, and a weird look at the activity that is page layout, this was a picnic of forward looking optimism of English translated manga publishers (sans Vertical, because their scheduled staff member has taken a position at another company just a few days earlier, so they couldn't participate),  Well of course it was, you are not going to hear companies badmouth their own industry.  But over that picnic was a cloud of resentful tepidness that will steer the industry more than most people know, and the people who do know, will not care to admit.  It was the black flag of Piracy.


After the stage lights were off, after the general milling around that happens at the end of these types of things, getting myself into the hushed whispers of people in the know wasn't hard, and it painted quite a picture. 

Within anime/manga fandom there seems to be this notion that if someone translates and then makes available any IP on their own time using their own resources, then it's OK so long as they're not "earning a profit" on it... (just donate to my Pateron "squee").   The thing is, that's just not correct.  I've mentioned it before regarding anime, and now it's time to mention it about Manga.  Scanlations are indeed theft.  No, not theft of inventory, but theft of a license.  Scanlators go out and do what a licensee intends to do, but scanlators don't pay for a license and for some reason don't think they should have to.  Why?  What makes you so special?  Why should you get to do something that other people have tried to invest their money and time in so they can create a business that employs people and actually licenses IP through proper legal channels?  Here are some of the BS answers that I've heard before:

-I'm just making it available for other people, since I'm not profiting from it, I'm not stealing.
Really numb-nuts?  If you rob a bank and get away with $20,000 but the operation cost you $25,000 do you think you still didn't steal anything just because it was a net loss for you?   What you are stealing is revenue that the licensor has to count on to recoup their own costs.

Stick to the plan.

-It's really helping more than hurting.  We're giving the title exposure and that will make it more popular!
Yeah, so you just design our website for us, but we won't pay you, but you will totally benefit from the "exposure" right?  What you're doing is actually hurting these artists, writers, publishing staff, and other employees the most.  You are making these titles available for free to the people who are most likely to buy them in a legally published form.  But now that they have unlicensed versions they aren't going to buy them just to have a second copy.  ...way to go guys.

-I only use them for review purposes, so it helps with "brand awareness" and will generate sales.
What, just because you don't disclose your source for where you got a scanlation means none of your readers will straight up look up where to find it?  (Yeah Anime News Network, I'm looking at you).   This is actually the worst argument of all.  Again, it's something I've mentioned before with AMVs although this time unlike being helpful, it is indeed detrimental.  That is because publishing companies see this stuff.  They see their own title, out there, being reviewed, in (poorly translated) English, and know it's not from a release they created.  You are just rubbing it in their face that scanlations not only exist, but you are now generating web traffic revenue off of something that was stolen from them.

I am sure there are many other arguments that try to paint the scanlators and their accessory helpers in an innocent light, but there is one fact that is indelible;  They are all doing something that they literally have no right to do. They did not license the rights, someone else did, and they are not only stealing from that someone else, but from the entire artistic staff that spend their lunch break, stayed late, missed their mom's birthday, or maybe worked themselves to death (this is Japan) who made sure that said issue of One Piece, Monster Musume, Dragon Maid, Vinland Saga, or anything else, made it in on time.  All that work, and no salary from the international markets that are consuming it at a ravenous pace?  That's enough to make you wanna jump in front of the Yamanote.

There's a Light ...Again.

Manga publishers are actually the last licensees of Japanese pop-culture to experience the bootleg hoards.   This is because paperless-publishing is new development.  The first industry segment to have to deal with this was actually the home media market.  VHS was easy as all kinds of fuck to copy and yes a genlock was needed but there never seemed to be that much of a shortage of fansubs out there.  DVD hits and not only does the entire VHS business go kablam, but now anyone and their idiot friend who just finished Japanese 201 in undergrad thought they could subtitle anything and send it out there on them interwebs (and they did).  And you could argue that anime as a watchable commodity is still something that goes on, yet most of the companies that made it that way are no longer around for failing to capitalize on future developments (CPM,. AD Vision, Anime Villiage, hell even Manga Entertainment might as well be on that list). Before that, it was music that suffered the backlash against bootleggers, with "real" fans refusing to buy SM (Son Mei) CDs of their favorite anime music, although this was back before the recession and when having a job meant you could buy things other than food and payments to your student loan.

So now it's printed media's turn.  Will we see a decimated landscape of former Titans of the industry before the new adopters create and support something like "Crunchy-Scroll" know, something like an unlimited library of licensed and translated manga from a multitude of labels made available to subscribers for a set monthly fee (maybe with a few premium one-shots sold digitally for a little extra a la cart?  Yes, yes we will.  Because if history has taught us anything it is that companies that have found a big cash cow are really slow to change and that goes doubly so for Japanese companies. Their strategic planning moves at a glacial pace and their implementation is always a day late and a dollar short.  This will lead to regression and insular strategies that ignore international markets and as such, may end up producing nothing but titles that resonate exclusively with a Japanese audience.

Human psychology says that there will always be bootlegging idiots who think their not stealing by creating scanlations, but they totally are.  What the industry needs to do is be open to third parties that maintain digital subscription services which are ubiquitous to the point where it's actually easier for 90% of the fanbase to just get their manga fix from that source than it is to download it from a bunch of people who's translation skills aren't strong enough for them to get a job professionally doing it, and so they make scanlations to try and be cool.

After some "off the record" talking with people at this past event I don't think a single company has any plans to do so.  Don't fear the reaper kids.  Or the pirates.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

No post this week

Nothing this week.  Corrective eye surgery.  No can see words on screen goodly.  Writing more is happen later.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

What You’re Missing: No, this time is 'who' you’re missing:

Arriba baby!

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, here is some seriously awesome artwork from one Raul Trevino.  Artist and writer of the most excellent comic Tinkers of the Wasteland (which you can totally see online, but you should just really buy the books because they’re awesome), he also has a beyond amazing collection of original illustrations, including a collection inspired by the tradition of Dia de los Muertos (aka Day of the Dead), most famously practiced in Mexico, but also in many other countries around the world (basically wherever the Imperial Spanish were in charge for any length of time).  His works are great and worth a look, if not a total insta-buy. 

Seriously fun stuff.

In addition to the illustrations, Raul’s comic Tinkers of the Wasteland, is something that many a manga fan will appreciate.  If you’re old enough to remember the amazingly fun read that was Caravan Kidd, then combine that with a kind of visual que/aesthetic of Adam Warren circa Dirty Pair: Fatal but not Serious, and you’ve got this one.  I don't know if these were actual influences, but that's just the vibe I personally got when reading this. And that's a vibe I dig baby.

Post-apocalypse settings are a bit of an overtrope I know (especially because it looks like we'll be having exactly that in real life thanks to Kim tubby the 3rd and President Tiny-hands), but his series pulls it off quite well, and really looks at what kind of dynamic occurs when the world goes to hell and chickens are used as currency.  I won’t give anything away, but if you’re looking for something a little different, and dare I say “grounded” when it comes to comparison against some more popular manga out there, then this is worth a read.

F-ing chickens.

Although some books are out of print, they do show up on the secondary market and are worth tracking down.  Raul Trevino appears at conventions in California as well, so you can even get them signed.  Because he’s cool like that.  You can check out his tumblr or twitter to see some of his illustrations as well.

So even though Cinco de Mayo, sink-o-the-drink-o, and Dia de los Muertos (best holiday ever...) are all totally different things, they are all good reasons to grab a margarita (or eight) and check out Ink and Dead, or Tinkers of the Wasteland.

In addition to books, Raul Trevino also sells prints, and even original art pieces from his online store, which you should totally go to and buy stuff from because it's awesome.