It’s Time to Yule: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2017

EDITPatreon has decided NOT to go through with the changes described below.

This month’s Patreon sponsor update is, funny enough, going to be about Patreon.

Before I go into detail, I’d like to give thanks to my Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Recently, Patreon has changed the way it handles patron subscriptions and creator payouts. There’s some controversy over the exact intent behind this change too–Patreon claims it’s to increase consistency of payments, critics argue it’s a greedy move to extract more money. Either way, what it means is that many users might end up paying more. Where a $1 pledge once meant you pay $1, it now means $1.36 per creator you support.

If you want to keep supporting Ogiue Maniax at your current pledge level, feel free to do so. But if the extra financial burden from this Patreon change is too much, feel free to lower your pledge amounts as much as necessary–even to $0.

One thing I’m considering is lowering my rewards to compensate for this change, so patrons can get the same perks for the same amount. Tell me in the comments or on Patreon.

My favorite posts from last month:

Teikoku State of Mind: Anime NYC 2017

It’s been a while since New York City’s had a dedicated anime con. Check out my thoughts on Anime NYC (spoilers: it was fantastic).

10 Years After: Ogiue Maniax 10th Anniversary

Wherein I reflect on a decade of anime blogging.

Raspatat at Koshien: An Iconic Dutch Snack at Japan’s Most Famous Stadium!

A snack from my time in the Netherlands!

Genshiken Re-Read

Return to Genshiken: Volume 6 – Eyes as Black as the Abyss

My favorite volume of Genshiken, period.

Patreon-Sponsored

Aikatsu Stars! and Nikaido Yuzu, the Ultimate Kouhai/Senpai

I was asked to write about my favorite Halloween anime, only to realize that most of them are Precure episodes. Go figure.

Closing

Kio Shimoku announced a new manga. Am I going to review it on Ogiue Maniax? The answer is “very yes.”

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Japanese vs. English Yu-Gi-Oh!: How the Two End Up Being Almost Two Different Shows

Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of those prolific anime that needs little introduction to the world at large. Its cultural penetration is tremendous, and its characters and monsters are iconic. The Yu-Gi-Oh! anime is also a series from a bygone era of heavy localization for Japanese cartoons, and one consequence is that, in many ways, the show America received and then exported to the world is significantly different from the original. It’s a song and dance as old as anime in America, but the result is that audiences potentially come to enjoy each version for differing reasons as well.

The Japanese and English versions of Yu-Gi-Oh! (Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters in Japanese, to distinguish it from a previous anime by Toei) are not wholly dissimilar. They both feature over-the-top personalities fighting for their lives and dreams through a trading card game. But when looking at the presentation of characters, music, and duels, the two diverge significantly—perhaps to the extent that they could be regarded as two different shows—even when factoring out what would be called censorship, e.g. removing references to death or religion.

Characters

Characters between versions of Yu-Gi-Oh! are generally the same archetypes, but there are instances where they vary greatly. Anzu Mazaki is nowhere near as friendship-obsessed as Tea Gardner. Katsuya Jounouchi doesn’t have the Brooklyn accent, but he’s still kind of a delinquent with a heart of gold. The biggest example of character disparity is undoubtedly Seto Kaiba.

Viewers familiar with Kaiba’s English incarnation know him as an extremely arrogant bully who almost can’t help but simultaneously self-aggrandize and belittle others every time he opens his mouth. He also has an extreme skepticism towards the occult to the extent that even when transported to an ancient, illusory world, he maintains that it’s all holograms.

Japanese Seto Kaiba, while still arrogant, is nowhere near as condescending. Instead, he’s more curt in his speech, and comes across as a no-nonsense individual who has little time or concern for goals outside his own. He’s also extremely intense about the things he cares about, puts himself into every duel, and is more willing to believe in the unknown than his English counterpart. What’s more, while both have fierce rivalries against Yugi, the Japanese version is more willing to give respect where it’s due, even if grudgingly.

Neither is necessarily a better character, but the way they approach scenes with their different personalities shapes and transforms the overall feel of the anime. Scenes of Kaiba in Japanese that are about emphasizing his passion become scenery-chewing exercises in English. Characters in the English Yu-Gi-Oh! can come across as practically parodies of their Japanese versions (which, as an aside, makes Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged all the more interesting).

Music

To a generation of Yu-Gi-Oh! fans, “It’s time to d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-duel!” is a downright iconic refrain. The music in the English version is made to sound tough and cool, like whoever or whatever it accompanies is a ridiculous badass. Though the Japanese music can also be described with similar adjectives, it comes with another dimension—a sense of personal emotional weight.

Take for example the second opening, “Shuffle,” by Okui Masami (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Scrapped Princess). There’s energy and excitement, but also dread tinged with sorrow. When the chorus hits, there’s a swath of emotions telling the audience that the stakes are high. Those feelings come across, likely even if the listener doesn’t understand Japanese.

English Yu-Gi-Oh! has one opening theme, whereas Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! has five distinct opening themes, so it’s possibly unfair to compare them when the latter has so many opportunities to change. But one element common to all the Japanese themes is a sense of melancholy mixed with power. While that is arguably just a product of the tendency for anime songs to add some sadness, it still means the Japanese series front loads the expectation that the story is an emotional trial.

Duels

Because of the character and music differences, the duels themselves take on distinct feels, despite the fact that they play out largely the same way in both languages. In English, the duels act as wild displays of the characters’ ridiculous personalities. When Kaiba or Yugi pull off some combo and win the game, it’s like the cherry on top of a cake of absurdity. When a character then explains the logic behind their actions (keep in mind that they pretty much make things up as they go along), the response I have is, “Sure. Whatever you say.”

In Japanese, however, because all of the characters carry a greater sense of personal conviction, and the music is filled with greater variations in emotion, the duels reflect those self-serious attitudes. Even though the actual moves and explanations are more or less similar to the English version, the Japanese characters deliver every word like it’s the most important thing in the world. When hearing them explain their actions, it’s easy to feel as if everything they say makes complete sense, even when it doesn’t.

Both versions create tension and end up in the same positions in terms of story, but what draws viewers in to keep watching the duels feels like the difference between an action game and an adventure game—similar in many ways, but different upon closer inspection.

So What?

Nostalgia plays a tremendous role in how Yu-Gi-Oh! is remembered. Those who grew up with one version or another might very well be as attached to them on a deep and personal level. The desire for the “original” can also fuel disagreement over which version is better. The fact that the Japanese version came first arguably positions it as the “true” story, even though it is adapted from a manga and has its fair share of filler arcs. But even when factoring out nostalgia and reverence for the original and/or “Japanese-ness,” the two versions are different enough that, if you were to re-dub the entire series with the same English voice actors but with a script and music closer to the Japanese version, the experience would be quite different. The English Yu-Gi-Oh! makes the series feel more like an exercise in excess and bombast. The Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! leans more towards melodrama and intensity.

At a far enough distance, the distinctions made above between English and Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! can seem trivial. Being built from the same core, they capture a lot of the same important points in terms of story and character. But t’s because the disparities appear mainly when taking a closer look that feelings about which iteration is better can be so strong. Viewers were treated to different sets of emotions and different images of the characters. One version does not wholly deliver the desired effect of the other, leaving those unfamiliar with the “other” either unsatisfied or intrigued.

 

 

 

The Fujoshi Files 175: Chiwa

Name: Chiwa (チワ)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Turning Girls

Information:
Chiwa is a 28-year old producer who works at an office with her friends Nana and Kai. She is an “undercover fujoshi,” who resents work getting in the way of attending events. Chiwa often fantasizes about male-male pairings between her co-workers, and even sometimes their visiting relatives, such as her boss’s nephews.

Fujoshi Level:
Chiwa has gone as far as to pair a cup of hot water with a cup of cold water.

A Food Analogy to Explain the Resistance Against Diversity in Comics (and Why Diversity is a Good Thing)

Marvel placing blame for its declining sales on its push for characters outside of the white, male archeype has provided the latest arena for critics and fans to come out for and against diversity in entertainment. Looking at the online discourse, however, I find that there are many championing diversity who have difficulty seeing why anyone would resist. A major part of the problem, I believe, is that there’s a failure to understand that the two sides are coming from unique points of view built on very different foundations.

The Story of Trans Fats

Here’s a food analogy (because I love food analogies).

For years in restaurants across the US, frying oil was reused over and over by default. Then it was discovered that this process produced what came to be called trans fats, and that these fats were more harmful to health than just frying in general. Because of this, every place began changing their practices and eliminating or minimizing the presence of trans fats.

In addition to the added expense of having to rethink how food is prepared, this transition came at arguably another cost: flavor. Fried food just tastes different when old oil isn’t being reused. If the reason for eating at, say, your favorite fried chicken joint was because of what that reused oil imparts to the meat and skin, it could have felt like an unnecessary sacrifice for “health.” Even though having food be healthier is unarguably a good thing (if people could eat versions of the food they do now that tasted the same but was better for the body, they would), health benefits are not necessarily what any given person will prioritize.

The Establishment of Critical Values Among Fans

This is where I think some of the contention over diversity in comics and media lies. While the notion of “I don’t mind diversity in my entertainment, I just won’t want it to turn into some SJW hugfest,” is an argument borne out of certain biases and blindness towards privilege, it’s also on some level based in the standards established in a given circle of media consumers. In this environment, there are criteria by which a comic or television show is judged as “good” or “bad,” e.g. narrative consistency. To a different audience, narrative consistency could be important too yet still take a backseat to something accepted as a “higher priority,” such as a visceral feel to romantic interactions. Personally speaking, different groups of fans I’ve interacted with can have wildly different elements they value, to the point that it can seem as if two groups are watching completely different things despite it being actually the same product.

In other words, the push-back against diversity isn’t only about right and wrong, but about what people are accustomed to—what they’ve accepted as truisms of the medium. When a given community is built and reinforced over time, certain values become stronger in turn. If the specific reason you ate fried foods was for the savoriness that trans fats provide, then no amount of “it can increase the risk of heart attack!” will placate you.

Old vs. New Criticism

To move this away from deep frying and towards actual examples from comics and entertainment, I present two examples. The first is the changing reception over British comics writers such as Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. The second is the increasing prominence of character-over-story manga series from around the early to mid 2000s.

In years past, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison were praised by comics fans as writing incredibly intelligent and mature comics. Works such as Watchmen (Moore) and Seven Soldiers (Morrison) are genre-defying/defining creations that present complex and cerebral arguments that challenge comics readers. However, a lot of their works involve anywhere from minor to heavy doses of misogyny, so if your priority is the positive portrayal of women above all else, then it might not matter how “smart” Moore and Morrison’s comics are. On the other side, if you’re from a community space that believes the intellectual elements of their comics are what define good comics, then misogyny might be viewed as a lesser complaint or a non-issue.

Somewhat similarly, manga scholar Ito Go has written that manga criticism was historically biased against manga that emphasize character over story. When manga began coming out in the late 90s/early 2000s that focused on the stylization of its characters above all else, these were considered “bad manga” by established critics. Ito, on the other hand, argues that this because of the values that have been built and reinforced around the cult of Tezuka Osamu (the most celebrated manga artist ever), and that the visual “realness” of characters (kyara, as Ito calls it) has been just as much a part of manga all along. Essentially, the idea is that the only reason why kyara-heavy manga is considered inferior is because of the ossification of the criteria for “good” manga. Yet, for those who still want strong story above all else, Ito’s point of view holds little weight.

Whether the contention is based specifically in diversity or not, the general tendency for a group of like-minded individuals is to assume certain truths and then build around them. Disagreement can happen within these parameters, and sometimes those boundaries can even be stretched or broken, but in time certain truisms develop. Attacking that structure or praxis from the outside can appear to an insider as if you’re saying “1 + 1 = 3,” even if what you’re expressing merits consideration.

Noticing the Problem

On a certain level, I believe that the resistance against diversity in comics and other forms of entertainment is because we’re in the middle of a paradigm shift. Where once comics fandom and criticism was built on a long established marketing focus on white, male, and straight readers, other groups are making their voices heard in ways that the entrenched fanbase can’t help but take notice. The reason that they didn’t notice in the past is because they were unaffected by it, plain and simple. Many likely didn’t even know there was a problem, and this is because the values emphasized and prioritized in that community left little room for diversity to be brought up except in very broad strokes. The sand is shifting underneath them, and it’s not surprising that some would double down on what they’ve learned to be true.

Love Live! Sunshine!! and Improved CG

Animating nine girls dancing onstage is hard work. It’s why the Love Live! anime usually reserves 2D animation for moments with three girls or less, and has 3DCG do the grunt work when showing the entire ensemble. One consequence of this is that, throughout the original Love Live! anime’s run (as well as the music videos made prior to the anime), the transition to 2D and 3D would look fairly awkward. However, what I’ve noticed from the first and especially the second season Love Live! Sunshine!! is that its CG portions are a lot better at removing the kind of “plastic” feel from the characters.

While I think the CG has just generally gotten higher in quality, making the models just look better overall, one major change I noticed that I think goes an extra long way in smoothing the switch between 2D and 3D is how the eyes are portrayed. In the 2D sequences, the girls’ eyes have a kind of soft glow that gives them an appearance of liveliness, of soul and depth. In the two Love Live! openings, when the CG switches occur, their expressions just look much blander, as if they’re puppets in the shape of the characters. With Love Live! Sunshine!!, the girls of Aqours have very pronounced and bright eyes even in the CG portions of their performances. In the second Sunshine!! season, the performance scenes keep the angles of backgrounds more consistent to make the transitions much less jarring.

This reminds me of a talk I went to at Japan Society in New York City, where anime writer Sato Dai (Eureka Seven, Battle Spirits) was giving a presentation on 3DCG in anime. One of the things he mentioned was that capturing “kawaii” in 3DCG was a major step in its implementation in Japanese animation, and I think we’re seeing the fruits of it. If the appeal of characters approaches appealing to the inner feelings of its viewers, then having eyes that appear to reciprocate emotionally would serve that direction quite well.

Ogiue Maniax Discusses Anime NYC on the Speakeasy Podcast


In addition to my con report of Anime NYC, I also sat down with Kate and Al from the Reverse Thieves to discuss New York’s latest anime convention

Teikoku State of Mind: Anime NYC 2017

When a brand-new convention decides to call itself “Anime NYC,” it’s practically asking to have the deck stacked against it. Running a first-year convention is no small task, doubly so if it’s in the heart of Manhattan. And with no reputation to go by, potential attendees may feel reluctant to try things out. Small attendance numbers can mean a lack of overall interest and the inability to justify the high costs of NYC, while large numbers means a greater chance of disaster striking if mismanaged. As a longtime resident of New York City, I’ve seen cons come and go, but somehow, someway, Anime NYC went so swimmingly that I almost can’t believe it was real.

General Impressions and Exhibitor’s Hall

Those who attended New York Anime Festival and the first few New York Comic Cons might recall what it was like to go through the Jacob Javits Center without feeling like sardines. Walking through Anime NYC felt reminiscent of that environment, as the con was fairly heavily populated but with plenty of elbow room to spare. Panel rooms were right next to the Exhibitor’s Hall, making transitions between checking out the goods and listening in on industry and fan talks. Special events were held in a Main Event Hall that was a fair distance away, though nowhere near as disorienting as, say, the Baltimore Convention Center where Otakon used to take place.

Because it was so easy to navigate (without the space feeling overly empty), I came out of the three-day con feeling satisfied yet unstressed. Usually one comes with the other due to the hustle and bustle of trying to get everything done, or because there’s so little to do at the event itself that boredom and lethargy set in. Anime NYC struck a Goldilocks-type balance with a schedule that thrilled but did not overwhelm body and mind.

A major contrast between Anime NYC and NYCC is that the latter is focused on being a general comics pop culture event, with a film and television presence that all but overshadows the “comic” in comic con. Anime NYC, on the other hand, is first and foremost concerned with anime and manga. A few features branched out from that core, such as the presence of Overwatch voice actors who were there to meet the fans and sell autographs, but this was certainly no “anime ghetto,” as fans took to calling New York Anime Fest when it began to be dissolved into NYCC.  For those who love anime and love a big convention feel but think New York Comic Con’s a bit too much, Anime NYC has potential to be a gathering point for anime fans in the tri-state area.

Concerts

Anime NYC featured two concerts that shone in different ways. The first was Anime Diva Night, while the second was the Gundam Thunderbolt Concert.

At Anime Diva Night, three Japanese musical guests performed as part of the Anisong World Matsuri. Two of the singers, Ishida Yoko and TRUE, are amazing vocalists in their own right, but the third, Yonekura Chihiro, was the reason I wanted to attend. She’s the voice of so many amazing anime themes over the years that it almost doesn’t compare. Notably, she sang the opening and ending themes to Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team.

While having Yonekura alone would’ve sufficed in my case, all three did a wonderful job. Some singers sound significantly better in the recording booth than they do onstage, but this was not the case for the Anime Diva trio, who sounded incredible even though the makeshift Main Events Hall did not have ideal acoustics.

The concert had a somewhat unusual format. Rather than move from one act to the next, each performer would do a few songs, perform a duet with another, and then the newer singer would take over before the next duet. There were two rotations in total, with all three singers performing together at the start and end of the show. All of the group performances were cover songs of popular anime themes—”Cruel Angel’s Thesis,” “Moonlight Densetsu,” “God Knows,” etc.—while the solo acts were their signature songs. Yonekura did indeed sing the Gundam 08th MS Team opening, but also an old favorite of mine in “Will” from the anime Hoshin Engi (aka Soul Hunter). Highlights from the other two singers included TRUE performing the first Sound!! Euphonium opening and Ishida doing arguably her most famous song, “Otome no Policy” from Sailor Moon R.

There were a couple of songs that didn’t make the concert that I was hoping for: Yonekura’s “Yakusoku no Basho e” from Kaleido Star and Ishida’s “White Destiny” from Pretear, but it was a small loss for an otherwise amazing concert.

The Gundam Thunderbolt Concert was highly unusual compared to what typically happens at an anime con performances. Generally, they’re closer to Anime Diva Night, sounding like the j-pop or j-rock one expects out of anime. To have the Gundam Thunderbolt composer Kikuchi Naruyoshi lead a jazz band himself on saxophone was a truly rare treat, and it’s one of the most unique experiences I’ve had at an anime con. The closest equivalent I could think of was Kanno Yoko’s concert at Otakon 2013.

I am no jazz aficionado, but thanks to the concert, I felt as if I began to understand the almost primal appeal that jazz holds for listeners. As I listened, an analogy popped into my head: jazz is like constructing a human being from music. They can be loud one moment and quiet the next. They can be a mess of contradictions, yet still function. I’m unsure if this will send me towards checking out more jazz in the future, but my curiosity is definitely piqued.

I’ve been more or less referring to the Gundam Thunderbolt Concert as a “jazz performance,” but that’s not entirely accurate. To everyone’s surprise, the concert also included performances by the singers of some of the 50s/60s-style pop songs from the Gundam Thunderbolt anime. In the context of the series, the two main characters, Io and Daryl, are two soldiers on opposite sides of a war who each listen to music as they battle. Io is an intense man who loves equally powerful jazz, while the handicapped Daryl prefers softer ballads.

At the Gundam Thunderbolt panel, Kikuchi mentioned that these are basically his two favorite genres of music, and he thought both fit the characters well. Interestingly, while the Gundam Thunderbolt manga included jazz already, Kikuchi composed entirely new songs that he felt fit Io’s character better.

One funny coincidence of sorts when it comes to Kikuchi’s choice to add a golden oldies aspect to the Gundam Thunderbolt score is that one of the biggest names in classic mid-20th-century American pop, Neil Sedaka, once composed the theme songs to Mobile Suit Z Gundam in the 1980s. I’d be curious to know what Kikuchi would think about this.

Artist Alley

More than Exhibitors’ Halls, Artist Alleys at cons can be affected heavily by the space they occupy. Regardless of the artists’ skills, or the amount of people in the alley, a bad space can make an attendee want to leave as quickly as possible, while a good space encourages more browsing and exploring.

Anime NYC’s is probably the best I’ve ever seen. Held on the top floor of the Jacob Javits Center, natural light shined down on the entire Artist Alley from an entirely windowed roof. At times, it almost felt like an outdoor European boutique, which made it just a pleasant place to peruse.

I purchased a few items at the Artist Alley, mainly from Japanese artists (something of a rarity even at anime cons). One booth was ran by the wife and assistant (pictured above) of manga artist Ohno Junji, creator behind the manga for obscure titles Mobile Suit Gundam: Missing Link and Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin MSD: Cucuruz Doan’s Island. Unfortunately, the artist couldn’t attend himself. They were selling art packages from Ohno himself and his assistant, Ally Suwabe:

Ohno Junji

Ally Suwabe

Axel Rex is Ohno’s original web comic he drew for Kodanasha/Yahoo!! Comics from 2008 to 2009.

The other Japanese artist attending was Tatsuyuki “Mikey” Maeda, who’s worked for the past 10 years as a manga assistant. In a way, while manga artists themselves only attend cons sparingly, their assistants are even rarer. Maeda was selling a short guide called “Secrets of Manga: Basics of the Tools & Trade.” In it, he gives various technical tips to aspiring manga creators, the kinds of things that often get glossed over in favor of “character design” and “how to draw mecha.” The guide talks about differences in pen nibs (such as what you should use if you have a light touch vs. a heavy hand), how to effectively use white-out, and more. I highly recommend it.

Panels

Gundam Thunderbolt Panel

Panels are an important part of the con experience for me, though due to my schedule I could not attend as many as I would have liked. Still, the Gundam Thunderbolt panel was highly informative, as were the Inifini-T Force and LeSean Thomas panels.

Infini-T Force is a current 3DCG anime series crossing over the classic heroes of Tatsunoko Production—Gatchaman, Casshan/Casshern, Hurricane Polymar, and Tekkaman. The fact that Tatsunoko, one of the most influential anime studios ever, had a con presence at all was the main reason I decided to attend their panel. Overall, it was a fairly basic introduction to Tatsunoko, but I like that they conveyed a bit of the studio’s historical significance. They’re one of the most influential studios ever, pushing the limits of animation in Japan since their inception in the 1960s. They were also willing to discuss a bit of the reception Infini-T Force has received in Japan, such as the fact that the primary female character is a little contentious to Japanese audiences. This is also somewhat unusual for Japanese companies, and was somewhat refreshing.

The LeSean Thomas panel was a general Q&A, but was one of the highlights of Anime NYC. It was inspiring to see attendee after attendee express how Thomas inspired them to keep working at their art, and how his success as a creator of color gave them the courage to never give up. I previously interviewed him at Otakon 2016, and he does make for an excellent role model.

Cosplay

In this case, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

In Conclusion

Given how much I’ve praised Anime NYC, it might seem like I’m a paid shill, but I assure my readers that this is not the case. The con was actually executed so smoothly that there’s little I can complain about that would be the fault of the convention itself. While I attended for free as press, even the weekend ticket was affordable, especially compared to New York Comic Con ($60 vs. over $200 to buy four 1-day NYCC passes).

At approximately 20,000 attendees, Anime NYC has already become one of the larger anime cons in the US. The convention appears to have done a sound job of attracting locals, and I’m curious to see how much more it can grow. If the convention keeps up this level of quality, I’d be happy and proud to call Anime NYC “home.”