Rendou World: The Official Term for the Houkago Play Universe

One of my favorite manga artists today is Kurosaki Rendou, who’s known for lanky characters and a bizarrely sensual drawing style. Unlike a lot of manga, Kurosaki’s work actually cross over each other. For example, the main character of Receptacle is the big sister of his arguably most famous work, Houkago Play. In the past, I referred to it as the “Kurosaki Rendouverse,” but I recently found out (according to Amazon!) that there’s actually an official name: “Rendou World.”

There really isn’t much else for me to say. Kurosaki Rendou still has more new manga coming out, so I’m looking forward to seeing more characters from different stories intersect. Will we get cameos from the cast of Chou Nettaiya Orgy?



The Dilemma of Casting an Esports Grand Finals

No matter the game, whenever an esports grand finals rolls around, there’s contention as to the best approach for commentary. What is the best style of casting for the later stages of a tournament, when the audience tends to be the largest and the matches themselves tend to be the most high-level?

I don’t think there’s one true answer, because it really depends on the objective of a given tournament. Rather, I want to highlight to the esports-viewing audience what makes this such a difficult balancing act, and why commentary that does not cater to their own tastes is not necessarily bad or inferior.

The Top 8 and above matches of tournaments tend to get the highest amount of viewers. This means there are more non-experts watching. They might still be fans, but there’s a good chance that they’re not going to know the nitty gritty of the game. Things that a more experienced player and ardent viewer might recognize with little effort might fly completely over their heads. In this case, one sensible solution would be to cater to a relatively more casual audience. You might have to explain some of the more complex aspects of the game, or perhaps ignore or simplify them so that these viewers aren’t overwhelmed with information they can’t understand.

However, those final matches are also typically where the highest amount of skill is displayed between competitors. While earlier rounds might be filled with one-sided victories or lesser players making mistakes, by the time it hits grand finals there is a strong chance that the play will be on another level. If the accompanying commentary aims more for the larger, more casual part of the audience, it potentially alienates the more hardcore fans who want to know the small details. If a tournament wants to show the full depth of their game, it might be necessary for commentary to be more complex and high-level.

If going by a pure numbers game, the “obvious” solution is to aim for the larger, more casual audience, but there are a few monkey wrenches that need to be taken into account. The casual-hardcore dichotomy can be rather nebulous. Some fans who are casual might want to feel like they’re part of the hardcore audience, and the best way to give them that impression is through commentary. A “true expert” at a game probably does not need a commentator to tell them what’s going on, so they might find technical explanations tedious for the opposite reason that the casual viewer might dislike them. In that case, the dry delivery of top-level knowledge of a player like Mew2King can be more appealing, especially to fans of those players.

Depending on the game, there might be no such thing as a “casual fan.” After all, esports has a general issue with not being as obvious in terms of goals and objectives as traditional sports—compare looking at the score in basketball vs. trying to interpret who’s ahead in League of Legends without having any prior knowledge of either.

Professionalism is another factor. As esports scenes grow, a lack of professionalism might drive away new viewers, but at the same time a slick, polished product might come across as too sterile to maintain interest. Suffice it to say, different people want different things from commentary. There are so many conflicting values that some tournaments have even tried having alternative streams to cater to casual audiences, but that potentially leads to an inconsistent presentation for a tournament.

Any tournament, big or small, wants to put its best foot forward. The problem with reconciling all of these different factors is that no one commentary can possibly cover them all, not even a team where each commentator specializes in something different. Some consider play-by-play to be the most important. Others believe that emphasizing the human drama between the players is key. Others want deep analysis of every situation. Ultimately, it requires some sort of compromise, and I think it’s important to see it not as a concession or a loss of quality. Criticism of commentary is justified and should even be encouraged, but it should come with the awareness that one’s own perspective exists among many.

Spirit vs. Letter in Social Media Harassment Policies

Social media platforms have been under fire by critics recently due to the way they’ve let radical groups take advantage of their platforms to attack and discredit others. People on Twitter are harassed, receiving death threats and worse, yet their harassers remain unbanned. Facebook has suffered from the inundation of fake news created by Russian propagandists, as well as racist advertising using their own ad system. A recent article by Sarah Wachter-Boettcher, titled “Facebook treats its ethical failures like software bugs, and that’s why they keep happening,” argues that Facebooks’s approach lacks a true human dimension, and fails to account for the subtle and nuanced ways that people end up using social media. In other words, using a wack-a-mole method to deal with this ignores, unintentionally or otherwise, the underlying issue of people being attacked online.

I concur with this sentiment, but would like to add something. It’s not just that treating problems like racist ad targeting as bugs or glitches is the wrong way to go, but that trying to govern social media platforms with hard and fast rules creates a rigid system that inevitably lends itself to loopholes that can be exploited.

I recently had a few discussions with friends and acquaintances, all programmers and software engineers. In one discussion, I had a small debate with a friend, who argued that laws should not be open to interpretation—what says, goes, ideally. Having “wiggle room” makes things messy. In another, the subject of self-driving cars came up. Among many of the programmers (but not all, mind), there was a shared stance that giving humans more control than self-driving cars would be to open up the efficient and organized traffic of the future to the unpredictable and poor decision-making of the average driver. Additionally, any problems that occur due to the incompleteness of the self-driving AI could be solved after they arise.

I don’t mean to stereotype programmers as all having a certain way of thinking or a certain set of beliefs (you’ll find them on all sides of the political spectrum, for example), but there’s a certain desire for the human-created mechanics of the world to make consistent, logical sense that I find common to programmers—i.e. the main people driving social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter behind the scenes. A faith (or perhaps desire) in these systems, and the idea that they can just increase the granularity of their rules, instead of trying to take a more humanistic direction, leads to holes that can be exploited.

No matter what parameters Twitter puts in for defining harassment, people will always find ways to attack others without “technically” breaking the rules. This, I believe, is the reason so many people appear to be unjustly banned while other accounts that spew hate and encourage online attacks can manage to stay active. One side is likely ignorant of rules X, Y, and Z, while the other deftly skirts them. Intent, something that requires a closer analysis, is left by the wayside.

Krang T. Nelson, a Twitter user named after a certain cartoon warlord from Dimension X, recently tested these limits. In a Vice article, Nelson describes how he decided to troll white supremacists by crafting the most intentionally absurd tweet possible, about “antifa supersoldiers” planning on beheading white parents and small business owners. Not only was it a clearly tongue-in-cheek call-out of alt-right talking points, it was also loaded with buzzwords that white nationalists actively look for. Nelson then discusses how the white nationalist movement understands the ways to take advantage of Twitter’s policies, and that they used this knowledge to get him (temporarily) banned over a facetious remark. Here, we see clear evidence that the groups known for Twitter harassment also know how to exploit its technicalities and parameters for their own ends.

Adhering to the letter and not the spirit of policies and laws is what fuels the abuse of online social platforms. Having actual people at all levels checking to see how Twitter, Facebook, etc. are being used, and relying not on hard and fast rules, is where things need to change. Granted, having “wiggle room” in rules means they can be exploited in a different way, but overly strict interpretations are also clearly not working.


Should We Think of Light Novels as Genre Fiction?

Light novels, especially those adapted into anime, are infamous for their tropes. Their stories often involve characters trapped in games or sent to fantasy worlds. The cast frequently includes a large number of female characters, many of whom are in love with the protagonist. The main character himself ranges from aggressively passive to do-it-all wish fulfillment. Little sisters who see their big brothers as more than just siblings are a dime a dozen. 
Given how frequently these elements are used, one common criticism is that light novel stories would be so much better if they would just not include them, but I wonder if that thinking is putting the cart before the horse. The way the light novel industry works, it might be better to approach it almost as genre fiction: the tropes are the starting point, and it’s what you do with them that counts.

Many series do not try to directly defy the tropes, but will twist and bend them. My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected (aka My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU) has a wimpy protagonist in a prominent love triangle, but he is forced to reevaluate his way of thinking thanks to the genuine friendship that forms between the three. Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is actively modeled after a game-like world (with levels and experience and monster spawn points) and includes a hero practically every female character is in love with. Yet the personality of this main character, Bell Cranell, sets him up as someone whose childhood dream of having his own harem is offset by his gentle nature and kind heart. In a sense, these titles play by the rules first, as if part of the challenge is trying to work the same old materials into something new. The Monogatari series constantly changes up what we thought we knew about its female characters, rendering that harem into an ever-shifting enigma.

Not every work becomes a winner, of course. Some try in vain to differentiate themselves, only to be unrecognizable from the rest of the pack. Even so, within a given formula, there are subtle permutations that might not register with an outsider, but could be just the thing that causes the avid fan to choose title A over Title B. Perhaps this is part of why light novel titles get so excessively long at times. Not only is it a stylistic trend, but it might just be the most efficient way tell potential readers what this title has to offer. I Don’t Like You at All, Big Brother might not seem all that different from My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute, but the former title implies a couple of things. First, it takes the younger sibling’s perspective into account more. Second, given that both titles are patently untrue, it hints at the little sister character as being more honest with herself.

Light novels (and works based on them) also should not be immune to outside criticism. Just because certain qualities and ideas are accepted by the fans doesn’t mean that nothing is ever structurally wrong. It’s the difference between evaluating a shooter-style video game from within the context of its own genre versus looking at the ways in which the genre as a whole depicts and glorifies violence. Both conversations can happen, and it’s possible to meet somewhere in the middle, as with Splatoon, which keeps shooter mechanics but de-emphasizes grit and death.

Light novels are not inherently the tropes described above, and many go well beyond the limitations associated with the format. But for those that choose to stay within those bounds, either due to personal desire, economic pragmatism, or market forces, those tropes might be better viewed as the cornerstones from which their stories are spun. Just as shooters necessarily must include guns, and vampire stories need vampires, genre light novels cannot simply be stripped of their well-worn tropes. They can be stretched and molded into new shapes, but getting rid of that core transforms them into something they aren’t and likely never try to be.

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

I lived for quite a few years in the Netherlands, where I learned that roadside snacking is a pretty big deal to the Dutch. Snack shops are an institution, serving foods such as kroketen (croquettes), pataat (fries), frikandel (deep-fried sausage), and more. I’d been reminiscing about these delicious treats recently, and just happened to come across one in a rather unlikely place: manga. While reading the series Kyuujou Sajiki (Three Ballpark Meals), a series about eating at ballparks all across Japan, I encountered an old friend: raspatat!

For those unfamiliar with raspatat, it’s an unusual form of french fry, essentially taking mashed potato and reconstituting it back into fry form—think of it as the Pringles of the fry world. The taste is very unique, with a kind of buttery toastiness that borders on knish territory. It’s worth trying at least once.

Here’s a commercial for it:

Anyway, not only does raspatat show up in Kyuujou Sajiki, but it’s actually found in Koshien Stadium of all places! Koshien is basically the mecca of Japanese baseball; it’s the site of the grand finals of Japanese high school baseball every year, and is enshrined in countless manga, anime, and other Japanese media. The manga is based on what you can find in real life, so you can actually travel to Koshien and get some for yourself!

On the official Koshien website, you can find it listed as rasupoteto. It’s not quite the same as the raspatat you can find in the Netherlands (they’re way longer, for one), but the website’s description specifically says it’s a style of Dutch french fries. There’s no mistaking that this is the most famous Japanese baseball stadium’s own rendition of a Dutch snacking tradition.

Even if it isn’t to watch high school athletes’ dreams get fulfilled and/or crushed, if I ever manage to visit Koshien, I am definitely getting some rasupoteto. I feel almost obliged to do so…and my stomach wouldn’t mind either.




“Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne” and the Transformation of Lies into Truth

One of my favorite moments in the anime Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne is when we find out the truth about the Jersey Club, the seemingly do-anything, help-anyone group that the main character Kyouno Madoka leads. What we find out is that, whether or not Madoka realizes it, the club was created from a lie. In a time when a young Madoka was suffering from a traumatic event in her life, a local high schooler who happened to be jogging at the time created the idea of the Jersey Club on the spot, facetiously claiming that her exercise sweats were some kind of uniform in order to cheer Madoka up. The story of the Jersey Club, then, is one about how lies became truth, as Madoka took the kindness and altruism shown to her, and actually transformed it into a life philosophy. By the end of the series, it’s become almost literally a universal philosophy.

This idea of lies transforming into the truth through honesty and determination feels to me like a recurring theme in Japanese visual media. Fate/Stay Night‘s “Unlimited Blade Works” arc famously makes the claim that there’s no reason a copy has to be inferior to the original. Even knowing the origins of something, even when aware that something is a sham, it’s as if sincerity is the key ingredient to bend reality and perception.

It reminds me also of something I heard recently, which is that a sequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published, which reveals Atticus Finch, the noble lawyer who defends a black man in a racist town, is actually revealed to be quite racist himself. The main character of the original book, Scout, turns out to have been looking at her father from the perspective of a child, only to realize his limitation as she grows into adulthood. It’s a controversial sequel, which was actually the prototype for To Kill a Mockingbird, but here we see too a “lie” becoming beneficial. Scout takes the ideals she sees from Atticus’s message and way of life, and transforms it into something even greater than the person himself.

Granted, this “bending” of reality is not necessarily without its problems. This is evidenced by the manipulation created by “fake news,” and the skewing of television news audiences, where viewers will gravitate towards the channels that cater to their beliefs almost regardless of the veracity of their reporting. The vital factor in determining whether an action is “good” or “bad” comes from what we’re seeing as “reality.” Is reality a construction of assumed cultural standards that resist change because of inertia? Or is it the foundation of truth that risks being chipped away by inaccuracies meant to exploit biases? The transformation of lies into truth can be heartfelt or diabolical, a risky double-edged sword that needs conscious tempering by both audiences and creators alike.

Ten! Ten! Ten!: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2017

This month is the tenth anniversary of Ogiue Maniax. I’ll have a special post for that occasion. In the meantime, I’d like to thank my Patreon sponsors, especially the following:


Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom


Diogo Prado


Sue Hopkins fans:


Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:


Yajima Mirei fans:


My favorite posts from last month:

The Precarious Balance of Tradition and Progress: Sakura Quest

A review of the unique P.A. Works anime

Love Live! Sunshine!! and the Complexities of Anime Tourism

A follow-up post of sorts to the Sakura Quest review, this one looks at the relationship between anime and influencing the movement of populations

Gattai Girls 7: Shinkon Gattai Godannar and Aoi Anna

The latest Gattai Girls is actually one of my favorite anime ever. (It was also a somewhat subtle hint towards me getting married.)



Halloween Means Precure!

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


I’d like to end this month on a more serious note.

This past Halloween, there was a terrorist attack in lower Manhattan. While I did not know any of the people who were hurt or injured, my condolences go out to their friends and families. I went to school in the same area back in 2001, when 9/11 occurred, and hearing about the attack brought me back to what I felt then: the confusion, the need to evacuate, the unsettling feeling that the world will never be the same. Circumstances were different this time around, but I know the fear and unease that can linger over New York City in the face of such a crime. At the same time, just as then, I’m always surprised by the resilience of New Yorkers to just get back up and go about their day. On some level, it’s a product of being accustomed to the hustle and bustle of such a crazy metropolis, but I also think that it’s a semi-conscious effort to not let fear cower us into submission, or make us doubt each other as human beings.

Hate does not defeat hate. Trust, education, and openness to new ideas are the key ingredients to a better tomorrow.