Oxen, Free: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2021

A part of me understands that years are really just arbitrary designations of time, but I still feel a sense of relief that 2020 is officially behind us. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I desperately hope that current and future generations learn the lessons we need about the important of healthcare, of helping those who are marginalized, and understanding that while competition is a part of humanity, it should not define us to the point of mutual destruction. Leave the power fantasies of invincibility to isekai anime, and let’s help one another out.

I also want to draw special attention to the Georgia runoff elections that will determine control of the US Senate. If you’re registered to vote there, you have the power to shape the future in your hands. If we want to establish even the chance for a future that benefits those in need rather than those addicted to power, this is our best opportunity for the next two years.

Anyway, thanks to the following Patreon sponsors at the start of 2021:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from December:

Best Anime Characters of 2020

See my picks for the top two!

The Prince of All Rating Systems: The Vegeta Level

A simple question: How Vegeta is your favorite anime?

Christmas, Nostalgia, and Shinkalion

A look at how the anime Shinkalion utilizes nostalgia, and what makes it difficult to license in English.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 35 brings the pain!

Patreon-Sponsored

Thoughts on HoloModels

My initial impressions on the augmented-reality anime figure line.

Closing

On a less somber note, it’s the year of the ox, and we’re seeing a lot of cow cosplay anime fanart. I’d say something about being careful about NSFW pieces, but I get the feeling most people are currently at home.

Holicow: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2020

On the other end of what I hope is the biggest and most important election of my lifetime, I feel a mix of joy and nerves. I also begin to wonder if there is a need for me to continue to bring politics into my writing here, only to realize the answer: of course there is. That being said, one of the goals of Ogiue Maniax has always been to encourage people to think through the lens of anime and manga, so I’ll strive to strike a better balance moving forward. Let’s just say that the last two months were more of an emergency call to action, and even then, it’s only one step in a long journey to a more just and equitable world.

Part of the last month or two has also been me realizing how many Japanese creators are being sucked in by right-wing conspiracy propaganda, which puts me at different degrees of empathy with Harry Potter fans, but I think I might leave that for a full blog post. Or not.

Last month marked 13 years since I began Ogiue Maniax, and it’s probably the heaviest anniversary post I’ve ever written, in no small part due to everything that has happened in 2020. COVID-19 literally changed the way I blog (even if the actual content might not be so different), and it feels strange to head into December—normally a time where I spend time away while reflecting on anime and manga as well as my personal life—while hyper-aware of the fact that things are simply Not Normal this year.

As 2020 comes to a close, I want to thank my Patreon sponsors, especially the following:

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

And while my Patreon rewards are such that I only include people above a certain pledge amount every month, I want to give a special shout-out to those who’ve supported me for a long time who choose not to have their names on public display. I really am grateful.

Blog highlights from November:

Gold Lightan Is Bananas

Go watch Gold Lightan. It is a ridiculous anime that few can match up with.

Pokémon Journeys, the Original Mewtwo, and Playing with Canon

Thoughts on the recent anime return of the OG Mewtwo from the first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back

500 “Easy” Steps: Rivals of Aether

My review of the Smash Bros.-style game Rivals of Aether has turned out to be one of my most popular articles in recent memory.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 34 shows both the grace and might of its student body.

Patreon-Sponsored

Let’s Make an Entire Show Out of Dance CG: D4DJ First Mix

My early thoughts on this anime about cute girls DJing.

Apartment 507

Love Live!, Nijigasaki’s Setsuna Yuki, and the President Archetype

Comparing the student council presidents of Love Live! past and present.

Closing

May we have a 2021 that is full of light and hope, and where we can all laugh and sing together again.

In the meantime, stay home for the holidays if you can. Let’s all protect one another.

Let’s Make an Entire Show Out of Dance CG: D4DJ First Mix

It might be serendipity that the same season a rapping anime comes out (Hypnosis Mic), we also see an anime about DJing: D4DJ First Mix. My early impression is that it’s pretty run-of-the-mill series rife with standard tropes of anime: cute girls doing an Activity, a Yu-Gi-Oh!-esque setting where DJing is the be-all and end-all, a plucky newbie with lots of potential, and a path that’s probably gonna lead to some tournament or competition to be the best. That being said, I am highly receptive to those tropes, and the fact that I know next to nothing about the world of DJs and have been trying to improve my understanding of music makes me an ideal audience for D4DJ First Mix’s beginner-level expositions.

There’s a lot that’s head-scratchingly awkward about D4DJ First Mix—little oddities that collectively make the show at times feel like an alien wearing a human skin. The title of the show is actually short for Dig Delight Direct Drive DJ. The show is done entirely in CG, bringing to mind Love Live! and Aikatsu! performance sections. The main heroine, Aimoto Rinku, is a Japanese girl who recently came back from Africa, and at least from early episodes it’s unclear what that’s supposed to mean for her character. At one point, she panics that the lunch she left out might get stolen by monkeys as a nod to her time abroad, but is her ability to intuitively sense the beat through her body supposed to be a result of her experience in Africa, or is it something more innate? The facial expressions remind me more of Virtual Youtubers or Comipo software models, like they’re aiming for a very conventional idea of anime aesthetic. This is doubly noticeable because of the sharp contrast between important and unimportant characters, the latter of which look like different versions of the “default” setting of a create-a-character mode.

When D4DJ First Mix does manage to overcome the quirks of its presentation, it actually does exude a real charm and charisma. The chemistry between the characters feels nice, and it feels earnest in actually teaching its audience about the world of DJing, and to grow a sense of appreciation for their hobby and passion. I can feel myself being pulled in, and I do wonder if some of what makes D4DJ First Mix feel strange is that it’s one of those multimedia projects (like Hypnosis Mic or Trinity Tempo) built around different character groups who are all supposed to garner their own loyal fanbases. If I stick with the show long enough, maybe I can find the team that’s right for me.

This post is sponsored by Ogiue Maniax patron Johnny Trovato. You can personally request topics through the Patreon or by tipping $30 via ko-fi.

Love Over Hate: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2020

It’s no secret that politics and the health of the United States has been on my mind these past few months, and now we’re a mere two days away from Election Day. I hope that this is the most important election of my life, because I don’t want to imagine another presidency worse than this past four-year ordeal. For those who have already voted, either by mail or through early in-person voting, I hope you remained safe. While I am deeply horrified at the idea of Trump getting another term, I respect the exercise of democracy as long as all who are rightfully eligible are afforded the same opportunity.

Please bear with me as I express my strong beliefs about this election.

Long-time readers may know that while I could touch on a lot of related topics in years previous, my specific political beliefs were rarely ever front and center on Ogiue Maniax. However, the 2016 election changed something in me, as I came to feel that my distanced academic outlook did not do enough. While I still believe in robust dialogue aimed at finding common ground, I’m much more aware of the fact that right-wing extremism is a dangerous part of the current landscape, whether that’s attempting to recruit kids through video games, voter suppression, or outright violence. I changed my policy of allowing any and all relevant comments to a blog post because there’s a difference between disagreement and merely wearing a facade of civil discourse as a means to push ridiculous ideas. I recently deleted a comment that started with the notion that “wokeness” is ruining anime because it’s an extension of a general right-wing corrosion of Youtube as a whole.

As for Trump himself, I’m going to say straight-up that he needs to be stopped if the United States is to survive, literally. We cannot take even more negligence and death rates when it comes to COVID-19. We cannot take a man who purposely sabotages the US Postal Service in the age of a pandemic and in an election year. We cannot take a man who will sell out the US to the highest bidder, a man who abandons allies to the slaughter and allows bounties on American soldiers. We cannot take a man who thinks climate change is fake yet also believes windmills cause cancer. The Paris Climate Accord is crucial to the well-being of not just the US but the entire planet, and if the country does not rescind our withdrawal, we are headed straight for catastrophe upon catastrophe. Most importantly, we cannot take more damage from the Republican Party, which has enabled this would-be dictator to escape responsibility just because they use him as a battering ram to get more federal judges into the system, including three Supreme Court justices.

To all readers in the US, if you see voter intimidation at your polling place, contact the Election Protection Hotline.

And now, back to Ogiue Maniax proper.

Thank you to this month’s Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from October:

Smash Bros. and the Concept of Restrictive Consequences

A thorough look at how the notion of constant freedom plays heavily into competitive Smash Bros., and how it contrasts with the ability to be “very wrong” in other fighting games.

Manga Made for Theater: Maku Musubi

A recent manga series focused on a school drama club that has a nice theme of finding a new creative direction after the loss of a dream.

Dick Dastardly’s Gun Kata: Appare-Ranman!

Last season’s transcontinental racing anime is not quite what I expected.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 33 starts a battle of the bands at the high school culture festival! Lots of great side characters return for this one.

Patreon-Sponsored

Anime Faces: VTuber vs. Horror Games

Thinking about how the limitations of virtual youtubers actually enhances the horror-game-streaming experience for viewers.

Apartment 507

Love Live! Nijigasaki’s Yu Takasaki is the Perfect Audience Character

The new anime pulls off transforming the mobile game’s player character into a fleshed out individual.

Closing

Vote if you can, stay safe no matter what, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Talk About a Scary Month: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for October 2020

The new anime season is starting up with plenty of potentially great shows, and we’re one month away from one of the most important general elections in the history of the United States. It would be an understatement to say I’m feeling some whiplash.

Before I get into the two sides, though, I want to thank this month’s Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

First, the fun part:

For the new anime season, there are strong sequels galore—the two I’m hyped for are Haikyu!! To the Top part 2 and Golden Kamuy season 3. In terms of new titles, I’m curious about Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai (I’ve heard good things about the manga over the years), Hypnosis Mic (because everything fans have told me about it is bonkers), and Taiso Samurai (gymnastics + MAPPA).

I’m also looking forward to experiencing Love Live!: Nijigasaki High School Idol Club as a full-on anime instead of as the story in a mobile game. I’m curious to see how the different art style they’re using will affect the feel of the show. The Fall usually is traditionally great for anime, and while real-world events have thrown many anime off course, things are looking strong for now.

And then the not-so-fun part:

We are less than one month away from seeing if the United States is capable of rejecting a president who wishes he was a dictator, the corrupt politicians and businessmen who continue to enable his reckless destruction of the US, and whose combined greed and incompetence have the blood of over 200,000 people on their hands. And now, we find a president who not only denies reality when it gets in the way of him being beholden to debtors for what may be over a billion dollars, but is also currently hospitalized due to COVID-19: the very pandemic that he has tried to deny over and over again in order to prop up the economy at the expense of human lives.

I know I have readers outside the US, and you don’t have a direct say in the outcome of this election, but you’re probably concerned. I’m thinking of this as the most important election of my life, but that’s only because I hope and pray that it doesn’t get worse from here.

Now, back to good ol’ anime blogging.

Blog highlights from September:

Gattai Girls 11: “Granbelm” and Kohinata Mangetsu

Gattai Girls—wherein I review giant robot anime starring female pilots—is back!

Wyld Stallyns’ Greatest Triumph: Bill & Ted Face the Music

My review of the long-awaited sequel to one of my favorite movie franchises of all time.

Try Angles: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!

The anime adaptation of one of the best modern light novels comes to a close.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 32 starts a new trimester and a new story arc for the singers of Hashimoto Technical High School, and it’s one of my favorite chapters yet.

Patreon-Sponsored

Hololive EN and Multilingual Fluency Among Virtual Youtubers

Some thoughts on crossing the language and (sub)cultural barriers through the new English-language VTuber group

Apartment 507

The Matter of Family in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

When it comes down to the appeal of this popular series, I really think it’s about familial love.

Closing

Take care of yourselves.

Nine Feels Like Seven: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for September 2020

I seriously am having trouble believing that we’re almost to the Fall season. Nothing says to me the effect that COVID-19 time dilation has had on my mind that the month of August feels like it went by in a flash.

In terms of anime news, what sticks out most to me is that the last big anime con of the year, Anime NYC, has finally declared its cancellation for 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic. While New York City has managed to go from the highest infection rate in the nation to the lowest, an event with 30,000+ people is inevitably going to be the worst kind of Petri dish. They made the right choice.

However, even before anime and anime cons, the ever-approaching US election is occupying my thoughts, fears, and even hopes. If you’ve read this blog at all lately, you know where I stand politically, and I strongly feel that continuing down this same dark path created by systemic racism, income inequality, and Trump’s unbounded corruption is going to lead to a United States that is weaker, sicker, and more concerned with hierarchy than equality at the expense of its people and its economy. If you’re a US citizen and you haven’t registered to vote yet, there’s still time. And while I can’t force anyone to vote one way or another, I do hope we can all recognize the threat of authoritarianism we have seen explode in recent months.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled Ogiue Maniax update with this month’s Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy (NEW PATRON!)

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from August:

Healin’ Good Precure and the Age of Coronavirus

My thoughts on the potential impact of COVID-19 on the biggest magical girl franchise.

A Farewell to Arms, the Studio Behind Genshiken 2

Genshiken 2 came out when Ogiue Maniax first started, so with Arms declaring bankrupty, I thought it to be a good time to reminisce.

Success and Failure in the Ongoing Attempt to Bring Giant Robots Back to Kids

The site’s most popular post in a while, this is my survey of kid-oriented mecha shows of the past 10 years.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 31 is the most music-heavy chapter yet, but more importantly, it talks about Macross!

Patreon-Sponsored

Saint Snow’s Dazzling White Town Is from Another Time

My review of the debut single of Saint Snow from Love Live! Sunshine!! Spoilers: The songs are amazing.

Apartment 507

Mobile Games Are Temporary, But Their Anime Are Forever

With the announcement of the North American version of Magia Record closing, this article feels even more relevant.

Closing

The United States is not the only country facing the threat and sad reality of authoritarianism. Stopping this hateful and foul ideology is paramount for the safety of the entire world, and I hope we can make our way out of this to a better place.

Breaking Convention: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for August 2020

Time starts to blend together as I stay at home, but there’s a new summer anime season to help get us energized. So far, the series I’m enjoying most is Deca-Dence, but I have to give a shout-out to Appare Ranman!, which is back from a COVID-19-related delay. I wish the best for everyone working in anime.

Incidentally, it’s been one year since the Kyoto Animation arson attack, and Kyoani has announced that they’ll be getting back into animation. It gives me hope.

Thank you to my Patreon sponsors, who support me even as I deviate from the main topics of this blog at times.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy (NEW PATRON!)

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

I like to think that everyone who follows Ogiue Maniax knows my passion for anime and manga is genuine, even if there are times when more important things are at stake.

Blog highlights from July:

Kio Shimoku’s First Audio Interview Is with a Virtual Youtuber!

I took extensive notes from the most in-depth Kio Shimoku interview ever. A must-read for all Genshiken fans.

Our Better Angels: Superman Smashes the Klan

A review of the classic Superman vs. the KKK story told from a modern perspective.

AnimEVO Online and My Return to Mahjong

The AnimEVO Mahjong Soul tournament is this Saturday!

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 30 is where Hasegawa shows her true power. An emotionally charged chapter.

Patreon-Sponsored

The Infinite Potential of Japanese Pudding in Anime

Jiggling and wiggling and crossing class boundaries.

Apartment 507

Discover the twiiist ending of MILF manga Ookumo-chan Flashback.

Closing

Yesterday was Otakon Online, which rose out of the ashes of the canceled Otakon 2020. Otakon has been an annual pilgrimage for Ogiue Maniax, and I’m glad I was able to continue the tradition in some capacity.

May there be an Otakon 2021!

Interdependence Day: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for July 2020

It feels like 100 years have passed since June and July. The world feels liable to change in the most drastic ways, but also to revert back to the same old ignorance. We’re all just individuals in the end, but I hope that we can enrich ourselves just as much as we help those around us. As COVID-19 spikes around the US, I want everyone, even those I vehemently disagree with, to have long, healthy, and fulfilling lives, and to remember that we’re in this together. It shouldn’t be “every man for himself” in this situation.

Thank you to my Patreon sponsors, who support me even as I deviate from the main topics of this blog at times.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy (NEW PATRON!)

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

I like to think that everyone who follows Ogiue Maniax knows my passion for anime and manga is genuine, even if there are times when more important things are at stake.

Blog highlights from June:

Beyond “Friendship, Hard Work, and Victory”: The Promised Neverland

A full-series review of one of the best shounen manga ever.

Beastars and the Fight Against Behavioral Absolutism

My interpretation of what Beastars has to say about civilization.

Learning About the Butterflies and the Bees: Saotome-senshu, Hitakakusu

A great and silly boxing-themed romance comedy series. Highly recommend.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 29 shows a bit of tension between Akira and Jin—a first for the series.

Patreon-Sponsored

Thoughts on Open-World RPGs and the D&D Legacy

It basically turned into a post about JRPGs vs. WRPGs.

Apartment 507

The Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba manga has finished. Could this mean one of the overall best anime adaptations ever is on its way?

Closing

A new anime season is upon us, but in this current situation, that means a lot of shows that went on hiatus due to coronavirus are coming back. I’m most stoked for Healin’ Good Precure, which is finally going to be streaming on Crunchyroll in the US. It’s time for Precure to claim its rightful place!

Thoughts on Open-World RPGs and the D&D Lineage

Open-world RPGs have never really been my thing, though it’s less about genre preference and more about circumstances. I was never much of a PC gamer when RPGs like Baldur’s Gate were around, and by the time similar games (such as The Elder Scrolls series) emerged on more powerful console hardware, I didn’t have any of those systems. But from a distance, I find the branching paths of Western RPGs and Japanese RPGs to be such a wonderful story of diverging Dungeons & Dragons lineages—namely how the former has taken more from the customization and self-insertion aspects of tabletop roleplaying in contrast to the latter and how the latter has went on to emphasize the narrative and storytelling components by way of old Western computer RPGs such as Wizardry.

It might be my ignorance and unfamiliarity at work, but I see expansive open-world RPGs as putting less emphasis on defining strong characters through which a story unfolds. More often than not, my impression is that they are about putting the player in the driver’s seat and trying to convey a virtual environment where they can do “whatever they want” within the boundaries of a game’s programming. Even if they have set things to do and accomplish, these games are meant to feel like your story.

That being said, plenty of JRPGs have user insert characters, including Dragon Quest and Pokemon have audience insert protagonists, and the latter even allows for heavier aesthetic customization now. However, I do feel that there is a more defined sense of a default look and feel to these generic JRPG player characters, and the result is that they also end up feeling like someone you’re observing from a distance—like you’re in a dream seeing yourself from a third-person perspective.  For me, personally, I’ve traditionally preferred that direction.

Of course, I’m making certain assumptions and generalizations when I define Western RPGs as more expansive and open-world, as even those words can change meaning and significance depending on what players are used to and how they perceive the importance of those qualities. For example, it’s interesting to me that the prevailing online opinion on Pokemon Black & White has changed so drastically in the ten years since its debut. 

Back when it first launched, the games were criticized as being too easy and hand-holdy—you always knew exactly where to go next. This was a far cry from the original Pokemon Red & Blue generation-1 games, which gave far fewer explanations and kind of left a lot of things ambiguous. But now, Black & White are touted as being one of the gold standards of Pokemon, and its descendants inferior for their perceived lack of strong and focused storytelling. Red & Blue, in turn, are seen as cumbersome relics that don’t do enough to guide players. It comes down to a generational divide, but even within the specific realm of Pokemon—hardly what you’d call a premiere example of open-world gameplay—this debate about the two Dungeons & Dragons lineages takes place.

I feel that the success of expansive open-world RPGs on an individual level comes down to whether or not the inevitably less defined bits of narrative that are a consequence of heavy personal customization and gameplay systems that encourage defining “your” story as opposed to following someone else’s. Both it and the JRPG style are capable of capturing people’s imaginations, but it’s what we want to do with our captive imaginations that highlights our differences.

This post is sponsored by Ogiue Maniax patron Johnny Trovato. You can request topics through the Patreon or by tipping $30 via ko-fi.

Break the Unbreakable, Fight the Power: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for June 2020

This blog is a reflection of myself, and my thoughts and feelings on anime and manga both for their own sakes and within the greater context of the world we share. So much has happened within this past week, let alone this past month, that I’m feeling overwhelmed. Between COVID-19 and the protests that have emerged in the United States, Japan, and Hong Kong in response to institutional injustice, I hope that everyone can stay safe as we fight for fundamental changes to transform the world into a place where power and authority are not used as tools of oppression.

Thank you to my Patreon sponsors this month. I appreciate your support, not just those listed below, but everyone who thinks Ogiue Maniax is worth something even in these times.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from May:

The House in Fata Morgana and Full House: The Inherent Limits of “Pure” Translations

Translation accuracy and localization have been recurring fandom topics lately. I thought I’d give my perspective on it.

The White Fear of Mediocrity

A thought about Steely Dan in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure turns into an exploration of whiteness in America and its ties to the suburbs that dot the country.

Wishing for Hope, Reaching to Help

The recent deaths and suicides of so many have me wishing that everyone stays safe mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 28 puts some focus on the castle-loving Shinji.

Patreon-Sponsored

My Favorite (?) Anime Computer Games

It is what it says, sort of?

Apartment 507

Thinking about nostalgic sequels and their use of time.

Closing

Whether you choose to stay indoors or go out there to fight for justice, please stay safe. I will try to provide things worth reading, whether you want to engage more with the world around us or to stay within the realm of art. Just remember that the border between the two sides are porous and prone to mingling.