Status report (2010/05)
A few comments on current matters that are too short to warrant a proper post of their own, but too long to just dump on Twitter. Topics include the Google story and other lolicon stuff, the Minorigate, some events I have attended lately, and thoughts on currently airing anime.
Google and other lolicon stuff
No substantial news on that front that I am aware of (not that it is easy to investigate search results going poof), but a “funny” tidbit. Searching for “Google blocking loli” on Google gives the dreaded ChillingEffects.org notice:
In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read more about the request at ChillingEffects.org.
This may or may not be due to similar phrases showing up on the original blocked site itself, but it has a bitter taste to it regardless. Like an Orwellian twist on the “recursion” joke.
In the comments of the wrap up post, jpmeyer made a suggestion for a prank that has a lot of potential, and I'm definitely going to take him up on it. Not giving out the whole story yet, but if one of you with good web design skills (especially for Drupal websites) is willing to lend a hand, please ring me up.
On an unrelated-but-related note, I'd like to encourage intelligent reviews and critiques of loli and lolicon manga on the blogosphere (anything from Kojika to manga with the LO label). The deal looks like this: pledge to write a 500+-word review of a loli manga you've read (specify which), and I'll send you a copy of one recent other such manga. The deadline for applying is May 11th, or whenever supplies are used up; please write the reviews themselves by the end of the month. I've already bought five extra copies of Higashiyama Shou's Japanese Preteen Suite for that purpose. Depending on the interest, I may also buy five copies of Ueda Yuu's Kachin kochin koakuma. Note that to receive your prize, you'll have to accept to be sent that kind of material in the mail. Depending on your location, this may not be advisable. For reasons that will be clarified later, this campaign is called “Save a drawing — win a hundred!” :)
In a move that is certain to hurt the relations of Japanese VN makers with the English-language fandom at large for the foreseeable future, the attention whores from NNL decided to go forward with their release of ef (after doing plenty of what attention whores do, of course). And they still have the gall of calling themselves the “ultimate minori fanboys” on their website.
Anonymous 4channelers have apparently taken upon themselves to make an even more obnoxious public display of idiocy by setting up a VN translation wiki for hosting projects that have already been sent a C&D letter. Since the site blocks Japanese IPs, I haven't had the chance to look at its contents, but I'm pretty sure no translation hosted there will ever be completed (there's only so much a narutard can do). It sure won't make the fans look better for it, though.
For the record, I'm not a fan of region-locking and similar restrictions on the use of legally-owned works (note that anti-circumvention laws make these restrictions enforceable in many countries, and I'm all for ignoring them), but that is completely irrelevant to NNL's actions here. “Since minori doesn't want me to play their games outside Japan, NNL is morally justified in ignoring their takedown request”? That's an utter non-sequitur. You're just making empty excuses for irresponsible behavior. Using words like “xenophobic” and “racist” isn't helping your case either (you know who you are).
In the case of Akira's post on Behind the Nihon Review, I find myself nodding at almost every paragraph, and yet looking at the conclusion in disbelief. minori, he writes, “is acting in a rational but incredibly childish manner.” We at tsurupeta.info don't find anything wrong with childish behavior (click that link), but we fail to see any of it here. minori's actions were regrettable perhaps, but measured and realistic. Don't we obscure the fact that one side is clearly wrong here, and it's not theirs.
omo's comments, on the other hand, strike me as somewhat uninformed when he touches upon the situation in Japan. For example, there is almost nothing affecting minori or their customers in the Tokyo hijitsuzai seishounen reform proposal, and certainly nothing putting them at legal risk. But more importantly, I think he greatly downplays foreign pressures in his depiction of the current climate with respect to “virtual child porn” regulations, legal or otherwise. Last year's EOCS debacle was entirely a result of Americans complaining about Rapelay. And the Diet discussions about jun jidou porno were conducted under intense pressure from abroad, including on Japanese diplomats in the US (as reported by Lower House member Hosaka Nobuto during last week's discussions with Prof. Fujimoto). Western sentiment on these issues is also a recurring argument of local censorship lobbyists. On the other hand, local support for new regulations is all but, er, non-existent. omo writes:
Just to set the record straight, the real people that all of us should be blaming are the Japanese bureaucrats who are doing their politico thing by preying on the eroge makers. If they did not have the public support, they would not have and could not have tried to pass these kinds of laws to curry favor with the local conservatives, bible thumping or not. It isn’t even the international organizations slamming Japan for its sexual deviancy, but those locals who do not stand up and protect their way of life.
But he's confusing public support with public apathy. Like on most policy questions, the general public doesn't really care either way. And the people who do care the most are not very infuential (which hasn't prevented them to make a move). So external pressures are definitely a key factor here, and a risk for the likes of minori, either in terms of regulatory liability, or just of threats from bad publicity. These risks are not easy to assess, but it's disingenuous to pretend that they don't exist, or that minori isn't justified in taking them into account and acting within their legal prerogatives to mitigate them.
I can't help but laugh at comments to the effect that the outcome of this whole mess will be “minori's loss.” What have they lost? It's not as if any of the entitled pirates were paying customers to begin with. The main losers here is the legal market for translated eroge in the West, which will probably be set back several notches because of the reckless behavior of a few.
I attended the COMIC1 doujinshi event last Thursday at the Tokyo Big Site, and liked it a lot. It's of course much smaller than Comiket (it occupied only one half of the East hall), but smoothly organized and with a bit of everything (for male fans, anyway): original doujinshi, parody doujinshi of anime/manga/games, doujin novels, doujin games, a bit of doujin music, and some wtf-worthy material (got a book from a photo reporter to North Korea), all conveniently arranged by categories.
The loot was pretty good too: the new books by Tinkerbell (full-color illustration collection), apricot+ (a Heartcatch Precure book; I wish she did the official designs!), Tamakiya (a Vampire Bund book by the man himself and his circle), Firstspear (I will probably say more about this one shortly: Nogami Takeshi is releasing what is probably the first bilingual, internationally-distributed Japanese doujinshi ever with this Strike Witches book), Matsudastyle, atempo (an S-chan×W-chan book by KURO) and a few lesser-known circles, plus Elemental Battle Academy, a 3D action game with designs by POP and an absolutely incredible seiyuu cast.
Last week, there several were meetings regarding the hijitsuzai seishounen problem and related concerns: one in Kichijōji by Matsushita Reiko (Minshutō member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly) and lawyer Yamaguchi Takashi, and another in Yoyogi alluded to above, by Hosaka Nobuta (Shamintō member of the Lower House) and Prof. Fujimoto Yukari. Both were very instructive. I'd like to write a decent event report, but it may take some time, not something I have a lot of these days, Golden week notwithstanding. EDIT: Dan Kanemitsu, who was attending the former meeting, has put together an excellent report on that event. You can read it here (and definitely should if you're interested in those affairs).
Four or five weeks into the new season already. I'm following about half a dozen shows, but I have mixed feelings about most of them.
Working!! may be my current favorite. Popura-induced fawning and
pedominicon humor make for the type of series that we love, here at tsurupeta.info. Not so keen on the physical comedy perhaps, but I guess even Inami is sort of cute in her own warped way. Pacing is one of the most common problems with 4-koma adaptations, and Working!! does fine in that department so far, despite the “character introduction” feel of most episodes.
The anime may not bring a lot to the table atop the original manga (it's no Hidamari Sketch), but it does provide at least one crucial improvement: much prettier character designs. For that reason alone it's definitely worth watching. I also like tamagomago's observation that the freer “camera angles,” so to speak, tend to bring Popura to the forefront much more often than in the manga (where she is often too small to make it into the frame at all!).
I was skeptical about Angel Beats! at first. It is so chock-full with referential humor and database-derived narration that it is pretty hard to tell meta-levels apart, or which parts are parody and which are bona fide storytelling (assuming the distinction even applies). The “should I laugh here?” moments can be pretty awkward. But episode 5 seems to be a turning point. It was touching in a completely non-ironic sort of way, despite being about a high school test session by dead students working out an elaborate plan to steal lunch tickets from their NPC schoolmates. I'm not sure yet whether Maeda is trying to make a point about the state of fandom or some other meta commentary, but the way he goes about it is intriguing enough to want to stick around. And Tachibana is my kind of girl, you know.
Ichiban ushiro no daimaou is stupid, but sort of funny I guess. As a brainless RPG-ish fantasy harem comedy, it is somewhat reminiscent of Mahou senshi Louie, which was entertaining enough in its time. I'd certainly call it old-fashioned: many elements in this show seem to be throwbacks to the 1990s.
The main draw for me at this point is the way Ao-chan delivers her deadpan dirty joke lines. The afreco sessions must be pretty awesome. And it airs on Friday nights, so it's a manageable time commitment.
Mayoi neko overrun is also stupid, only mildly funny, and very forgettable (not sure what happened in the first three episodes anymore). But it has a loli character, which this season seems to have a severe shortage of, and she's of the bossy type, which is nice. It also has a gimmick, as you know: a different director for each episode. That was rather unremarkable until episode 4, when they got a really famous VIP on board, Daichi Akitarou, which did something at least stylistically interesting (although I can't say I really liked it). So yeah, their trick to keep you watching is working on me for now. You may want to only watch the episodes that turn out to be curiosities, though. It's not like the underlying story mattered anyway.
Keion!! is more Keion!, i.e. cute fluff. It's pleasant to watch, but I'm not sure yet I'll keep watching for two full cours. Especially as they don't have loads of material to work with. The charts-topping OP is atrocious, but you already know that.
Arakawa under the bridge is clever, and a brand of absurd humor which I have a lot of respect for. The only thing is, it doesn't really make me laugh, or even smile that much. I guess I'm too unsophisticated. (This doesn't make we want to pick up Sei oniisan either, despite numerous recommendations).
There are limits to my lack of sophistication, though. Dropped B gata H kei at episode 1. I mean, Joshikousei was funnier, and a more articulate social critique... I might keep reading analyses of it as they pop out, though. They're a lot more entertaining than the show itself.
Don't ask me what I think of shows like Saraiya goyou or Yojouhan shinwa taikei. I'm not watching them. I'd gladly watch something called Youjo-han shinwa taikei or Youjo taikei-han shinwa, but they picked the wrong anagram, unfortunately. I also happen to be physically repulsed by Yuasa's works. Watching Mind game felt a bit like watching the director slowly pleasuring himself on camera with the rest of the staff joining in with shrooms for a trippy circle jerk party. For an hour and forty-three minutes. Not again.