All posts by Ray

I'm a hardcore Anime Fan and I'm proud of it. I know so many things and I've acquired so much knowledge you wouldn't believe. But my love is anime. I've been drifting in this world for so long that I don't even know what an anchor means. I've seen so many shows that I've lost count. The only thing I'm sure of myself is that I care for the lowly and disenfranchised. I hate the rich and powerful and I love what I do, or what I can do. I like anime and I don't mind watching different types of shows. I have experience in different types of Japanese animation. I would be called an "expert" in a bizzaro world. One day, I'd like to start a revolution. I love the US, pizza, beer, sashimi, Chinese food, and steak. But I love freshly baked bread more than a well-aged steak. In reality, if I were born Japanese I'd be a real, hardcore Otaku. I love to love and I can hate strongly. I'm passionate in nature and I don't mind shedding tears. I can be reached at rayyhum777 at animediet. My Twitter is rayyhum777 at twitter.

Interview: Aimer

Aimer, an up-and-coming J-pop singer with Defstar Records, is currently best known for her song for Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works OP “Brave Shine” as well as insert song “Last Stardust.” She has also done EDs for Bleach and No. 6, as well as Gundam Unicorn, and also recorded an album of covers called Your Favorite Things, which include songs by Lady Gaga, Coldplay, and other well-known artists.

We conducted this interview at Anime Expo 2015. The interviewer was Raymond Hu. The transcript is edited for clarity and grammar.

Which artists inspired your work?

I was inspired by Avril Lavinge and a lot of Japanese bands. As for songwriters, I’d say Bjork….for Japanese bands, Spitz.

[Michael] Did you ever watch Honey and Clover? Spitz did a lot of songs for that show.

I do remember the ED theme for Honey and Clover being theirs, yes.*

You did a cover album called Your Favorite Things and covered “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga. What do you think of her as a musician and performer?

Music-wise, she’s very rebellious and does very new things and that’s why I look up to Lady Gaga. Well, actually I’ve never met her in person so I don’t know what she’s like, but musically she really inspires me.

Could you talk a little bit about the making of Your Favorite Things?

Around the time of my debut, I worked with a production team called agehasprings. They were trying to figure out what kind of musical influences and genres they wanted me to aim towards. That’s how they got me started making this cover album.

I read on your home page that you lived abroad sometime [in the UK]. What did you learn from coping with a different culture?

It was definitely difficult to blend in with a different culture and it was a lot of stress for me. But I like the sound of English words so I felt very lucky to be in a different country.

You had to take a break from singing when you were 15. Can you describe your emotions at the time and how you overcame this trial, and what gave you your strength?

Obviously, I was very shocked that I couldn’t sing and I was saddened by it. But by losing my voice, it actually made me appreciate music more than I used to. That is how I overcame and conquered losing my voice.

Did any person or specific inspiration give you that strength?

I went to a lot of hospitals and a lot of doctors, and I finally came across a very well-known doctor. When we were able to figure out what was wrong, it helped me move on.

So identifying the exact cause helped?

Yes.

After that, your voice evolved to what some call a “dry and sweet” tone. Can you elaborate on that?

It made me very happy and glad to hear people say that about my voice, because I’m not trying to act, to sing [with] that voice…it’s how I sing now. I really appreciate it because it’s my natural voice.

One of your songs is called “Re: I Am” and I understand a deconstruction of your performing name (Aimer). Can you explain what it means to you personally?

So this song was written by Hiroyuki Sawano. If you switch around my name it’s “Re: I Am” (an anagram). Before that song, I was singing very quiet, mellow songs, but this is very different…it was like discovering a new me. It was a very emotional encounter. 

What adjustments did you have to make when you went from an indie artist to a major label one?

Moving to a major label meant I got to meet more fans, and I want to see and hear more from them. I appreciate all the support.

Could you talk about your experience working on the Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works song, “Last Stardust”?

“Last Stardust” was going to be the OP, but instead “Brave Shine” was chosen. However [the song] is like a farewell to a very weak me, taking that to the past, and becoming a stronger me. 

*Note: Aimer is referring to the ED for the live action film version of Honey and Clover, “Mahou no Kotoba,” not the anime EDs, which were done by Suneohair and others.

Interview: JAM Project

JAM Project, one of the biggest anisong “supergroups” in the industry, was founded in order to further the genre of anime songs specifically. Consisting of a number of veteran anisong singers, today it now comprises founding members Masaaki Endoh and Hironobu Kageyama, as well as Masami Okui, Hiroshi Kitadani, and Yoshiki Fukuyama, who all joined between 2002-2003. They are best known for songs for shounen action shows such as Cardfight Vanguard, Nobunaga the Fool, GARO, and New Getter Robo, as well as video games like Super Robot Wars. Their operatic rock seems to fit those genres especially well.

Unfortunately, the audio for our transcript recording was sometimes fuzzy so not all attributions were 100% clear. Apologies for lack of clarity on those questions and answers.

We started by asking Masaaki Endoh about his famous predilection for bringing instant noodles with him on tour.

Endoh-san, what kind of instant noodle did you bring this time?

Masaaki Endoh: Six different flavors of mini-sized ramen! But I don’t have a water boiler due to luggage weight limits, and unlike in Japan, they don’t have hot water dispensers in every room.

Your stagecraft and style of music is very theatrical and almost operatic.  Is that a reflection of the sort of anime that you do music form or is that your natural style?

Hironobu Kageyama: Actually it is influenced by the type of anime the songs are for. So if it’s anime that has robots, like Super Robot Taisen where there’s a lot of fighting and energy, the songs will be influenced by that.

How do you think your style has adjusted over the past 15 years?

Kageyama: We don’t so much change our style as look for something new to do.

So would you ever do a song for a moe anime?

Kageyama: If someone ever asked us to, sure. We have girls in the band. [looks at Masami Okui] But we don’t ever get asked to do that sort of thing…

How do you relax when you’re off jam project? Individually? Or collectively?

Kageyama:We always like to talk together sometimes. Outside of music…well, we always thought about making our own jam. Jam Project jam!

What flavor of jam?

Strawberry!

What secret hobbies or hidden talents do you have?

Kageyama: I’m the oldest, so working out is my hobby. Recently I’ve been cycling and scuba diving. And this year, I’m challenging myself to train for a short distance triathlon.
Hiroshi Kitadani: The fans on twitter probably already know this, but my hobby is cooking. I do it every day, and when I make my own dish and drink alcohol, it’s very relaxing and therapeutic.

What’s your favorite dish?

Kitadani: Oden! It’s easy to make.
Masami Okui: As for [my hobbies], in Japan or all over the world, I like to visit “power spots”–places with spiritual energy. In Japan, that would be shrines or temples I love. When I’m off work, I go there a lot. This year, though, I want to go to Mt. Shasta.
Yoshiki Fukuyama: I have no hobby. So my hobby now is to look for a hobby.
Endoh: I love animals, so I have a lot of pets. It’s a dream that I want to be surrounded by animals in a big place.

Kageyama-san, you said last year at Anime Boston that you started the band when anisongs were in decline . Do you think the anisong industry has revived since then? Where do you see it going?

Kageyama: Anime songs are much more popular popular in Japan compared to 10 years ago. There are a lot of live events and concerts now and the audience has increased a lot. And variety of artists have shown up. So, it has changed a lot over the course of 10 years.

Who is the first musical artist that grabbed your heart?

Kitadani: I love Kiss.
Kageyama: I love Motley Crue.
Fukuyama: I love Deep Purple.
Okui: I love Kageyama’s vocal band, Lazy.
Endoh: I love the Beatles.

You’re all at Las Vegas now, do you plan to gamble and do you feel lucky? 

Okui: Living is a gamble.
Kageyama: I don’t feel the urge to gamble. But if I was, I’ll pull a slot machine handle once.
Kitadani: It’s a little scary, but I would like to try roulette.  Try betting on black. Ehh, really but what about red? You can split it 50/50, like your hair! [Laughter–ED: Kitadani had colored half his hair red, as in the picture at the bottom.]
Fukuyama: I never tried gambling, but I have seen it a lot in movies, so I like to try it like they do it in the movies.
Endoh: I like hitting the jackpot.

You’ve done a lot of songs for sentai series. What are your sentai colors?

Kitadani: [points to Kageyama]: He’s red.
Kageyama: Oh, I’m red, huh?
Okui: I’m pink.
Endoh: I like red, but red’s been taken, so I’ll be green.
Fukuyama: I’m blue.
Kitadani: I’m yellow.


The interview was conducted by Jeremy Booth with additional questions by Michael Huang. Rome Yamashita, Raymond Hu, and Linda Yau translated from the audio for this transcript.

Saori Hayami Interview: Otakon 2014

SHayami

We had the privilege of talking to prominent voice actress Saori Hayami, who is best known today for her role as Miyuki in Mahouka (The Irregular at Magic High School), as well as Ayase in Oreimo, Sawa in Tari Tari, and many other leading roles.


You decided to become a voice actress in elementary school. Why did you decide to pursue that so early in your life?

Well, looking back—I really did start very early! But I think that was the time when I had the most energy about my dream. I didn’t think so much about the process of getting used to it, but I was thinking more like  “Oh, there is this kind of job. Wow, it must be fun!” So I decided very quickly to pursue it that way.

You play piano and draw well, we heard. Have you ever won any awards for them?

(Laughs.) I never actually entered a contest, but I did have piano recitals. As for drawing, as you might have guessed from my laughter….I’m really not that good at it. But when I was in elementary school, I had private drawing lessons and the drawings from those lessons were shown at the Ueno art museum. I mentioned that once on a radio show, and for some reason that was picked up and included as part of my profile. But my drawings are totally opposite from the ones you might imagine.

You’re very modest.

See, the picture I drew was like this boxy square building on this size of paper with eight windows on it. It wasn’t very good, and I was rather bad at it, but it entered the museum. I’m still wondering, what was all that about?

You like “Aibou,” a detective drama. Why do you enjoy police dramas like that?

I’ve liked detective dramas since I was a kid. In Japan there are a lot of two hour dramas, and I was watching them from my early childhood. [In fact] I watched them more than anime. So, I feel really close to them, and that has culminated in Aibou  somehow.

So every once in a while, during the noontime program, I saw a rerun of Aibou and thought, “oh, this is interesting.” And that happened many times, and so I finally started watching  the show. I could go on and on about it…so what appealed to me about Aibou? Maybe the kizuna (special bond) the characters shared. And the side characters around them are deep too, and that’s what I liked it about.

In Mahouka, you play a sister who has strong emotional feelings toward her older brother. They almost act like lovers. What’s your opinion on brother/sister relationships in anime?

I don’t have brothers or sisters—I’m an only child—so I don’t know what it’s like to have siblings at all, let alone falling in love with them! I can imagine if I had a brother, but to fall in love with him, I couldn’t ever see that in my life.  Still, my close friends who have siblings don’t think they can have romance with their them, so perhaps if I ever had a brother, I don’t think I would have romance with a him either.

mahouka-koukou-no-rettousei-full-1118467

Audio Review: Atelier Escha & Logy ~Alchemists of the Dusk Sky~ (PS3)

Atelier Escha & Logy_Final Box Art

Atelier: Escha & Logy ~Alchemists of the Dusk Sky~ was recently released in English by Tecmo Koei Games for the Playstation 3. Ray played through more than 60 hours of this Japanese RPG, and Mike sat down with him to talk about what he thought of the game. Is it enough to just create items, be kawaii, or is something more exciting and consequential necessary to keep up the player’s interest? Find out what Ray liked and didn’t like so much in this audio review!

Here are some screenshots and artwork from the game, which is available at most major outlets, including Amazon. (Full disclosure: we do get a little bit back if you buy it through this link. Support the site!)

My Mental Choices are Completely Interfering with My Critic Skills

mental1

Choose!

  1. Article is a tearful piece of boredom.
  2. Article is a hysterical waste of laughter

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

I woke up this morning around 10:00 AM, realizing that I’m three things: NEET, hikkikomori, and a woman-bane. As I remembered the last episode of My Mental Choices are Affecting My School (read: Love) Life, and feeling a powerful urge to laugh hysterically, a voice suddenly came to my head:

“Choose!”

Oh no, I thought, what the hell?

The voice continues. “Choose!

  1. Wear your pants on your head and dance in your underwear on the beach,
  2. or wear your underpants on your head and dance naked!”

I quickly reminded myself that while I liked the show a lot and it really puts a quirky spin on the dating sim scenario, it’s not reality. After all, how is reality connected to a show that talks about a bunch of choices you make as you go through life?

Hmm? Was the show that deep?

All of a sudden, I got a big headache. It was as if my head is splitting apart. A sudden fear seized me as I realized what the hell was going on.

Needless to say, I totally regretted the choice I made after finding myself in the local police station, after being reported for inappropriate behavior in public (OK, don’t quote me or legally analyze this).

mental2

My Mental Choices is a weird show. You won’t find any solid substance at its root that may give you the sincere urge to come to tears and get your soul rocked like H2O, and you’re unlikely to feel a sense of overwhelming joy like you would in Porco Rosso. Though I did cry tears of laughter and laughed with sympathy as I watched Kanade (the main male) be the sole comic relief in absurd and absolutely contrived situations, involving his harem of Chocolat, Yuoji Ouka, and Yukihira. (It’s easier to remember names for me when the show is downright weird and not serious.) I found his situations to be very funny.

There are no deep characters here, save Yukihira, who has a deep complex on having small breasts and is unable to show her shy self. She often talks with a sarcastic voice joking about boobs, while calling Kanade massive number of names involving bugs, pigs, and other female favorite nicknames for men. The writers came up with some inventive ones, for sure.

As for the others, Yuoji Ouka is very cute, funny, and pretends that she doesn’t care much for sexual innuendos, until harem/ecchi accidents happen. Like her forerunners of the harem genre, she is forced to examine her feelings about actually being proverbially naked in front of her favorite guy. Chocolat is another annoying character with an annoyingly big appetite, but is nowhere as competent as other big-appetite type characters. She’s the fanservice character of gluttony, “hiding” a serious side. I feel that all three cute girls are basically hiding their true personalities in this freakish universe to avoid really confronting their feelings toward Kanade and other people.

If you want to read that far into the characters (lol).

mental3

In the end, if you’re passing by, and not offended or bored to tears, then have a seat and enjoy the spectacle. Kanade is like Jim Carrey in 2D without the comedic talent, but is forced to make embarrassments funny for the sake of the Otaku audience, and gets himself a harem despite the creepy choices he has to make. And because I like Ace Ventura, I like this show as well.

Just not for a second watch or a serious purchase. I watched it on Crunchyroll.

B- for comic value, C for everything else. PG – 13 if you have pretty understanding parents. (And B for the design of the girls).

12 Days of Christmas: Love Lab and Soul Sistaas

Not sure if many people actually watched Love Lab, which I feel is one of the funniest anime comedies this season, if only for the timing, the silliness, and the batsu (punishment) game like effect where one is placed in an environment and is on the verge of falling off the edge of laughter–when something outrageous happens right at you, and you’re “punished” for laughing.

In this fine episode, protagonist Kurahashi Riko comes to the student council’s office with the usual stuff on her mind. This is after the Love Lab group read about how having a darker skin complexion gave someone relationship trouble. Now, silly jokes that take race light-heartedly and being totally silly but not mean is fine with me.

In any event, I didn’t expect what happens next. The show seems all normal at first. Then Riko opens the door, and finds a verydifferent Maki outside. I’ll let the picture do the talking.

lovelab1

This screen shot doesn’t do justice to the whole scene. There’s no way to convey the random, batsu game like funniness without actually watching this episode yourself, or watching the entire show up to this point.

So there you go. I recommend a slightly patient watch, but once the single gals get together and daydream about love, there’s not stopping the laughter!

Genshiken, Then and Now: A Reflection

 

Ogiue isn't happy here. Should you at the new Genshiken?
Ohno isn’t happy. Should you be at the new season?

When I first laid eyes on the first Genshiken, I was in Japan teaching English. More precisely, I was on break and I was in a random anime shop in Hiroshima City.

The moment I saw the clips of the new show playing on a TV screen in the store, I felt that it was a show that I must watch.

Back then, I understood little to no Japanese. No joke; I couldn’t tell what the guys and gals at Genshiken were saying. However, there was a spiritual connection that I couldn’t explain and still can’t explain today. It was like destiny.

I knew, I just knew: THIS WAS ABOUT US!

The realization struck me like a tidal wave. At the time, I was an American in Japan, having freshly acquired anime culture, but still an Akiba virgin. I went on traveling to Tokyo and to the sacred place later (sadly, the place is no longer sacred – ippanjin and AKB48 losers now roam freely in my spiritual home).

There was a beautiful innocence about Genshiken season 1, and somewhat about season two (that’s when it was no longer a pat on our backs) when I first watched them. I mean, one never forget his or her first time, right? It was like the first girl you’ve ever loved –she was pure, innocent; a gal next door or next to you in class or from the next class. Then you introduced your world to her, or she introduced her world to you. You were hooked on your first time experience for a while.

Then you met someone else; you moved on; you had new experiences.

Then some time later, you wake up in the middle of the night, or from your daydream, and you realized that it is no longer that touching or exciting or awesome anymore.

So now we come to Genshiken Nidaime—the second round/course/generation.

Just like before, it tries to laugh and poke fun at otaku culture and references. However, many shows have done that since the days of the first Genshiken.

It remains a slice of otaku life show, true to its roots. And it’s still fun. I mean, I had 3 batsu game moments when it referred to one of the newer shows that has a new season out now.

But wait, the first thing that I noticed was that all the original voice actors were gone. The fun and the impressions that came from the popular seiyuu from that era disappeared, and I was listening to the new cast. It was like a painful reminder that we didn’t live in that era anymore.

That didn’t please me very much. Strike one.

 

Wait is this Genshiken or FREE?
Wait is this Genshiken or Free?

Next, because the guys from the original Genshiken graduated or weren’t around much anymore, I was feeling a little alienated. The club essentially became a fujoshi fan club. I mean, the show is still funny, but the change turns me off. Strike two.

Last, I really dislike Hideyoshi type of girlish dudes (hate me all you want), and we have one here. He/she is voiced by a seiyuu that I don’t recognize. Strike three.

I’ll be honest, as a fan of the original, I’m actually biased in favor of this series. I will continue watching it to get a sense of continuing nostalgia. However, as a critic, I’m looking at an idea that other shows have already executed countless times since the heyday of Otakudom and the old Genshiken, and that’s not good enough.

I’m in severe doubt that the new gen can carry the torch, when the torch was passed on to others long ago. It is 2013 and not 2004, 2005, or 2006.

Rest in peace, my innocent days as a fresh Otaku in the height of Otakudom. Now I live on as a hardened, cynical veteran zombie of anime fandom.

Rest in peace.

Spring 2013 Anime Audio Overview!

spring_anichart

Warning: Spoilers abound! 

It’s time for our semi-regular tradition of Ray and gendomike talking about the current season! This time, instead of a preview, this is an overview of what’s already airing for the past few weeks—in other words, our opinions are actually based on something other than pure speculation :) We used the AniChart as our guide, going day by day through the following shows, accompanied by links to their legal US streams as well as any articles written about them already:

Yes, there are some notable omissions, such as Shingeki no KyoujinRailgun S2, and others. We can’t watch everything you know. :) It’s a raw, unfiltered recording, so get ready for some true blue fan talk.

Enjoy! Leave us any comments in the section below.

Psycho Pass – an emotional and joyful moment for Cyberpunk fans…Eh?

I wrote about my thoughts on Cyberpunk in a paper back in 2007! http://animediet.net/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/cyberpunk-anime.doc , and I must say, I’ve become much dumber and can’t carry on an intelligent conversation like that. In addition, the entire article or parts of it = tl;dr. But after years of yearning, I can’t believe (Hallelujah), they finally made another hard core Cyberpunk anime…

Continue reading Psycho Pass – an emotional and joyful moment for Cyberpunk fans…Eh?

Fall 2012 Anime Audio Preview

Ray and gendomike do their now traditional audio season preview of the just-launched Fall 2012 anime season! (Chart downloadable here.) We seemed to talk a lot about the concept of chuunibyou—something which is prevalent in more than just the show that has that word in the title. There’s some fascinating sci-fi shows coming in the mix like Robotics;NotesPsychopass, and the now airing Shin Seikai Yori. There’s the upcoming Key/Jun Maeda + JC Staff possible trainwreck Little Busters, romance shows like Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (which we thought had a hilarious trailer). The obligatory little sister show.

And, f0r some reason, Gangnam Style. Yes, we too can be trendy and with it. And so can Master Roshi.

(HT: thegirlwhotraveledintime.)

Audio Face Off: Tari Tari

We didn’t think it would end up being as good as it was! Ray and gendomike sound off in another audio Face Off about one of summer 2012’s sleeper hits, Tari Tari. We talk about how it beat our low expectations of the genre and its initial first impressions, where it turned around, and why it succeeds as a feel good show. And Sawa. Oh, yes, Sawa.

As a gift to you, here is a GIF that you may enjoy which encapsulates the virtues of this series.

(HT: notsuki. There really is an awful lot of this…)