Tag Archives: meta

An Ill-Managed War

Zach Logan and Tsukento have some interesting points to make over at the One Piece podcast.  They claim manga now exists in a state of war, and in the wake of SOPA, with ACTA on the horizon, that claim is certainly not hard to swallow. Some of their specific assertions, however, are rather eyebrow-raising.

Zach writes,

It’s law that is so sacred that it’s in the U.S. Constitution. These laws are what make the works of Oda, Kishimoto, and even Kubo a possibility.

There are two double-takes that I did as I read that. First off, intellectual property law as it now exists is an interpretation of older legal principles. It did not historically exist, though those principles did. While yes, the US Constitution does allow for Congress to secure rights for authors and inventors, copyright law in the 18th century was a very different beast from our modern concept of intellectual property.  Most of the rights that lawyers are now concerned with did not exist at the time, and especially noteworthy, it is only recently that intellectual properties are actually handled as real properties, rather than simply convenient fictions that exist to protect authors.  (Not coincidentally, the fiction of corporations as persons has also been stretched and reinterpreted in recent years.)

The modern reinterpretation is, if you will, the equivalent of a programmer kludging some code to make it do different things rather than starting cleanly from scratch. This is one reason people confuse copyright violation with theft, when the two are legally distinct: we are using old laws to handle rights and violations that did not exist when those laws were promulgated.  Zach may argue that copyright violation is morally indefensible in the same manner as theft, but then we are not entering a legal discussion: he is asking readers to share his morality, after which their agreement with his points will be obvious.

The term “sacred” – always a dubious choice in a discussion of secular law – presages this shaky claim. Pretending continuity between the copyright law of the past and the intellectual property rights of the present is roughly the same as asserting that Film studies existed before the earliest camera, that Protestantism existed before certain European monks re-interpreted the Bible, or asserting that modern Wicca should be identified with ancient paganism: it may lend legitimacy, but it is only true if one does not look too deeply. For that matter, the Constitution specifies that Congress may not prohibit, but may tax, the Importation of Persons – in historical context, the slave trade.  Ought we to treat America’s profit from the buying and selling of human beings as “sacred” as well? Even if intellectual property rights had appeared in their present form, appearing in the Constitution may not be a perfect indicator that a law ought to be treated with special reverence.

As a second major objection to this quote, US law is not what allows the works of Oda, Kishimoto, and Kubo to exist, because mangaka are producing content under Japanese law. Certainly, the US laws are very influential, and Japan has some ideas about intellectual property that are very close to US ideas (witness their agreement on ACTA) but suggesting that manga would not be made in Japan if the US had not developed this particular legal interpretation of an artist’s right to control his art is quite a stretch.  In fact, some economics experts argue that international rights themselves restrict art and lead to inefficiency.

Creating international trade rights creates an artificial scarcity where no real scarcity exists. That, by definition, is inefficient.

– Thomas Lenard

What Zach perhaps means to say is that the principle behind the law – the idea that authors are compensated for the work they do – is what enables mangaka to produce manga for a living.  On that we all must agree.  But this acknowledgement of necessity is a far cry from a ringing endorsement of the exact, current methods of ensuring that authors are compensated.  It is the methods that the angry fans the article quotes disagree with, and it is a distributor, not a creator, that they have vented their ire on. (Translation is an act of creation, legally speaking, but one who views a free scanlation is viewing a different creation from the officially translated product anyway.)

 

Tsukento writes, parodying an angry fan,

I also hope for the only major company that helped shaped this industry to crash and burn, preventing us from ever seeing official releases again!

But this misses the point. What industry? From an economic rationale, to someone who only wishes to view manga if it is free, there is no benefit derived from the existence of VIZ. On the other hand, if VIZ is going to DCMA takedown the sites these particular fans like, then VIZ is (from that point of view) harming them by interfering with what they want to do. Wishing for VIZ to collapse is therefore sensible for them from an economic perspective, given those starting points. Arguing with them over the finer points of VIZ policy but ignoring the basic truth that underlies their approach – that they do not accept VIZ – is not going to go anywhere.

Personally, I have paid for or been furnished with review copies of every anime I have ever watched – but I do not make the mistake of thinking that other people think as I do and are necessarily happy to support the system. Distribution in America does not directly affect production in Japan, and almost everyone in the discussion seems at least dimly aware of this. Everything I have seen leads me to conclude that people honestly believe US distribution of licensed works can collapse with no ill effects on production in Japan. (This is, I suspect, also conflated with attitudes about things being “cooler” or “purer” back when fans of an obscure medium swapped episodes or chapters physically. Fans who yearn for a return to that might not mind if the US industry downsized, mistakenly thinking that this would revert fan culture to its earlier days.)

If you wish to change fan attitudes about paying money for works, it will become necessary to explore the truth of these assumptions and demonstrate their falsehood, preferably with hard data. Only after fans concede the necessity of the existence of a US industry to handle distribution and licensing can they be convinced that this industry is worth supporting.  I don’t mean to put the burden on Zach and Tsukento – it’s VIZ, FUNimation, and other companies that have failed to recognize this crucial step in securing their future.  Their eyes were on Tokyo, not America; they took their hard-won legal ownership of distribution rights for cultural ownership without taking steps to ensure a congruence between the two.  Now, they are paying the price.

MIKUNOPOLIS At AX 2011: Promise Of Rebirth

 

So in the 25-plus years after Megazone 23’s enigmatic virtual idol prototype, Eve Tokimatsuri appeared on the scene inspiring what has become something of a cult-trope in science fiction, last night’s one-of-a-kind Anime Expo event in MIKUNOPOLIS was something of an evolutionary leap. Considering the fact that the most prominent western variations on this concept have come in the form of a middle of the road Al Pacino movie, as well as through the almost genetically-wired mind of William Gibson, this has felt like a long time coming as thousands of fans(and curiosity-seekers- for sure) nearly packed the Los Angeles NOKIA Theater for an evening with the otaku world’s digital darling & friends. From the line stretching incomprehensibly outside, to the brilliantly colored array of glowing sticks, leeks, bolos & more, it was a welcome only Lynn Minmei could appreciate. Still shaking off the reverberations post Saturday night’s event has given me quite a bit to consider.

The introduction by the ever-charismatic Danny Choo, along with a rhythm primer in the form of Danceroid was an interesting taster for what was ahead. This early on should have proven to be an important litmus test of an audience perhaps not as familiar with the Akiba-kei atmo that was to come. Seeing as how the show itself had little to no time to prepare, this was very much a straight-from-Japan production, with little to now caveats to newcomers. Something that I personally find to be particularly important for what I’ll cover in a bit.

Mostly cribbed from the already popular concert format in Japan, the crowd was treated to a dazzling mixture of live accompaniment (featuring most to all of the original musicians also featured in the 39s Giving Day dvd- and also including a full string section not included on this popular disc.) as the aqua-haired one shelled out one popular track after another. All the while fully complimented by the crowd’s rhythmic use of glow, which was also heartening to see last throughout the entire performance. (I must admit here that this was something of an odd concern for the US audience, and their prolonged reaction to such a concept.) Having been seated in the Loge, with a fully panoramic view of the show from the stage to the orchestra, including the crane camera, and between the HD screens capturing visual highlights from a combination of cameras. The audience’s familiarity with many of Miku’s fan & artist-made hits like World Is Mine, Popipo, Sound, Romero & Cinderella, and many others (altogether I wish she had performed Miracle Paint somewhere) was indicative of just how widespread the open-source phenomenon has grown in merely three short years. And the welcome appearances of Megurine Luka, Rin & Len Kagamine among others, only raised the roof even further. And while the holographic projection bouncing off the near-transparent screen positioned at center stage at times showed its limits whenever Miku danced a little further to each edge, with this came a sort of charm that can only be had by those with an understanding of the show’s brief life on the road.

 

The Light & Cyberization Show:

Which brings me to a tiny nugget of history to help put this into some manner of context – As a small child, interested in the new technologies that were seemingly sprouting out of the ground in the early 1980s, one of the genesis sparks of inspiration for all this perhaps is thanks to travelling laser light shows that would come to the local fair every year. It was essentially a laser painting show set to music that took place inside an inflatable dome where patrons would pay their admission, settle themselves into one of the many offered cushions to lie on the floor, and enjoy 15-20 minutes of dazzling arrays of light, and animation set to tunes from artists such as Missing Persons, Thomas Dolby among others. As primitive as that may sound now – it went a pretty long way toward inspiring what became computer generated art & animation, not to mention music videos. One could also venture that without this simple trend, many of the Macross ’84 movie’s fun concert scenes would not have the sort of evocative punch that they do. It’s the mark of an era, I suppose, but it also informs decades of the development in how live entertainment was changing, and possibly even hinting at where lovers of the musical arts were going to split.

Because also growing up in this time period, it was quite the popular notion that the steam-gathering trend of analog-to-digital music was something to be feared, and even dismissed in the music world. Being a child fan of artists such as Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Giorgio Moroder,YMO and Soft Cell, it was not uncommon to hear someone jeer about the artificiality of synthesizers, and that it was killing the spontanaeity of music. And while there was some grain of truth to this argument, it also undermines the other side, which is that it took human effort and ingeneuity to create the sounds coming from these bulky boards that at times required multiple machines, intense worry of breakdowns, and unerring nerve just to get through a show. Eventually this dismissive argument was to haunt many future forms of music and performing, to interesting results.=- Which is also what makes Miku’s live accompaniment such a fun & necessary element. (Akitoshi Kuroda on guitar, Shingo Tanaka on bass, Shin Orita on drums, and Jun Abe on keyboards- not to mention the mentioned addition of a string section. Very nice.) For studio musicians, there is a great deal of heart to the performance that could easily also been pre-recorded. Being an amateur musician with a love of new tools, experimentation merged with the use of the traditional, this show was something of a welcome stew of varying elements that despite the at-times middling nature of some of the songs, functioned as more a promise of possibility rather than what it was.- Which is essentially how I feel about the show as a whole.

Hoping that I didn’t lose anyone, perhaps it’s best for me to get to the DNA of this for finality’s sake- Why is this LA show so significant, and what is the prime implication of VOCALOID, Miku and shows like this?

 

The Toppling Of The Ziggurat: The Democratization Of Pop & The End Of Idol Thinking:

Well this has quite the rabbit-hole answer really since it boils down to the very concept of the idol singer, and what a virtual idol entails. Being that we’re in not only an age of close-to-realistic character animation, as well as a possible age of open source pop culture, we are perhaps witnessing an idea that can grow beyond the confines of the otaku, and into something altogether new. With YAMAHA introducing the versatile VOCALOID software at this year’s NAMM show, the timing seems just right for a great risk to be taken as the old model of media distribution reaches its inevitable death rattle. The single idea of taking a spanish software, and expaning it into a brilliant new model for music making, and marketing is nothing short of a genius idea that works multi-fold when considering the overpopulated, and at times troubling world of the Japanese idol-singer. A life fraught with endless competition, questionable talent, even more questionable management, health-endangerment, sameness, as well as fan pressure to maintain a fantasy image- Well this is the ideal scenario as VOCALOID, mixed with this form of marketing and fan driven mythology puts the entire idea of a musical superstar to task by calling them out for what they are- Often interchangeable, derivative, fleeting, not to mention disposeable muses for a culture industry allergic to change, let alone ideas.

Just think of it. To paraphrase Miles Dyson: This is an idol who never gets tired, never freaks out, never comes to work with a hangover. She knows the show must go on, and can change costumes within a split second . And the best of all, the songs are only as great as two main factors, the fans making the songs, and the band playing by her side. The very presence of Miku is something of a brilliant antithesis as she herself is capable of everything an idol is expected to fulfill, without the excess baggage and expectations. She can literally be anything the people want without breaking a sweat.

And to introduce such a splashy reception in the west is something of a promising start to what one hopes is the beginning of something very special, not only for the japanese, but for generations long in need of a realm where dreams are shared, and expanded upon, rather than spoon-fed. And judging from the night’s impressive crowd, that longing may finally bear fruit.

 

Eve, Sharon, Rei…your songs grow ever closer…

Strike Witches 2 – The Pantsless Dream

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

We live, as the Chinese would have it, in interesting times. No, let us be more frank than that. We live in absurd times. As the BP oil spill continues, as North Korea makes warlike noises despite warnings from nearly every other civilized country with an interest in the matter, as the men from Union Carbide get off with 2 years in jail for the deaths of over 10,000, it is evident that lunacy is the order of the day.

What better time than now to release an absurd show? And how much more absurd does it get than Strike Witches, a show about pantsless magical schoolgirls who put on robot parts and nekomimi to fight for their countries?

Accepting absurdity is not easy.  Some people may complain that, for instance, a blacksmith should wear some pants. But this is the old way of thinking. These standards of believability have already been dealt a mortal blow! In fact, anime has already visited the topic of magical blacksmithing in great detail, and not only is it OK to smith without pants, it is OK to do so without hammer, anvil, quenching liquid, or even fire!  Magic has supplanted all of these. The Strike Witches already engage in life-and-death combat without pants; compared to that, why should the entirely controllable rigor of blacksmithing compel them to don pants?

Do not hesitate: he who hesitates is lost. Do not fear: we have nothing to fear but fear itself, and recursion is utterly passe. Stride forth boldly, and embrace the future!  Dare to dream of a pants-free world!

Of course, it’s possible – just possible – that I’m biased in my assessment. I mean, I’m not wearing any pants.

Film Review:The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya

A child of the 80s, I grew up in time to become an instant fan of Robert Zemeckis’s Back To The Future. A film as much about self-discovery as it ever is about tinkering with alternate dimensions. The adventures of a young man who’s strange fortune lands him 30 years before, to the days of his parents, only to endanger the future consumation of their marriage and thereby threatening his own existence was a brilliant throwback to the best of Capra. It’s A Wonderful Life for the Reagan-era is not too far a stratch for a film dealing with alternate realities, amidst a cinematically mundane setting. It also worked largely due to its colorful cast of characters, hair-pulling predicaments, and epic music. But the film’s core appeal at least to me was the core relationship between wizard & student. Why mention this uber mainsream offering from Hollywood? Because it was the first film to come to mind upon watching The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya. A film not too far removed from the memories of Marty McFly, albeit in a far more reflexively meta tone with just a touch of, dare I say it? Melancholy.

Continue reading Film Review:The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu 5 – Hallellujah, it’s raining meta

Is the average Japanese Otaku in love with traps???!!! There are man-maid cafes in Akiba and now there is a dude that looks like a lady in Chinese dress in this show, what the hey?

What’s your breakfast for today? Akihisa had breadcrumbs this morning, thank you. This just goes to proove that there are starving kids in Japan, so eat it! Just eat it!

Continue reading Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu 5 – Hallellujah, it’s raining meta

NYAF Anime Blogger Roundtable

Things were rather hectic at the New York Anime Festival, but bloggers of all stripes made time for an important, self-referential summit.

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NarutakiRT served as MC, while representatives from About.com, Comics Worth Reading, Anime Vice, Anime Almanac, Ani-Gamers, Colony Drop, The Gaming Dungeon, Ogiuemaniax, Reverse Thieves, and Anime wa Bakuhatsu da! held forth. Ed from Vertical also showed up to inject an industry-side perspective.

Ni-pah, Yaan, Au, Fuwa-Fuwa (NYAF)

Anime Diet East will be spreading its banner and once again making the sacred pilgrimage to New York for the New York Anime Festival. Oddly enough, the only set items on the schedule are the Del Ray pre-party, the Yui Makino concert, and a certain karaoke gathering for those of exceptionally refined taste and articulation.

Not a recommended way to travel.
Not a recommended way to travel.

Liveblogging will occur via Twitter.  Expect incriminating photos.

Kyon-kun, Meta

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As I stated on an Anime3000 podcast, this season of Haruhi seems to be intended for enjoyment strictly at the meta level.  It’s easy to picture Churuya insisting, “Kyon-kun, Kyon-kun! This summer it’s all about the meta!” Even the ongoing controversy over former KyoAni director Yamamoto making an apology for Endless Eight at Otakon only fed the drama.

What’s really going on?

Continue reading Kyon-kun, Meta

Anime Diet @ Otakon 2009

In the early days of Anime Diet, our illustrious founder Mike covered every Otakon personally. With a heavy con load this year, it has fallen to newer writers to step up and cover Otakon 2009!

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It may seem a little early to be speaking of this July con, but some folks have been preparing since last August! I leave you with these classic words, “The flag has been planted, and world domination will surely follow! Look forward to our coverage.”

On Kannagi and Virginity

For those of you who missed it, there was a big to-do at the close of 2008 over the fact that Nagi of Kannagi might not be “pure.”

Not a vampire.

It’s fascinating to me how so much of the international anime community took the Western perspective and applied it as if it ought to be universal.  Sankaku Complex was flooded with hate in the stories it ran. Darkmirage’s popular take on the subject garnered forty comments and not one mentioned how cultural expectations of women are different in Japan vs. in the West. There was not one reference to Yamamoto Nadeshiko, that ideal of self-sacrificing femininity that was inculcated in the Japanese in WWII and whose specter still discourages modern Japanese women from marrying.

Continue reading On Kannagi and Virginity

ISMLdo

I finally know why I am participating in ISML, and why it is so important for all otaku. It is not as a lone individual that I draw forth my will, or set my fingers in motion. But it is as a lone individual that I experience these events, and the realization of this truth is important to understanding.

jubei_burning

It was as a joke that I first compared participation in the ISML campaign to participation in the world of budo, but I find now that it is increasingly accurate. Why did warriors fight? Why did proud samurai learn the sword? Was it merely for power? Merely to offer violence? No. The path of the sword is surely a journey of self-discovery and spiritual realization even as it is outwardly the acquisition of a skill set, and similarly the path of ISML is one of reflection and self-knowledge even as it is outwardly the victory of one’s waifu.

Continue reading ISMLdo

Beginner Anime

Two major categories have sprung up in anime discourse. There are referential anime such as Yakitate Japan and Lucky Star, and there are anime which are designed to be watched with no prior knowledge of anime, such as Bleach and Naruto. In keeping with the concept that otaku culture is like a language to be learned, I will refer to the former as “advanced” anime and the latter as “beginner” anime.

Obviously this is a simplification. These categories are not pure and exclusive. Many essentially non-referential shows, such as Full Metal Panic, still have the occasional reference. Heavily referential shows such as Genshiken or Dai Mahou Touge can still be watched without getting all the references. Overall, however, there is an increasing creep of metatextual issues into the actual body of anime that air each season.

Is this good or bad?

Continue reading Beginner Anime