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Tribe Cool Crew doesn’t get a lot of attention, at least in English media on anime. Sure, it runs on Crunchyroll, and I won’t deny that every time I tweet about the show I do get a few responses. I know my fellow fans are out there. However, because I mostly tend to talk about a particular series only a few times (the main exception being, of course, Genshiken), I often find that I’m not contributing all that much to the general awareness of a series until it’s, in a sense, too late. While I also strongly believe in giving a show a fair shake before passing a thorough judgment on it (snap judgments are okay if acknowledged as such), Tribe Cool Crew has also hit a point that reminds me more than ever of why I got into the show in the first place. So, I want to talk about it.

In Episode 33 of Tribe Cool Crew, the female lead Otosaki Kanon is having a problem. Even though she’s at this point more than established herself as a skilled and talented dancer, something feels off, as if she’s being weighed down. Over the course of the episode, Kanon is informed by multiple people that she’s not getting worse at all. Instead, she’s getting so good that, in an effort to keep in sync with everyone, and to maintain the presence of the “group” in terms of stage performance, she’s subconsciously restricting herself.

Kanon’s becoming too talented so to speak, but it isn’t jealousy that lies at the heart of the conflict of the episode, but rather Kanon’s own desire to keep everyone together. She feels herself to be the outlier in this situation, and as someone extremely self-conscious about her height (yet at the same time cognizant enough of it to use her long limbs to accentuate her dancing), the fact that she’s grown even taller and thus has even greater potential to become a “star” (what Tribe Cool Crew calls individual performers rather than dance crews) is frightening to her. What I find fascinating about all this is, then, is that it’s something of an unusual problem to have in anime.

There are plenty of anime and manga where characters have to overcome personal challenges that are defined by their own history and development within an activity. For example, Masumi in Swan, despite her talent, has to re-learn the basics of ballet because she was taught incorrectly and thus has to undo all of her bad habits before she can progress. Amuro in Mobile Suit Gundam begins to outperform the Gundam itself, but that’s more man overcoming machine. In fact, he closest thing I can think of that resembles Kanon’s predicament in recent memory is actually Aomine Daiki in Kuroko’s Basketball, who finds that his skill level becomes so overwhelmingly untouchable when he puts in actual effort that it makes the opponents give up, thus making the game of basketball itself less enjoyable. However, I find Kanon’s plight to still be unique, because the competitive aspect of street dancing doesn’t play so much into it.

In saying that Kanon might be better suited as an individual dancer, it does make me wonder if the series would ever make her the center of the team, as opposed to the main character Haneru. That would be quite the daring move indeed.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to be a patron of Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

Touhou is an interesting phenomenon. Beginning as a passion project for a game developer, this ostensibly “amateur” shmup in the tradition of R-Type and Ikaruga replaces spaceships with cute girls, introducing a wide variety of characters with distinct yet generally simplistic personalities. This has given fans plenty of room to position and interpret the characters in their own way, using the barest scraps of evidence as the catalyst for imagination. While not the first franchise to encourage this, with Touhou it’s particularly noticeable given its popularity at doujin events and the like, but it’s also interesting to note what has come in a post-Touhou environment. In particular, I feel like Kantai Collection has to be viewed within this lens, and so this post is mainly about a comparison between Touhou and Kantai Collection from an outsider’s perspective.

On a personal level, outside of Magic: The Gathering, the biggest nerd fandom that I’ve barely scratched the surface of is probably Touhou. Sure, I’ve drawn a crossover fanart between Cirno and Esports personality Day[9], and I’m a fan of bkub (particularly his New York Comic Con special featuring “the Deadpool”), but I’ve never played any of the actual games. In fact, the only Touhou game I’ve ever played is the doujin game Mega Mari, which is more of a Mega Man game than anything else. However, I’m well aware of Touhou‘s presence, if only because my surrounding environment is “other geeks,” and inevitably among hardcore anime fans there will be Touhou fans as well.

The same goes for Kantai Collection, a browser-based strategy game where battleships are personified as cute girls, except I arguably know even less about it. I’ve watched a few episodes of the anime, I know which character design I like best (Tenryuu), and I know that the game plays with supply and demand because you have to win a lottery to even get to play it in the first place. I’m also aware that it’s become Touhou‘s rival in terms of popularity, with a big difference being that Kantai Collection actively employs popular and professional artists, whereas Touhou‘s official art is famously lacking in refinement.

The relationship between Touhou and Kantai Collection is therefore a tricky one in terms of how these respective series have prompted fan production that hinges on interpretation in their fanbases (which also have plenty of overlap).  Whenever I see the two, I feel as if Touhou is primarily this product that just had an intentionally simplistic presentation that fans took and expanded into their own world. Kantai Collection, in turn, with its voiced characters, better artwork, and overall presentation invites that sort of activity from fans, and revels in being able to provide that space.

In other words, it’s as if Kantai Collection saw how Touhou inadvertently had its characters transformed into commodities through the efforts of its fans, and actively sought to replicate that through careful planning and razor-sharp marketing. That means actively trying to appeal to what fans want. Whether that’s a good thing or not is personal opinion, of course, and I’m hesitant to label it as “David vs. Goliath” in the traditional sense, especially because the border between an amateur and professional artist in Japanese games, anime, etc. can be so nebulous. However, I feel like perhaps part of what made Touhou appealing to its fans in the first place is that “amateur” environment, even if it’s indeed populated by professionals. There’s a rawness to it, a kind of unregulated frontier that’s continuously re-shaped compared to Kantai Collection with its carefully measured attributes, that makes more room for the fan to be in a sense also a creator.

 

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I wrote a post for the Waku Waku +NYC blog about the potential significance of the word “Insight” in the sequel to Gatchaman Crowds. What’s funny is that if I never became a part of Waku Waku I probably would have never known or even thought of this.

This is a sponsored post. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to be a patron of Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

Miyamoto Ariana is the 2015 Miss Universe Japan, and the first to ever be half-black. In an ethnically homogenous society, she has become a figure of both hope and controversy, defying and reshaping how people see the concept of being “Japanese.” One common question to her from reporters has been what she considers about herself to be most Japanese, and her response has been, “But I am always Japanese.”

Setting aside in this instance the legitimate criticism of beauty pageants and the like, I want to focus less on the issue of judging people, especially by women, primarily on how they look, and more about how people perceive the way others “should” look. In particular, I want to focus on another less well-known controversy within fandom from a few years back, which is the idea that black girls shouldn’t cosplay white or “white-looking” (i.e. anime) characters.

This has justifiably received a great deal of blow-back from fans and cosplayers of all ethnicities, with people arguing that cosplay is something that transcends race. After all, it’s not necessarily about replicating the character perfectly in reality. The cosplayer is just as important if not more than the costume itself. However, while not wrong in any way, such an argument still comes from the idea that one is defying the presence of race through cosplay. With Miyamoto Ariana’s victory though, something even more fundamental to this idea of “cosplaying the wrong skin color” enters the equation.

Essentially, when it comes to anime characters especially, black cosplayers are working from the perspective that Japanese-ness doesn’t matter, and they’re basically right. What Miyamoto does is attack this at an even more base level: what does “Japanese-ness” even mean? You can look black, be Japanese, and neither is a compromise of the other, even if the surrounding culture (or subculture) tries to make it seem that way.

Of course, when it comes to both beauty queens and cosplayers, on some level image is important, but efforts by both black cosplayers and Miyamoto Ariana show how the very assumptions that go into how we see things, how we see the relationship between reality and fiction and at what point one appears to be the other, can be challenged and potentially transformed on a societal level. At least, that’s where I hope things will go.

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I wrote a post about my favorite anime and manga characters from New York City. You’ll notice that many of them are orphans or something like that.

I made a post on the Waku Waku +NYC Blog based on the idea that, in the media, cosplayers are the first people to get attention in reports on anime conventions and other geek gatherings, and that this potentially gives cosplayers a great deal of responsibility. Do you agree or disagree?

A lot of things have happened over the past month at (or around) Ogiue Maniax. Observant folks might have noticed that I’ve started linking to other posts on this blog. That’s because I’ve started contributing to the social media for an upcoming convention in New York City, Waku Waku +NYC, and this includes writing blog posts for them. I hope you enjoy the extra material, as while they’re not quite the same as what I’d normally write for Ogiue Maniax, they’re still intended to be fun, informative, and promote discussion.

However, if you look at the actual Patreon page, I don’t include those extra blog posts in my creations, as I believe it’s not quite fair to bolster my numbers like that when it’s all content supported by another organization not explicitly for Ogiue Maniax. Readers, do you agree, or would you rather see everything I make go on there?

This month’s special sponsors are:

Ko Ransom

Alex

Johnny Trovato

Anonymous

May was actually the first month where I wrote two sponsored posts:

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Holograms (At Least Not All the Time): Voca Nico Night

An Acquired Taste that Gets Better with Time: Mysterious Joker

I definitely enjoyed writing them, and they got me to look more into topics I’ve had only passing familiarity with, and if you like what you see, why not consider becoming a sponsor? At $30 a month you can request topics as well.

I’m also still putting consideration into a new sponsor level, which is to have Skype conversations with me every week, and a milestone, which will involve me writing a negative review of Genshiken just for fun. The goal would not be to exaggerate, but to fairly state the flaws of my favorite series. What do you think? Would that be fun?

A new Super Robot Wars game is coming to the Nintendo 3DS, and at this point people know the drill. A bunch of old favorites come back, a few new series make their debut, and because it’s not on a “main” system they can be a little more daring with their choices in terms of which new anime to bring along.

Returning Series

-Aura Battler Dunbine
-Story of Aura Battler Dunbine
-Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh
-King of Braves Gaogaigar
-Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
-Mobile Suit Gundam 00 the Movie
-Macross Frontier Movies
-Shin Mazinger (Mazinger Edition Z: The Impact!)
-Mazinkaiser SKL
-Martian Successor Nadesico

New Series

-Panzer World Galient
-SD Gundam Gaiden
-Mobile Suit Gundam AGE
-Giant Gorg
-Macross 30

While the new series at a glance might not seem that unusual, I think a second look actually brings home how bizarre the newcomers are. In some cases, it’s because they lend themselves well to the crossover nature of Super Robot Wars. Panzer World Galient and Giant Gorg are two series fans probably thought would never join SRW, yet it’s odd that this would be the case because both of their settings involve disparate levels of technology and a greater dedication to an almost more philosophical sense of science fiction that potentially lets them connect various generations together. Gundam AGE is at this point one of the black sheep of the Gundam franchise, yet its generational story can be the glue that holds similar yet different series together (Shin Mazinger and Mazinkaiser SKL, for example).

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to hearing the instrumental version of the Galient opening.

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Then you have SD Gundam Gaiden, and I think to appreciate its inclusion we have to go back to the beginnings of Super Robot Wars.

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In the early iterations of SRW, the Gundam units took their designs and aesthetics from the popular SD Gundam franchise. This meant mobile suits looked extra cutesy, with large expressive eyes that future pupils. As SRW progressed this changed: pupils disappeared, robots became not quite as squat, and the old-fashioned SD look became a relic of the past. By having a series that actively celebrates that more cartoonish look, it’s almost like a piece of SRW history is returning. It’s all the more notable then that the Unicorn Gundam from Gundam UC is probably the least chibi-looking Gundam in SRW history; its proportions are practically realistic.

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As for Macross, that franchise is fairly common in Super Robot Wars, but Macross 30 is actually a Playstation 3 game devoted to celebrating the Macross metaseries as a whole. So, in a game dedicated to bringing together multiple giant robot anime, one of their inclusions is a video game all about celebrating decades of one series in particular. Does this mean that all of the Macross characters across history will show up, or is the intention more to focus on the original characters of Macross 30?

So, while it’s not as wild as throwing in Jushin Liger or Iron Leaguer, Super Robot Wars BX might have just enough twists to the formula to make things interesting.

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

BIG HERO 6

When watching the Disney animated film Big Hero 6, one of the first things that stands out is the city in which the characters live: the portmanteau of “San Fransokyo.” How it relates to either San Francisco or Tokyo remains a mystery, but it’s probably meant to pay tribute to both Disney’s own American origins and the inspiration Big Hero 6 takes from Japanese media.

However, Big Hero 6 hasn’t been the only work of fiction to combine American and Japanese cities. One such work is an anime that dates back to the 1970s: Hurricane Polymar.

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A series by Tatsunoko Production, the same studio responsible for classics such as Gatchaman and Casshern, Hurricane Polymar comes from that same era and young Amano Yoshitaka-derived aesthetic sense. A mix of Inspector Gadget, Bruce Lee, and Superman, the series takes place not only in the capital of “Washinkyo” (Washington DC + Tokyo), but in the country of “Amehon” (America + Nihon [Japan]).

I think it’s fun to imagine what an actual “Amehon” would be like, or where it would come from. Would it literally be the US and Japan deciding to be one nation? Would it be some strange alternative universe where they were the same land mass all along? Would anime fans who despise American culture and love Japanese culture be more at home, or would the appealing “foreignness” of Japan be lost in the process? Going back to anime itself, could Hurricane Polymar himself be considered a blend of American and Japanese superhero tropes and qualities, similar to how the characters of Big Hero 6 occupy a similar category?

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If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to be a patron of Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

As part of my Patreon rewards, I was recently asked to write about “Voca Nico Night,” a series of concerts celebrating Vocaloid music broadcasted over the Japanese streaming site Nico Nico Douga. This topic is somewhat outside of my normal purview, as I will admit to not being especially knowledgeable about Vocaloids or the scene surrounding them (I enjoy the music and recognize the characters but would not call myself a devoted Vocaloid fan), but as I watched recordings of Voca Nico Night I found that the performances seen at Voca Nico Night can be viewed as a reminder that, at the end of the day, talented human creators are an integral part of the success of Vocaloids and the music that is created using them.

The story of how virtual idol Hatsune Miku became an international sensation is the kind of tale that can cause some to proclaim the green-haired, leek-twirling, robot-voiced “singer” as the sign of a glorious future, and others to describe her as the death of music. For years the music company Yamaha had put out a voice synthesis program, but with some improvements to the software and the use of a cute girl in chic, futuristic clothing, things changed. Suddenly it was embraced by composers, musicians, music enthusiasts, artists, and writers both amateur and professional, and you can find countless examples of Vocaloid music, art, and more on sites such as Youtube, Pixiv, and Nico Nico Douga.

All of this has culminated in Vocaloid live concerts, where holographic projections of the Vocaloids sing and dance as live crowds cheer them on. This presents a fascinating contrast in the “life” of the Vocaloid. At the same time that Miku and the others become more “real”, their artificiality becomes even more pronounced. After all, even if she were to be brought into reality, Miku still has the appearance of an anime character, and that stylization and abstraction cannot be divorced from her even they’re re-drawn and individualized by various creators.

This can be viewed as a strength, as Miku’s self, constructed from the effort and desires of millions, makes no illusions about the synthesized elements of her music (as opposed to the auto-tuning that regularly occurs in popular music these days), but for those who believe that music comes from the soul, that way of thinking is certainly difficult to swallow. While I’m more of the former opinion, the latter I think is something worth keeping in mind.

This is where I think Voca Nico Night really shines, because without the expensive holograms, without the explicit desire to see Hatsune Miku or Megurine Luka or the Kagamine Twins, what’s left are the DJs, the musicians, the performers at center-stage, engaging with their audience both online and in the flesh. You can still hear the distinctly robotic tones of the Vocaloids, but their images are not taking all of the attention. Instead, the Vocaloids’ role as tools for producing music comes to the forefront, and while talking about the “functionality” of an actual musician would be crass and unfair, the origins of the Vocaloids means that they can be as “useful” or as “soulful” as one needs them to be. Voca Nico Night exists somewhat opposite the live concerts that get all of the attention, and while I hesitate to use a “yin-yang metaphor,” I do think that having both is for the better.

In many ways it reminded me of the times I’ve attended chiptunes concerts (another scene where I have interest but cannot call myself a true fan). Like the Vocaloid scene, chiptunes creators and fans embrace a type of music often associated historically with a visual component that arguably puts less emphasis on the music or the musicians (video games in the case of chiptunes), but people who love chiptunes use concerts to show their appreciation and their talents outside of what is typically expected out of a “performance.” I have to wonder if Vocaloid concerts and the like are at an intersection between the rock concert where band members are sometimes viewed as gods, the orchestra where the relative significance of the individual musicians versus the composers’ original scores can be argued, and the club where a DJ combines beats and melodies together to form something new.

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