An Introduction and Invitation to the Endless Eight Project

Tomorrow, we will be kicking off the Annual Haruhi Marathon known as Endless Summer, in which fans gather over skype and watch the Haruhi Suzumiya TV series over the span of eight* days. One of the major highlights of the event is watching Endless Eight all within the course of a single weekend. While there are a lot of detractors from the Endless Eight arc, there is plenty to appreciate beyond an enjoyment standpoint, particularly from the viewpoint of creative writing in general.

As I’ve mentioned in last year’s Endless Summer writing project, restrictions breed creativity, and Endless Eight is one of the more apparent examples of that principles in action. The concept of showing the “exact same story eight times” is perhaps one of the most pressing restrictions an animation studio can place on itself; as a result of it, analyzing the variations in the presentation of the arc is actually quite astounding if you compare the finer minutiae of each episode.

Furthermore, the concept that the exact same story is shown eight times makes that comparison of minutiae remarkably easy.

It’s no secret that episodic posts have a bit of a stigma regarding how similar they are to each other; repetition of the same format over time lends to specific structural qualities that are replicated endlessly, and as a result, are easily glossed over without any further consideration. But when it comes to Endless Eight, however, those particular nuances in writing and form have the opportunity to be brought to light and analysed on a macro level, much like that of the production of the arc itself.

Hence, the Endless Eight Project. I am inviting writers in the aniblogosphere (and hell, even readers/lurkers/twitterers as well) to participate in this project. I am looking for seven other writers to write a guest post on my blog, in which a post about Endless Eight is posted daily within the span of Endless Summer. Writers will be writing about the exact same points, structure, and will even be limited by the same word restrictions.

Continue reading

Aniblog Interrobang!?!?

There’s a bit of a blogging meme/game/carnival/Olympics/circlejerk floating around involving an Interrogation-style game. It started with Iso from Nabe!!, who spread the game to a number of bloggers, and in a neat pay-it-forward type of scheme, the concept finally reached me, 3 bloggers removed. I was tagged by Starburst from Daifuuku (and subsequently, kevo from Desu ex Machina). I’m quite grateful to be mentioned reasonably early on in the meme, and I can’t help but oblige in participating.

Before I begin, here are the rules, ripped straight from the source itself:

Rules

1) Each person is supposed to follow the rule of fives. You are allowed to ask 5 questions, after which you can tag up to 5 bloggers by hyper-linking to their blog; 5 questions because it’s not too many to flood another blogger and occupy too much of his/her time, but yet a large enough number to ask your most important questions, and 5 bloggers to avoid spamming. Hence, prioritize your questions, and who you wish to ask!

2) Those tagged are obliged to answer the questions in a blog post, and after which, they are entitled to create their own 5 questions and tag 5 other bloggers, so on and so fourth. You should answer your own 5 questions as well. You are allowed to tag the person that tagged you in the first place. Also, copy and paste this section on your blog so others can understand how the game goes.

In the case where a blogger strongly refuses to answer a question, he/she must instead post a nice anime image, wallpaper or cosplay picture, et cetera in response to that question.

3) To make things interesting, a blogger can include wildcards in his/her 5 questions by placing an asterisk, (*), after which those tagged are obliged to reveal something interesting about themselves that others did not previously know. There is no limit to the number of asterisks one can place (which means there can be up to 5 wildcard questions).

4) Anyone can feel free to start the game; you don’t necessarily need someone to tag you. Just create your 5 questions and tag your 5 people of choice. However, the catch is that you must answer your own 5 questions as well.

5) To potentially prevent an endless game, this round of games will end on the 8th September 2012, 12pm JST (GMT +9). After which, no more bloggers can tag others to answer their questions.

Sounds quite reasonable enough, but knowing how ranty I can get when talking about myself, this opportunity seems like a challenge to write a fairly long post which will probably end up getting ignored due to the sheer length of it; to hell with anime-related images! I’m up to task!

Continue reading

Be a Refined Bard: Parallel World Samurai, Episode 7

Coastal town at dusk, this poet will rule the world, with serene haikus.

Just like that I’m back.
I’m sorry for my absence
I’ve been on a break.

Writer’s block is bad.
It’s a horrible excuse
to neglect my blog.

Sometimes the best thing
to get you back to writing
is to play around.

Sometimes just let lose,
just try to experiment
with things like Haiku.

In this episode
of Sengoku Collection,
this is what they do.

Continue reading

Slam the Vote! Support Baka Laureate in the Aniblog Tourney!

Wouldn’t you believe it? I’m in the top 16 of the Aniblog Tourney! I’m amongst some really esteemed company, including Sea Slugs, Metanorn, Listless Ink, and even my opponent for this round, the defending champion, psgels. My goodness, looking at this list, you just know that the other people left standing are very well-deserving blogs who’ve made their mark with hard work and a lot of support from their readership. I bested Reverse Thieves last round, a blog that’s done a whole lot for the community, and I’m sad to see them go. But alas, I’m still here, still strong, still writing.

While I’ve been rather blasé about the tourney for a while, particularly considering my preference for good content over actual presentation of said content, I’m still of the opinion that the top-16 level of this tournament is one where the quality blogs truly start to show their strengths. I’m not as well-established of a blog as psgels, nor am I as prolific in my writing schedule and post frequency. But I do have one advantage over this particular star-crossed matchup: The Slamming Spirit.

As promised in my appeal for votes in my matchup against Reverse Thieves, I’ve Space Jam remixed the ending theme to Heartcatch PreCure.

I’m a man of my word, especially when it comes to Slamming songs. So here’s what I’m going to do. I don’t really think I can match up to psgels at all, but I will do something nice for my readers. For every 20 votes I get in this particular match, I will slam an anime song of your choice. Leave a suggestion in the comments, and when the polls close on Wednesday, I will grab the best suited submissions and slam the living bejeezus out of them. All in the name of science and anime.

Here are a number of slams I’ve already done:

Mawaru Penguinjam

Star Dunker – Slamochrome

If you want some more slammilicious sounds, you’ll have to vote. Repeatedly. Get your brother to vote. Get your cat to vote. Go to every fucking starbucks in your area and vote. Understood? Great. As if you needed another reason to vote for the Baka.

Seriously, though, I really do appreciate your support in the slamiblog tourney so far, so let’s keep it up! Baka and out.

This is Anime, Not Grantland

I’m back, baka. Not with a whimper, but with a bang, and by bang, I actually mean giant fucking wall of text. I have no idea how long this rant is going to be, but having planned out a rant in my head as I went to bed last night, I figured it would go on for at least the length of a colloquium or two.

On a side note, I do not actually mean that as a jab at Altair and Vega. Bless the staff over there, as their content is quite admirable and Vuc is a one-man promotion machine, and despite knowing the reasons why this wasn’t seen to its full extent in the aniblogtourney, I maintain that they wouldn’t need to lobby for votes.

Yet, getting ousted by Ani Nouto, another Toronto anime blogger (and in some circles, the de facto Toronto anime blogger), left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, not because of the fact that a well-deserving blog failed to proceed to the next round, but rather of the flimsy nature of the polling system, which may or may not have had an effect on their particular matchup. The fact that we won’t ever know for sure rests uneasy with me, up until the point that I remind myself that the aniblog tourney is something that I (amongst others) have to make a point of not caring about.

Ending sentences with prepositions aside, I still care about the aniblog tourney at the end of the day. At least, it’s to the extent that I would care about any Internet popularity contest, particularly those that pits the likes of round-faced, wide-eyed girls with voices that sound like that noise that my bag of bread makes when I try to squeeze the air out of it before putting it back into the fridge. I’ve fully conditioned myself to adore these characters, up to the point that I’ve attached their blobby heads to sports teams that I don’t have any knowledge in, just so I can pick horses for a betting pool. With the Euro 2012 soccer football not-hockey tournament well underway, I did the exact same thing for my own office pool.

It’s a bit different with national teams however, because it’s just too easy to simply associate those particular teams with their corresponding Axis Powers Hetalia characters, and in the interests of Yaoi fangirls everywhere who may happen to read my blog, pick teams based on which one would I prefer to be the Uke in a pairing situation. For example, yesterday saw an unfortunate defeat for my pool pick, Netherlands. For those who don’t follow Hetalia, Netherlands made his anime appearance in the second season of Hetalia, but leading up to it, he was portrayed in fandom as a bit of a tsundere. Naturally, that would warrant an automatic uke pick for me, considering him being paired up with burly Germany. When Netherlands lost, it struck me as something utterly illogical, that it was practically impossible for Germany to be the Uke in any pairing outside of…well shit, suddenly I recall having this exact conversation regarding Germany with that one particular Hetalia fangirl/real-life tsundere that I dated for a bit after meeting at Anime North, and figure that this is not the time and/or place to discuss it.

Anyways, back to the aniblog tourney. Something tells me that I should have saved my NCAA/SaiMoe crossover post to the tourney itself, at least in an attempt to remain somewhat impartial to my polling decisions. As much as the tourney staff tries to encourage voters to vote based on the content of the blog instead of the people writing them, it’s hard to avoid that sort of thing at all. A lot of my preference in reading people’s work is based on the writing alone, which in turn is reflective of who they are as people. In short, I tend to like people who just happen to be good writers. And in cases like the aniblog tourney, the competition itself is so informal so far (it doesn’t actually become a competition until it narrows down to the top 8/16/whatever), some of the choices available, even in the group round, are hard to pick based on the blog alone.

I don’t normally read anime blogs, but when I do…

What bothers me most about the anime blog tourney (and at the same time, I know in my heart of hearts that I shouldn’t be caring about it at all in the first place) is that there was quite a bit of emphasis placed on visual aspects of the blog itself rather than the actual blog content itself. I understand as much as the next person that there is merit in having a nice-looking blog, one that doesn’t render the reader in a state of temptation to bleach his or her own eyes.

I suppose I’m more surprised than actually bothered by the fact that so much criticism was to be had in regards to blog layout. While aesthetics can be a religion to some and the lifeblood for others, at the end of the day, we’re talking about a blog (and not a photography/picture-centric blog, as the tourney rules supposedly outline). Aesthetics are there to ensure that you don’t scare potential readers away, but it’s the writing itself that ensures that readers always come back.

It makes me wonder, then, what people voting in the tourney will think if they happen upon this post during my next match against Reverse Thieves. When you decide that 186 words is a suitable amount to devote to describing the comparison between a European not-hockey match and boys-love pairings, something’s got to give. If you’re intentionally chucking a giant wall of text to a perspective reader, then the intention itself has to be taken into consideration. Perhaps the intended audience isn’t so much the casual anime fan, but rather someone who is genuinely interested in reading what I have to say about something, regardless of whether or not my paragraphs contain only three sentences, or even seven. This paragraph only has five.

I contest that if middle school and high school students (the age group that overlaps with the target age group for a considerable amount of anime and manga series marketed in both America and Japan) can read through the various doorstopper novels in the Harry Potter franchise, then they can buckle down and read through anything as long as it interests them. This is the same for anime blogging, and whoever wants to read my shit is welcome to do so, and I sincerely hope that they like what they read.

I also contest that if you are willing to read a competently written giant wall of text about a particular subject of interest, like I do often with sports and Bill Simmons’ articles, then you’re doing so because of a combination of your own passion for that subject of interest, as well as the words of the person who wrote about that subject. A marriage of an enjoyment of reading with the enjoyment of your favourite hobby is a marriage that I can get behind.

There’s no loss of meaning in that oft-quoted phrase, write what you love. It applies to reading as well, and at the risk of sounding like a pompous ass, I assume that those who are willing to slog through a massive wall of text such as this, a wall of text seemingly about nothing, yet about anime blogging and anime altogether into one giant heap of crap, either really loves anime or really loves my writing, and with each monstrous paragraph, I hope it is more so of a combination of both (and to a lesser, selfish extent, just the latter). If the latter is true, then my secondary aim is to use that love for reading my blog to make people love anime more.

So let’s talk about anime then. Let’s talk about the anime that I watched in these past few weeks that I have been absent from the aniblogosphere, yet still fully present in the twitterverse and whatever sphereversehood that one calls facebook (wouldn’t that just be real-life?). Let’s talk about the anime that I ended up falling behind on and ultimately dropped due to the overwhelming number of watchable shows.

It’s a wild thought that there exists a situation that there are so many watchable shows that they simply become unwatchable. First world problems at their finest. It’s almost like that episode of the Simpsons where Mr. Burns has so many diseases that they simply cancel each other out and he is ultimately diagnosed as healthy. Don’t try to make too much of a connection between the two, and conclude that anime is a plague on our livelihoods. We already know that.

That said, the pressure of trying to keep up with the very few currently-airing shows that I actually did watch built up on itself, and grew proportionately with the resulting backlog. I wouldn’t say that I actually burned out on anime, but granted the circumstances surrounding my inability to keep up with these particular shows, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for me to actually give up on a season with regards to anime. I do it every hectic fall whenever I find myself committed to NaNoWriMo, and as luck would have it, similar things happened this spring.

The crazy part is that I’m not alone in this matter, and though those people who are bound to identify with my predicament are not in the same type of situation (i.e., they’re not making the first move-out of their lives while subjected to the worst rain conditions in his city’s history for that particular date, topped off by convention plague from the previous week), they find themselves simply giving up on what appears at first glance to be an (pardon my language here) epic spring season.

But it wasn’t really epic, was it? Are spring and Fall anime the place to be for particular anime? Or are we always overly relieved from the horrid lulls of summer and winter months? I can’t even remember what my favourite anime from last season was without having to Google up a Winter anime preview chart and laughing to myself that I actually watched that show and thought that show was worthy of a spot in my weekly Anime Power Rankings.

Do I even remember what my Power Ranking ballots even looked like last season? A Google search for Winter 2012 Anime reminds me that NichiBros was a thing in January, as was Toothbrushmonogatari, and I suddenly remembered that Kill Me Baby was also pretty damn great, but nobody with any amount of anime credibility would readily admit that on record. Alas here I am, and I have no credibility. I hated Nise, and I never gave Ano Natsu a chance.

But here I am, suddenly realizing that I watched more shows in a very lacking Winter Season than I did with shows in a super-condensed Spring Season, packed from end to end like a subway in Tokyo, except on this subway, Fate/Zero is inappropriately touching Lupin III in suggestive places, and Mysterious Girlfriend X, the real exhibitionist, is trying to grab (heh, grab) everyone’s attention, but can’t, because she’s pinned to the wall by Sankarea, Dusk Maiden, Accel World, Medaka Box, and every other series that features some crazy woman breaking the hapless and generally unappealing protagonist out of his shell. Long live the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

What I’m trying to say here is that because there’s just way too much to choose from this season, it actually becomes a burden on the viewer, especially one who somehow has to commit to watching all of the shows, adding all these entries to their MAL list and growing their epeen critical pool of shows.

My approach during seasons like this is to just avoid as much as I can. I can’t make such a commitment on my supposedly limited schedule. When I delude myself into thinking I suddenly have all this time to watch anime, I end up neglecting a whole lot of other things, whether it be sleep, work, or writing. Especially writing. I struggle for half of the year to put pen to paper (finger to keyboard?) and am only capable of sustained writing when the month of the year calls for voluminous writing. Like the horrible excuse-maker that I am, I blame seasons like this.

And thus, I feel I need to take a stand on this whole thing about writing. I don’t do enough of that, and even with this strategic attempt to throw down 2500 words (I’m already 2114 words in, almost there!) on anime for the sake of getting writing done as well as getting into the rhythm of writing, I already feel reasonably better about my ability to focus on what’s important. This blog is about writing from the perspective of an anime fan.

What I’m trying to say is this isn’t a PreCure blog. I’d love to write about PreCure as well, ideally with as much substance and thought that one would put into writing for the Fate franchise or Essaymonogatari. I would also love to create a space where people are invited to talk about PreCure and share in the fandom without having to hide behind the LiveJournal curtain, and also, without needing to sift through other posts about some dude talking about plot. No, not that kind of plot.

By keeping it here, though, it really messes up the balance that I’m trying to get. My decision, therefore, is to simply split them up into separate blogs and hope for the best. As soon as I can think of a good name for the PreCure blog, I’ll even go so far as to include register the domain and whatnot, actually spending money on a blog. Yikes, now that’s a different kind of pressure. Imagine spending 99 dollars a year on the paid wordpress bundle, and wasting it on a really ridiculous name like precureopenmyheartDOTcom, or precureheartfulbeatrockDOTorg or blossomsunshineDOTnet.

Eventually I’ll figure it out and actually settle on something, despite how wacky the name might be. This is pretty cure. If you can’t handle the fruit, you don’t deserve to taste the juice.

On the other side of the coin, I have other writing projects outside of the blog(s?). I have three blessed manuscripts that I treat like my own children, but are as raw and new and dirty as the placental sheddings from which they were born. Gross. It’s terrible stuff, but they’re there, and I have material that I can work with. One of the three is actually a sequel to the first, meaning I have a lot of material pertaining to one specific story universe. And where there’s story universes, there’s webserial potential, so look out for that in the future as well.

After having a nice little chat with Lianne Sentar, author of the OEL LN webserial, Tokyo Demons, she really opened my eyes to the potentials provided by serialization. It’s something I would love to do, and the stuff I’ve written so far really ties well with this whole idea of writing Original English Language material and maintaining that angle of anime-influenced fiction. If Baka Laureate is the place where I write about writing, then this new webserial would be where I put my money where my mouth is and actually write. Baka Laureate actually put into action.

Wouldn’t you believe it? In just three weeks of absence, I’ve split one blog into three. It’s ambitious. It’s insane. It’s the spark I need to keep going.

Smile PreCure! Episode 15: Mama and Me

Miyuki and her mom share a nice little moment at the end of the Mother’s Day episode.

This week’s episode of Smile PreCure was a damn fine piece of work. It made use of its air date to create a topical episode surrounding Mother’s Day, much like it previously did with its April Fool’s Day episode, as well as Heartcatch PreCure’s Mother’s Day episode back in 2010. Not only was the warm relationship between Miyuki and her mother in show, but Toei’s great fight choreography as well.

Synopsis

Miyuki notices the other girls making presents for their mothers and realizes that she forgot that today is Mother’s Day. She discovers that she has no money to buy a present, so she tries to help her mother with chores around the house, but fails at most of her tasks. Later, she tries to make a necklace back at the secret base, but the end product turns out to be too plain, by her own standards. She visits a card store with the girls, only to run into Wolfrun, who casts Bad End on customers at a flower shop. He turns a carnation into a red-nosed akanbe, and the girls transform and fight it. Cure Happy saves Candy from an attack, but drops her mother’s present. Wolfrun takes Happy’s necklace and berates her for doing a crappy job in creating it. Cures Sunny and March come to her defence, engaging in combat with Wolfrun. Sunny knocks the necklace away, and Candy retrieves it. The rest of the PreCure go on the offensive after Happy comes to a realization about her feelings regarding her mother and Mother’s day. She uses Happy Shower to vanquish the Akanbe. After the battle, Miyuki gives the present to her mom, and they walk home together happily.

This week introduced us to Miyuki’s mom, who, like most other PreCure parents, are noticeably present in the girls’ lives as they grow and mature as PreCure. Let’s take a look at 4 other notable moms in the PreCure franchise.

Continue reading

Smile PreCure! Episode 14: Divide and Conquer!

The PreCure settle into a nice serving of Takoyaki, and have settled into a groove in their own show.

After 14 episodes, we’re well past the first quarter of Smile PreCure’s televised run, and settled into what to expect from the show. With a wave of introductory character episodes, a cycle of spotlight episodes, and a recently wrapped-up vacation arc, we’ve come to know quite a bit about what this show can and cannot do. At times, it lacks punch, quite literally, in the action scenes, but the cast has a lot of personality and is well-balanced, as seen in this week’s foray intoOsaka.

Synopsis

The girls arrive atOsakafor the final half of their class trip. They begin their day with a self-guided tour ofOsakaCastle, but the group is separated during the visit. Nao, Akane, and Reika continue onwards while Yayoi and Miyuki are left behind. Yayoi and Miyuki try to continue on with the tour plans and hope to catch up at Tennouji Zoo, but are constantly sidetracked by their interactions with a number of local Osakan women who give them candy.  While the two girls visitTsuutenkakuTowerin order to get a beter view of the city, the other three continue their exhaustive search and are stricken by hunger. Majorina appears inOsaka, looking for candy, and when she is unable to obtain the local delicacy, she casts Bad End on the city and transforms Tsuutenkaku into a blue-nosed Akanbe, trapping Miyuki and Yayoi inside. All five girls transform separately, and Cures Sunny, March, and Beauty break out Cures Happy and Peace after using the Butterfly décor, granting them the ability to fly. They disorient the Akanbe and force it to spit out the two trapped Cures. Finally together, they vanquish it with Rainbow Healing.

As mentioned above, we are already a quarter of the way through Smile PreCure, so let’s take a look at each of the girls and their contribution to this episode as well as how they’ve progressed throughout the series so far.

Continue reading

[gg]_Jormungand_-_01_[382A285D].mkv_snapshot_20.01_[2012.04.29_23.49.53]

3G in 2D: Smartphones and 2012 Anime

One of the most interesting trends that I have seen in recent anime is the rise of the use of smartphones. In a country where i-mode and feature phones rule the roost, the history of the mobile telecommunications industry in Japan is a fascinating case study; the early development and adoption of the country’s mobile infrastructure was so advanced and socially sufficient that by the time smartphones started their ascension throughout the rest of the world, Japan has had no particular need to join the bandwagon.

In anime, this prominent aspect of culture in real life is portrayed appropriately, with characters mostly using the iconic razor-style flip-phone, probably with accompanying decorations and dongles. Look no further than 2011’s Steins;Gate, set in the heart of Tokyo’s Akihabara, which uses the text-message functionality of Okabe Rintaro’s cell phone to change the future and affect countless parallel timelines.

Times have changed, however, and 2012 has seen a massive shift in the mobile industry in Japan. As recent as February of this year, smartphones finally became the leading source of mobile phone sales, edging out the incumbent feature phone. While the emergence of smartphones may persist and finally become the leading mode of telecommunication in Japan in the future, we are finally starting to see its penetration in anime as well.

Continue reading