Chrono-logical: The Art of Order

I met a girl named Erika at a club one night. She had curly cherry hair, and wore a pair of leather thigh-high boots that rode her legs in a way that I couldn’t help but notice as we stood next each other as we ordered drinks for each other. It was something that I had told her over breakfast the morning after she had spent the night. I didn’t bother mentioning it when I asked her back to my apartment, but she knew what she was getting into and how she managed to do it.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. In the most elementary sense, this particular advice given to writers is meant for the purpose of providing structure, teaching them how to keep track of their creations as they are being created, maintaining a sense of pacing and awareness of the important events that further drive the created story. Traditionally, this entails that the story is most easily written and/or presented in chronological order. While this may be true in most cases, there is a point to be made for presenting things out of order.

Continue reading Chrono-logical: The Art of Order

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 Be a Refined Bard: Parallel World Samurai, Episode 7

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.

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 3G in 2D: Smartphones and 2012 Anime

What’s My Age Again? Space Brothers and Serika Itou’s Career Path

I will gladly give you my number, Serika.

Recently, I’ve been going through a weird phase in my life where I compare myself to people in my age group. Having recently graduated from University, I’ve finally been thrust into the world of “adulthood” and thrown into the working world, greeted by a wide number of people from different stages in life. Now that I’m no longer amongst my peers from the same graduating class, it’s become a novelty to run into individuals who are around my age group. It’s even weirder that I would make such comparisons at all.

That said, what makes Space Brothers so interesting is that, despite the uncommon circumstances of being part of a space program, the show generally not only depicts people in real life, but also depicts people who are around my age. One of the space program applicants, Serika Itou, is described to be “around twenty-six” years old, which is the age that I will be in only a few weeks time. It’s very rare in “real life” anime for me to see a character who is the same age as me, and is not depicted as a high school teacher or as a Christmas Cake, or both.

Continue reading What’s My Age Again? Space Brothers and Serika Itou’s Career Path

Sakamichi no Apollon: A Mountain of One Moment of Music

When a performer is in the zone, it's all too easy to draw observers into it as well.

There’s something magical that takes place within the span of a few minutes of a live performance. The expression and passion put into one’s craft somehow manages to reach out to an audience and sinks deep into the soul. From the perspective of someone observing artistry in real time, the experience itself is fleeting; time slips away and suddenly, the performance stops, but in the same amount of time, the memory slips away into a place we hold dearly for the rest of our lives.

In Sakimichi no Apollon, we are treated to such a moment, perhaps a defining one, in the life of an awkward, introverted Kaoru Nishimi, as he takes in a drum solo that eventually captures his soul. Initially repulsed by the piercing noise, the rhythm and raw power of the performance gradually seeps into him, and it opens him up to a world that his less-than-ideal life at home could never provide. Even more striking is the person on the other end of the performance, truant and delinquent Sentaro Kawabuchi, who embodies the spirit of 1960’s jazz music in Japan.

Continue reading Sakamichi no Apollon: A Mountain of One Moment of Music

Fiction Friday: Spring Anime and the Power of Premise

Even for a series like Dusk Maiden, premise is paramount.

One of the most important aspects to effective creative writing is the subject matter that an author writes about. While it is true that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, a prospective reader nonetheless will nonetheless examine the back cover and read a summary of what the book is about. Those two to three hundred words written in the back (or in some cases, the inside cover) can mean the difference between a purchased book and a one-way trip to the bargain bin barely three months after release.

This is apparent even in anime, where in instances such as this year’s spring season, rife with a large number of watchable shows, the allure of a really great hook is enough to get people to choose your work over others within the same medium. But what exactly makes for a great premise? Let’s take a look at a number of Spring Anime, and see what works about their premise.

Continue reading Fiction Friday: Spring Anime and the Power of Premise

Smile PreCure! Episode 8: A Fresh Freaky Friday Flip!

Cure Candy, Kuru!

The freaky friday flip is a commonly done trope in fictional media, where two characters of reasonably different personality swap bodies due to some freak incident; the two characters for the most part retain their personality and mental processes, but taking over the other person’s body has major ramifications, and hilarity almost always ensues.

This is especially true for the PreCure franchise, and with this week’s episode of Smile PreCure in the books, the trope has been done twice in two different continuities: Fresh in episode 10, and Smile in episode 8. When I watched Fresh’s take before, it was immediately my favourite episode in the entire series; the same is certainly true for Smile.

Synopsis

On the way to school, Miyuki and Candy discover a pair of rings. After curiously looking through them, the rings clamp on to their respective fingers and the two swap bodies. The other girls are puzzled by the occurrence, and they try to go through the school day with Candy attending class in Miyuki’s body. Hilarity ensues, with Candy failing to act like Miyuki during all of her classes. Miyuki admonishes Candy after school for messing everything up, and the latter runs away, distraught. While Miyuki and the others try to look for her, Candy plays with little kids at a playground. She is discovered by Majorina, who notices the switch, and casts Bad End on the playground. The other cures show up and transform except for Miyuki, but are handily dispatched by a nimble Akanbe. Miyuki stands up for Candy, and her smile pact activates. She transforms while in Candy’s body, turning into Cure Candy, and defeats the Akanbe with Happy Shower.

As I’ve mentioned already, the freaky Friday flip happened twice in the Pretty Cure franchise, and there are some differences between the two with regards to the trope’s execution, resulting in two distinct, yet equally memorable episodes. The freaky Friday flip has a number of recognizable elements: the cause of the flip itself, the contrasting characters involved, lifestyle adjustments, realization of perspective leading to the flip back.  Let’s compare the different elements:

Continue reading Smile PreCure! Episode 8: A Fresh Freaky Friday Flip!

Fiction Friday: Keep the Beat with Literature Girl

Fiction Friday is a new series of posts published on Fridays. It encompasses the realm of general fiction writing, which includes tips for writing as well as writing-facilitated lifestyle. More often than not, FF will include examples from anime, manga, and especially light novels.

My favourite series so far in 2012 is, by a wide margin, Daily Lives of High School Boys. The title speaks for itself, as it is nothing more than a highly amusing depiction of characters in high school. They exude highly likeable personalities, and while they go through some remarkably outrageous situations, there’s an element of familiarity in their experiences that make the audience respond in an “I know that feel, bro” fashion.

Despite having no particular overarching story or plot, Nichibros does such an interesting job with regards to writing individual scenes, and from a writing standpoint, a fantastic example comes from an ongoing series of scenes involving Hidenori and Literature Girl.

Continue reading Fiction Friday: Keep the Beat with Literature Girl

Under Wraps: Beyond the Bandage Effect in Anime

To my dismay, Mei Misaki did not catch my eye.

One of the most powerful forces associated with sexual attraction is fetishism. The potential of a mere object or abstract concept to drive a man or woman to a trance mindlessness is a fathom to behold in itself. In Japanese culture, Kegadoru is the name of a visual fetish fad surrounding the use of bandages for fashion and cosplay, which dates back to late 2007 in Harajuku. Translated to “injured idols,” the main allures of Kegadoru centres around the apparent vulnerability of the bandage wearer despite faking injury, bringing the inner white knight out of anyone who is caught in the spell.

In anime, this visual conceptualization pre-dates that of the Kegadoru fad in Japan, and is perhaps the progenitor of the phenomenon itself; after all, the male Otaku audience fits the mould of one who would easily take to such fantasies. However, outside of the visual appeal of this fetish, the bandaged girl is a very interesting case with regards to trope and plot, taking advantage of its universal appeal to drive characters towards particular actions. Let’s take a very quick top-down look at some bandaged babes in anime who sport this fashion, and how it relates to their involvement to their respective stories.

Continue reading Under Wraps: Beyond the Bandage Effect in Anime