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5:17 PM on 04.06.2012

Bring Back Toonami So It Can Be Killed Again



Crossposted from whatistheexcel.com

For April Fools, Adult Swim decided to be especially cruel by digging Toonami out of its grave so people can look back on a very good time to be a tween and blindly wish for those days again. I missed it since I was out of town at the time and didn't have television, so I was blissfully unaware of this painful gag until it was all over Twitter. What none of the people who did see it realize is that those days are dead and buried. None of them have let go. But they will once they stop watching it a few months after its eventual revival, just like Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

Toonami is a time capsule. A product solely of its day that has made its mark on the world and left with a bang just in time (look at that thing!). If you are one of those who voted to have it return, consider your daily schedule. You watch different shows and you have a lot more stuff to get done per day than you did five years ago. You probably don't come home from school at 4 P.M. anymore and you certainly don't think that TV-G and TV-Y7 shows have a place past the watershed alongside the shows that air there now. The argument is commonly made that the children today need to be educated on the classics and I wholeheartedly agree. In order for that to work, it needs to air in the afternoon, but Cartoon Network asked the people who watch late at night. You could also argue that parents are making the choice regarding what their kids can watch and Tom could be a great tool in helping the kids accept the old shows. In that case, Toonami would be in direct competition with the shows that air in that timeslot now. I don't pay much attention to it myself, but it's an unfair contest given that parents have more clout and will definitely favor the shows of their time over what the kids like now. Is there room for both? Consider what Toonami was compared to what its equivalent today would be if it existed.

Toonami was defined by the mid-90s and 2000s cartoons that probably wouldn't get much fanfare if aired today, so bringing back Toonami only for its own sake would not result in increased ratings for long after its debut. Compare Toonami's programming in its prime in the early 2000s to what it had at the end. I predict the exact same thing will happen and everyone will get bummed that Toonami was allowed to decay just like last time. There's also those other segments like those freaky music videos that aired once in a while, which I don't think the network has much time for these days. I could be wrong about all of these, but I view this revival as the same sort of revival for regular series. More often than not, they get praised for a short while, but the circumstances and cultural environment that allowed them to thrive in their heyday have evaporated, and the new product that forms under today's ecosystem will not be quite the same, defeating the purpose of reviving it. And once it does run out of steam, it will likely not get the same retirement ceremony it did last time.

That said, if they really are going to revive it, they need to either bring back Moltar with it or not at all. Once in a great while like this is enough, but its time has long since past. If they absolutely have to, its best chance at a long-term resurrection would be on Boomerang, which has its own obvious problems.

Just let it go. It's served its purpose long ago. The old must die so the new can live, whether we like it or not.   read


11:37 PM on 11.25.2010

What I'm thankful for: You've been a wonderful audience.



If there's one thing I hate, it's incessant repetition. (Yes, I'm aware of the hypocrisy.) If there's a second thing I hate, it's having to repeat myself. I heard that in societies of intelligent people like Mensa, no one ever has to repeat themselves. I fantasize what that's like, always being heard the first time and never being drowned out by your loudmouth siblings who answer questions they weren't asked in front of their parents. I tell a joke multiple times and it just feels awkward only hearing a response the third time I say it because no one heard it the first two times. For years I've been trying to find out why this is, and the best answer I can think of is that I haven't yet found the golden mean between my indoor voice and my outdoor voice, so people either think of me as too quiet or too loud.

It always surprises me, therefore, when anyone reads anything I write on the internet outside of discussion forums. Outside of academic contexts and other times when people are required to read things you write, I always fear that I'm going to be taken the wrong way. The main problem is that overcoming one barrier leads to another: once I actually am heard, I find later that I didn't say what I meant clearly enough. I always look back on my last posts and find that I could have been more succinct or more precise in my thesis, but invariably it's too late to fix it by the time I discover the problem. I consider myself a perfectionist, but only in things I care about.

And yet for some reason, no one here seems to have a problem with that. My first thought is that my poor track record for sound argumentation is immaterial to the readers of this site and that they'll read anything posted on the community blog listing. My best guess is that it's just because there are so few posts that they can all be read in a reasonable amount of time. My second thought is that their standards are low enough that they're always willing to endure my usual raving and ranting, but when I try to do something different, the response is underwhelming. This I cannot understand. I'd like to think higher of the people who don't blow off my inner thoughts, but I should be so lucky. I'm always happy to analyze things I shouldn't be looking at, and I'm happy that people are willing to listen, even though my posts are bags of whining that my tastes are opposite to what's regularly written by this site's own staff. I look forward to any kind of response here just because I know I'll get it. At the same time, whenever I find that people actually commented on my posts, I'm actually afraid to see what they said about them. I want comments, but I fear that someone said something I won't like to have to answer. I'm never ready for something I expect.

Whenever I post something, I think of all of the potential criticisms anyone would say and prepare responses for when they're inevitably asked. In all cases, not only do those comments never come until much later, but the ones I do get first are about points I never expect to be criticized. I don't know why, since they're the reason I write in the first place, but when I read the angry comments, they're a lot more rewarding than any compliments I get. The positive comments I get tend to agree with the points I don't want people agreeing with. I try to start discussion, and it leads in all the ways I didn't want it to go. Once in a while I say something just to rile people up or even flat-out insult them and they take that the wrong way. In other words, this community's mindset is completely backwards. If it's ever happened to you, you know how infuriating it is. I have many writing classes yet to go to solve this problem. I can take my business elsewhere, but this site is the only one where I've established a name, and it frankly isn't worth the effort to expand at the moment.

Until then, I sympathize with those artists who are outraged when their audiences either don't get the message the put into their work or get the opposite message. There's nothing like saying one thing and seeing people do another. Even worse, I imagine, would be saying one thing multiple times and getting many wrong responses. It must be a nightmare for people who want to change the world when they can't control it in any way they can foresee. But is it any worse than having no power to change it?   read


11:59 PM on 11.14.2010

Great Expectations, or, Why I Shouldn't Watch The World God Only Knows



According to Hebrews 4:13, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” In other words, God is watching you masturbate. This is the first thing that came to mind when I read about The World God Only Knows. I thought from the title and premise that it would be a satire of dating sim mechanics and a commentary of the sad otaku who are in love with the 2D world, with notes on social and moral ramifications to boot. It could have brought to light the nature of the shame these poor souls feel as to why they cannot accept real people and instead find solace in pursuing flat facsimiles of ideal women. Oh, how wrong I was…

My first thought was that someone important finally recognized that a large group of the population was just begging to be singly criticized in the medium they enjoy most. My second was, “Hang on. Japanese people have a vague understanding of Christianity at best. How did such a far-reaching metaphor find its way in the title of an anime about shame?” It turns out that it was too good to be true. The anime is about a man fond of showing off his intimate knowledge of the all of the tropes and cliches of dating sims, as if that’s something to be proud of. Conflict ensues when he’s taken to Hell and challenged by Old Scratch himself to use that trivial knowledge to save his life. What a self-important tard. I might have some of the details wrong, but if you’ve seen it, you might be surprised to find that the show’s actual premise is not too dissimilar from my prejudiced assessment of the first few episodes.

I’ve heard it said that storytelling is about keeping your audiences entertained. The main method to do this is to fulfill their expectations. There are many ways to keep the audience watching other than simply giving them what they came for, but if you’re going to give them something other than what they expect, it better be worth it to them. Far too often I’m seeing a lot of new shows that I expect to be about one thing and I discover later through embarrassing conversations with fans that it’s something completely different. For example, Glee is not a reality competition show about boys’ choirs, but a sitcom about a single group trying to stay relevant. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World has nothing to do with colonial settlers facing unrealistic challenges, but instead is an embarrassing panderfest that sent the message that video gamers can’t enjoy any piece of mainstream media that isn’t saturated with icons that are meaningless to those outside the gamer culture. (I’d love to explain exactly what I mean, but that’s for another article.) My expectations are foiled in a negative way, and as a result, I have no idea what to expect. My confusion prompts my brain to label the show with my default response: It sucks until proven otherwise. Since I really want to believe that a show’s premise is what I first assume to be and refuse all other explanations, I lose before I even begin. The standard method of surprising the audience is to build their expectations slowly, wait until they have a solid idea what happens next, and then do something that subverts that idea. When this is done well before the ideas are formed, the audience is left confused. This happens to me far too often; before I have any real idea of what I can expect, it's already thrown out the window. It’s not healthy and is probably a bad way to consume media, but it’s a disease I’ve come to terms with. This entire problem is a very personal one and one that I will probably discuss at length in a later post.

With that in mind, the first major fault with this show is very similar to the Haruhi Suzumiya debacle; namely, the main character’s status as God/a god. Whenever I hear “god” as a name outside of a mythological context, I assume they’re talking about the Almighty, since there are few other gods labeled as such. Haruhi’s notoriety as God came mostly from her fanbase, who have no idea who God really is. However, that’s where the similarity ends. Keima Katsuragi is so pretentious that he calls himself a god. The important difference is that it’s not the fans who think this, but the title of the show implies he is the Christian God that I associate the word to. The fact that this isn’t a translated title makes it even worse. While it was infuriating enough hearing fans label a cartoon character as omnipotent, the authors of this show themselves commit this sin. Sure, I could just accept that fictional Gods are not necessarily benevolent supernatural arbiters of human souls that leave the physical world, but are just know-it-all human pricks with too much perceived power. But I know better not to argue theology. I don’t expect everyone to respect God the way I do, but the topic leaves little room for reconciliation.

What’s even worse is the way the show itself handles the subject. The main plot has Keima using his knowledge of dating sims to fulfill a contract with a demon. The fact that this could even be a viable way to get anything done is nothing short of shallow wish fulfillment. He’s not happy to have to put innocent lives in jeopardy, but he has exactly what he needs to do it. I hope I don’t have to tell you that dating sims are awful tools to train one’s social skills (not for lack of realism, but for the inherently limited scope), to say nothing of the implications of misogyny that using them as a plot device entails. Dating sims do have the potential to be very well-researched and comprehensive to the point that one could be used as an effective guide to wooing the opposite sex, but not enough of them exist to justify this. I usually don’t care much for topics like this, but the notion that a God of fake girls can flex his skills to save real ones is just bothersome to me for some reason.

In short, I suppose that most of my disappointment of this series comes from the wasted potential. It could have been a witty deconstruction or a reconstruction, but it’s content with showing off how well the creators are familiar with pop culture and a popular digital medium. I also want to clarify that I have nothing against dating sims aside from their technical limitations that hamper their storytelling capabilities, but the extent to which they’re celebrated here leaves me to wonder if I should even bother with them more than I already do. To put it another way:
  read


8:20 PM on 11.11.2010

There is a place called Cat Island in Japan



That Google Reader thing is pretty neat. If you've never used it, it's a streamlined RSS reader that collects items from all of the most important blogs based on tags you feed it and renders them in a unified post listing. It does so infinitely, making it a kind of instant StumbleUpon. When you start using it, it just gives you popular items from the most common tags. One of my first runs with it turned up a collection of photos from Tashirojima, a veritable haven of cats.

According to the article, the island, accessible by ferry, has a human population of around 100 and is comprised mostly of people over age 60. They're looking to draw in more residents through its undoubtedly thriving tourism industry. I'm not sure how well that'll turn out since it's only eight square miles big. The article has a bunch of videos of visitors doing what you would expect. It also has a Wikipedia article that I couldn't segue into smoothly.

I wonder how the residents deal with the smell.

ALSO:
[embed]17273:599[/embed]   read


4:15 PM on 08.01.2010

Shame on me for thinking I'm important.











  read


11:37 PM on 05.09.2010

I'm disappointed in all you.



Mother's Day has passed in this time zone and not one mention of badass mothers was made in the entire site.

Or do I have the context wrong?   read


12:13 PM on 04.30.2010

The Case For K-ON!: What's the big deal?



K-ON! is a lot like James Cameron's Avatar.

Stay with me, I'm on to something here. I'm not talking about the characters, plot, or development of them. On the surface, there isn't much parallel between a high school girl band and a band of warrior catpeople fighting robots. Below the surface, there is even less in common. Avatar by its very premise has a lot going on behind it, and K-ON! is a slice-of-life anime. Where exactly can the lines be drawn between them? After a month of deliberation, I think I've figured it out. It was a dawning revelation to me, but the answers were right under my nose from the start.

What I'm about to say might surprise you if you know anything about my opinion of highly publicized series in general. Then again, it might not, if your opinion of either K-ON! and Avatar is anything like my own. I haven't seen anyone make this claim yet, but after I realized it it's just so obvious to me now. There is more in common with one of the biggest film releases of the decade and a cartoon about teenagers making music and do nothing in the meantime than one might think.



The 2009 science-fiction epic Avatar is noted for its above-average production values and troubling history. The technology behind it is groundbreaking, to say the least. It's also known for its polarized reception, with equal counts of people calling it one of the most important works of our generation and those labeling it a colossal waste of time and money. What is known as an epic tale of complex human issues pervading all of existence to some is just a gaggle of Blue Man Group cosplayers fighting our cybernetic oppressors in the stars to others. To me, it's one movie trying to be two. I suspect the debate of the merits of Avatar will rage on for years to come.

The 2009 anime series K-ON! is noted for its musical motifs and unconventional characterization. Kyoto Animation lent it it's typical high quality animation highlighted in the ending sequence of the first season, which has a following all its own. It's certainly noteworthy in those regards. It has also gained a significant hatedom in recent years with people accusing it to be void of artistic merit and being little more than a vehicle to watch bubbly high school girls act half their age. A friend of mine told me that some fansubbers even went so far as to remove the musical segments in their encodes. I think that's overdoing it. Given how the second season is playing out, it doesn't look like this war will slow down any time soon.

If you look at things through my eyes, there's plenty of reasons to hate on both. Most of them have to do with the endless praise they get. And you know me; if it's popularity is based on a single character or exaggeration, then I'll have a full argument against it ready by morning. K-ON and Avatar certainly have no shortage of those. I'm a sucker for brash displays of technology but I've learned that impressive frameworks by themselves do not for a good movie make. In the case of K-ON!, Don't Say "Lazy" itself is an inviting point of contention. Another reason has to do with their respective hype. Again, it's there in droves, but I'm not enticed in the least. Even the fans are ripe targets like usual. It's impossible to go to a film community and not hear something about James Cameron's epic 15 years in the making. Similarly, it appears that K-ON! and it's bastard child So-Ra-No-Wo-To are today's hot-button topic in anime. Insipid arguments on both sides are there for the picking. It may sound contrived, but looking at it this way, Avatar and K-ON! have so much in common that it's hard for me to ignore.

And yet, I can't find it in me to take sides on either.

The case I make for K-ON! is that there's no case at all. I've given it a month to work out a reason why I can't so much as pretend to get worked up over it and turned up nothing but apathy. It's not that it's good, but it's not even bad. It just is. It is on the same level as every other non-noteworthy anime. It's the Avatar of anime: either really big or really overblown, and it's so big that it all blew right over my head. I should be parading my belief that it's the most overrated show of 2010 and that you all need to calm down. But I'm not, despite the fact that it clearly is. I'm not conflicted on my stance like I normally am with these things. My opinion is solid: I have none. I won't tell you to stop watching and I won't tell you to stop posting. I don't even want to call it average. That would imply that I care. For a show that is so polarizing and controversial in its substance, it's strange that I of all people would find the middle ground and nonchalantly bury myself in it. I would make some bigger claim about its merits or lack thereof, but I can't be bothered. There's something to be said about it, but... Yeah.

Back to my thesis, most of my friends at college are film students. They have plenty to say about Avatar. They certainly did all they could to convince me to watch it. You would expect me to administer the beatdown after the 10th Facebook message about it, but no. I just ignored it and our friendships are none the worse for it. Maybe I'm just burned out from various things, not the least of which were previous anime debates and school troubles. At present I have two papers due in classes that will wreck my GPA no matter what I do now. If I can't focus on something this important, then I certainly won't invest in going near the controversy behind either of these shows. If I were to go on, I would just repeat myself more. That's how little I have to say about this.



Maybe that guy who claimed K-ON! was empty was right. In a way, it was empty for me, in that I felt absolutely nothing after having seen a few episodes and watched the debate unfold. No anger, no hope that it'll get better, no concern that it'll get worse, no surprise that it's not so bad after all, no rage that someone on the internet could say something like that. Nothing. However, I don't want to take sides, especially not with someone important. I said on that post that "It has to be something. Why else would so many people get worked up about it?" When I wrote that, I was acknowledging that there is a debate and that this is something worth discussing, therefore it's not empty. After all, I just wrote eight paragraphs about it and had the gall to compare it to an unrelated American movie. Despite that, something inside me is saying that it's not worth the effort, despite how fertile the grounds are for this show. Or rather, the thing that usually compels me to say something has not even given me a poke. I miss it.

I would like to clarify that I did not learn to "ignore the hype" as so many have implored me to do. I have not changed in that regard. In fact, it's closer to me than ever, now that there are several people recommending me shows left and right in person. However, as the hype for K-ON! and Avatar wore on and on, they didn't approach striking a nerve. They just were, getting their fans and detractors and hilarious drama building between them. I see the hype and dismiss it, passing over it without a second thought. Such is the case with these two big-budget productions. Just meh.

Actually, not even that.   read


3:28 AM on 03.03.2010

Does New Anime Suck? On the whole, yes.



Does new anime suck? To answer this question, we must first define "new". "New anime" has three possible meanings: all anime produced after a certain fixed date, all anime produced between a given timeframe and today, or all anime that fits a certain set of criteria. I would define the three possible definitions of new respectively: after 1998; 1 year; notable use of CG. 1998 to me marked the end of the golden age of anime, as around this time, computer animation started growing in prevalence and most of the recent tropes now commonplace in anime started appearing. For the purpose of this article, I will define new as all anime after 1998.

Now, back to the question: Does new anime suck? Let me count the ways.

New anime sucks because
Some anime's success depends on the gullibility of the viewers.
Others get by entirely by merchandising.
There is a greater count of anime in recent memory that capitalize on timely fads, such as vampires, moe, and high school students sitting around doing nothing.
Some shows are known more for their dance routines or catchphrases than anything else.
Modern character designs are leading to character worship getting out of control.
Extra episodes can consist entirely of a handful of still frames and be a few minutes long.
Experimentation is more common, which is good, but the results are reviled by fans more often than not.
Mindless filler has been replaced by faux-philosophical babble.
Extreme fanservice (pandering) sells more than ever before.
There is a growing dependence on pop culture references and parody in comedy anime.
Live action segments are cutting more and more into animation time.
Some shows seem to be trying to seed crass memes based on single incidents.
Remakes of old anime fail to capture new audiences.
Whiny characters have even more annoying voices than such characters of the past.

Do all of these admittedly nitpicky factors make new anime suck? I would say they do. You might not agree and see all of these as what makes anime worth watching. Tomorrow morning I might come up with even more reasons and maybe even explain why these are bad, but my point is that there are a lot of common trends with new anime that I personally find problematic. Old anime isn't better, albeit for different reasons, most of them due to poor aging. Old anime have their own set of problems, but since this is about new anime, I hold that many if not all of the problems listed above are characteristic of new anime. There are always exceptions, but a concerning number of new anime is guilty of at least one item in my list above. As long as these trends are popular, I have to conclude that new anime does suck. As long as they are successful, they will be copied. They are making anime harder to recommend to new people because I really don't want to justify the cynical attempts at cashing in on fads that potential new fans missed. The shows that attempt to make strides in substance and originality have always been in the minority, so my claim extends that most anime from every era sucks. The bottom line is that most of anything sucks, no matter what standard you use, and especially if you define it so broadly as old and new. There's nothing anyone can do about that, nor should they. As Sturgeon's Law says, if the medium didn't mostly suck, the truly good shows wouldn't stand out. Not every show has to be groundbreaking, and only a small fraction of new material can be truly original. Only time will tell what fads will replace moe and vampires, but with them will come reinterpretations of the same problems above and more. But that's just me. Maybe I'm viewing this from the wrong angle.

What else is new?
Let's look at this question for a different value of "new". Do you determine if a show that was just released is worth your time by the first episode? Judging a show by its first episode is frowned upon, but many times it's all people give to determine if it sucks. The job of a first episode or a pilot is to establish the premise and give people a taste of what later episodes have to offer. It's not right, but that's the way the business has always worked. First impressions have a large impact on the overall opinion of the show, no matter how much critics deny it. Everyone subconsciously judges books by their cover. If a show doesn't hook you immediately by the time the first episode ends, it doesn't matter how good the rest of it is, it still sucks because you had to put up with it to get to the good stuff. If it's similar to something you didn't like, you're unlikely to give this new show a chance. This to me is a bad reason to say something sucks, but it's probably why Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is getting a retelling of the first season in the form of a movie. Nanoha isn't good by this definition, but everything past the first four episodes is amazing. Note that I just said that "it's good, but...". Does this mean it sucks? Absolutely not. I'd tell you to give every show a chance and more than one episode to prove themselves, but most people just don't have that kind of time. It's unfortunate that we can't give every new show a chance and have to depend on others to see if they're all any good, but that's just the way it is.

Nothing is perfect
But really, are you going to let all of that stop you from just shutting up and enjoying the show? A lot of anime may suck, but that doesn't make them not worth watching. I may have said this too many times already, but on the whole they must still be doing something right, because anime continues to draw millions of fans. There are more top-quality shows worth watching than ever before right now, and you're sitting here reading essays about how they might not be. What is wrong with you?

Note: If you're currently writing opinion pieces on how what you're watching is bad, ignore the previous paragraph.   read


12:13 AM on 02.25.2010

A followup: Hype Aversion is Your Friend


Last week I posted a rant on how I will never watch a show you all seem to like so much. In the days following its publication, three things I didn't expect happened:

1. People commented on it saying how it's not wrong of me to avoid a show based on its popularity
2. More positive comments were posted than negative comments, with many of them admitting to hype aversion as well
3. It was promoted to the front page

To be honest, I wrote the article with the intent of getting you all to see just how wrong I am with holding out on Gurren Lagann. A lot of you tried to get me to change my mind citing things like good characterization and how stupid my reasons are for not watching it. As much as I like to think that Japanator's readership is not mostly comprised of apologists, you could all be absolutely right. Another comment came after the original post fell off the front page: "This article could of [sic] been interesting or serious if it was just on the topic of the over hyping of shows in general". Indeed, while I was writing the article, it was turning out to be just that. The first half of it was a weak justification in favor of hype aversion, but I made the second half Gurren Lagann-related to keep it in theme. In case you couldn't tell from the first part, this is something I've wanted to write about for a long time. Now that my most successful post to date has run its course, it's time for me to qualify my views more generally.

NO FURTHER MENTION OF GURREN LAGANN PERMITTED BEYOND THIS POINT
----------------------------------------------------

The way I see it, most hyped up shows, movies, games, etc. deserve the fandom they enjoy. As they say, they wouldn't have such a huge fanbase unless it does something that attracts a lot of attention. Even with things I hate on principle like pop music, I have to remember that I'm in the minority with narrow taste. In appreciation of the experience, the fans of a show tell others about it. They want to enlighten their peers, expand their social network, maybe even just contribute to the funding of a sequel. Most of all, they want to thank the creators of their favorite work. They do so directly by buying merchandise and indirectly by spreading the word. Sadly, as with so many things, good intentions are marred by extremist actions, which is why I use extreme caution with anything that gains a lot of praise.

A common theme in the responses to my last article is that a show with a lot of positive reviews is scrutinized more intensely than a show with relatively little following. Go into it with an open mind, they say. Unfortunately, that isn't possible when anyone sings its praises. The impulse to judge a show prematurely is just too strong. It's in our nature. Even the most open-minded people who watch a show they've put off for too long admit something along the lines of "Well, at first I didn't..." in their reviews. Whether they didn't think it would be that great, didn't want to sit down for two hours, or didn't think it would suck so badly, for whatever reason some preconceived notion follows them when they sit down and just watch. The hype aversion had them down at first, but they learned to defeat it and tried their hardest to put away their prejudices.

For others, it's become a syndrome they rationalize.

Hype aversion as a safeguard
If I hear of a show and don't watch it immediately, either I don't feel like getting up to watch it or it doesn't interest me. When a sufficiently large hype train for a show visits my doorstep, one of three things happens based on my initial thoughts to it:

No opinion: I look a little into it.
Laziness: I get around to watching it.
Indifference: My blood pressure increases.

That's not to say that I always turn the other way when I hear of the best movie ever that I need to watch post-haste. As always, there are exceptions, but as I wrote in my previous post, they came to be when a trusted source gave me their recommendation. At the risk of making this essay egocentric, let me explain. I was one of the people who wrote off Avatar: The Last Airbender as a wannabe anime until I caught a marathon of the second season. Until my brother showed me the light with his season 1 DVDs of Burn Notice, I didn't care for it at all. My mother and father similarly succeeded in getting me to watch House, M.D. and 24 respectively after I decided they weren't worth my time. Disgaea and Ace Attorney would have never entered my household without the exposure they got on the internet. I am one of the millions eagerly anticipating the sequel to Iron Man this May. I even watched all three Lord of the Rings movies after my mother had me go with her to see the first. And without some pestering on a forum I no longer visit, I wouldn't have bothered with Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. And yes, I recommend all of these to you.

When I'm indifferent to something, that means that I don't want to watch it. The reasons for this vary: I think the genre is boring, I like shows by another author more, maybe even just that I would rather be playing Team Fortress 2. Unsurprisingly, rabid fans have a problem with people who don't care for their show, perhaps more so than people who just saw it and didn't like it. Did you notice that of all the examples above, only one was an anime (and an only semi-popular one at that)? Why do you suppose this is? You might think that I'm drawing a connection between the nature of a given medium and the fanbase that it attracts. Take a look at the trendy clothing stores like Hot Topic. If you've ever seen one, odds are that you saw a lot of anime-related products in the displays. Does any other medium, animated or otherwise, have products like messenger bags attached to them? Have you ever seen buttons for Monty Python or Star Wars sold or worn in the same quantity as any anime you care to name?

Before I go on, I'd like to clarify that I'm not attacking people who like that kind of thing. I think they're goofy-looking, but I'm pretty weird myself. I'm sure a lot of you can say the same of yourself. If you can't, you need to loosen up. That said, when you draw attention to yourself by having too many of those things in full display, you're just asking for trouble. You may be proud of them (and you have every right to be), but the fact is a lot of people don't want to hear about it. Do you really think that wearing 75 buttons of Bleach characters on your laptop bag is going to convince anyone of anything other than that you enjoy Bleach too much? Think about the way you want others to view your preferences.

Now, I'm self-conscious enough that I would never allow myself to become like that if I decided I like something so popular. Sadly, the likes of teenagers who can be identified as Inuyasha fans a mile away send a sobering message: If you learn about what I like, you can be just like me. Whether obvious fans intend to or not, it's what's in my mind when I see a couple wearing faded anime shirts. They can't learn to respect their show enough to control themselves, which is sad because a lot of authors really don't deserve that kind of stigma. Except Stephenie Meyer, of course.

Hype aversion as a timesaver
I touched on this on my last post, but sometimes you just can't help but hold in an amazing thing you saw. It happens all the time -- people watch some really exciting movie and accidentally explain the explosive climax in tedious detail to their friends who were on the fence about watching it themselves. I'm guilty of this myself, even now. However, back when I was still learning about the ways of the world, I never expected I would grow up and have any regrets about things I've done in the past in lieu of much more productive things.

There was a time when I would watch anything without people needing to tell me that I would like it. Tastes change. I'm at the stage in my life where I don't jump into anything without considering the possible costs and risks. I watched the first season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, played all of Mother 3, watched the first episodes of Code Geass and Arrested Development and even tried to get into Halo. While I have nice things to say of all of them, in the end the hype didn't justify my time with them. I've since discovered the pattern that has been repeated several times in this post. Actually, it's more like a dice roll as to whether I'll enjoy the proclaimed greatest show evar rather than a predictable pattern. A look at my list of exceptions above might suggest that there are more exceptions than examples, but most of them came at a time when I felt open to suggestion. I'm 20 years old. I have things to do. I'm in college now and at time of writing I have two important assignments due in 10 hours, yet I still found the time to write this post. Maybe you're the same as me, except you watch more television. I envy you. I actually have enough free time to watch one of the series I'm still not watching for one reason or another, but I still can't find the energy to do so. Does it reflect poorly on me that I would rather spend twice the energy justifying my bad habits than watch something repeatedly shoved down my throat and give a fair review only once? Most likely. But this is only one of my many flaws and it's the only one that saves me a lot of time.

Hype aversion as protest
This is a result of my upbringing, but I can't help but cringe whenever I hear anyone refer to a fictional character they saw on TV as God. I believe that only Jesus Christ died on the cross to free mankind from Satan's grip and that there is only one true God, I AM, but that's just me. When fans of a show go too far, they start to pervade every aspect of society with it. They begin to raise characters on impossibly high pedestals, sneak trivial references into important political, religious, and academic circles, name their possessions or even their children after them, and claim that their favorite character can beat up my favorite character. And they expect everyone, not just other fans, to agree. These people aren't just nerds, they're turbonerds. Seriously, no show is that important. Overexposure is what caused Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to leave a bad taste in peoples' mouths. This lasts only until the next big thing pops up, at which point the cycle starts anew with the added caveat of warfare between fans of old and new. Their priorities are skewed to the point where people with work to get done don't want anything to do with them. By extension, their favorite show garners undue hatred as well. Even a lot of atheists are the way they are based on their perceptions of religious people. Ghandi was quoted as saying "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." I like to say "If they have it in them to bicker among themselves over whether the nth Doctor could beat up Gordon Freeman, why don't they redirect their energy to bettering society?" Admittedly, this is the most fatuous point of all, but it's still a factor. After all, if you can't beat them, get as far away from them as you possibly can. Or just troll them. But don't join them because then this whole essay becomes moot.

Whose fault is it that the best shows gets the worst ambassadors? Authors generally don't start writing their next work expecting to build a fanbase to rival that of Star Wars, they just want to tell a story (and/or make some money). The fans don't view themselves as annoying, and those that do have the same problem I do: they wear their malady like a badge of honor. I like to think that they're just naive. They want their favorite show to be declared the best of all time, but in doing so they're furthering the stereotype that it's just the opposite. And hype-averse people like me have wised up and fled, bitter that they can't do anything about it. What a crazy world we live in.

I conclude this post with the most poignant news report I've ever seen. It illustrates in three minutes what took me an entire blog post to articulate. I could have just posted this video and ran, but I felt creative this morning. Enjoy.
[embed]13681:190[/embed]   read


5:36 PM on 12.06.2009

Left 4 Dead Sound Mod: Shizuka Itou → Witch (WIP)

[embed]12587:121[/embed]
I actually learned of the Mousou Voice line readings a month or so before the posting here, but I always had a Left 4 Dead mod in mind since the instant I heard the sample. Watch this clip and be amazed at how I spectacularly miss the point of the tsundere archetype.

I selected the lines without noting that Witch sounds often don't play completely, especially the ones that signal her attack. Some sounds are left unchanged, most likely because they were too short. Additionally, you might not be able to hear some lines over the music. This mod should work with both games as they use the same file names. Left 4 Dead 1 should ignore the extra files.

Note that this video is in no way indicative of my skill in the game proper. This is a work in progress and I worked all night on it, but I'm not willing to put it out yet. If anyone can tell me what scripts to modify in Left 4 Dead 2 so I can get more lines in, please let me know. It feels like a waste otherwise.   read


5:50 PM on 08.17.2009

I totally called it.

Note: This post was originally published on 31 July 2009.

Apparently the details of the second season DVDs have been released and have everyone up in arms. What is currently known about them have led many to conclude that the second season home videos consist of one disc repeated seven times. To add to the beautiful irony, each disc is priced at a premium rate for what is essentially the same episode repeated to fill to capacity. For the record (as if I haven’t made it clear enough already), I have yet to actually watch any of the second season. I won’t touch any of the episodes until they all rest on my drive. If the show isn’t going to play fair, I want equal parity. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Everything I know about it is from hearsay, and what I’m hearing doesn’t sound good.

To be honest, I’ve been trying my hardest to resist making comment until all materials are officially released. This is a preemptive statement that could very well become moot in an instant, and I would be devastated if that happens to be the case. However, I made enough bad decisions this week so what’s one more, right? The numbering of the second season discs, which goes from 5 – 5.999…, might be another plot device whose purpose won’t be revealed just yet. The device of the same events repeated verbatim ad nauseam could have a currently hidden function that would not be possible if presented any other way. All of the apologies on the creators’ part could be part of the trick. Not that it would matter to me if it is, anyway, since I had ideas for this kind of thing years ago. There is also the possibility that, as I’ve stated before on other forums (and only recently below this post), this is part of a scheme to divide the fanbase as widely as possible and drive them to fight and defend indefensible presentation choices like this. I would really like to think it is. I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. Yet the people who stood by the poor decisions of season one are beginning to resent it now as if they never saw it coming. I’m trying really hard to hide it, but I’ve never felt so smug in my entire life.

I promise that I will retract all of my statements if I watch these and discover that this was in fact a huge ploy with a big surprise ending that the fans instantly forgive, but it better be the best gimmick in the history of the industry to even come close. That’s the good thing about not watching this experiment as it unfolds: I don’t have to wait for it to get better.   read


5:49 PM on 08.17.2009

My Current Stance on the Second Season

Note: This post was originally published on 5 June 2009 and was written before the current "Endless Eight" debacle. I still have not watched any of the episodes in question. I've actually been meaning to post this in the forums, but that never worked out.

In this post I attempt to explain why it’s just plain wrong to throw an episode guide into a blender and pass the output off as art.

People who know about my stance on the show are telling me that I will enjoy the second season. I hear that everything is actually in order this time, supposedly rectifying one of my prime criticisms of this show. From what I understand, the first season is currently being rerun on Japanese television. However, the second season has premiered at the same time in the form of new episodes inserted into the chronology, albeit at their proper places in the series timeline. As a result, not two, but one giant frankenseason that at least makes sense is currently airing. Although certain people tell me that I will actually like this change, there is one major problem with this approach: I don’t live in Japan.

I’m watching the fansubs in the United States. I already have all of the fansub videos of the first season, numbered according to the order they were aired. (I’m reluctant to rename release files.) The benefits that come with combining all of the episodes and airing them in the order they were supposed to be aired in the first place are entirely lost on non-Japanese viewers. They do not get to watch the story in the only proper order once a week. They have to wait for a new episode to appear and then work out where the new pieces figure into the material they have now. The first new episode was released a few weeks ago and there’s no telling when the next one will randomly appear (if one is keeping themselves as far away from spoilers as possible). When a new episode does appear, viewers may have to watch the episodes before and after it to refresh their memory of the context. I imagine that this can be irritating for the Japanese audience at home who can’t tell a new episode from an old one if they’re trying to save time.

It’s not much better for new viewers. If they already have the DVDs of the first season (luck permitting), they will probably be confused with the release of the new season in their region. The only mercy that they’re given is that the first season DVDs are structured in mostly the right order, so they were exempt from the disastrous chronological abortion of a broadcast back in 2006. I don’t know how the second season will be handled come DVD time but no matter what they do, it is not going to solve anything thanks to the new episodes’ place within the season one timeline. If a viewer with only DVDs wants to watch the new episodes in the only proper order, there is going to be plenty of needless disc swapping involved. I predict that the people currently unaware of the solution regarding this new season will be enraged with the announcement of a special edition that will contain every episode of these two seasons after they paid full price for one. The only way around this is to wait for all of the episodes to finish airing (and be released online) or be released on home video, then obtain them all and work out the proper order once again. Admittedly, this problem is smaller than the anachronism menace of the first season, but the message it sends across is clear: whoever is responsible for these presentation decisions that are noticeable enough for me to rant about them is never going to stop. They believe that raising Cain with one of the most fundamental elements of storytelling is good form. Even if this isn’t the case, the resulting product is irreconcilable because apparently there are pacing problems if they are presented in the only proper order. I don’t know about that, but there are definitely chronological problems if they are presented in the “original” order. Something has clearly gone wrong, but no one has the gall to bring it up to anyone important. Lord have mercy on the poor souls who wait around for the third season.

This approach has only created more problems than it fixed. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like rewatching episodes they’ve already seen, so I don’t want to have to watch half of the first season again just to get the most out of this new season. I don’t know about you, but this show’s demands are too much for me. For those of us who the show wasn’t made for, we are presented only two choices: either wait, or play one protracted game of connect-the-dots after another with each new episode as they come out. Fortunately for the creators, I am a very patient man. I can’t say the same of anyone else.

I will post a video of me hanging myself on YouTube if they manage to outdo themselves in this brand of treachery with season three.

Addendum: The following was written on 1 July 2009 as a followup post.

The fact I’m still griping about it after three years is a testament to my belief that the author is a modern evil genius. All of the infighting, the flame wars, the fandom, absolutely everything, was orchestrated by a very sadistic author with more time on his hands than should be legal. He crafted a story in such a way that it would generate a massive fanbase that will spawn from itself an equally charged hatedom, sprinkling in just enough fanservice of every variety to make it all work. The way I see it, his purpose is to bait people he probably cannot stand into starting as much conflict as possible amongst themselves, facilitating all kinds of rigorous procedure on something that ultimately doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. A look through all manner of discussion of the series has shown that it could not have gone better: fans struggle to defend it, critics struggle to substantiate it, and haters struggle with both. In the end, no one is happy, except those too smart to fall for it and those too jaded to allow themselves to know about it.

Meanwhile, he gets to laugh all the way to the bank while everyone behind him starts flailing torches at each other thinking that any result is better than letting the other side have the last word. No one has “missed the point”; everyone involved has fallen squarely into the same trap. Whether they did this to encourage people to use parts of their brains that are otherwise idle 90% of their lives out of pure concern or for any other reason just because they hate us all is entirely up to you.   read


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