Sunday, June 08, 2008

Toei direct download: better than nothing?

Toei Animation has been gearing up for this for a while. Selecting titles that they know people want but are too long to send to DVD and not marketable enough for TV, they've put them up for direct download that you pay to watch. Now, this makes sense on some levels, but is it really the best option? No, but it may be the only option.

Nostalgia is go.

At first, you'll probably ask, "What's so wrong about this?" And on the surface, you're right. People are already downloading their favourite anime anyway. Fansubs in the olden days used to be mailed around between groups of friends on scratchy VHS tapes where the only option was those ugly neon subtitles that people still complain about on modern DVDs. I haven't seen these direct downloads, but due to the lack of limits on the internet, they might even have pretty-looking subtitles. Details like the rose vines in the Rozen Maiden subs and the glittery snow in the Kanon subs have made me keep those on disc even after buying every available DVD once they were licensed. Not to mention files are easier to manage than a DVD box, and cause much less waste! So why am I complaining? I'm not -- not about these things, anyway.

The fact is, pay direct downloads are far from perfect, despite all the advantages. The companies are very aware that you could just buy one copy and then send it to all your friends for free. At least Toei is letting you burn one backup copy -- most don't even let you do that. There's an encoding in the download you receive that won't let you play it on more than two computers, ever. So if your computer breaks, like mine did back in February, and you need to replace it, there go your two computers; you can't take the series to anime club or lend it out to your friends. And what happens when you upgrade to your next computer? Companies are far stricter on downloads than on DVDs. Take one order company, for instance; if you buy a DVD, it's yours, and they're very courteous about it, but if you buy a download of the same movie, you can only play it on one computer, in one place -- if you've taken your laptop on a trip, you can't open the file and watch it, or they could take it away from you. Seriously.

Toei will probably do the same thing.

So with all that, why don't they just license these series for DVD release? Simple: because they can't. All the shows selected for the promo were either previously or never licensed, and they're all around 52 episodes, as usual for the company. The thing about English TV, though, is that they want to aim for specific markets and don't want a single bit of "weird" for fear that it'll alienate the customers. You all remember when ADV picked up Pichi Pichi Pitch, right? They held onto the license for a year and then dropped it; though the series had an established fanbase, 52 episodes was just too much for them to viably release without attracting new viewers with a TV deal. You tell me which TV station would pick up an uncut, unlocalized magical girl anime about a big-chested mermaid princess who turns into an idol singer and fights by singing into the kind of karaoke microphone that was last popular in 1999. One of the series that Toei is offering, Futari wa Precure: Pretty Cure, doesn't even have as weird a premise as Pichi Pichi Pitch does, but when 4Kids had it, they were going around for years trying to get the networks to pick up their proposed hack-job. TV doesn't want girls' series like Pretty Cure. They don't want sports series like Slam Dunk, old series like Digimon Adventure, violent series like Fist of the North Star. The only thing Toei can do is market it in a cost-effective way that targets these shows' existing fanbases.

Toei's direct download program has me wary. I've been wanting to buy a decent release of some of these shows for a long time, but with all the disadvantages, I think I'll pass. I can't help but feel a little guilty about that, though. Considering the situation, it looks like there will be no other way to get them.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hope for the subculture? Possibly.

You've seen that story before. You know. That story. You roll your eyes, toss the newspaper in the recycle, push your less child-friendly DVDs to the back of your shelf and tune out your family's comments and questions. It's not even your fault. You weren't the one that let the random ten-year-old lay eyes on hentai.

Fear my censorship. Don't worry, real clean shoujo fanart does exist... somewhere.

Yep, another one of those reactionary news articles has popped up, this time in Ontario, where a Catholic schoolteacher took her student to the video store, gasped and quickly ushered the kid out upon seeing that the hentai was not stored with the live-action porn, but across from the family movies. I wouldn't go into hiding for a week just yet, though. The article in question, upon inspection, actually seems to be written by (gasp) sensible people.

Never in the text does the sentiment of 'animation is for kids, so if it's not, it's corrupting the youth' come up. The article condemns the video store, but not for stocking the videos in the first place; what is corrupting the youth, according to them, is the fact that there is porn out in the open near the kids' section, no matter if it's drawn. Of course, they have the little "what's anime?" blurb at the end, but even that's inoffensive and aims to calm people down rather than rile them up, describing the wide range of age-appropriateness as well as assuring that the major national video chain stocks anime but not hentai.

The short of this? We're actually getting some respect. A dumb video store manager put hentai within view of kids, and the manager is blamed, but we are not - it's not our fault and we're not out to corrupt the youth or anything. I'm kind of impressed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Precure 5 game machine upgrade

It looks like the Yes! Precure 5 game machine has been upgraded in conjunction with the new season. It still looks like The IdolM@STER with magical girls.

I actually have no complaints, other than the unfitting genre. If it was just Urara's adventures singing and dancing, sure, go for it, since she's an idol. This is just a little odd, though. With this game machine, Precure seems to think it's Pichi Pichi Pitch. Komachi's wardrobe is also a little odd, but it was like that in the show, too. You just can't do much with green these days.

Precure fans will also be elated to see the very end of the video, introducing a few new characters. Of course, the marketable new Kurumi/Milky Rose has jumped in, but the other two I'll leave for you to watch the video and see. I personally started squeeing, but that's just because I'm obsessed with magical girls. Why couldn't I have become one when I was younger? But alas, now I'm legal and therefore over the hill when it comes to these sorts of things.

(Too bad Toei has all but disowned Splash Star, but I'm not going to put a damper on such a great day.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Isn't it a few months early?

So I was looking at that annoying-but-helpful little news thing that comes up when your instant messengers load, and this comes up:

"Officials probe bizarre ailment - victims report bugs crawling on skin."

I hope you all know where I'm going with this. More and more, things have begun to break the fourth wall and lift the veil or whatever you might see it as. If you're not sure what I mean, remember back in late 2006 with the hospitalization of one Suzumiya Haruhi? And the storm in the Indian Ocean just after Pichi Pichi Pitch ended? Not to sound like the old hobo by the bus depot carrying a shopping bag from a shoe store and preaching about the end of the world, but it's impossible not to notice weird things like that. So, why not notice them?

You know what that means: Discussion time! What are some weird real-life unintentional references you've come across? An overactive imagination is the best sort.

Speaking of Higurashi, I'm developing an addiction to Daybreak. I'm only good with Keiichi, though - I can't get past the second stage of story mode playing as anyone else, even Rena and Satoko, who have similar controls. Time to practice!