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!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Fortune Arterial

You all remember Yoake Mae Yori Ruriiro Na, right? Terrible anime, pretty game? Well, you may have heard that AugustSoft's new game, Fortune Arterial, comes out on January 25th. Stick with me for a moment and I'll show you all about it.

Yoakena was based upon one interesting, original girl and a bunch of other stock characters. This one is too, although instead of a moon princess moving into your house, we have a vampire transferring into the classroom next to yours in this prestigious institute. She keeps asking to drink your blood, and it's getting kind of creepy. So why are you actually starting to like her?

Well, it could be because she's Sendou Erika, a beautiful, graceful, superintelligent main character. She also looks to be pretty original for a vampire. She's not drywall or angsty or some combination of the two; she actually smiles, laughs a lot, is very curious and makes friends easily. Her voice samples are energetic and fun. I was worried a bit about August coasting off the vampire wave, but they're doing something new with it, so that's all right.

The first thing I noticed is that one of the characters looks like a loli Feena. Look up there. Sorry to disappoint you, but they did not actually recycle Feena. Her name is Tougi Shiro, and apparently she's a fourth-year in school, even though she looks about fourteen at the most. (Yes, I know that's not loli, but I said at the most.) She's shy, doesn't say much, and is part of the student council, along with her siscon older brother. So yeah, not Feena. She is cute, though.

The other characters are pretty standard, too. There's Kuze Kiriha, the lonely, ethereal drywall classmate, whom, if you didn't speak Japanese, you might think was the real vampire; Yuuki Haruna, the childhood friend who's been dying to confess to a "mystery person" (yeah right), and Yuuki Kanade, Haruna's doting older sister. The game also has a high percentage of male school friends: siscon student council guy, Erika's older brother (voiced by a foreigner named Kevin Spicy, but has decent pronunciation), and your rebellious slacker friend Tsukasa.

The CGs are on par with Yoakena's. Sample CGs are also a good indication of how good the game is; the fewer percentage are hentai, the better the game's story, and vice versa. Only three HCGs here, about the same as Yoakena had. Overall, looks good.

Yeah, thought you might be interested in that. I think the game looks pretty, myself. If they animate it, it needs to be better than Cabbage Love.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Kanon dub: Thoughts.

Yes, The Anime Network (ADV's privately-owned digital cable network, in case you didn't know) has put out a preview of Kanon, which will premiere on the 28th. (The first DVD comes out on New Year's.) The scene they use for the commercial, available on their site, is from the first episode; Nayuki goes grocery shopping and Yuuichi gets dragged off by Ayu. Naturally, I felt compelled to review it.

Good. And bad.

Good objectively, or at least as objective as I can get with something like Kanon. The actors are obviously professional, and they seem to understand their characters well enough. They've also taken new directions with their characters, instead of copying the Japanese versions. Anyone that watches the dubs (yes, I know that's not most of you) will have no problem with it.

But the bad thing is also, well, the new directions. I love Kanon 2006 and I've seen it a million times. I even liked the original Kanon, styrofoam snow and all. This whole time, just as the rational side of my brain was praising the voice actors, the rest of me was wailing and clawing at the screen. "Why doesn't Nayuki sound slow and sweet? Why isn't Yuuichi sarcastic enough? WHERE'S HORIE YUI?" Suffice to say, with a show that gets you as emotionally invested as Kanon, you get used to the original and don't like change.

Of course, getting exact copies of the original voice actors would not only be impossible but counterproductive, so says the rational side of my brain. Then there's the rabid fan side. Good as the dub is, this is not the show to choose when you want to convert an avid sub-watcher.

Now I want taiyaki. Or ice cream. Preferably not "jam".

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Tagcloud Mystery

Everyone loves CLANNAD, right? Well, I do, and I know a lot of my readerbase does, too. (Or what's left of it. I haven't posted in forever.) But I know you're all wondering one thing, and that has to do with the Anime Nano tagcloud. Within its first week, Kanon 2006 completely dominated the thing, and did so for the remainder of its airing (although Code Geass managed to stay almost equal upon its introduction). Now, why didn't CLANNAD do the same? I've got a few possibilities.

Let's get this started.

Option 1: Was Gundam just too strong?

This seems the first obvious choice. After all, it's a huge franchise, and it's been very, very popular on the image boards, especially that one girl in the Chinese dress (hey, I haven't watched it yet, okay?). Not to mention, last year, when Kanon was airing, there was no member of said franchise running against it. Sounds like a solid theory, right?

Too bad. CLANNAD is also very popular on said boards, and actually, I can't tell which they like more. Not to mention, if you look on the tagcloud at this very moment...

The CLANNAD tag is bigger than the tag that encompasses not only Gundam 00 but any other mention of the Gundam franchise. Looks like that's out.

Option 2: Is it because we're not familiar with the game?

"It's just not as good." The same whispers came around when Kanon 2006 first aired. People that weren't used to the slow pacing we were all anticipating, well, they didn't like it. They wanted something like the rushed (but still amazing) AIR TV. The reason that so many people stayed on may have been because they fell in love with the characters, or because they liked the slow pace, or in faith of Key... but the biggest "because" is probably the happy cries of those that had either seen Kanon 2002 or played the original game. There is no CLANNAD 2002. Watching it, although I loved the characters, I began to feel the same way as the people that I had renounced last year as heretics. Of course, I realized this, and started to (as I should) appreciate it for the way it is.

But a lot of people here HAVE played the original game, or just like the way it's going so far. I do, even though I lapsed, as previously stated. And last year, there were a lot of first-timers for Kanon that watched it and loved it. That's out.

Option 3: Are we just bogged down with finals and Christmas shopping?

Not likely. Kanon aired at the exact same time last year.

Option 4: Are we lazy?

Think about this for a moment. Last year, Anime Nano was brand new. We all jumped on it, and a whole lot of people began creating blogs, seeing a new way to get their stuff out there. Animeblogger might be great, but Anime Nano wasn't tied to a specific domain, and it was new, so everyone could get attention instead of just the few already-popular blogs. A few of them died after a month or so. More died later on. If you want proof, this one is one of the casualties. (Let's hope my skills at raising things from the dead have improved. I usually don't do so well.) Less blogs means less people posting about CLANNAD.

Yeah, I'm going with the fourth one. If anyone has any better ideas, please tell me.

Oh, and the Riders won the Grey Cup.