Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Archive for the ‘ Editorial ’ Category

On the first day of class this quarter, one of my professors started things cheerfully by talking about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and how devastatingly scary it is, especially for people whose entire lives come from repetitious use of their hands — not just their livelihoods, their lives. As he put it, some people were just put on this planet to draw. He mentioned how CTS is normally a condition associated with older folk, but that in recent years those afflicted have become younger and younger, perhaps because of video games, but also because of more jobs that involve typing and such. And yet, the exact cause of CTS is still largely in debate. Common knowledge says it’s caused by repetitive action, but science still says that the biggest risk factor is a genetic predisposition.

So I don’t know just how worried I should be, especially considering the fact that I seem to have very, very poor circulation in my hands. I can put on gloves, wear them for twenty minutes, and my hands will still be as icy as they were before. My forearm will be fine, but my hands will be freezing. There are probably plenty of other explanations for why my hands can’t seem to stay warm, but as an idiot pursuing art as a career, CTS is easily one of my biggest fears, right up there under blindness. If my blood vessels can’t seem to reach my fingertips, how long will it be before my nerves can’t either?

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I Want Karaoke Tracks

January 23, 2009 Editorial 6 Comments

So I like to sing. Generally, if I know the lyrics to something, I can’t help but sing. Sometimes, even if I don’t know the lyrics, I’ll make something up and warble along. I don’t own an mp3 player, so I make up for this by singing a capella to myself when I’m on the go or waiting for the bus or whatever. I suppose I like to think I’m reasonably good, so sometimes when I need a break from work or have random pent up energy, I’ll have a recording session with Audacity and see if I can get anything half-decent recorded. As such, I really love the fact that many j-pop artists release off-vocal, instrumental, or karaoke tracks alongside their singles.

I don’t normally play the karaoke tracks by themselves, mostly because I get really self-conscious if I don’t have the original vocals to hide behind, but most of them will match up with the vocal version, so I can record myself alongside the original vocals, then trade the track for the karaoke to hear my own vocals. It works well enough. (Maybe someday, I’ll have something that’s decent enough to share here?)

Unfortunately, not all of the music I listen to and want to sing to provides karaoke tracks. I’ve noticed that most j-pop singers will provide them for their singles. Tommy heavenly6, angela, FictionJunction YUUKA, Nami Tamaki, Mika Nakashima, and Utada Hikaru all generally provide a karaoke track. ALI PROJECT usually has karaoke tracks (not like I’ll ever be able to sing their stuff anyway). L’Arc~en~Ciel, Gackt, and T.M. Revolution are also pretty consistent about including a karaoke version of their singles. But the further you venture from pop and the more into rock and alternative you get, the less likely there will be karaoke tracks.

I don’t expect -miyavi-, Dir en grey, or Maximum the Hormone to ever include karaoke tracks. Maybe it’s just because it’s much harder for the average person to sing along with their music, but that doesn’t stop them from appearing on karaoke machines in karaoke bars, etc, so clearly there’s some kind of demand for them. Most of the karaoke places I’ve visited have surprised me with the selection of music they have available. I don’t really know how the licensing on these things work, but I suspect that a lot most of the songs don’t feature “official” karaoke versions, only edited versions where someone has manually extracted the vocal track. Such methods usually leave a ghost voice, but at a karaoke bar, it’d be really hard to tell. This is probably how they manage to get karaoke versions of most English-language songs as well, ’cause really, when was the last time an American, Canadian, or British artist included an official karaoke track on their single or album?

It’s obvious from the word itself that karaoke originated in Japan, but I’ve always wondered why its popularity is so subdued in the States when it’s all the rage across Asia. I mean, it can’t be that only Asians like singing, right? If shows like American Idol can be so popular, why aren’t karaoke tracks more common on American musical releases? Why aren’t there more karaoke places outside of Chinatowns? The Asian population is Savannah is slim to none, which means there isn’t a karaoke place for miles and miles. This drives me crazy. I really want to go out to karaoke, but there’s no where to go!

I think the only English-language official karaoke tracks I have are for Disney songs. Everyone loves to sing Disney songs, I guess? Or maybe it’s because most of those movies are musicals? But if that’s the case, why isn’t there a karaoke version of every Broadway soundtrack? Why can’t I find karaoke versions of the songs from The Lion King on Broadway? Beauty and the Beast on Broadway? RENT? I would really love to see more official karaoke version of English-language songs since it’d spare me the trouble of making them myself. Plenty of songs are begging to be sung to, so come on.

Maybe lack of encouragement in the form of karaoke tracks can be my excuse as to why I know the lyrics to more Japanese songs than English songs. 8|

I picked up a Fullmetal Alchemist Flamel’s cross necklace for $15 at Ikkikon 2007. I’m a big fan of the symbolism and think the crossover relevance to actual alchemy is interesting. I wore it nonstop for about a year and a half. Seriously, I think I only took that thing off on three or four occasions in all that time (and I’m pretty sure a few of those times was so that I could wear my Kingdom Hearts crown necklace instead ;3). I had fun telling people that, no, I’m not a medical student, when they thought it was caduceus. It was also a pretty good conversation starter with the few I encountered that knew what it was. Necklaces are good. You can proudly proclaim your fandom without being overly obvious, and those who don’t understand will just think it’s a pretty design and never know that you’re a flaming weeaboo!

Unfortunately, at the end of that year and a half period, I found that I was developing a weird rash on my neck about where the necklace was hanging. I ignored it for a while, but it only got worse. I didn’t want to think it was the necklace’s fault, but it was kind of hard to deny. So I took it off. In about two weeks, the rash was gone. I put the necklace back on. The rash was back in another week. Damn.

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Anime Vice launched on what, Friday? Despite the fact that I wasn’t initially planning to join at all, I’ve spent more than a little time on the site since then doing all manner of mostly useless things. Choice is supposed to be a good thing, I know, but I’ve always disliked that there were so many options when it came to anime encyclopedia and social networking sites. Why do we need so many? Why not just put forth the collective effort to improve what’s already there? ANN and Wikipedia are basically my first choices when looking anything up, and I think it’s hard to imagine that any other site is going to catch up to their repertoire of information any time soon.

I’m finding myself compulsively filling in the missing pieces that are all over AnimeVice currently, but I’m pulling almost all of my information from ANN and Wikipedia. Summaries will need to be reworded, sure, but all those stats and kanji names and static information like that? Copy, paste, baby. The site is still in its infancy, and I’m sure that eventually, it’ll start garnering information that ANN/Wikipedia’s collective encyclopedias won’t have, but there I pose the question again — why not just all that new information to one of the aforementioned sources to begin with? Why do we need this all new place for it? Why split up the contributing population more? (As a side note, I really hate how the AV’s encyclopedia is organized right now, but I’ll give it a few more weeks to develop and straighten out before passing final judgment.)

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It’s been a while since I’ve written about the state of the economy and how it’s affecting our little niche. In July, the price of crude oil couldn’t stop rising and breaking records. Now it seems like it can’t stop falling. It’s down more than $100 from its crazy peak in July. Before, people were terrified because the high price was slaughtering the auto industry (okay, well, the auto industry is still kind of screwed), and now the low prices are just another sign of economic weakness. Where’s the happy middle? Job losses in November are yet another record low, and meanwhile, the stock markets are as volatile and unpredictable as ever.

So I found it a little interesting that some people are still optimistic, at least about the manga industry. Yen Press is doing well, but it did also just come out of a merger. Viz still has it’s super shounen bestsellers, but while Naruto is a more popular search term than Angelina Jolie, its place on that booklist is still as unpredictable as the price of oil. I suppose for the times, these companies are doing reasonably well. It doesn’t look like any more of them are on the verge of collapse, anyway, and even ADV had some good news to share a few months ago. I think the dwindling economy is forcing a lot of companies to reconsider just which titles they bring over whereas before, it seemed like they were grabbing just about everything that was halfway popular in Japan.

That seems to have led them to somehow skip out on series like Dennou Coil, which deserves much more recognition and attention than its gotten, despite winning significant awards. But considering that Viz has licensed DOGS of all things, I have hope that companies are looking further and harder for titles with underground appeal or popularity. Here’s to hoping we’ll be getting more of a mixed bag and that this will somehow stimulate readers and viewers? I’m not as worried about the anime side of things anymore since the digital distribution thing seems to have exploded to the point that prominent fansubbers are hanging up their hats, but manga online is a harder proposal to sell.

I’m optimistic in that the manga scene won’t be dropping further for the moment, but it remains to be seen whether things will actually pick up. There’s all this talk about that $500 billion stimulus package. I’m not sure how much water the idea of using taxpayer money to pay taxpayers holds, but the immediate affect would (hopefully) be more people spending money, which is good news for businesses, which in turn is good news for workers, which in turn is good news for the economy, including our little otaku industry. I dunno. This holiday season is already kind of scary. I lot of people scoff that the luxury goods industry, but things must be pretty damn bad if rich people can’t afford to be rich anymore.

Then again, poor people go out to see more movies in hard times, so who knows?

Internet > DVD

November 14, 2008 Editorial 2 Comments

First off, though mostly unrelated, I found this article pretty hilarious. And this just made me lol.

But anyway, the news of the day is that in South Korea, Internet video has eclipsed the DVD. This is really far from surprising though; there’s been such a rise in the number of companies doing the digital distribution model that I skip out on mentioning most of it here because there’s news about it pretty much every day and who likes to be redundant? The fact that Internet models have officially outpaced DVDs is something noteworthy though, and another indication that Korea is ahead of the game. I imagine that Japan will be quick to follow, then Europe, and finally the States because we’re kind of slow about everything.

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Japanese Sound Effects

November 8, 2008 Editorial 3 Comments

So I was working on my final for Sequential Art. It wasn’t a sudden realization or anything — I’ve thought about this a few times before — but it occurred to me again that the Japanese have the most ridiculous sound effects ever. Seriously, they have sound effects for pretty much everything, including things and actions and events that… don’t make any sounds. This is a far, far cry from sound effects in American comics (and perhaps European comics? I really have no idea since I don’t read any) where half the sound effects are just the verb they’re trying to describe, like “scratch scratch” or “stomp stomp.” As such, I’ve found it to be very, very frustrating trying to incorporate sound effects into my own comics because there just aren’t that many to choose from, and it kind of feels stupid using verbs as onomatopoeias when they obviously aren’t.

Of course, there are some American artists that will use Japanese katakana sound effects in their pages even though the comic is in English and reads left-to-right. Off the top of my head, I know Christy Lijewski, a SCAD grad, and rem, a Houstonian, both do this (though sometimes rem draws right-to-left). The difference is that both of them legitimately know the language, and I don’t (yet?), so I guess I’d feel a little pretentious using katakana in my comics even though I could probably pull it off well enough.

So the question of the day becomes… why aren’t there more English sound effects? Why don’t we also have sounds for things like “shock,” “silence,” “rudeness,” “flailing,” or “a quick glance sideways”? Sure, it is kind of ridiculous to have sound effects for things that inherently have no sound, but it certainly is useful. One of my roommates hypothesized that Japanese theatre might have inspired some of their sound effects since it might not have always been apparent what was going on in nondescript genres like shadow and puppet theatre, so they could have utilized a wide range of informative sound effects to help things along? Honestly though, I know little of Japanese theatre and am really just grasping at straws here.

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I don’t really get the point of regional exclusives for video games. Perhaps this is out of bitterness, but that doesn’t matter.

First of all, think of all that untapped revenue! Kingdom Hearts has become a gigantic cash cow for Square-Enix in the few short years it’s been around (oh, crap, has it already been seven years?), but before they came up with the brilliant idea of making three more spin-off semi-sequels, they turned down the bid to release KH2: Final Mix+ overseas. Why? What possible logic is there to cutting the rest of the world off from that title? The original KH: Final Mix was understandable. There was logic behind that one. The overseas kids already had the extra footage and knick knacks in their normal release, so it was only fair that the Japanese kids get a version with Sephiroth — and throw in some extra keyblades. Nothing too substantial, really. But KH2:FM+ was an entirely different ballgame.

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All Toys are Collectables, but Not All Collectables are Toys

October 22, 2008 Editorial Comments Off on All Toys are Collectables, but Not All Collectables are Toys

Oh, wow, where does the time go? Has it really been two weeks since I posted last?

To be honest, I haven’t really found much in postworthy news lately — things have gotten licensed, more things are streaming online, and Kinokuniya had another nerd day that I couldn’t attend. Good news mostly in the otaku world, but I’ve talked about all these things before. Convention season is quieting as it gets colder, so there’s no longer that constant barage of news that came in the summer months. Meanwhile, Wall Street committed seppuku, only to kind of survive and turn into a zombie, and everyone is scrambling around trying to fix things before the election in two weeks. Oh, and crude oil has absolutely plummeted. After the election, I think everyone will just be wondering whether this holiday season will make or break businesses.

So I guess on these slow news days, it’s up to me to come up with original content and to ramble on about questionably relevant things, like the fact that Japanese toys are so much cooler than anything we’ve got. Seriously. There are hundreds of potential comparisons I could make, but for one, their UFO catcher (known overseas as those annoying crane grabby games) prizes are incredibly well-made and sought-after collectors’ items; meanwhile, ours are cheap and shoddily made toys that disappear into the recesses of children’s closets until they inadvertently show up in yard sales years later to be sold for a quarter.

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Man. I’ve been trying to tap out this review for Code Geass R2 all weekend. I think maybe I’m trying too hard to word things nicely because despite everything it did indeed fail at, I still liked it. Liked it a lot even. Not sure. Maybe I should give it a bit more time before I try to write it. In the meantime, I did manage to revise both my original Code Geass review and my Gurren Lagann review so they don’t sound as retarded.

It’s been hard to get Geass out of my head. Today is the first Sunday in months where I won’t have any new episodes to watch! (I can’t watch the new season of 00 until I finish the first season, lol…) As such, I’m going to take this time to write about product placement and hilariously overt advertising in anime. My friend Andres recently wrote about it in the context of video games and lamented the fact that the American audience has been so keen on rejecting it. And I’m with him — why are people so against the idea of advertisement in their entertainment?

Most people seem to be against this whole idea of “selling out” and doing things “just for the money.” I can understand and will agree with that sentiment for things that take away from the value of the product, such as making unplanned sequels to popular series. Forcing a franchise usually only ends up hurting the property, but I’ve never found advertising to be intrusive or annoying? How distracting is it, really, to have a Coke on the table and Toyotas driving in the street? How distracting is it, really, to have a guy drive down the highway and pass a Samsung billboard. Do you really even notice?

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