Thursday, September 3, 2015

Senran Kagura Burst (3DS) Review

Senran Kagura Burst
Platform: 3DS
Developer: Tamsoft
USA Publisher: XSeed Games

The Ninja Cast of Senran Kagura Burst
In Japan, the Ninja is a powerful historical symbol. Through the shadows, they engaged in espionage to give their lord a tactical advantage. In the daytime, they masqueraded as farmers, peasants, prostitutes, and at night, they protected castles and infiltrated rival ones. They were MI6 or the CIA of ancient Japan. Senran Kagura Burst throws that away and turns the ninja into a walking piece of fanservice, training in secret departments of prestigious Japanese high schools. A new entry in a genre popularized by Final Fight and Streets of Rage in the early 90’s, it has fallen by the wayside in modern times with rare entries like Vanillaware’s Dragon’s Crown and of course Senran Kagura. While Senran Kagura Burst gets justifiable dissension for being a fanservice-heavy game, underneath the hood, it is a surprisingly good game.

Senran Kagura Burst’s premise is that in the modern world of Japan, there are two schools of ninja, good ninjas and evil ninjas. The good ninja are Japanese government employees who work on behalf of the state. Evil ninja work on behalf of individuals or corporations and do the work that good ninja cannot do, which is assassination, corporate infiltration, and other things frowned by society. In the world of Senran Kagura, ninjas gain training from a dojo at an early age. Then when they reach high school, they go to a high school with a ninja department where they learn to be a good ninja or an evil ninja. Senran Kagura focuses on two schools: Hanzo National Academy, a Japanese Government school that trains good ninjas, and Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy, a rival school of Hanzo that teaches evil ninjas.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How I (kind of) Saved Ace Attorney in America

When people talk about Ace Attorney history, it is funny that in 2005, I was part of a group that basically saved the game franchise in the United States and Canada. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was announced in e3 2005, I loved the trailer so much I preordered the game several weeks later. When it was originally released in North America in October 2005, the game was released in the same time period as Trauma Center and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. Due to heavy competition and being a very different game it sold a paltry 13,000 copies. The game sold so terribly that Capcom basically said the franchise was dead. For those of us who know that there were 2 other games in the series, this was a blow.

Capcom said that they would consider releasing a localized version of Ace Attorney 2 and 3, but as as an episodic thing on cell phone. Since many of us had DS's at the time, this was not an option we liked, we wanted the games on the DS. The people who bought the first 13,000 copies loved the game so much we wanted more people to play the game, so we let our friends borrow it, we bought multiple copies for our friends and family. We tried selling the games on message boards by recommending it as a sleeper hit, telling people it is one of the best DS games released in 2005. We basically turned into a grassroots army to sell the game to more people.

Something happened.....

Several months later, the first print run sells out. Then the game starts selling for sky high prices on Ebay, people complain to Capcom, so Capcom does an second emergency print run. The game sells out fast and prices start skyrocketing again on Ebay. Then they did a third print run, and a fourth print run until the game sold over 140,000 copies. After that, they announced that they were localizing the other two games. We the fans, we did it!!

It was the hardcore fans who bought the first 13,000 copies who tried desperately to save this weird lawyer game they bought in October 2005. There was a period after the game was released that it was a sales bomb and it had no future. It was only because the fans were so determined to save Ace Attorney that they eventually released the rest of the franchise. In my own way, I kind of saved Ace Attorney back in 2005, because if I didn't organize with the other fans of the game, we wouldn't have most of the Ace Attorney games here, playable, and in English.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Anime Review: Okusama ga Seito Kaichou

Okusama ga Seito Kaichou
Original Manga by: Yumi Nakata
Anime Studio: Dream Creation
Japanese name: おくさまが生徒会長!
English Translation: My Wife is the Student Council President

The two rivals Ui and Rin
Inspiration can come from some very interesting places. For Yumi Nakata, a former hentai artist, she looked at an old hentai manga she made many years ago and remade it for a shonen crowd. That is the origin for the manga behind the eight-minute ecchi anime series Okusama ga Seito Kaichou. Before the anime came out, I was a fan of the manga when I first read it in 2013. I was quite curious as to how the anime would adapt the more risqué material from the manga. As a fan of the manga, my feelings are mixed on its anime adaptation. The anime at best is a mediocre adaptation from a source material that is far superior.

The premise is simple; Hayato Izumi ran for student council president and lost to a charismatic girl named Ui Wakana. One day after coming home, he finds out that their parents have arranged a marriage between him and Ui. Now he must keep his cohabitation with her secret while trying to figure out whether he really loves her or not. Later on, a girl who is the head of the discipline committee named Rin Misumi is introduced as the main romantic rival who
is girly, buxom, smart, and is as equally dense with love as Ui and Hayato.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Why are Large Anime Conventions Growing?

Convention growth 2015 (Year over year)
San Japan: +25.2%
A-Kon: +17.9%
Anime North: +5.2%
Anime Expo: +13.1%
Anime Central: +3.4%
AnimeNEXT: +21.4%
Otakon: -17.4%
AnimazeMent: +0.2%
SakuraCon: +0.3%

Anime Expo 2015 had 90,500 unique attendees
With September coming along fast, most of the big conventions have completed their run for 2015. When you look at this list of over 10,000 attendee conventions, there seems to be a common trend among these large conventions. The trend is that Anime Conventions are increasing by impressive percentages in 2015 (save for Otakon, I will explore that topic on another post). That leads me to the big question, why are the big anime conventions growing so fast in the United States. I will explore why anime conventions are going in an upward trend in the last two years.

When you look at the anime industry, anime seems to be going through a little mainstream revival in North America. Anime is now seen on programming blocks in Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim again. To accommodate for the growing need of instant anime, multiple streaming sources have emerged as legitimate, legal ways to view anime. Daisuki is a free streaming service that is a consortium of anime studios publishing anime in foreign markets. Improving their services, Crunchyroll and Funimation are licensing a majority of current seasonal anime. For the streaming sites, anime is readily available in English 1 day after release in Japan. The easy accessibility of anime makes it easier than ever to become a fan of the hobby. There is also a wider variety of places to watch anime, whether it is TV, computers, tablets, smartphones, and video game consoles.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Joukamachi no Dandelion Review

Joukamachi no Dandelion
Summer Anime Season 2015
Anime Studio: Production IMS

Princess Kanade and Princess Akane

Have you ever wanted to be elected king of a huge Kingdom? Joukamachi no Dandelion (translated to Castle Town Dandelion) presents that interesting modern twist to an age-old fantasy. The anime for Joukamachi no Dandelion was based off a seinen four-panel manga by Ayumi Kasuga for the Manga Time Kirara Miracle magazine. What we get is an interesting slice of life about sibling rivalry to obtain the royal throne. Let us find out whether Joukamachi no Dandelion is worth your time or not.

The story of Joukamachi no Dandelion centers on Akane Sakurada, the fourth eldest child, and the third princess in a family of nine super royals. Her father Soichiro is the King; the King wants the next King to be elected by the people of the nation. At the behest of his son, the first prince, the royal family lives in an average middle class house in the middle of town, but due to the king’s paranoia, there are cameras all over the city to watch over his children. Not only are the Sakurada kids Princes and Princesses, they are also gifted with unique super powers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What is Japan Expo?

Japanese animation has a strong place in many Americans hearts. This led to the creation of Anime Conventions, which was based off the models of earlier science fiction conventions like WorldCon and mutigenre conventions like Comic Con. The popularity of anime has led to many long running conventions in North America like Project A-Kon, Anime Expo, and Otakon. Across the seas, the people of France have a longstanding love of everything Japanese. The manga industry in France is decades old compared to the relatively young American manga industry. France is one of the biggest and most vibrant consumers of Japanese culture. Naturally, it is also home to one of the biggest conventions in the world, Japan Expo, held in France annually in the beginning of the month of July. I will explore the history of Japan Expo and its sibling conventions, and why Japan Expo is the gigantic convention it is in Europe.

Crowds at Japan Expo
©Japan Expo ©JTS Group
The history of the largest convention in Europe is a humble story of anime and manga fans who wanted to make a difference. Jean-François Dufour, Sandrine Dufour and Thomas Sirdey, huge fans of anime and manga, founded Japan Expo in 1999. They based Japan Expo on small European conventions with an average attendee size of 1,000 to 2,000 people. The company behind it, the JTS Group was originally a non-profit company in France. Due to a conflict with French tax laws; it was reclassified as a for-profit company. Since its inception, Japan Expo grew from a convention with 3,200 attendees to a record 235,000 attendees in 2013. With the popularity of the Japan Expo brand, they have expanded into several other events. Japan Expo Sud started in 2009 in Marseilles, France as the spring anime convention in Southern France. Japan Expo Centre is the Fall convention in Orléans, France founded in 2012. They expanded to Belgium and started Japan Expo Belgium, which is one month after Japan Expo Centre in Brussels, Belgium. Their first foray to the English speaking world is Japan Expo USA. Thomas Sirdey and Sean Chiochankitmun started this American convention through the company SEFA Entertainment, a subsidiary of JTS Group.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Editorial: The Changing Landscape of Cosplay

Seeing people in cosplay is a highlight for me as long as I have attended conventions. There is so much skill in artisanship, posing, and facial emotions to get the character right. Over time, I have done photoshoots with people in this hobby and through that, I have connected and made friends with a variety of cosplayers over time. Over time, I noticed several trends, some I like and some I do not like. What I like is the increasing quality of Cosplay and the amount of effort in costumes has improved in leaps and bounds. By extension, the quality of the posing and facial emotions has improved significantly over time. What I do not like are the increasing sexualization of Cosplay and the influx of photographers that are drawn by this sexualization of Cosplay.

For the positive, the quality of Cosplay has improved significantly over time. The cosplay wigs have become much better in quality, and there has been a huge improvement in the craftsmanship of the Cosplay outfits. In turn, people practice their Cosplay more, and the ubiquity of the Internet means that there are many more references to understand and master the character. In turn, posing and facial emotions have improved significantly, since people understand the character and how they interact with the world out there. There are also many avenues to get instantaneous feedback between the photographer and the cosplayer that has push the skill levels of both far beyond how it was in the past. From this perspective, the art of cosplay itself has flowered beyond my wildest expectations when I got into cosplay photography so many years ago.

The negative has bothered me and it will continue to bother me, it is the increasing sexualization and of Cosplay. There are varieties of geek websites that unfortunately use these cosplayers to increase hits for ad revenue. Greater exposure to the hobby is great, but they tend to highlight the best and the most beautiful of the cosplayers. Due to the nature of these sites, they also tend to ignore male cosplayers unless they are very eye-catching or have some sort of gimmick to attract attention. This focus leads to people who have a misinformed opinion that only the most beautiful and genetically gifted can cosplay. Those with a misinformed opinion may also shame people who are bigger, skinnier, darker, or not as pretty as those featured on those websites. It changes the dynamic of the fandom from one of connecting and showing love for a character to one of finding Cosplay that can make them more popular than ever. This shift in Cosplay culture has created an arms race where people try to become "Cosplay Popular" and race to get as many likes as possible

This leads to another unfortunate paradigm shift, the influx of photographers who are not fans of the hobby but of certain people who cosplay. They are there because of the sexualization of Cosplay, and taking photos can fulfill personal fetishes. They are not there for capturing the spirit of Cosplay; they are there to get as many beautiful people as possible. This leaves certain cosplayers who have a glut of photographers asking for “photoshoots” while there are many walking around the convention wondering if they will even get the time of day. Many of these people are not familiar with social norms, hence why there have been a rise of "creepers" with cameras.

As I have seen from experience, the common solutions people bring to the table are wrong. Some resort to “slut shaming” where they would insult them and berate them. The problem with this is that it also does not reward the hard work it takes to keep a fit body, the dieting, exercise, and scheduling needed to maintain a fit figure. It only brings negativity and divisiveness to the community that should be more inclusive, rather than exclusive. Ideally, we welcome all in the cosplay community. On one level, a solution can be found by us, the people within the cosplay and cosplay photography community. Make sure they have a level head and a good heart. It is perfectly fine to be a fan, but there is no need to idealize them and blindly follow what they do. A true fan would knock them back to reality if they do something wrong, and praise them for doing hard work. The most important part is that include them as part of the community, they are not above it, they are a part of it. Treat them as equals, not as superiors. Being white-knight sycophants that praise them for every good and bad thing they do is destructive.

The situation with cosplay has changed a bit over time, and it has its fair share of the good and bad. The quality has improved light years and it has improved the cosplay experience as a whole. There is an increase in sexualization due to the heavy promotion of the prettiest and the sexiest, which had a rather unfortunate side effect by drawing in people who only wants to photograph the prettiest and the sexiest. Instead of berating these cosplayers, include them in the community and keep them in line by being constructive, not destructive.