So, my school work has finally caught up on me. I mean, no one said Engineering was ever going to be easy and it sure as hell isn’t. It isn’t really because I have nothing good to write about. Heck, I was prepared to write a bunch of editorials on moar obscure manga titles that the mainstream anime fans probably have not caught on to, but I think the time would be better spent programming, solving differential equations and thinking like Isaac Newton.

But with the excellent line-up this October, the chances that I’ll be back are very good. After I clear my first term test anyway. Till then, there really isn’t any reason to visit. Unless you want to dig up some old controversies that I stirred in the past.

See you guys this Fall!

Often when I am looking at photos of my peers in a group, the one thing that would subconsciously keep flashing in my brain is: the guys (and, *ahem*, clothes) are ruining the picture. Sure, it wouldn’t be that obvious if I was looking at a photo of my friends. In other cases, the guys just serve as an unpleasant distraction. It really didn’t matter whether the guy in question was good looking or not, because unless he is extremely repulsive visually with missing ligaments or hair, I wouldn’t be able to detect it (being heterosexual and all). And in the case that he was incredibly good looking, I would feel a subconscious threat to my position on the mating ladder. Which would in fact create the totally opposite effect of making the photo all that more unpleasant to look at.

Which brings me to why Yuri is great: the male component is absent. Seven Seas has recently translated the Strawberry Panic! light novels into English, and the novels finally made me understand why many are raving about Yuri. I never watched the anime prior to the novels, and now that I have, I would say the anime is rather disappointing as it deviates too much from the original novels. To get a clearer picture, do get the novels asap, as well as the manga. Which was by far a much more faithful adaption of the novels.

Strawberry Panic! takes place atop a beautiful hill where 3 prestigious girls schools are constructed. A sanctuary for those who want their daughters to grow up to become cultured and productive members of society. I mean, do I really have to go any further? The fundamental reason why Strawberry Panic! rocks is because: there isn’t a single guy character, Bishoujos are abundant, lolis are present, and Yuri is everywhere. Reading Strawberry Panic! feels like entering a garden locked away from the rest of the world with trees that endlessly bear the forbidden fruit of Yuri.

I say Yuri is forbidden for a reason. I recently joined my college’s anime club, and its infested with Yaoi fangirls. Ok, I really hope none of these girls (especially my Deputy Head) finds this blog, but face it. Most guys don’t want to hear about your Yaoi fantasies. In fact, my Committee Head marks all of her Yaoi stuff in her laptop with YH (whatever that stands for) in front just to warn other people to think hard before opening them.

Anyway, if you’ve been following my initial thesis, you might be wondering: If Yuri is so great then, why is harem anime, particularly those that target the Shounen demographic, so popular among guys? Some examples would be Negima!, Ichigo 100% and of course the most recent Kanoporn. 2 of these examples feature arguably wimpy male leads, while the last one features your typical GG (or Generic Guy). The reason is simple: these anime most probably cater to wimpy boys who really gotta get out there in the real world and understand what the world is really like.

Of course, just simply watching a typical Shounen Harem does not make you a wimp. This statement is a false dilemma, as you may actually be a rampant ecchi addict that doesn’t really give a damn about the guy leads. Or perhaps, you just like the Seiyuus involved, or for the “interesting” character development, etc. etc. But fundamentally, I wouldn’t say it is a stretch to conclude that this kind of anime does cater for a younger male audience that have yet to understand fully what maturity really means.

I mean, often, I find myself watching your typical Shounen Harem, or even your typical Shounen anime with a GG and I find myself either being really irritated with the guy (Claymore) or just plain bored out of my skull at all the “Shounen-Haremic” cliches if you will. Which was the biggest reason why I chose to drop Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu. I went into it thinking it hopefully rather complicated Otakuish stuff like Genshiken, but I was badly mistaken. In other words, I thought it was adapted from a Seinen light novel when in fact it was Shounen.

Ultimately, to draw a parallel with the Yaoi fangirls, I believe there is a reason why they ain’t watching crap like Mermaid Melody or Sailor Moon anymore. To put it simply, they’ve seen beyond all the typical Shoujo-cliches found in your typical Shoujo manga or anime, and want wilder stuff. And wilder stuff we do desire, as I’ve yet to hear anything along the lines of “Yuri cliches” or, *shudder*, “Yaoi cliches”. And I do hope that I never do.

The Fall season of anime is fast approaching and as all long time anime fans will know, Fall is where the substance is. This year is no different, and after a quick scan through of That’s preview for Fall, I’ve chosen 7 titles to watch, which is more than a tripling of my 2 choices for Summer.

Those who aren’t into Western video games probably wouldn’t care, but with October also comes a whole slew of new and exciting computer game releases (including the likes of Fallout 3). Together with the encroaching exams, I am presented here with a very real dilemma. Which I would probably (and I stress the word probably) solve by watching and blogging about anime and buying the games later in December when the semestral exams are over.

October is going to own me over and over and over again.

Well without further ado, the things you’ll probably see gracing my blog this coming October:

Kemeko Duluxe

So it seems that from now on, Otaku need to get their mecha-musume fix at least once every season. Kemeko Duluxe replaces Pantsu Witches to cater once again for those who have a penchant for robo-loli, without revealing the panties of the lolis this time round. Moar robo-loli is always good, at least until ADV manga wakes up their idea and publishes the 7th volume of Gunslinger Girl (manga).

Clannad ~After Story~

Clannad ~After Story~. `nuff said. This is a series that will be blogged by hundreds of anime bloggers simultaneously, guaranteed.

Shikabane Hime: Aka

I’ll admit, this one I took at face value. But it sure does look promising. Violent bishojo in school uniform exorcising spirits sounds very, very good. The official website looks really impressive as well.

Toradora!

To be honest, the first time I saw the original light novel was in Liang Court’s Kinokuniya when I was buying the Nogizaka Haruka light novels. Looks like the moe god has answered my prayers and given me an anime adaption. Amen.

Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka

Eroge adaptions always catch my eye very quickly, and I remembered first seeing this title in one of the issues of Dengeki G’s which I purchased a few months ago. Screenshots from the magazine have proven that this is likely to be a blast. Especially for moe-bishoujo lovers.

Kyou no Go no Ni

Manga originally drawn by Minami-ke’s mangaka. Please checkout my write-up of this series if you have not. Today in Class 5-2 is essentially a replication of your own childhood, with some ecchi mixed in that may be distrubing to some. The way I see it, its rather realistic in a sense, which we didn’t know really know much social rules when we were young anyway.

Chaos; Head

Adaption of a Delusional Science Visual Novel. True Remembrance anyone?

I’ve heard about this game for ages and ages over at Visual Novels, and am extremely pleased that it has received a quick anime adaption. Even though I feel that horror ultimately doesn’t mix with Bishoujos well, I’ll have to give this a go to make up my mind.

This Bishoujo outing looks set to contain as much depth as any of Key’s works, and is a must watch even for non-Bishoujo game fans. Please read the Wikipedia Article for detailed information on the visual novel.

Those who have been following the American manga licensing scene will know that Yen Press recently picked up a whole bunch of 4Komas for the American market, which are Hidamari Sketch, Suzunari! and S.S. Astro. Suzunari! differentiates itself from the rest of the 4Komas I’ve read (Hidamari Sketch, Sketchbook, Lucky Star, Azumanga Daioh) as being plot based rather than purely slice-of-life. For plot advancement, there’s a series of background sketches that opens each episode, and it is probably something that is going to be quite sad. In this sense, Suzunari! does borrow some ideas from Key’s works, such as Kanon. Just think Makoto. The key difference (pun intended) here is that the main character is a 15-year-old human loli instead of the very much male lesser-Kyon Yuichi in Kanon.

But if you’re worried that you’ll need a box of tissues by the time the first volume ends, don’t. The first volume is overall light hearted as Suzu (the thing with the cat ears) establishes her relationship with her “twin” Kaede. I mean, who wouldn’t like a girl that was this innocent? I have no complaints at all, and I’m sure that Kaede doesn’t mind.

In the process of charming Kaede with her innocence, there have been a huge amount of hints that this manga focuses on loli-yuri twincest. This was definitely what I thought upon reading one time through. As of the 3rd re-read, it becomes rather obvious that this isn’t really the case. For one, they have not done it with each other explicitly yet, and thus the most we’ll probably see is Shoujo-Ai. A second detail would reconfirm this, but it would actually be a spoiler of sorts. Think Makoto from Kanon again, anyway.

Humour wise, Suzunari! has chosen the path of skewed or screwed up characters. Like for example, Kimura-sensei from Azumanga Daioh. There’s this guy in Kaede and Suzu’s class that has founded the “Society of Moe Girl Studies” and worships the “Moe God”. And if you think the teachers are exempted from weirdness due to this, I would say that Iwami Shoko has gone a little overboard with the main teacher that appears in the strip.  While some would say that Yukari-sensei from Azumanga Daioh was a “teacher that only appears in comics”, I beg to differ, as her apathy is shared by many of the teachers that have taught me before. The teachers that appear in Suzunari! aren’t nearly as realistic. Be warned.

In all, Suzunari! is a moe 4Koma and most closely resembles Potemayo in terms of charming its audience by spawning an incredibly innocent “organism” and mixing in some Shoujo-Ai and fetishes to cater to an Otaku audience. Definitely a must read for all the loli-fans and moetakus out there. An anime adaption would be nice, but since incestral themes are a big no no on Japanese tv, I guess we’ll have to pray really hard for one ^^

Not really related to 2D Jap subculture, but our Engineering Physics lecturer showed us a really cool video demonstrating several amazingly designed simple machines:

The lecturer played the video at the beginning of the 2 hour lecture, in the middle during the break and at the end of the lecture, and hell a lot of students stayed to finish watching it. Vocal response was incredible, ranging from “WHOA”s to laughing and even wild clapping. Really have to give it up to him for his efforts in making physics interesting.

To understand the video better, here’s a small Katakana lesson:

ピ – pi, タ – ta, ゴ – go, ラ – ra

These characters make up the first line of Katakana in the first picture way above: Pythagora

ス – su, イ – i, ッ – vowel extender (basically), チ – chi

When pronounced quickly, these characters sound like the English “switch”.

Pi (ピ) is often enlarged in the video, so look out for that character:

At first glance, I thought the video was a result of some Japanese University Physics club fooling around with Newtonian Mechanics. Turns out that it is actually part of some 15-min Japanese educational TV program. I’ve been through many educational programs as a kid, and I guess the Japanese really have it much more than us (Singaporans) in terms of providing creative thinking food for their kids. Provides some insight into how a supposedly educational anime for kids such as Denno Coil can attract an adult and even Otaku audience.

I guess this explains the allure of Japanese 2D subculture to some, and the repulsion of it to others. The Japanese are not afriad to try new things and push the limits of existing media, even in their educational TV shows. This will inevitably piss off conservatives though, and since conservative thought still dominates a considerable portion of the world (and most of my lecture group, in fact), the dissemination of subculture will remain an uphill battle.

I do not hold much doubt in my heart that the latest episode of Clannad can potentially convert any normal person into an instant Clannadtard; with its beautiful animation, lack of morally objectionable scenes, avocation of responsibility over passion and lack of any significant fetishes.

In this modern world where almost everyone tries their hardest to hide their flaws and strive for perfection, Clannad stands in clear rebellion against forced superficiality. The characters in Key’s works before Clannad were never plagued with as many flaws, and these fundamental flaws all combine to make Clannad better in sum than that of its individual parts. Which is in itself, what makes Clannad exceptional, as the individual parts themselves are rather magnificent in their own right.

The main heroine of the animated series, Nagisa, is essentially useless compared to Nayuki, who was the captain of her school’s track team. The main male protagonist, Tomoya, is a hopeless delinquent. The Fujibayashi twins are out of luck when it comes to truly excelling at romance and their school work (at least in the anime adaption), both important aspects of youth. Tomoyo has put in much effort to suppress her inner urge to use physical violence instead of diplomatic reasoning, and life would have been much easier for Kotomi if she had the slightest ability to hide her blatant eccentricity.

Clannad has proven that, being flawed is beautiful. In keeping with the over-arching theme of family that binds Clannad together, the characters are drawn towards one another due to their flaws. Toleration of flaws forms the basis for bonding, and is the basic building block of the family. The phrase “The world is filled with weirdos. Just look at your family.” sums up family bonding very nicely. On the surface,  your family has to look good to other families. But the real truth is that families who are aware of the individual weaknesses of each family member and exericse tolerance are so much closer than families that simply choose to ignore them and get on with their lives.

The fact that Clannad is a Japanese production speaks lengths about the script writers at Key, who have perhaps wrote Clannad as an indirect protest against the general superficiality of everyday Japanese life. The Japanese exercise a fairly formal system when addressing each other, and their social culture applies much more pressure on the individual than most others, leading to social phenomena such as working to death (karoshi) and rather unpleasant physical stabbings. In fact, not many foreign Otaku may know this, but it is definitely much harder to be an Otaku (or Akiba-Kei, as they call it) in Japan than even other asian countries such as Singapore. In a nutshell, perfection and respect at the individual level is highly emphasised in Japanese culture, which creates social timebombs that go off every now and then.

Having said all that, I hold high hopes for ~After Story~ and do hail the Tomoyo chapter as an excellent overall ending to the series compared to the rather dissapointing episode 22 (Nagisa end). It is a clear sign that KyoAni has indeed bounced back and is ready to impress the world with masterpieces that push the limits of 2D animation to greater heights. And that if KyoAni considers giving Tomoyo After a go, it would be definitely be nothing short of incredible.

Can you spot the Otaku in the above screenshot?
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I’ve been getting more into TF2 recently, and in my numerous daily battles for intelligence briefcases and control points, I’ve been encountering more and more portraits of anime characters. In fact, what inspired me to get off my lazy ass and upload an avatar for my scoreboard portrait was because I kept getting killed by this guy called Ziddy with a smiling Ryugu Rena portrait.

Seems that Konataism works in promoting FPS gaming skills.
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Talk about de-bunking Otaku stereotypes as a Konataist. I’ve believed for the longest time ever that Otakus prefer Role Playing Games (RPGs) as compared to games from the First Person Shooter (FPS) or Real Time Strategy (RTS) genres from my numerous interactions with our kind in online forums and even real life. This probably stems from the fact that because almost all our time is spent working to fuel our hobby or watching anime and doing other Otaku oriented hobbies, there isn’t much time left to drill the skills required to play FPS or RTS, which isn’t required as much in adventure RPG games.

Pay close attention to the upper right hand corner of this screenshot.
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I however, do consider myself an exceptional case. This is because I actually got into Akiba-Kei culture relatively late in my life (around 19 or 20 years old) and before that, I was nothing short of a hardcore gamer pushing the limits of conventional western gaming genres. I am still in a Day of Defeat: Source clan as of today and my best genre happens to be FPS as twitch reflex is my specialty over information retention and application. It appears that there is only another hardcore Otaku in my clan, and yes, the scout is my favourite class in Team Fortress 2 as I find most other classes kind of boring.

Heck, I’ll just enlarge it for convenience.
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However, does this mean that there are many Otaku that overlap as skilled RTS and FPS players? There isn’t any solid evidence that this is true in general. The reason my hypothesis exists is due to Valve’s inclusion of portraits in Team Fortress 2 that opens up the possibility of expressing individual gamer personalities. Most other FPS do not have this option available, and thus there isn’t much hard evidence to show that my hypothesis is right.

Most importantly though, Team Fortress 2 is an exceptional game in terms of their marketing and as a result, character design. In the various promotional trailers for TF2, Valve has blessed the individual character classes in TF2 with distinct personalities, and Otaku do tend to appreciate good character design. After all these years spent on Renai and slice-of-life oriented anime, you could say that an Otaku’s speciality is in picking out the little flaws and nuances found in any fictionally designed character, even if they do not happen to be moe-bishoujos or lolis but humerously designed character classes of a conventional video game. These personalities are probably what draw Otaku subconsciously to playing TF2, in addition to the argubly excellent gameplay mechanics of the game.

Mff mff mff…
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To quote a pertinent example, just take a look at the Pyro. There has been an ongoing debate in the Steam Community forum over the Pyro’s gender, species and nationality. The Pyro’s mysterious character design does leave his vital statistics open to debate, even though I have conclusive evidence that the Pyro is a male bisexual (look at this purse in the Pyro’s equipment locker), I’m am starting to feel a mounting suspicion that he is indeed an ugly old lady with a scarred pyro-maniacal face. As my game play hours increase, I am starting to realise the various taunts and chants of the Pyro in fact, do sound like an old lady under a gas mask. I’m still not sure as of late, but the discussions generated over the Pyro is not unlike many discussions that Otakus have over the underwear colour of their favourite Bishoujos, or the romantic possibilities of this Bishoujo with another Bishoujo (in Yuri anime) or another guy (in harems).

In other words, yes. There is a possibility that the Pyro is a trap. And a pretty ugly trap at that. I’m not sure how many Japanese have actually taken note of Team Fortress 2, as 70% of the computer games sold on the Japanese market are visual novels, eroge, otome games and the like. It is a fact that Japanese ignorance and xenophobia is prevalent, and that Japanese do not have much experience in making FPS games. However, more open minded Japanese game makers will have much to learn from a seemingly westernised game such as Team Fortress 2, as the underlying design of TF2 is certainly more than meets the eye.

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