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Archive for April, 2012

Like most of you, I’ve recently finished watching the first episode of Hyouka. The story left me with a small smile on my face, wondering what we will see next week. I then proceeded to avoid all blog entries concerning the show.

You see, there’s no need to be an anime veteran to know that some shows are easier to enjoy without getting involved in the drama surrounding them. But even with this approach to the matter, moans about the heinous acts of KyoAni kept assaulting my ears. The nefarious studio stole somebody’s shoes in New Jersey, caused traffic jams in Morocco and was seen eating babies in its stronghold of Kyoto. And I thought, is it just me, or is it really impossible to discuss KyoAni shows without the conversation switching focus to the studio?

Questions like getting answers, so I decided to check. I went to Anime Nano and skimmed through the first ten [Hyouka – Episode 1] posts I could find. Results?

  • 80% of the posts mention KyoAni
  • 87,5% of the above mention KyoAni within the first paragraph/first few lines
  • one blogger gets extra points for working KyoAni into the post title

The two blogs to commit the atrocity of not dragging the studio into their episode impressions were CSW and Marth. Props to you.

Now wait a moment, you say, Hyouka is a loud show just beginning its run, it’s perfectly normal for everyone to mention the animation studio in their first post, and there’s nothing wrong with it appearing in the first paragraph – “Hyouka, KyoAni’s latest show, is a story about youth and pancakes…” – isn’t that the classic opening line?

You’re probably right. Just to make sure, I checked the same thing for another one of this season’s most lauded shows, Sakamichi no Apollon. You’ll have to forgive me for not using bullet points for presenting the results this time around, but… there’s not much to say. Only one out of ten blogs mentioned the studio responsible for the series anywhere in the text… stating that the author hasn’t watched anything else done by them so far. (The Black Sheep Project deserves props for doing the research, though!)

The irony here is that while many of the blogs included in the statistics above might take a critical stance towards KyoAni, their comments not only confirm, but also contribute to KyoAni’s brand awareness hegemony. Bloggers seem intent on making sure that any newcomer to the hobby knows the company name and can associate it with the studio’s work. KyoAni must be glad.

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Two years ago, I was neither an anime blogger nor much of a blog reader, but word of the Aniblog Tourney still managed to reach me. Tales of tears and rage and frustration… Nah, I think there were plenty of people just enjoying themselves too.

I now have the opportunity to take part in the event myself. A warm welcome to all new visitors! What goes on here at Yaranakya?

Sometimes, it’s a review, like the K-On! Movie Review or the bit of bashing I was forced to dish out for the Negima Movie. Sometimes, it’s digging through the abyss of the Japanese Internet to find and translate interviews or author comments, like the author commentary for a recent Accel World episode or the details of Madoka’s involvement with terrorist groups.

But it cannot be denied that a large part of what this blog is about is its bittersweet relationship with language and words. I play around with character names, from just pointing out the obvious translations for Inuboku SS, some more involved theorizing for Guilty Crown, to an excursion into the Japanese writing system and tl;dr territory for Another (two parts of it, even). I analyze how the language choices in an anime series help paint a setting or define relationships between characters. I pick up the references that a simple series like Acchi Kocchi makes to real-life elements of Japanese reality.

Feel free to look around, and if you like what you see, you can vote to support Yaranakya in the tournament. I would also be thankful for any of your comments and suggestions.

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Hayate no Gotoku author, Hata Kenjirou, has recently asked fans of the manga (via his twitter account) to point out elements of the unresolved foreshadowing so far they would like to see addressed in future chapters. This way, Hata hopes to prepare a list and make sure he doesn’t leave any loose plot threads unresolved (a viable concern with a manga title that has been running for several years now, and is planned to run several more if all goes well).

What followed was a veritable waterfall of tweets. But of course, Hata probably wouldn’t mind more suggestions. If any of you have something you want addressed, I’d be happy to translate the request and send it to Hata. Just keep in mind that the very basic ones – everyone’s past, missing parents and the like have already been covered, so the more specific you are the better.

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Reki Kawahara, author of the Accel World light novels, provided the anime viewers with some additional commentary for episode three of the series. Translation of the highlights follows. The explanation provided under the very last screenshot could be considered a spoiler, as it clears up an ambiguity not explained in the episode itself, so proceed with caution.

Chiyuri carries around that large bag as she is a member of the track and field team. No matter how convenient the times, it seems they have yet to invent a way to digitize their luggage.

There are blank spaces on the map presented in the episode. This is because only 60% of the Burst Linkers are affiliated with any Legion. The territory division reflects this fact.There is one more reason why the Brain Burst program has been kept secret, but not even Kuroyukihime can confirm those rumors at this point.

***

Haruyuki called it pointless, but I quite like wandering around the world map for some time before challenging the last boss. Though you might end up forgetting yourself and never seeing the ending that way…

To avoid connecting her neuro-linker to the global network, Kuroyukihime uses an old-fashioned PC and a smartphone for the purposes of connecting to the Internet.

***

The avatar Kuroyukihime used to observe the Silver Crow x Ash Roller fight was a special one made to help her avoid repeating the mistake that got her identified the first time. Though it might not exactly be great camouflage…

Haruyuki is momentarily disappointed during his talk with Kuroyukihime because he realizes his mission is not to fight and protect her, but merely to help identify her attacker.

The cable Chiyuri owns is so short because it’s a cheap pack-in that comes with the neuro-linker for setup purposes. It’s not the result of the author’s evil machinations. Probably. Maybe.

In this case, a back-door program is something that allows a third party illegal access to a terminal. The final shot of this episode is from the viewpoint of the ‘someone’ stealing Chiyuri’s optical data.

Please look forward to episode four!

 

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This week we have Sakaki claiming he isn’t cold because he is a kaze no ko – a ”child of the wind”. While Io felt obliged to take things literally and announce that he himself is a child of man (hopefully no religious subtext intended there), the words are part of a longer phrase – kaze no ko, genki na ko, or ”children of the wind are healthy children” – which is commonly used in Japanese to describe a popular approach to raising children.

 

The general idea is to avoid being overprotective and let children face the world around them, particularly its ever-changing weather conditions, and make them toughen up as a result. Boys playing soccer mid-winter in nothing but shorts and T-shirts is not that uncommon in Japan. Some seemingly inadequate ‘winter’ school uniforms are probably influenced by this way of thinking. (Female university students in Japan also tend to wear short skirts even in winter, though that should probably be considered a sacrifice they make in the name of fashion more than anything else.)

 

As always, there’s a grain of truth in the old saying. Scientists agree that the increase in the number of people suffering from e.g. allergies is partly caused by an overly sterile environment. Our bodies can’t really learn how to defend themselves without taking an attack or two first, too. Still, where I live, no mother lets her child go out without a muffler on when it’s snowing outside.

 

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The International Saimoe League 2012 prelims were all about perseverance, a fitting theme for this marathon-like event showcasing numerous strong-willed characters. Personal preliminary highlights include:

The World God Only Knows / Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu make a statement

Both series had to retreat, unrepresented, in their first attempt at the ISML Tiara, but now return with new vigor and three representatives in the main league each. Expanding the viewer base with a second season is often not an easy task, but here we have proof it is indeed possible. I haven’t seen enough of KamiNomi to comment on the second season, but in the case of BakaTest, switching the focus away from battles and to good old character drama and love comedy certainly did the series a favor. Both series still have ongoing source material, so we might be seeing them around for awhile.

Hecate slips in

With her series coming to a close, Shakugan no Shana managed to slip in one more character than usual into the league. Luck played a role here, but admittedly, this was probably Hecate’s most moe season (I should watch season one of Shana one of these days, watching things out of order is a bad habit to have). Who’s willing to bet Shana keeps up her tradition and gets second place again this year?

Irisviel shows off mother powers

On a playing field fool of high school students, it is still possible for slightly younger characters to get in, but much more difficult for more mature women to make a stand. Thankfully, Irisviel breaks away from the norm (though ‘mature’ might not be the best word to describe her). She is the second ISML mother, and just like Clannad’s Nagisa did before, she gets to participate alongside her daughter.

Kuroi Mato gets her timing right

This little trickster here got qualified into the preliminaries based on an OVA, but then got voted into the league mostly thanks to an on-air anime. Perfect timing pays off.

Some less fortunate contestants deserving a mention:

Fate and Nanoha say goodbye

Saying goodbye to the first ISML Tiara Holder, Fate, as well as to the Nanoha characters in general, at least for this year, certainly represents changing times. It is a well-established saimoe law that previous winners have it tough, but Fate put up a good fight throughout the existence of ISML.

Fire Sisters burn out 

The opposite of Kuroi Mato, the Araragi sisters failed to enter the preliminaries by just a few votes. Had they succeeded at that, their increased screen time in Nisemonogatari would have certainly let them join their Bakemonogatari comrades in the fray… but it was not meant to be.

No world conquest for Ika-Musume

Unlike KamiNomi’s Elsiee, Ika-Musume didn’t gather any momentum during the time she had to think over what went wrong in her first ISML campaign, where she dominated the nominations only to fall in the preliminaries. Ika-Musume might be walking (swimming?) proof that cute doesn’t necessarily mean moe, at least not to the voting majority.

What were some of your highlights? Feel free to share and let’s enjoy an exciting saimoe year.

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True obligation chocolate? Original order chocolate? No, wait...

In the latest episode of Acchi Kocchi, we saw Hime driven up the wall by having to choose between calling her gift to her friends either honmei (romantic) or giri (obligation) chocolate. While this is no doubt just a case of friends teasing each other, why does it often happen that we end up torn between two extremes and have trouble explaining our middle-way?

 

It turns out the issue is linked to human cognition. I have mentioned before that humans feel the need to categorize anything and everything. One of the characteristics of this categorization is magnet behavior. Just like magnets, categorization attracts and repels ideas.

 

Attraction is the ability to ignore insignificant differences between objects and unite them under a single label. If you think about it, there are no two identical apples in this world, and this should make it difficult to define what an apple actually is, not to mention doing your shopping according to the shopping list your mother left on the fridge. But thankfully, any object just has to be similar enough to the prototype apple in our heads for it to count as an apple, small differences be damned. You can see this principle at work in little children, who will often call many different animals dogs because they all have four legs and so look similar enough.

 

If objects that were similar to begin with are treated as one thanks to attraction, what about those that are different from all known prototypes, or stuck between two of them? There’s always the option of acknowledging a new prototype, of course, and that is what children do (over time) to solve the multiple dog problem mentioned above. But we are social creatures, and unless someone gives us a helping hand in broadening our categories, we do not often make up our own. After all, it would not help us communicate much if we made up something nobody else would recognize.

 

This is where plan B, repulsion kicks in. It forcefully categorizes borderline cases as one of the more extreme variants on an ad hoc basis, even if they don’t really fit. It seems that to the human mind, mistakes are the lesser evil when compared to complete incomprehension and a resulting brain freeze. ‘Do you love me or hate me’ might be one line we’re used to hearing in soap opera fights between couples, but it demonstrates nicely how comfortable the mind is with narrow and radical thinking.

 

This basically explains Hime’s predicament – Japanese society only accepts two kinds of chocolate gifts, those romantic and those that are little more than common courtesy. No matter how complex the actual feelings behind a gift are, everyone’s interpretation will gravitate towards one of the pre-established molds. Any attempt at an explanation will be quickly shot down as wriggling out of giving a clear answer.

 

While the existence of a limited number of such molds makes communication within a single society much easier (or even possible in the first place,) it can be quite a headache when it comes to cross-cultural exchange. Everyone thinks their way of categorizing the world around is the obvious and natural way, but somehow different cultures ended up with different results. The Japanese have historically used one word, aoi, for both the colors blue and green, which basically means the two were considered different shades of the same color. On the other hand, they do have separate words for raw rice, fried rice, crushed rice, export rice, fresh rice, old rice, early-harvest rice, polished rice… and many more. You can often guess what the most important aspects of a given culture are through the density of some of its lexical fields. But the differences make translation errors and various misunderstandings between foreigners a common occurrence.

 

Personally, I always wonder why English doesn’t seem to have a common term for the numbers from 11 to 19, a staple in my own language…

On a side note, Yumeka has started a ‘Fundamentals of Japanese‘ series on her blog for everyone starting their study of the language or just looking for some trivia to make the anime experience even more enjoyable. One more reason to visit her blog.

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