dorchadas: (Default)
I made a dumb Utena meme on the tumblr I share with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. You might like it.

On Tuesday, before Japanese class, we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, an exhibit of Murakami Takashi (村上隆)'s art. I didn't know anything about it before we went and modern art isn't usually to my taste, but I was surprised by how much I exjoyed the exhibit. Not the pictures where DOB, Murakami's cute Mickey-Mouse-esque character, is unfolded and stretched across a campus in a nightmare of teeth and eyes, but the works that are more traditional.

Examples:
Click for art )

Yesterday, both [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went to the farmer's market together, which meant that I had some input on the contents of the meal! I originally thought about having duck and pita bread, but there were no bakers selling any pita at the market, so we settled on something different and made sandwiches instead. Ingredients are mostly my idea with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's input, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was the one who put them all together into the final meal. Emoji Kawaii heart

Farmer's Market food pictures )

I have a dentist appointment in two hours to reapply a sealant on my teeth, so of course I'm very nervous. I'm going to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's dentist, because he's within walking distance and she recommended him to me, and I know that sealants are an easy procedure and it shouldn't take more than half an hour, if that. But any number of things could go wrong, and even though I know they won't, what if they did? Emoji Panic flailing

But there's not much point in worrying about that now. Back to playing Wind Waker.
dorchadas: (Jealous)
Last night [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and [twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture and I were watching Revolutionary Girl Utena and I finally actually listened to what everyone is saying that gets translated as "End of the World."

So, until this point I'd always assumed that one aspect of Utena was the idea of "the world" as adolescence, and how when you're a teenager you fixate on a lot of things that seem like life and death at the time but aren't of any particular importance as you grow older. The duels are, in a way, their attempt to force some kind of structure on their lives--to create a framework where things make sense and the outcomes are known, while also being an example of the former. I mean, as of last night we got to episode 33 and no one has actually explained what the power to revolutionize the world even is or why everyone wants it so much.

The student council speech is incredibly melodramatic, as fits teenagers instilling meaning into their lives, but it does reveal something about what the power is:
卵の殻を破らねば、雛鳥は生まれずに死んでいく。我らが雛で、卵は世界だ。世界の殻を破らねば、我らは生まれずに死んでいく。世界の殻を破壊せよ。世界を革命するために
Translated as:
"If it cannot break out of its shell, the chick will die without ever being born. We are the chick. The world is our egg. If we don't crack the world's shell, we will die without ever truly being born. Smash the world's shell. FOR THE REVOLUTION OF THE WORLD!"
Basically, the power to revolutionize the world is the power to grow up into the kind of person they want to be, without being smashed into conformity and becoming a salaryman or OL endlessly riding trains and drinking with their bosses into the late hours. The End of the World is thus a source of wisdom for them because it represents the end of their constrained world and a rebirth into freedom.

But! As I said, last night I was listening and they don't say 世界の終わり (sekai no owari, "The End of the World") as I've just been assuming. They say 世界の果て (sekai no hate, "The Ends of the Earth"), meaning a physical distance rather than a temporal finality. This fits really well with the Utena movie, where the ultimate goal is to escape the academy where everyone is Jesus in Purgatory, and I suppose it still fits the above interpretation if adolescence is recast as a journey to complete rather than a prison to escape from. But I'm surprised I never realized this before now.

Tamayura

2017-Feb-17, Friday 11:48
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
Last night, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I finished watching Tamayura: Hitotose. I gave it a nine. It's not super popular. The animation is fuzzy and obviously not particularly high quality, it's a slow slice-of-life anime shows about cute anime girls doing cute anime things, and the hook is that the main character likes photography and moved back to Takehara, in Hiroshima Prefecture, after her father died.

And that, of course, is the in for me. We watched the intro OVA when it first came out, while we lived in Chiyoda, so everything was familiar. I recognized the view from Mt. Asahi. They went to a shrine in neighboring Onomichi that I knew because an old man complimented [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd on the boots she was wearing, saying that boots with kimono was popular during the Meiji era but had completely fallen out of fashion nowadays. And because it's Takehara, there was an episode set during the Bamboo Festival, and we spent the whole time looking at the scenery of all the places we had been and the sights we had seen, like this bamboo and lights sculpture. There's a quote that's relevant here, I think:
“It is the curse of age, that all things are reflections of other things.”
-Neil Gaiman, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains
Our love for Tamayura comes maybe half from what it's actually about, and half from our memories of living in Hiroshima, going to local festivals, eating okonomiyaki, living in a house with tatami floors, and standing on a mountain over the Setonaikai, watching the sunlight on the waves.

[livejournal.com profile] ping816 has an anime club he runs, and one of the shows we watched was 5 Centimeters per Second. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I loved it and everyone else hated it. Some of that is differing tastes, but I think part of it is because we lived in Japan and the other people watching did not. We had at least some of the culture context for appreciating what it was trying to say. That's what I seek out in anime now, rather than moeblobs or hot-blooded anime pilots. I can get those from video games, whereas getting an experience anything like living in a small Japanese town is pretty rare in games (though Stardew Valley comes close).

Now I want to go back to the Bamboo Festival. Someday...
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
A couple days ago, I read this article about the game Wurm Online and a man who was a king. I found it really poignant, the image of the author and the man riding together through an overgrown and abandoned landscape, littered with the crumbling ruins of what was once a vibrant community of players now almost all gone. A single house, alone in the wilderness, the last remnant of life.

Like this passage:
We haven’t seen a single soul since we left Strongbox but these towers are populated by NPC guards. Reminders that there used to be something worth protecting nearby. In this case, the flat land is peppered with bed frames. It used to be a collection of houses. But none of the walls, roofs or chimney stacks remain. Only bedframes, abandoned and forgotten.
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The other reason the Wurm Online article hit me is because I played World of Warcraft for six years, for thousands of hours of playtime, and I have almost no posts written about it on here. For a long time, I used my blog as a form of social media before Twitter and Tumble and Facebook rose to the prominence they now occupy, and once those took off, I stopped posting much of anything here that wasn't directly what happened in my daily life. That means I sometimes went weeks or months without posting, and that something that took up a huge portion of my life and the lives of many of my friends for years is left with almost no records. I even ended up accidentally deleting my screenshots at some point. All I have are memories.

Yesterday, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I finished watching ToraDora, after having it on our to-watch list for almost six years. It's a deconstruction of the tsundere--one of the main characters is even voiced by Kugimiya Rie--with a happy ending that works out for nearly everyone. It's very Japanese in that "I will set aside my own happiness for now so that you can be happy and achieve your dreams" way, in multiple directions. And like many other such anime, it ends when high school does, happily, and the future is glowing brightly ahead as the characters walk forward into it. Even though these are high school relationships and the odds of them lasting past the beginning of college is very low, we don't want to see that. We want a happy ending.

That Japanese in the subject translates as "There is nothing that is eternal," which is the title of a story I wrote for that Scion LARP I was in and also one of the bedrock parts of my life philosophy. And while I was searching for the link to that story, I found this question on 知恵袋 (chiebukuro, "fount of knowledge") where someone asks if there is anything in this world that is eternal. One person says love, and one person says time, but the majority answer is that there is nothing.

I think that's what I write so much of my life down now. It's a way of holding out against entropy, of making the transitory experience of playing a single-player video game into something that can be shared with other people, of turning my experience of a good meal or an anime convention or a vacation into a record that will stand for longer than my memories do. There's already been plenty of times when I read an old blog post I wrote and find something I had forgotten or that I was remembering wrong, and writing it down meant that what really happened, or my perception thereof, remains.

We are, all of us, looking for something eternal. We will fail, inevitably. But that doesn't mean we can't try.

We don't build sandcastles in the hope that they'll last forever.

Are you there in my dreams?
Waiting there just for me?
Are you there for me?
Are you there for me?

I won't surrender
While hope still lives in this world...
Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ping816, I found a gif that perfectly encapsulates my feelings about the deer on Miyajima:


It's from Nichijō (日常, "ordinary, everyday"), which I've never seen, but I recognize that building in the background. It's Miyarikyu, where [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went for our fourth wedding anniversary. You can see the building here on Google street view.

You know, this makes me want to watch Nichijō.

Tokyo: Thursday

2016-Jul-29, Friday 00:51
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
After a delicious and cheap breakfast of toast and butter and tea and no soup because it had pork and shellfish despite being beet soup, we left the hotel at 10:15 in order to have enough time to make our 11:30 Sailor Moon Cafe reservations in Shibuya. But we had more time than I thought, so when we passed by Ozz On and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd saw a blue and black dress in the same style as the previous skirt/shirt combo she had bought, we stopped in. That turned out to be a dud--it was a skirt and shirt just like the other set, but they didn't have the skirt in--but she did find a black vest and skirt combo that made her look like a vampire hunter. Just needed black boots and a ruffled top. And stakes.

Also, Ozz On takes Discover. Japan really is prepping for Olympics-related foreign tourism.

The train to Shibuya was only about fifteen minutes, leaving us plenty of time to walk to the cafe without having to rush. Except we did have to rush because we went out the wrong exit, and then we arrived at Q Cafe and got into line, so it was a case of hurry up and wait. The line ended one person behind us, too. But it moved quickly, and after a few minutes...


Fighting evil by moonlight.

Sugary desserts are a feminine thing in Japan--there's all kinds of sweet parfaits filled with ice cream and whipped cream and berries and so on for women. And this was the Sailor Moon Cafe, so they turned the sugar up to 11. When I ordered the Moon Faeries' Tea (upper left), I was expecting actual tea, not a blueberry smoothie with fresh cream and white chocolate on top. At least with Sailor Neptune's Praline ([personal profile] schoolpsychnerd would like to clarify that it is called the Elegant and Sweet Neptune Set ) , I knew what I was getting. And it was pretty good, mostly dark chocolate and a matcha base.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd also got the tea and the Cosmic Heart Macaroon, which wasn't actually a macaroon. It was more like a layer cake, and it was also loaded down with an enormous amount of sugar. I guess Sailor Moon is powered by love and also sugar rush.

My stomach hurt when we were done eating. I am not cut out for fighting evil by moonlight.

We ducked into the main store across the street after we ate to look around. The company running the cafe is famous for making jewelry inspired by desserts, so they had a lot of really cute necklaces that looked like macaroons but also like the warriors' regalia. I didn't get any pictures of those, but I did take one of the wall mural:


Senshi, assemble!

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was extremely tempted by some of the jewelry but realized that she wouldn't really have any opportunity to wear it, so we left and decided to walk to our next destination--Roppongi Hills Mori Tower for the Ghibli Exhibit. Plus, then we could stop at CoCo's for curry, which we did.

The walk was peasant mostly because we were in the shade of tall buildings and managed to go out in the open when the scattered clouds covered the sun. Mori Tower was a bit of a maze, the kind of place where a corporate espionage film would be set, but after going up, then down, then around, we bought tickets for the exhibit and took the elevator up to the 52nd floor.


Welcome to the sprawl.

The exhibit mostly didn't allow photographs or I would have taken a ton. Walking in was a hallway with posters from all the movies they've done, then a small section with storyboards and production stills from the next movie coming out this year (Red Turtle, I think?). Then a giant Totoro, a reproduction of Miyazaki's office, some soot spirits creeping through a corner, a full-size reproduction of the catbus, and a floating airship from Castle in the Sky, which I've never seen but know about because Sky Castle and Ancient Robots and Girl With Mysterious Pendant are all in it, and from there entered the top tier of JRPG tropes.

They didn't have that much from my favorite Ghibli movie (千と千尋の神隠し/Spirited Away), sadly, other than the Oscar that they won for it. And while I loved the Nausicaa manga, I've never seen the film.

I did find this article that has a lot of press pictures in it if you'd like to know what it looked like. And they allowed pictures later, so I got this picture of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd where she has always truly wanted to be.


All aboard the nekobus.

There were a couple people over in Akihabara, so we decided to go there next. Originally we were going to walk, but the map said it was four miles away, so we hopped on the Hibiya Line and rode straight to Akihabara. Then we alighted, went up the stairs, and walked over to Super Potato.

As soon as I walked in, I went like , because this is what it looked like:


It's Kirby season.

There were three floors: one floor of 16-bit and earlier games, one of Playstation and later games, and a retro arcade. I didn't end up buying any games, because I've realized that just about every game I play from now on is going to be on the computer one way or another. I did buy more plushies, though--a bob-omb and a winged goomba that we're going to hang from one of the pre-existing hooks into our kitchen ceiling.

After twenty minutes wandering through the promised land of retro gaming and meeting up with everyone after most of a day spent apart, we went across the street to the Akihabara branch of Animate so [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd could look for Sailor Moon items. She found a small figure of Usagi sitting on a cake, bought it, and we went on to the Yellow Submarine hobby shop in search of tabletop RPGs. They had them--there was even a copy of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay translated into Japanese--but not Call of Cthulhu or Alshard. Sword World made a strong appearance, but I don't like the rules.

We left and I checked into our flight, getting [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I seats across from each other, and then we headed back to the station to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega and her friend, who came down from Aomori to see her, coming back from Mandarake.

We took the Yamanote Line to Yūrakuchō to walk to Ginza, but arrived a bit early to meet [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek's friend, since his workday ends at 7 p.m. After trying a cafe and being told there were no seats ([livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat checked it out later and found plenty of seats. Probably another case of being too foreign), we walked to Hibiya Park and sat on benches overlooking the water.


Green space? In Tokyo?

After about half an hour of resting, it was close to the time when we were supposed to meet [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek's friend, so we went back toward Yūrakuchō Station and waited until he appeared. After introductions, we all walked to Ginza to find a restaurant, since [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek wanted to see Ginza at night and his friend knew where to go eat.

If you're not familiar, Ginza is a glitzy part of Tokyo, all neon at night and no vending machines. I figured that meant we'd have a hard time finding a place to eat, but the second sushi place we went had plenty of space and good food. We stayed there for two hours until the chef came out and started clearing glasses in a universal "get the hell out of my restaurant" gesture. [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega did manage to pull off an awesome party trick, though!


That's a ¥1 coin suspended on water by surface tension.

And then we walked back to the train station and went back to our hotels to prep for the journey home. But it was lovely to have a last dinner together as a group!


Wonderful dinner with wonderful people.


Steps taken: 19942

ACEN 2016

2016-May-22, Sunday 15:31
dorchadas: (Perfection)
This is the 11th year since I started going to ACEN and the 10th year since I started going with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. She couldn't make the first year because of a small convention she was running at Knox College, but she came the year after and every year we've gone since, which is all of them except 2009-2011 (when we were in Japan) and 2013 (when we had no money). A couple years ago I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep going but thought it was nice to see friends, and last year I had a great time. This year was somewhere in between, but weighted more toward a great time than toward not bothering.

A full accounting follows.

Read more... )

I was surprised how much I liked cosplaying. I haven't done it since before we moved to Japan--I haven't even worn a Hallowe'en costume for years--but I was looking forward to it this year and it was a lot of fun, especially doing a joint one with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. We've already started planning for next year, when we're going to do another non-anime cosplay with me as Mairon and her as Melkor. Often it's couples with a man playing Melkor and a woman playing Mairon, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd wanted to switch things around, and also if you do a google image search for Mairon, you'll understand why that's my role--examples here, here, or here. That'll probably take a while, so we're planning it early.

We didn't do as much participating in the actual convention this time, so I can see why some of our friends don't bother buying badges and just show up to meet with other friends. But buying earlier means badges aren't that expensive, and while the massive explosion of the internet and the way that nerds have taken over popular culture means that the dealer's room is no longer the only place to find a lot of the things we want, it's still worthwhile for telling us that those things exist, as well as letting us try on any clothing before we buy it, though there's more shops catering to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's taste in clothing than to mine. And I did go to a couple panels, and had a couple more on the schedule that I didn't make it to.

Looking forward to next year!

That was a week

2016-May-11, Wednesday 10:41
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Thursday we had [twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture over to watch Revolutionary Girl Utena, and then after she left I got a bit overwhelmed by my upcoming schedule and the fact that the pants I ordered arrived and didn't fit, and I ended up lying down in a dark room for fifteen minutes while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did some work in the kitchen.

The next day I sent back the pants and the replacements are in the mail, and then I got home from work, devoured dinner, and immediately turned around and headed out to Call of Cthulhu, which you can read about here. Then we came back home and went to bed.

Saturday was LARP and shopping day, taking up a large portion of the afternoon and all of the evening, but also the day where I received an email from my father with the subject "$" and then checked my bank and noticed a pending transaction for a substantial sum of money. Enough to pay for our upcoming trip to Japan multiple times over. When we called my mother for Mother's Day the next day and asked about it, their reasoning was basically that they're not getting any younger and who knows what might happen. So if you wonder why I'm all #doom all the time, well...

Sunday was the aforementioned phone call and the Beach Party of Hope, scheduled in February. Fortunately the weather cooperated, but those again took up a big chunk of the day. We also wrote a letter to Kaminaka-san, one of our old students from Chiyoda, since we're planning to visit Chiyoda on our upcoming trip to Japan and wanted to let him know! That took a bit of time mostly because I had to hand-write Japanese, which I'm not very good at and which always makes me nervous.

Monday was session six of Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom, which i haven't written about yet because over half of it was Small-time Peddlers of the Mushroom Kingdom, so I'll do a combined six + seven post next week and edit in a link here when it's written.

Tuesday was Japanese class again, which actually went pretty well. 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ is getting better now that they're getting into more characterization, and at least with the most recent chapter, I went into class thinking I had a lot of trouble with the reading and it turned out that I actually understood almost all of it. Aya-sensei mentioned that it's easy to get caught up in a couple small things you don't understand and assume it means that you don't understand the larger picture and that's simply not the case, and that's definitely true. I think at this point I'd keep reading the book even if I didn't have class anymore.

Tonight, I have nothing scheduled and I'm going to play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and watch Aria with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, and the only thing I have scheduled that is of any importance is that we're going to write another card to one of our students in Japan. And this Friday we're going out to eat at Travelle and then I don't have anything scheduled for the rest of the weekend. Other than beating Symphony of the Night and finishing up my Ender-kun costume for ACEN. Just need to do the grass block!

Mushishi

2015-Sep-07, Monday 11:30
dorchadas: (Default)
A while ago, I put to friends that I was looking for something to watch that was similar to Kino no Tabi and Haibane Renmei, and [livejournal.com profile] stephen_poon immediately came through and suggested Mushishi. And true to form, I thanked him, and [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou didn't get around to watching it for another six or eight months after that. Then it took us four months to watch the first ten episodes, and then we burned through the rest of it in a month and a half. And I know that sounds like an incredibly lengthy span of time to apply the phrase "burned through," but considering how long this took from conception to denouement, you can probably see why I chose it.

One of the things that bothers me about a lot of modern fantasy is the lack of a spiritual ecology. Our ancestors' worlds were absolutely filled with ghosts, demons, and spirits of hill and rock and spring, and while that's still true in a lot of contemporary religious traditions, it's not true in Western popular culture, and that comes out in our fiction. At worst, you get Dungeons & Dragons, where forest spirits are corporeal creatures designed as antagonists and "incorporeal undead" is a classification of monster. What I'm saying is that I love Mushishi because it has that sense of life still intact. The idea that there's a world out there, just next door to our own, which interacts with us, and on us, and which we need to deal with even if we can't understand it.

Like Kino on Tabi, it mainly does that by not actually having a plot. Every episode is Ginko showing up somewhere, deal with whatever the problem is this time, and with a few exceptions, nothing from that episode is ever referenced again. And the mushi themselves, the spirits that the mushishi (蟲師, "mushi specialist") interact with are effectively animals, albeit ones with bizarre powers. The kanji 蟲 is just an archaic way to write 虫, "insect." The interesting part is how the humans have come to terms with the unseen world around him, and what limits they have to reach before they call in an expert to deal with their problems.

11/10, would watch again. Or least, I would if my to-watch list wasn't already expanding faster than I could possibly watch it.

物の哀れ

2015-Jun-28, Sunday 21:59
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
I'm not sure I've talked about it here--I know I've talked about it before in the book reviews I do--but one of the things that most annoys me about coverage of Japanese culture is the almost worshippful attention paid to the concepts of wabi sabi and mono no aware. Sure, let's talk about the value of wabi sabi while Japanese construction companies seeking fat government contracts cover every mountain, riverbed, and beach they can with concrete, and let's talk about mono no aware in a world of Twitter and Line and Mixi. I've gone on plenty of rants about it before and I won't do so now, but this post was prompted by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I watching 秒速5センチメーター/5 Centimeters Per Second, which is one of the best examples of mono no aware I've seen in a long time.

I'm not going to recap the plot, since the Wikipedia article does a pretty good job of it. Takaki spends most of the movie fixated on a single event in his past and unable to see what's in front of him, and as a result, he lets life mostly just pass him by while he doesn't really engage with it. He has no close friends, he misses out on romance, all because he's stuck at a single moment without being able to move forward.

Mono no aware is the idea that some things are valuable because they're transitory. Cherry blossoms are so lovely because they bloom and fall in the space of weeks, and the same with our life experiences. Takaki and Akari's relationship was no less valuable for ending as it did, with letters slowly growing less and less frequent until they died out altogether, but Takaki's mistake was dwelling on it to the exclusion of the rest of his life. He always worried about being someone that Akari would be proud of, but he didn't realize that it was holding him back from living. If you're always gazing at the horizon, you'll probably trip and fall.

It's kind of easy to look at this and draw "lol kids" from it, and G-d knows that I've been prone to that myself, but I think the intensity that children and teenagers feel emotions is worth recognizing. I remember those adolescent relationships, where every motion and moment of silence was pregnant with meaning, and every word was written on the sky in fire. We told each other that we'd be together forever, but of course we weren't. Most people aren't. As I wrote in my review of the manga:
We get older, and our hearts fade, just a little, and we call it growing up.
There's something valuable in that kind of fire that's worth recognizing, because even if misguided or silly or outright destructive, those emotions exist and have to be dealt with as any other emotions do. But in the end, eternity isn't attainable for humans and only sorrow comes from not realizing that[1].

(Brief note: If you want a fantasy version of that same concept, read Nightfall in the Scent Garden. It's really good.)

I think that's why I loved 5 Centimeters Per Second so much, because so often media is devoted to the idea of happily ever after or everything turning out for the best, or, if not that, then the polar opposite of tragedy that still allows for happy memories. But life isn't like that. So many things don't end, they just slowly taper off over time. We all have people we've fallen out of contact with, and sometimes we wonder how they're doing, but life gets in the way. It's not neat, and it's not a story for the ages, but it's, well, life. That's just how it is. This movie is one of the only ones I've seen that takes that as its plot rather than one of the tidy endings that's more mainstream, and you might say that I haven't watched many movies and you'd be right, but it's no less good because of that. It's messy, and distasteful, and cringeworthy because you recognize part of yourself in it. Sometimes there is no ending, and there's a part of yourself that's always stuck in a moment, waiting, and all you can do is keep walking and hope it catches up to you.

I really feel like I'm not expressing this very well, but I can't find the words to say what I mean properly, so I'll leave it at that.

[1]: There's probably an entire separate post I could do to tie this in to Utena's desire to find "something eternal," but I haven't seen Shoujo Kakumei Utena recently enough to do so.

ACEN 2015!

2015-May-18, Monday 18:18
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I mentioned before that I was a bit worried about going to ACEN this year. Last year had been a bit disappointing, and I was worried that this year was going to be a waste of time and money. It turned out to be a completely unfounded fear, and I had a blast. Read on for a recounting of our time at the con in nauseating detail.

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
I watched Sailor Moon Crystal on Saturday with [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou. I liked it.

It's difficult for me to really say much more than that, because unlike a lot of the people who have been waiting for this for a long time, I didn't grow up with Sailor Moon and don't have any fond memories of it. I didn't even see any anime at all until I was 19--and since the first anime I ever saw was Akira, sometimes I'm amazed I kept watching. My only familiarity with Sailor Moon was what [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou told me about it, a bit of geek cultural osmosis, and reading a lot of Shadowjack Watches Sailor Moon. Though because of that last one, my image is Sailor Moon is of the Seelie Court, which was headquartered in Lost Carcosa, fighting the Unseelie Court, which is trying to summon Cthulhu. At least, in the first season.
Beyond the Lake of Hali, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Carcosa. Our wands were shattered in our hands and we hung our crowns on the oak tree. The silver towers were fallen, into a sea of blood. How many miles to Carcosa? None, I say, and all. The silver towers are fallen.
He did up the episode with the flashback to the Silver Millennium in iambic pentameter. It's pretty cool.

The eyecatches, as I've just learned that they're called, reminded me a lot of Utena's shadow theatre with A-ko, B-ko, and C-ko. The character designs remind me of Utena too with how lanky they are, though I've read that the original manga had similar designs. It does make it ever more difficult to believe that these are supposed to be middle-schoolers than it normally would, though.

I loved how Mamoru was just wandering around a tuxedo for no reason, and when he and Usagi run into each other, they kind of look at each other like, "Do I...know you?" And then later he shows up, having put on a top hat, cape, and small mask, and Usagi is all WHO IS THIS MAN?!

I didn't like the battle, though. Ordinary people being corrupted into zombies against their will is and should be horrifying, and while there was an initial moment when Naru's "mother" turned around and then the eyecatches flashed up, or when Sailor Moon busted into the jewelry store and then the mind-controlled zombies showed up...they weren't really a threat at all. It's possible that I have incompatible expectations, coming as I do from a post-Sailor Nothing mindset, but I was hoping for a more closely-fought battle and emphasis on the tragedy of mind control (the way I hear the live action series is). I guess if they follow the "constant escalation" model, it does give them a place where there is nowhere to go but up.

The transformation music was fantastic. Uptempo choral chanting is probably my favorite genre of music next to chiptunes, so that meant it beat out the opening theme for catchiness for me. I saw one person describe it as “like the birth of a goddess,” which I guess is kind of appropriate?

And because my proximate interest is nearly always tabletop RPGs, watching the episode made me go check out Princess: the Hopeful again and ask [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou to run a game. The biggest roleplaying challenge for me yet--playing an optimist who believes that it is possible to spread enlightenment to the masses, given the proper methods.

ACEN 2014!

2014-May-19, Monday 21:38
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
Last weekend was ACEN, which I've been going for nine years at this point, though admittedly not consistently. My interests have changed at this point so that I'm not really all that into anime anymore and barely know what's coming out and what's popular, but ACEN is still a great place to catch up with friends that are scattered around the country (or just out of our non-car-owning transit radius) but meet up for a weekend. Several of the people I saw actually didn't even buy con badges, they just came for the company. Honestly I might be getting to that point myself based on the panel content, but I like wandering around the dealer's room too much to just give up on officially attending. The selection is often more interesting than you can find online, probably because there's a lack of IP lawyers standing around like hawks.

And now, the daily breakdown.

Friday
I took only a half-day off from work, because I didn't think that there would be much I wanted to see in the morning and because the AMA started it's summer half-day program on the day ACEN started, fortunately. I expected that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I would arrive at about the same time, but literally as she was walking out the door a student came in who needed immediate attention and she ended up staying much longer than she intended and not arriving at the hotel until around 5:45. Since I had assumed she would be coming around the same time as I did and because I didn't want to haul a lunchbag to and from the con and because I'm really cheap, I didn't have lunch with me and so I ended up mostly just lounging around the room Friday afternoon. I did wander down to the dealer's room and over to [livejournal.com profile] redpikachu's booth (Natural Pop! Made with love) to buy another cute stuffed animal. Last time it was a frog, and this time it was a corgi, and when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd finally arrived I gave it to her, and, well:


So happy!

We both ate a ton of food, because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd hadn't gotten to eat lunch either with all the chaos at her school so we stuffed ourselves on apples, bananas, Syrian cheese, olives, almonds, homemade beef jerky, and dark chocolate. Then we went and met [personal profile] fiendishfanfares's husband, who had kindly offered to let us borrow his work laptop to give our panel on Saturday, for info about which see the Saturday section. Then we went back to our room again, powered up the laptop and transferred the presentation over, and ran through it once to make sure that we would be able to pull it off. Having done that successfully and confidently, we headed down to the AMV room.

Watching the AMV contest entries is somewhat of a tradition for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I, though it was most prevalent in 2005-2008, when we were attending multiple cons per year and could see AMVs riffing off of AMVs we had seen at previous cons (like this Azumanga Daioh AMV, made as a parody of this Evangelion AMV which aired six months previous). In 2012 ACEN didn't have any AMV Contest because of some leadership kerfuffle, and since we didn't attend in 2013, and since we hadn't gone from 2009-2011 at all due to the whole living in Japan thing, so I was curious what had become of it and...well, there was barely anything to it. I remember at Otakon they'd have the AMV Contest entry viewings in one of the auditoriums, but this year at ACEN it was in one of the small video rooms and there were never more than a couple dozen people in there at a time. We didn't even get a sheet with the AMVs listed to vote on them like I remember previously. I was glad I managed to identify a VNV Nation just by the style (it was Control, set to a racing anime called Redline), but otherwise the contest was kind of sad, and we only stayed for a bit because a friend had invited us to go to Anime Hell.

We headed over to the place where Anime Hell was supposed to play, but they weren't letting anyone stand in line yet, so we headed up to our room for a bit to wait for the signal. When we got a text, we immediately took the stairs down and walked over to the ballroom, followed the enormous line that had somehow sprung up in the last 15 minutes, and at the very moment that we reached the end of the line, staff announced that the line was closed. While standing off to the side and trying to decide what to do, we ran into [livejournal.com profile] stephen_poon and some other people we knew, and after a brief chat, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, [livejournal.com profile] stephen_poon, and I headed over to the Hyatt's lobby bar for a drink and a chat. We were there for maybe five minutes before they called last call, so after some conversation we headed over to Red Bar for a while.

After a lovely conversation about [livejournal.com profile] stephen_poon's trip to Spain, and about Japan with another friend who had come to visit us in 2011, and then [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd said our farewells and headed off to Let's Play Oregon Trail, which we'd been to previously and had a lot of fun watching. It was about an hour in, and while the players this year had done better than last time (where the panicked players had forgotten to buy any weapons and were only able to hunt because the organizers took pity on them and let them buy a pistol), they still kept trying to hunt fast-moving birds with shotguns and not having much luck. After basically everyone starved to death within 30 miles of Independence, Missouri due to chronic incompetence, we succumbed to our tiredness, went back to the room, and slept.

Saturday
We were planning to go to a panel on Chicago's Anime Scene, but we thought that it would be best if we didn't set an alarm, and we woke up just a bit too late to go, so instead we went down to the dealer's room again since [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had arrived too late on Friday to go before it closed. I had seen that Do Bats Eat Cats had a space in the Artists' Alley, and after seeing their jewelry at a store near us, and now that Japan paid us and we have money, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd wanted some new earrings.

After getting those, we looked around for a booth selling Japanese tableware to replace the ones we had that have broken over the year, but couldn't find anything. I had figured that somewhere would have chopsticks, or tea cups, or something, but no. The most we found some was kitschy anime mugs. I know we'll be able to get them at the Ginza Festival in August, but it would have been nice to do it now.

Then it was time for our presentation: "Seifuku and Bunkasai: Japanese Education in Anime," which was about the differences in our experience of the Japanese education system vs. how we've seen it portrayed in anime. You can download our slides here if you didn't or couldn't attend, and we have plenty of stories to tell if you want. It's always hard to judge these things, but I think it went well. A few people came up and thanked us afterward, including a guy who had just been shortlisted for JET and was leaving in July, who hadn't been sure he would learn anything in the panel and actually learned a lot, and a woman who asked us about Keion. Also, not many people left during the panel, which is a good sign.

After a break back to our room for lunch (more homemade beef jerky, apples, olives, nuts, and cheese), we went back down to the AMV room and parked in there while waiting on word from one of our friends, and then when we got a text and he was in the General Gaming room, we headed over there and played Once Upon a Time, about which you can read a review I wrote here. A few games of that finished, we went back to the dealer's room again because I wanted an 8-bit Legend of Zelda heart keychain, but while we couldn't find one of those, we found this set of magnets:



On the way back from the dealer's room to the Hyatt, we ran into [personal profile] fiendishfanfares and her family, and while we had missed her daughter's cosplay, we did get to see video of her doing a kamehameha as only a toddler can. Then it was back to the AMV room to catch the re-airing of the contest videos, and while this time the freestyle videos were playing instead of the drama ones, we didn't stay that long because we hadn't eaten lunch in favor of a very large brunch, and they hadn't even handed out a voting card for the AMVs.

Dinner was at the Hyatt's restaurant, which intially looked incredibly expensive for average food, except it turned out that they had a "teriyaki buffet" for $22 that, well:


I was pleasant surprised, considering how much of a hipster foodie snob I am. They also had a dessert bar with cheesecake, which is an excellent way to my heart.

After another brief rest in the room, we headed out to a succession of room parties that lasted the rest of the night, though with one nice interruption. A friend I met in elementary school and have talked to sporadically in the years since then messaged me to let me know that he'd be in Red Bar meeting with some people he knew, and having picked up that I was at ACEN based on my Facebook posts, he asked if we wanted to meet up for a drink.

And we did, and despite all the comments I make about being aloof and having trouble with small talk and blah blah blah, we had no trouble keeping a conversation going despite not really talking in depth since middle school. He also sold us on Wizard World, and while I'm not sure we're going to make it this year due to its proximity, though we might go for the day on Saturday, but we'll certainly try to get there in the future. I've been leery of going to comic conventions, just because I know so little about comics--I had to ask [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd who the Avengers were--but since so much of ACEN was us talking to friends, Wizard World or the various other cons in Chicago could easily be the same thing. And maybe I'd learn something and no longer be a comic Fake Geek Guy.

After a nice conversation and a following succession of room parties and meeting with friends, we elected to skip the rave and the various events happening late at night and went to bed at 12:30.

Sunday
We woke up late and missed the panels we wanted to go to again, including one called "ACEN over 30," which I suspect was placed at 9:15 a.m. because all of us old-timers can't stay up raving until 5 a.m. like the kiddies can. But we slept past it, and after cleaning our room and checking out, we headed down to the dealer's room for one last look around and I managed to find an 8-bit heart keychain. Then we went back to the AMV room, found it was closed, and with nothing further to do and feeling pretty tired, we headed out to the Blue Line and went home.


I'm not sure I'm really the audience for ACEN anymore. I think in the last year we've watched...maybe a dozen episodes of anime, and quite possibly less, because I don't remember when we finished Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It's not that I dislike it or anything, it's just that there's so many things competing for my attention that it tends to fall into a lower tier. I didn't even attend any panels this year other than the one that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I presented.

Despite that, I'm probably going to still keep coming, because it's a great excuse to see people and catch up. Even if I'm not happily going to the various panels and dancing for hours, there's enough there to keep me interested. Maybe we'll even do more panels. I don't care about all the fan panels that take up a big chunk of the schedule, but living in Japan for years does give us a perspective that I suspect a lot of the attendees for ACEN wish they had.

Oh, and cosplay I liked:


Probably the most accurate Sephiroth I've ever seen. Ah, those early Playstation graphics.


Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite games, and this is one of my favorite cosplays.


I'm [personal profile] dorchadas and this is my favorite Mass Effect cosplay at ACEN.


I didn't actually see this guy, I just grabbed the photo from Twitter. But that's awesome.

Why Japan?

2011-Jul-19, Tuesday 21:30
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
Something a friend asked me this weekend made me think a bit. We were playing the Lannister Drinking Game[1], and the statement to me was that my interest in Japan began in my early teens. This was, however, completely wrong.

The first time I saw any anime at all was when I was 19.[2]
The first time I tried sushi was when I was 21.
The first time I tried green tea was when I was 23 (or maybe 22). It was at [personal profile] fiendishfanfares's suggestion--I probably wouldn't have done it otherwise.
The first time I actually made a study of Japanese as a language was when I was 23.

So, why the interest?

I'm not sure. The main reason I liked watching anime so much early on wasn't necessarily that it was from Japan, but more because of the plots. Most of the anime I watched was fantasy, and it was easier to do all kinds of fantastical things and have them look good in a drawn medium than it was in a live action one, and much cheaper as well. My favorite fiction has always been fantasy, so it was probably just a logical extension of that--I don't tend to watch non-fantasy/SF anime either, other than slice-of-life high school anime (which are a lot funnier if you've actually worked with Japanese highschoolers).

As I grew more interested in the structure of the language, I started watching it in preference to non-Japanese series for extra exposure, though I can honestly say it didn't really do many any good at the time. I get much more out of it now that I actually have some knowledge of Japanese to go on and can make out whole sentences rather than just the odd individual word here and there.

I actually don't watch that much anime anymore. I think the main reason I watched more of it a while ago was back then, my main exposure to Japanese culture was 1) watching anime and 2) eating at Japanese restaurants. Living in Japan, my main exposure to Japanese culture starts when I wake up in the morning and ends when I fall asleep[3], so I don't really need any additional exposure. Nowadays, also, I have a lot more things to be interested in since I've experienced them firsthand--tea ceremony, onsen, kagura, hatsumōde, etc., etc.

We'll see how my habits change when I go back to America. I'd be great to figure out if I can get an NHK stream so I could have appropriate noise in the background while studying Japanese or just reading the web.

[1]: It probably has another name, but it goes like this--make a guess about someone. If you're right, they drink. If you're wrong, you drink.
[2]: It was Akira. Some days, I'm honestly surprised it wasn't also the last anime I ever saw.
[2]: I'd say "when I go to bed," but I sleep in a futon on a tatami floor so it doesn't end there either. :p
dorchadas: (Green Sky)
You must watch this video.

As someone on RPG.net said, it's basically "Star Wars Episodes 1-3, but told in 4 minutes and with better storytelling." :-p

Ohayocon 2008

2008-Jan-07, Monday 19:07
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I have a little post-con blues at the moment, but I'm sure it'll go away. In the meantime, here's the report from Ohayocon 2008.

We spent most of Thursday traveling, so not a very eventful day. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I woke up at [personal profile] fiendishfanfares's, where we had spent the night to solve parking issues. Got to the airport, plane left on time, got to the con location okay, etc. etc. Once there, we kind of waited around for everyone else to arrive (since most of them had driven) and then hung around in [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega and [livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat's room while they did a bit more work on their cosplays. After dinner at the Max and Erma's across the street (very rare New York Strip with blue cheese crumbles. Mmmmmmm...), we went back to our room to finish up our cosplays (and some others came up, since our room was inexplicably twice as big as anyone else's), then went to bed.

Friday, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I woke up and got her Navi ("Hey! Listen!") costume put together before heading out. There wasn't much we wanted to do before a beginning cosplay panel at 7 p.m., so we wandered around for a while and looked at other cosplayers. We went to the dance on Friday night, but nearly got kicked out because it was apparently a "family-friendly" rave, whatever the hell that means. After that bout of lame, we went back to the room with some friends of [personal profile] fiendishfanfares and hung out before it got pretty late, and then went to bed.

Saturday we woke up again and changed into our Phoenix Wright cosplays (unfortunately, I don't have a picture yet where I'm not obscured) and went down for the semi-official photoshoot, which lasted a while. After lunch, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I separated. She had to go to a Psych in Anime panel, which was apparently pretty awesome and has inspired her to run a similar panel at ACEN. It also inspired her to get the manga Welcome to the NHK, which is hilariously disturbning (the manga, not her desire to get it). We went to the masquerade and saw [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega's skit (which, sadly, did not win anything), as well as the other skits, which were actually pretty funny. We caught the tail end of the AMV contest, and while nothing I saw was really amazing, there was a neat video of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to Still Alive of Portal fame. After a few hours in a room hanging out at a pseudo-birthday party with a bunch of people whose LJs (if they have them) I don't know, we went down and caught the tail end of the rave (which was decidedly not family-friendly this time ^_~), before heading outside for a bit, and then to bed at around 5.

Sunday we left and came home. Only problem was the lack of sleep and the massive flight delay due to "fog," though I'm told that weather always gets blamed because the companies don't have to reimburse anyone for the delays then.

Looking forward to ACEN already. This could be the year when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my Marie and Miruru (from Onegai Teacher) costumes actually happen...
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
And only five hours later than I should have. I'll post more about what happened tomorrow.
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
Well, it's been a couple days. Here's the more I mentioned:

After a jaunt at the airport and our arrival in Baltimore, we ([profile] schoolpsycnerd and I) met up with [livejournal.com profile] greyselke, her boyfriend and [livejournal.com profile] t3chnomag3 for the trip down to D.C. to visit [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen. Not much exciting on the way, just D.C. traffic. We finally got there, got ourselves situated in his apartment, then went out for sushi and some drinks in an underground bar, which helped a lot with the 95+ degree heat.

Thursday we went to the National Zoo to see the panda cup Tai Shan (a.k.a., Butterstick) after a wonderful breakfast of jalapeno-and-cheese sausages and eggy-in-a-basket. It may not have been the wisest idea, since it was 103 out, but the cub was really cute. In his nice, climate-controlled little pen with all the bamboo he could eat (...). After we got there, [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen informed us that the National Zoo was one way downhill, and we'd have to climb back if we wanted to leave. Fortunately, there were ice cream stands and mist sprayers on the way back up. All plans to go anywhere else were halted in order to avoid heat stroke, so we ate a late lunch, said goodbye, and went back down to Baltimore in order to get our badges for Otakon.

The badge line took maybe 15 minutes (much better than if we had waited until Friday), and then we went to the cheesecake factory for dinner, where we waited about 5 minutes (dinner at 10 p.m. FTW!). Then, since [profile] schoolpsycnerd and I wanted to get up early, we went to sleep.

The next morning, we woke up at 8 a.m. (ugh...) to go seen Densha Otoko (電車男, "The Train Man"). Plot summary is here (Beware of spoilers). It was the episodic version (which we didn't know at the time), so they only showed the first three episodes out of 12, but it was REALLY CUTE! Well, except the first episode, which is mostly about how being a lonely otaku who is too shy and socially inept to talk to people really, really sucks. Now we have to find the others.

After lunch, we went to the Fan Parody Panel, which wasn't as good as it was last year, but was still neat (the creators of Redeath and Nescaflowne were there). Then we went to the AMV contest (Shattered Dreams, Wedding Rings and Naruto Ball Z were all good), then dinner, then back to sleep.

Saturday morning, we woke up early (though not quite as early as before) and went to see a few episodes of Doki Doki. Plot summary: Suzuki Mika is a Japanese school teacher...except she's 5 feet tall in heels, has a baby face and a tendency to cry. Hilarity ensues. [profile] schoolpsycnerd is convinced that's going to be her when we go teach English in Japan. We watched the first episode, which was enough to convince us to get it. It looks like Azumanga Daioh, but not quite as funny.

We also saw Gankutsuou (The King of the Cave), a.k.a. the Count of Monty Cristo. And, that's basically what it is. The Count of Monty Cristo. In space. With vampires. It's really pretty, and it seems to stick to the plot pretty well. Except...it's in space. With vampires. Still, we're probably going to get that too. We can add that to the enormous backlog of anime we have to watch.

We had dinner early then, because we were going to the fan parody showings that evening. They played Redeath (which we had already seen) and Nescaflowne...which, even though I haven't seen Escaflowne, was still hilarious. Plot summary. Though, admittedly, the best part was eating the cheesecake that we got from Cheesecake Factory during the performance. ^^

Sunday, not much happened. I felt kind of sick for a large part of it, so I napped. Then, on Monday, we went home.

It was great! Though, I think, we won't get to go back next year--if we get into JET, we'll be in Japan!

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