Monday, September 29, 2008

A Worthy Complaint

Why don't video game boxes talk to me anymore? We used to be so close. We could tell each other anything. Nowadays though? Never really tell me anything. What happened, video games? When did we drift apart?

I speak, of course, of the recent trend of filling the back-cover blurb of console games with bulleted lists of the game's features without any allusion as to the plot or point of the game. I'd really like to have some idea of an RPG's plot before I pick it up, rather than see something like this.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Musings on Subbing, Dubbing, and the Future of America's Anime Habit

Keeping up with your favorite series in a legally-sound fashion is damned expensive, and damn frustrating if you don't want to wait about a year before you get your first taste of something that looks genuinely interesting. A single DVD containing less than five episodes will bust your wallet to the tune of at least twenty dollars. These purchases are often made 'sight unseen' in the case of series not aired of the SciFi Channel or Cartoon Network. To people without parents to chunk money at them to finance their hobbies, this is kind of a kick to the face. The argument could be (and has been) made that American viewers really have no right to complain, since Japanese consumers pay about 150% of that price for their DVDs, and in much greater numbers than our pirating asses. Are we ungrateful? Is Japan so driven by consumerism that this difference in buying habits is cultural? Well, maybe it's all that and a lot more.

Let's go back to the 'sight unseen' concept. A great amount of anime released in Japan is aired on television before the DVDs are released, and many that aren't are OVA spinoffs of television series or PC games. Much of the DVD sales are from collectors or fans who were unable to catch up with the TV airings. It's more or less impossible for an American fan to get this sort of preview legally without dropping $25 on the first DVD, or $10 on a magazine that includes a preview and review of the first episode. Of course, the dubbed versions of some series are aired on channels like Cartoon Network and the SciFi channel, but this really doesn't make up for the number of $25 impulse buys people make. This also used to be the case with VHS. You'd plunk down $20 for about five episodes or a single film worth of content, either dubbed, or subtitled and uncut. Perplexingly, the subtitled versions were often sold at a slightly inflated price, despite costing less to produce.

I think anyone would agree with me when I say that the popularization of digital media changed everything in respect to how the market for anime works. The advent of faster internet connections and person-to-person sharing networks revolutionized how we, the consumer, consume things without having to pay. DVDs and digital editing streamlined the fansubbing process to the point where a team of a few people (all working for NOTHING) can adapt an episode that aired in Japan on Sunday to a fully subtitled, annotated version that viewers in English-speaking countries can watch on Friday. That is fucking progress, my friend.

Of course, this means that fansubs are no longer so inconvenient as they once were. They're accurate, they're lovingly crafted, and they're free. To someone who doesn't want to pay for the extra audio track, the choice is kind of obvious: we want the fansubs.

So, who's the villain in all this? Is it the fansubbers for doing all the work for nothing and giving it up for free, or is it the fault of the distributors for sticking to a business model that's been rendered obsolete? In my opinion, neither party is entirely in the wrong. However, I also believe that the companies are going about addressing the issue of tanking sales poorly in that their recent methods may only alienate fans. Rather than demonizing fansubbers, they may find better success through updating their mode of distribution.

First of all, stop dubbing shit that hasn't been on American TV. If you're selling it because it went over well in Japan and you know otaku will buy it, don't bother. Dubbing is a labor intensive and expensive process that drags down release dates and inflates price. On top of that, most fans just bitch about the dub anyway. Dubbing really doesn't have a great reputation among otaku, a fact that becomes all too obvious on message boards and mailing lists full of moaning and bitching whenever something is licensed.

Secondly, consider delving into the deep, strange world of pay downloads similar to iTunes. A couple bucks for an episode that took a week to subtitle seems much more tempting than $25 for four episodes of something you may not even like. Of course, the downloads would have to be of a slightly less than perfect video quality so that people with the collecting fetish will go out and buy the shiny boxsets when the season/series is through.

As American consumers, we often feel just a little cheated in the way our fix comes to us. We get little on TV, we get next to no cool merch besides the occasional wall scroll or action figures (NARUTO YAY OTL), and we have a history of having to nance around legalities in order to watch anime that isn't massacred. And we can't even make doujinshi for all our trouble!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Further Cellphone Bollocks

After many long arguments with Windows Vista, I've got Motorola Phone Tools working, so I can finally transfer shit to the phone.

p2kTools was coded by Borat and can go suck a Christmas dick until I need to seriously mod the thing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Troublesome Compulsion

I own a pink cellphone. There, I've said it. Aye, tis me secret shame. Ever since I received it as a hand-me-down, my pink Razr V3 has been both a treasure and an embarrassment. It's kind of dinged up, the camera is shot, and it's pink. I hope to remedy at least one of those problems tonight.

As of this moment, I have been in the process of spontaneously disassembling it with the hopes of repairing the camera, cleaning it, and getting an idea of its inner workings so that I may more effectively paint or re-house it. So, a quick couple lists to give you an idea of what's going on here:

Non-standard tools I keep in my electronic/PC repair kit:
-Very small, moderately powerful magnet
---Prefect for attracting and even loosening small or stubborn screws lost in deep crevices of parts

-Winn Dixie Customer Reward Card, dated 2001
---Applied for under pain of ejection from my first job. Excellent prier-apart of tiny, fiddly bits.

-Re-purposed toothbrush
---The thing people do to computers...

Things I have learned from gutting the Razr:
-Taking apart a cellphone is, in many ways, less finicky than taking apart a laptop. On the one hand, you're working on a much smaller scale, but on the other, you've got less shit to break.
-Cellphones get damn grody inside. Your ears are filthy things, and you should feel great shame.
-Relatedly, it is entirely possible for pubic hair to become lodged inside a cellphone. You hear that, Aunt Carol? You effectively mail three of your pubes to my poor old mother.

Now, on to experimentation. Since I've gently cleaned the grimy keypad and innards, my mind turns to thoughts of mischief. I think the easiest and least harmful modification would be to add some color to the keypad. If I had some very thin plastic gift wrap, I'd be all set. However, before I go so far as to acquire some, I may dab a bit of dry-erase marker onto the back of one key. In theory, it should come right off. In practice, who cares if I eternally have on funny-colored key on my pink cellphone? Hm. Nah. I'll wait until I can get a new keypad.

So, the phone is back together. The operation was a success, and the patient is recuperating on its charger.

Monday, September 8, 2008

On the Subject of Otaku

I've ruminated on this subject for several years now, always coming close to takataka-ing down something resembling an entry, but never quite getting there. Still, this is a blog called OtaKulture, so I feel obligated to include such an entry.

When I consider this, I realize that the main factor keeping me from writing an entry on otaku is that I keep trying to define the phenomenon in concrete terms, a feat that anyone with more than passing knowledge of nerd culture finds oddly difficult. Just like the term 'nerd', the word's meaning can and does vary wildly from person to person. You could say it's someone who watches anime/reads manga. To that, many would say, "Weeeell, it's not quite so simple."

To many people, otaku is kind of a catch-all term for the obsessed. Most any obsession is applicable, particularly obsessions with visual media and technology. Anime, manga, video games, horror films, computers, etc. The real qualifying factor is obsession, usually to the point that the interest (whatever it may be) influences one's everyday actions and/or way of thinking. It really can be defined as what can happen when your hobbies take you a little too far over the deep end.

With that somewhat nebulous definition out of the way, I'd like to admit my bias here by confessing that I do consider myself to be an otaku. I am an officer of a club on my college campus called, fittingly enough, GMC Otaku. I recently had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance who couldn't wrap his head around the club's name. He tried to kindly inform me that the word has a terrible connotation to it, and if I knew one lick of Japanese blah blah blah on and on. He was understandably gobsmacked when I told him that, yes, I do know what it means, and that I've been learning Japanese for nearly two years. Thus, he swapped tactics. Why, why would you want to associate your club and yourself with something that means something so bad? Why, oh why? Well, the primary reason is that I don't want to be dishonest. Looking around my room at the bookshelf full of manga, the stacks of DVDs either bought legally or awaiting a future in fansub-archiving, and the numerous posters, I find it difficult to think that the term doesn't apply to me. In fact, most of the club's members (pre-freshman membership drive) really could be classified as otaku in most every sense of the word. Of course, some of us have more dork street cred than others, and that can lead to pissing contests the likes of which I'll get into shortly.

As a student of anthropology, I find otaku to be fucking fascinating. As a phenomenon and as a subculture, the idea of obsessive dorks considered to be totally anti-social convening to be obsessive together. It becomes even more fascinating when they start forming cliques, using terms and language not common or present in mainstream language, and defining their own standards of decency. Many things are just different in the context of otakudom.

One facet of this cultural analogy I'm trying so desperately to conjure up is the aforementioned pissing contests. In a subculture brought together by obsession, it's only natural that social standing within the group is in a way relate to just how obsessive or knowledgeable one is in regards to the subject at hand. The issue of whether it's a negative or positive reflection on you largely depends on what sort of toll the obsession has taken on your life. If you came across the knowledge by being creepy and pissing in PET bottles, it is certainly a negative reflection.

I must reflect again on people's strong opposition to the word's use as anything other than an insult. The acquaintance I mentioned earlier in this entry is a fan himself, and quite obsessive, but recoils at the idea of the wok otaku being used to describe anthing but socially withdrawn madness. Yes, the word carries a negative sting in mainstream use, but is it so wrong to use it humorously, frankly, in a way that says, "Yes, I know exactly what you're thinking?" Why yes, I'm fully aware that when I tell you I read manga and can disassemble a PC in a minute or two, you're thinking to yourself that I'm some sort of potentially dangerous, withdrawn loonie.

So, to put it in words that your average college freshman hasbeen groomed to pretend to understand : It's ironic! Quit hatin'!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Devil Went Down to Georgia / He Was Looking For a-- WHAT THE FUCK AM I WATCHING?!

I watch anime porn sometimes. Ohhhh noooo! I used to try to view it with some kind of seriousness, but that's become impossible in recent years. I don't know if the porn is getting more hilarious, or my sense of humor is becoming more twisted. Perhaps it's a combination of the two.

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the seminal classic Requiem, a heartwarming and bawdy tale about a man and his sexy fiddle. Yeah. The basic rundown of the slowly developing (for porno) plot, is that the violin instructor at an all girls school has made a pact with the devil for some reason. In exchange for whatever the fuck the devil fiddle is giving him, he must use its eerie powers to seduce young women. Aside from the possible danger to his employment status, I really don't see why this is such an awful deal. Maybe he's possessed by the devil fiddle. I forget. It doesn't matter. What matters is how bizarre and hilarious the whole concept is.

The devil fiddle has clearly influenced its poor host's fashion sensibilities. In pre-fiddle flashbacks, he isn't covered in buckles. Oh, and the fiddle is covered in belts, because that's just so good for acoustic quality. Really, I don't know what the Hell is up with that. He doesn't even where a whole new outfit. He just straps belts all over his foppy, grey suit.

Unfortunately, the funniest scene is the first scene. It really is like performing after Elvis Presley; you're just boned because the best act of the night has had at the audience. Any scenes following, no matter how ridiculous, haven't a chance of amusing me as much as the scene I have dubbed "Fiddlin' Blowjob!"

Really, it's hard for more elements to clash and tumble together so hilariously as this. A man, a woman, a golden throne, several belts, a violin, some nice drapes, and a dick.

Jesus Christ.