So today’s post is just a quick rundown of some things that are going on in Blade Licking Thieves-land.
First off, expect some extended Super Sentai/Power Rangers discussion over the coming days. I have a number of thoughts related to not only these shows but specifically my thoughts on the upcoming movie and what these franchises represent in both Eastern and Western pop culture. There is a lot of fertile ground for discussions related to tokusatsu and broader anime topics.
Secondly, the Blade Licking Thieves are continuing to produce new podcasts though this weekend’s recording will most likely not happen. Life! It tends to get in the way of fun. In any case we will return to our regularly scheduled programming soon enough.
Lastly, we are working on a number of collaborations at this time. We have a few projects that we are moving forward on that should produce some great crossover content with other podcasts and names in the community. This is really, really exciting, and I personally and stoked to see what comes of that. Hopefully this encourages more opportunities for us to work with the rest of this great community in talking about the things that we love.
Have a good weekend gang, and look forward to some tokusatsu talk come Monday.
Hey guys, Grant here with another quick check in to see where we are at in terms of our regularly scheduled programming.
Exercises like this are a way to track progress across the various shows that we attempt to watch. It is helpful to not only measure progress, but also to see where we might go from here. If you are anything like me, then your list of “to-watch” grows a lot faster than the list of completed titles. Hopefully, this will encourage me to buckle down and finish more shows, rather than jump around too much.
So, what am I watching?
Feelings: Thunderbolt Fantasy is an absolutely fantastic show, and I am still continuing to enjoy it. I have lagged behind a bit, as life has gotten a bit in the way here lately. Nevertheless, I am ready to hop back into the fancy fighting puppets and see more absurd things happen to pretty dollies.
Feelings: This is actually my favorite show I am watching right now. The comedic elements, kaiju action, and genuine joy of watching this show never disappoints. Again, life has me behind, but this is the one I look forward to every week. I legitimately feel like this is a great way to start the Ultra series if you have never seen it before.
Service: Amazon Prime
Feelings: This is a back-burner project, so I am not really pushing myself too hard on this one. I have seen Robotech easily a dozen times, but the original Macross I have only ever watched once completely. Since it is streaming I have told myself I need to rewatch the entire show. It’s as great as I remember, but the print damage is really becoming obvious. This show needs some remastering, desperately.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Episode: 20, Season 2
Feelings: So I’m nearly halfway through the Stardust Crusaders arc, and I’m still a bit mixed. I really enjoyed the second arc, so my hype and energy levels were pretty high going in. The problem is that the “baddie of the week” format is only as good as the villain. I don’t feel like the narrative is building like it was in the prior season. Still, I will finish it, because it is a great show, I just need to muscle through more than one episode in a sitting.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Episode: 30, Season 3
Feelings: This is another rewatch project I have going. As a kid I really only stuck around for about two seasons or so, but since every single season is on Netflix I challenged myself to see if I could make it all the way to the modern day. I don’t know if that is possible, but the nice thing is that Power Rangers isn’t a show that demands a ton of my attention. I basically passively watch it every morning as I have breakfast, and that theme song gets me jazzed every time. It’s goofy and dumb, but super vibrant and I enjoy every second of it. I’m also pretty intrigued to see what happens as I get further into the seasons I know nothing about.
Legend of Korra
Service: Amazon Prime
Episode: 10, Season 3
Feelings: This show is phe-no-me-nal. I loved Avatar, but wow this show is completely blowing me away. I really could gush about it for hours. The advantage here is that my wife is watching this with me, so I don’t have to fight to find spare time to watch it. It is a shared activity we are doing together every night. Truthfully, I feel like this has done nothing but build each season and I look forward to it every night. Some of the best animated work to come out of the US.
So that’s the long, ridiculous list of the shows I am working through, from the every day routine watches to the “eh, when I get to it” shows. What do you guys think? What are you watching right now? Let me know your progress down below.
One of the great joys in life is the creation of something. Whether it is through writing, shooting a video, or baking a meal, the act of making something and enjoying the finished product is uniquely rewarding.
So today let’s talk about the simple joy of building Gunpla.
Full disclosure – I’m not a shill for Gunpla, I just really enjoy putting together tiny toy robots, so even though this sounds like a sales pitch, it’s not. Think of it as a primer for how to start with Gunpla if you are interested.
If you are not familiar with Gunpla, it is essentially the term for Gundam model kits. These kits come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and styles, but generally they depict the titular mobile suits from the various series. These kits come on large sprues referred to as runners that are injection-molded plastic, often pre-colored to match the depiction in the show.
The kits come with instructions to show how to put the pieces together. Even though all of the text is in Japanese, there are detailed pictures that make the process very easy, even for beginners.
Usually Gunpla come in a few standard scales – HG, RG, MG, and PG. High Grade and Real Grade are both 1/144 scale, making them the smallest and usually most affordable kits, with the difference being that Real Grade is much more detailed and difficult. Master Grade are 1/100 scale kits, a good deal larger than HG and RG, but not as much detail as the RG kits. Perfect Grade are 1/60 kits and they are definitely the crown jewel – huge figures with a lot of detail and complexity.
A lot of times people wonder why anyone would purchase a figure that isn’t put together. Why buy something that takes work, right? Isn’t the point to not have to work?
But the truth is that working on something that takes time and effort is very rewarding. In a sense it is like working out or cleaning the house, in that it may be difficult but by the end you have a sort of euphoria from accomplishing something. Instead of buying a figure and setting in on the shelf (likely still in its packaging) and letting it collect dust, the process of assembly adds an entire new element of attachment and ownership to something.
Beyond that, the Gunpla have a high degree of articulation and options that allow you to customize how they look or stand. If you go the extra step and bring paints into the mix, you can create entirely custom kits that the designers never intended, and that is another level of satisfaction and pride.
If any of this has piqued your interest in the slightest and you are curious if you are going to enjoy building figures, it is actually pretty easy to find out. Snag a cheap HG kit off of Amazon or Gundam Planet and a pair of sprue clippers and you can see if this hobby thing is right for you. The top two links below will get you started for $20.
Even if you assemble the kit and find out you don’t like building them, you can at least say you made something, and that is its own reward. If you want to watch an entire anime devoted to the joy of Gunpla, you can watch Gundam Build Fighters, which is not only a phenomenal show but is entirely for free on Youtube – legally! Yes, Bandai put the series on Youtube for free and it is truly a great show, even if it is just a long-running advertisement.
For today’s installment of Side Dishes we take a look at a key member of the Bebop crew – Jet Black.
Jet is an ex-cop who serves as the de facto father figure on the Bebop. Generally the voice of reason in most situations that the crew gets into, Jet is the cooler head that seldom prevails. While Spike, Faye, and Ed are often running around getting into various shenanigans, Jet is providing support and keeping the team grounded. Jet is often the one reminding the crew that they need to invest in food, fuel, and needed repairs for their equipment instead of running off and squandering their earnings.
Jet also has the benefit of being an incredibly diverse character. He has a number of distinctive visual quirks that help him stand out – a scar and metal ring over his right eye, his bald head, and a cybernetic arm. Of particular note is that his cybernetic arm is one of most stylish prosthetics in all of fiction. This is no mere claw or static limb, but a fully human-looking arm with muscles molded in. Muscles!
Just like the rest of the Bebop crew, Jet is running from his past. Whereas Spike is running from a criminal past, Faye has amnesia, and Ed is a complete mystery, Jet’s past is not necessarily about failure. Obviously there are times in his past where he has failed the people that trusted him, either those he loved or those that relied on him, but it’s more than that. Jet’s past is about being near-perfect, but for him that is just not good enough. He expects the best from himself, and any minor misstep is magnified because he has such high standards for everyone. This makes his personal and professional issues, while they may seem minor to the rest of the crew, deeply unsettling to Jet. Just like the rest of the Bebop crew he would rather run from his problems and head into the stars. Instead of facing his issues head on he chooses to act as a mentor for the rest of the cast. By judging others in the role of a father figure, he can distance himself from his own mistakes.
While he may not be as flashy as the other characters in Cowboy Bebop, Jet is the rock hard core of the main cast. He delivers helpful advice and guidance, useful exposition for the audience, and keeps everything moving on tempo. He is the harmony, the rhythmic bass line, the steady beat that everyone else riffs off of.
For a change of pace, today I will not bring you a discussion of an important show or piece of work. Rather, I will try my hand at a bit of fortune-telling. In that vein, I will attempt to answer a question that no one asked me to begin with:
What will the next big trend in anime be?
Obviously, I have no great authority in this realm. I am just another fan like any of you. I am not privy to insider information. I possess no mystical gift of foresight. Truthfully, when it comes to predicting future events there are cephalopods with more statistically meaningful track records than I.
Let’s be real, if I were able to predict tomorrow’s events with any degree of certainty, I’d use it for far more lucrative activities than the future of anime. That would be a Biff-with-a-2015-almanac-level gift, and with great power comes great profitability.
But there is a method to my madness. Attempting to predict future events is a useful thought exercise if nothing else. This is primarily because in order to make inferences about what will come to pass, one has to take stock of what has already happened up until this point. With that in mind, I predict two major things – one thing which won’t change, and one that will.
What Won’t Change – Content of the shows themselves will largely stay the same.
If the state of anime in 2016 sends any message at all, it’s that we really aren’t seeing a lot of major shakeups in what anime is delivering in terms of content. I do not expect that to change any time soon. If you were to make a list of the major kinds of shows that make up the anime landscape today it would not be much different than it has always been – shonen fighting, high school drama, harem, mecha, etc. While a few interesting twists have cropped up in recent years –action/horror, reverse harem– these are mostly variations on existing themes rather than novel ideas. Even if the proportions shift in new or interesting ways, like a resurgence of mecha anime to its 70s/80s era dominance, the content itself will largely mirror what we already know.
What is most telling about this is how shonen fighting continues to dominate the charts. One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach certainly make up a large portion of people’s weekly viewing time and have been popular for over a decade. Dragonball is revving up all over again with new films and a new series, and given how well re-releases of old material sell you could argue it never left in the first place.
Even the “new” hotness of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has been a force for decades, but only now is it getting widespread recognition in the fandom. While some of these major shows have nominally “ended,” this will do little to stem the tide of their popularity. The sheer momentum of their core fanbase(s) will carry them forward for years down the line, and new contenders will always appear to take the coveted top spot.
What Will Change – How content is consumed
The big shakeup for the fandom will revolve around the way in which content is consumed. I predict that there will be a steady increase in communal viewing and live-streaming as social features become more central to the viewing experience.
This trend is already in-progress in a number of other media. Twitch and other live-feeds are already a constant force in video games. Live-tweeting is expected at just about any major event. Youtube is rife with “live reactions” where we watch people watch content and react in real time. It’s no longer about when or if you access content, but being a part of the conversation while it is happening. Given the close relationship anime has with technology and an audience that trends young, this integration is only a matter of time.
This is a natural consequence of two forces colliding – the success of simulcasts and social media technology.
Simulcasts are one of the large reasons that we are going to see a drive towards this new, integrated model of interactive fandom. Due to a lot of the tireless work from a lot of great people, we have “won” the content wars. Anime is delivered hot and ready every week within moments of airing in Japan.
We have nearly reached peak speed-of-access for a majority of the content that people want to consume, bar a few notable (and disappointing) exceptions. At some point, content providers can only access the content so quickly. How fast can it really get? Forty-five minutes after airing? Thirty minutes? Nineteen seconds? Perhaps we can go a step further and watch as the animation is being made in the studio. Maybe we can have reality shows based on making a show from start-to-finish, from when the season’s latest cute-girls-learning-to-be-cute is but a twinkle in the creator’s eye.
But this is only a stopgap measure at best. At a certain point high-speed delivery will no longer be a selling point. The community already expects as a standard feature, regardless of how amazing it is.
The new trend will be group-watching, and all of the technology already exists to make it happen. All it will take is a platform that integrates the various features that keep people engaged in a live event and it will take off. With the right presentation and commentators, these services will be able to replicate the experience of sitting on the couch with friends and watching a game or movie. Anime will tap into the same group-euphoria of a shared experience, similar to how sports fandom treats the watching of games.
Individual viewing will never go away, and in fact will still be a major component of fandom, especially for more socially anxious members of the fandom. Nevertheless, communal viewing will start to rise in importance as being a badge of community membership, a way of staying in the know and on top of current trends and conversations. My guess is that the format of programs like Sportscenter will be assimilated, at least in part. We will see popular groups of commentators go so far as to do pre- and post-show analysis, commercial break commentary, and active interaction with chat feeds/social media on air. A lot of these elements already exist in the community in a wider sense, and once some of these ideas begin to coalesce it will emerge as a very popular (if not necessarily dominant) viewing option.
Essentially, I think that larger groups like Crunchyroll, Funimation, and other content providers with existing industry connections will tap into a new way to differentiate their catalogues. By finding interesting, energetic, and knowledgeable commentators (ala Critical Role or Geek and Sundry) to discuss shows in real time we will see a new sort of group experience emerge. Live-tweeting, Youtube reaction vidoes, Twitch streams, and similar popular activities show that the wider overlapping nerd communities are yearning for shared activities. Once these live social media tools are connected to a well-produced real time discussion platform, we will have a totally new way to interact as a community.
That is my vision for the near future of anime. What we watch will stay largely the same, but how we watch will enter a new era of interconnectivity.
This may be something of a controversial post, but like Toonces I chose to drive this car over the cliff and I’ll see it through to my fiery demise.
Today we are going to look at something which anime fans are almost universally familiar with – piracy. Recently, Miles Thomas from Crunchyroll (@MilesExpress999 on Twitter) posted a pretty lengthy discussion regarding piracy.
Not going to lie, this really got my blood up. But before I get into why this is a serious issue for your fandom, let’s define exactly which sort of piracy we are discussing. It is important to make note of the particular breed of piracy in question because, like any act, context is vital. Stealing is generally wrong, but if a hungry parent steals from a crooked business owner to feed a starving child then we might look upon that act with more compassion. We know that there is a difference between manslaughter and homicide, self-defense and abuse. Events matter, but so does the context.
To be clear, the kinds of piracy I am not talking about do not universally get a pass. I’m not giving other kinds of piracy a thumbs up like, “Yep, totally okay, go right ahead.” I’m just trying to pinpoint the specific kind of piracy that is under the microscope to make sure the discussion stays on topic.
I also want to establish that there is some irony inherent in this discussion, since Crunchyroll was once a site for ripped anime and they have now gone straight. But let us remember that they started in 2006 and went legal in 2009, over seven years ago, during a time when legal anime streams were essentially nonexistent. They broke new ground and showed that fans yearned for this model of content delivery, back when the notion of legal streaming was essentially non-existent. The difference between illegal streams in 2006 when Crunchyroll started and 2016 when we are having this discussion is integral to understanding what’s at stake.
So, on to the feature – who am I talking to when I rail against pirates?
If you pirate shows that you have no legal means to view in your region, I am not talking to you. This is a huge issue for a lot of older material that is not streaming or was never released on anything other than VHS or laserdisc back in the day. It’s also a major issue for a lot of tokusatsu material such as the various iterations of Kamen Rider or much of the Super Sentai series. Not to mention, as I discussed in my hulu post some weeks back, not every streaming service is universally available in all regions.
If you pirate shows because you prefer a particular translation over the legal translation, I am not talking to you. I know that translation/interpretation is an issue of personal taste, and as someone with some background in language it’s not easy work and the vagaries of translation can drastically alter the tone of certain scenes or characters. I personally have never felt that the translation of legal streams has impeded my understanding or enjoyment of a work, but that may not be the case for everyone. I will give this group the benefit of the doubt, even if I am still somewhat suspicious.
If you pirate shows because the only legal option is expensive physical media, I am not talking to you. This is a bit harder to pinpoint because “expensive” is a relative term, but it is no secret that many physical media releases for Japanese media are outrageously expensive. Collecting an entire show can often be a $80-$150 expenditure, and the raw dollar-per-minute exchange rate is painfully low compared to more accessible western media. The simple fact is that not everyone has that kind of dough to shell out for a show they have never even seen, so I understand the hesitation to put money down.
If you pirate ripped versions of legal streams, I am talking to you. Miles’ tweet and discussion basically breaks down how a great deal of anime fans, many of them in the US where access to legal streams is at an all-time-high, are going to pirate sites like kissasian or gogoanime to watch ripped versions of Crunchyroll and Funimation streams.
Let me state that one more time, to make sure we are crystal clear. These are pirated streams on illegal streaming sites that are direct rips from legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Guys, as a community, we can do better.
We must do better.
Now hear me out, this isn’t so much an attack on anyone’s character as it is a plea to carefully consider our actions. I’m not going to say you’re a bad person for watching illegal anime streams. You could be out doing much worse things, and I think some people who pirate usually end up supporting the industry in other ways by either discussing the shows or buying other merchandise.
Nevertheless, we have got to value the work that these creators have done. The only difference between watching an episode of a CR/Funi translation stream legally and illegally is that the legal stream gives something back to the creators and translators who have made this available for us. While some people buy merchandise for various shows they have watched illegally, many shows are watched once and discarded – giving those creators not a single dime for their work.
If we do not support legal streams, they will not make the shows we want.
If anime companies receive no compensation for streaming, they will stop allowing them.
If we do not support the industry, there will be no industry.
Folks, let’s be real – we are living in a golden age of access to anime/eastern media. For those of you who weren’t alive or part of the fandom in the 80s and much of the 90s, we used to have to go through some pretty absurd hoops to get this stuff. We would spend hours upon hours networking, scouring Blockbusters, digging through the collections of a friend’s older sibling, and all sorts of toil just to watch a low-res fifth generation set of episodes from the middle of a series with no subtitles or any clue as to what we were seeing. It may have built character and taught me an appreciation for every scrap of anime I could find, but that was not fun and I do not want to return to those days.
What we have now is truly remarkable. Simulcasts are the crown jewel of the fandom – peak access, people – and we have got to understand that it costs time and money to bring us that content.
That’s what it ultimately comes down to: money or time. The only ways to support anything are time and money. Not every anime fan has equal amounts of disposable income, but if you are a fan then you have some time to spare. The time it takes to watch those extra 2-5 minures of commercials means literal money for the companies that make and translate the shows we love. If you are watching dozens of anime episodes, but can’t spare those extra minutes per episode, then you may not have enough time to be a fan in the first place. This is a time intensive hobby, a luxury good, it is not necessary for survival nor guaranteed. If we don’t preserve it then the industry will cease to be.
Sure, even if the industry stopped production tomorrow we would have years of content to work with, but eventually it would dry up. Without new content to encourage discussion and fire our imaginations this would grow stale. Without legal and easy streaming options we simply won’t have new fans to replace the old and the community will die out, figuratively and literally.
Sure, you can rip CR/Funi streams and tell yourself you are not hurting anyone. You may even be right – there is not necessarily a direct negative impact that you put on these companies by pirating. However, there is something that is 100% verifiable:
When you rip legal streams you are helping no-one.
You might think that piracy sends a message, that it lets these companies know that you want different translators or less commercials or whatever else you believe. The truth is piracy does send a message, but it is almost universally not the one you intend.
When these companies see you pirating legal streams, they don’t say, “Ah, they would have preferred a more accurate translation, we will change our business practices in the future. This is clearly on us, our bad guys.” What they see is a confirmation of allthe worst stereotypes that exist about anime fans – that they want everything for free and will give nothing in return. And knowing from past examples how many anime companies operate, they would much rather go down with the ship than keep producing content for people who will not give them the time of day. I want anime streaming and access to be like 2016, not 2006, and if things revert back to the way they were before then we will lose a lot more than ten years.
We have to give a little bit if we want to continue enjoying what we love, and 5 minutes of commercials is a small price to pay.
If we don’t pay it this season, we may never get a next season.
It is no secret that Kaiju movies are popular with children. Although many of the early works in the genre have a distinct horror/environmental tone, as these properties entered full-blown franchise mode many of the rubber-suited monsters became more kid-friendly.
There are some pretty obvious components to this. Many Kaiju films are marketed directly at children, so it is no great shock that they are roped into the genre. The scenes of destruction and conflict are exciting and easily understood by children, as opposed to deeper discussions of pollution, war, and human folly. Not to mention the general absurdity of enormous monsters battling is much more easily accepted by children’s less world-weary souls.
But I think there is another unexplored element to this – a child’s unique perspective.
By that I mean the literal viewpoint of a child in a physical sense. Most children who are somewhere between 5-10 years old are comparatively much shorter than adults. Often times when they encounter adults they must look up to see them quite literally towering overhead. This is especially intimidating when children meet a new adult, and we have all encountered a situation where a child reflexively hides behind a parent’s leg when first meeting a new person.
I think Kaiju tap into this primal fear of people/beings larger than ourselves. When Godzilla, Gigan, King Kong, or any number of other big beasts come stomping through a major metropolitan area in these films they are almost always filmed from a lower perspective or viewpoint. In a practical sense this is a camera trick to make the suit-wearing actors appear to be larger than normal people, but I think it also a psychological impact in that it mirrors the view of a child looking at a fully grown adult. Here we see destructive forces many times our height, laying waste to our world and we know we are powerless to stop them, much like a child would feel.
In this way children are immediately drawn into the scene because they know what it is like to see the world from this perspective.
It also serves as a great power fantasy for younglings. Not only do they understand what it is like to look upwards at larger people or figures, but they get to see this size used to devastating effect as the monsters stomp, crush, and destroy all opposition. The excitement of watching a kaiju destroy smaller objects gives a sense of raw power that children rarely get to experience. As they project themselves onto these beasts, they see how they might use that power for fun in an imaginative space, unlike the real world where they are often told not to touch/break/mess with things. It is very similar to the construction of sand castles, which is almost inevitably followed by a child stomping through said castles and giggling all the while.
This infuses Kaiju films with a sort of common language that I think few other films have, and is part of the reason why they still work even after 60 years of mighty monster mayhem.
Today’s question for the Rogues Gallery – do you think Kaiju movies resonate with children because of how they see the world? Or is there something else at work? Let us know in the comments below, rogues!