Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Notice of Absence

Hi everyone.

Unfortunately, due to a college assignment, which had me stay in a countryside for a full month to do some college work at that place, i will not be able to post an update to this blog for up to a month. And with no access to internet or anime in that place, that means i will be isolated from those two things for a full month and as a result, will not be able to have any topics on my mind to write an article of, whether it is a review or a discussion, or an insight.

I'm terribly sorry for this inconvenience, but i will be able to post an article again until after the first week of september. Thanks.

Feel free to either scroll down or check the archives on the right side of my blog to check out my past articles if you haven't already read them, as i think i've made enough content to justify my absence.

Personal note : I am so not awaiting this trip to countryside and wished that i am right now on a hyper sleep and when i woke up, it's all september and everything is already over.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Voice Acting insight : Japan and the West

Voice acting is the one of the most integral part of an anime, most of the time. There are several instances of anime without voice acting at all, such as Studio Ghibli’s The Red Turtle, but in most cases, voice actings are the aspect that an anime could not take away from. Without it, there would be no voiced dialogue, character’s voice and even character songs. 

Prominently, seiyuu [Japanese term for Voice Actor] are now treated like a celebrity in Japan and sometimes, makes much more frequent appearances to an events, appears in certain radio, and even form a band of their own. With that, it is fairly easy to conclude that voice acting in japan is highly regarded,  to either the anime industry, or video gaming industry. And there are even some cases of people watching an particular title just to hear his or her favourite seiyuu's voice.

However, the same could not be said to the voice acting in the west, particularly USA, where anime are normally shipped to and dubbed at. Back in the era of 2000, dubbed anime are far more frequent and usually, they have a prominent voice actors playing out in an anime title, and they even dubbed certain songs to the west. 

Nowadays, it is not the case. Not many well-known voice actors are taking part on dubbing the anime in the west. Take for example Troy Baker. Before his ascension to the top of the voice-acting industry in the west on the video-game branch, he notably dubbed the voices of several anime characters such as Yamato from Naruto, Schneizel from Code Geass, and even Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4 the Animation, whom he had to cut short due to his newfound allegiance to the video-game industry, and to date or as of right now when i wrote this article, Kanji Tatsumi was still the last anime character he gave his voice to. 
 Even Steven Blum, whom the anime world known perhaps as David Lucas, used to voice several well-known anime character such as Spike Siegel from Cowboy Bebop, Black Wargreymon from Digimon Adventures, and GTO’s own Eikichi Onizuka. Blum stated that he found himself on the anime industry from a career path that does not normally entangle together and was brought in only to voice creatures before filling in full-time as a full-fledged voice actor. Nowadays, he can be found giving his voice to several video games and western animation, especially adaptations of western comics. Despite that, he maintained his love for anime through the past few years.

Troy Baker is one of the most notable example of a voice actor who has abandoned the anime industry.
Also, Steven Blum is also one of the voice actors who has not yet had any roles in the anime.
Why is this happening? Well, everyone in Japan knows how anime is getting more and more stale each passing year in Japan and as a result, it is affecting the western market and total dip in the interest of anime, resulting in less revenue gained from anime-dubbing. Additionally, the rise of video-gaming cinematic and storytelling, as well as the profit it is gaining causes voice actors to jump ship from anime to video game in order to gain more paychecks. We cannot blame them, as people needs to earn a living in order to support themselves or their family. This is different in Japan though, as voice acting in Japan tends to net the seiyuu more money, given their extra appearances aside from just lending their voice such as making event appearances, singing, and even radio.

Don't get me wrong though, i am happy that voice actors who have choosen video games more than anime are now succesfull. Why wouldn't anyone be happy when their favourite person becomes even better? However, i do feel bad that i get to hear them less from something i love. And hearing them  saying that they still love anime to this day also puts a smile to my face.

And this resulted in the younger, and not that much well-known voice actor to take the reins in the industry of anime-dubbing in the west.  Even those who take part in play was called for to do dubbing for anime, as the voice of Taihei Doma from Himouto Umaru-chan was dubbed by Adam Noble, a stage actor from Houston Texas, though I must say he has done a very great work on Taihei. Those who were already a veteran to the voice acting industry tend to become a director as opposed to just voice acting, such as the case of Lex Lang, who takes the rein of ADR and voice director on special occasions.  Even Steven Blum did several ADR jobs occasionally.

Taihei's voice was given by a stage actor, though he's done a great job.
Veteran voice actors tend to become director on a dubbed anime as well.

There are several documentaries that delve to this industry. The one that I watch is The Adventures of Voice Acting made by Bang Zoom Entertainment in 2008. The documentary detailed on how several voice actors on why they took the path of voice acting and how it was initially their passion. The notable examples I learned from the documentary was the case of Stephanie Sheh and Crispin Freeman. Stephanie Sheh debuted on the anime I’m Gonna be an Angel and was excited to give her voice to the character and did not expect to get paid for doing the voicework as she thought it was her dream to be one and did not want money initially, especially was when the sum was great. Crispin Freeman was also interesting, as he was initially not that interested in becoming a voice actor before finally auditioning to be one. The documentary was really good and I recommend those who want to know how voice acting is done in the west, as well as several cases of voice actors should really check this piece out.

I mentioned earlier that money was one of the problem that makes voice acting not that popular in the west. The western voice actor sometimes enjoyed remaining unknown to the public mass, unlike the one found in Japan. In Japan, voice actors are more exposed to things such as event appearances, singing, and even photoshoot and as a result, they have to take care of their appearance [Note how seiyuu these days are good-looking]. In the west however, this is not the case, as voice actors are normally not that good-looking and dresses casually to go to work and did not really enjoy a public appearance.

An article mentioned how connections are important in landing a role.

And how rigorous it is to be a seiyuu these days.
Voice acting in Japan tends to put a voice actor, sometimes a rookie, who landed a main role in an anime, to a limelight and lifted them to stardom.  While this may be good, one anime opened the eyes of some to the light about how voice acting industry is done in Japan. Girlish Number, anime that aired last year, explained how a rookie might be given a main role in just one anime before they fade away into nothingness. Perhaps this is because their voice are bland? Or they’re just not that special? Or what? While this seemed unreal, this has happened in real life. Aimi Tanaka, the voice of Umaru Doma from Himouto Umaru-chan did not enjoy the same success she had when she voiced Umaru, even though she won the best newcomer award for her performance as Umaru. Perhaps the sequel to the Himouto Umaru-chan might be what she need to return back to the top, but I am not placing my bets.

Aside from Aimi Tanaka, there is also Kanako Kondou, the voice of Noel Vermillion and the Murakumo units from the BlazBlue series. Aside from her work as Noel Vermillion, there is no other notable role for her to put on her resume and many have thought that she might be one of the cases of ‘pet project’ made by Arc System Works to lift her to stardom, which failed. Her work in the BlazBlue universe is so diverse that aside from giving her voice to Noel, she starred in BlazBlue radio with Tomokazu Sugita [Ragna the Bloodedge] and Asami Imai [Tsubaki Yayoi], performed several songs as Noel, and even finally landed a main character role in the anime, in the form of BlazBlue : Alter Memory again as Noel Vermillion.

Umaru's seiyuu, Aimi Tanaka, still hasn't reached the same heights when she performed  as Umaru.
Different case in Noel's seiyuu, Kanako Kondou, who was seemingly pushed.
While those two are simple example, those two proven how right Girlish Number were and how tight is the competition on the voice-acting industry in Japan, as opposed to the much more comfortable roles voice actings are in the west.

Anime News Network also made an article of how newcomers found it hard these days to make breakthrough, due to the fact that appearances now matter in the industry and connections play a much larger part in landing big role. As a result, up and coming seiyuu tends to lend their voice to the smartphone games. 

Megumi Hayashibara also commented on how modern anime have hurt voice actings as well due to their unoriginality and clich├ęd demeanors. 

The number of voice acting schools in Japan also highlighted how important it is and how it is possible to build a career for being a seiyuu. However, enrolling in a voice acting schools is not a sure-fire way of building a career as one. Hard work, connections, and passion, as well as appearance is just several factors needed to break through in the japanese voice acting industry.

This was the case of Daisuke Ono. He was voicing a no-name lines left and right from 2000 to 2005 before finally landing  a big, albeit supporting, role in the form of Koizumi Itsuki. From there on, his career has taken a step up after he made live concert of Suzumiya Haruhi and singing character song, still as Koizumi Itsuki. And the next big thing he landed was his most famous role, Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler and right now, he is regarded as one of the most popular voice actors in Japan. Daisuke Ono proves how hard work and perserverance can make him be regarded as one of the best. From something small, eventually reaching the top. 

Ono's rise from rags to riches is also well-known.

All in all, the voice actings in the Japan and the west are different through several factors. While voice acting in japanese continues to be big, the downfall of anime might drag them down as well, and causes voice acting to be much more demanding and rigorous in the process. The same could not be said to the western voice acting, which puts more focus on video game industry aside from the anime. The amount of money gained from dubbing anime in the west and being a seiyuu in japan is absolutely different and it is better to say that giving voice to video game much more profitable than dubbing anime these days.

I enjoyed writing this article as I found myself to like voice actors, whether it is English or Japanese actors. The insights that I gained are from my experiences of watching several anime and reading some articles regarding to this, as well as watching the aforementioned Adventures in Voice Acting. Steven Blum remains my favourite English-dub voice actor and Tomokazu Sugita is my favourite seiyuu. Tomokazu Sugita was blessed as he was given a big supporting role in his debut, and showcase his skill.

Voice acting is fun, but there's more layer to it than an onion it seems.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Anime review : Netoge no Yome wa Onna no Ko Janai to Omotta

Netoge no Yome wa Onna no Ko Janai to Omotta

What is Netoge?

Also known in the west as And You Though There is no Girl Online?, Netoge no Yome wa Onna no Ko Janai to Omotta is the adaptation of a light novel, illustrated by the popular hentai artist Hisasi, which follows the story of Hideki Nishimura, who were confessed by a girl in the MMORPG but rejected it, fearing that the girl would be a man. However, it was later revealed that the girl, whose name is Ako, is actually a girl in real life and she doesn’t really know real life. It is up to Hideki and his friends to set Ako straight.

And what do i think of it?

I am going to simply refer to this anime as Netoge from now on since the full title is mouthful.

Perhaps it’s the burden that the anime bears that causes the anime to falls short. People kept saying that the novel is good, and it is illustrated by a very prominent hentai artist that has a distinctive and stylistic art style which was one of the strong draw point of the light novel, and there’s even an Universal Studio logo when the anime starting for crying out loud. But, despite all that, this anime didn’t live up the expectation.

Netoge is a romantic-comedy genre which is set in between the MMO world and the real life. But, the romantic part and the comedy part are done separatey and half-baked at that. It does not funny enough to make you laugh and it’s not romantic enough to make you feel that you are watching romantic anime. The premise are there and promising, and inventive to be honest, but it's just that the anime could not really capitalize fully on their innovative nature and just plain botched the entire performance of it.

Take another Romantic comedy anime as an example, Mikakunin de Shinkoukei [Enganged to the Unidentified]. There’s romantic appeal, there’s comedic appeal, and both of them play their part equally to make this anime a good, romantic-comedy genre. But Netoge isn’t.

The premise are promising, but the performance is the one that begs the question.

Like I said, the jokes are not that good, if not, forced. There are actually a few times I laughed out loud when watching Netoge, but that few times is actually two times. When Ako jokes to Hideki that she peed in the bottle and when Hideki calls Kyoh by her first name. Those are the times when I actually laughed out loud, but I think that’s that. There’s other moment worth mentioning when Kyoh repeatedly get aced by her teammate because of her lack of skill of playing PvP but, like I said, that’s that. It’s not enough.

When the comedy genre part is filled for the anime, it NEEDS to be funny. Funny enough either to make you chuckle, laugh out loud, or just say “What?” in real life. And the genre romantic comedy is even harder to make, since it needs to both equally funny and has it’s sweet moment at the same time. Frankly and sadly, Netoge isn’t really packed with all that. It only has some moment which can make you laugh, or go “aaww”, but not at the same time. Rom-Com is actually designed to make you laugh and go “aaww” at the same time. Oh yeah, this Ore Monogatari reference is going to return for the longest time. When you watch this, you are reminded of Dagashi Kashi, of which jokes are not really that good and mostly misses it's mark or has a weak punchline.

The jokes are mostly misses than hit. But those that hit are actually funny.

Moving to another thing, it’s the fanservice shot that bothers me a lot. I’m not really a huge fan of Fanservice shot. What is that? It’s when the shot is focused on a girl’s bossom, bottom, or any other thing deemed sexual. I’m okay with any swimsuit scene, onsen scene, or any fanservice at the right moment, but fanservice shot is not really my thing.

And there’s actually a lot of fanservice, and fanservice shot at the same time. The camera really loves Ako’s bouncing boobs, and Kyoh’s figure when she’s in MMO. Some people may love it, but I don’t.
Characterization were okay, if not, so-so. I can’t actually pick who I like, but there’s one I dislike, Akane’s friend Hanako. Maybe other people might disagree, but it’s my choice, right? Anyway… The reason I dislike her is because of Ako’s hostility toward her. I can feel Ako, who thinks that her husband is going to be taken away, and there’s no need for Hanako to act so closely to a guy she isn’t really interested with. And I don’t like the fact that, after a few episode, she became a full-fledged unofficial member of the Netoge club, despite her half-hearted passion to the MMO.

Speaking of the characters, most if not all characters were unique to be honest. The blandest character honor has to go to Nishimura Hideki, who acted like any other light novel protagonist around. There is nothing memorable about him to be honest. Ako is unique for her apparent Yandere-like behavior whenever Hideki is around and to be honest, her premise itself was enough to be called unique. Segawa is, while her trait and personality are commonly seen in this genre, quite good at her role. It was refireshing to see her interacting with either the team or her friends. Goshoin is also decent at her role for being the rich-girl of the team and the fact that she always bought the premium items given her rich-stature. Oh, did i mention that she obtained the money for all of her premium items by herself? So yeah, compared to all of the girls, Hideki falls short, like really short.

The characters were all unique, save for Russian/Hideki.
And the entire plotline is really bland. The story moves forward, with several brakes at times to let us rest from the main plotline, but the main story was not really that good and was boring to be honest. I did not enjoy the plot focus on Hideki and Ako at all, and simply enjoyed the moments when the club were just having fun playing games while discussing what to do next. However, praises have to be showered on the Siege Warfare arc, as it shows the maturity of each character and the entire arc itself was really interesting to watch and serves as a good finale.

The Siege Warfare arc was the most interesting arc around.
The animation and the art style of the anime is the two thing that really let down most of the audience to be honest. The animation of the characters were okay and looks decent at times so i think this one is passable. However, the same cannot be said for the art style. Remember when i said that the original light novel illustrations were done by a prominent hentai artist who bears her [According to sources, Hisasi is a female illustrator] own distinct art style that was looked up by most up and coming artists at times? Well, the anime's art style differs greatly from the art style of the original light novel, and bears no resemblance whatsoever to it.

I know that when adapting a light novel to the anime, the art style will undoubtedly differ from the original, but this was by far the worst-case example of when this happened. Take a look at the more recent anime that aired Classroom of the Elites, an adaptation of light novel series illustrated by yet another prominent hentai artist Tomose Shunsaku. The anime adaptation of it bears a slight resemblance to the original illustrations according to some people and i too checked it out and yes, i can say that the anime art style is similiar, albeit a little, to the original illustrations of the light novel.

The settings are divided to two, real life and MMO world. Despite having two background, the real-life one looks bland most of the time, while the MMO world shows some innovative background, such as undead crypt as a date spot and graveyard as an assembly. And the contrast to the color was really good that i was able to enjoy the background when i was watching it. Perhaps this was one of the strong factor of the anime?

The backgrounds looks colorful and innovative at times.
Then again, who am I to judge? This is a decent, but not a really good anime. If you want to see a rom-com with MMO spices in it, this is the anime for you. But, if you want to watch a rom-com, I recommend watching other anime.

The good : When the joke hits, it’s really funny. Ako’s character is a bit relatable to some girl gamer. The Siege warfare arc.

The bad : Art style of the anime differs greatly from the original source. Jokes mostly misses than hits. Half-baked attempt at Rom-Com genre

Highlight moment : See above

Final Score : 2.5 out of 5. Perhaps it could have attained a higher amount of score had the original art style resembles the original source.