I have a confession to make. (No, not that kind of confession.) When I wrote last week stating that I wasn’t able to finish my Secret Santa review on time, that may have been stretching the truth a little bit. I probably could have used one of my (very infrequent) Mental Powerups (or at the very least chugged a bottle of MORNING RESCUE!!!!) and sat down and hammered out a review; I might have even been able to get it posted before midnight on Christmas Day. But I chose not to, mainly because, in spite of the haphazard way I run this blog and podcast, I prefer to not leave anything halfway done (or done half-assedly) and I wanted to take the time and really think about what I had just finished watching before writing. But I did have one little ulterior motive: I wanted to watch my chosen Secret Santa anime, White Album 2, again. This is unusual for me because I usually prefer to wait a little while after finishing an anime before rewatching it. Also, in general, when considering which anime to watch next, I generally don’t go for the romance genre. It’s not that I actively hate this type of anime; it’s just not the first thing I think of when looking for something new to watch. Even so, some notable titles in this genre have ended up becoming some of my all-time favorites. Maybe that makes me a closet romantic; I dunno. So for me to want to rewatch White Album 2 so soon after finishing it is, in a word, unusual, and shows that it most definitely made an impact on me. So I have one more anime to add to my list of “Anime That I Really Wouldn’t Have Considered But Ended Up Watching And Really Liking.”
White Album 2 tells the story of high school senior Haruki Kitahara and his fellow light music club member Takeya who’ve got a big problem — all of the other club members have suddenly left the club, mere weeks before the school festival, where they had wanted to perform! Being an all-around nice guy, Haruki tries desperately to find replacements, but isn’t meeting with very much luck. Until one day, while practicing his guitar in the music room, he starts playing the chords to an old but popular song, White Album, only to be suddenly joined by a mysterious pianist and vocalist — and they sound really good together. Who are these mysterious players, and can he get them to join the band? Of course there’s much, much more to the anime, but you’ll have to watch it yourself if you’re curious, I’m not gonna spoil it for you!
(By the way, in case you’re wondering if there is a White Album 1, yes there is, but, although both it and White Album 2 take place in the same universe, they are completely different stories. They are only linked by the songs “WHITE ALBUM” and “SOUND OF DESTINY,” which were written and/or performed by the main heroines of White Album and figure prominently in White Album 2. And now you know.)
Anyway, you can probably guess by now how this review will go, but since you’re here anyway, why not stick around and continue on with my review?
Continue reading Anime Secret Santa Review: White Album 2
Update 12/31/2014: My review of White Album 2 is now up! Omatase shimashita.
Every year I look forward to the holidays, not just because of the delicious foods, blinkenlights and the giving (and receiving) of gifts, but also for the Anime Secret Santa Project, a really cool collective anime reviewing project thingie organized every year since 2009 by the Reverse Thieves. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to participate each year, and have enjoyed it every year, and thanks to Secret Santa, have found quite a few really good anime titles that I hadn’t considered before. And, every year, in spite of my extremely unpredictable work schedule combined with my legendary penchant for procrastination, I have always managed to get my review posted by the Christmas Day deadline, even if only just barely.
Until this year, that is.
Unfortunately, I am unable to get my review posted on time this year due to several things. For one thing, my work schedule has been incredibly busy starting right around Thanksgiving, and straight on through Christmas; usually it’s the exact opposite. Second, for some inexplicable reason, every relative on the planet decided “Gee, maybe this would be a good year to drop in on the California branch of the family!” In the past two weeks I’ve met branches of the family that I didn’t even know existed. Finally, despite my best efforts, I managed to catch one of the many seasonal cold bugs that are making the rounds, and that had me out of commission for a couple of days.
Anyway, I have told everyone involved in no uncertain terms that I will be taking the week between Christmas and New Years’ off, not just because I need the time to finish various things (such as Anime Secret Santa) but also for my own sanity. And as soon as I can tear myself away from The Family, I’ll work on finishing Secret Santa, and hope to have it posted soon. So stay tuned! And, again, my apologies. (bows his head in shame)
(ps: In case you were asking yourself “Well then, how did you manage to find the time to come up with a 12 Days of Kurisumasu pick each and every day, and more or less on time even?!” Well, after last year’s difficulties in getting entries posted every day, I wanted to find a way to post them automatically. Thankfully someone wrote a WordPress plugin that lets you automatically show/hide text on a given day, and using that, combined with a service that lets me schedule Twitter and Facebook posts to automatically post at a future date/time, I was able to write up all 12 Days entries ahead of time and have them automatically post. Sadly, this sort of automation can’t help me with Secret Santa; the level of AI technology hasn’t yet progressed to the point where an automated assistant can help me finish writing my Secret Santa review… someday maybe… sigh)
Amazon has recently entered the hotly-contested set-top-box market, with its Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. What’s unique about these devices are that, being Amazon products, they plug you directly into the Amazon Prime video ecosystem, and are the best way of watching the tons of free-to-stream video content that comes with your Amazon Prime membership. But these devices are also unique in that they are full-on Android devices, and can (with a little bit of effort) be configured to install any Android app. In this video I show you how you can install the Crunchyroll Android app on your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, making it a powerful and cost-effective way of getting Crunchyroll on the big screen!
Continue reading Video #0017 – How to install the Crunchyroll app on the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
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Oh… hi there. Why, yes, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Yeah… my life has been… let’s say, “complicated” this year, and I have been ridiculously busy, and haven’t had any free time at all to devote to the website and podcast. (remember folks, unlike certain podcasters this is not my day job, and so when real, actual, paying work comes a-knockin’, everything else (including the podcast) has to take a back seat. And, now that the holidays are upon us, things are liable to get even more busy. I still do have some content coming out shortly though. I’m finally putting the finishing touches on a podcast episode that’s (almost literally) half a year in the making (basically it’s been sitting on my hard drive and needed a lot of editing, which I haven’t had very much time to do lately.) And of course, I am once again participating in the Reverse Thieves’ Anime Secret Santa project, and my review WILL come out on Christmas Day. Hopefully after the new year, things will quiet down a little and I can get back into blogging and podcasting…
Anyway, yeah, the holidays are here. (Pauses to wait until everyone has stopped screaming in terror.) You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Oh crap! I’ve still got to get gifts for (insert name of various family members/friends/coworkers/etc. here)!!!” Or maybe you’re trying to figure out what cool items you want to get with the money you’re getting for Christmas, or the Christmas bonus your employer is giving you, or whatever. Guess what, we can help you with that! Just use one of our many affiliate links to do your online shopping. You can get your gift shopping done in the comfort of your own home/office/dorm room/secret underground lair, and avoid the gladiatorial combat arena otherwise known as “the mall.” You will also help us keep the lights on and the bits flowing. (Remember, using our affiliate links will cost you nothing extra.) Whatever type of gift you’re looking for, we’ve got it. There’s Amazon, who sells literally everything (including a rather nice selection of anime-related goods.) There’s CDjapan, for all your anime soundtrack, Jpop and Jrock needs. (They also sell some other anime-related things like figurines, character goods, etc.) And, who can forget Jlist and Jbox, who sell a staggering array of products — anime stuff (character goods, wall scrolls, etc.); traditional Japanese cultural items (bento, etc.); cosplay outfits and accessories; visual-novel and dating-sim games; calendars; Japanese snacks and drinks; Japanese kitchen tools; and, ahem, “those” kinds of things as well.)
But what if you’re having trouble deciding what to get? Well, guess what, we can help you there too. Because The 12 Days of Kurisumasu are making their triumphant return for the 2014 holiday season! In case you’ve been living under a rock (or in the desert, or deep in the Himalayas, or on Mars, or in a distant galaxy/another dimension/etc.) for the past year, and haven’t the faintest idea what the heck I’m talking about, here’s the scoop: starting on Sunday, December 14 (that’s tomorrow!) and going through Christmas Day, Thursday, December 25, I will be picking a cool new otaku-themed product each day and will be featuring it on our Twitter and Facebook. (They’ll also be posted on the 12 Days of Kurisumasu page, along with a witty (well, at least I think so) writeup.) And if you’re still clueless as to what the heck I’m talking about, you can also check out the 12 Days of Kurisumasu from years gone by at that page too.
Each product I’ll be featuring will come from one of our affiliate advertisers — Amazon, CDjapan, Right Stuf, J-List, etc. Yeah, I know what you’re saying, you’ve been waiting for the “catch” and it finally came. But as catches go, this isn’t much of one. Remember that purchasing through any of the links here costs you nothing extra but brings us a little much-needed income, which helps keep the lights on and the bits flowing.
What products will you be choosing, you might be asking. No real rhyme or reason to it, really. As long as it’s even tangentially related to anime or other otaku-worthy pursuits, then it’s fair game. That means anime DVDs (and even Blu-rays); calendars; figures; “stuff from Japan” (food, snacks, etc.); plushies; dating-sim games/visual novels; whatever. Hopefully, among this cornucopia of consumer goods, you’ll find something cool and out of the ordinary to give to any otaku-leaning friends/acquaintances you’re looking for gifts for. (Or even yourself…)
So why subject yourself to the hassle, expense and bloodletting of doing battle in the malls and on the streets, and come shop with us instead?
Update: It has been pointed out to me that Ars Technica beat me to the punch with their own printable iPhone 6 mockups. Story of my life, right there. Still, I can claim some superiority with the fact that, unlike theirs, my models are actually in 3 dimensions! So there!
People who’ve visited this blog/podcast before are probably doing a double-take right about now, and wondering if they managed to wander onto some other website by accident. Either that or they’re facepalming and wondering how on earth this has anything to do with the normal topic of this website. It’s true, I feely admit it. I could try and come up with some far-fetched means of justifying this as something worth talking about here (after all, we have talked about iOS apps and devices before.) But I’m not going to. Because, you see, this really is the only place I have to post stuff that I want to draw attention to. This is my bully pulpit. I do have my own blog but it’s pretty badly neglected (it’s been on my “I’ll get to it one of these days” lists for ages now,) doesn’t get nearly the same level of traffic that this site does, and (perhaps more to the point) doesn’t have the web ads and analytics infrastructure in place. Yes, I freely admit that I am a click whore, I won’t deny it. But, unlike, ahem, certain linkbaity news sites out there (edit: I certainly do not mean you, Ars!,) I intend to back up my linkbaitiness with some actual useful content (at least I hope so!) And, hey, who knows, maybe one or two of you will decide to pay us a visit again sometime. So if this ends up getting me a few new listeners… well, so much the better. (Welcome, by the way. Make yourselves comfortable, I think you’ll like it here.)
Anyway, enough jibba-jabba, on to the actual subject of this blog post!
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, or traveling in another dimension or something,
you are no doubt aware that a certain fruit-flavored company held a little event yesterday in which they announced a few new products, including the inevitable iPhone 6. And, true to the rumors, they have made two different sizes available; the iPhone 6, which has a 4.7-inch screen, and the iPhone 6 Plus, which has a positively gargantuan 5.5-inch screen. (They also unveiled some sort of wearable thingie…)
As it happens, not only am I due for a carrier-subsidized upgrade (I didn’t get the 5S, even though I was seriously tempted) but my poor iPhone 5 is also on its last legs. So this announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. The problem though is, which one should I get?
The iPhone with its 3.5-inch screen has been the smallest of the smartphones for quite some time now. Still, that has never really bothered me. The smaller size makes one-handed operation simple, which is very important to me. But as apps grow more complex, their user interfaces tend to grow as well, and this UI growth has really started to push the limits of the 3.5-inch screen size. When Apple moved to the 4-inch screen of the iPhone 5, that helped significantly, without compromising the one-handed ease of use. (If I needed to tap something single-handedly at either extreme end of the phone, I would perform a maneuver I’ve dubbed “the iPhone shimmy,” where I sort of wiggle the iPhone in my hand which lets it slide up or down in my hand until my thumb can reach the desired area of the screen.) But, once again, the ever-increasing complexity of apps has really started to push the limits of the 4-inch screen too.
Meanwhile, my Android-toting friends have been mocking me, and shoving their 4.5-, 5- and even 6-inch behemoths in my face. So I mocked them in return. The “phablet” form factor never really appealed to me. Sure, the screen is big, but you would need the hands of an NBA all-star player to hold it, and putting something the size of the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey against your face when making a call just seemed… wrong. And forget about one-handed use! But then I hear people swear up and down, saying stuff like “no, it’s not really that big,” “you quickly get used to the bigger size,” etc. I’ve been thinking all night about how to solve this (admittedly first-world) problem when the answer (or at least a tool that might help me arrive at an answer) hit me: why not create mockups of the two new iPhones? Then I could play with them and experience how actually using them might feel. So, armed with this idea and a copy of Adobe Illustrator, I set to work. And this is the result.
First, the disclaimers. I really, really suck at Adobe Illustrator. Frankly I’m amazed that I was able to produce something even remotely iPhone-like. The only thing I can guarantee is that the dimensions of these mockups are the same as the specs that Apple has published, which, for the iPhone 6, are 5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches (138.1 x 67 x 6.9mm), and for the iPhone 6 Plus, 6.22 x 3.06 x 0.28 inches (158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm). Also, the actual iPhones will be much rounder than these mockups; both the edges as well as the front and back surfaces are subtly curved, and I couldn’t really duplicate this in my mockups. So these models will look and feel decidedly brick-like. Finally, the size of the screen, the app icons depicted on it (which are also decidedly box-like) and the size of the physical controls (home button and earpiece) are best-guess approximations. We only know the diagonal measurement (4.7 and 5.5 inches), and I suppose there is probably some sort of magical equation that would let me calculate a length and width based on that, but I haven’t the foggiest of how to do that. However, in spite of these caveats, I still believe these mockups will give you a reasonably close idea of what holding and using the actual device would feel like. (Oh yeah, one final caveat: since you’ll be walking around with what is essentially a slab of cardboard, and pretending to tap on it, talk into it, etc., people might think you are a little bit strange…)
To use these, simply print these out (preferably onto a heavy paper or card stock), cut along the outermost lines, and fold along all the other lines. Tape or glue shut. For added realism, find yourself a postal scale and, before sealing them up, fill them with small objects (paperclips, coins, what have you) to approximate the actual weight of the devices: in the case of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, that would be 4.55 ounces (129g) and for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, 6.07 ounces (172g).
Go download them now!. They’re available as both Illustrator (.ai) and PDF files.
In today’s episode, we bring you our 2nd (and final) interview from Anime Expo 2014. This time we speak with none other than Danny Choo, about his various projects, including the new Mirai Suenaga Smart Doll.
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Today’s Theme: “Innocence” by Eir Aoi, 2nd OP to the anime “Sword Art Online.” Watch it on Crunchyroll. Get a Crunchyroll Premium Membership!
Links to stuff we discussed:
Help us bring this podcast and website to you
Amazon page at otakunopodcast.com
Mirai Suenaga Smart Doll
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It’s been over a month since Anime Expo 2014, and thanks to an extremely busy schedule that just didn’t mesh up with the busy schedules of my fellow cohosts, we weren’t able to record our usual Review/Wrap-up Podcast of Doom until mid-July or so, and I haven’t been able to sit down and edit the thing until this week. Also, the video we took at con got mangled due to technical difficulties with my video camera, and I haven’t been able to sit down and go through it and see if any of it is usable (and in fact I may not end up with any usable video at all.)
So until I am able to finish editing our wrap-up podcast (which I hope to do this weekend) I thought I’d publish the two interviews that we managed to grab while at AX. In today’s episode, in what seems to have become a yearly tradition for us, we sit down and chat with Peter Payne, head honcho of J-List and J-Box about the latest goings-on in the J-List Empire. We also talk about visual novels/dating sims, including the awesome release of Steins;gate.
Today’s Theme: “Toki Tsukasadoru Jūni no Meiyaku” (刻司ル十二ノ盟約, “The Twelve Time-Governing Covenants”) by Yui Sakakibara, ED to the anime Steins;gate.
Today’s Sponsor: Listeners like you – Help us bring this blog and podcast to you.
Continue reading Episode #0044 – Anime Expo 2014 – Interview with Peter Payne of J-List
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Summer con season is upon us, and so we thought that it was high time that we brought back our famous Convention Survival Guide. These are the tips, tricks and techniques we’ve found to be extremely helpful in maximizing our con-going enjoyment while minimizing those two undesirable elements, Con Drama and Con Plague. We also take a look at some 11th hour Anime Expo guest announcements.
Today’s Sponsor: Listeners like you! Help us bring this show and website to you.
Today’s Theme: “Shin Sekai Kōkyōgaku” (新世界交響楽, “New World Symphony”) by Sayonara Ponytail, 2nd ED to the anime “KILL la KILL.” Watch it on Crunchyroll. Get a Crunchyroll Premium Membership!
Continue reading Episode #0043 – Convention Survival Guide, 2014 Edition
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Update 06/20/14: The Guidebook guide has been updated, and now contains the complete schedule, as well as general info, event policies (weapons policy, code of conduct, etc.), GoH and industry guest info, and a transportation guide!
We have spoken at great length about the tips and techniques we recommend to ensure you have the best, least stressful and least-drama-inducing experience at con. One of the main points we drive home is that one should always research the con you’re going to. For one thing, read up on the Guests of Honor. That way, if you happen to be with a group of friends who decide they want to go to (insert random GoH)’s panel, you won’t have the pain and embarrassment of having to admit that you have no freaking clue who that is. Also, it always helps to know what’s going on, where it’s going on, and when it’s going on. In other words, peruse the con’s schedule just as soon as they make it available. Most cons put up a preliminary schedule 2-3 weeks before the event, with the caveat that, being preliminary, it is subject to frequent change (and often does indeed change frequently.) Still, grabbing the schedule as soon as it’s available and making note of the events that might interest you is always a good idea.
All of this long-winded rhetoric leads up to the announcement that, after a bit of a false start, the folks at Anime Expo have put the preliminary schedule online. It’s available in PDF form, which pretty much every computer, as well as most smartphones and tablets, can read without difficulty. Grab it, print it out, put it on your smartphone or tablet’s PDF reader app, and start planning out your schedule. We’ve only got just a hair over 2 weeks to go till AX time!
But wait! There’s more! Smartphone and tablet owners, pay attention! Rather than downloading the PDF, you might want to take a look at the Guidebook app instead! Because Anime Expo has, once again, and to my extreme delight, made their schedule available in the Guidebook app! This is by far the best way to view con schedules if you have a mobile device. Once you’ve downloaded the app and downloaded the Anime Expo guide, you can browse through all of the panels, workshops, main events, video screenings, and list of dealers’ hall exhibitors. As you browse, you can mark down events that you are interested in, and they will automatically be added to the “Your Schedule” section of the app, where you can see at a glance the events you’ve marked. You can even set alarms to warn you X minutes before a must-see event starts. Or you can use the handy search feature to quickly find what you’re looking for. The app doesn’t require a data or WiFi connection to browse the guide. However, if you do have a connection available, it will automatically check to see if there are any updates to the guide, which is awesome, especially at con, when schedules can (and often do) change from moment to moment.
Note: the current version of the Anime Expo guide in Guidebook doesn’t yet have event information in it. I’m sure they’ll be updating it shortly to include that information, and when they do, your Guidebook app will automatically download the update! The Guidebook guide does have information on Guests of Honor and dealers’ hall exhibitors, so you can start looking at those right away. Update 06/20/14: The Guidebook guide has been updated, and now contains the complete schedule, as well as general info, event policies (weapons policy, code of conduct, etc.), GoH and industry guest info, and a transportation guide! Guidebook is available for pretty much all mobile platforms, including iOS (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad,) Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, etc.
Get the Guidebook app on other platforms
In our recent episode that took a look at what’s coming up at Anime Expo 2014, we declared that this year’s Anime Expo’s “theme” is looking to be a cross between Sailor Moon and KILL la KILL. We also mentioned offhandedly that the original Sailor Moon was available for streaming at Hulu.
In fact, Viz Media has licensed all 200 episodes of the classic anime series, plus three feature films and assorted tie-in specials, for both streaming and physical media distribution. Currently, twelve episodes are up, and they will be releasing two new episodes every Monday (or “Moonday,” as they like to call it.) This represents the first time that Sailor Moon has been broadcast in the U.S. for over a decade. Moreover, this will include the first North American release of the final television series, Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars. They are able to do this thanks to having recently acquired the license from Toei.
Viz is releasing the series with the original Japanese audio and English subtitles. They are also working on an all-new English dub with a brand-new cast, and will start releasing those later this year. For you physical media diehards, they will also be releasing the show in DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo releases, in half-season sets, starting this fall.
Best of all, the show is being presented completely uncut and unbowdlerized. Content that was considered “questionable” back in the day and that was removed has been restored, and non-mainstream character relationships (i.e. yuri) have been restored.
The show is also being streamed on Neon Alley, which makes sense, since Neon Alley is Viz’s own service. (Incidentally, a lot has changed at Neon Alley since we looked at it back in 2012. They’ve switched away from the “broadcast TV station” model to the more mainstream “streaming on demand” model that everyone else is using. They’ve added computer/web browser-based streaming, but have sadly removed their PS3 app, instead directing people to use the Hulu Plus PS3 app. But Neon Alley is now a free service, so one can’t complain too much!)
So go watch it on Hulu or Neon Alley today!
Sailor Moon served as the “gateway drug” for many a current anime fan. Now it’s poised to do the same to a whole new generation of fans. And that’s a Good Thing.