Yeah, I know, it’s only been a day or two since I posted our last Cool Find. Please forgive me. The reason for this, though, is a good one, as you’ll soon see: there is a time limit involved.
Japan Animator Expo (not to be confused with that other Expo with a similar-sounding name) is a cool, relatively new (started in November of last year) joint venture between Hideaki Anno’s (yes, that guy) studio, Studio Khara, and
Dwango, a telecom/media group in Japan and parent company of famous Japanese video streaming site Niconico (formerly Nico Nico Douga, that offers relatively new animators exposure to a worldwide audience by giving them an opportunity to produce a series of anime shorts, with fairly little creative restrictions, which are then streamed on NND. You’ll also see a healthy sprinkling of more seasoned talent in the mix as well, in both the production side as well as the voice acting side. Still, these shorts are a great showcase of the sort of new, up-and-coming talent that is brewing in the Japanese animation industry. The animation styles and character designs are as jaw-droopingly gorgeous as they are eclectic, and the storylines/plots are just as unusual and widely varied. (You can read about some of them on the Wikipedia page.)
Japan Animator Expo will produce a total of 30 shorts, one each week. We’re currently on week 24; however some of the older videos are about to expire. At midnight Japan Standard Time (use this link to convert that to your local timezone) on the morning of Monday, June 1 (that’s less than a week from now) videos #1-12 in the series will no longer be viewable. Hopefully this venture has generated enough interest and buzz to convince them that it’s worth doing something like this again. Having this as a once-a-year event would be great, and would really spread the word and continue to bring new talent into the industry. Be sure and check them out today! (Note: unless you read Japanese, be sure to click the “EN” button at the upper right of the page.)
Hi folks. Yes, we’re still here. Sorry for our recent hiatus. Things have been pretty busy lately.
As I may have mentioned in the past, my attempt at getting a higher education (beyond high school) was brief and ended in tragedy. The culture shock of going from living a fairly sheltered, overprotective life at home, to the absolute freedom and chaos of life on campus was too much for me, and I let the freedom of finally emerging from behind the iron curtain of my parents’ rule get to my head, and basically crashed and burned in pretty much all of my classes. I have fortunately learned a great deal since then; but, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
However, there was one positive thing to come out of this debacle. Coming out of a sheltered childhood, it was my first taste of what the “real” world was like, and as such, I learned a lot about how life and the real world work, and how to survive in them. I learned how to communicate and socialize with other people – not that I do it particularly well, even now, but I at least can cope in a social situation without falling over in a heap. And I also met a lot of cool friends, many of whom I remain in touch with to this day.
One particularly enjoyable aspect of dorm life that I miss even now is the long hours we spent, lasting way into the night (and often well into the next morning) sitting in our dorm rooms talking (and often arguing) about various and sundry topics such as religion, politics, current events, social/cultural issues, music, books, movies, TV shows, Mac vs. PC, or vi vs. emacs (hey, we were all computer geeks/engineers, okay?) Often these discussions would morph into arguments, and pretty heated ones at that, with each of us defending our position with a fiery passion. But these arguments never got out of hand, and we always seemed to make up (or at least agree to disagree) and return to our usual amicable (if perhaps somewhat sleep-deprived) selves by the next morning. Well, one of the many topics we discussed/argued about, perhaps with a particularly high level of passion, was, of course, anime, and I couldn’t help but reminisce fondly on these good times when I ran across today’s Cool Find, the Anime & Manga Stack Exchange.
By now you probably know that, as part of my day job, I work together with a group of friends on various computer hardware and software projects; they bring me on whenever they need some additional help. I work on various jobs and projects on the side as well. So I suppose you could say that I’m a sort of “geek gun-for-hire.” (I’ve been wanting to change my business cards to have my title say “Ninja Consultant”, but sadly my boss hasn’t been too keen on the idea.) Two websites I absolutely depend on in my line of work are Stack Overflow and Server Fault. These sites are a great way of getting help with your computer and programming questions. First of all, odds are that your question has already been asked (and answered) by someone else. But if it wasn’t, then all you have to do is submit a new question (be as descriptive as possible) and you are likely to have some answers within hours. The site is heavily moderated and is reputation-based, so answers (and questions) are usually of very high quality.
Well these two sites, as it turns out, are merely the tip of the iceberg that is the Stack Exchange Network. They host a ton of sites dedicated to all manner of topics — not just computer-y things (gaming, security, UNIX & Linux (not only in general but also Ubuntu in particular) but also plenty of non-computer-related topics, such as home improvement, photography, cooking and even bicycles! And yes, they’ve got anime covered too.
Anime & Manga Stack Exchange is, as its name implies, a place where you can ask (and answer, if you happen to know it) questions about anime & manga. What sorts of questions, you might ask? Well, if you ever had a question about a plot point, or how a character’s special ability works, or anything like that? For example (and these were picked completely at random, so they should represent no bias whatsoever) “Did Jiraiya meet Naruto by chance?” Or “What technology/jutsu do the Akatsuki members use to communicate with each other?” Or perhaps “Will Sasuke’s Kirin work against Obito?” Or even “Is Haku a man or a woman?” A site like this can help
put a stop to (or perhaps even start up) one of those long dorm-room-style “discussions” between friends (which is why I thought of that when I found this site.)
All joking aside though, the site is also a great place to ask about other, more down-to-earth topics, especially about Japan and the anime industry itself, such as “What are the anime censorship laws in Japan?” or “Do Bluray releases contain more scenes than their DVD counterparts?” In particular, it is a great place if you have one of those “name that anime/manga” type questions. Do you vaguely remember seeing an anime that looked interesting — maybe during a convention, at an anime screening room or during an AMV, or at a friend’s house, whatever — and can remember parts of the plot, some of the fight scenes, or what the main character looked like, etc., and nothing more? Well, post about it and you might just get your answer. Try and be as descriptive as possible, include pictures/screenshots if you have ’em, etc.
Like all the other Stack Exchange sites, Anime & Manga Stack Exchange is reputation-based, so not only do you need to create an account to ask and/or answer questions (it’s completely free) but you are also encouraged to vote up (or down) other peoples’ answers — and if you submit answers to other peoples’ questions yourself, your answers will be voted up/down as well. This helps keep the site friendly, open and relatively troll/flame free, as opposed to your typical web forum, which is quite refreshing if you ask me.
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
Podcast: Play in new window
| Download (Duration: 11:28 — 239.7MB)
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.
Today’s Sponsor: Listeners like you! Help us bring this podcast and website to you.
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
Podcast: Play in new window
| Download (Duration: 13:09 — 6.2MB)
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
Podcast: Play in new window
| Download (Duration: 25:48 — 12.0MB)