Takes quite a turn in the last few minutes.
All the reviews in one place with some updates for new episodes.
Caitlin, Toni, and Peter wrap-up another Fall season with a few hidden gems, a few series that failed to stick the landing, and a bunch of sequels!
Our list is, as usual, a little later than everyone else’s.
Call for Papers: Queer and Feminist Perspectives on Japanese Pop (Anime and Manga Studies)
A final reminder of this call, which closes February 1st.
We invite scholars, researchers, activists, and practitioners from around the world to participate in a multidisciplinary two-day exploration of the intersection between Japanese popular cultures and intersectional, trans-inclusive feminist studies. During this symposium we will explore the convergence of gender, sexuality, race, queerness, disability and class. We aim to provide a platform for critical discussions about gender and Japanese animation, fashion, video games, literature and digital cultures. In doing so we hope to encourage new directions in feminist approaches to Japanese popular cultures.
Rainbow Gala 30 and the End of an Era: Hong Kong’s Biggest Doujinshi Convention Set to Shutter (Anime News Network, Yohji Lam)
The convention’s future is uncertain as its current venue is scheduled to be demolished, and convention centers would be outside the event’s existing budget.
Costs are not the only hurdle, however, as Kung explained why Hong Kong remains a “fragmented” and “broken” place. “We lost a lot of the youth. These people are the pillars of creativity and future— and we have lost our future.”
Kung said that despite recent stress on culture in the development efforts of Hong Kong, Hong Kong is still a “very sorrowful place” and “pathetic, even,” as no actual support or space is given to local youth for anything “creative or happy,” nor to people who could inspire them.
“There’s just no breathing ground for them to exist,” Kung added. “The 11-year-old me in 1997 saw these artworks, and my first reaction was, ‘How can these grown-ups draw so beautifully?’ They inspired me because I wanted to draw like them too.”
“I started drawing doujinshi artwork when I was 12, and I started running Rainbow Gala when I was 20. I am now 38,” said Kung pointing to the exhibitors inside, calling them the “most valuable asset” as she further questioned, “Where are the new 12-year-olds entering the community?”
On the topic of the evermore popularity of anime culture in Hong Kong, Kung is blessed that they went from 150 stalls initially in 2007 to more than 1,200 now, with ten thousand daily ticketed attendance rising along every iteration. “Indeed, there are more consumers now than ever, but the most important lead still lies in the people inside drawing.”
Japan is rich, but many of its children are poor; a film documents the plight of single mothers (The Mainichi)
The film is not yet available to stream online.
McAvoy’s wife, Ayuri, who produced the film, was formerly a single mother. But both deny that’s why Rionne McAvoy made the film. Initially, she wasn’t interested in getting involved in his filmmaking.
What makes the story so “Japanese,” according to Rionne McAvoy, is how the country’s conformist culture makes many women accept their hardships, too ashamed to ask for help, “keeping their public face and private face separate,” he told The Associated Press.
“The Ones Left Behind” was the Best Documentary Winner at the Miyakojima Charity International Film Festival last year and an official selection at the Yokohama International Film Festival.
Despite repeated promises by the Japanese government to provide monetary assistance to people with children, action has been slow, said Akihiko Kato, a professor at Meiji University who appears in the film.
That’s partly why the birth rate is crashing in Japan from 1.2 million births in the year 2000 to below 700,000 today. Japan also lacks a system that can force fathers to pay child support, according to Kato.
Sciences-oriented universities set quotas for more female students (The Asahi Shimbun, Chika Yamamoto)
Studies have noted the beneficial effects of having research groups with diverse backgrounds.
The Council for Creation of Future Education, chaired by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, called for the ratio of female college students in the sciences to be raised to 30 percent or so by around 2032 in a report published in May 2022.
Each university adopts its own program to select female students for the quota by evaluating the results of standardized entrance examinations, interviews, its entrance examinations and other admission processes.
Yokoyama of the University of Tokyo warned that affirmative action giving preference to women tend to fall under the assumption that successful candidates have been admitted due to their gender, not their academic credentials.
She noted that OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment survey for 15-year-old students worldwide for 2022 found that Japanese girls’ average mathematics and science literacy scores were higher than those of British and American boys.
Japanese girls also did almost as well as their male counterparts, according to the PISA survey.
“Female students seeking to go into science fields encounter various forms of discouragement early in their life,” Yokoyama said. “What they need is support to help them become confident about their academic pursuits.”
Japanese Communist Party taps 1st female leader (The Mainichi)
Tamara Tomoko will replace Shii Kazuo.
Tamura, a 58-year-old House of Councillors lawmaker who was elected to parliament in 2010, became the first female policy chief of the party at the previous congress in 2020.
Shii, who will become the JCP Central Committee chairman, was appointed the JCP’s youngest secretariat head in 1990, and has long played a key role. But calls had been growing for a new generation of leadership, political experts said.
Shii, a House of Representatives lawmaker, came under scrutiny last year, when the JCP excluded two party members who openly criticized his long-running dominance and called for a leadership election system.
A Girl & Her Guard Dog Anime Series Review (Anime News Network, Caitlin Moore)
Regardless of the subject matter, the show’s execution is poor.
That is, tragically, a death knell for a series that is supposed to hinge on hot people getting into erotic situations. Lots of anime have fan service, but very few depict sex outright like A Girl & Her Guard Dog does or attempt to. The result is one of the most hilariously awkward, least alluring sex scenes I’ve seen in my life, and certainly not deliberately so.
It’s a shame because while I don’t think I’d find it sexy in any case, it addresses one of the concerns of age gaps in a real way: not just the difference in maturity, or societally-granted agency, but the difference in experience and how that affects expectations. Keiya has been having sex for a good decade, often in the context of the sex trade or casual hookups; Isaku is just starting high school and has never even been on a date. The two of them have extremely different ideas about the natural progression of their physical relationship, based on their lives thus far. While it certainly doesn’t float my boat, it does show a bit of thought put into their dynamic.
It also highlights that, even outside of the obvious issues with their relationship, Keiya sucks. I hate that dude and would have even if he were her peer rather than her guardian. He’s overprotective to the point of being a creep. He actively sabotages Isaku’s social life by preventing her from participating in activities that are perfectly normal for girls her age, like going to karaoke or wearing a swimsuit to the beach. He throws violent tantrums when she doesn’t listen to him but is proven right time and time again. It’s a classic trope in shōjo manga where everyone out there is worse than the mean, jealous love interest, and one of my least favorite contrivances. It’s a recurring issue where I always feel like the seams of the narrative start to show, like the artist had to make a garbage guy look like a prince and could only do so by introducing a bigger dirtbag.
It is, theoretically, illegal under Japanese law to discriminate against workers based on pregnancy.
According to a recent survey conducted via a support group for Vietnamese trainees in Japan, nine women were advised by local intermediary organizations, which gather trainee candidates and send them to Japan, to undergo contraceptive treatment. Five of them actually received such treatments, which included the use of internal birth control rings, the survey showed.
Vietnam sends the largest number of technical trainees to Japan under the program, according to the Organization for Technical Intern Training.
In many cases, the intermediary organizations advised Vietnamese trainees that they would be sent home if they got pregnant.
The five Vietnamese trainees who underwent contraception treatment currently work in Japan, with one of them expressing in the survey that she thought she could not go to Japan without following the instruction.
On Patreon, and the Taming of Erotic Game Development (BP Games, Yarrun)
How Patreon has changed the landscape of how smaller adult games can be monetized.
This takes a different shape with smaller teams lacking large fanbases or sizeable incomes. I’ve seen dozens of newly minted devs putting out a simple ‘v0.1’ demo for a game that’ll take months or, more likely, years to finish, hoping to snag enough subscribers to get the support to put out another update in a month or two. I’ve seen a lot of projects die before getting to 0.2. Developers who manage to grab audience attention have to retain it month after month, update after update, meaning that it’s often more important for a game to have regular new content than for the content to be good. An update that just provides quality of life improvements, or fixes to the back-end code, will likely be dismissed. An update that reduces the amount of erotica in the game, either because it’s being redesigned or because the plot has progressed to the point where some scenes are no longer accessible, will get people unsubscribing. This isn’t a hypothetical. Arc started Act 3 of Corrupted Kingdoms in November 2022, which locks away any sex scenes you’ve unlocked, and that stopped what had been a steady increase in subscribers and cash inflow since 2021.
I can’t argue against the benefit of Patreon. I’m funding the works of several developers there right now. But it’s hard to look at the current shape of sex games over the internet and wonder whether it could be different. The erotic games that littered early Newgrounds were of wildly varying quality, with odd bugs and stolen assets and writing that uses swearing like punctuation, and they often provided nothing to their creators besides the joy of making art. But with no obligations to be profitable or to adhere to strict content guidelines, they could be as bizarre or experimental as they liked. They were, in most cases, finished. Still, as influential as Patreon is, it’s no longer the only valid option for someone trying to make their rent with games about fucking. SubscribeStar, a similar content-hosting platform launched in 2017, has a dedicated sub-section for adult content with less restrictive rules than Patreon. Steam also allows erotic games as of 2018, making it a viable route for more traditional game development, where the product is sold and not the development process. Same with itch.io. None of these platforms are ideal, but they at least allow options, and options breed diversity. After all, sex will sell, but how it sells and who dictates how it sells still matters.
Where the Two Flowers Meet Game Review (Blerdy Otome, Naja)
This is an indie visual novel currently out on itch.io.
Where the Two Flowers Meet is clearly an ambitious visual novel. It deals with an emotionally charged story and quite a few heavy themes. So, be sure to check the content warnings. This is a game that will make you feel all the emotions. Much like the journey the main characters embark on, despite the pain and heartbreak, WTTFM is a story you want to see through to the end.
But, I’d be lying if I said this game was perfect. Some of the plot elements introduced in the later stages of the story, don’t jive well with the earlier character driven storytelling. There’s an attempt to give a complex explanation for the mystery that kind of detracts from emotions and tone of the first half of the story.
That said, where Where the Two Flowers Meet really shines is in it’s characterization of Aran and Caleb. While Aran is technically the “main” character and the point of view we are meant to experience the story through. Both Caleb and Aran are treated as sympathetic characters.
Volunteers, Former Senior Staff Boycott Ohayocon Convention (Anime News Network, Kennedy)
The boycotters are responding to the recent dismissal of the con’s longstanding con chair and director of marketing.
Talks between COVEN and CESI began as early as March 2023. COVEN’s demands—which are detailed here—included, but aren’t limited to: fair compensation, the prohibiting of CESI board members “from receiving compensation over the average compensation value of staff leaders who do not sit on the board,” the immediate adoption of a code of conduct that everyone would be beholden unto, more transparency in budgetary matters, updated labor policies, and for CESI’s “outright purchase and ownership of Ohayoconʼs brand materials, including logo and mascot.”
There’s a Google Drive with more detailed background information and documentation about why these demands were so important to COVEN. Of particular note, however, is the matter of finances. According to documents in the Drive, Phelps intended to financially compensate her position: “$10 an hour from the beginning of the company at $15,300, and Proposed Salary at $22 an hour.” This was a significant point of contention for reasons including but not limited to potentially causing a conflict of interest and questions of whether or not such an amount was fair and affordable. Marcum alleged the convention’s financial issues were due to “historical misuse and misappropriation of funds” under Phelps’ leadership.
Marcum claimed in the Discord server on October 3 that “the last two years I have been Convention Director started on a budget of $0.” Marcum alleged this was due to “ineptitude and theft” by Phelps and Shaw.
Dang, it was a good year for anime.