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Hi. I'm Mike. This isn't updated often.

Month: May 2010

Behind The Joke: Appule

Regular fans of Daizenshuu EX no doubt have heard us drop Appule’s name in semi-sarcastic and humorous ways. It has grown into something of an “in-joke” over the years — it is funny enough on its own (“lolz random character”), but the way in which the joke continued to build upon itself adds a little bit to its mystique and hilarity, and may be worthy of discussion.

So, hey. Here you go.

Many years ago, I started working on a “Character Guide” for the website. It ultimately never turned into anything because I constantly bite off more than I can chew. Whenever I finished a page for a character, I realized I wanted to include even more information, and constantly found myself going back to do additional research. It was a never-ending cycle, so I eventually just gave up. Other areas of the website were far more important and useful.

In 2004, while still working on the section, I decided to develop a page for a character that appeared for a very limited amount of time. I had already done characters like Nappa and Raditz who, while they were only around for a short period of time, could still be considered “major” characters. My stipulation for myself was the character that I did a page for next had to at least have a name — no random characters like “Jingle Village Filler Man #2”. One of the first characters that came to mind was Appule. He was one of the most minor of henchmen, yet the fact that he not only had a name, but had a name that was actually spoken aloud during the anime, is what solidified the choice for me.

The character profile was slightly more interesting than others to write because Appule gained a palette-swap named Oran in the anime who occasionally replaced what might have been Appule in the manga — it was difficult to tell in black-and-white with so many henchman looking so similar to one another. I even enlisted the help of our forum to scan through some of the scenes and figure out exactly which character was absolutely Appule in which scenes.

After writing the character biography page, I quickly adopted him as my scapegoat character for random jokes. What really solidified the joke for me was the Sparking! series of video games on the PlayStation 2 (and eventually the Wii) — so many new characters were being tossed into the game, I joked often (on and off the podcast) that when they announced that Appule was a playable character, we would know that they had finally begun scraping the bottom of the barrel. With the first Sparking! game featuring 90 playable characters and its sequel featuring 129, it didn’t seem like there would be many other notable characters to toss in.

In December 2006, Namco-Bandai announced a port of Sparking! NEO (released outside Japan as Budokai Tenkaichi 2) for the Nintendo Wii. We received the game first in North America as a near-launch game for the console, but it took a little bit of time for the game to be released in Japan and Europe. As a fun extra for the delayed port, these versions received a couple new characters to the roster. Guess who was announced?

Appule would go on to be a regular roster choice in Sparking! METEOR (released outside Japan as Budokai Tenkaichi 3), fulfilling his destiny according to my jokes.

In 2008, TeamFourStar debuted their DBZ Abridged fan parody series. In the very first episode, Raditz makes an off-hand joke (after killing “The Farmer”):


On Episode #0135 of our podcast, KaiserNeko confirmed for us that it was a reference to our recurring joke with the character, launching Appule to even further in-joke stardom.

MIKE: And I have to say, I guess I’ll interrupt you, ya’ know, how you’re describing the process, there are certain jokes that almost seem directly aimed at Meri and myself.

MERI: Hah, what?!

KAISER: You know, that might actually have to do with the fact that I am a hardcore listener of your show!

(a little later in the show)

MIKE: I have to ask, was there an Appule joke early in that episode?

LANI & KAISER: Yes there was!

MERI: I thought so!

MIKE: I didn’t hear it the first time. Meri was like, oh my god, they just made an Appule joke. I was like, really?

LANI: “So this was why Dad said I couldn’t keep Appule…”

MIKE: Yes! Ah, Appule, these guys are right up my alley!

KAISER: Actually, ya’ know, when we wrote that joke I was thinking of you.

MIKE: Aww!

MERI: That’s so sweet!

KAISER: That’s mostly because, I thought he’s the ONLY person who’s going to get the joke!

That same year, I decided to pay tribute to my favorite, ridiculous, minor character in the series. I collected every single last bit of footage from the anime in which Appule appeared (including an episode during the Garlic Jr. filler arc where it seems like Vegeta kills an entire planet of Appule-esque characters), and tossed together a funny little trailer called “Dead In Two Episodes” in a couple hours. I did not end up using every last second of footage, but only because many of the scenes are just redundant shots of the exact same thing. For all intents and purposes, every scene of Appule appears in the trailer. I happened to finish the trailer in time for Anime Weekend Atlanta‘s “Professional” anime music video contest that year. It was nominated for “Best Trailer”, but I have to imagine it was only because there were so few trailers submitted to the contest.

In November 2008 on Episode #0152 of our podcast, our buddy Jeff asked us about character name puns that had not been “completed”. For example, the Jump Super Anime Tour special completed “Vegeta” with “Table” (using the entire word “vegetable” now to form two distinct name puns). For whatever reason, Appule’s name was brought up:

JEFF: Well, that kinda leads to the question, are there any other characters that haven’t filled out their pun yet?

MIKE: Aahh… yeah!

MERI: “Paragas” — “a”…!

MIKE: “Broli” — “co”…!

JEFF: No, no, wait. I could say Appule… Appu… Paragas…

MIKE: He’s neither Saiya-jin nor vegetable.

JEFF: True. But, like, “Appule” and “Paragas”, you could say “Appu… ra… gas…”… never mind.

MIKE: So Jeff, you want Appule and Paragas to fuse!

MERI: SOMEONE DRAW THIS!

MIKE: Into what?

JULIAN: Oh noooo!

MIKE: What is the resulting fusion name?

JEFF: “Appuragas”.

Within a week, that drawing existed. Our listener Tekkaman-James created “Appuragas” for all the world to see:

Just this year (2010), a new line of figures call “Freeza’s Force” has been seeing a release in Japan. While the first line contained the expected characters like Freeza himself and all of Ginyu-Tokusentai, the third line was set to contain Appule (along with plenty of other extremely minor henchmen). I was more than happy to place my order when he became available for purchase on Play-Asia!

So that brings us all the way up through today. It may not seem it (especially after an action figure and even an appearance as a playable video game character), but there are plenty more places to take Appule. Hopefully we will see some more of him in the near future.

Long story short, The Farmer has nothing on Appule. We also certainly would not some kind of short manga explaining “Appuragas” and his origin story…

Daizenshuu EX Removed From YouTube

I was both anticipating (expecting, really) and dreading this day — today was the day that the “daizex” YouTube account was removed due to “copyright infringement”. What makes it so delicious is the “third strike” which resulted in the take-down:

One of our “Inconsistencies” videos.

For those who are unfamiliar with them, over at Daizenshuu EX we created a series of (so far) three videos in our “Inconsistencies” line (itself a multimedia extension of our “Filler Guide“). In conjunction with a podcast episode (where we discussed the same topic matter among several hosts), we would create a short, narrated video that showcased the differences between the original manga (comic) version of a scene from DragonBall and its later TV adaptation. In our first video, we presented a scene where one character (Vegeta) sees another character’s transformed state (SSJ Goku) in the TV version, which never actually happened that way in the manga, and what the ramifications would be from this. In our second video, we presented a scene where the villain (Freeza and Dodoria) who murders a character (Cargo) is changed when adapted to the TV version. In our third video, we presented a scene in which there is a slight change in the order of events in a scene (Piccolo pushing Goku out of the way of a blast from Freeza).

In all three videos, panning and zooming shots from the original manga version are presented with original narration. A short clip from the corresponding TV episode (with subtitles of our own creation, since we are using the original Japanese version of the show) is played. To conclude, we recap with a couple more panning and zooming screen shots from both the manga and TV versions.

They are basically nerd-erific showcases of dedicated love for the franchise. While we have not quite seen anything exactly along the lines of what we created, other examples do exist out there — our buddy MistareFusion created a great video that has fun analyzing what appears to be a very intentional nod to Star Trek in one scene from the DragonBall Z TV series:

Are we using copyrighted works “without permission”…? Sure. Does that extend to even things like using music from the TV series, in addition to showcasing an actual scene from it? Absolutely. There is no delusion here.

Is it “fair use”…? Let’s hold off for a minute on that.

The way that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) works is that if any kind of provider or host (let’s say YouTube) is notified by a rights holder (let’s say Toei Animation) that one of their works is being improperly used, stored, transmitted, etc., that provider or host must immediately remove or otherwise take down the infringing material. There is no review process until after the material is removed — if and only if the creator of said infringing material (let’s say me) chooses to file a counter-claim (in which they are saying that the material is not infringing, may actually be fair use, etc.). Basically, if you are notified to take something down… you take it down without question, or face further action. The rights holder faces no immediate repercussions for issuing take-down notices to content providers — this means they can issue take-down notices willy-nilly in blanket rollouts and hope for the best under the (safe) assumption that everything will be taken down with no argument. There is the potential for a horribly chilling effect on free speech when organizations hide behind the DMCA to remove legal commentary (for example, issuing a DMCA take-down notice on something they simply don’t like, rather than something genuinely infringing), but that is not the subject of this post, and not something I have enough familiarity with to authoritatively rant about.

YouTube works on their own personal “three strike” rule, whereby an account that receives three take-down notices from rights holders will be immediately deactivated. My main “daizex” account had received two notices of take-downs from YouTube regarding two prior videos:

  • While working on my review of Ayumi Hamasaki’s “Rule” CD single and DVD, I edited a short video clip from the music video to include on the page. Within minutes the video was removed from my account with a take-down notice from the music rights holder in Japan.
  • On April 1st of this year, we received a take-down notice on the opening theme to the video game DragonBall Z 3 (“Budokai 3”) for the PlayStation 2 (which can still be viewed here and here and here on YouTube via other users’ accounts). We subsequently removed other game-related videos from our account. This was legitimately just a case of, “We think this is cool and will post it up for folks.” There were no “education” or “review” pages associated with it.
  • This morning, we received the following e-mail:

We have disabled the following material as a result of a third-party notification from TOEI ANIMATION CO.,LTD. claiming that this material is infringing:

DBZ Filler Inconsistencies: Video #3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_Y3KQRusWY

This is the third notification we have received alleging copyright infringement in one of your postings. Consequently, your account has been terminated.

If one of your postings has been misidentified as infringing, you may submit a counter-notification. Information about this process is in our Help Center.

Please note that there may be severe legal consequences for filing a false or bad-faith notice.

Sincerely,

— The YouTube Team

Were the first two claims pretty accurate? Sure. Does that diminish the accuracy or weight of the third claim? That’s up to you to decide. Personally, I think if anything is going to be called “fair use”, it is a video like one in our “Inconsistencies” series.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) breaks down the area of fair use as such:

There are no clear-cut rules for deciding what’s fair use and there are no “automatic” classes of fair uses. Fair use is decided by a judge, on a case by case basis, after balancing the four factors listed in section 107 of the Copyright statute. The factors to be considered include:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes — Courts are more likely to find fair use where the use is for noncommercial purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work — A particular use is more likely to be fair where the copied work is factual rather than creative.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole — A court will balance this factor toward a finding of fair use where the amount taken is small or insignificant in proportion to the overall work.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work — If the court finds the newly created work is not a substitute product for the copyrighted work, it will be more likely to weigh this factor in favor of fair use.

(A-1) Was our video commercial in nature?
No. We were not enrolled in any revenue-sharing program via YouTube. We do not make any money off of Daizenshuu EX — while we do accept donations, any money received is put immediately back into the site for things like product reviews, hosting, etc. If you care to know, we’re in the hole. Always have been.

(A-2) Was our video educational in nature?
Maybe. While not a scholarly work in any way, an authoritative presentation of information could be considered “educational”. At the very least, it was “insightful”… or so we like to think ^_~.

(B) What was the nature of the copyrighted work?
Well, the copied work was creative (a fictional, animated TV series).

(C) What was the amount of copyrighted work used in relation to its larger whole?
Within our three-minute-and-sixteen-seconds video, the vast majority was original narration and still-shots from the manga and TV versions. Footage taken “verbatim” (for lack of a better phrase) plays between 0:30 and 1:26 (including fades in and out), meaning it is less than one minute in length, and less than one-third of the short video. As for an amount in “comparison” with the original product, are we comparing in relation to the one particular episode? An episode is roughly 22 minutes long. Are we comparing in relation to the entirety of the TV series? DragonBall Z is 291 episodes long, while its preceding and proceeding series have 153 and 64 episodes, respectively…

(D) What is the effect upon the potential market?
Our video is clearly not a substitute for the original product, in that we are constantly interrupting scenes with original narration and swiping them away to move onto the next point. We discuss roughly one minute or so of content from one TV episode of a long-running series. Furthermore, in this particular video we do not even discuss (never mind showcase) what is typically regarded as the most substantial and important “part” of the episode (Goku’s first SSJ transformation) — I personally think that is relevant to this fourth defense point, but you may disagree.

So where do we go from here?

I am not entirely sure. I think it is worth it to file a counter-claim with regard to this particular “Inconsistencies” video, but it is a lot of work for little value in return — which is exactly what the rights-holders are hoping for from an attitude out of those they issue take-down notices against. There is also the fact that some of the material on the channel as a whole was more legitimately “infringing”.

In the long run, though, I do not need YouTube to host these videos. I could just stream them myself on Daizenshuu EX all on my own! One of the reasons I put them up on YouTube, however, was — of course — the massive audience potential. We serve such a niche audience with our website that it can be difficult to find the right ways to reach out to and extend that audience. Our goal is simply to spread our love and enjoyment of the series (and specifically the original Japanese version of it), and a lot of fans out there just have no idea where to look for something like that. We have had plenty of new, regular visitors tell us they found us video YouTube, via our podcast listing in iTunes, via seeing us at conventions, etc. They are all great ways to reach out to that audience, so it made sense to explore that avenue.

The other side of me just wants to abandon it (YouTube being the “it”), though. We all know how ridiculous the comments are, and if we are not greatly expanding our audience there, then is it really worth it to keep producing for it? I am well aware (and have been constantly reminded), though, that the majority of people simply watch the video, smile, enjoy it, and move on with their lives. I consume media online in very much that same way. Positive feedback can be difficult to come by! While I joke that the negative feedback on the videos (from folks who generally are not our target audience to begin with) acts as a pretty huge hurdle to overcome in wanting to produce more, I recognize that plenty of folks out there actually do enjoy them and would not mind seeing more. With that in mind, I actually made a video showcasing the Bandai Playdia video game system exclusive to our Facebook page.

So. Uh. Thoughts?

(Oh yeah… curious to see that “Inconsistencies” video that resulted in the channel take-down? I tossed it up over on our Facebook page. Enjoy! We’ll see how long that lasts!)

Japanese DBZ Video Game Hilarity

Every so often I like to just kick back and read through all of the various boxes and instruction books for my old, Japanese DragonBall video games. I happened to be scanning through the Super Famicom stuff this morning when I re-discovered the fantastic, not-entirely-“Engrish” splash text on one of the most acclaimed games for the generation, Sûpâ Saiya Densetsu (“Legend of the Super Saiyan“).

One of the things that I love about the box is its use of “Super Saiya-jin” rather than the standard (even for Japan) “Super Saiyan“. Pronunciation issues and differences aside, “Saiyan” has almost always been the de facto standard for Japan’s own romanization of the term, so it is a little shocking to see an outlier like this.

More than anything, though, the splash text as a whole just reeks with dramatic awesomeness, and at least one fantastic mis-spelling. Can you spot it?

The strongest man in the space. SON GOKOU fights the series of the terrible baitles for our space. That’s where the legend of the Super Saiya-jin starts from. Burning blood!!

What more is there to say? I have a bunch more examples like this to share… just gotta remind me every so often, folks!

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