vegettoex.com

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

Author: VegettoEX (page 1 of 20)

Amateur Podcast Production Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

When I started my podcast back in 2005, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing; some (myself included!) would argue that I still have no idea what I am doing. I have no audio engineering training, I continue to use incredibly basic software, and I only have a rough idea of why some of the equipment I use is “good” in the first place.

That being said, I’m fairly confident that when someone loads up a recent Kanzenshuu podcast episode, they are going to: (1) have a good time, and (2) for the most part, not want to rip their ears off from poor audio quality.

I was slow to “get” “into” podcasts. I didn’t quite understand their purpose in 2005 as radio continued its slow death. I wanted to do something very different for the website, though, and it seemed like as good a time as any to get in on what still felt like the ground floor of a new movement.

These days I still listen to a wealth of podcasts. Some are old stalwarts, some are mainstream corporate shows, some are plucky amateur upstarts, and others come and go. Whereas in 2005 I found myself very forgiving about audio quality so long as the underlying content was there, these days I consider my time a little more valuable: I need both engaging content and “good” audio quality… not necessarily perfect, but something where clear effort and care went into it.

These are a few of the most important tips, tricks, and techniques I have taught myself over the years. Again, I preface this by saying I still have absolutely no idea what I am doing. I have been faking it since 2005. If you are an audio professional and you want to “correct” some of the awful habits I have lodged in my brain, by all means let me know.

For the most part, this should take you — the aforementioned plucky amateur podcaster — to heights you didn’t think were possible. People may not be able to articulate it when they hear solid production, but they certainly recognize it far back in their reptile brain. They’re thanking you for your time and effort!

Your Recording Space

Don’t record in a gigantic airplane hanger. OK, that’s probably not your scenario, so at least maybe don’t record in your kitchen. Turn your air conditioning and fans off. Send your roommates and significant others away if they are not recording on the show.

Microphone Etiquette

Figure out the exact position where the best sound comes through your microphone. Stop moving and shaking around. Stop typing on your keyboard. Stop nervously clicking the mouse. Stop smacking things on the table. Speaking of tables and desks: your microphone shouldn’t just be sitting on them. Get yourself some kind of stand or holder. Use a pop-filter to cut down on those plosives. Once you’ve figure out a good position, don’t wander away from your microphone. It’s tempting to sit back and relax in your chair, or look to the side and keep talking. Don’t do it!

Also hey uhh good lord please stop eating while recording a podcast.

RECOMMENDED:
Samsom BT4 Telescoping Boom Stand
NEEWER Adjustable Microphone Suspension Boom Scissor Arm Stand
CAD Audio EPF-15A Pop Filter

Initial Test Recordings

After you’ve done all the above, start doing some test recordings of yourself. Is there a low hum going on somewhere? Figure out where and make it stop. Do you hear your pipes clanking in the background? Time to choose a different room. Is there a clock ticking on the wall that’s getting picked up? Move it elsewhere.

Headphones

You should never be podcasting with audio coming over speakers. At best, you’re going to get random operating system sounds when Windows invariably decides it absolutely has to let you know right this second that a new update is available. At worst, you’ll be recording with someone remotely and you will get their audio picked up on your audio track resulting in an awful echo. This is easily avoidable: put headphones on. We’re not talking stock Apple earbuds here; you need to wear actual, over-the-ear headphones. You don’t necessarily need anything crazy (we’re not doing heavy metal studio session monitoring), but you do want headphones that won’t leak out too much audio. A long cord might also be a plus so you can set things up comfortably. Go with traditional analog headphones (not USB) for more versatility and no chance of audio driver issues or conflicts. Turn your audio volume so you can hear your podcast co-hosts and participants, but not so loud that your microphone is going to pick up audio leaking out the sides.

RECOMMENDED:
Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
Sennheiser HD 201

Multiple (Remote) Hosts Means Multiple Audio Tracks

Ideally, all of your co-hosts are in the same room. There’s something to be said for that real-time feedback and ability to play off each other. This isn’t always realistic, though. I get it.

If you are going to get serious about this, each individual host (co-host, guest, etc.) should be recording just their own audio track by themselves on their own computer. Skype conversations sound like Skype conversations (and/or Discord, TeamSpeak, etc. conversations). There’s audio quality degradation, there’s that extra moment of silence between speaking, etc. It sounds amateur-hour because it’s really super amateur-hour. The biggest step up you can make is having everyone record their own audio track. This is going to be a little more work for the editor in the long run, but if you’ve already decided to get serious about this, well, this is what you’ve signed up for.

Realistically, not every special guest you have will be able to do this. We can’t expect every expert in the field to also have audio recording setups the same way we do. However, if you have the same couple people on your podcast every episode, they’re in this deep enough to respect the craft and your time to step up their game and help out.

Record Your Own Backup

That all being said: always record a backup. Things go wrong. They always do. Someone’s computer is going to crash. Someone’s export is going to corrupt. Someone is going to forget to send you their audio and go on vacation for two weeks in the middle of the ocean.

In lieu of re-recording the entire show (which is also an option!), if you record your own backup you at least have something to fall back on. Ideally your backup should also be multi-track as if you were still all recording locally. At the very least, you want your own audio track in one channel/track and the “call” (whether it’s one other person or multiple other people) in another channel/track.

When you’re just getting started with editing multiple audio tracks, this backup can also be a good temporary tool to line up everyone’s recordings where they’re supposed to be. You’ll eventually get used to the flow of things and will be able to line things up naturally all on your own.

RECOMMENDED:
Ecamm’s Call Recorder (Skype, OS X)
Craig (Discord)

Selectively Silence the Other Audio Tracks

If you’re reading this, you are (like me) not an audio engineer. We can set our recording spaces up to the best of our ability, but we are still not radio professionals. We need to overcompensate a little bit.

This is the next step and reason why you were just recording multiple audio tracks. Go through and start silencing out what should be total silence in the other tracks. You don’t think you’re making noise, but you are. Again, we’re not professionals: we’re all breathing in the mic too hard, we’re all knocking into things at some point, our phones start buzzing, the cat starts meowing, the neighbor starts chainsawing trees… the list goes on and on. Look at your waveform: you’ll see little dots and hiccups, which you can and should just kill off.

There might be plugins and automatic procedures that look for frequencies to silence out, but I prefer doing it manually. It takes more time, but I get finer control over what I want to silence out. Consider setting some hotkeys if they aren’t already available in your software. I like to set “Z” as “Cut” (for the ring finger) and “C” as “Silence” (for the pointer finger) in Audacity.

Edit Your Damn Podcast

You have all the tools at your disposal now! Did you start accidentally talking over your co-host? You have multiple audio tracks; silence yourself out and let it play out as if you never did. Did you start a sentence over because you randomly hit puberty and your voice cracked? Cut it. Is there a long, awkward silence before someone answers a question? Cut it down to something natural.

It can be tempting to OVER-edit; resist this. Don’t be the equivalent of that dude on YouTube who’s doing jump-cuts within the same sentence. You want to edit it, but you want it to still flow like a natural conversation.

Do you have musical bumpers? Listen to a “real” radio show or watch a “real” television show. You’ll notice the music fades down right at the very second someone starts talking. Yeah. Do this. We can’t hear what you’re saying when you start talking over music that’s still playing at full volume!

Noise Removal

Experiment with noise removal and leveling. Even Audacity has some pretty powerful noise removal tools built in to it; if you have done everything above, you are bringing in some halfway decent audio, which means the noise removal is going to be easier than if you have your fan blasting at you from two feet away.

The basic idea is that you tell the software what the ambient “noise” you want to remove sounds like, and then have it remove that from the entire recording. Select a portion of a couple seconds where you’re not talking, there’s no audio echo, you’re not breathing all over the mic, etc. Basically, what does “nothing” sound like in the room? Let’s get rid of that! Do this individually for each audio track; your “nothing” will be different from someone else’s “nothing”. I like to set aside 10 seconds or so at the very beginning of a podcast recording for everyone to shut their yappers to sample as this “nothing”.

The default removal settings in Audacity tend to work well for me after sampling my “nothing” to remove. You may need to go higher depending on your setup. Test, undo, test again, and keep testing until you find a nice balance of audio quality versus that weird, echo-y artifacting caused by removing noise at the higher levels.

For what it’s worth, I prefer doing the noise removal, then doing the aforementioned selective silencing.

Equal Volume Levels Among Participants

Since we’re not audio professionals, we don’t necessarily have all the equipment and studio monitoring crew to keep us at the same volume all the time. However, through the magic of software, we can fake it!

If you are recording with others over something like Skype, look for a setting that tries to adjust your volume automatically. Turn this off. You’re stepping up your game and acting like a super-awesome podcast host, right?! All this is going to do is blow out your audio when you come back in after someone else talks. While you’re at it, make sure your audio recording program and your call software are recording the correct microphone/input (that is to say, not your laptop’s internal microphone!).

Once I’ve done all my noise removal, silencing, and editing, I toss the “final” voice-only export into Levelator and let it do its magic. If someone is whispering the entire show it’s going to have to work harder and you will definitely have some artifacting, but if folks are in the same ballpark, this is your last step to take things from 99% to 100% awesome.

(This “Levelated” voice-only audio track is what I ultimately bring back into Audacity to edit in the intro, bumper, and closing music. The truly final/master audio is then exported from there.)

RECOMMENDED:
Levelator

The Car Test

Load your near-finished podcast up on your phone and go for a drive (or, if you don’t own a car, maybe take a little mass transit trip). Can you hear it well? Can you hear everyone well? If you ever have to adjust your volume even once more during the trip, you’re doing it wrong. It’s a podcast, not a classical music performance; you don’t need extreme dynamic range on the voices.

Umm… What About Equipment?

Yeah. That’s important, too. Sure. If you master everything above, however, you’ll be able to squeeze an impressive product out of an $80-$100 mic without going out of your mind spending money on things you don’t know how to use anyway.

What Else Should I Know?

A podcast isn’t a podcast unless it’s distributed the way podcasts are distributed; otherwise, it’s just a show you made. You can and should post your show on YouTube and SoundCloud… but you have to actually make that MP3 available via an RSS feed. You can upload and hand-code a feed, or use any variety of blog and podcast-posting services (maybe something like Libsyn). Get your show out there as a real podcast, and make sure you submit it to things like iTunes and Google Play. Hardcore podcast fans are using tools and apps like Overcast; your SoundCloud ain’t gonna cut it.

Congratulations! You are theoretically now a slightly-more-informed plucky amateur podcaster!

P.S.: You will eventually know what your own breathing and your co-host’s “Uhhh…” looks like as a waveform without having to listen to it.

Podcast Guest Appearances: Early 2015

Blog clean-up in progress. Looking for something to post. Guest podcast appearances! That’s a thing!

Back in March, I helped our buddy Chris/Kirbopher kick off a multi-episode series on his “Kirblog” show all about Dragon Ball. He specifically asked me to come on to talk about the “early days” of fandom, but we ended up talking about comparisons between the original Japanese version and FUNimation’s English dubs. To spoil the conversation: that’s basically what early fandom was for me.

At the end of April, I came back on “Kirblog” after Dragon Ball Super was announced to chat with him and our buddy Scott/KaiserNeko. I decided that I was going to interact with his fans/listeners in the comments. That was certainly an experience. My working theory is that Chris’ fans aren’t used to him being challenged on opinions or follow-up questions. They’re also not used to me in general. Or realize that we’re all actual friends.

Also in April, Dustin/Innagadadavida released an episode of his “Kind Soundwaves” podcast that he recorded a few weeks earlier with me. This is actually one of my favorite things I’ve ever recorded. It was completely cathartic for me. After chatting a bit about where Dragon Ball is heading these days, we talked about Kanzenshuu, running such a giant website, dealing with criticism on the Internet, and how people are pretty much awful. But they’re also awesome. Be sure to also check out the rest of Dustin’s episodes — there’s an RSS feed for proper MP3 downloading.

There ya’ go. More Mike listenings if you need ’em.

Final Fantasy XIV #EorzeaIRL Runner-Up

Dragon Ball. Final Fantasy XIV. Can’t do anything else. This is my life, and it’s ending one duty roulette at a time.

So Square-Enix and the FF14 team started up a contest called #EorzeaIRL. The basic idea was to take a photo of something “in real life” that looked like or reminded you of a location in Eorzea (the setting for the game). I’ve been lucky enough to take some pretty spectacular vacations, so I figured I’d have something worthwhile to toss into the mix.

I remembered an hour before the contest closed to submit something. Whoops. I probably could have found something better, but this is what I came up with:

ff14_contest_winning_photo

On the left is a bit of ruins from Costa Maya in Mexico. On the right are the stairs leading down to the entrance to the Tam-Tara Deepcroft dungeon in the Central Shroud (with me waving at the camera like a doofus).

Obviously there are no walls surrounding the Costa Maya ruins, but I felt like the colors and overall structure seemed really darn similar enough to give it a try.

And hey, I got a runner-up award! I actually already own the Blu-ray soundtrack for A Realm Reborn and probably would have just tossed it on eBay, so perhaps it is for the best that I did not win one of the grand prize selections. I just received the confirmation asking for mailing info today, so I am definitely looking forward to seeing what the bag looks like when it comes in.

Definitely a cool little contest, and I am glad I entered!

Consolidating Old Websites

Whoops, better not let two years go by without posting something on a personal site that no-one actually views.

(Well, that’s not true. My “WHAT IS A CANNON” and Bardock posts actually still get lots of traffic.)

Anyway, I’m just consolidating things over here. There’s no “front page” anymore on vegettoex.com and vgconvos.com will soon just resolve over here. Speaking of which, “vgconvos” was a fun little experiment and could have made a lot more sense if we all still lived really super close by each other and weren’t all married off and starting families. Video games were never the number-one hobby for any of us, so yeah. Makes sense to just let it be a fun memory of a cool thing we tried.

I’m porting all of my own blog entries from said video game site over here to a “vgconvos” category since I did actually like some of what I wrote. Who knows? Maybe having everything tossed together in one place here will make it easier for me to type something up if I really feel like it.

I also think an updated “My Podcasting Setup ~2014ver.~” post is long overdue. But that has nothing to do with video games. Except I never get around to writing it because I’m playing video games.

Lo-Fidelity Mini-Resurrection: Episode 38’s Review

It’s July 4th, and that means a few things: grilling, beer, Will Smith fighting aliens, and Brad’s birthday.

Our buddy kicked us a tweet the other day saying he was listening to an old Lo-Fidelity episode. Remember that? We do, too! We actually have two full episodes (sorta kinda) that we recorded back in 2010 and 2011 that never saw the light of the day… until now. Well, again, sorta. I had edited together the review from episode 38, and we always intended to toss it out in some fashion, but just never got around to doing so.

So, with it being Brad’s birthday, and with The Early November‘s new album (In Currents) dropping next week, it made sense to finally toss up this review of the I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business album from back in March 2010, The World We Know.

Ta-dah!

(I haven’t really touched this file since 2010. Hopefully it sounds OK and is actually edited. The file name says it is. I’ll trust myself on this one.)

PSP Game Transfer and Error Message Woes

It seems I don’t exactly have the best luck with video game hardware lately. My 360’s USB ports seem to be on the fritz, my Wii has graphical glitches that seem to stem from WiiConnect24 (a story which I somehow missed back in 2007), and my PSP? Well, other than the one that just flat-out died in its first year, my replacement has been pretty fine!

The system has not gotten a whole lot of use over the previous year, last being the system of choice for a play-through of the original Suikoden. I have been amassing a bunch of PSP games (along with lots of cheap PS1 games via PSN) though, so I decided to pick up a 16GB memory stick to load up, which arrived a couple days ago.

Since tossing a 320GB drive into my PS3, I have greatly enjoyed using it as the central location for the entire PlayStation family (which is… well, really just the PS3 itself and the PSP for now) — I keep every single game I have purchased over PSN right there on the system without having to worry about juggling content due to limited hard drive space. That includes things like ~35 PS1 games, a crap-ton of free Minis, Neutopia for the PCEngine/TG-16, and the two free PSP games I got as a part of the “Welcome Back” program last year (LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers).

One of the features I have always liked so much about the tight integration with the two Sony platforms is the ability to play PS1 games on both systems with just a single purchase, and freely copy games and save files between them. With PSN being prone to massive slowdowns and bottlenecks (even with the magic of FiOS!), it has always made the most sense for me to just keep it all on the PS3, hook the PSP up to it via USB when necessary, and copy stuff over — it is far more efficient and painless than loading up the PlayStation Store on the PSP itself, navigating the store or my download history, and individually selecting things to re-download from there.

So imagine my surprise when I could not copy things over to my PSP the other night. There was simply no “Copy” option (navigate on the XMB to the item you want, press “Triangle”, select “Copy” when the PSP is hooked up and in USB mode; you can do the same thing with video and audio files when, for example, a USB stick is hooked up). That was… weird, to say the least.

Those familiar with the PSN download process know that, unlike over on the 360, the PS3 separates the “download” and the “install” of items. If you download an item from the store and let it be (without going to background downloading to putt around elsewhere), it will finish the download, and then immediately install the item. If you go elsewhere, however, the download file will sit in a type of “bubble”-icon within the “Games” section of the XMB — pressing the “X” button on this will “install” the game and place it into the appropriate folder (PS3 games, PS1 games, Minis, etc.).

I had a couple different types of files available to me, so I started experimenting. Could I press “Triangle” and then “Copy” a PS1 game already installed like I use to be able to? Nope. Could I do it with the Dissidia Duodecim Prologus Final Fantasy files (game + Aerith assist) that I had downloaded the prior day, which were sitting in a “bubble” above the folders? Yes. Could I do it with the three PS1 Syphon Filter games I downloaded for free the prior day as a part of PS+, which were also still sitting in their own “bubble” icons, not-yet-installed? Nope. Was the copy option there with Neutopia? Nope. Was it there for any of the Minis? Nope.

How about the PSP software from the “Welcome Back” program (which was not in a “bubble”, but filed in its respective PSP folder)? Yes, the option was there, but would result in an error message:

My next thought was that somehow I had too many systems “registered” with my online identity — I did have another PSP, after all (the one sent back to me was a replacement, not a fixed version of the same exact one I sent back). After slogging around the main us.playstation.com website and knowledge base, I ended up over on the account.sonyentertainmentnetwork.com website. From here, I was able to see that I had three systems “activated” with Sony and tied to my online ID: one PS3, and two PSPs. One of them was clearly the old system, which of course had been activated and tied to the account, but I no longer had physical possession of.

This, as I would correctly figure out, all ties in to a new policy Sony put in place this past November: the amount of systems that could be “activated” and tied to an account to play downloaded games would be decreased from five to two.

PS3: Users will be able to play the game on up to 2 activated PS3 systems.
PSP: Users will be able to play the game on up to 2 activated PSP systems.

Even then, the policy was confusing. What about things like PS1 games that were playable on both systems? Was that one PS3 system and one PSP system (equal to two total systems), or one PS3 system and two PSP systems, since that still restricted it to two systems of the same type? It went on to be clarified that the new policy was only applicable to new downloads you made after the November 18th cut-off — things you downloaded prior to that could still be played on the five-system limit.

Plenty of my content had been downloaded prior to that November 18th cut-off (things like Suikoden on the PS1, which had still been sitting there the whole time, and which I had transferred via the USB method from PS3-to-PSP a year prior), but that “Copy” option was inexplicably no longer there.

The next thing I tried was simply logging onto the PlayStation Store directly on the PSP, and checking my account information. All good there, with an accurate download history as well (though entirely out of chronological order, which is another mess for another day). I could even re-download things with no problem (such as Grandia for the PS1, which I had recently grabbed during its $2.99 sale). So it was not like I could not use content on my PSP at all, but the break-down point was clearly between the PS3 and the PSP.

It is here that we circle back to those three activated systems. Even with older-downloaded content, I wanted to check to see if perhaps having three systems was the problem. I tried to simply “activate” the PSP right on the system itself (“Account Management” –> “Activate System”). The error message: 80109D80.

Huh. OK. The new customer site allows you to remotely deactivate your systems, though you have to do it in one fell swoop, and cannot individually pick a system to deactivate. That was fine — I would just deactivate them all, and then re-activate the PS3 and PSP that I own and have in my possession. That seemed like the cleanest way to start fresh with the systems I truly, actually, physically had right in front of me and could fully account for.

It went fine for the first few steps. The deactivation went well, and I was able to activate the PS3 immediately. The PSP would not activate, however — not through the PS3 when hooked up over USB (“Account Management” –> “Activate System” –> “PSP System”), nor directly on the PSP. The following error message popped up each time and in each location: 80109D80.

OK, weird yet again. I tried a few more times (and attempted to look up the error messages on Sony’s own website, which was not even listed in their database!), and decided it was time for a call to PlayStation customer support.

The phone call was ~45 minutes in total. Probably ~10 of that was the initial maneuvering through automated prompts and being placed on hold for a live support representative. When I finally got through, “Joe” was totally awesome — very personable, very understanding, very knowledgeable, and very quick to compliment me on actually knowing what I was doing and talking about at every opportunity he could (I can only imagine the crazies that call in).

I explained the whole situation, and as expected, the 80109D80 error code was not listed in his database, either. We tried a bunch of basic stuff first (check that the online ID is actually the same on both systems, restore the PSP to factory settings, try reactivating the system again, try different types of content again). I asked if attempting to activate a system so many times would raise some security flag. Joe asked how many times I had tried (I dunno… maybe 10?), and replied that if I had tried so many times, one more was not going to hurt — indeed, we kept getting the same 80109D80 error code. At some point Joe suggested that, if re-downloading on the PSP worked, I should just stick with that option. That was unacceptable to me, though, since I no longer had a feature that had always been available to me, and it was far more convenient to copy from the PS3 than to navigate to the store on the PSP and individually select each item to re-download.

Joe eventually decided that we reached the limit of what he knew and could do, so he asked if I would be willing to wait around 10 minutes for the next level up of a specialist. “Sure, why the Hell not?” I was only on hold for maybe one minute before Joe came back on:

“You’re not going to believe how we can fix this.” (well, something like that; it definitely started with “you’re not going to believe”)

For whatever reason that we still could not clarify, the new DRM wrapping and two-system policy was indeed the likely culprit. To test the possible solution, Joe wanted me to delete something on the PS3, re-download it, and see if I had the option to copy it over via USB mode — all while still on the phone with him. OK! I wanted to go with something small enough that would not take forever to re-download, so I chose Where Is My Heart?, the pretty-well-regarded Mini that I had not yet had a chance to play (~50 MB or so). Deleted, signed in to the PlayStation Store, re-downloaded. The game did not automatically install, so it sat there in the “bubble” icon above the folders. I selected it and tried to “Copy” it… and yes, the option was there!

New error message, though: 80029780.

The groan/sigh/laugh of understanding on the other side of the phone was hilarious. Joe knew exactly what this was. This was finally the “you have been locked out of copying files for seven days for too many activation attempts” error message (Sony’s site defines it as, “You have reached the maximum number of downloads for an unactivated system”). Yes, the account had eventually been flagged for security concerns. What was never really answered, though, is why older content (that should have still had the five-system limit, and had been copied a year before with absolutely no system changes or alterations in the mean time) could not be copied.

Thankfully, it was not as if the online ID was “banned” or not usable in other ways; I could still re-download items directly on the PSP if I wanted to, and seven days from that phone conversation, I would be able to start copying files again. The caveat was that I would have to re-download all of those items on the PS3 (to get the new DRM wrapping and account syncs) before I could transfer them to the PSP… which still means I have to re-download every single last compatible item, but at least it would be on the PS3 for centralized/future access.

So that is where we stand. Seven days from now I will try copying files over again, and will update the post with the results! With no real, well-written, informative posts out there concerning these specific error messages, my goal here is to hopefully save someone the trouble of how to go about “fixing” this issue; documentation for this kind of stuff is clearly limited. As Joe and I both discussed, we both knew exactly what we were doing and talking about, and neither of us could get it resolved in a timely fashion — how on Earth is the everyday gamer supposed to figure this out?!

Also, someone please give Joe a raise or at least a free day off. He was great. My favorite part of the conversation was (other than being told over and over how awesome I was) probably reading my online ID aloud (which is, of course, just “v – e – g – e – t – t – o – e – x”), and being asked with a laugh what that spells out. I wasn’t sure if that meant he knew who I was by some cosmic coincidence; if he did, he didn’t mention it. I guess that means it was just funny, and hearing someone else say “VegettoEX” to me on the phone is indeed hysterical.

If you will indulge me just for a tad bit longer, let me point out that the root of this entire problem was DRM (and specifically, a policy change with regard to DRM). I understand the reasoning for changing the policy — “game sharing” had (apparently) gotten slightly out-of-control. Reducing the number of allowed devices was an attempt to squash that issue in some way. The problem that it created was that I — a legitimate customer — was suddenly unable to do what I had previously been able to do with the items I purchased (well, “licensed”). All I wanted to do was transfer games from one system to another. Had I hacked my PSP and installed custom firmware, I would have been able to load up my memory stick with any PS1 and PSP game(s) I wanted, with absolutely zero restrictions.

I am not advocating for free-reign piracy on the system. This entire ordeal was a clear example of how the wrong approach and policy shifts within an existing DRM scheme can really rub your paying customers (and I have significant investments there) the wrong way, however. I have to be honest: in this case, the great customer service I received basically talked me out of finally getting around to hacking the damn system. The slightest extra inconvenience would have pushed me over the edge. I am half-tempted to buy another PSP just to have one totally legit and one with custom firmware just to compare the two experiences side-by-side.

Am I just being spoiled? Sure. I could have (as Joe suggested) just re-downloaded every item I wanted directly on the PSP rather than transferring it from the PS3. Why should I have to, though? I am almost starting to come around to a full understanding-and-sympathizing viewpoint of the “they took away my Linux!” crowd… and that was always crazy (albeit in an understandable way) to me.

Some Extra Funny Images

So late last month I wrote something called “The Great Canonical Debate” (it was pretty good; you should go read it). I wanted to include some type of moderately-snarky image of some type of god handing down a daizenshuu to go along with the section about how there is no officially-declared canon to the franchise, so I had requested on Twitter a great Photoshopped-image to include.

I ended up going with one by our good buddy Tekkaman-James — you might remember him as the great artist who brought Appuragas to life. As seen in my original article, here is James’ image (now available in full-size when you click! Whoa!):

I wanted to share some of the other ones that came in, though. Our One Piece-lovin’ buddy Alex tossed this together, which I almost used:

Our artistically-awesometacular buddy Karan gave us this one. I liked it a lot (‘cuz… it’s God. Get it?), but if you didn’t “get it”, it wouldn’t have really worked.

And that’s all I’s gots for ya’ today.

The Great Canonical Debate

It’s that time of year — there is a new Dragon Ball production (the animated adaptation of Episode of Bardock), and all the fans across the Internet want to know:

“Is it canon?”

Actually, they all ask if it’s “cannon”, and these people should all be promptly shot out of a cannon.

Back in August 2008 on Episode #0145 of our podcast over at Daizenshuu EX, we talked with our buddy Desire Campbell about the idea of “canonicity” with the Dragon Ball franchise. I’m pretty sure I remember a good deal of what we talked about, but if you’re looking for more (and someone else’s perspective, which is always important), definitely check out the episode.

It might be important to actually define what “canon” means. Let’s ask our good friends over at Merriam-Webster (yes, I just did the total-hack dictionary definition thing):

1
a : a regulation or dogma decreed by a church council
b
: a provision of canon law
2
[Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin, from Latin, model] : the most solemn and unvarying part of the Mass including the consecration of the bread and wine
3
[Middle English, from Late Latin, from Latin, standard]
a
: an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture
b
: the authentic works of a writer
c
: a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works <the canon of great literature>
4
a
: an accepted principle or rule
b
: a criterion or standard of judgment
c
: a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms
5
[Late Greek kanōn, from Greek, model] : a contrapuntal musical composition in which each successively entering voice presents the initial theme usually transformed in a strictly consistent way

More often than not, you’ll see “canon” tossed out there with regard to religion. Lo-and-behold, most of the definitions you’ll see will thusly head in that direction. You’ve got things like the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were not “canonized” into the Bible. In other words, some dudes decided that those particular words written by some other dudes weren’t what they wanted to bank on and teach to more other dudes.

And that’s really the big difference between the Bible and Dragon Ball (among… uhh… a gazillion other things, I guess). Whereas the Bible has THE CHURCH™ to define which particular collection of stories into one book (and even which translation) they abide by, there is nothing like that with Dragon Ball. Sure, there are the ultimate rights holders and production companies, but none of them have ever come out and said, “Look upon ye’ official canonicalness!” and pointed over to a very specific number and type of books. No-one has ever blatantly said, for example, “movies don’t count” or “GT never happened”.

There are a couple things you might toss out there, though. “Hey dumbass!” you may say, “Toriyama said DBGT was just a side-story!” You would be correct, Mr. Rude Fan! In his introduction to the DBGT Dragon Box, Toriyama wrote, “DragonBall GT is a grand side-story of the original DragonBall, and it’ll make me happy for us to watch and enjoy it together.” What does that mean, though? Is he saying he personally does not consider it part of the story (and whether he does or does not, what does it matter to you?), or is he just making a general, sweeping statement?

You may go on to say, “Hey jerkface! Those diaz books put the movies on the same timeline as the manga, so it thinks they count!” You would be somewhat correct there, as well! At points, the daizenshuu will note how, if it had to fit, a particular DBZ movie would possibly fit in at Story-Point-X… but then go on to say that it would be impossible for it to work out that way. They acknowledge them, though, so are they considering anything they talk about part of the canon?

Which brings me right back to my main point: no-one’s ever sat down and said, “Mmm, yes… we consider the official story to be the original 519 chapters as written by Akira Toriyama, plus these other things, and absolutely nothing else what-so-ever!”

They just haven’t. No-one in any official capacity, that is.

image courtesy of our buddy Tekkaman James

I’m always curious what folks really mean when they ask: “is it canon?” How are they defining what “canon” is for themselves? I would assume what they’re asking boils down to something like, “Did someone say this is supposed to fit in with the original manga, and are we expected to accept it as always having been this way, despite it being shoehorned in so many years later?”

But it just circles back around at that point, since no-one’s ever said anything like that. Whenever a new animated special comes out (Jump Super Anime Tour Special), whenever a new spin-off manga comes out (Dragon Ball SD)… no-one from the production side ever makes any claim like that. They’re just making stuff for the sake of making stuff (well, they’re making stuff in an attempt to make money off you at some point down the line). They may make an attempt for whatever new story they write to fit in in the loosest sense, and maybe even give it a broader description, like was the case with Episode of Bardock, which was promoted as a “sequel” to the original TV special from 1990.

Well, of course it was a “sequel” — it picked up where Bardock’s story left off. You don’t have to like it, and it can be tons of fun to point out some of the inconsistencies which causes it to not actually work out flawlessly in conjunction with its inspiration… but no-one’s making any claim about “canon” in there. It just… kinda… “is”.

So are they inside or outside the ship…?

Lots of fans like to create their own canon. A pretty common one is: “if Akira Toriyama wrote it in the original manga between 1984 and 1995, I consider it — and nothing else — to be canonical”. That makes sense; it’s from the original author and written during the time frame of the franchise’s original publication and production.

They may go on to create different “levels” of canonicity, too. The manga may be the base level, and then the TV adaptation below it (basically “less seriously”). In cases like this, it’s usually for the purposes of ironing out contradictions (generally created by filler material or expanded conversations) and deciding which “truth” to go with.

Going even deeper, you have things like the movies and TV specials, and how they are placed into a canon, if at all. One traditional viewpoint is that movies 9 (Bojack) and 13 (Hildegarn) can pretty easily fit in with even the original manga, so hey, let’s consider them part of the canon just to flesh it out and have extra material. What about the TV specials? Bardock gets all the spotlight these days, but what about Trunks? The TV special adaptation took huge liberties from Toriyama’s original “TRUNKS THE STORY” (such as Trunks already being Super Saiyan versus transforming due to Gohan’s death), but most fans seem to “go with” the TV version, and usually because they simply like it more. Is liking something reason enough to consider it part of the canon, though?

Which is her natural hair color…?!

Whatever you “decide” to “go with”, it’s all fine and dandy. It’s a great way to get further involved with the franchise that you love so much, and even just to keep track of things in your ever-increasing head of knowledge.

But that’s really the extent that you can take it. You have examples like Dragon Ball GT, which was an officially-produced sequel (as in one of the rights holders, Toei Animation, had permission and the capacity to produce it). Is it part of the “canon”, though? Well, you can’t really answer that. Some fans will accept it since it continues where the story left off, and the producers were the ones who made it (as opposed to Joe Schmoe on the Internet writing another AF fan-manga). Other fans won’t accept it since Toriyama’s involvement was limited and only at the beginning of production. Other fans will accept it but also try to work in Dragon Ball Online, despite the two crossing paths.

No-one’s “right” or “wrong” here. There is no, to bring it back to the definition, “authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture”.

Maybe there is, though. I don’t see anyone debating that what Toriyama originally wrote for the pages of Jump shouldn’t be taken as “canon”. That’s pretty “accepted” as the “authentic works of a writer”, correct?

It gets tricky the instant you step outside of that, though. How about things that Toriyama wrote or decided later on after the series’ completion? There are things like Mr. Satan’s real name being “Mark”, the Kaioshin coming from the Shin-jin and apples and Makaioshin and all that jazz… the original author declared all this, so is it “canon”?

While we’re at it, what about the revised ending that Toriyama drew for the kanzenban? It’s from Toriyama. It’s manga. Is it “canon”…? What about the prior version? Should it be disregarded, as if it never happened?

That brings us to a fun little thought exercise. Let’s say that Toriyama decides he doesn’t just want to keep slapping his name onto things with a “supervisor”-esque credit anymore, and writes a true continuation of the series. It could be right after the original manga, or after GT — it really doesn’t matter in this example. What would you consider this new story? Would it be part of the canon for you? It could go one of two ways. One school of thought places anything that the original author writes for the series (in this case, let’s say just in manga form to keep it simple) in the canon. The other school of thought believes that unless it was part of the original series and was always intended to be a part of the series, it doesn’t matter if even the original author comes back to it — it’s still a new addition, separate from the original canon.

And that’s why I think you can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) even attempt to ask: “is it canon?” No-one who produced the series seems to care enough to make a declaration of canonicity, and it continues to expand with new productions every single year. I’m not pulling the, “it’s a fun series from a poop-joke author” card here like I usually do, either (well, maybe just a little bit). It really does continue to build with so many different bits of lore every single year, and so much so that if you’re asking what the “canon” is, you’re already so far down the rabbit hole that you’ll never decide on a proper answer.

(Next time on “Mike Rants About Insignificant DBZ Stuff”, perhaps something like “Why you’re missing the point about battle powers”… along with some of the other great “God hands down ye’ golden daizenshuu” images folks slapped together for us!)

Otakon 2011 In Review

My first Otakon was back in 1999. I went for just one day, but for little 17-year-old Mike, it was quite an eye-opening experience. Bootleg CDs were obtained (how was I supposed to know what SonMay was?!), anime was watched (Hiko Seijuro walking on-screen during the Rurouni Kenshin OVA received the loudest applause I’ve ever heard), and fandom was confirmed.

Things are different in 2011. I first submitted an AMV in 2001, and then regularly from 2003-2008, nothing in 2009, again in 2010 (finally winning at Otakon with that one!), and doing many AMV panels there throughout the years with our generational cohorts. Shockingly (more so to us than maybe to anyone else), we actually skipped watching the AMV contest entirely this year — it conflicted with other events we had more interest in. All three of our panel submissions were declined, so unlike 2007 and 2010 with DragonBall-related panels (and other years in there sprinkled with AMV panels), we had nothing to prepare for in that regard. Even our hotel roommates had to bow out toward the end (through no real fault of their own), so it was the first time in around ten years that it was just the wife and I attending as regular ol’ attendees.

Having gone to the convention with that mindset (“I am just another person here!”), I felt like I actually had a lot to say about this year’s convention. Maybe some of it is helpful to someone. Maybe some of it is too rose-tinted. Maybe some of it is too critical. Maybe some of it will guarantee I never get another panel at the convention again. Oh, well.

COSPLAY

No, not of our own — never done that before — I’m talking about everyone else! I am of course drawn to the DBZ cosplay throughout the convention, but I notice a few other things here and there. Still a lot of Fullmetal Alchemist, still a bit of Ouran, a lot more Pokemon than in the past, still a good amount of Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts… you know, the usual suspects. What would normally annoy me (moderately disruptive behavior) was somehow one of my favorite examples of literal cosplay (as in playing it out in costume): the three dudes decked out in full Beastie Boys “Sabotage” outfits ducking and spinning down the hallway blaring the song on a boombox. I applaud you, good sirs.

Only managed to snap a few shots of DBZ cosplay this year, unfortunately:

Quite a few other good ones (Uub, Selypa). I should probably make more of a concentrated effort to take these types of photos. My bad.

WATCHINGS

The plan was to catch the Otakon debut of Trigun: Badlands Rumble and then head on downstairs in the short buffer period to get in line for Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos. I was led to believe both would be subtitled, but it turned out the Trigun movie would be dubbed, followed by a Q&A session with Johnny Yong Bosch. Having zero interest in the latter but still having an interest in seeing the movie, we crammed into line for the HD theater. A good portion of the folks behind us were told they would not make it inside, so I consider us somewhat lucky that we got in at all. Things ran about 15-20 minutes late, but with that being the norm for these types of events, nothing was particularly frustrating.

The dub was thankfully solid (not that I didn’t also think the same of the TV series dub, but it’s a Japanese production — I want to watch it in Japanese at a Japanese animation convention with one of the Japanese guests being the head of the movie’s Japanese animation studio [follow all that?]). As I’ve heard described elsewhere, the three main returning characters had re-castings that were so close to the prior actors that undiscerning ears might not even be able to tell the difference: Milly was a dead-ringer, Meryl was pretty close, and Wolfwood was better (from what little he spoke, anyway). I’m really glad we got a chance to see it first during a convention with such a massive audience, because I’m not sure it would have had some of the emotional impact just by ourselves, even at home in HD with surround sound. The instant Vash appeared screaming on the ground in the opening, the crowd erupted in laughter and cheers. The first moment Wolfwood’s gun/cross got unwrapped, the applause rivaled what I remember from Hiko slashing the Hell out of grunts back in 1999. These were magical shared moments, and ones that I will treasure for a long time to come. Without the audience? Next time I watch the movie, I will likely start picking apart some of the needless exposition, dragging pace of certain scenes, and occasional cheap 3D animation integration. Until then, every time I think of the movie there will be a smile on my face.

Like I said, the plan was to then run on down to Video 1 to get in line for the new Fullmetal Alchemist movie, but the overwhelming crowd and lack of a room-clear following the AMV contest left us in a weird situation: do we wait it out and hope we make it in, and what else could we be doing in the mean time if we decided to just bail? In retrospect, it sounds like we would have been able to get in if we stuck it out, but I’m OK missing out on one movie after having just sat through one immediately beforehand. Besides, without stadium seating, the poor short wife might not have been able to read the subtitles! Insert annoying “chibi” joke / FMA reference here. Funny, right?

We ended up walking on over to the Sailormoon / DBZ panel, instead. More on that later. Much more.

DEALERS ROOM

We buy less and less every year. We at least grab the obligatory gashapon to add to the display in our basement, but unless something major catches our interest (like the DBZ movie 4 program guide from last year), there really isn’t anything to pick up at a convention that I don’t already either own or have on pre-order elsewhere.

We perused the hanger in shifts this year: halfway through on Friday, and halfway through on Saturday. During our Saturday run, we happened across an enormous table filled to the brim with DBZ figures! Most dealers have a few figures and plushies from various series, but this guy had an entire table dedicated to just DBZ stuff. He (unfortunately) wanted to keep a low profile and had no business card or contact information (and declined an interview), but near as I could gather from what he let slip, he grabs a metric crap-ton of stuff when he goes to Japan, and when he needs to pay his daughter’s next college tuition fee, he heads to a convention and sells the stuff. What was most amazing to me was how reasonable his prices were — he easily could have added $5 to the price of any small figure, $20+ to the price of the larger stuff, and I would not have batted an eye.

picture swiped from our buddy TanookiKuribo

I had already grabbed the Piccolo “Creatures” figure elsewhere, and we picked up a few new ones from this dealer. Good little stash, I’d say.

I saw the program guides for DBZ movie 2 and the 10th anniversary movie, but I wasn’t willing to spend $25 a pop on program guides again this year. I almost walked out with a boxed copy of Famicom Jump: Hero Retsuden for the Famicom ($40), but the figure purchases changed that plan.

OTAKU IDOL

Something we had never attended before, Otaku Idol was at least a quick check-in for us this year with our friends Peter and Katie being participants. Due to what I assume is not wanting to overly criticize poor otaku souls, the largest dissections by the three judges were limited to things like “that song was within your range / maybe a little outside your range” or “great job moving around / I wish you moved around a little more”. We watched the ten finalists do their thing, and just about all of them were impressive in their own right. It was no surprise to hear that Peter ended up winning it all in the end based solely on his amazing “GA-GA-GA, GA-GA-GA, GAO-GAI-GAAAAAAR!” first-round performance.

IRON EDITOR

Since we didn’t make it to the Fullmetal Alchemist movie, we also had time later on to attend Iron Editor. After sitting around for a little bit waiting for the event to start up, we got the request to be judges yet again. I love that the AMV winners are played during the second half of the event, but that also means that we literally sit up there for one of the two hours and do absolutely nothing (well, we watch the videos along with the audience). I’m not sure how I feel about that. If we are asked again to be judges (which I certainly enjoy!), I will have to toss some ideas over to Peter (who took over hosting duties this year and did fantastically) in terms of how to make the judges appear to be more than dead weight on the stage. In the past we would choose some of the audience participants for contests, but even that isn’t enough. What else can we do? Hmm…

FAN PARODIES

We were mostly excited to see the Otakon debut of Fanboy Soze, but it sounded like there were a couple other new items being played that might also be fun to check out.

Our own Obligatory EVA Trailer was played Friday evening — that was an interesting experience. We put that together in 2003 when Sealab 2021 was still new. It actually won “Grand Prize” in the 2003 Anime Weekend Atlanta AMV Expo contest! I still love it to death and think it’s genuinely funny and well-put-together, even without any familiarity with either source material (Sealab and Evangelion). In 2011, though? Barely any response. Wow. Really goes to show just how much comedy is subjective, especially to an audience so many years removed from when it was originally created. Honestly, it was somewhat embarrassing. Really puts things in perspective! I wonder how many of our AMV-related works will stand the test of time — will any of them? I have an entirely different perspective since I actually worked on them, and can’t always remove myself from their creation process.

Fanboy Soze, the new parody from NoN.D.E. Fan Films, went over fantastically. The wife and I were discussing how we think the underlying plot point about how many series (particularly DBZ) getting re-released so many times in different formats may have went over the audience’s head a little bit, but everything else made up for it. All the right jokes hit home, and some that seemed like they may be too old or obscure for today’s fans (such as when “West of Home” in the Zork parody came up) really surprised me with how amazing the reaction was. Conventions really are the best place for parodies like these, and with both the video and particularly the audio being set up pitch-perfect this year, it just made everything all the more awesomer. For those interested, Scott has put together a jam-packed DVD with tons of extras. It’s currently available in a multi-part download via their forum.

The biggest surprise in the parody block Saturday night was Macross 7.5 1/2. Especially for a one-man production, I was absolutely blown away. The entire thing could have ended after the 1-2 minute introduction, and I would have been satisfied, but the fact that it went into a full-episode parody hit it out of the park. There were a couple instances where it dragged or became a little confusing, and of course a little extra production help could have helped, but all-in-all you can color me impressed.

PANELS

Oh geeze. Where to start?!

I guess I have to preface this by saying that I absolutely adore panels. When done well, they can be some of my favorite experiences and memories from a convention. I’ll never forget the discussion at Shoujocon one year equating Jem and the Holograms to American shoujo, the genre’s/classification’s relevance to something like Escaflowne, etc. The gekiga panel at Otakon a couple years back was a fascinating look at where hilariously-manly storytelling could go above and beyond shonen and seinen. Every year in between I have attended a panel that blows me away with the amount of research, knowledge, and professionalism that can be presented by mere fans to their comrades.

The other side of panels is what drove me to start doing my own, not to mention the podcast over at Daizenshuu EX. You know the ones — a dude or two sitting up front that simply like something and want to talk about it. Hey, remember that time Person X smashed Person Y in the face? Yeah, that was awesome! What do you think about Event Z? Yeah, that was pretty sweet. Any other questions? No? OK, let’s attempt to be funny for the next fifty-five minutes.

There is a time and a place for that type of conversation, but a panel at one of the largest anime conventions is not it.

Here is a break-down of all the panels we had the opportunity to hit up this weekend. This isn’t even cracking the surface of what was offered, but it might be a pretty good surface-level glance at the type of stuff available to attendees:

  • Remembering Satoshi Kon
    Presented by Daryl Surat (Anime World Order / Otaku USA), I knew what I was getting into with this one — a deliberate format, examples to back up claims, microphone etiquette, and all the other stuff that goes along with a fantastic panel. I learned new things, I remembered things I forgot, and gained an even larger appreciation for the late Satoshi Kon than I already had. Daryl gives himself a hard time by admitting that much of his research extends to on-disc extras and basic online research (indeed, much of what he covered is listed in the Satoshi Kon Wikipedia article), but it’s the way that it’s presented in-person that makes it so engaging. I can’t say enough good things about this panel.
  • Becoming a True Pokemon Master: An Introduction to Competitive PKMN Training…
    We arrived just after the start of this panel (thanks to having to run from the convention center over to the Hilton), and it was filled up enough to have to wait for a couple folks to leave before we were let in. That means we unfortunately missed the beginning portion, so I have no idea who presented the panel and how the first half went, but I was impressed enough with what I saw. Things were a little rough around the edges (you don’t need to read entire paragraphs off your PowerPoint presentation — please learn how to outline!), but the content was solid. I had never heard of “RNGing” before, so I can definitely say I learned new things. The content was excruciating for the wife who had zero knowledge and interest, so this was definitely one for the hardcore fans, and them alone.
  • Anime News Network
    Chris was at least aware of how bad this was and acknowledged it at the beginning, but the panel was basically just “what do you want us to talk about?” I can understand how that is somewhat appropriate for a mainstay website/panel like this, so it gets a little bit of slack. Nothing particularly enlightening or enthralling either asked by the audience or answered by the panelists, but them’s the breaks. Lots of prizes for the audience, so at least the bribes were appropriate.
  • FUNimation
    The only industry panel we attended this weekend, FUNimation’s was by-the-books, covering recent releases, current statistics, upcoming plans, and a few light announcements. Nothing earth-shattering out of the panel (still no Sailormoon! Blargh!), but for the DBZ superfans, we at least got some preliminary clarifications about the upcoming Blu-ray sets (un-cropped, apparently a new remaster). It sounds like they had one or two more announcements they were hoping to make, but the ink wasn’t dry and they had to hold off on them. Oh, well!
  • Deculture! A Macross Panel
    Walked out after the first ten minutes. The panelists did not introduce themselves, could not get their words out, seemed woefully unprepared, and did not know how to use a microphone anyway. Having recently watched the original Macross TV series (finally!), we have still been riding a high of enjoyment about the franchise. An overview of all the series and some new tidbits of information sounded like a great time. Unfortunately, this seemed like it was destined to be the exact opposite of a great time.
  • Unusual Manga Genres
    We only managed to catch the second half of this one as presented by Erin Finnegan (Ninja Consultants / ANN), but it was still a great time — endless examples of every niche genre spanning hilarious to serious and back again. She knew what she was talking about, was aware of the time constraints and adapted appropriately where necessary, spoke loud and clear… again, another fantastic panel that both enlightened and entertained, the two things I want out of every panel.
  • Masao Maruyama Q&A
    Despite him attending the convention for years, I think this was actually the first time we had a chance to stop by the Madhouse director’s general Q&A panel at Otakon. Another by-the-books professional panel with the expected questions from the audience, but a great and honest commitment by Maruyama to secure funding for and complete Satoshi Kon’s unfinished work (The Dream Machine) was a testament to his own professionalism and integrity.
  • Noburo Ishiguro Q&A
    Why waste time talking about things like Yamato and Macross when you can spend 20 minutes talking about the production of Cream Lemon?! That’s how things roll with Ishiguro! Lots of fantastic anecdotes dropped in this woefully-ill-attended panel.
  • Birth of a Generation: Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon
    In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that we submitted detailed proposals for two DBZ-related panels (one was media-focused regarding parodies and homages in both Japanese and American popular culture, while the other was a more formal dissection of how and why the franchise seemingly failed in Japan this past year). Neither were accepted. I can deal with that — we got our panel last year, it went well, and I suppose you can have someone other than the folks who run the oldest-currently-running and largest English-language resource for the franchise who do this stuff on a daily/weekly basis run a panel about it (ugh, sorry for how amazingly egotistical that sounds… but I’m also not sorry…). This was going to combine TWO FRANCHISES, so I totally get it: twice the potential audience. Makes complete sense, and I might make the same decision. Unfortunately, it was quite possibly the worst panel I’ve ever attended in my life. To be fair, we arrived about 25 minutes into the one-hour block. It looks like they had a PowerPoint at some point, but by the time we arrived, they were already well into a line-up of questions from the audience. The two panelists admitted they weren’t really experts (they just like the series), could not answer any of the legitimate questions asked of them (one regarding “the lost movie” from DBZ), and spent far more time bantering about whether Tuxedo Mask, Moonlight Knight, or Super Saiyan Vegeta would win in a fashion contest, or just how friendly Goten and Trunks really were with each other. The audience walked all over them, the panelists let them and indulged them with each and every painful question, and I struggled to convince the wife to stick around and watch the rest of the train wreck with me. Here’s the conundrum, though: the audience seemed to love it. They cheered with each and every Q&A, kept running up to ask more questions, and seemed to be having a great time. Plenty of people walked out, too, but plenty of people walk out of every panel, so I can’t really make a call in that regard. It just flabbergasts me. These people had absolutely no authority, no real preparation, no presentation skills at all, and yet received both a time slot and free compensation. I’m sorry, what world am I living in that this is not only OK, but appreciated by the audience? Am I the crazy one, here? One of the reasons I love doing panels is that I get a chance to share information and adoration with fans who don’t already partake in that stuff online. They have questions, I have answers, and everyone leaves in a good mood with knowledge they didn’t have an hour prior. That fulfills me in a way that I don’t get in any other fashion at conventions these days anymore, and with the personal interaction that even the podcast doesn’t truly have. At this point, I just don’t even know what to do about it.
  • The Abridged Panel
    A perfect example of a lackluster panel for me, but an extravaganza of awesomeness for others, and one that I totally understand and respect. People attend these panels to see their favorite “Abridged” series creators do some voices, share some new clips, yell things when bubbles appear on the screen, and gracefully accept the random fortune cookie tosses. Thrown in the mix you have people asking the obligatory questions like how to get into abridging on their own, and at the end of an hour, you’ve got a fantastically-attended panel full of laughs. I get it. Not for me, but I get it.

MEETING PEOPLE

With no panels of our own, we didn’t even bother trying to set up some type of community meet-up. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that if I was putting in so little effort, I wouldn’t be meeting too many new people! Major props to Doug (“Drabaz”) for recognizing me during the Friday evening fan parodies block. Having just recently spoken with him on our podcast about his custom LittleBigPlanet level, it was great to chat in person for a bit. The only other new meeting took the entire weekend, but I finally got a chance to man-hug our buddy MasakoX from TeamFourStar after the giant “Abridged” panel Sunday morning. It would have been criminal for him to have flown all the way out here and then never get a chance to say hello at some point, so I am incredibly grateful for him taking the time out of autographing gazillions of program guides, DVDs, books, bare chests, and whatever else fans were throwing his way to instead briefly hang out with us.

There were of course all the catch-ups with old friends, but two new people? That’s it? Lame, Mike. Very lame.

SO WHAT DID I ACTUALLY THINK?

Otakon 2011 was pretty fantastic. We saw a lot of great people, saw a lot of great things, had a great time, and I don’t see why I won’t be back in 2012 for my 14th consecutive time to the only convention I actually still go to. Some things still need work, but they always do, and I look forward to seeing it continue to evolve.

Why “Episode Of Bardock” Makes So Much Sense

You heard the hesitancy as we started discussing it on Episode #0262 of our podcast over at Daizenshuu EX — there is yet another transformation on the horizon for a character that never received it during the course of the series.

Say it with me: “Who the mother eff-in’ eff cares…?!

As more and more news trickled out though, and especially up through this week with reading about the first “Episode of Bardock” chapter, I have really come around on this.

Think to a couple years back when this “new transformation” revival all began (acknowledging that we had a few prior examples such as Yamhan in DragonBall Z / Budokai 2):

We were introduced to Super Saiyan 3 Broli via Dragon Battlers and Raging Blast. Even in the home console game, he had absolutely no story — you spent the twenty stars to unlock a new stage to fight the character, and that was that. There was nothing special about it at all. The form simply existed, as-is, with no context. He was hyped up in promotional videos for the game, so that’s something… I guess?

The same thing happened the same year with Super Saiyan 3 Vegeta — we got an introduction via Dragon Battlers, followed by inclusion in Raging Blast with no contextual story to even frame the darn thing, once again obtaining the character by purchasing a stage with twenty stars (and completing said stage). SSJ3 Vegeta was just another slot on the character select screen. I mean, the stage essentially starts with Vegeta saying, “OK, here I am with Super Saiyan 3! Let’s fight!” and ends with the narrator saying, “Yep, all the Super Saiyan 3 characters just fought, and people like to get stronger!” Could there possibly be any less to it…?

Even if you did care about another couple characters getting such a powerful transformation (one whose point was, arguably, the fact that not everyone could do it), I can’t fathom how anyone could possibly get “Super Excited” about it without that key word there: context. Why did they transform? How did it happen? Was it an accident, or did they work toward it? When in the time line would this transformation happen? Is it just assumed that their target was Goku?

Toss this year’s Super Saiyan 3 (Future) Trunks from DragonBall Heroes into the mix, and you have one giant, steaming, smelly pile of apathy coming from this jaded, old fan.

Like I said earlier though, things are a little different with Super Saiyan Bardock. While he was first revealed as a new card and character for DragonBall Heroes in Japanese arcades (something so far removed that most English-speaking fans will never have the opportunity to experience it), it kept building from there. Next up was word that there would be a special manga presentation in V-Jump. Then Naho Ooishi (of DragonBall SD and the Jump Super Anime Tour manga adaptation) was going to be involved with it. Then it was going to be a three-part short story involving Bardock that ties in the new form from the arcade game. Then the Bardock TV special, along with the Trunks TV special, from DragonBall Z were finally going to be released as individual DVDs in Japan, previously only ever being available as extras within the two DBZ Dragon Box sets released back in 2003.

It was suddenly all Bardock all the time. He had his opportunities to shine here and there (for example, as one of the extra unlockable characters in Burst Limit alongside Broli), but it was never in a leading role like this.

This was an all-out assault crossing over to different media, providing opportunities for different types of fans to finally get engaged on a deeper level. Card collectors could pick up the card. Arcade dwellers could add him to their arsenal. Manga fans had a new story to read. Re-releasing the TV special lets the anime fans get caught up with the back-history (or in the case of younger fans, see it for the first time!).

This is a fantastic step toward extending the franchise and getting fans excited again. Up until now, everything has been developed and sectioned off into its own little silo with little-to-no cross over. Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans was included in Raging Blast 2, sure, but its assets were all still just within the one game (such as including Hatchihyack as a playable character). All of the new story bits have been introduced in DragonBall Online, sure, but they are again all within the one game. The closest may have been the Jump Super Anime Tour special, which was legally streamed (in various subtitle languages!) online, received a two-part manga adaptation (albeit released only just the one time, so if you missed it you lost your one and only chance), and had Tarble included as a playable character two years later in Raging Blast 2. Maybe the closest example of true merchandise extension so far were the two SSJ3 figures released under the DragonBall Kai Banpresto HSCF label:

(images courtesy our buddy Raithos)

Those examples have all felt like afterthoughts, though. The fact that “Episode of Bardock” is being treated as a “sequel” to the original anime story and has elements being spat out to so many other areas is a great sign. There is a clear amount of effort being put into this: new characters, new names (complete with puns!), research on proper locations that these events might take place in, etc. It is all being done right from the start, too, as opposed to tossing something out (such as a figure) later on down the road. Assuming they start off this way and continue with new items to enhance this story (a scenario in Game Project Age 2011 perhaps? a SSJ Bardock figure, of course? a re-release of all Ooishi-drawn manga in compilation form a year from now, maybe?), then we know they are on to something!

These companies (specifically Toei / Shueisha / Namco-Bandai) are finally realizing that their tactics need to change. With merchandise sales for the franchise decreasing year-over-year since 2007 (7.9 billion yen in fiscal 2007 to 2.7 billion yen in fiscal 2011), something had to give.

They are on the right track — Bardock and some back-history is a great place to start. Keep in mind that this is not about using something as minor as “Episode of Bardock” (and its associated releases) to bring the franchise back to the sales levels of 2007 (never mind the 90s), but rather about keeping it alive at all instead of fading into complete obscurity again until a third wave comes along a few years from now. It will be fun to see if they have a plan to sustain the franchise, or just got lucky with this one.

Older posts

© 2018 vegettoex.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑