On the KyoAni Arson Incident

This is a rarity for me on this blog, both in that I’m posting on it after a long hiatus and that I’m writing something personal on here. Unfortunately, the events of this week have led me to want to write something to share my thoughts and experiences with Kyoto Animation.

I had a long day at work after a tiring week thus far and planned to go to sleep early when I saw a “Fire at Kyoto anime studio” tweet appear on my timeline from NHK. Instantly my heart leapt. “Is it them?” I clicked the link and saw Studio 1, a studio I’ve seen in behind-the-scenes footage several times and been to in-person, smoking. I immediately shared it with my good friend Yuyucow saying “WTF?” because it was and still is unreal. “I’m speechless. Like it’s not that it’s KyoAni, it’s that anyone would do this type of thing.” Those were my immediate reactions. Shock. Awe. Fear. Confusion. Sadness. The fact that this is either the worst or second-worst murder incident in Japan since 1945, nearly 75 years ago, says it all to me. “Why?”, but more importantly “is everyone alright?”

Part of why I kept translating news (and still maintaining that thread on Twitter) was hoping that something positive would be said. Would someone live? Could people be saved? Unfortunately, the more I found out, the more devastating it was. I tried to go to sleep when we knew that 10 people were dead. I tossed and turned in my bed, afraid of what the world would be when I woke up the next day. Things were predictably worse when I woke up after 3 hours of sleep and at least 90 minutes of trying to sleep/rest. At that point, 25 people were confirmed dead and 7 missing. In hours, those numbers would be combined for 33 people who passed away in the fire and 36 injured (now 34 dead and 35 injured). A mere 7 people were completely uninjured. Seven out of 74. My mind still boggles at how few that is.

Throughout this whole event, my mind continues to wander about many things. Why did this happen? Who have we lost? Who is hurt and suffering this very minute? What can I do to help? How can I do anything at all? The answers I’ve arrived at remain unsatisfactory and will continue to be that way. Even this morning, I found myself in a sudden period of immense sadness and grief over everything.

KyoAni wasn’t a company to me; they were like my family. My first translation project was the Haruhi 10/11 novels (which I don’t recommend; get the official version instead). I continued on, translating the interviews from the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya fanbook and then translating the Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai novels when the first anime season aired. After that, I wanted to share what the staff themselves thought and so I started translating more interviews with staff members. A LOT OF INTERVIEWS! Naoko Yamada, Tatsuya Ishihara, Yasuhiro Takemoto, Shoko Ikeda, Futoshi Nishiya, Kazumi Ikeda, Hiroko Utsumi, the list goes on. As I started to translate and read more from what these creators said, they weren’t strangers anymore. They became a part of me because I had attached voices to them through my work. Seeing the rise of Naoko Yamada from “someone who made K-On!, a show oriented for men and only for pervy men at that” to artistic creator from the Tamako series and reading her thoughts has been one of the highlights of my life. I vividly remember disagreeing with people, stating that Yamada was the best director at KyoAni after seeing her thoughts and now she’s a niche, but immensely beloved director in anime fandom. To know that I’ve had a role in that via my translations (and the effects from them in YouTuber videos, articles on ANN, articles on Crunchyroll, articles on blogger sites, etc has been one of the sources of pride that I hold dear.

As time has gone on, delusions of “I hope everyone will be alright” moved to a hope of “it’s going to be okay” and to the reality of “it’s likely that someone I’ve translated has passed away.” To know that their lively and creative minds are no longer on this Earth is incredibly saddening and depressing. Survivors’ guilt: wishing that it was you instead of them. I’m not as free as I used to be. The me that was so active on this blog would’ve easily said “I’d trade my life for theirs in an instant.” The me that’s writing this now knows the obligations and relationships I have and knows how much it’d hurt those people to see me gone. That’s another source of sadness: that I desperately want to feel like I’d be willing to sacrifice myself to save people because “it’s the right thing to do.” And yet, it’s those people that have helped me immensely throughout this. Have I been sad? Yes. Have I felt overwhelmed? Yes. Have I cried tears? Multiple times. But have I been able to bounce back and feel good again? Yes, thanks to my dear friends and special someone. I know the me of a couple years ago would’ve gone into immense depression over this and maybe shut down. The current me was able to be strong and translate news updates because of these bonds.

When I think about it, that’s truly the lesson that the KyoAni works taught me: when you’re with people who care about you and want to help you through your pain, you’re able to make it through tough times. Rikka had Yuuta to help her begin to overcome her grief at not being able to say goodbye to her father. Tamako had the market to help her live and thrive without her mother. Haruka swims not for himself, but for the team. Mirai found people that cared about her and didn’t shun her because of her abilities. Kumiko’s band overcame their issues and became one together. Team E in Phantom World came together to save the day in the finale. Shoko reunited the group of Shoya’s friends for him to heal his and her hearts. Violet learned the meaning of love through her co-workers and the people she wrote letters/lyrics for.

And so these times haven’t all been horrible. I’ve learned more about the history of this wonderful company through this incident. I’ve seen how great people can be in times of grief, giving of themselves to try and help in any shape or form. I’ve had a bit of my humanity restored after being jaded so much. I grieve over the people we’ve lost. From pillars in the industry down to people who just graduated from university and were just starting their careers. Every single one of the 34 people who have passed away and every single one of the 35 remaining injured people worked to make us feel better about ourselves and to become closer together. While I’m going to cry and feel sad knowing those people will never be the same or won’t be around again, I want to honor them by trying to become a more kind and gentle person. To become as open as the KyoAni family was. To share the love that I have with people.

This is just me. I’m not you and I can’t be you. If you need to be sad, be sad. If you need to have an outlet for your feelings, find a healthy one. Grief takes many forms for each of us and we’re all unique in how we’re going to handle this. But at the end of it all, when we see the next KyoAni work, I want us to let our emotions out, say thank you to everyone who created that title, and think of the good times we’ve had and the good times yet to come. In the end, they wanted us to be happy

Sound! Euphonium 2 Primer

In late 2013, Ayano Takeda’s second novel, Sound! Euphonium, was published by Takarajimasha under their paperback label. It was read by two producers at Kyoto Animation who instantly knew that they wanted their studio to adapt it into an anime production. In autumn 2014, Takarajimasha announced the anime adaptation and at Comiket 87, the first promotional video announcing it was to be adapted by KyoAni was revealed. Simultaneously, Takarajimasha took the publicity opportunity to publish 3 sequel novels to Euphonium in early 2015. The show was a success and KyoAni wanted to adapt more in a sequel. After maintaining interest in the franchise with a recap film in April 2016, the second season is set to air from October to December 2016. Last year, I wrote a primer on what to expect from Sound! Euphonium, having read the novel prior to broadcast. This year, I wanted to write a review of what happened previously and what to expect in the second season.

euphoprimerheading1The first Sound! Euphonium novel introduces us to the story’s protagonist, Kumiko Oumae. Kumiko had a couple of traumatic events in middle school, concluding with her school’s concert band earning gold in the Kyoto Prefectural Competition, but not moving onward to the Kansai Competition. While Kumiko was happy they earned gold, her acquaintance, Reina Kousaka, was frustrated beyond belief since their path was stopped. Kumiko questioned if Reina thought they would go to Nationals and Reina got upset. Due to that, Kumiko chose to go to North Uji, a school not known for its concert band, mostly due to their uniform.

euphobd01At North Uji, Kumiko meets Hazuki Katou and Sapphire Kawashima (just call her Midori) in her class. Hazuki and Sapphire want to join the concert band, but Kumiko remains timid, especially when Reina comes in and instantly joins it. Kumiko dwells, but eventually joins it and ends up playing the euphonium yet again. The concert band is heavily disjointed at first, but after instruction from their new advisor, Noboru Taki, they steadily improve daily. After a round of practicing, they perform at the Sunrise Festival, capturing some attention away from the nationally-known Rikka High School Marching Band.

euphobd15After Sunrise, Taki announces that auditions to perform at the Kyoto Prefectural Competition will be held soon and to practice their parts. Kumiko’s other traumatic event was when she was chosen to perform as an underclassman in middle school over one of her seniors. Kumiko practices and fears a result where she’s chosen over her second-year senior, Natsuki Nakagawa. During this period of strife, Kumiko is suddenly asked if she likes her childhood friend, Shuichi Tsukamoto, since Hazuki is crushing on him. Trying to avoid the love triangle, since she doesn’t have feelings for him, Kumiko chooses to go to the Agata Festival with the next girl that walks out of the clubroom: Reina Kousaka.

ep8performanceReina chooses to climb up Mt. Daikichi instead of attending the festival itself. She compliments how Kumiko always says the truth of what’s on her mind and explains how she wants to be special. This inspires Kumiko to practice more and improve herself. Both are chosen to play in the Kyoto Competition with Reina winning the trumpet solo over the third year part leader Kaori Nagaseko. A rumor starts going around that Reina personally knew Taki before he was employed at North Uji, which frustrates Reina. Kumiko remains by her side and gives her strength through a second audition in front of the band before the Competition. The result is the same: Reina will perform the solo.

eupho0001As the Competition comes closer, Taki revises the score so that the euphoniums will double Sapphire’s contrabass on a section. While the more talented Asuka is able to play that section easily, Kumiko continues to struggle until she is told not to play that section by Taki. Frustrated, Kumiko finally realizes how Reina felt in middle school. She takes that determination not to fail to the Competition alongside everyone else’s renewed spirits. In the end, North Uji was one of the three schools chosen to move forward to the Kansai Competition.

And so the next piece begins….

eupho0007euphoprimerheading2Sound! Euphonium 2 begins right where we left off: the results of the Kyoto Competition. We get information about when the Kansai Competition will occur and plans for practicing for it. In an effort to improve herself, Kumiko decides to head to school to practice alongside Reina, meeting at the station at 05:00 each morning. When they arrive, a second-year is already there: Mizore Yoroizuka, who plays the oboe. Mizore’s tale involving her former friend, the former flute player Nozomi Kasaki, will be a big part of this upcoming season.

eupho0008The road to the National Competition in concert band goes as such:
Prefectural Competitions (Early August)
Regional Competitions (Late August)
All Japan Band Competition (total of 30 schools out of over 1,500 in Japan – Early October)

Out of the 28 schools that participate in the yearly Kyoto Competitions, only 3 move forward. In the Kansai region (one of Japan’s most densely populated areas) there are eight other prefectures with a number of participants similar to the amount of schools that participated in Kyoto’s competition. Only the best 20 schools from those 8 other regions moved on to the Kansai Competition like North Uji, Rikka, and the unnamed Kyoto representative did and so the level of the field grew that much higher this time around. The scope of these competitions is quite vast, and to survive even one round of culling is a major feat. Now there’s 22 other schools each vying to be one of the three that move to the All Japan Band Competition.

animestylehanada07In other words, North Uji has to be one of the top three schools in the entire Kansai region in order to attend Nationals.  There’s three huge problems standing in their way: Myoujyou Engineering High School (MyouKou), Osaka Toushou High School, and Shuutou University Affiliated High School (ShuuDai Fuzoku). Those three schools have been at the top of the participating schools in the Kansai region for some time. If North Uji is to go to Nationals, they have to not only beat 19 other schools as talented or greater than they were at Kyoto, but they also have to dethrone one of the “top three.” Making it to Kansai was difficult, but doable. Making it to Nationals against this competition requires a miracle.

eupho0009So in order to create this miracle, Taki calls upon his college friends: Masahiro Hashimoto and Satomi Niiyama. Hashimoto will help instruct the percussion section while Niiyama will help instruct the woodwinds. Taki will handle brass by himself. This allows each section to improve simultaneously.

eupho0010Beyond that, season 2 will feature the Uji Fireworks Festival (which hasn’t happened in real life for the past couple of years), an outing by the four first year girls to a local pool, and more information regarding the two assisting characters people are most interested in: Asuka and Taki. Why does Asuka play the euphonium? Why did Taki become an advisor at such a young age? We’ll find out!

eupho2charttransWill North Uji pull off the miracle and make it to Nationals? Will they survive their “Hottest Summer” and “Biggest Crisis”? What will happen with Kumiko and her friends? Also, what’s going on with Kumiko’s sister, Mamiko? Will they all reach Heaven…..or will they fall to Hell?

Find out in….. Sound! Euphonium 2!

Kanon Blu-ray Box review

In 2004, TBS’s producer Nakayama decided to create an adaptation of a popular visual novel to run on TBS’s broadcast satellite channel BS-i. He chose to collaborate with Pony Canyon, Movic, and a studio which had aired its first TV animation production the year prior, Kyoto Animation. That adaptation was very popular and as such Nakayama went back to a Key visual novel for another adaptation, which ran from October 2006 to March 2007. As with most TV series in 2007, it was only released on DVD at the time, despite airing in HD. In late 2009, TBS and Pony Canyon released the highly anticipated Blu-ray Box set. This is a review of that Blu-ray Box for the series Kanon. (Box images courtesy of TMSIDR)

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AIR Blu-ray Box review

In 2004, TBS’s producer Nakayama decided to create an adaptation of a popular visual novel to run on TBS’s broadcast satellite channel BS-i. He chose to collaborate with Pony Canyon, Movic, and a studio which had aired its first TV animation production the year prior, Kyoto Animation. The adaptation of the novel began in January 2005 and ran until March 2005 with DVDs releasing throughout 2005 including a bonus OVA disc containing two special episodes in October 2005. In early 2006, TBS and Pony Canyon began promoting it as one of the first anime Blu-ray releases before delays pushed it back to a December 2006 release time. This is a review of that Blu-ray Box for the series AIR.

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Tamako Market Blu-ray Box review

In 2011, the producers at Kyoto Animation and Pony Canyon decided to re-unite the staff from the hit series K-On! for an original production. Through many changes during the planning process, the final version became a show about the daughter of a mochi shopowner in a little shopping district. Tamako Market had little promotion before its initial running of January-March 2013, only a few magazine articles and commericals promoted the show. It failed to catch fire like the previous show from the staff, but it wasn’t for a lack of love towards the characters. In 2014, a sequel film, Tamako Love Story was produced. Following that release and the popularity of the film, KyoAni and Pony Canyon decided to re-release the series in a Blu-ray box. This review covers said box of the show published by Kyoto Animation and the Usagiyama Shopping Street.

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Sound! Euphonium Blu-ray Volume 1 review

In 2013, Ayano Takeda wrote a novel based on her and her friends’ experiences in concert band/wind music called Sound! Euphonium: Welcome to the North Uji High School Concert Band. This was her second novel published after she won the Japan Love Novel award for her manuscript Today, We Breathed Together. Takeda’s novel caught the attention of two producers at Kyoto Animation (Eiharu Oohashi and Riri Senami). They approached the publisher for the rights to adapt it into an anime and, after partnering with Pony Canyon, Lantis, and Rakuonsha, they began airing it in April 2015. This review covers the first Japanese Blu-ray volume of the show published by Kyoto Animation and the Hibike Production Partners.

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Photography and resolution of anime

A couple years ago, I wrote a piece talking about the Anibin blog and how the author measured resolution of anime by using the television broadcast. Later on, I noticed that the methods used to judge the productions from Kyoto Animation was a bit suspect. Simultaneously, I started to notice the photography of shows a lot more, especially on the Blu-ray versions of the show. I’ve seen many people quote that KyoAni produces at 955.5p for main feature and full HD for openings and endings. I accepted it initially as I trusted Anibin as a source, but later I started to question that as the logic behind producing something like that didn’t add up. The following is a brief overview of the photography of anime and how that affects Anibin’s resolution guesses. Continue reading

Toradora! Tatsuyuki Nagai x Mari Okada Roundtable Translation

Toradora! Special Roundtable

Director Tatsuyuki Nagai X Series Composer Mari Okada

In this feature, we’ve asked these two main staff members stories related to production, thoughts about the show now that production has finished, and stories that haven’t been told before.  It’s a must read for Toradora! fans!

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Megax’s favorite characters #1B: Not your typical chuuni

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but my anticipation levels keep rising for next month’s airing; thus I felt writing this would help get some of that energy out. In May 2012, I translated the first Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! light novel and thought it was a cute read, but nothing I would grow immensely attached to. After a little break, I finished translating the second novel in July of that year and something kept gnawing at me. I couldn’t get someone out of my head. Throughout the last year and a half, I’ve been involved in many other franchises, but my mind keeps coming back to one character from the novels, specifically the second novel. Her name: Satone Shichimiya. This post will delve further into exactly why I like her so much and why she’s on the same level as Itsuki Koizumi in my favorites. Of course, novel 2 spoilers await.

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Free! and the future of KyoAni productions

On April 26, 2013 Kyoto Animation announced their 17th self-produced animation production entitled FREE!, a series about a group of friends re-uniting in their passion for swimming after going their separate ways following a victory in the elementary school nationals. What really got people in an uproar was the fact that all the main characters in this series were male and a previous advertisement involving these characters was very focused around their appeal towards female viewers. Of course this caused certain fans to be upset, things have been said, etc. I’m not going to focus on that (it’s been covered already). Nor am I going to focus on what mistakes have been made in covering this series (again, already covered). What I want to focus on is the impact FREE! has in future productions by Kyoto Animation that’s been heavily ignored by most fans, production and revenue (and no, not focusing towards a different audience).

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