This week's Lab Report involves someone who's proclaimed herself an otaku journalist for eons, and we have to figure out if that's a good thing or bad thing.
Hey, welcome to the Justin Lab Report, this is Justin, desperately trying to keep busy by bringing in cool people to actually talk to. This week’s cool person happens to be the one who has a background in Journalism, and she’s also very much into anime. She’s married herself off to Gundam, and when she’s not making love to that franchise, she’s writing weird culture stuff at Forbes or recapping weekly anime at Anime News Network.
Lauren Orsini: Heyyy! Wow, did you write all that in advance? That was so flattering–
Justin: Maybe, I dunno what you’re talking about, I could’ve just thought this at the top of my head and uh–
Justin: Lauren. You’re not gonna believe this but this is like the 3rd interview I’ve done with you since 2011.
Lauren: Yeah, we’ve been friends for a long time!
Lauren: Too long, maybe!
Justin: Maybe?!? *laughs* What do you mean by that?!?
Well I’ll say this: What do you think has changed since then? You can just share a couple things, or one thing.
Lauren: Hmm…I was still writing on Otaku Journalist in 2011, I hadn’t written any books…uh…I think the thing that’s changed is that I spend more time than ever watching anime.
Justin: Hmm! What do you mean by that?
Lauren: I dunno! Like, years ago it wasn’t important to me to keep up with all the seasonal shows, and now I’m like watching all of them. I was just on the ANNCast and Zac and Jake asked me what I was watching and I was like, “Well, Ace Attorney & Ushio & Tora because I’m reviewing those, but I’m also watching Bungou Stray Dogs, Flying Witch, Joker Game, Kabaneri of The Iron Fortress, My Hero Academia— you know, I can just keep going and they’re like, “Wow, why are you watching so much stuff?” I’m like, “It’s so good!” It’s all so good right now.
Justin: That is a lot of anime.
Lauren: I want to be able to talk to people about it, so I have to be up to date with everything. And of course I’m also reviewing a bunch of things, I just turned in a review on Gundam Zeta, and before that I was watching Gundam X for Anime News Network, so those weeks that I was watching those, that was two weeks in a row. I’d say I watch 5 hours of anime every day.
“For a long time I just took it for granted, this was what I was gonna do, but I didn’t realize for a long time I was doing things that I was good at so it wasn’t a lot of effort.”
Justin: That sounds like a really great job. It…it really does– yeah, you’re gonna have to talk about how your week normally goes because you’re not just watching anime because if I’m not mistaken you write for 20 billion sites, um, all of them extremely nerdy, and then to top it all off, you now have a job where you have to leave and actually go to an office. What’s going on here?
Lauren: Yeah, all of our other interviews have been audio only which is great because I usually just wear pajamas all day — like I’ll get up in the morning, wear a new pair of pajamas, and then change into night pajamas. I mean this is how my life was, but I think around last summer I was thinking that my tech skills were starting to atrophy, and I didn’t even know what my own voice sounded like because I wasn’t really talking to people, and so I decided, “You know, I need a job — a real job in an office!”
Even professional developers just Google all the time. I had no idea. I thought there was like a book and you just stick to the book of programming and you’re fine, but there’s like…20 different ways to solve any book, and I thought maybe I was doing it the wrong way. Some ways are better than others, but the point is there’s so many ways to program — you could use different programming languages, approach the problem in different ways, it’s just, and just because one way uses more lines of code doesn’t mean it’s better. I used to think the shorter the program, the better — but that’s not always the case. It’s very creative, a little like writing, and I never knew that.
Justin: What, you never brought a book about that and used it as an example?
Lauren: Um….yeah, I recently did — like last year, when I was wondering about my skills atrophying, I brought Learn Python the Hard Way, and I did that whole book…but I still felt like it didn’t help me, because even though I did all the exercises and figured everything out, it was hard for me to think of how that would apply to the real world. Like no program I’ve ever worked on has been just Python. Even when I’m building programs for the Raspberry Pi — Raspberry x Python, get it? — there’s always a CSS component, an HTML component, a Python component, and a database component. It’s never just one thing, and nobody ever wants to know the exercises in my book. Like, “Calculate which years were leap years.” That teaches you how to use Python concepts, but you actually have to be creative when you’re applying it. And I really didn’t realize that.
Lauren: This is NOT about anime at all!
Justin: Hey, it’s you do other stuff! That’s the point! Like you just don’t do anime, you do other stuff to keep yourself busy.
…Which goes into something else I unfortunately noticed this morning, I was all set, thinking, “Oh, I can ask this question normally without having to worry about her writing about, ‘Oh, I got too much stuff to do, maybe this is something–‘ but then all of a sudden, you wrote about that, so I have to wonder: is it too much of a load for you? Like don’t you start wondering that you don’t want to do all these taxes next year?
Lauren: Yeah, that’s so amazing you’re bringing that up at the same time that I was thinking about it enough to blog about it. Well I just noticed that I’ve been really slipping this year. You’re like, “Oh you work for all these cool sites,” but, no, not as much! I haven’t written anything for Forbes since April — I plan on changing that very soon — I haven’t been updating my Gundam site as much as I should, ANN let me scale back to just 2 reviews a week instead of 3, and I can’t believe how much work everything’s been and how tired it’s making me now.
For a long time I just took it for granted, this was what I was gonna do, but I didn’t realize for a long time I was doing things that I was good at so it wasn’t a lot of effort. Like even when I was web designing for people I was sticking with programming languages I already knew. Japanese was a lot easier back then in the earlier stages, and I didn’t think about the mental fatigue of doing a job that I’m really bad at, as in being a programmer when my degree is in English.
Lauren: So even when my commute is 20 minutes each way, I’m not tired physically, I just get back and I’m like, “Wow those bugs were rough.” And now I’m thinking, “Oh, well think about the bugs you have to solve tomorrow!” I’d have no idea how to solve them yet. Well I have a few ideas. But, yeah, sometimes this stuff is really tiring! And the idea for my post came up because my husband John reminded me about that month where we did nothing except watch Battlestar Galactica. That’s really all we did. I don’t remember anything else from that month, it was a lost month. And I don’t even remember much about Battlestar Galactica. I guess because I watched so many shows I don’t have any room in my brain for–
Justin: It just can’t process everything. *laughs*
Lauren: Yeah, for a show 5 or 6 years ago. *laughs* I remember it being really good though! Did you ever watch Battlestar Galactica?
Justin: I have not watched Battlestar Galactica. I actually forgot all about its existence until I read your post.
Lauren: Nah, it’s ok! So yeah, I was just thinking how unfulfilling that was. At the time I really remember being entertained and wanting to talk about Battlestar Galactica with anyone who would talk to me about it. But hmm…it’s just…*laughs* I just wanna live my real life, even if it’s exhausting sometimes.
“Oh my god, I have a Masters and here I am, letting these people talk down to me. I’m not just a cashier, I’m more than this.”
Justin: Well I still remember back when — you were obviously motivated enough to work on two books, one on Otaku Journalism and How To Build Your Anime Blog. And you also did a cosplay book.
Lauren: I wrote a chapter book on Raspberry Pi.
Justin: Oh, you even did that too?
Justin: Geez, what has kept you motivated to do all this?
Lauren: Well, I know what happens when I’m not doing anything! I mean, it’s very comforting to just not do stuff, but I remember being really unhappy. Like at that time, when I was coming home from a job I didn’t even like — I was a web developer but it was completely different. I worked for a place in D.C, downtown, where we did statistics of stuff in the U.S, so I did all these variations of the U.S. And this was so long ago that my specialty was Flash. *laughs* Remember Flash? I used to just make all these Flash maps of the U.S that showed data in different ways, I was so bored all the time. I was like, “I would love to be a professional journalist.”
But you know, the recession had just happened. When I got out of grad school the only work I could find was as a cashier at the gym. And I remember — and I think I might have even told you this story because it was a very pivotal moment in my life–
Justin: I’m pretty sure I read this — I think you had like a job tumblr thing a couple years ago–
Lauren: Yeah, I had a job tumblr.
So the register (at the gym) was really slow. Maybe you’ve been to a store recently and the cash register was taking forever and you were super annoyed at the cashier. But I dunno, it was a really old cash register, and this person said to me, I apologized but this person said something like, “No wonder you’re just a cashier.”
Lauren: And it just stuck with me for the rest of my life. You know, think about the things you say to people in the service industry. You have the opportunity to create lasting psychological scars, so use that power wisely.
Justin: That clearly motivated you I think.
Lauren: Yeah. I was just like, “Oh my god, I have a Masters and here I am, letting these people talk down to me. I’m not just a cashier, I’m more than this.” I never stopped trying to get a journalism job and I finally got one after getting published in Forbes. That makes it sound really easy but–
Justin: It’s not. Definitely not easy.
Lauren: And now I just do whatever I want. But I am back in an office, and it’s been weird because I was always been like, “I don’t wanna be a corporate slave, tied to my cubicle!” And yes I work in a cubicle now–
Lauren: Well, a windowless cubicle, and yet, I don’t hate it. I always thought it was that I wasn’t built for company life or something? But it’s just that I had a job that wasn’t challenging me at all. Now I’m in the opposite: I have a job that challenges me constantly. The biggest challenge of course is doing that part time and always being asked if I wanna stay late because I don’t think anyone else thinks I do anything else outside of work. When you see someone working — I work 5 hour days when I’m there — and you see someone doing that and you think, “Oh, I guess I’m gonna go home and watch anime.” That’s true, but I do it for work.
Justin: *laughs* Have you told somebody at your job?
Lauren: Well I got the job because of a friend on AniTwitter. I think we were both volunteers at Anime USA, and I told him I wanted to become a better programmer. He’s like, “Why don’t you come work with me?” And I was like, “Ok!” So I go to the interview and they go, “So how did you hear about this job?” and I was like, “Well I was at an anime con…”
Justin: Well, that. Yeah.
Justin: How do you look back on the books you’ve worked on and how they’ve been received by people?
Lauren: They haven’t been received enough. Like I still need Amazon reviews of these books because the more Amazon reviews you have, the more Amazon promotes your books. And um…
…You know, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret about my books.
Justin: Uh-oh. Exclusive secret here!
Lauren: I mean, it’s visible to anyone who cares to see it but I never advertised it so I don’t think anyone’s noticed — my books are both for sale for $10 bucks right now, and I’ve never sold more books. I sell more books every month than I ever sold when they were for sale for $6 dollars, or $3 dollars. It was an idea that my business coach gave me. She’s like, “people value things that cost more.” I’m like, “that is NOT true!”
Lauren: “My readers are students and I need this stuff to be affordable.” Journalists don’t make a lot of money, and I want this to be something that everyone can buy. And she’s like, “Try it for a month, and then just put it back to the regular price if you’re upset.”
But then I’ve been selling so many books it’s crazy! I don’t know why! Why is this happening? Is this psychology? I’ve never studied psychology!
Justin: *laughs* All I have to say is, Lauren, you work in the anime industry. There’s this company called Aniplex that kind of sell their titles above the normal rate compared to everybody else, I mean–
Lauren: Yeah but I don’t buy those!
Lauren: Ok, when RightStuf comes out with their Gundam The Origin collections…I buy them. This Gundam the Origin collection I just brought is more than $100 bucks — I don’t wanna make typing noises in the background, I’ll just slowly…quietly–
Justin: She’s making typing noises in the background guys! *laughs*
Lauren: Ah, sorry! So it was $100 dollars. And I brought all 3, each for $100 dollars, I swear they were more…but they came with little animation books, all kinds of extras, pieces of art, and yeahhh, I brought all that, because I wanted everyone to know that I’m a huge Gundam fan.
But I never thought about that. Do you buy Aniplex stuff?
Justin: The only Aniplex stuff I brought was Kill la Kill, and I’ve only brought the first two volumes so far. The thing is, a lot of Aniplex’s titles haven’t really interested me that much, and the only other one they had was Silver Spoon, but it’s DVD only.
Lauren: Oh yeah I’d want BD if I’m gonna spend a lot of money. Silver Spoon’s great though but I can just watch it on Crunchyroll. I’m a paying Crunchyroll member, I can watch it whenever.
Justin: Yeah. That’s true.
Lauren: I haven’t even brought Yowamushi Pedal yet because I just watch it on Crunchyroll whenever I want.
Justin: Discotek’s selling that right?
Lauren: Yeah. RightStuf just started selling Yowamushi Pedal. But I have not brought it yet for that reason. And I dunno, it’s probably better for the anime industry if I spend as much money as possible. Like not just streaming but also DVDs, also BDs, also merch…um…but…I just can’t see a reason why. I don’t have to store it, I can just watch it on Crunchyroll.
Justin: The only argument would be is that they’re not gonna last for streaming forever. Just look at what’s happening with Hulu right now and look at what’s happening with Full Metal Alchemist — it’s now gonna get taken off of FUNimation now, so you never know.
Lauren: Yeah, if it comes off, then I’ll buy the stuff, but it hasn’t yet, so yeah, I guess that’s a really interesting thing — people think my books are more valuable because I’ve priced a little higher…and I think they’re just as valuable before. But you know, the emails I used to get have stopped. I used to get an email like once a month, like, “Why is this so cheap?” and those always made me happy. And I respond and say, “It’s cheap because I want everyone to read it!” But no, not everyone was reading it, and now a lot of people are! It’s so weird.
Justin: Well all I can tell you is that your business person…she probably knows what she’s talking about. I…I think that’s what we got out of this story here *laughs*
Lauren: Yeah. She doesn’t know about anime but she knows about business.
Justin: We’ve talked about a lot of stuff, and based on everything we’ve discussed it feels like you should be ready to go on vacati–wait a minute, didn’t you already GO on vacation?
Lauren: *laughs* I love the way you scripted this–
Justin: Uh-oh, already ruining this interview by saying I scripted this. I come up with things on my own! Stop doing this to me!
Lauren: Yeah, I did just go on vacation! (Note: She says this like she’s playing along. It’s just awful!!! Ed. note) To Japan!
Justin: How was the trip to Japan?
Lauren: Well you could probably tell me better than I could because you just read my entire Forbes series.
Justin: Just for all you reading or listening, Lauren wrote a travelogue for Forbes. It’s definitely a lot to read but it’s very insightful, just getting your perspective on Japan. Did you have any misconceptions about Japan that changed when you got there?
Justin: This was your first time to Japan, correct?
Justin: And then it’s like you always hear what’s going on in Japan but you’re not really sure until you go yourself.
Lauren: I think I overcorrected a lot, because I was always saying to myself, “You know nothing about Japan because you’ve never been there, and you think you know about Japan because you’ve watched anime, but none of that is real.” Japan is not your anime fantasy land. You know like in Peepo Choo how Milton thinks that–
Justin: Oh my god.
Lauren: Japan is a magical place where he’s free to be an otaku, but they all hate him.
“I mean it’s weird ’cause we’re making it weird. Like it would never cross anyone’s mind in Japan that it would be weird to get naked with your brothers and sisters and mom and dad and grandma, because something untoward might happen.”
Lauren: I was just reading a discussion on Twitter about how, um, where someone was just like, “FYI, you will never be accepted in Japan.” Like this guy’s been there for 30 years, has a wife and kids, people ask him all the time: When are you going back home? And he’s like, “I’m not!” But he is from America.
Lauren: Yeah. So it’s a very xenophobic country. Everyone was super nice to me because I was a tourist. The service was great, you don’t tip anyone and they’re really nice, and I wish I could’ve tipped. But yeah I noticed people assumed I did not speak any Japanese, like panhandlers and people handing out flyers would just stop talking when I walked by — when I was at the Ryokan, the hot springs at Mt. Fuji, I didn’t know if this was assuming I didn’t speak anything, but the serving women who gave us our dinner would address all her questions to John, who doesn’t know a word of it. And I would reply. And then she would ask the next question to John. And I would reply.
…I dunno, we were kinda in the mountains, it might’ve just been how they do things there.
Justin: Erm, um, that’s a little questionable right there. A little bit questionable!
Lauren: Mmm-hmm! Oh, the big question people asked me since after that bath, like the onsen and stuff and bathhouses, they say, “Are they really that strict about tattoos?” Yes. There was nothing in English except the words that were like, “Don’t have a tattoo and get in the bath.” So what do you do, people ask? Because all my online friends are like, “I have a tattoo, what do I do?” Well you can reserve a private onsen. Like for family gatherings and stuff, there’s a private bath. So you’d just reserve that and you can have as many tattoos as you want, and if you want to be in there with your husband or wife you can get a private bath, because they’re usually separated by sex. Yeah, so people use them for family gatherings.
Doesn’t sound so weird? Like I can’t imagine getting naked with my family–
Lauren: Like, I dunno what that says about American Puritanism ’cause that’s disgusting to think that — I mean it’s weird ’cause we’re making it weird. Like it would never cross anyone’s mind in Japan that it would be weird to get naked with your brothers and sisters and mom and dad and grandma, because something untoward might happen.
Lauren: But here that’s like the first place our minds go and what does that say about us?
Justin: Yeah, right? *laughs*
Justin: Um, we’re very mature individuals, that well, uh….I dunno! *laughs* Well it’s just a culture thing obviously. Different cultures have different values. It is what it is.
Lauren: I didn’t expect 7-Eleven to be amazing. I ate more at 7-Eleven than anywhere else–
Justin: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Lauren: I’m not ashamed! It’s fantastic!
Justin: Does this mean that all the 7-Elevens in your area, they just pale in comparison now?
Lauren: Oh yeah! I don’t even set foot into an American 7-Eleven! I mean there’s one nearby, maybe on July 11 I’ll go there for the free slurpee, but, I mean, the food is pretty gross, and they don’t even have sake there!
Justin: They served you sake?
Lauren: Yeah! I went in and I was looking at all the sake bottles, and they were in this really fancy calligraphy that I couldn’t read. So I said, “Excuse me, I want to get drunk but I can’t read!” *laughs* and one of the people there, the employees, read the sake bottles to me — well he didn’t read them all in a row, I said, “I want something sweet, maybe with bubbles, maybe plum,” and he just picked a few. I just couldn’t read the ones that said it was sweet or this was plum-wine because the calligraphy’s so fancy. I went to a restaurant in Kyoto where I couldn’t read the menu. I guess it’s like knowing English, but not being able to read cursive?
Justin: Wha…? It was written differently or something?
Lauren: I dunno. Have you looked at a Japanese calligraphy, handwritten calligraphy–
Justin: Not a lot!
Lauren: It’s very hard for me to read. Like I can read typewritten kanji, and people’s handwriting is very hard for me to read too.
Justin: We’ve talked a lot about Japan. Let’s try and talk about this spring season a little bit. Let’s try and talk about this spring season a little bit. It’s almost over!
Lauren: That’s too bad because it’s fantastic!
Justin: I guess that is your thoughts for the season, it’s fantastic.
Lauren: What shows do you wanna talk about, because I’m watching them all. What are you watching?
Justin: Well I know I wanted to talk about the titles you’re covering, Ushio and Tora…I feel like this season is 5x better than it was last year. Why do you think it’s better this year?
Lauren: I think we’re just getting to a more interesting arc in the show. Like at first it was just monster of the week show, and this is really where they had us fooled, that there would just be different characters every week and then they’d go away and different enemies every week and they’d go away, we know now that they were all part of the same mega monster and all these characters are super important and relevant, even today, and the show never forgets a face. But at the time it was kind of disjointed, it’s like Ushio’s gonna defeat them, what else is new, and now it’s all coming together, and it’s also extremely emotional. For a long time we knew Ushio and his mom were estranged but we didn’t know much about it, we didn’t know if mom was mean or nice or what, and that reunion was incredible.
Also the Hakumen no Mono, the big bad of the show, is a fantastic villain. The voice acting is like nothing you’ve ever heard, you’ve never heard a voice like this, and I just think that the 90’s look with today’s pace is really good for ramping up towards the end. What do you think?
Justin: Yeah, that’s what stands out to me, the Hakumen no Mono. I felt last year that he was a presence, but not that big of a presence, but this year: “Yeah, I’m gonna go screw with everybody’s memories, gonna make everybody fear me,” and then, that voice, oh my god, it’s really good.
Lauren: Chilling. And the female human avatars for the Hakumen are just terrifying. Every time that thing looks at me, it’s like it could see me through the screen.
Justin: I guess MAPPA, they really knocked it out of the park this season.
Lauren: I wanna see them bring back some other 90’s shows. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Justin: Yeah, we gotta put up a list. “Ok, so this is the 90’s shows I want you to do. This is the 90’s shows I want you to re-do. MAPPA please get to work on that, don’t worry about these current stuff, just re-adapt the 90’s stuff.”
Lauren: Yeah, I mean think about all the 90’s stuff that is just so painful to watch today because it’s really slow, and you don’t remember it being so slow. But now you’re used to a faster pace, that animation is really cheap and choppy. I mean Ushio and Tora keeps that 90’s look, but it’s now very smooth, and it’s not like they have a great budget or anything. But they’ve created something really powerful. I love how they really tell a story in monochrome sometimes — like a scene will be mostly red or mostly blue or mostly purple and it always sets the mood. And it’s a very cheap, simple way to get a really powerful effect.
Justin: Ok, we talked a bit about Ushio & Tora. I do want to talk about the other show you’re covering, Ace Attorney—
Lauren: Oh boy.
Justin: Because as far as I know, you’re like, one of two people who actually likes the show. You’re not gonna believe this, but I found out somebody liked the show yesterday so *laughs* it is what it is–
Lauren: Oh no way!
Justin: *laughs* What’s going on here? What….why is it…what are your thoughts on this show?
Lauren: I mean, like people ask me, “Should I be watching this?” and I’m like, “No! There are a million great things this season!” And it’s kind of mediocre, so you shouldn’t waste your time watching it. But, later, when there’s nothing to watch–
Lauren: I would watch it because — ok, so, there’s a new Ace Attorney game coming out, I’m super excited for that. Maya’s gonna be in it again, Miles Edgeworth is going to return, like a lot of people I really like. But if you have not played the games you might not know who I’m talking about. I think the anime is a pretty good stand in for the game. It just goes very quickly through the game plots. Like it would take me hours and hours to play the games, I don’t always have a lot of time to play games, but I could just a half hour of this show every week and remember what all the plots were, what the most important stuff was. Now they have been changing a few things, but I think it’s pretty inconsequential — it’s all like, I prefer that they hadn’t changed it, but I think it was all in the interest of speed, because they are just zipping through Ace Attorney.
Lauren: And you know there’s going to be 20 something episodes of this, right–
Justin: W-wait, what?
Justin: It’s still going? Oh boy.
Justin: It just makes you wonder, what’s with these video games being adapted into anime and just not working out? What’s going wrong?
Lauren: Yeah, now that I think about it I kind of watched a dud last time — was it Luck & Log— no it was a card game…God Eater was a video game, God Eater was beautiful, but it took forever for any episodes to come out.
Justin: It looked really good from the screenshots I saw but it never came out. Like all these episodes just get delayed!
Lauren: Yeah. And at first I was like, “Is this like Attack on Titan?” I’m so — there’s all these Attack on Titan clones, like, ok, humanity lives behind a wall and there’s these monsters — what bothered me about God Eater is the monsters all fly, and they didn’t live in a dome, they lived within walls, and I guess the monsters never flew over the walls. They just didn’t.
It’s a lot of effort to fly that high, I guess, over the wall.
Justin: Probably requires a lot of energy, yeah.
I dunno it’s just so weird. You’d think you’d be able to figure out a way to make a video game adapted into an anime at least decency well.
Lauren: Yeah, I think there was just one good episode of Ace Attorney so far, and what make it good was they showed us a lot of stuff that the games did not. I mean the games are done with sprites, there’s a few still images, and likewise the anime pretty much doesn’t animate anything, we look at a lot of stills, we look at a lot of repeated animations of people thinking like, “hmmm….” just like in the game.
So the one good one was when they actually showed us a bunch of scenery and activities that were not in the game, like we got to see Maya standing under the garden hose, pretending she was meditating under a waterfall, and, um…really all the good ones are about Maya. Maya pretending she’s a film director. I just love watching Phoenix and Maya scampering around the studio looking for clues, and you saw a lot of things that weren’t in the games and you’re like, “Yes, this is the only time I’ve watched the show where I felt like I was getting something beyond the games, instead of just a cheap, Ace Attorney abridged.
Justin: Right now you’re making it sound like they should just call the anime Phoenix Maya, that’s basically what you’re establishing right now.
Lauren: Wouldn’t that be great?!? Phoenix Maya, or Maya and Pearl, later.
Justin: Ok, let’s talk about “good” anime. You mentioned earlier you’re watching Kabaneri of The Iron Fortress. I haven’t watched it yet, but you’ve watched it.
Lauren: Well I’m worried people won’t. It’s on Amazon, Amazon hasn’t been advertising it at all. Do you have Prime? If you don’t have Prime, how do you watch it?
Justin: It was weird. When they first announced it — “Oh yeah, you gotta get Prime” but it’s $99 a year for Prime. Ummmmmm, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay $99 if I’m not gonna use the service consistently and only to watch one anime. They changed their service though, so you can sign up for the Amazon Prime video, which I believe is $8.99 a month, so its doable, but…I don’t want to watch it now. I have other stuff I can watch.
You’ve been watching it though, so talk about why it’s so good.
Lauren: Yeah and I’ve had Prime for years because John and I are on Prime Family or whatever — it used to not be called that. But that’s $50 dollars each, which makes a lot more sense. Also I order something on Prime like every week because I’m always reviewing new Gunpla, and also I have an Amazon credit card which gives me a lot of free Amazon points, so I don’t spend a lot–I mean, I don’t remember the last time I’ve spent money on Amazon, I just use my points. So highly recommended if you like Gundams.
So, ok, Kabaneri…like, I wasn’t watching it until I was on ANNCast and we were gonna talk about it, so Zac’s like, “If you could watch a few episodes that’d be cool.” And I was like, “Wow, can I even watch it?” I didn’t even realize that with Prime–like, because I don’t have Prime video, I have Amazon Prime, and I didn’t even realize because it wasn’t advertised. When I logged into my Prime account I don’t see it, they haven’t done anything with it. And then, “Oh, there it is.”
So I start watching it and, it’s good! It’s like the blockbuster film version of Attack on Titan maybe? I mean it’s more colorful than Attack on Titan, the monsters are very pretty, though you don’t get that weird uncanny valley thing — like when you look at the titans they were like, viscerally disturbing. When you look at the kabaneri, they’re just like your run of the mill zombies, it doesn’t scare me to look at them, it doesn’t unsettle me.
Also, and this is kind of a spoiler for episode 1 so I don’t care, but in episode 1, we not only figure out how to kill them reliably, every time, we also figure out a way to cure ourselves: If they bite us, because people can turn into them, like zombies, so all the main problems are solved. Like we do not need to search for a key to the basement.
Lauren: It’s dealt with. So it’s more like what are we going to do with that knowledge, it’s very cinematic, the animation’s beautiful, the art is almost like a painting. It’s just a very, um…we don’t know what the budget is apparently but it seems really high budget to me. But it’s just, I don’t have a lot of emotional feelings about it, but it’s really cool to watch. It’s like watching an action movie.
Justin: Ok. That’s an interesting comparison…
Umm…we can talk about Sakamoto because I’ve actually watched that. Um, do you actually find it funny?
Lauren: I love it! And you know, what’s interesting is that I showed it to a group of kids kind of on the autism spectrum, and I really liked how — you know what I really like about anime is how you never have to wonder what people are thinking. I talked about this with Tony from Manga Therapy once about how we know a lot of people with Autism who really like anime because the facial expressions are very easy to read, it demystifies the way people sometimes act, and what I really like about showing Sakamoto to them is sometimes it seems like Sakamoto’s being mean — but then he’s nice. The kids got that right away! Like the most recent episode where the girl made a UFO out of balloons and all the boys were laughing and were like, “That looks like a lampshade!” And Sakamoto put it on his head and the girls are like, “I know it doesn’t look good Sakamoto, you don’t have to pretend it’s a hat!” Because, you know, he doesn’t talk. And then they realize he’s getting static electricity in his hair and looking like he’s becoming abducted.
Justin: *laughs* And all the girls are going “No, no, don’t leave us! Please, take somebody else!”
Lauren: “Give him back! Save him!”
Justin: You made it sound funnier than it actually was.
Lauren: I mean I know it’s the same punchline but I love that punchline.
What do you think of it?
Justin: Ok. That’s literally it. I like the animation, or how it looks in general. I don’t find it quite so funny. Nothing has made me really go bust a gut — like Gintama, GTO, stuff like that. Those make me go, “Oh it’s so funny!” Not in this case unfortunately.
Lauren: Did you like Nichibros?
Justin: I did.
Lauren: It’s by the same director.
Justin: He did Gintama too. That’s why I checked it out!
Lauren: I love Gintama.
Justin: Yes, Gintama!
I read the first volume of Sakamoto and I wasn’t impressed with it. So when I found out the director of Gintama was working on it, he at least gave me a reason to check it out…and I guess he’s doing the best he can with what he’s got.
Lauren: I mean yeah, it’s very clearly low budget, every single time there’s a punchline it’s the same music, but I really like it.
Justin: I do like the Opening though.
Lauren: Yeah, when’s the last time you’ve seen an opening with just one guy in it? Ever?
Justin: …This is a good point…maybe if I’d watch more anime I would know this, but yeah, I can’t think of it. You might be onto something there…I’m trying to debate if that’s more ego or more just like, “Yes, this is the star of the show, nobody else matters!” I don’t know.
Lauren: I love his obsession with birds. There’s a sparrow, Mr. Bird, as he says. It’s fantastic. He’s just — the joke is that everyone thinks he’s super cool but really he’s just super eccentric.
Lauren: He’s just very bizarre.
You know, the way he’s acting, it kind of makes me think of Handa-Kun that’s gonna come out (this summer). It’s kind of like that, except the main character just thinks everyone’s against him or whatever. It’s the opposite of Sakamoto.
Lauren: You know there’s an inspirational message in Sakamoto. I mean he’s an effing weirdo! But he’s very confident. So everyone thinks he’s cool. Every high school kid should watch this show. I mean Sakamoto is nothing if not himself all the time. He likes to play games that little kids play — remember the rock chasing game, he was racing a bird…he’s…he’s a dork! But he’s not a dork because everyone thinks he’s super cool because he’s like, “Oh, of course.” It’s the most confident way of doing anything, and oh he’s also very athletic.
Justin: Supremely athletic.
Lauren: That’s the other part of it.
Justin: I have to admit though, I still don’t know how cool it is to be carrying a roll of toilet tissue in their bag, and he’s using that as a white line to walk on that with kids. But what do I know?
Lauren: Yeah when I was in Japan everyone carried a handkerchief because there are no trash cans anywhere, so it’s like, “What do you do?” And I actually used a handkerchief. My sister’s like, “Did you use it?” And I’m like, “Yeah I did!”
Justin: Ok, let’s try and uh…speed this up a little bit. You’re watching My Hero Academia, what do you think of that?
Lauren: It’s the best show I’m watching right now.
Justin: Best show?
Lauren: Best show this season. I love it. I love every character, even the throwaways are great. Like last episode we saw all these villains, I just love looking at them.
Justin: What else are you watching this season?
Lauren: Um…Shonen Maid? Stray Dogs—
Justin: Ok, you have to explain Shonen Maid a little bit.
Lauren: Yeah I was really worried about Shonen Maid after Super Lovers. I was thinking, “Is this Super Lovers again?” But it’s not the same–Oh my god, I just saw a screen shot from Super Lovers where the main characters, the teenage boy and his adult lover I guess/brother are like watching the other brother tutor a middle school girl and they’re like, “Is that his girlfriend?” Says the teenaged Super Lover. “No,” says the adult Super Lover, “she’s only in middle school!” I’m like, “You guys!”
Lauren: This show has the most or least self awareness because it’s either super in on the joke or super not.
Ok, Shonen Maid is nothing like that. It’s just kind of charming. It’s not the most special thing I’m watching. It’s not like My Hero Academia where you have characters with amazing motivations that you just want to love and protect — I really like with All Might, they reference him as having a silver age costume or being a silver age hero, and I think it’s really cool to see these early American superhero influences in a Japanese anime. It’s a really interesting melting pot there.
Justin: So what’s next for you? Are you secretly working on another book or something like that?
Lauren: My next plan, well first I need to get through this year. I’m doing a lot of stuff. But at the end of the year I’m gonna leave my job and go back to the freelance life, and I’m really interested in creating a course, if not on anime reviews, then on geek writing in general. So that’s my big long term project that I’ve been thinking a lot about.
Justin: Well you know, I’m just throwing it out there, you obviously don’t have to listen to me when I mention this but back in the day you used to shoot videos that I really thought were cool but completely unlikable, but now you’re not doing any videos! So you’re gonna go back and do likable but lame videos aren’t you?
Lauren: What videos did I do that were completely unlikable?
Justin: *laughs* ALL of them. I’m just throwing it out there generically all of them because I can’t remember all of them *laughs*
Lauren: When I was in grad school I did a bunch of anime con videos and…I dunno why I stopped. I guess because video is really easy to do, but really hard to do well. Like I think anyone can just sit down and do a video. I just made a video for my Father-in-Law to promote his maple syrup business…but I wouldn’t say…if it’s any…good.
Justin: Um, what. Maple syrup?
Lauren: Yeah, he’s a professional maple syrup…um…syruper. He taps maple trees all winter, and then he turns the sap into syrup. And then he sells it. I have a few jars of it in the freezer.
Justin: Um…if you ever come to New York, you should like, bring some so I can like, buy them. So I can see if it’s really good. That’s be really cool.
Lauren: It’s 100% syrup. If you get Aunt Jemima and stuff, that’s only like 2% maple syrup, the rest is like corn syrup–
Justin: L-Log Cabin?
Lauren: I dunno how much Log Cabin is. But if you look at the percentages most of the stuff you get at the store is — why are we talking about this?!?
Justin: *laughs* Ok, I guess that’s the sign that you know what, we’re done talking. Lauren, It was a pleasure.
Lauren: Thanks for having me. As always.
Ok, that’s it for this week’s Justin Lab Report. Hope you guys enjoyed my chat with Lauren Orsini. Please feel free to comment, share, etc so I know how I did, what can be improved, and if you have suggestions on who to interview, feel free to send suggestions to contact at theoasg dot com. See you all next week at 9pm!
June 21: Ajani Oloye (Editor at Kodansha Comics)
June 28: Oh, Summer Season’s Almost Here, Huh? Edition of The Justin Lab Report