I Was Always An 80-Year-Old Man

I just deleted my About page on this blog, because I had nothing meaningful to write in there and probably nobody looks at it anyway. I’m probably one of the minority on the internet world in this respect though. Most people love to talk about themselves on the internet. You see profiles packed with rich detail on Facebook and MySpace and you wonder how much of it is actually true. Or, well, you do. I don’t usually. I believe that the more information someone provides about themselves, the more truth there is in the information. I think deep down people dislike lying about themselves. It is difficult to keep up a pretence for long and needing to watch everything you do and say to avoid letting slip your identity. In addition, not only does the internet provide a cover for your anonymity, it also ironically provides more ways for people to access your information easily. You can choose to make up a fake persona, but you had better make sure you stick with the same fake persona everywhere you go on the World Wide Web.

I was watching a video just now on TedTalks about the future of lying. They found that people don’t lie as much in email as on the phone. I find that I’m surprisingly honest to outsiders but lie much more to my family. I don’t wish to do that, but I always felt that strangers will forget whatever you say in an instant but family members will not, therefore it is much more important to be careful and note what you say to the latter group, because they will remember for life. Because of this, some may advocate truthfulness as the best policy. As for me, there was never any choice to tell the truth to begin with.

I think people don’t so much as lie on the internet as simply withhold information. We’re not lying if we don’t tell people on the internet that we do drugs on a daily basis, or that we came to this chatroom to cheat innocent girls and then rape them. We say everything else about ourselves that are true but simply conveniently leave out the part about drugs and swindling. Whereas in reality, it’s a lot harder to not mention or not have people notice certain aspects of ourselves, in which case we will have to actively lie to cover up.

We are progressing to a new age and a new era worldwide. People call it individualism, which is the respect of individual differences and individual rights. In such a culture, it is wrong to judge people based on what they do. If a dude says he shoplifts and people decide not to befriend him because of that, the new era dictates that it’s the people’s fault and not him. They should not judge him just because he commits one particular type of crime. Everybody deserves to be respected and loved no matter what they do. Compare this to the past, where shoplifters are avoided and isolated and looked down on by the community.

It is because of this that people find it easier to speak the truth on the internet. Ironically, the internet can be a more welcoming place than society or even family. I have seen great acts of care and generosity take place on the internet that do not seem to exist out on the streets. This would explain why people would rather pour out their deepest darkest secrets on the internet than in reality, where people might betray or turn away from them. At least on the internet, you’re safe from betrayal or isolation. You just need to assume a new identity or go elsewhere to seek out a new group of friends. Moving away is not as easy in the real world.

I don’t say much about myself in profile pages, but what I say to people on the internet about myself tends to be 90% true if not more, and that can already be more than I can say for family. What about you?

The Polars and the Tropics

First of all, since we’re on the topic of polars, a big RIP to Sheba the polar bear who died in our zoo and will now be stuffed for educational purposes. You have been with us for more decades than the lifespan of a wild polar bear, and we will not let your death be in vain.

Today’s entry is about something quite important when we go around the world travelling — climate! Whether a country has 4 seasons is usually on the minds of people preparing to head there. Some people travel out of the country specifically to avoid a particular weather or seasonal effect. I remember examples of Americans complaining of the cold, and someone from Australia (or one of us tropical dudes) would be like “ooh it’s all warm and sunny over here”.

Personally, I don’t have a favourite season. I haven’t experienced much of every season — not even summer, because the weather in Singapore is milder than most summers in temperate or other tropical countries — so my preference tends to vary randomly. For instance, right now I like winter because the recent onslaught of rain has made the weather breezy and refreshing. When I go to actual winter-struck countries, though, I wrap myself up in furs and avoid washing my hands due to fear of the cold, and can’t imagine how people can live in such cold places and still do anything efficiently.

But they do manage. People living in Canada, parts of America etcetera have to shovel snow out of their driveways everyday. They get to stay at home for days due to snow warning alerts and face blackouts from the heavy snow. You would think they would all be dying to live in Africa but no! We humans have an excellent way to adapt to our living surroundings. Even though Singaporeans complain all the time of the hot weather, we still cope with it. Even when Singapore is known for being one of the more humid countries with frequent rainfall, we just bring our umbrella out more often. Same with people living in extreme weather conditions. Even despite floods, hurricanes and earthquakes, people will have to adapt to them if they can’t solve them.

Most people agree that warm countries are great places to live in. Indeed, history has it that wars and conquests occurred more often in countries with harsher climates because of a lack of food in such places. Animals and crops do not survive as well in bitter cold climates, resulting in people going hungry and going to war in order to stay alive. You don’t hear of Southeast Asia experiencing any war in the olden days because we were comfortable. We had abundant growth and soothing weathers, but one problem we had from that was over-abundant growth. Fungi and micro-organisms love the warmth and humidity as much as we do, so disease was a greater headache in this region than elsewhere. The tropics are not necessarily perfect living conditions.

I have grown so used to Singapore that I absolutely cannot withstand extreme cold (and extreme heat too to some extent). When studying for exams, I cannot stay in an air-conditioned place for long. But imagine living someplace cold, and being all bundled up in layers and layers of clothing. Maybe fewer layers if your home has a radiator. But it must be so uncomfortable nonetheless. Thank goodness I will never need to experience taking or revising for exams in a cold climate, since I will never go on exchange! Yippee!

Word of the Voiceless

Continuing on the theme of examinations today, I believe some people enjoy revising while listening to music, while others need complete silence to study. I belong in the latter camp, though not so much that I must be in quiet surroundings (I cannot bear revising in the library for example) but that I will get distracted by the song and end up singing aloud instead of concentrating on my study material.

The solution to that, people have advocated, is to listen to instrumentals. However, I do not have a large supply of instrumentals to listen to, and I’m pretty poor at identifying instruments and keeping to the beat anyway. So I generally choose to avoid instrumentals and just not revise when I listen to music, haha.

That said, I do know of a few instrumentals you may be interested in. The first instrumental that I ever heard and fell in love with is Rey za Burrel’s piano instrumental of Omokage. Gundam Seed Destiny fans should know what I’m talking about, since it was apparently played in the show during one of its earlier episodes. I haven’t watched the anime, but I heard the instrumental and alas, it strikes a chord with me and sends my heart stirring with pleasant emotions.

I shall refrain from speaking about ALF’s opening instrumental, since I haven’t heard the full version and I think my love for it is only because the show’s terrific. But you know, it is still something to consider.

2 other instrumentals that I like listening to from time to time are Married Life — the theme music from UP — and The Merry-Go-Round of Life — the theme music from Howl’s Moving Castle. Sometimes I must agree that instrumentals are like an art form all on their own, a separate entity from commercial songs. They allow you to transpose your own mental images, experiences and stories on the tune, much like a well-written book ought to do. Good instrumentals carry you to a different world, make you stop whatever you are doing, and just lean back, relax, close your eyes and reflect and reminisce. Maybe it is the angst I’ve been feeling recently, but instrumentals seem to bring a whole new meaning everytime I listen to them. On happy days I pay attention to the light-hearted, perky instruments, and on sad days I pick up on the low bass and the hidden tones that add depth to the music. It’s like re-watching a movie and noticing the background scenes you didn’t see before.

It feels like an insult to listen to them while doing anything else, such as revising. Surely it can only be nothing but rude not to fix your fullest attention on the message it is conveying to you. Even though I still prefer songs with vocals, I do set aside some time once in a while to appreciate my favourite instrumentals and listen to the word of the voiceless. Because if pictures speak a thousand words, then surely the ebb and flow of music speaks much much more. And we just have to listen.

Benkyoushimasu-ter!

Amidst all the angst of the past few entries, I may have neglected to mention that exams are underway. This week and the next are exam weeks for Semester 1 of the 2012/2013 academic year, and therefore nothing else is on my mind save for books, school and… lots of angst.

But come now, you say. Exams sound like the least interesting thing one can ever blog about! I certainly won’t be combining exams with anime, will I? Such a horrendous combination!

But remember, I’m still in a bad-tempered sadistic mood (one that you should endure for the next 2 or so years). Of course I want to torment the life out of my readers. This entry shall precisely be about anime that depict school and exams. Don’t pretend you hate such themes. Look at how popular Harry Potter was.

In most semi-realistic anime, the characters will be seen at some point in time in school. Even for stories like Pretty Cure or DNAngel, there were still a few episodes that had the characters dressed in school uniforms and trotting around in Home Economics classes. These of course would not be counted as true authentic school-based anime, which would strictly contain things like Ouran High School Host Club or Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu (admittedly not your ordinary school, but the main setting revolves around a kind of education system).

I must say I have not watched many school anime, even though I watch a fair number of realistic anime that depict their characters in school quite often. School is a hotbed for many comedy escapades, such as dealing with schizophrenic teachers or asinine classmates — and the occasional failed Chemistry practical lab experiment. Wikipedia has an extensive list of anime and manga that involve at least one major scene in a school (try searching “school anime and manga” on Google if you do not believe me).

Because I happen to be feeling generous today (this is a surprise, being both sadistic and generous at the same time), in this entry I shall give you not only some of the better-liked school-based anime out there, as well as some of my favourite school anime tropes.

1. School Anime

Freezing

Freezing is an anime released in January 2011, about the invasion of Earth by an extra-terrestrial force known as the Nova. In order to combat the Nova, genetically engineered soldiers are created, with the women known as the Pandoras and the men the Limiters. There happens to be a school known as West Genetics Academy which trains the Pandoras and Limiters to fight the Nova. There we go, science fiction and school! And for such a dystopic setting like in Freezing, we’ll be so contented with our mundane exam life. At least we’re not being physically exerted fighting aliens.

Kids on the Slope

Kids on the Slope was released April 2012, set in the summer of 1966. Our protagonist moves to live with relatives in a new town, and in school he meets a devil-may-care kind of boy who teaches him the fun of letting loose and playing jazz. Consider this a jazz band school anime.

Nichijou

Nichijou was released April 2011 and garnered lots of fans due to its wonderful opening, Hyadain no Kakakata Kataomoi. Fufufu. But this anime is just as wacky as the song would suggest. It follows a group of high school students in their daily lives amidst the odd things going on, such as a robotic girl made by an 8-year-old female scientist and a boy who rides a goat to school with his butler. Talk about Chuunibyou come to life!

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

This is an ongoing anime released October 2012, about the dormitory of a high school that is affiliated with a prestigious Suimei University of the Arts. A boy who was kicked out for keeping a stray cat stays in the dorm and must take care of a girl who happens to be a world-famous artist but cannot even take care of her day-to-day needs.

Sket Dance

Sket Dance was released April 2011, about a high school’s campus support club that is dedicated to the general improvement of campus life. However, as is usual for voluntary humanitarian school clubs, it is treated with contempt. However, this anime is not all about laughing at kind-hearted losers. It also has some hints of darker stories about the 3 characters in the club.

2. School Tropes

Eating Lunch Alone

You know that scene in school anime, when some guy eats his bento on his own in the classroom, shunned by the rest of his peers. Because any ordinary student will be eating lunch with all his classmates. Perhaps this has something to do with Japanese socialisation culture, but this trope presents itself in anime as diverse as Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai, where Yuuta always ate alone in his middle school years, and Bleach where Uryuu Ishida refuses to eat with the other characters.

But hey, I like eating lunch on my own.

Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy

The usual American unrealistic school romances, except they happen in anime too. The time when this nerdy new girl with no friends has a crush on the resident Chick Magnet, and the outcome is either that they get together for some strange reason or she realises he is a total jerk. Usually a makeover by the girl would do the trick. Just look at any shoujo anime out there, notably things like Shugo Chara! or Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch. Or even Naruto. It’s everywhere.

Wacky Homeroom

The homeroom class where either the teacher is weird or the students are. Things like Great Teacher Onizuka, To Aru Majutsu no Index and Beelzebub. You wish your class was just as fun. Or maybe not.

Two-Teacher School

The kind of school with a fantastically large campus, a wonderfully large student body, but for some reason every class is taught by the same teacher, who also happens to be the school nurse! Perhaps they think we don’t notice our teachers’ faces because we’re too busy sleeping in class. No anime examples here, but just look at just about any anime.

I’m sure you’ll have more great school tropes to share, or your own pet school anime. If you haven’t tried school anime yet, do take a look at one or two this exam season and compare them with your own school life!

Plot and Mood Writing

You guys may have heard that it is not necessary to write a story in order, especially a long one. If you have an idea for the ending first, there is no harm setting it down just to get it out of your system. And especially when you are in a particularly extreme mood, like I am and probably will be for the next few years, it is a good idea to capitalise on it to write out the scene that fits this mood best.

Personally, I find it easiest to write when I am in a moderately good mood. Not too extreme on either end of the spectrum, basically. When I am too excited I cannot focus my thoughts on anything else aside from my current situation. When I am too upset, well, it’s the same result. The best mood to be is contemplative. It works best to be as close to the environment and atmosphere that you want to depict in your story as possible. So if you want to write about a pretty pleasant scenario, sit close to the window on a sunny day.

Of course, when I am in my pleasant mood I can write pretty much any scene very effectively. However, if I am in one of my unusual moods, I simply cannot write in any other mood. And hence the only mood I can write in is the current one, or something close to it. Right now I can probably depict a murder scene well, or one where the protagonist does nothing but stares at a blank wall. Or something angsty like doing drugs. It might be different for you, so think about how your current mood reflects on your writing.

When you talk about the actual process of plotting and writing, what comes to most people — almost inevitably — is writer’s block. I can get severe instances of writer’s block, sometimes lasting months or even years. Writer’s block is very closely related to mood, of course. There is no easy solution out of writer’s block (if there was I wouldn’t be plagued with it) but you have 2 choices which have worked for different people. Option 1 is to keep writing short pieces without caring about quality, until you have escaped from the stalemate. Option 2 is to stop writing entirely and put the idea aside till one day you feel the itch to write again. Both methods have worked for me at various times, and both methods have also failed me. It is up to you to discover what works best for you, if there is any at all.

As mentioned in last week’s entry, I like to envision scenes of the story in my mind in order to spark off the plot. Such scenes are sometimes accompanied by music, whether in the form of instrumentals or actual songs. Music is a great mood-setter, but be careful not to be too caught up in your song that you forget where your writing is going! I recommend listening to the music as you envision your plot, but not during the actual writing process itself.

Well, that’s what I have to say about writing and how it relates to plots and mood. This is a pretty messy entry, but it reflects my current mood so I would say the desired effect has been achieved. Till then, may you get inspiration for your writing endeavours from yourself!

We Never Learn

After writing a pretty FAIL entry in the Logging Online category, the blog post for Stabbing Minds & Piercing Souls is going to be filled with grave angst and once or twice a shot of Mabelchism — beautiful beautiful explosions. Preferably exploding heads. Preferably exploding heads belonging to certain people.

Goodness, I feel so wrath-filled I could kill. This is one of those times when I feel I can never be glad again.

But blogging must go on. I am professional like that. Just do not expect anything sweet or friendly for a few months yet. I’m too busy stabbing certain minds and piercing other souls. In the most sadistic way imaginable.

I could go on like this for ages, but it wouldn’t fit the topic for today. Today’s topic is about the fallacies of the mind, notwithstanding the terrible fallacy of my father’s mind. But aside from silly people like my family, even normal intelligent people like you and I would make certain judgment and decision-making mistakes too! Don’t believe me?

1. Availability Heuristic

Do more words start with K or have K as the third letter?

Which is safer, travel by air or by car?

For the first example, there are more words with K as the third letter, and for the second question, travel by air is actually safer than travel by car! Did you guess them correctly? If not, you may have fallen prey to the availability heuristic. A few vivid examples carry more weight than dull statistics based on a large sample. You may have thought of a lot more examples of words starting with K and notable airplane crashes and accidents, thereby making the wrong judgment.

2. Representativeness Heuristic

Which is more likely: heads heads heads tails tails tails or heads tails tails heads tails heads?

Both are actually equally likely, as you may have known. But intuition might have asked you to pick the second option because it is a more typical representative of random coin flips.

3. Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic

I give you 5 seconds each to estimate the answer to these 2 problems.

1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 x 8 =?

8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 =?

For the first problem, the average estimated answer was 512. For the second problem, the average answer was 2250. The correct answer for both problems, which are the same as 8!, is 40 320.

Why were the 2 estimations so different, though? It is because in the first 5 seconds, people only have time to process the multiplications of perhaps the first 3 digits. This forms their anchor. In the first problem, the anchor is likely to hover around 6. In the second problem, the anchor is near to 336. Having this anchor, they adjust the number upwards to account for the remaining multiplications. 6 and 336 are estimates that are quite far apart, thus resulting in different answers.

4. Framing Effect

Imagine the following 2 scenarios.

Suppose you are going to the theatre where a ticket costs $100.  When you get there, you realise that somewhere along the way, you lost $100 in cash.  You still have enough money to buy a ticket, will you still go and see the show?
Suppose you are going to the theatre where a ticket costs $100.  When you get there, you realise that somewhere along the way, you lost your ticket.  You still have enough money to buy another ticket, will you still go and see the show?

Would your answers be different? Most people would buy another ticket if they lost $100, because they attribute losing cash to bad luck and the mental price of the ticket would still be $100. However, if they had lost the ticket, they would not buy another. They attribute the mental price of the ticket as $200 now, not at all worth it anymore.

What framing effect teaches us is that the presentation of an issue will influence people’s opinion on it. Talking about its positive aspects will reinforce positive standards of evaluation toward it, and vice versa.

Try changing the minds of people around you with this new mind manipulation magic you’ve learnt today! As for me, I shall walk off to finish my unfinished work — venting my vexations with murder.

What’s Your Website Culture?

First of all, I am so so terribly sorry that I missed an entry yesterday. I doubt I’m getting any unknown readers here though, so I shall refrain from any explanation. I will try to make up for lost time by posting 2 entries today. Please forgive me for a lack of quality though! Mood is a very important factor in writing, I feel, and it will take a long while for me to pick up my mood back.

Anyway, to the point at hand. Yesterday’s Logging Online entry is about websites and culture! Think they are unrelated? Well, it will astound you to know that businesses, when creating website, do take culture into account. What I mainly talk about here is national culture.

1. Feedback Forms

Have you taken a look at feedback forms on websites, especially company websites? Direct and indirect cultures will have different formats when it comes to feedback forms, in terms of:

Greetings. Indirect cultures such as Japan would use a tone of requesting feedback, “Please tell us how may we help you?” while direct cultures such as Denmark would simply say “have a comment you wish to give? Do it here!”

Number of Form Fields. Indirect cultures will have fewer form fields than direct cultures. For indirect cultures, they believe that comments cannot be clearly divided into distinct sections. Feedback is feedback, no need to classify it. On the other hand, direct cultured websites have sections for food & nutrition, HR, sponsorship etcetera.

Personal/Contact Information Required. Indirect cultures make it optional to provide contact information but for direct cultures, contact information like name and email address are usually compulsory.

2. Non-Verbal Communication

High-context (indirect) cultures love body language, but how are gestures portrayed on the internet? Well it seems we Asians have found that out. Imagery and animated effects replace non-verbal social cues of real-life conversations to capture user engagement. In the same vein, almost 9 out of 10 Asians have been found to like sound effects as well.

3. Thought Patterns

Now this is a discovery I find most interesting. High-context websites favour subtle or obscure guidance in the form of many sidebars and menus, and when you click on a hyperlink, they open new pages in new browser windows or tabs. On the other hand, low-context cultures have a restricted number of new browser windows (they prefer the original window or tab loading to the new page) as well as apparent and specific guidance.

4. Time Perspectives

A short explanation of time perspectives when it comes to cultures. Cultures may be monochronic — meaning they see time as a linear pattern and are very conscious about wasting time — or polychronic — meaning they see time as cyclical and feel that time is an expendable and flexible resources. Time perspectives are related to thought patterns.

How you see time perspectives on a website is by gauging its navigation and transparency. Is its information efficient and comprehensible, and you can get what you want by making only a few clicks? This is contingent on the designer’s expectations, whether he relies on the user’s patience and that the user will explore the site to seek information.

Once again, many apologies on a half-hearted blog entry. However, I hope this is informative nonetheless and the next time you go web browsing, do take a peek at the websites of different countries and continents and try playing around with them to see if their layouts and arrangements are intuitive for you!

Anything That Moves Can Be Eaten

I am definitely not a foodie. There is a reason why my blog has about 6 permanent topics and none of them steers even close to food. There are many people, especially Singaporeans, who love food, and therefore food blogs are a very common sight. Looking at photographs of food usually does little to whet my appetite. First of all, I am not a fan of food (just biscuits tend to be enough to satisfy me, thanks!) and secondly, I really dislike photographs.

However, I shall make an exception today and talk a bit about the yum-yums for our tum-tums. I remember back when I was travelling in Yunnan, China, I was introduced to a delicacy that I rather like. It looks something like this.

Yup, deep-fried insects! I think some of those are mealworms and then there are larvae or something. I am not lying to you, by the way. I did eat them, and quite happily too. Hm, I would say they taste like, well, nothing. Deep-fried nothings. It’s like crunching on fry fritters. They are crunchy, crispy and have an oily taste because of the oil used to fry them.

I know, and so do the Chinese living there, that most people would shy away from eating these stuff. But really, if you think about it, why? Worms are dirty and move around in soil, but so do pigs (and logically speaking these worms would have been cultivated in hygienic conditions too if they were in demand). Hot dogs are made in factories by mashing together meat pulp in the most unglamourous manner and adding lots of artificial tastes to mask the hideousness of the manufacturing process. Sorry, I’m not a fan of hot dogs as you may have guessed.

But this is all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Different countries are accustomed to different food, and therefore also develop different standards of taste. Singaporeans are used to lighter flavours and so we cannot bear the greasy Chinese food or the intensely sweet European candies. On the other hand, we also find Japanese food too tasteless because the Japanese believe in going au naturale and having loads of vegetables in their diet. And also raw seafood, which by the way is pretty tasteless.

While we are on the topic of food, let me share some strange cuisines I hear are popular in their respective countries.

1. Meatloaves

Meatloaves started out as a German and Belgian dish but was adapted by German-Americans into the American meatloaf in the colonial times. It is a dish of ground meat formed into a loaf shape and baked or smoked. The main ingredient tends to be ground beef but other meat such as lamb and pork can also be used.

I must say lumps of meat do not appeal to me. I am okay with ham, iffy about bacon and meatloaves sound to me like excessive meat. I think people take days to finish a loaf, or they gang up on it as a gathering, but for my small Asian stomach I think I’ll take months to swallow this much meat no matter how much co-operation I get.

2. Poutine

Poutine is a dish which originated in Quebec, made with french fries and topped with brown gravy and curd cheese. Canadians swear it is great for fast food. I must say this sounds like it can be compared to cheese fries, and if I ever do visit Canada or parts of North America someday I shall drop in on McDonald’s or A&W and give it a shot.

What also furthers the attraction is the tempting promise that it sometimes contains things like lobster meat, shrimp or truffles! I’m hungry already!

3. Pastel de nata

Also known as Portuguese egg tarts. I haven’t tried it in KFC yet, which sells it, but the photograph already makes them look so appealing. Pasteis de nata (the plural form) are commonly found in Portugal and Portuguese-associated countries or parts of countries with a high Portuguese immigrant representation, such as Brazil and even Canada.

Besides milk and eggs, apparently potato flakes are also used, such as the ones used to make mashed potatoes! And I’ve also heard that the custard is put in a bowl over boiling water first, rather than directly mixed in with the other ingredients. All these unique ways of cooking to enhance the taste of these fine fabulous pastries! Some even prefer their cream slightly curdled in order to give the tarts a rustic appearance and unusual texture.

I must say, despite not being a fan of the conventional egg tarts, these pasteis de nata sure sound like they are worth a try.

4. Irn-Bru

Irn-Bru, the manly drink for manly men. Or so I infer from the name.

This is a Scottish carbonated drink, orange in colour and also comes with a sugar-free variant. It also contained 2 controversial colourings, E110 and E124, which were banned in 2010, further adding to the manliness I think. The beverage is supposed to have a slight citrus flavour. While my favourite Fanta flavour is Grape (and Cherry when it comes to F&N), Orange is not all that far behind. Flavoured fizzy drinks are my self-confessed weakness. Just offer me something sweet, coloured and fizzy and I will pour out any military secret you want to know.

And therefore this shall be the first drink I shall taste if I travel to Scotland. I shall order it on the aeroplane and experience the goodness of true kilt-wearing manhood!

All The Same Talent

Singing, acting and voice acting. They seem to use the same kind of talents, or at least that is what the media would have us believe.

I was listening to some nice Oricon hits today. There was “Answer” by flumpool that is a new release this week, as well as “Destiny” by Kitamura Eri. Now we all know Kitamura Eri is a voice actress (think Sayaka Miki in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Yui in Angel Beats and Rimi of Chaos;Head) but she has recently become quite a hit in the music industry too, with songs meant for anime productions that also make a dent in the charts. And when we think of successful voice-actresses-turned-singers, our minds will turn to none other than Mizuki Nana, the worldwide hit enka singer now who also brought us Tsugumi Shibata from Jigoku Shoujo, Misaki Kirihara from Darker Than Black and Hinata Hyuga from Naruto Shippuuden.

And now it feels like every other voice actor out there has done some singing role in one way or another too. It is now fashionable for anime to have character theme songs, so we hear what people like Eguchi Takuya and Miyano Mamoru would sound like in song. Some seiyuu celebrities sing exclusively for anime openings and endings, sometimes releasing one-shot albums that can either be a hit or a miss. That makes sense, you surmise. Voice actors and singers both use their voices, right?

Well then what about acting?

It has been years, even decades, that singers have taken a stint at acting as well. Even the likes of Andy Lau and Justin Timberlake are singer-actors (and other hyphenates). And then we have actors who start to voice as well. I mean, look at the cast of Shrek. Do people like Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz ring a bell? And in a way, ever since the advent of music videos, singers have been expected to act as well. You have to know how to channel that vocal quality into facial emotion to convince audiences you are really sincere about your love for them.

But the point, I think, that I want to make is, is it really the same talent? Can they take on all these roles equally well?

And I think, for most cases, the answer is no.

Perhaps Mizuki Nana really made it big with her enka training, but my favourite singers are still, without a doubt, people like UVERworld and Flow and Misato Aki and Hoshimura Mai. People who do only singing. Heck, UVERworld music videos  are getting increasingly drama-free, even. Takuya merely sings. He does not need to make fancy dance moves (I’m looking at you, Korean groups) or act out the story in his songs. He did it for Koishikute before, in a way, and it was fantastic, but I am sure a professional actor would have done it better nonetheless. And people like Fukuyama Jun and Hanazawa Kana, while being marvellous marvellous voice actors who garner the adoration of fans worldwide, are only mediocre when it comes to comparison in the singing market. They can pass for character theme songs (because anime characters are not supposed to know how to sing) but not when they try to be competitive.

In the same vein, no, I do not appreciate hearing Jack Black talking behind the facade of a panda bear or Angelina Jolie as a fish. My favourite voice actors when it comes to animated movies are people like Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Edward Asner (Simba and Carl Frederiksen from Lion King and UP respectively), people that you or I don’t really know. These are the people who do not have to look good for the camera or be multi-talented celebrities. They focus their attention and energies on the one thing they do best, and they do it.

And so, nope. Singing, acting, voice-acting, directing, setting up a business and modelling are all completely different talents. No doubt a professional trainer can mould and shape a person into anything, but sometimes passion is also a key factor. I’m sure people like Suzumura Kenichi and Irino Miyu had been passionate for voice acting and voice acting alone, not voice acting + a whole lot of other strange pastimes just because they happen to be fashionable at the time. And without passion, you can never be really all that good.

Waiting For Snow

Did you know that we’re already reaching the end of fall, as dictated by anime release seasons? That’s right, the winter 2013 anime season begins in December and lasts all the way till February of next year! But wait, you cry out. I’m not even done with Sword Art Online, and that was supposed to be a summer anime. How do I manage to keep up with all this backlog? No sane non-hikikomori human being can cope with summer anime and fall anime and still keep up with winter releases at the same time!

But don’t worry. You won’t be grappling with this problem. That’s because there is virtually no anime slated for release in December. Currently the winter 2013 preview list is still small and in its infancy, but all anime have pretty much been slated for a January-or-later release. You can spend your whole December watching ongoing anime and preparing for the reopening of school, if you’re the sort of person who has no life.

As a matter of fact, judging from what I see of winter 2013 releases, you’re better off without them too. There is something about winter anime that just cannot compare to fall anime. It is a recurring pattern I notice, year after year. The winter anime are always such head-scratchers. Case in point, D.Gray-Man was a fall anime. Steins;Gate was a spring anime. Chaos;Head was a fall anime.

I’ll be fair to you guys. Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou was a winter anime.

Any point I had been trying to make above has been disproven.

WELL, my entry today is not made for the intent of grumbling (maybe only partly). I shall introduce you to some of the anime that will be coming up next year (barring world apocalypses, naturally). Do note that the list is still currently subject to updates and you should do your own research closer to the date!

1. The sequels

Almost up to half of new anime releases are sequels, due to their guaranteed audience support. The shows that I like usually have no sequels, but I must not make assumptions about my readers. Below is a list of sequels confirmed to air in winter.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Second Season

DC III ~Da Capo III~

Chihayafuru Second Season

Minami-ke Fourth Season

AKB0048 Next Stage

2. The newbies

Way before a new season begins, there are often news about various anime being produced floating about. Some of them may be rumours, whilst others may be pushed back to later season releases. The following are anime that, at the current moment, have signed on to air on Japanese TV.

Savanna Game

I did say, did I not, that there would be no anime releasing in December? Well, this anime is the only point of contention that could rise up to challenge me. Savanna Game was, and still is, slated to air in 2012. However, news of its release started spreading towards the end of 2011. There was even confirmation of it releasing in May or June 2012. Now that the days of 2012 are ticking away, it’s anybody’s guess whether they will fulfill their promise. That said, it has seemingly been confirmed to air either in 2012 or beginning of 2013 so we should expect it to pop in as a winter anime this year.

So what is the plot about? It has, ostensibly, nothing to do with Africa or lions. It is about a Japanese 24-year-old man who receives an anonymous email asking him to join the Savanna Game. The Game is a nation-sanctioned roleplaying killing game to motivate the “inhibited youths” of Japan. And so he decides to join the game with his 2 friends. And they find themselves in bizarre battles spanning a space-time continuum, against dragons and Shinsengumi forces of the shogunate era.

While I confess to be ignorant about Japanese history and shoguns, I’m pretty sure this anime is going to be something closely related to Sword Art Online with a bit of Death Note or Liar Game thrown inside. Or even Hunger Games. Basically the survival-game idea. Searches on the internet for pictures relating to the anime show a guy who certainly looks younger than 24. I’m not sure if there is going to be something different or surprising about this anime, but we’ll see how it goes.

Sasami-san @ Ganbaranai

I’m pretty confused what this anime is about, but it seems to subvert what we know of hikikomoris. Basically it’s about a hikikomori girl named Sasami who is unmotivated to do anything, including changing clothes or eating. Her brother takes care of her and she views the outside world on her computer using a Brother Surveillance Tool thing. And then said brother gets into a romantic complication with 3 sisters outside, who are the Yagami sisters.

Yeahh… not sure what story is supposed to come of this. But hey, it’s not everyday we see a girl hikikomori with a normal brother!

Slated for release January 2013.

Senyuu

Now Senyuu sounds like a pretty cool plot. So one fine day, a hole appears in the world, which happens to be a gateway for demons to appear. And it so happens a millenium ago, the demon king Rukimedesu (now try saying that cutely) was sealed away by the hero Kureashion (now I swear this is just a stylistic way to say Creation!). And so the current king fears Rukimedesu will return, and so the descendants of the hero have to come together and slay the threat! 75 hopefuls show up (Kureashion must’ve really gotten around to get so many descendants) and this story centres on Hero Number 45 and a sadistic palace warrior as they team up and go on an adventure.

It sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it? Well think again when you see the pictures. The art style reminds me of Monster Allergy, which means it screams Children’s Show in capital letters. And it has a stupid green cat. No-no.

Slated for release January 2013.

Vividred Operation

I don’t know whether this anime wants to take itself seriously. The preview is basically a cross between a magical girl anime and a science fiction setting. There are 5 girls who each represent a colour, and there is an island of nature and an island of artificial technology, and then they dress up in funky metallic clothes and fight. And our female lead is a poor (and by that I mean impoverished) girl who lives with her sister and grandfather.

Apparently the main draw of the show is the director who is also character designer, and he is the guy who did Strike Witches, which by the way is also about girls with machine parts.

But let me tell you what is the genuine surprise for me. The writer of Vividred Operation is Yoshino Hiroyuki, whom you may know as Moe from Bleach, Solf from FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Allelujah/Hallelujah from Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Michael from Tsukihime Lunar Legend and Takumi from Chaos;Head! That’s right, a voice actor!

Slated for release January 2013

GJ-Bu

Short stories about the lives of high school students. Said high school students are chibi girls. Not sure where this is going.

Slated for release January 2013

Train Hero

A rescue team that handles disasters on the high-speed trains criss-crossing the world! And guess what, they do it Transformers-style! Yep, the trains transform themselves and become heroes to save their fellow train beings. Unfortunately, when previews were released in July 2011, Chinese viewers commented that it was a shot-for-shot knock-off of Hikarian, which is an anime that aired in 2002. Oh well, this one is CGI-enhanced at least.

Slated for release January 2013