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A while back we posted a writing contest surrounding Time of Eve, asking all our users what they thought about the meaning of the café in Time of Eve.
After receiving a huge slew of entries, Directions and Director Yoshiura undertook the task of reading through each of the entries to find a winner. After weeks of deliberation, they finally found their winner: rabid_child! Here's what rabid_child wrote that impressed everyone who worked on the Time of Eve project:
"I’m probably taking this topic more literally than intended, but to me the bar is a setting for a Turing test. A Turing Test is considered the standard setup by which it can be fairly judged whether a computer is intelligent (at least by human standards). The idea is creating a situation where a computer, and a human is hidden from the tester and the tester must have a conversation with both and be unable to tell which is which, in which case the computer is considered intelligent (or you need a different tester).
This café takes advantage of the conceit that here robots are indistinguishable from people aside from their halo, to do away with artificial environment and replace it with something more casual, where people might not even know that they are subconsciously conducting this test. The advantages are that first the presence of a computer is not guaranteed, and that the sentience of robots becomes more obvious when you meet the people/robots outside and find that you came to the wrong conclusion. This is because it does away with the notion that there is something inherent and impossible to reproduce in humans (such as a soul or whatever) that separates them from robots."
To our pleasant surprise, Director Yoshiura wrote back, with his response to our winner, all the contestants and viewers of Time of Eve:
"People say that 'when an artistic work gets released to the public, it no longer belongs to the author.' I strongly agree with that statement. So who does it belong to? I'd say the work belongs to the viewer - the person who is watching the work. So, in this contest, I wanted to ask all of you - 'In your opinion, what's the significance of Time of Eve's existence within the story?'
I was most profoundly struck by the entry from rabid_child, who wrote about the Turing Test.
The Turing Test was proposed by the British mathematician Alan Mathison Turing. rabid_child's idea is that Time of Eve is a place for staging the Turing Test. Furthermore, it's a place where androids and humans are testing each other. And, the cafe creates a situation where the participants can't figure out whether they are dealing with an android or human.
The test originally is for humans to evaluate artificial intelligence. But, if you follow the logic of the Turing Test, it would mean that in the Time of Eve cafe the following types of tests are taking place:
1: Humans judge whether they are dealing with a human or an android
2: Androids judge whether they are dealing with a human or an android
At the same time, at the Time of Eve cafe,
3: Androids aren't allowed to be differentiated from humans
To quote the Turing Test itself, 'an android that can't be judged to be human or android is truly excellent.' Hmmm...I think that touches on a very critical element to the story...
Thank you for the fascinating entry! For those of you who are interested, do a search on the 'Turing Test.'"
Thanks to all those who entered, everyone on the Directions team who helped put it together and hope you will be able to re-watch Time of Eve with new eyes!
They say that the success of a manga or anime lies not in the number of copies sold; rather, it lies in the number of product lines the franchise has to offer. If there is a video game, a trading card set, a life-size huggable pillow, a ready-to-wear cosplay kit with functional accessories, car decals, illustration books and fan works, toothbrushes, and even underwear of the said franchise - then you can take it to the bank that it's screaming with popularity and success. Although most of these franchises start with either a manga or a light novel, a certain popular craze has begun to redefine the idea of J-Pop idol figures a whole new level over, melding together aspects of anime and Japanese pop-culture in a refreshingly new perspective.
This week, I'm tossing the anime aside in order to talk about a topic that resonates in me with a passion. It is a craze that began two years ago and still stands strong, boasting for itself an army of devoted fans that fuel the flames of this marketing monster that has garnered for itself a colorful arsenal of franchise goods - extending far beyond what it was originally intended for. That symphony of melodies; the muse of the future; enchantress and siren that casts a spell upon misty-eyed listeners in a spell-binding show of beauty and class. What is this overly dramatized thing of which I speak? Oh, yes... MIKU. Hatsune Miku!
Okay, so I'm overdoing it a little with the passion bit... Truth be told, I know I'm supposed to talk about the VOCALOID voice series, in general. Going through my resources, however, it turns out no matter how hard I try, I simply CANNOT write this article in any way save in a manner that more or less glorifies Hatsune Miku. Call me the brazen maniac, but it's true: Hatsune Miku is perhaps one of the most prolific character series to date, spawning for itself a respectable amount of exposure and acclaim.
But what exactly IS the VOCALOID line up? VOCALOID was originally a synthetic voice emulation software developed by Yamaha that basically allowed a user to input song melody and lyrics and have the program "sing" it as playback. Though Yamaha didn't release the product under their name, they allocated sales to third party distributors, which released a bunch of VOCALOID lines as early as 2004. Developing the software further, Yamaha released a second version, entitled VOCALOID2, which produced several more VOCALOID titles under different third party distributors. Of notable acclaim was the "Character Vocal Series" released by Crypton Future Media, Japan in 2007 - their first product of which was none other than Hatsune Miku.
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It began with a song
But Miku wasn't the first VOCALOID I listened to. Surprisingly, I was introduced to the whole craze by a friend who pointed me towards a Nico Nico Douga video featuring Sakine Meiko (yet another Vocaloid) singing a song entitled "HONEY", backed up by the singing vocals of other VOCALOIDs. The video struck me as "cute", and undeniably addicting to watch over and over again. However, it never occurred to me that the voices singing weren't real people at all - in fact, my initial guess was some sort of synthesizer effect along the lines of Cher or PERFUME. Suffice it to say that I was amazed, if not blown away at the idea that these singers were actually completely synthetic.
And this fact made the difference. If we were talking about cute anime girls singing and dancing at the same time, I'd probably bat an eyelash or two before dismissing it as just another cute idea. But that wasn't the case for VOCALOID. I might be exaggerating a little, but this was cool - betcha-by-golly-wow cool.
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Slow to the beat
It didn't help much to know that I was about a year late on the whole craze. VOCALOID mania was apparently quite the rage among the net denizens of Nico Nico Douga - a Japanese "YouTube" of sorts where VOCALOID videos are openly shared, promoting the said franchise. The unique formula of combining music with animation and J-pop idol fanfare was a work of genius, giving fans a sense of "quasi-ownership" over the franchise, as well as opening a whole different horizon in terms of creative output. Users would make songs and lyrics, post them online, and get feedback - the result being a whole plethora of different works and styles. Other creative individuals would showcase their artistry in pen, creating all sorts of visual works to complement the music in a eye-candy package of moe goodness.
Surprised at what I was missing, I joined PiaPro - an online community of VOCALOID doujin artists - on a whim to see what all the fuss was about. Suffice it to say that the number of creative individuals was nauseating, making me realize that, indeed, the heart of any franchise lies in the devotion of its fans. Undoubtedly, the VOCALOID series was one that had a ridiculously solid heart, at that: one made not of trademarks or copyrights, rather, one of unadulterated, user-generated creativity and content.
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Miku makes a mark
But VOCALOID is VOCALOID - I want to talk about Miku. Perhaps the most popular of all of the VOCALOIDs, her vocal quality is undoubtedly attuned to J-pop tunes, making her an instant icon as far as anime-related music is concerned. Given the intimate relationship anime and music have in common, it's no wonder that Hatsune Miku had a considerable impact on anime viewers - most especially those who like moe. It's almost like a godsend, for a lack of a better term.
If you want to give your ear a go at Miku, try listen to works by Kz(livetune) or ryo(SUPERCELL). Admittedly, Kz's works were the first I listened to with Miku as vocals in her album Re:packaged. Kz's style is notably bubbly and "cute", having a light and almost "electronic" feel to the ears, which doesn't fail to make you thump your feet to the beat. Ryo, on the other hand, has a very wide range of musical styles, including ballads, pop, and even a little rock. Characteristic of his style, however, is his focus on piano keyboard solos, which makes his music rather refreshing, if not unique.
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Skies the limit
Success, again, isn't rated in copies sold. For what it's worth, Hatsune Miku probably sold more copies compared to its successors - but Miku's fame goes beyond what it was originally intended. PROJECT DIVA was a recently released rhythm game for the Playstation Portable developed by SEGA, which basically allows people to play their favorite songs while getting a good dose of eye-candy at that. The game has lots of unlockables, including different outfits and artworks made by different PiaPro users. The game even features a unique video edit mode, where users can produce their own PVs (promotional videos) with songs they can import from their Memory Stick.
A manga was also made by KEI, the original character designer for Hatsune Miku and subsequent VOCALOID2 characters in the Crypton lineup. Miku has even made several cameo appearances in anime (i.e. Lucky Star OVA, Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei), and has even sung the final ending theme in the anime Akikan!. She even appeared as a decal design in the Japan super GT series, marking the first anime-related decal theme (itasha) to ever be featured in such an event.
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The heart of it all
The list of acclaim goes on, but it's the heart of the franchise that captures the fan. Be it a love for the visuals of the characters, or the sheer joy of listening to the music of these synthetic idols - what's touching is that this success is attributed to the very heart of its fans. I'm honestly not one to partake in crazes such as these, but there is perhaps one marked difference in this whole VOCALOID fever. Unlike anime shows or manga where the plot and characters are more or less layed out before you, the VOCALOID series goes further and gives you the opportunity to try your hand at making something you can truly call your own.
No matter how out-of-control it can get with all the fandom, the idea that there is always your own "personal" Miku, Meiko, or any other VOCALOID for that matter, changes the feeling completely. It doesn't get any more personal than that - and that is, perhaps, what makes the franchise so immensely enjoyable. Make no mistake about that.
It is the 1920s and once again, demons are aiming to destroy society and the entire human race. In their way however, are the duo that spearhead a religious order dedicated to the eradication of all demonic activity and maintain normality amongst the populace.
This may sound like a retro Devil May Cry knock-off, but don't be so quick to condemn it. What I am referring to is the well-acclaimed series Chrono Crusade. Penned by Daisuke Moriyama, Chrono Crusade is set in 1920s America, the time of the speak-easy and the period of decadence before the Great Depression of 1929. Demons have infiltrated the city and are feasting on the souls of the innocent, but they're not going to get an easy ride. Far from it. Sister Rosette Christopher, and her trusty sidekick Chrono work together to prevent the evil forces from overwhelming the unsuspecting city dwellers. Thankfully, she is not limited to just using holy water and an undersized crucifix to beat them – she's packing heat! This is another example of how Japanese manga-ka like to help religious figureheads get their message across through the use of armaments (Please refer to my article on Saiyuki from a previous newsletter).
Rosette is a nun based with the Order of Magdalene, who is tied to her partner Chrono in a far than ordinary way. In a fashion not too dissimilar from Fullmetal Alchemist, Rosette is fighting to save her brother Joshua from annihilation by compromising her own life in some fashion by 'signing' a contract with Chrono. Her life is slowly dwindling away and adds to the time-based theme of the show. The title, the contract and Rosette's own impulsive personality give off a sense that the plot is in no position to dawdle.
The setting, the action and the ever-more surreal scenarios that the characters are placed in as the series progresses indicate the urge to find a resolution to the story, whether it's good or bad for Rosette. The contract or what I like to call the 'pinky-swear' effect in anime is often used to bond two characters together for no other reason than to provide more footage for fans. Having said that though, its use in Chrono Crusade is a lot more sincere than in most other shows. Moriyama, through the use of the Rosette-Chrono contract, explores the notion of mortality and that a person is born with x amount of life energy; and as time progresses, it depletes. Rosette is able to channel into that energy and supply it to Chrono directly through some sort of pseudo-scientific fashion; of course it sounds nonsensical to bonafide scientists but it doesn't feel wholly fanciful to the average reader.
Another facet of Chrono Crusade which intrigues me is the reference to Catholicism. Catholicism may be one of the most recognised religions in America (where the series is set) and indeed the entire world, but it has barely scratched the surface in Japan with barely over half a million followers today. That being said, religion (particularly Christianity) is regularly considered a visual garnish to lavish backdrops and narratives supplying them with a sense of history and drama. Shows like Vampire Hunter D and Hellsing are intertwined with religious overtones within their plots (albeit focusing mainly on vampires rather than wholly ecumenical affairs).
Time is a precious thing and Chrono Crusade does a lot to impress that to the audience. Through Rosette's drive to protect Chrono and save her brother, she is using time like a currency in exchange for the knowledge that both her nearest and dearest are safe and healthy. It's a very selfless and noble act which endears the show to me immensely. This could've been a very generic show as the anime makes the characters look fairly uniform to most series of the day; but the complex personalities as well as the sincere and thoughtful natures of the individuals towards a common and prosperous conclusion helps keeps its head above the sea of 'pinky-swear' anime out there. A definite consideration for any anime fan's collection!
Did you know that Nakiami from "Xam'd: Lost Memories" may have been inspired from Nausicaa from "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" and San from "Princess Mononoke"? If you look at them, Nakiami rides on a flying device that is fairly similar to Nausicaa's and they both sport reddish hair. While Nakiami also has tribal markings on her face that are very similar to San's and both have cold/calculating personalities. Then if you compare all 3, they all have a deep connection with nature and despise those who harm the balance. Coincidence? We think not.
Yuto Amakawa is a fairly ordinary young man. On the morning of his birthday seven years after his parents' death, a mysterious girl appears before the orphan, and demons begin attacking Yuto! Yuto is the descendant of the Amakawa family, one of twelve demon slayer clans, and Himari is an Ayakashi with a vow to protect him.
Lag's friends Zazie and Connor recommend he go for a checkup with the medical team, after he arrives at work one day exhausted from his busy days as a Letter Bee. The head of the medical team is Dr. Thunderland Jr., a man with an odd taste for dissection, leading him to be called "The Corpse Doctor" by many out of fear. He takes an interest in Steak and captures him, because Steak is a species known as a Kapellmeister which was thought to be extinct. Lag and Niche hurry after the doctor to rescue their friend...
Word of the Day
トゥース (pronounced: touh-sue): This word originates from a catchphrase/greeting of a popular comedian duo Audrey's Kasuga.