Sumo and Brand Image

I haven't found the time to watch the official streams for this tournament (curse you, time difference), but I did follow the news through twitter.
And just today, Hakuhou won the May bout/tournament. I have my thoughts (not about him per se, but about the wrestler society in general), but that's for later.
It's absolutely awesome to see that the sumo world is getting back on its feet. Since I got into it right before the scandals of 2010 went haywire, and as the internet saying goes, "things be cray cray", I know what it's like to be in a packed stadium, as well as a sad and empty one. Things were definitely looking up last year when I went to Nagoya (summer 2012), and the way the tickets have been selling the last several tournaments, I think it's safe to say that really, it's going great.

I mean, they have a wicked twitter account (the amount of information and the regularity of their updates are wonderful), they're really trying hard to incorporate a younger audience (those social media tie-up events seem interesting), and the Sumo Association has a sort of partnership with LINE (a popular social media/transmission thing on smartphones - I don't own a smartphone so I don't really get that).
But using that barely unknown pop group to sing an 'official support song' for the Association really doesn't suit the brand image and I vaguely disapprove... ok ok I haven't heard those girls sing or anything, but just, brand image.  

Brand image.

I get social media and LINE because, really, that's the way to go in order to disseminate information in a way that the audience will actually notice and read. But using girls (they're a themed pop group and I just don't get them) in a homosocial, traditional, old-school sport really doesn't fit in. I know they're trying to incorporate some sort of female gaze/presence in a sport where women are literally not allowed on the ring, but young girls in costumes just doesn't seem a proper fit.
Yeah... I'm bitter.
When Momoiro Clover Z (a more mainstream, but a bit niche pop group - I like them) did collaboration promotions with the Sumo Association, it was understandable. Because they weren't directly promoting the Sumo Association, but appearing as guests in regional fan events and such. Sure, they did appear on TV shows/events with the then just-retired Takamisakari (Furiwake Oyakata), but they weren't endorsing something per se (they probably wanted media attention right after his retirement since Furiwake Oyakata was such a fan-favorite wrestler, to fuel buzz for the next tournament).
But to have a barely known pop group directly promoting sumo just doesn't feel right. It alienates me. It brings down the spirituality and exclusivity of the sport a little too close to the lay world. As much as I can see the behind-the-scenes of the sport through twitter and events and whatnot, I can still never be a part of it. The sort of (homosocial) distance, for me, really sells the sport. Having a pop group in that arena really bothers me because it screams of ulterior motives. No. Personally, it doesn't align with the rest of the promotions and media and cultural presence of Sumo.

Maybe I'll change my mind once I hear their song. But I don't really want to?
I hope it's like a Sumo Jinka (traditional songs sung by the wrestlers). Because really, brand image. Sumo is not an arena where pop songs really work, in my opinion.
I just have really confused and conflicted feelings about this ok?
(I just love the sport so much I overreact to things - ugh and I'm not even in the country...)


Shojo Manga and Storytelling

A week or so ago, I was invited over to my friend's place to hang out. There, I pretty much just sat and read "Toward the Terra" vol.1 while my friends were hanging out.
 I had read "Toward the Terra" (Keiko Takemiya) many years ago, possibly during my last year of high school. Yeah, that's a while ago. I remember being intrigued by the TV anime series that aired around that time, and got a hold of the original comics (in Japanese). I think I let go of the comics when I left for Canada.
It surprises me how I could've forgotten. This is such a sophisticated, intense story. And as I reread it, it really hit me how innovative and challenging this must have been in the 70s when it was first released, because it is still so relevant and powerful today.

"Toward the Terra" is an epic science fiction about Jomy, a young boy who is chosen as the leader of the Mu (a race of ESP-powered humans), and his struggles with trying to bring peace between the humans and Mu while simultaneously trying to return to Terra, the homeland. This is mirrored by Keith Anyan's story, who is a 'perfect' human in the human world - he has his own struggles with the government/social organization system that he must confront as he climbs up the social ladder.

There are many heavy themes in the story - social oppression, racism, activism, morality, playing god, ableism, classism, questioning modernization and technology - that are not 'typical' of shojo manga stories. It is about standing up for yourself, about knowing the story of both oppressor and oppressed, and about the strenuous, painful search for identity. It is intense and emotionally charged, and quite possibly trigger-y for some people.
In first semester, I wrote a paper that compared a contemporary shojo manga with a 'classic' shojo manga, Hi Izuru Tokoro no Tenshi (Ryoko Yamagishi). "Toward the Terra" came just before Hi Izuru... and shares the same social background of when shojo manga as a genre was in its formative (and revolutionary) years. The masterpieces from that era introduced innovative storytelling and "unconventional" plot/ stories that deviated from 'normal' shojo manga as if to break free of the constraints of the shojo genre.
"Toward the Terra" is a challenging, intense, and therefore extremely engaging story because it was so fresh and did not pander to the audience (or look down on them). Rather, it presented a social commentary through beautiful and flawed characters that makes it so intriguing and appealing - the readers learn and grow along with the characters as they are led through the futuristic utopic (dystopic?) world.

Now all I want to do is read the entire thing (hopefully in Japanese). Ok maybe I'll give in and just go to the nearest bookstore to get the English version.
((I was pleasantly surprised with the English version I read at my friend's place. The translation was actually quite good! I definitely won't mind reading it in English if it's from that publisher, but I would still prefer the original Japanese one... that's just my personal preference.))


Attack on Titan

I'll watch any anime that interests me - I've never limited myself to shojo or shonen or any genre. But there are, obviously, some things I can't really handle. Horror and gore are two of the biggies.

Right now I've been telling friends, ranting to instructors, and pretty much having an internal fit over the series 'Attack on Titan'(進撃の巨人/Shingeki no Kyojin). It's a shonen manga series that is immensely popular, and right now the anime series is on air.
I've never read it, or watched it, but I've been practically inhaling everything I can on the internet in terms of spoilers and fan interpretations/discussions.
So far, I think the story is fantastic, the setting is so well thought-out, and the characters are really captivating (Levi or Reveille or whatever your English name is, holy possums is his character so enthralling and his design is just fantastic).

But the gore, the violence, makes me go "oh god why why I just can't do this I ca-ahh-n't!!! *sob*". I know it's integral to the story because it's about survival, the frailty of humanity, sins, and the condition of man. It gets quite gritty and philosophical. But personally, it's just...
The designs of the 'giants' makes me want to scream and cry. I'm not kidding.

And the anime series looks fabulous. The quality is amazing, and the opening song is so darn perfect I got goosebumps when I first saw it.

((Are you kidding me this is so amazing and so well-done. Personally I haven't felt this passionate about an anime opening in a while and it feels awesome.))

Then, there're my thoughts around the blurry line between what is for 'shonen' and what is for 'adult/ippan' audiences.
The magazine the manga is serialized is a 'shonen' genre, but its selling point is that it focuses on dark fantasy/grittier content, so the target audience is slightly older (probably the older end of teens).
The anime is aired on a late-night slot, which in theory means that the original 'teen' audience is excluded. But in the anime version, the violence and gore of the manga is subdued in some forms (obviously, since the medium means the casual viewer can stumble across it and so it has to keep in mind a more varied viewership).
The franchise seems to have a bit of a confusion in terms of target audience, probably due to its immense popularity and its need to cater to the widest possible audience range. I just feel that there is a reason why 'Attack on Titan' was not serialized on a seinen/ippan (general audience) magazine, and that through multi-platform extensions and extensive media attention, it's actually losing that core 'older teen' audience. Maybe I'm thinking too much.

((And I'm not even gonna start about the North American market and how things like 'Attack on Titan' would never fly here because of cultural perceptions around the medium and whatnot.))