Author Archives: Kevin Tian

“Fate/stay night: Unlimited Budget Works”

Ever since its initial airing in October last year, ufotable’s anime TV series Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works has remained as one of the most popular and highest rated series of all time, having found critical and commercial success in both Japan and elsewhere.

Somewhat amusingly, however, is the fact that much of the western anime community’s attention is not on the more traditional aspects of the show. Most praises are centered on the series’ jaw-dropping and breathtaking visuals.

This is not surprising, for here’s where anime greatly differs from live-action movies and TV shows: where we have witnessed many low-budget films that have achieved a beautiful look that’s virtually indistinguishable from blockbusters, an anime’s visual production value is directly proportional to its budget. After all, it’s simply that the more money you have, the more you can draw.

Considering this, you can imagine the audience’s delightful shock when they come across a TV series whose visuals are on par with, if not better than, theatrical films. Hence the anime community has given it a new name – “Unlimited Budget Works”.

THE INFORMANT

The informant has just finished his undergraduate studies. He would consider himself to have been an avid fan of Japanese anime, manga, and games for 6 years. More than simply watching and consuming, he also actively contributes to the community, in the form of reviews, articles, discussions, and translation works. He told me of this folk nickname as a part of his collection of interesting facts/tales from the anime community.

When asked why he decided to select this piece of folklore, he replied simply that it was one of the most popular and enduring jokes/nicknames in the western anime community

THE ANALYSIS

This folklore serves as an interesting demonstration of the marketing value of nicknames. There’s no doubt that the original series is popular, but it is this nickname that propelled its popularity to a new level. Many audience members, including myself, have not previously heard of the show itself save for this nickname.

The joke of “322” in the DOTA 2 community

“322” is a popular joke and insult in the DOTA 2 community, used to often criticize and more often make fun of players who are performing so badly that one might suspect they are bribed to deliberately do so to undermine their team efforts.

No one is sure who or even which group first started using the phrase in matches. But almost everyone agree, with slight variations, on the origin story: in 2013, a professional Russian Dota 2 player “Solo” committed fraud against his own team zRage. He betted against his own team on the promise of $322. To ensure the success in his bet and, henceforth, the failure in his team’s performance, he played particularly badly. Ironically, he never even received the $322.

THE INFORMANT

The informant is currently a student in university. We were teammates together on our DOTA 2 team. As of now he has been a player and an active participant in the community for 3 years.

He learnt of this folkspeech through in-game experience as well as the chatters on reddit. In one our team’s matches, he explained to me about this folkspeech as he was laughing hysterically at my Kill/Death/Assist ratio – which at the time was 3/2/2.

THE ANALYSIS

“322” serves as an interesting example of how a popular folklore can often come from an oddly specific event – sometimes so specific that it may easily seem random or illogical to people outside of the said community. It is tempting, for example, to wonder if the phrase would ever be just as popular if the number of the money “Solo” was promised isn’t something that sounds as catchy as “three-two-two”.

The use of “8k MMR” as an insult in the DOTA 2 community

In matches players would often comment “you must have an 8K MMR” or “you must be from reddit”, when a certain player (or players) act especially arrogantly.

Again, as seems to be the case with all jargons or phrases in the gaming community, no one is truly sure of its origin. However, it is easy to understand the meanings and intentions behind these two phrases.

“MMR” is the acronym for “MatchMaking Rating”, which is a number assigned to each player that reflects the player’s relative skill level. It’s calculated from the player’s performances in matches and in turn used to calculate the skill bracket the player should be placed in when he/she attempts to find a match. Most players have an MMR from 2000 to 4000. Professional players on average have MMRs around 6500. Naturally you can now see that an “8k MMR” – which refers to an MMR of 8000 – is virtually impossible. Henceforth it has become a phrase and insult reserved for those players who act as if they have already mastered the game beyond anyone’s level.

The connection to the reddit community stems from the fact that many reddit users act incredibly arrogantly in their comments when discussing strategies, players, heroes, or items. Also in the mix is the fact that reddit users love to boast of their skills.

THE INFORMANT

The informant is currently a student in university. We were teammates together on our DOTA 2 team. As of now he has been a player and an active participant in the community for 3 years.

He learnt of this folkspeech through in-game experience as well as the chatters on reddit. Later in one our team’s matches he told us about this folkspeech – all the while he was making fun of a player on the enemy team with this phrase.

THE ANALYSIS

It almost feels as if a piece of folklore cannot become popular were it not to contain an oddly specific element. Why “8k” and not any other ridiculous number? There’s also the device of synecdoche (or is it metonymy here?) at work: “8k mmr” or “reddit player” as a substitute for the entire population of arrogant DOTA 2 players.

The “Montage Parody”

There certainly seems to be an increasing distinction between videos and the cinematic art. Just as web novels were initially ruled out of literature, much of online videos are believed by many to “bear no resemblance to the art of the cinema”, to use Hitchcock’s phrase, despite the same fundamental medium of motion picture that they both rely on.

A newly-developed genre – if we may indeed call it that – in online videos: the montage parody. It’s hard to really put into words, the informant says, but the genre’s style is instantly and unmistakably recognizable. A few characteristics: an extremely rapid, almost epileptic style of editing, the rampant use of “epic” soundtracks and dubstep music, an absurd amount of random inserts of viral internet memes and videos. He warns, however, that even though these three traits are iconic in montage parodies, they can certainly be altered. The essence of the genre is comedy through an extremely over-the-top, faux-epic use of visuals and sound.

The informant believes that there probably is an origin – an earliest video that uses these montage parody techniques – but he thinks that the origin of the genre hardly matters to the community. Most people who create these videos are just as indifferent to and ignorant of the origin of the genre as most people who watch these videos.

The informant also comments that the name of the genre is very telling of its intention: the montage parody aims to parody the classic Hollywood montage that condenses a long series of events into a short, fast-paced and action-packed sequence of epic images and music. The community believes that the montage parody was created as a response and by-product to the earlier video montages of online shooting games such as Counter Strike and Call of Duty. Those montages were created to show off a user’s skills and accomplishments in the game, and the montage parody is to make fun of users who create these videos to show off themselves.

THE INFORMANT

The informant is currently a student in university. He would identify himself as having been a gamer for the past 6 years.

When asked how he came across this new genre of “montage parody” videos, he replied that considering the genre’s viral popularity, it was simply not possible for a gamer to have not seen these videos. I mentioned that as of recently the community seems to have finally become tired of montage parodies, as increasing negativity can be seen among gamers towards these videos. He replied that he believed the novelty is wearing off – but that didn’t really prevent him from enjoying this kind of video any less than he did before.

THE ANALYSIS

This is a case where a high-culture art form has given birth to a folkloric genre. Traditionally cinema has always been a vertical communication: the elite industry produces and the public consumes. Unlike literature where anyone can be a writer as long as he/she has a typewriter (or even just pen and paper), cinema was always a more expensive, more elitist medium. As cameras became cheaper and lighter, amateur filmmaking became a possibility. But amateur films could never become popular, since the theatres were the only distribution platform.

But Internet, of course, changed everything. This type of montage parody video making was never the creation of a single author; it was at first, but it was the folkloric distribution of this genre that gave it its widespread popularity. One audience would show a montage parody to his/her friends. One creator would mimic one another. Then, suddenly, it became a thing.

ANNOTATIONS:

A few examples of montage parody

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2wyWPBRfxY
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBbSUw27js0
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5X0Q3SG6v0

From Urobuchi to “Urobutcher”

Japanese screenwriter Gen Urobuchi made a name for himself (literally in this case) in the anime community when the 2011 series Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica became a smash hit in both Japan and the West.

The show shocked international audiences as it appeared to be – and was marketed as – a stereotypical, innocent and feel-good magical girl anime, but reveals itself to be in fact a dark and mature story about death and responsibility. Particularly renowned (or, as others would call it, infamous) is the show’s surprising and cold-blooded murders of its beloved characters.

As such, anime fans awarded a new name to Urobuchi, a pun that only western anime fans would understand as it combines English and Japanese: “Urobutcher”. Out of half admiration and half-joking resentment, anime characters who die in a particularly tragic fashion are now no longer “killed”, but “butchered” or “urobutchered”.

THE INFORMANT

The informant has just finished his undergraduate studies. He would consider himself to have been an avid fan of Japanese anime, manga, and games for 6 years. More than simply watching and consuming, he also actively contributes to the community, in the form of reviews, articles, discussions, and translation works. He told me of this folk nickname as a part of his collection of interesting facts/tales from the anime community.

When asked why he decided to select this piece of folklore, he replied simply that it was one of the most popular and enduring jokes/nicknames in the western anime community.

THE ANALYSIS

Cross-cultural folklore continues to fascinate me immensely. It’s curious how exclusive this kind of folklore can be: in the case of the nickname “Urobutcher” it not only requires the reader’s understanding of both Japanese and English, but also a familiarity with Urobuchi’s anime works. If anything this kind of folklore serves as a great example for Holton’s thesis of hybridization – and at the time of his writing in 2000, the power of the Internet wasn’t even evident yet. Now it seems only ever so obvious that global trend in culture has far transcended homogenization and polarization. Perhaps the word ‘hybridization’ is no longer enough – perhaps the Internet deserve a more powerful thesis.