April 23, 2012

Upcoming ave;new events

The time is ripe for ave;new. Just two years ago I had to scratch and claw for events. But recently, they've been doing something interesting almost every month. Here's a look at what's coming down the pipeline, and summer hasn't even started.

April 27th: Twin Angel Best Album "ANGEL" goes on sale. The 3-disc album is a compilation of existing works from Pachislot-turned-anime series "Twin Angel," most performed by ave;new's legendary kyunkyun unit "ave;new project." To entice those of us who already bought every ave;pro release, there is one new song on each disc.

Disc 1: "Hachamecha OH Chame LOVE!!" performed by Shaori and Rierin
Disc 2: "Otona ni Naru no Desu Lyrical Jigoku Remix" by IOSYS
Disc 3: "Angel Kakumei Lets Go DJ Time!!" a 15 minute mix by ave;new founder a.k.a.dRESS

April 29th: 8th China International Cartoon & Animation Festival

This unexpected development marks ave;new's overseas debut, and is what Saori hopes to be the first of many foreign appearances. Saori will be traveling to Hangzhou, China with her unlikely partner in crime Suara to perform on stage and serve as guest-judges for a local karaoke contest. The fact that ave;new accepted China's invitation surely opens the door for other international conventions (though sadly I suspect the chance for a USA appearance is still zilch). Indeed, I am incredibly surprised China actually has enough of an appreciation for Saori to even ask, considering the very properties that ave;new produces music for (aside from Twin Angel) are in all likelihood illegal there.

May 3rd: Tsukiyume ave;new Paradise

The famous Tsukiakari Yumeterasu cafe & bar is holding yet another collaboration event. The cafe opens from 1PM till 11PM and will serve ave;new themed food and drink. The prices are quite expensive, but two big events (with prizes) have been scheduled at secret times throughout the day which are expected to keep patrons staying and paying. The first is a talk event with singer Sakura Saori and special guest Korie Riko (illustrator for "My Sweet Lady" jacket art, and creator of "Gack-oh" series from Lump of Sugar). The second event is the third public recording of Saori's biweekly internet radio program "LoveLoveLovable" and guest stars ave;new's recently hired sound producer Takeru. After 11PM, the tables will be cleared to convert Tsukiyume into a club featuring a.k.a.dRESS, who will personally DJ various ave;new remixes from midnight till dawn.

Although Tsukiyume is in Kawasaki, which is a half hour train ride outside Tokyo, the venue is well known and attended by ave;new fans. They have done numerous other tie-ins with the group in the past, from serving themed drinks to holding member birthday bashes to serving actual food cooked and delivered by the singers. If you visit their lobby on the top floor, you'll see the hallway covered in ave;new memorabilia.

June 8th: New ave;new double-single "My Sweet Lady / PistoSMILE Nonsto-P ~Kagayake Asu no Star Daisakusen~" release which features songs from two different series. The first two songs are OP/ED to Lump of Sugar's "Gak-oh THE ROYAL SEVEN STARS" PC game. The title song "My Sweet Lady" is a worthy addition to the venerable "My" series, following its predecessors "True My Heart", "Kiss My Lips", and "Pure My Voices" (2 of which are available to sing along in karaoke joints throughout Japan).

More interesting is the awesome accompanying ave;new project track "PistoSMILE Nonsto-P ~Kagayake Asu no Star Daisakusen~" which was inexplicably commissioned for the Pist Star campaign launched by K-Dream and Nagoya Keirin, a cycling race. The song accompanies a PV centered around their mascot Pistochan. If you're wondering why that video has so many English comments compared to the usual ave;new song on youtube, it was savaged by Kotaku which predictably mocked the attempts to bridge two completely unconnected hobbies. Only...maybe it's not so unconnected after all. Surprisingly, there is already precedent. And of course, we do have our very own cycling otaku right here in the United States.

Bonus: Saori dressed up like Pistochan

June 16th: Turn Saori's birthday 9/19 upside down and you get 6/16, which is LovableNote mascot Chiwakura-san's birthday. In the four years since she was drawn, Chiwakura-san has had an extensive career ranging from radio host to rap star, and most recently, the protagonist of dating-sim game "Chiwameki Memorial" in which she plays a boy who must infiltrate the ave;new all-girls academy. Although no Chiwakura-san song has ever been performed on stage, in several radio episodes, Saori considered one day giving in to fan demands.

June 19th: EEE Fan Appreciation Festival
According to the website, this event with some 50 scheduled performances in Osaka has a strict rule: Songs from eroge ONLY. ave;new's Saori and Rierin fit right in with fellow participating artists like Aoba Ringo, Tamiyasu Tomoe, Funczion SOUNDS, and others in an event that's probably even more niche than Chaos Party or Milk Lariat. In fact I do not recognize a single other name. Still with a ticket cost of 4500 yen, the price is right. For the hardcore fans, this event too has its own segregated otagei area in which the rule is basically: "everything is allowed, just don't murder each other." Really! Read their otagei rules.

Posted by Paranda at 5:39 PM | Comments (2)

April 10, 2012

Legs, spreads, and maturities

Discussing seiyuu as financial instruments was some stupid fun between some friends on twitter, but after reading this from Akirascuro I ended up thinking too hard about it and my reply morphed into this post.

What kind of considerations would be needed to set up a seiyuu backed security?

Seiyuu careers unfortunately have few similarities with trading vanilla stocks or bonds. You don't really own seiyuu as equity, nor do you enter into the fandom with a large purchase you intend to cash out at a later time. Rather seiyuu career trajectory is much like a series of cashflows without a principal payment at the end. If she reaches maturity date (retire) it's not like you get your money back. Similarly if her career tanks you will not be first in line during the liquidation to receive payout (though this has happened in a certain sense for those in other idol fields).

Instead you pay for her slowly over the years, and you enjoy a seiyuu's work season after season. You could think of them like a dividend paying stock, self issued, but purchased by their agencies who sink the initial cost in training and bringing them up. As they establish their fame in the industry, they may pay out increasing dividend. Fans aren't the agencies so they'll never be able to see the payment, but through the magic of derivatives they CAN still take a position on that dividend. To take account of the complexities of seiyuu career modeling, some sort of security similar to a dividend swap or TR swap on the OTC market would be my choice.

How to design it? The pay leg would probably be some floating rate linked to an index on Seiyuu Income per Season plus or minus some spread. This could be adjusted based on the seiyuu's drawing power, as well as some risk adjustment for the likely direction of her future. Naturally, a seiyuu with lots of fans and very few antis would allow anti-side to demand a huge premium over the index rate. Conversely, seiyuu who are widely expected to fail or have a scandal that kills her career will have no shortage of counterparties willing to discount that rate.

On the other side the receive leg can be some quarterly payment linked to the money she makes per season. This can be derived from episodes acted, media appearances, Oricon sales charts, and other factors in income. Since it's all hypothetical anyway you could even link to some intangible like personal enjoyment out of the roles. Or something dumb like skirt length.

As for maturity, it's hard to say because with individual seiyuu, the cashflows could end at any time and career length varies wildly. Sure you can link the underlying asset to some basket of seiyuu from an agency, or large group with varying ages and an annual rebalance policy, but that takes the fun out of it. After all why be a seiyuu fan if you can't play favorites? We could deal with the uncertainty via short maturity and roll or set it up like a constant maturity swap, but for the TRUE FAN (tm) who's willing to bet some serious money they can do long maturity with a call provision to exit the position. It could be based on time periods or base it around some defined events like career-derailing scandal, tragic illness, a Hirano Aya-type lateral move that changes classification of the underlying security, a systemic Arts Vision style incident, or other unforseen risks. But truly hardcore fans won't even want a call provision so they can lock in their opinions and prove their loyalty.

Designed like this, there is still big money to be made. Assuming you're locked in with a far off maturity date, there are plenty of good trades you could have made.

Loyal fan trade:

For a period of time after K-ON, Toyosaki Aki was overvalued. However, when the boyfriend scandal hit, the market overreacted and spreads went the other way. The loyal fan said "fuck the haters, this scandal is stupid" and bought into an Aki-swap with a massive discount. Now her career is better than ever.

When Nazuka Kaori announced her marriage, the cautious investors remembered what happened to Kaida Yuko and tried to net out their position. More loyal fans who remain unfazed and considered the type of actress she was snapped her up on the cheap. Though there was indeed a brief hiatus, Kaori came back and went on to do several more beloved roles.

Eyes for the rookie trade:

For those with a bit more appetite for risk and bragging rights to say "I liked her before she was cool", you can always take a position on a promising newcomer. People who did this in 2001 for Mizuki Nana hit the jackpot. People who did this for Sakai Kanako in 2006 (including myself) sadly got wiped out. Harukas investors probably broke even since her career mostly matched expectaions. Personally, I would go long on Uesaka Sumire right now for the nice obscurity discount.

Of course there will also be challenges. For example, seiyuu merchandise sales are illiquid enough that an investor with deep pockets could potentially manipulate the underlying asset via large CD/BD purchases that lead to the seiyuu getting a big push from the agency. Another point is that these are obviously uncollateralized, so "seiyuu-backed" is not even remotely true: Ain't nobody gonna gift-wrap Kobayashi Yuu and deliver her to my doorstep (except maybe in my dreams). And we are well familiar with the risks of undercollateralization. But I'm already overthinking this thing so I'll stop here.

I'd love to hear other ideas for instruments and strategies.

Posted by Paranda at 6:37 PM | Comments (5)

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