[Anime] Samurai Flamenco: Dream or Delusion?

Sunday, November 10, 2013 Laura Fitzgerald

Standing for truth, justice, and making a difference no matter how small, it's SAMURAI FLAMENCO!

Brief Synopsis: Hidenori Goto -- a blase and unambitious local cop -- has a run in with an unfortunately dressed costumed vigilante by the name of SAMURAI FLAMENCO! Okay, so Flamenco isn't actually "unfortunately dressed" when he first meets Goto. In fact, he is quite naked after a small mishap ruins his super hero duds. This was not Flamenco's first screw-up as an amateur superhero, and it most definitely won't be his last. Goto and Flamenco (real name: Masayoshi Hazama) soon become friends while Flamenco continues to fight small-time crime (jaywalking, littering, etc.) with Goto as his witness/occasional rescuer. 

Although my summary is Goto-heavy, the first handful of episodes are Hazama's origin story -- sweet, small, naive Hazama, who just wants to make the world a better place. He's spent his entire life idolizing the superhero dramas of his childhood, and, he now has a successful career as a male model, which affords him the time and money to finally bankroll his dream. What dream is that?  His dream of being a masked crusader of justice of course! 

To be honest, I kinda wrote this show off initially when the trailers and synopsis first went up. The Super Sentai genre has never really appealed to me, and the whole "ordinary man tries to become a real-world superhero but falls flat on his face initially" isn't exactly new material. Samurai Flamenco quietly won me over. The show does an excellent job of balancing the bonkers with some really thoughtful moments. It's absolutely charming.

Thus far Episode 3 has been my favorite. I watched it last weekend and had "all the feels" about it. However, since no one that I know is watching this show, hey Internet, I'm going to blog about it at you. In it, Hazama's secret identity is almost revealed to the world on live television, but thankfully (perhaps?) an impostor steps in to claim the title of SAMURAI FLAMENCO! (If you haven't caught on yet, Samurai Flamenco is impossibly fun to shout. Go ahead. Try it. I'll wait.) What's more, that impostor turns out to be none other than one of Hazama's childhood heroes whom Hazama is meeting for the first time! Yay! 

This next bit gets a little spoilery. So if I've already convinced you to give Samurai Flamenco a try, watch it on Crunchyroll now.

Highlight for episode review/spoilers: Sure it's a relief that's his secret is still safe. Maybe even a little bit gratifying to learn that Hazama's good deeds have made such a big impression on one of his most cherished idols; however, Hazama is obviously feeling conflicted about a great many things. You just want to give him a teddy bear as he has his sulk after the broadcast. It's never easy meeting your hero and realizing that they aren't all that heroic in the flesh...that's rough. For a true fan, it's the worst feeling ever, but it's even more complicated than that for poor Hazama! His hero is not only kinda a jerk but also in direct competition with him for the Flamenco job. So who is more deserving of the hero label? This is Red Axe we're talking about here! This is the man who in Hazama's mind, where fact and fiction don't always separate cleanly, single-handedly defeated scores of evil villains. "Real" villains and the not middle-school aged children that real Flamenco so recently tangled with. That kind of doubt is crushing for the newly minted hero, and Hazama has some choices to make. Does he give up and let a "real hero" take over the role? Or is Bruce Wayne wrong? Are our heroes just symbols or is there a more personal, individual quality to the men and women behind the masks?

This all sounds so severe, but don't worry, Samurai Flamenco never takes itself too seriously for long. The episode still manages to have a lot of fun and will leave you smiling.

Samurai Flamenco is Kickass without the violence. It' Super Sentai with the cheese-factor dialed back just a little. It's awesome and you should be watching it. (But only if you like fun.)

[Contest] The Beginning of the End...Maybe

Sunday, January 1, 2012 Laura Fitzgerald

Congratulations! We've made it through 2011, but don't rest on your laurels for too long. Armageddon may yet be around the corner and you'll need all your stamina to survive the end of the world.

But in the meantime, let's focus on happier times and have a little fun. I'm giving away FOUR YA books to one lucky winner. The prizes are as follows.

1 HC copy of Across the Universe by Beth Revis
1 HC copy of Blood Red Road by Moira Young
1 ARC of Frost by Marianna Baer
1 ARC of  the upcoming Article 5 by Kristen Simmons a debut dystopian novel from Tor Teen

To enter, comment on the blog and tell me one of your resolutions for the new year. Make sure it's a good one just in case the world really does end this year! This contest is open to US residents only I'm afraid, and closes at 10:00 am on January 8th.

Good luck to all of you in the new year. May 2012 be a happy and strong year for all of us!

[RK Rewatch] Episode 8: New Battle! and Live-Action Trailer

Saturday, December 17, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

It's been a while since I've added on to the RK Rewatch, and it's no wonder - the time has come for Megumi and Aoshi to make their entrances. I've never liked either character much, and if I recall their introductions drag on unnecessarily long. They're just so...bland. And boring. (Please don't hurt me Aoshi fangirls.) So let's power through this and get to the incredible news of the week.  

Episode 8 Summary: Kenshin and Sanousuke cross paths with Megumi Takani, a woman and doctor who is being hunted by a band of ninjas called the Oniwabanshu. Megumi as it turns out is the sole-surviving member of a clan of renowned healers which is good because the group needed a cleric anyway. Megumi takes shelter at the Kamiya dojo. They are attacked again and Yahiko is poisoned. Time for that cleric to earn her keep!  

My Thoughts: We meet 1/2 of the Oniwabanshu group. As I mentioned in an earlier recap, the game has changed since Sanousuke joined the group. Kenshin isn't going to be fighting the same level of two-bit ordinary humans anymore. More and more, enemies and allies will display super-human abilities that only make sense in absurd shonen anime style. That's how we get Hyottoko - the fire eater. The man is literally larger than a house and able to breathe fire. I wish I could explain how, but I can't. I'm not even going to try because I'm afraid I'd have to use the words "flammable vomit" at some point.

So that seems like a pretty good note to end on. I really have nothing to say about this episode as nothing  happens. Sanousuke suspects that Megumi is involved in the opium business that killed one of his friends, but nothing is revealed or resolved. Moving on to the best news of the week - a teaser trailer was released for the live-action adaptation! Check it out! 

Anime adaptations are often terrible, so I'm really trying to lower my expectations. It's hard though because visually they've nailed it thus far! And I'm pretty happy that they opted to do away with the pink haori for this and play up the penniless hobo look. What do you think? I think I'm in love.

[Marketing] SEO Protip: Blog Post Titles

Friday, December 9, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

SEO means Search Engine Optimization for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, and one of these days I should probably do a big, giant post covering the basics. For now here's one simple basic tip on improving your search results for blog content. It begins at the beginning with the title of your blog post.

Sometimes we get too creative for our own good. Titles that are fun and those that are whimsical do not always also communicate what the post is actually about.

Titles are key bits of metadata - the descriptive back-end pieces of information that Google search crawlers use to to find and define your site. Which is why it's important to fit in specific and strong keywords when naming your blog posts because it'll help your blog be found by Google. It'll also be the first thing a reader sees as they are scanning their search results so a title ought to inform readers of what they can expect to find in your post.

As a bad example of what not to do let's look at one of my old posts,  Ramblings on a Wednesday and Indiana Jones.  In that post I mainly talk about writer's block and not Indiana Jones. I think I was trying to be witty that day and reference the Roadtrip Wednesday topic that week. If f I had a Tardis I'd probably go back and change it to "Writer's Block and Indiana Jones".  This new title is still interesting and kinda fun, but now it reflects the content better.

So there is still room for creativity for SEO friendly titles. Your blog should reflect your voice as an author after all. Cut and dry titles may not be engaging enough to your audience. Just keep these questions in the back of your head before you hit publish - 1.) Is there a place to seamlessly toss in a keyword to my title? and 2.) Does my title inform or distract?

[Marketing] Klout

Monday, December 5, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

I had some time to actually write this weekend so I thought I would weigh-in briefly on Klout. (Edit: Did I say brief? Hah!)

What Klout Is:  

According to Klout:

"Our friendships and professional connections have moved online, making influence measurable for the first time in history. When you recommend, share, and create content you impact others. Your Klout Score measures that influence on a scale of 1 to 100...The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others. The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure: True Reach (how many people you influence), Amplification (how mjuch you influence them), and Network Impact (the influence of your network)."
In basic terms, Klout ought to be able to answer the questions that often eludes marketers - does any of these things that I do, tweet, and promote across all my many channels have any real effect on our audience?! Anything at all?! Or am I just a voice shouting in the woods? What's nice about Klout is that Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and a host of other accounts to be scored by Klout which again to ought to be very helpful in interpreting the overall effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Klout measures that influence with a numerical value, allowing a marketer to establish a baseline from which they can set goals towards future growth. Seems like useful information, right?

What Klout Really Is:

Kinda useless sad to say. At least for me it has been. Is it hella fun though? Hell YES! But more on that later. This has been my personal experience so I will fully admit that results may vary. If you're on Klout and you've found a way to interpret the data that is meaningful and helpful to you - more power to you.  As I played around with Klout, I tried to come up with a good enough reason to recommend it specifically to authors and I just can't find it. It's all interesting data, but ultimately I don't see it helping as much as it distracts. Writers can be notorious procrastinators as it is. For a certain kind of person, I can see Klout being another shiny thing to check-in on hourly to avoid writing.

I think there is just too much data for Klout to collect and then produce a meaningful return on and sometimes the results just don't make sense. Here's an example: For a long time 'Karate' used to be one of my Top Topics not because I was an expert on the martial art or Tweet about it frequently.  I suspect the reason was because I once live-tweeted a re-watch of the first three Karate Kid movies and response to that was decent. Now Karate vs. The Karatie Kid (film) are two very different topics. Klout at the time was unable to separate the two. In fairness their most recent update does seem to have taken out the more ridiculous Top Topics. So we'll see how the service changes.

Since the algorithms behind the Klout score are not as transparent as I'd like them to be and due to other incidents similar to The Karate Kid story, I don't feel like I can trust Klout's numbers.  Scalzi brings up some great points and other issues about Klout numbers and labels in his post on CNN Money. You should definitely check it out.

When does the fun start?

The perks are pretty fun. My roommate, the amazing @causticsoda (who crochets similarly amazing things), is always qualifying for Klout perks and I have enjoyed the benefits of this. It has all been good fun. When the Have Mercy samples were delivered, they were delivered by hand and still chilled. It was pretty awesome; however, I rarely qualify for the perks. Ordinarily, I'm not bothered by it. If I'm being honest with myself, I'm just into the Klout perks for the free food.

I do think that Klout Style is an interesting feature. My Twitter seems to waffle back and forth between Networker and Explorer. It a good thing for my ego, but I'm also not going to change how I use Twitter based on the label Klout assigns to me. The descriptions of each are just too vague to be super useful.

And at the end of the day:

I am still addicted to Klout, but I have an analytics addiction.  My advice to any writers who have been looking into Klout is this - there are probably better uses for your time. It's a fun thing to check passively, but not an analytics program to take too seriously. Unlike the social accounts of large corporations, your Twitter and Facebook feeds are likely going to be less static and hopefully more creative and fun so expect some strangness in your stats and Top Topics. You should also be prepared to see a Klout score that is lower than you expect even if you do have a healthy following. Klout scores seem to favor the large corporations like Best Buy and McDonalds. So don't rely on Klout to tell you how successful you've been. That's something you ought to decide for yourself.

[Marketing] Name vs. Brand

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

What's in a name?

"Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?"  Of course it would because a four letter name does not in any way affect the chemical make up of the flower's scent; however, roses have taken on many other meanings in our culture through commercial branding. They become a symbol of love, passion, and even one of sincerity and apology. Culturally, we've been trained to think of them as more than just pretty flowers.

Like a rose, your brand is more than just a name, and I think that's what a lot of people are confused about.  The Shameless Self-Promoters - the ones whose RSS, Twitter, and Facebook feeds are filed with MY BOOK TITLE reviewed, MY BOOK TITLE onsale, MY BOOK TITLE, MY BOOK TITLE (you've all seen these accounts) are misunderstanding that branding is not just about maximum exposure of a select set of keywords.

That's not to say that the name is unimportant.  Your name, the title of your novel or series, blog, hashtag etc.  is the unique identifier that consumers and readers will be associating with your over-arching message.  It is your base. In time you'll build on your base and the end result will be more complex than the name itself.

Branding is a form of communication. The ultimate goal of successful branding is widespread awareness of your name, but you also want your brand to answer those "Who?" and "What?" questions too.  HOW you go about answering those questions is branding.

Photo Credits: Photo by Charisse JoyChyu, published under a creative commons license.

[Writing] The Gap

Thursday, August 25, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

Still thinking about Writer's Block today. Then I remembered seeing this infographic posted by a friend and thought that I would share it.