The Overwatch League, and how it has hooked me

I will be veering off anime this time, and focusing on something that started this year that has truly got me hooked: The Overwatch League.

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I am not the best Overwatch player. My role is typically off-tank or flex support, so my mains are the likes of D.Va, Roadhog and Orisa, with my supports being Mercy, Ana, Brigitte (when she goes live on the main servers), and defensive Sombra. I leave the more important DPS roles to those who know how to play them. When I began on PS4, the furthest I managed to get was high Gold in competitive. It was around April last year when I had had enough of console Overwatch (I was getting tired of console players not taking competitive seriously) and decided to turn to where it belongs: on the PC. I began on training wheels, still playing the game with a controller. I don’t feel ashamed still using a controller; the SJWs and haters that are everywhere on Overwatch are not the ones who dictate how I play. I am well aware that accuracy is greatly increased with a mouse and keyboard, but I still feel more comfortable playing with a controller. There will come a time when I switch to mouse and keyboard, but that is not now.

I was already following professional Overwatch, when the major Korean tournament APEX took place throughout 2016 and 2017. This was around the time when The Overwatch League was announced and received a lot of criticism. Journalists, streamers and professionals were extremely skeptical of a region-based esports league taking off. As more news came out on the 12 teams that would take part in season 1 (9 US teams, 1 British, 1 Korean and 1 Chinese), the more people were won over. It was the pre-season games in December 2017 that sold esports companies and sponsors though.

Who I support

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London Spitfire uniform

I began the League supporting my local team: London Spitfire. An all-Korean roster consisting of two former teams, Kongdoo Panthera and GC Busan, with the team owned by US esports org Cloud9. When this news came out, there was a huge backlash, with a lot of British Overwatch fans complaining that no Brits were in the lineup. It’s common knowledge that the UK is not renowned for its esports, and so what is really more important are the wins, and not some stubborn and selfish British pride. However, despite constantly doing very well in the League, as time went on, I started to find another team that was much more personable and friendly to the fans: New York Excelsior. Also an all-Korean roster consisting largely of the teams Luxurywatch Blue and Luxurywatch Red owned by the company who own the New York Mets. As a Brit, I also naturally support the underdogs, and thus Shanghai Dragons, who at the time of writing, have still not won a game, have a special place in my heart. They are also the only team so far with a female player in the roster, in the form of off-tank player Geguri.

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Shanghai Dragons uniform

The reason why I chose to side with New York Excelsior is purely down to their willing to interact with the fans, something that my local London team are currently falling behind on. The team member’s Twitch streams are all very popular, and their eagerness to learn English so quickly is highly commendable. Plus their uniform is less taxing on the eye than London’s and Shanghai’s.

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New York Excelsior uniform

Okay so, to be fair, I support nearly all of the teams as each game is so fun to watch. The only team I have a burning hatred for are Houston Outlaws. They are too cocky and arrogant for their own good, with team members who are essentially one-trick players, and who actually think teabagging in-game is a professional thing to do. They are the Marmite team; you either love them, hate them, or really hate them.

The future

When the inaugural season ends, more orgs, companies and corporations are expected to jump in on this overnight success story. In the 12 weeks it has existed so far, the Overwatch League and their teams have already found some respectable sponsors: Toyota, T-Mobile, Twitch, Intel, and Hewlett Packard, with teams finding sponsors in Logitech, Starz, Jack in the Box and Razer. As London Spitfire are the only European team so far, cities like Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Stockholm are expected to jump in. South Korea may want a second team representing them, while other countries like Canada, Australia, Japan, Brazil and Mexico may want in on the action too. Also it would be unsurprising to see Russia and Dubai (both very rich places always eager to impress the world) want on the bandwagon as well. Since the first season takes place solely in California, it is expected that each team will head to their cities and play home and away matches in the next season. This may end up being a logistics nightmare, with teams having to fly to the other side of the world for potentially one match. Of course, with more teams will come more exposure, more sponsorship and more fans. Activision Blizzard appear to have shut the critics and naysayers up by pulling off an attractive and well-polished esports league. I for one got hooked straightaway, and am happy to stand by my three teams. When the London team eventually make their way here in the UK, I’ll be here to cheer them on. Now I just need to get my jerseys…

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Recommended viewing

The following are a selection of matches I recommend to those new and curious to the Overwatch League. Each game is on Twitch, and is between 90-150 minutes long:

Stage 1 recommended matches

Seoul Dynasty vs. Dallas Fuel – January. 10. 2018.

Two rosters who already had history in their former teams (Lunatic-Hai and EnvyUs respectively) taking each other on in their new forms on Day 1 of the Overwatch League. This was the one game that silenced the numerous critics and naysayers of the League.

Los Angeles Gladiators vs. Los Angeles Valiant – January. 24. 2018.

The first battle of Los Angeles as both LA teams faced off to see which one was the better. While the Valiant was owned by a preexisting esports franchise (Immortals), the Gladiators was owned by the people who own the LA Rams (NFL), the Denver Nuggets (NBA), and have a major stake in Arsenal (Premier League). So this was also a matter of traditional sports company vs. esports company.

Shanghai Dragons vs. Dallas Fuel – February. 07. 2018.

Both Shanghai and Dallas were having rotten luck in the League at this point. Shanghai had still not won a game and were also facing rumors that they were overworking the team and coaches, while Dallas were having a lot of internal team problems, including the suspension of a tank player who caused a major controversy on his personal Twitch stream.

London Spitfire vs. Houston Outlaws – February. 10. 2018.

Today’s matches would decide who would win Stage 1 and bag themselves $100,000. London only just about managed to get into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth that day, and needed to beat a very strong Houston team to make it to the final.

London Spitfire vs. New York Excelsior (Stage 1 Final) – February. 10. 2018.

After dispatching Houston, London needed to beat the top team, New York, to win the stage. New York Excelsior had already qualified for the final due to being at the top of the league table, so London were facing another very tough opponent that day. At this point the London team were already exhausted after having already played two matches that day, and they managed to pull off the impossible.

Stage 2 recommended matches

Houston Outlaws vs. Philadelphia Fusion – March. 01. 2018.

A strong Houston team takes on a quickly improving Philadelphia team, where they proved that teams owned by corporations (Philadelphia Fusion is owned by Comcast) can still be better than those owned by established esports orgs (Houston Outlaws is owned by Optic Gaming).

London Spitfire vs. Los Angeles Gladiators – March. 10. 2018.

At this point, London’s top tank player decided to transfer to Los Angeles Gladiators when London couldn’t guarantee the play time he asked for, and LA showed London they weren’t as invincible as they thought.

New York Excelsior vs. Seoul Dynasty – March. 14. 2018.

The top 1 team versus the top 2 team. Both needed a win to secure a spot in Stage 2 playoffs, and neither team disappointed when they made the match stretch to 5 maps. New York had beaten Seoul before in a close game in Stage 1 of the league, so could they do it again in Stage 2?

Houston Outlaws vs. Los Angeles Gladiators – March. 15. 2018.

With their success in Stage 1, Houston had built themselves a very loyal fanbase…as did the Los Angeles Gladiators, whose fanbase only increased when their new tank player arrived. A 5-map match which got very surreal when players chose to switch their typical team roles around with the intent of playing mental games and confusing each other.

(As of time of writing, Stage 2 has not finished yet)

Esports appearing in an anime blog. Well the Overwatch League might end up becoming something I talk about on a regular basis here. There are plenty of video blogs and podcasts on the league and the teams, so I won’t add to them. Most of these videos are either rumor-spreading ones or meme ones, neither of which I like since the truth is more important. I’ll instead just occasionally whine about it every now and then alongside the anime…

Sources: Official Site // Twitch Page

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Coming back in 2018

It’s been a good long while since I’ve done anything on Anime Solstice, well I’ve actually kept myself quite busy over the last couple of months:

  • I’m still keeping up-to-date with my regular column, Neomo’s Otaku Theater, on the US-based group blog, The OASG. As well as my weekly review of hand-picked shows, I occasionally write full-lengths about certain things that have happened that anime season.
  • At the beginning of this year, I joined the team at the UK-based news site, Japan Curiosity, where I alternate between reviewing British home video releases and reviewing anything new that appears on Netflix anime-wise.
  • Offline, I will be beginning my studies to become a English-language teacher overseas. I’ve had a lot of ‘what-the-hell-am-I-doing?’ moments; you get more of them when you actually have nothing to do. As my trading card business idea fell through, I am using this direction with the hope of not only finding work but seeing the big wide world.

As for this place? Well, I’m keeping it around, as I can be unchained here. Will I be resurrecting the ‘What happened when I watched’ posts? Perhaps. Will I think of some other project to do here? Who knows. Will I even have time to write on here, what with 2 other sites to write for plus my upcoming studies? We’ll see.

Netflix, and its place in anime for the future

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I’m going to begin this post by saying that I am quite optimistic in the recent news Netflix have given out in terms of their future relationship with anime, and putting it on their platform. If you’re not aware of it though, here is a rundown of it all.

Netflix plan to bring more and more original content to their platform: new shows, feature-length movies, documentaries, etc. Exclusive license acquisitions also fall under this category. A figure they have given is US$8 billion by the end of 2018. Even with big names like Disney deciding to break away from Netflix by pulling their content off and focusing on their own streaming platforms, Netflix have found a perfect way to tap into the TV-watching audience who turn more towards internet television, podcasts, online streaming and on-demand video than live television. In their third quarter earnings interview, it was revealed that a ‘sizable chunk’ will go towards 30 new anime series and 80 new original films, all slated to be released by the end of 2018.

The anime-watching community are very quick to defend the service they have grown used to, though (Crunchyroll/Funimation), so I can totally understand why they are extremely sceptical and pessimistic in Netflix’s plan. Simulcasting has become the norm now. Viewers in the West get to watch shows the same day they are released in Japan, and with simuldubs being brought in by Funimation, it could be fair to say that they are a rather impatient lot. They don’t want to wait weeks or months for their shows to come to the West; they want them now. In addition, they can also turn to pirating and torrenting shows. So are Netflix capable of introducing simulcasts/simuldubs? Possibly, but putting together a dub costs money and time (hiring voice actors, translation, etc.) Amazon have already shown they are keen to jump on the anime bandwagon by acquiring licenses for shows the viewers are curious about (Scum’s WishWelcome To The Ballroom, Love & Lies, Made In Abyss, Land of the Lustrous, Inuyashiki).

Netflix can join the likes of Crunchyroll, Funimation and the others, and be a platform that the anime community can warm to. But only if they are willing to listen to the fans, and not treat anime as some kind of faceless commodity.

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What killed off my Madoka Magica fandom?

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NB: This post contains spoilers for the Rebellion movie.

Whilst writing this post, I’ve had to go and do not just a lot of memory back-tracking, but a lot of self-reflection as an anime fan. Madoka Magica is one of the shows that has made me the kind of fan I am, but it is because of what the franchise has become now is why I must walk away from it. 6 years of fanart, fanfiction, outspoken posts about the numerous hidden metaphors in the show, bizarre rumours and a abnormally long wait for new material has made me walk away from Madoka, Homura, Mami, Sayaka and Kyouko (as well as everyone else) for good. And here are the reasons why…

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How to be a good senpai (…or enjoying anime while being older)

I turned 34 a couple of weeks ago.

I think it was only recently (in the last few months or so) when it occurred to me that I am no longer that young weeb I had been playing for the last 10 years, and that I should stop trying to act like I am. Is this called maturity? Is this the one thing that some weebs fear the most? I’m supposed to grow up when I reach 25 or something, and yet now, as I reach my mid-30s, it just hits me like a cannonball out of nowhere. I don’t know the hows or the whys, and I suppose it doesn’t matter really. What does matter is that acting like a young/reckless/rebellious weeb now just makes me look like an idiot.caitycomics_38_by_caityhallart-d9y4br4I grew up in the 90s. Back when I started on anime, Sailor Moon, Evangelion, NadesicoTenchi Muyo! and Pokemon ended up on my watch list. I felt weird liking Sailor Moon because as I was watching the original English dub (the DiC/Cloverway one), it was pictured as for-girls-only (of course I know it isn’t but I was just a young kid then). I tried to get the few friends I did have in high school into Evangelion until I realised that, truthfully, I really really hated it. Nadesico just happened to be sort-of popular in the UK, but I can no longer remember any of that now. Tenchi Muyo! was just this condensed piece of crap on Toonami that I felt obliged to watch as a new anime fan. And Pokemon was something that everyone was talking about at the time.

Between around 2006-2007 and now, I had been involved in a lot of things in the UK anime community. When I was at college, I had campaigned for years to build an anime/manga society, only to find there was not enough interest (it was only until a year or two after I graduated when one was finally set up). I had been doing volunteer work for about a dozen various industry and fan conventions across the country, only to just get tired of…well…not actually having any fun over that weekend. It just felt like a duty to me. I had been close to the committee of one fan convention, only to grow tired of going altogether because it seemed such a waste going sometimes (and that decision has nothing to do with the committee themselves btw; they are all amazing people that I wish I still had contact with). I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve lost some too (in my total hardcore weeb years when I obsessed too much over shows). You see, because the UK community is not massive, that makes it rather tight-knit; most of us all know each other, and when someone is called out on a bad thing, pretty much the entire community will end up finding out about it. This definitely applies to the last 6 months (don’t want to go into too much detail on that, as I don’t want to get any more dragged into it than I have already become).

I know what you may be thinking. I might just be panicking that age has just suddenly caught up to me, that I’m beginning to think that I don’t deserve to be a part of this community which is, in all fairness, full of youngsters, and that I shouldn’t listen to that logical mini-me in my head and just not worry about it. Well I can’t help it; I just can’t.

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Perhaps I should look at this dilemma/Catch-22/whatever you want to call it in another perspective. But in the weeb culture does age necessarily mean maturity? Just because you realise that you look a lot older than that Naruto cosplayer ordering his next beer at the bar at the con you’ve been going to for years doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re smarter. More experienced in the fandom, certainly, but not always smarter. Perhaps, as you read this, you could believe that being an older anime fan actually has its advantages…well it’s all the more often now that attending fan cons can make you stand out even more, especially when you’re surrounded by the 16-25 folk who just plan on getting drunk over the weekend (only because their parents aren’t around to ground them when they puke on their cardboard cosplay of…I dunno…Kirito…or Mikasa…).

 

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Or maybe I’m just feeling this way because of how I got into anime in the first place. As I said earlier, Sailor Moon, Evangelion, Nadesico, Tenchi Muyo! and Pokemon were on my TV set or in my VHS player (either bought or taped). Back then in the 90s, we didn’t have the luxuries of frequent fan conventions, anime streaming, Anitwitter or waifu/husbando culture…we were the outcasts, and it felt like we were doomed to be outcasts for as long as we ‘supposedly’ grew up, had nice careers, wife/husband and kids, and so on. But then, as time went by, nerd-dom became the cool thing. Movie and TV adaptations of comic books came out in their droves, Japanese-only games got licenses in the West, Spirited Away got its Oscar, movie channels began to show more anime movies, Hatsune Miku made her first appearance on a US talk show, e-sports arrived and exploded…

…I could go on.

I suppose I can just call myself a bitter person for being envious, because we didn’t have it like the millennial fans have it now. We had to work hard to both embrace our fandom and keep it hidden from the people who would torment us for liking it. My own family still see it all as just ‘crazy violent cartoons’, and so I no longer bother trying to reason with them now.

I will of course defend anime, because that is what I have always done. I’ve been a part of this dumb-ass community for over 20 years now. I will not quit. Even if I do end up turning to religion or take up golf or collect jazz records or something, I won’t turn my back on those ‘crazy violent cartoons’ that the media have (and still do) portray them as.

I’m hoping that this new reinvention of this dumb blog will show that I can now look at my fandom through the eyes of someone who has been a part of it for over 20 years, and try (emphasis on ‘try’) to look experienced/jaded/act-like-I-know-what-I’m-talking-about…and not feel any shame or disgust at the same time.

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Try to be a good senpai to these kouhai millennials and stuff…