Whew, another year has come and past, and a what a year it has been! So much has happened since last October that it’s hard to wrap my head around. But hey, what better way make sense of it all than to make a tl;dr post of epic proportions? So without further ado, I give you a dense reflection on myself, Hobby Hovel, and everything in-between.

(Artist: はら)

State of the Chag

I hear a lot of people say that the college years are the best parts of one’s life. I, on the other hand, have had no such pleasure. There’s no point in giving out my life’s story of the past four years, but let’s just say it was less than pleasant. Now I’m out of school and working at a community college as a “reproduction equipment operators” — a fancy way of saying I work the scanners and printers. It sure as hell isn’t a job that requires a degree, yet I’m strangely happy about my current situation — perhaps too happy. Is it a job that I would want to stay in for the rest of my life? Naw, but it is stress-free, is relatively stable, and pays enough to support myself, so I’d say it’s not a bad gig for given the current economic circumstances. I find that I’m in a much better mood these days without the constant gloom of readings and assignments hovering above my head, so now I’m just going to focus on saving up the money to move out and probably take some courses to transition out of this printing gig when I’m ready.

For those of you who follow Tomopop, you might have noticed the smug mug of a certain hat-wearing guy with a name that’s awfully similar to Chag. Yep, that’s me posting as an associate editor. Writing for Tomopop has been a very different experience. It certainly isn’t as rewarding as working on my own blog, but it’s also an interesting experience in its own right. It’s nice to have an alternative soap-box and a different audience, even if the interactions feel less intimate than on my home turf.

As far as the hobby goes, this year has been pretty quiet, and that’s mainly because of the lack of any recent anime that made enough of an impression to have me for me to suit up and do battle with the horrible yen exchange rate. I enjoyed K-ON!, Bakemonogatari and Madoka, but for one reason or another they always came out just a little short. This is especially the case with Madoka. I may have defended GSC’s scaled figure before, but at the end of the day I still can’t bring myself to buy any of them because the art style still bothers me.

Another factor influencing the slowdown of my collection is my family situation. Once again it’s a story that I don’t want to elaborate on, but doing figure-related things in the house is very hard now. I would have gotten a couple of figures that I mildly want like Alter’s Black Hanekawa, but given the state of affairs, I figured that it just wasn’t worth the risk. This is also affecting my contribution Tomopop, because since I won’t be able to reliably take review photos, I can’t really bring myself to ask for any review samples, which is a big part of the incentive for the position. This means I don’t bring  myself to contribute as often as I would otherwise (not that I’m losing sleep over the prospect of not being able to work for other people).

This is not to say that I’m putting a stop to the figure hobby, though — there are some things that I definitely can’t pass up. I’ve got that new Aigis from Alter on pre-order, and when the swimsuit Selvaria goes up, I’m going to be all over that as well. Sadly that those won’t arrive until next year, which does leave a gap between now and then. Oh well~

Photography

Over the past year, I’ve begun doing something that I never thought I’d do when I started the blog two years ago — taking outdoor figures photos. Shooting outside is the double-edged sword for me. Every time I’ve ventured outside with my camera and figures I’ve come back with at some photos that I really like. Perhaps it’s the novelty factor doing its work, but I can’t help but to smile at the outdoors World is Mine Miku and Danbo shots. My favourite of the bunch is undoubtedly the Summer Saber shots, one of which was fortunate enough to not only nab POTD, but also POTW and POTM on MFC. To a novice photographer like me, the affirmation from all that felt like an amazing handjob on my ego. Awww yeah.

On the other hand, letting loose my power level on the unsuspecting general populace is still something that I’m not at all comfortable with, but given the right context, I can grit my teeth and tough it out, especially if a hiding spot is nearby or if there’s a choice shot to be had in the end to justify my efforts. In conclusion: I still think Ashlotte is crazy for taking all those outdoor shots, but now he seems less crazy than previously imagined.

With that said, indoor shooting is still where I’m most comfortable. There’s no substituting the control that and indoor setup grants. As nice as that Saber shot turned out, nature is a fickle bastard. When I came back to the same spot a couple weeks later with Miette-chan and Exilehero, the stream has a shadow of its former self. Plus, given the variables such as weather, time of day and the presence of onlookers, the great outdoors is rather unpredictable, for better or for worse. Yet when I need to crank out a full set of photos for a review, I need that reliability.

But after 2 years of shooting in front of flat backdrops, the shtick is getting old. I’d very much like to play around with a different setup, perhaps with Plexiglas on the bottom and less constrained lighting. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, the problem with graduating out of my trusty collapsible light box is that I would need a dedicated space to put my new setup, and that isn’t happening as long as I live with my folks. The good news is that I already have plans on moving out. The bad news is that plan can’t be executed until next June — an eternity away. Until then, I’ll be in a rather awkward spot when it comes to taking photos. This is not to say that there won’t be photos, but I’ll have to figure something out first.

Double H

The second year at Hobby Hovel also saw the beginning of Double H, a confused little project that I am ultimately very grateful for. My intention with the show was to add a personal dimension to an otherwise impersonal blogging atmosphere. I often find textual communication is limited, and ambiguities of meaning are commonplace. Yet with an exclusively online crowd like us, text is all we’ve got. That’s mostly the reason why I decided to venture into the realm of audio — though it, you now have a better idea of what Ash and I are like.

Of course, soon after I started I realized that I’m not exactly spectacular at this whole talking into a microphone thing. This bothered me a lot, because I really didn’t want Double H to become something that our regular readers have to slog through. I tried to improve, and I think I was successful to a small degree. There’s still a lot of work to do in the future to cure my rusty tongue, but I’ll take it as they come.

One of the best thing to come out of Double H is being able to talk to Ash on Skype. This may not seem like much, but the addition of voice was like getting to know him all over again because of how differently people seem on the microphone as opposed to on the keyboard, and I find myself respecting him more now that I know the way he speaks. Also, the connection through Skype also eventually led to us playing League of Legends together, which then brought others like Hamstercorp and Ohnoraptors whom we had the pleasure of playing with and becoming more closely acquainted with. All this coming out of my silly little talk-show idea — not too shabby at all, I’d say!

My current thoughts about Double H itself are mixed. I really enjoy the Q&A segments because they feel the most conversational. Conversely, talking about pre-orders and last season’s anime are a lot less so. There are plenty of moments where I have a lot of fun goofing off with Ash on the microphone, but the overall structure of it feels like a presentation. I wish we had an audience large enough for a live podcast of sorts where we could interact with the listeners directly, but that’s probably asking too much out of the small niche figure community and my ability to speak off the top of my head. Like the photography situation, Double H is also something I have to contemplate in the coming weeks.

The Current Status

So how’s the blog doing these days, you ask? Well, I’ve got some numbers for the stat whores (you know what you are!): the blog gets around 3000 unique visitors and 10,000 pageviews a month and there are around 75 people subscribed to the RSS feed, along with 50 on the YouTube channel. I actually haven’t checked the stats for quite a while, so I was surprised to see that the numbers haven’t fallen significantly over the slow past month.

You might have notice that the blog has been quiet recently. I’ve mentioned some of my reasons above, and without going into any details, Ashlotte is also tied up with thing in life that he’d rather not be doing. So to put it simply: both of us want to work on the blog, but for our own reasons, that order is proving to be difficult for the time being.

When Ashlotte told me that he had cancelled the bulk of the figures he had on pre-order and is planning to severely cutting down on the figure hobby due to money/space constraints, I wasn’t fazed at all. Rather, after two years of working on the blog and over a year working with Ash, figures have shifted from an end in of itself to a means to a different end. Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure to talk and play with many of you and even meet up with some of you, and in the coming year I’m planning to meet yet more of you. When I’ve had luck like this, would it matter if Ash won’t be putting out as many reviews in the future? Nah, stressing over that seems trivial at this point. What’s important is that though the blog I’ve made one dear friend amongst many — a friend who lives over a thousand miles away, yet a dear friend nonetheless.

So what happens now? Well, as I mentioned above, there’s a lot of figuring out to do on my part, and Ash has his unpleasantness to deal with as well, so things may remain quiet for a while. I know that’s how a lot of blogs die out, but fear not — just keep us on your RSS feed and you’ll know when we return to business.

Anyhow, thank you guys for another fun and rewarding year! As my interest shift from figures to the people behind the figures, your comments and tweets have become even more integral to the experience. There’s nothing quite like waking up in the morning to find a bunch of comment notifications in my email inbox, and I have you guys to thank for that. Here’s to all the memories made in the past the all the memories to be made in the future!