There are those who straddle both worlds — the East and the West — and the Evolution Fighting Championship is one opportunity to meet such folks. Andrew “Jiyuna” Fidelis has spent the last seven years in Japan teaching English, though that’s not all that he was doing. In between classes and exploring Japanese culture, we’ve seen his streaming and video work, which eventually led to collaboration with Twitch.Hx.CYG BST|Daigo Umehara. Furthermore, in between commentating for various titles, he also began contributing to the upcoming ARIKA game.
I had the unique chance to meet up with Jiyuna at the Anime Suite at Evo, which he graciously hosts every year.
Luke “Woocash” Siuty: Bring us up a little on what have you been up to lately. You’re producing for Red Bull?
Andrew “Jiyuna” Fidelis: So actually, I work for Daigo, who of course, is sponsored by Red Bull and Twitch, so I do a lot of work with those companies, but through Daigo. I also recently joined ARIKA, so I’m helping them produce their game, doing localization, promotion. Helping them run their social media, and stuff like that. I’m also networking with BEAST, which is an Asian streaming team, so I’ve been doing commentary work around Asia, helping them set up their streams. Then I also have my own brand, my own streams, and my own freelance interpretation work as well. So a little bit of everything right now.
Woocash: And you were a teacher as well?
Jiyuna: Yes, for seven years.
Woocash: And that ended. Weren’t you doing a bit of soul-searching after that, or did things not line up yet?
Jiyuna: Pretty much, I’ve been in Japan for seven years and most, I would say 95% of the teachers there, they don’t want to teach. But that’s sort of the entry way into the country. It’s hard to break out, you need to have enough lined up. Fortunately, these past few years, things have been coming together, so I was able to stop teaching this year and go full-time into gaming-related work. I wanted to stop teaching for a long time. Right now, I’m doing my dream job. This is what I wanted to be doing.
Woocash: How do you feel?
Jiyuna: Very happy, very grateful, but also tired. It’s exhausting, but in a good way.
Woocash: Sticking with the subject, tell me a little about the documentary series you’ve been doing in Japan.
Jiyuna: So really, [laughs] I don’t think they’re very good. I just bought a camera one day and walked around. I think it’s more that Japan is just so cool. I’ve been there for seven years and still, just walking down the street, wow, it’s such a cool country! I go out with my camera, film whatever, and like I said, it comes out pretty interesting. That’s not me, that’s just the country! I would like to make more, but they’re very time-consuming. I’m quite busy now.
Woocash: Let’s talk about Evo. You were performing a new role this year, and I don’t think we’ve had a “floor” commentator before, a different set of commentators. It’s a bit more “event” style.
Jiyuna: So this is the 15th Evo anniversary. The old Evos, I don’t know if they’re including “Battle by the Bay,” but, in the old days, that’s how they had it. They used to have the house mic. This year, they wanted to bring it back. They said, “We’re getting a little too esports, let’s go back to our roots.” It’s not a new thing, but it’s a thing they wanted bringing back. It was really fun for me, no one has done it recently, so there are some kinks we have to work out, but overall, I think it was a success. I think a lot of people enjoyed it.
Woocash: What difference do you think it makes?
Jiyuna: It’s hugely different, I would say. When you do commentary in a booth, you definitely feel like you’re blocked off. You are in your own little world, bubble, it’s you and your co-commentator, and the crowd is irrelevant. You’re only talking to each other and maybe each other. But doing the in-house mic, I really felt that I was down there, on the ground, on the floor, with everyone else in the arena. We’re all watching together, getting hype together. I felt like I was able to draw out some energy from the crowd, make them a little more excited than if there was no one there, and at the same time, they helped me get more excited than if I was doing regular commentary. I think it was a really good thing.
Woocash: Stepping into the games industry, as we’re heading into 2018, a lot of fighting game companies are eager to listen to fans and are more responsive about feedback. How would you say the spirit of fighting games is changing as companies seem to cater more to players?
Jiyuna: The big word right now, of course, is “esports.” There are some companies that are choosing to focus on esports and creating that league, and money, getting that exposure on television. And some other are choosing to just stick with what they have been doing, putting out a good, solid product. That’s the big divide right now, and you see it a lot between the east and the west. I’m not a competitor, I don’t play for money, so I’d much rather have a good product. Just at Evo alone, with all the announcements that happened so far, I think we’re in a very good spot. Late this year and 2018 look to be very, very promising.
Woocash: Tell me a little about this Anime Suite tradition.
Jiyuna: So it started about five years ago, I didn’t really think much about it. I was coming from Japan, it was my first Evo after moving there, and there were some other Japanese players showing up that I knew. Five years ago, the connection between Japanese and the US players wasn’t really there at all. I figured, since I know both scenes, why don’t I start this party thing. I expected like 40 people show up, and we had like 200. Ever since then, every year I’ve been trying to do it, and it’s been getting bigger and bigger. This year I had planned to have two of them, but there were some problems, so we were forced to do in the usual size. It was pretty cramped in there, but people had fun. I had fun. It’s good.
Woocash: Can you tell me anything about ARIKA?
Jiyuna: We just released the announcements. There will be a playable demo later in 2017, it will release in 2018. There were many interviews over the weekend, and the big thing is, they don’t want to make a game by themselves, they want to make a game together with the community. During development, there will be a lot of reaching out to the community, getting feedback, and adjusting the game until they can put out a product they think everyone worked together to make. So I think this is a unique experience, most other companies kind of just do their thing and put it out. Expect to see a lot of changes in the upcoming months.
Woocash: What’s your drink of choice?
Jiyuna: The drink of choice of course is gotta be the Strong Zero. I feel bad when people taste it and seem a little disappointed, they say “Jiyuna, what are you doing?” But Strong Zero is more than just a drink. It’s something you can buy anywhere in Japan, you can drink it anywhere. A $1.60. 55 calories, no carbs, 9% alcohol. It’s everything. It’s perfect.
Woocash: So Strong Zero Anime Suite 2017?
Jiyuna: And 2018, it’s going to keep going.