Hey, Answerman!by Zac Bertschy, Mar 24th 2006
So the first dubbed Naruto DVD comes out this week. I'm looking forward to hundreds of emails saying "This Naruto DVD I bought doesn't have the Japanese version on it! BLASPHEMY!". I figured I'd head this one off at the pass:
Is Viz releasing an uncut Naruto DVD set? YES. YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES. If you want the subtitled version, don't buy Tuesday's release. If you're cool with the dub, it's a good DVD for the price (plus it comes with a free poster and a stack of Shonen Jump ads; it's like buying a Disney DVD!).
Anyway, on with the show.
Hey Answerman, I've got a question that's been plaguing me for awhile. Why did Disney redub Totoro? I'm a fan of the old dub, and I've heard not-so-great things about the new one. So why did they do it? Couldn't they just have released the old dub for DVD? Thanks for clearing up this mystery for me if you can.
It's pretty simple, really; that old dub was owned by Fox, and didn't have any recognizable actors in it (unless you count the woman who voices Angela Pickles in Rugrats). Why go with the old dub - which was also highly inaccurate and rewritten to appeal solely to children - when you can redo the entire thing with modern movie stars and generate a lot more hype?
The complaints about the Disney dub are, I believe, partially fueled by rose-colored memories of the old Fox dub, and partially fueled by the fact that some of the performances are a little weak. The Fanning sisters are pretty screechy and there isn't a lot of emotion in it, and Totoro sounds somewhat vicious rather than friendly, but hey, nothing's perfect. I prefer it to the old dub simply because it isn't rewritten so much; it's vastly more faithful to the original dialogue. Admittedly, however, it is the weakest of the Disney Ghibli dubs. Just watch the (previously unavailable) subtitled version that's on the disc if you're not happy with the new dub.
I have been thinking about this issue for a while. Many people still consider us counter cultural for a number of reasons. I think we are now part of mainstream culture with several Hollywood movies in the pipeline, Major series on Primetime Cable and DVD's available in a big section at Best Buy. This leads to the question. Where do you think we stand in cultural spectrum? Mainstream, Fringe of Mainstream or Counter Cultural. Why do you think we are where we stand in Pop Culture? Thank you for your response.
Okay, so by "us" I'm going to assume you mean "anime fans", right? If you're talking about furries or something I can't help you, man.
Anime fandom, I'd say, has two faces; there's the mainstream side, generally younger kids and teenagers who obsessively watch everything on Toonami and can most commonly be found loitering in the manga section of Barnes & Noble, and then there's the 'underground' side, generally older teenagers and adults who obsessively download every fansub they can get their hands on and can commonly be found flaming one another on internet message forums. The stuff you're referring to - anime on television and in Best Buy - these things appeal to both sides, but they're a symptom of mainstream appeal.
Although there's a tendency among fans to consider anime to be 'counter-cultural', I'd hardly call it that. They're Japanese cartoons, not Dadaism. While they do indirectly challenge the common notion of what a 'cartoon' is, ultimately there's not a whole lot of truly subversive content, or material that attacks or criticises the cultural norm.
As for where we stand in popular culture, I'd argue we're on the other side of a small renaissance that began in the early 00's and started fading a year or so ago. Anime and manga continue to be considerable influences on popular culture and the occasional property proves to be a breakout hit (and, as you said, several live-action movies have been planned), but it's no longer the flavor of the month as it once was. Anime is here to stay, for sure; but the general fascination with it as an import product has faded and America is basically used to the idea, so we remain a niche.
I have a strong view about fansubs and that is that once a series is commercially licensed for U.S. release, fansubs should stop. However, I've come across several sites that continue to offer episodes of series that are commercially licenensed and available in the U.S., some of which have been available for quite some time now. My question is there anything I can do about this? I thought about contacting the licenseholders but don't want to seen as a whistleblower or tattletale or whatever you want to call it. So what can I do?
First of all, don't worry about being a 'whistleblower' or a 'tattletale'. This isn't elementary school, there's nothing wrong with alerting the authorities when you see something illegal happen. So don't sweat it.
That said, odds are the R1 license holders know about the fansubs and have sent out cease & desist letters to the parties responsible. If for whatever reason they've simply moved or haven't shut down (or they're in a particularly obscure place), I'd say go ahead and send an email to whatever company owns the license. They might know or they might not, and it can't hurt to simply tell them what's going on, right?
The unfortunate thing is, cease & desist letters rarely do much good. Fansubbers with no scruples - and this is a very specific subset of the group, I'm not referring to all fansubbers here - generally just find a new hiding spot and start distributing fansubs from their new location; the problem is, they simply do not care about copyright or license or any of that, nor do they care if the artist who made the shows they claim to love so much get paid. Witness what happened a few years ago with Media Factory; they, the Japanese company behind shows like Genshiken and Gankutsuou, specifically sent out a letter to the fansubbers working on these shows and told them to stop. Did they? Well, some of them did. But the folks with no respect for the Japanese (or the law, for that matter) simply continued on their way. Unless someone actually gets prosecuted, I doubt the folks who blatantly disregard the rights of the R1 license holders will ever stop.
That shouldn't stop you from sending out a quick email when you see something shady going on, though. It never hurts to help.
So that silly little kneejerk reaction to Bleach this week got me thinking about a similar reaction I felt when I heard Tsubasa was snapped up by Funimation, and thought it'd be a good opportunity to ask about Tsubasa's localization prospects.
Now, before any Funimation fans get mad at me, I know Funimation has improved a lot since the old days, and one can hardly blame them for making DBZ (already a fairly vapid and shallow property) nearly unwatchable, since that's pretty squarely the fault of the series itself....though I'm still not fond of the voice ensemble they've got, at least we know now that Tsubasa will be coming over, right? Anyway, my question's not about the quality of the dub—it regards Funimation's seeming buddy-buddy relationship with Cartoon Network.
Namely, what would you say are the chances of Tsubasa ending up picked up by either Toonami or Adult Swim? I know CLAMP isn't usually the sort of thing you'd expect to see on Cartoon Network (barring that abominable "Card Captors" dub they ran for a while), but Tsubasa's much more accessible to CN's usual demographic. Only problem I really see is whether or not the fact that a lot of the fans won't get a lot of the crossovers will make a big difference. How big a concern do you think that would be for Cartoon Network?
Also, just as a general question since we're already on the subject of CLAMP, do you think there's a chance that shoujo anime might start to show up more on mainstream television in the future? I know a lot of us still don't get channels like The Anime Network or Imaginasian (myself included), so our only options for televised shoujo are the children's properties on the WB and Fox. Still, I seem to recall Cartoon Network had stopped showing Sailor Moon (before the license ran out) specifically because its ratings were *too* high (in the wrong demographic for that timeslot, of course—it'd be silly to cancel a show that was getting high ratings in the demographic they wanted), and I guess they just couldn't get the right sponsors for that timeslot, so apparently the audience was there, as of a few years ago. I would think it had only grown with the rest of the anime market.
So Dragon Ball Z is "vapid and shallow", but Tsubasa Chronicle, a standard adventure series that doubles as a gimmicky cash grab for CLAMP is high art?
I kid, I kid. Although Tsubasa put me to sleep a lot faster than Dragon Ball Z did. Which ties into my answer to your first question.
Having seen some of the Tsubasa anime series (which was unfortunately handled by Bee-Train, which means endless loops of Yuki Kajiura music and slow pans across spare backgrounds), I can tell you the show simply doesn't have the common characteristics of something that'd be seen on Cartoon Network. There isn't a heavy focus on action and, as you said, the series plays somewhat as a giant in-joke for longtime CLAMP fanatics; your standard 12-year old is going to have no clue who these people are. Sure, it functions also as a fairly simple adventure story, but by and large the main appeal here are the repurposed CLAMP characters. Personally, I don't see it happening, but anything's possible. If it aired anywhere, I'd wager it might appear on Toonami (or at 5 in the morning, a'la .hack//SIGN).
As for your final question there, it's a bit complicated. The future of shojo anime on American TV relies heavily on the popularity of what's playing now. Tokyo Mew Mew hardly set the Neilsen ratings on fire, and Magical DoReMi didn't seem to kick up a lot of dust either. The problem is that girls also love shows that are commonly seen as being geared towards boys; I know just as many girls who watch Naruto on Toonami as I do boys. The same logic applies to series like Fullmetal Alchemist, Samurai Champloo and whatnot. On the flip side, boys won't watch shows aimed at girls; while Suzie might love Rurouni Kenshin, you'd have to duct tape Billy to the chair to get him to sit through Pretty Cure. Unless there's a Major breakout hit - or a cable channel takes a risk and decides to start airing Kodocha or Fruits Basket (although with FUNimation's recent announcement, this may happen sooner rather than later) and they prove to be successful, you're going to be stuck with whatever 4Kids gives you for a while.
Also, I'm not familiar with your Sailor Moon story there but I know the show isn't aired anymore because Cartoon Network had exhausted the episodes they had and let the broadcasting license expire back in 2003. Although there are a handful of Sailor Moon fans who will argue otherwise, the show's decline in recent years is due to fading popularity and the increasing age of the series rather than some grand conspiracy. Still, I've put in an inquiry with my contact over at the network and I'll update next week when and if they get back to me.
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