Answerman 2007 Year-End Clip Show!

by Zac Bertschy, Dec 28th 2007


Welcome to another Answerman clip show! I, like everyone else, am on vacation for the holidays this week, mostly because I don't work for a cruel overlord who continues cracking the whip regardless of the tide of yule. So today we're gonna run through some of 2007's best most memorable decent Q&As, and then we'll be back next week with a regular column.

The limited extra commentary I have on these questions will be provided in italics. See you next year!

Hey Answerman, one thing I have noticed about anime fans is that they all seem sort of obsessed with "the anime industry" and are more interested in that than anime. More than fans of other things I think. Why is that?

here's something I've been wondering.  As it's no longer such a secret on the internet anymore, there are quite a few, how do I say... underground groups of fans of many different talents that converge together to "produce" and distribute currently-airing Japanese animated programming to those of us in the English-speaking world.  Having seen a decent amount of these underground programs and now just-starting to watch officially-released R1 DVDs in Japanese w/subtitles instead of english-dubbed, I'm noticing quite the difference in the quality of subtitle fonts. 
 
Underground: fancy typeset, graphically crisp, nice colors (sometimes even matching with the speaking character's hair)
 
Official:  stocky, shaky, block-like, kinda blurry lettering, plain and ugly colors (ugh, bright green?  neon yellow? WTF?  Even white doesn't work).
 
So my question: when (if ever) can we expect to see the big-name anime companies start to adopt the methods of the fansub groups and get some subtitles that don't burn my retinas?  Is it a technical thing?  Is it a budget thing?  Is this a sneaky way of getting us to watch the dubbed-version?
 

You're going pretty far out on a limb with this, aren't you? You like fansub subtitles better so "when can we expect the R1 companies to do the same thing"? Yikes.

Simply put, there is a standard for subtitles on DVDs; they're in a readable font that will work in most every DVD player, and can be turned on and off on the fly. I've never seen "shaky" or "blurry" lettering; normally it's extremely crisp, bold yellow text that's in a generic, unassuming font. There are also technical reasons; as our columnist and longtime professional Justin Sevakis explained to me, DVD uses a simple 4-color TIFF file to render subtitles, and one of those is used for masking.
So they have a limited color selection, and they can't use anti-aliasing.

Not only that, but the font has to be something very simple and very readable; you have to take into consideration what kind of crappy TVs people will be watching this stuff on. Your monitor is much crisper than an NTSC TV, so it's capable of rendering "fancy" subtitles that won't bleed color all over the screen or blend into the image.

Personally, I prefer the no-nonsense DVD subtitles to the extremely gimmicky and often impossible to read fonts that fansubbers use; the subtitles shouldn't be distracting. I don't need the words to match the character's hair color. I don't need animation effects in the subtitles. I don't need wacky multi-color sci-fi fonts that look like they've been run through every text blending option Photoshop has to offer. I just want them to say what the characters are saying and that's it. Hell, I don't even like the ridiculously obtrusive karaoke subs they slap all over the intro; it covers up the animation. They also rarely translate the actual credits, instead putting the internet handles of whoever did the fansub all over the original production credits. It's annoying; yes, I get that SUPER FANS or whoever subtitled this episode. I don't need their giant thumbprint all over the screen at all times.

So while one day the DVD tech may change and you'll have silly fonts all over your R1 anime DVDs, I'm going to go ahead and hope that it stays the same. Maybe they'll eventually use anti-aliasing, but here's hoping they don't go any further than that. I don't need to see the entire catalog of 1001crazyfonts.com all over the anime I'm watching.

Clarification: having now seen what subtitles look like on the next generation HD formats, I can say without a doubt they are a major improvement over DVD subs and I think a lot more can be done to find a middle ground between what fansub folks want and what other people want.


I was searching around on YouTube and I noticed there are a lot of "anime music videos" where someone takes footage from a show and sets it to a song they like. Some of them are OK I guess but a lot of them aren't very good or they all use the same song. I noticed that while fansubs get taken down all the time the music videos are left up. So my question is, are the music videos legal? What do you think of anime music videos?

Well, the short answer to your question is "No". Anime music videos break all kinds of copyright and intellectual property laws; they're not only infringing on the anime, they're also using someone else's music without permission.

That said, with few exceptions, most bands don't seem to notice or care about AMVs, and the Japanese don't seem to care much either, so generally they're left alone. Sometimes they get caught up in the random fansub sweeps YouTube does every now and then, but that's about it. No, they're not legal, but nobody seems to care about them.

As for their relative quality, I've always been of the (unpopular) mindset that AMVs, while they are occasionally fun to watch, aren't really all that creative. I mean, basically you're taking someone else's song and someone else's show and creating kind of a vague (or extremely obvious) emotional connection between the two and then it runs for 6 minutes or whatever. I've seen my fair share of well-executed videos, but most of them don't have any value beyond a gimmick that you pick up on within the first few seconds. How much real honest-to-god creativity does it really take to make a connection between "Heaven is a Place on Earth" and Ah! My Goddess? Yeah, OK, it's kinda fun to watch I suppose, but these are very disposable things.

Since the advent of YouTube (and readily available pirated copies of expensive video editing software), there are now more AMVs than ever, which is to say there are now more terrible AMVs than ever. Any kid with a bootleg copy of Adobe Premiere and a Linkin Park MP3 can slap together a Naruto music video out of the fansubs he downloads and the result is usually unwatchable. For every one decent video there are thousands of terrible ones, which are almost uniformly angst-ridden emo rock set to fight scenes from shonen anime.

But still, people have fun making them and watching them and the video editing experience they get from putting these things together may one day benefit them down the road. So while I question their legitimate creative merit, they're harmless.



I've been selectively watching anime shows for a few a years now and there's something that I've never quite understood: Just what is it about anime (and Japanese entertainment in general) that drives even perfectly reasonable people to over the top, one way or the other? I can't for the life of me think of an another form of entertainment that people love or hate so obsessively. It can't be the general art-style or the overall level of quality (or the lack of thereof), because is American or European stuff really that different? The haters in particular baffle me, because their opinions are usually not even consistent; they'll gladly play Metal Gear Solid or Japaneses RPGs but absolutely refuse to give even shows like Stand Alone Complex a chance. Not that japanophiles are any better, but at least they reject all western entertainment as garbage.

Welcome to the internet, where nobody's allowed to have a moderate opinion and worthless blanket judgments are the order of the day.

Anime, like every other topic ever discussed on the internet, draws a lot of extreme opinions one way or the other simply because it's popular and people talk about it. Read any thread about a recent film or a popular TV show and you'll see the exact same kinds of responses - it's either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever created and if you're not on one side you're on the other. It isn't unique to anime at all.

The people who rant and rave about how all anime sucks are generally folks who are either trolling anime fans, haven't really seen much of it or are simply bandwagoning. The people who rant and rave about how anime is the greatest thing ever and all western entertainment sucks are usually obnoxious japanophiles who exist in a cloud of their own nonsense. It isn't worth your time to listen to either side of that argument because all it is is an echo chamber, people mindlessly repeating the same ill-formed "opinions" over and over again, refusing to listen to one another.

If you have friends that are constantly slagging off anime, my suggestion is to find a show you think might appeal to them - particularly something that was made with western audiences in mind, like Ghost in the Shell or Cowboy Bebop - and see if they enjoy it. Likely they'll continue saying all anime sucks (except the one they like), but it's a step in the right direction.

Or you could just make new friends.


I watch anime. A lot of it. And I've noticed that in some cases, parts in some episodes, the animation makes me wonder "..how did that even get on the air? Why wasn't there someone there to go 'whoa, wait a minute, this is CRAP.' I've provided two screencaps of said 'QUALITY". A part in Bleach that's both amusing and terrifying, and Naruto (the ever-popular filler arc) where they forgot to draw his head.





I'm not saying things like Gundam 0079 & Sailor Moon are perfect. Far from it. It's just, back then, we didn't exactly have all this tech around. With such technology, shouldn't 'QUALITY' like this be non-existent?

Those screenshots are priceless.

It's important to remember that making long-running shows like Naruto and Bleach - shows that have no production break, that run every week of the year - aren't produced with the highest possible quality standards in mind. A lot of the animation is farmed out to cheaper and often foreign (ie: Korea or the Philippines) studios and they're produced on a pretty small budget to begin with, so the daily grind of animation production runs a high risk of introducing mistakes or sloppiness into the show. Happens all the time; it's tough to find an anime out there that isn't rife with mistakes or bad frames (although KyoAni, the people responsible for Haruhi Suzumiya and the Kanon remake, have a pretty great track record right now).
I look at mistakes in the animation like I do typos in a magazine; regardless of the fact that we have sophisticated software that catches mistakes, it's still ridiculously easy for errors to show up in the publication all the way up until it's actually on the shelves. So while these animators likely have very high-tech tools at their disposal, human error will always seep through somehow.

As I said, though, the length of the series is a factor - you're more likely to see mistakes in shows like Naruto than you are shorter, 13-episode series or films where the scope of the production is much smaller and there's more attention to detail. Of course there are shorter shows that look terrible, but by and large, the 300-episode shonen epics run a higher risk of looking sloppy at certain points.


For the last 2 weeks you've been getting mail from that kid who thinks he's Naruto or can use ninja chakra powers, and while I thought it was fake at first, i realized that this is the internet and people like that probably do exist. So here's my question: are there people out there who sincerely think they can use anime characters' powers in real life? Are they just kids playing pretend or what?

I knew this question would come one day and somehow I knew that flake would spurn it. I dread answering this. I don't even like knowing the answer to this.

The short answer to your question is "yes". The long answer is terrifying if you haven't heard of these people before.

Thanks to the internet, delusional people now have a haven where they can all get together and tell eachother that they aren't delusional. This bolsters their delusions and makes them self-righteous and in many cases, highly pretentious about their ridiculous "beliefs". Some kid can be "practicing" his fake "martial arts" outside after watching too much Naruto, pretend that he surprised himself by doing something "magical" like shooting ninja lightning out of his ass or something, and then go online and report it to his friends and SOMEONE else will undoubtedly hop on the attention monger train and say "Wow that same thing happened to me too!". Then it all turns into this big wank-fest where they make up stuff and agree with eachother and eventually start taking themselves really seriously. The kid who wrote in threatening to beat me up with his imaginary cartoon powers last week sounded like he had a little clique of friends, who probably all buy into his bullshit and have convinced themselves that they, too, have magic inner spirit animals that give them special abilities. They probably also draw anime-style fanart of themselves. There are a LOT of little cliques like this out there; they are all over the internet and infest high schools everywhere.

Kids like that aren't even really the worst of it, either; they're sort of the 'larvae stage' of an even creepier community, the "Otakukin". There's a small chance you've heard of "otherkin", people who believe they're actually dragons or foxes or faeries or whatever trapped in human bodies. Those people are bad enough, but Otakukin take it one step further - they believe they are the reincarnation of an anime character.

No, I'm not kidding. Yes, there are people who actually subscribe to this. Yes, they are completely bonkers.

The basic concept is this: someone goes on to the Otakukin message board - wherever it may exist, there are a few of 'em out there - and claims that they think they may have been Kagome or Goku or Duo Maxwell in a past life. How can they prove it? Well, they claim that when they were watching the anime series, they had specific memories of having lived those events, and sometimes the anime series gets it "wrong". That's right, someone will claim to be Inuyasha and then say that in episode #82, the events were "wrong", it actually happened "like this", and they know that because in a past life or a parallel dimension or something they actually were Inuyasha so they know better.

Here's a choice quote from the Livejournal Otakukin community to give you an example of how these people talk to eachother:

:Samurai X: The Motion Picture, on the other hand, was offensive to me. So poorly put together and so utterly pessimistic, it wasn't anything like me, especially at that time in my soul progression."

Obviously this person believes he or she is Rurouni Kenshin. See what I mean? Here's another couple of gems:

"Also, the recent anime portrayals of me in the filler arc of Naruto were so... Hollow. Almost kinda soulless and cheap. I'm definitely manga canon."

"I've had this sort of thing happen with soul bonds, and bonds that I've known on other's systems, even they way the 'oringal' artist designed the charatcers, I've been told they was slight off."

This person uses the word "original" in quotes, because Otakukin believe that the person who actually created the manga was simply "tapping in" to the alternate reality in which the anime character actually existed, and therefore is doing no more than recording a fictionalized version of real events. This gives them room to "disagree" or act violated somehow when they watch anime and decide they want to take issue with some scene.

Is your head exploding yet? I don't really need to harp on and on about how utterly ridiculous this stuff is, because it really does speak for itself, but it just goes to show you that even when something is so ridiculous and out there it seems like it has to be a joke, there are doubtless hundreds who take it gravely seriously. Take a cruise around the Otakukin sites (or read today's Flake of the Week), though; it will give you the very unique sensation of feeling really good about yourself as a person while simultaneously laughing and sobbing.

Fun Fact: I got almost as much hate mail about this answer than I did about Kodomo no Jikan.



Dwar Answerman, this summer I am attending my first anime convention, anime Expo in Long Beach! I am very excited. But I have a problem. I want to cosplay as Sakura from Naruto but I look online and i see so many girls who are really beautiful cosplaying and I see internet cosplay forums where they make fun of costumes and call people fat even when they're not or call their costumes crappy even if they're good, and I don't think i could handle it if that happened to me. Are people going to make fun of me at the convention if my costume isn't exactly... ...perfect? What if I'm not as pretty as some of the other girls cosplaying? I'm not a fat girl but I'm no beauty queen either! I really want to do it but I'm worried! HELP!

Oh, man. I really hope anime fans out there who are planning on cosplaying for the first time stay far, far away from dedicated cosplay forums.

First, some common sense: yes, if you dress up as an anime character and go out in public - even at an anime convention - SOMEONE will make fun of you at some point. Probably not to your face, and probably not even online later, but there'll be someone who snickers at you, or some catty high school girl wearing a stupid anime hat who makes fun of your costume because she's a bitch. It happens. Frankly, you shouldn't care. You probably won't hear a word of it, and your costume is pretty simple and common anyway. Unless you weigh 500 pounds or something; then you'll probably hear a lot of it. But hey, it goes with the territory.

A lot of cosplay forums - not all of them, of course - are basically like walking into a henhouse where all the hens are mean-spirited, shallow jackasses. Unless you're one of the annointed Cosplay Queens - people like Adella (who, in my experience, is a pretty nice person), or, god help me, Alisa-chan or Francesca Dani (both of whom moonlight as camwhores - truly these are role models for our younger fans!) - you're going to be mocked by the masses on CosplayJerks.com or whatever. They're mean to everyone, so if they decide that the hem on your dress sucks or whatever, you should probably just ignore them completely. In fact, my experience reading cosplay community forums - which I'll admit isn't very much - has shown me that there are likely few communities out there where the members are as vicious to one another as cosplayers seem to be. There's some kind of bizarro "let's all act like really rude high school kids" thing going on where every single aspect of someone's appearance in a cosplay photo gets ripped to shreds. Sometimes it's funny, but man, those kids are mean. That's not to say they're all like that; Cosplay.com, for example, has very helpful forums and in general, people there seem to be nice. I'm sure there are other cosplay forums out there that are totally helpful and everyone's nice to one another - but you're probably better off just enjoying yourself, wearing your costume, and ignoring the whole community aspect to it.

As for the "pretty girls" you're referring to, the ones with elaborate costume websites, a giant convention entourage and a legion of drooling sycophants that exists to tell them that they were molded from God's own tears, don't worry about them. There's a secret you should know about them, and I'll keep this between you, me and the thousands of people who read this column: most of them are primadonnas. That probably doesn't come as any great shock, but generally, when someone gets that much attention heaped on them simply for looking good while dressed as an anime character, it goes straight to their head and they instantly start showing Jennifer Lopez-style "diva" traits. Sure, they
can be nice - I've met a few of 'em and they seemed pleasant enough - but I've also seen plenty of moments when they earn their reputation for being, well, stuck-up and self-absorbed. Just wait until you walk past one at a convention having a meltdown because someone snapped a photo of them while they were adjusting their hairpiece. Don't worry about being one of those girls, or being compared to them; you're better off just being yourself and having fun.

So don't worry about any of that. Just make your costume. Who cares what the internet thinks?


And that's it for this week! Happy New Year!





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