Hey, Answerman!by Zac Bertschy, Feb 1st 2008
Allow me to briefly go off-topic here for a moment. I know, it's a little scary when I talk about stuff unrelated to anime, but just let me have this moment.
There Will Be Blood deserves to win best picture this year (along with pretty much every other category it's nominated in) but won't, although I have no real issue with No Country for Old Men taking the top prize. If Atonement wins, though, I'll be throwing popcorn at the screen.
There. That wasn't so bad, was it?
Sometimes you run letters from people who want to have their anime story ideas turned into shows. Do you get a lot of these and have any of them been good enough to become a real show in your opinion?
To be honest, none. Zero. Zip.
I get a surprising number of these, either from people who believe I'll send their ideas to anime companies (or sometimes they want the phone number for the Japanese studio, I suppose envisioning a world where having your show idea produced is as simple as a phone call) or that I myself am capable of producing anime. I'm not sure where they get these ideas from, but I've received a number of pretty elaborate show proposals.
When I say "elaborate", I mean they've written a script or a long plot synopsis, did some character designs, and maybe made a logo or something like that for their show. It in no way is an indicator of quality.
Normally the "proposals" I get are for incredibly generic shonen action series, usually stealing from Harry Potter, Naruto, Avatar: The Last Airbender and X-Men, usually a combination of one (or all) of these. They give their characters fake, usually totally uninspired or lame-ass Japanese names (for example, one submitted show about a school for martial arts where the students also learn to use elemental magic - a blisteringly original concept, to be sure - featured a lead character named "Ki". He used fire magic. "Ki" means fire in Japanese. I know, I know.) and then outline a long arching plot that usually features parental issues, a villain who we eventually learn suffered some kind of horrible trama in his or her youth that caused them to be evil, and lots and lots of emo angst on behalf of the lead character. For whatever reason, people really like ripping off Gaara from Naruto for their anti-hero leads; I've seen a few where the red-headed, brooding main character uses sand to fight his enemies. Notably all of them included some kind of explanation as to why Hitachi the Sand Warrior isn't really like Gaara at all because his warrior village was destroyed by a flood, or something like that.
And before you ask, yes, people have sent in lead characters named "Hitachi". One I recall from a while back featured a lead named "Mitsubishi". Assuming this was a joke, I emailed them back and asked if they'd heard of Mitsubishi, the car manufacturer. They said "Whoops! I guess I forgot about that! Oh well my fans won't care ^___^"
Your fans, right. Forgot about them. They'll be too busy writing slashfic about Mitsubishi being secretly in love with his nemesis, Toyota-kun.
The "scripts" I get are usually not really scripts at all, rather they're short episode synopses, normally lacking enough information to fill a few minutes' time, let alone an entire 23-minute half-hour installment. They usually look something like this:
EPISODE ONE: THE GROWING THREAT
Kenichi-sama realizes there is a power inside him that he can't control. Meanwhile Yamamoto schemes to take over the world.
EPISODE TWO: THE SWORD OF GREATNESS
Kenichi-sama finds the sword of greatness in the rock of justice outside the pool hall of wisdom. Meanwhile Yamamoto continues scheming.
They usually submit these things actually labeled as "scripts" as though they honestly believe that this is how you write a script. TV Guide episode descriptions offer more information about what's happening in the episode than these do. Occasionally someone has a pirated copy of Final Draft and they submit something that's 10 pages long and filled with dialogue like "No, Sumomo-chan, you can't use your water magic at level 7 yet!!" or whatever. And the odd thing is, I've gotten a lot of these. And they're not all from high school kids, either; some of them have college class names on them like "intro to animation production", indicating someone in college submitted this for a class project. Yeesh.
I'm not trying to stomp on anyone's hopes or dreams here, but the fact is, every single time someone writes in asking how to get their brilliant anime show produced and they actually show me the ideas they have, they're never good. They are universally poor, and most of them rely so heavily on hoary old shonen cliches that they'd be laughed at by even the staff behind Beet the Vandel Buster. And these kids honestly have it in their heads that not only is this a groundbreaking new show, but that calling someone or asking nicely is going to get it produced. I'm all for encouraging creativity but this is like someone who wants to be a celebrity master chef presenting a hacked-up undercooked Big Mac as his signature dish and then wondering where he can apply for seed money to start his upscale New York City restaurant.
I think in this day and age, with the notion that thanks to YouTube and other video-sharing sites on the net, combined with the increased amount of easy-to-use video editing software, that "anyone can be a filmmaker" has kind of deluded a lot of people who honestly just don't have the creativity or the talent to create something worthwhile into thinking that they have awesome ideas, which they don't. I'm not saying people shouldn't try, but when you're inundated with frankly awful ideas and drawings like I am, you realize that the people who are successful filmmakers and directors and producers and artists probably worked really, really hard to get there and were genuinely creative people to begin with.
Well, yes and no.
Unless you're going in to your torrent program and throttling the upload bandwidth cap to 0kbps, you're effectively sharing that file with everyone else on the torrent, since they're getting pieces of the file from you as you're getting pieces from them. So yes, running a torrent without shutting off the upload feed means you're distributing the file. Torrents sort of eliminate the whole notion of "just downloading something for yourself and not redistributing it to anyone", since everyone who joins the torrent gets pieces of your file. You're not just downloading.
Going to jail for it though is really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really unlikely. Even if you did somehow get caught in some kind of a sweep by your ISP, at most you'd get a cease-and-desist, and if they caught you distributing enough stuff, you might wind up with some fines, but even that is really unlikely. Someday maybe they'll crack down more on this stuff but for right now not a whole lot of people are actually being punished for it.
Why do so many anime banner ads suck? Most of them look like they are aimed at anime fans with no life at all. A good example are all the Anime Castle adverts which ask questions like "Do you watch anime in the dark?" "Would you watch anime taking a bath?" or even "Is watching anime confusing?" while usually having some skimpy drawn anime character half naked to attract these lonely anime fans. My question is, is the only way they can get customers is to treat their fanbase like idiots?
Well, the only example you gave were those silly Anime Castle ads, which I'm pretty sure are designed to be silly and attractive to the eye. If you say "What? That's a stupid question!" and then click "No" - or don't even click anything, but you notice the name "Anime Castle", then their advertisement worked. They might seem stupid, but people talk about them for that reason - hence, it works.
I don't think anime banner ads are particularly stupid - they're no different from standard television or movie ads, usually, and just feature a few images of the anime, a tagline, a title, and a release date. If anything I'd say anime marketing as a general rule is kind of uninspired - they really do rely entirely on promotional art to sell the show. If you're trying to sell Scrapped Princess and you just have a huge image along with "This show was great!" - Chris Beveridge, AnimeonDVD.com or "Today's Hottest Kind of Cool!" - Rob Bricken, Anime Insider, that doesn't really sell the show to anyone who doesn't pretty much know what it is. That's not to say it's particularly bad or anything, just uninspired.
A good recent example of how uninspired anime marketing can be came to me in a recent Funimation DVD release; there's usually a flyer inside all of their DVDs that advertises their recent releases. Included in the flyer was this little gem:
What sort of lazy-ass tagline is that? "Who is She?" What are they expecting, someone to say "Who is she? I don't know, but boy oh boy I can't wait to drop 25 bucks to find out!". Plus they misspelled "correspondence". Above this was an ad for Shuffle! with the tagline "Which girl would you choose?". Yep, that's pretty much the point of the show. It's like using "Dudes fight in space!" as a tagline for Star Wars.
I've met a lot of the marketing guys at anime companies, since one of the incredibly unfortunate duties they have is dealing with bitter, unpleasant press assholes like me, and they're all really nice, intelligent folks, usually with some pretty great marketing ideas (in this PR layman's opinion anyway), many of which go unused because the executives at whatever company they work for don't like to take marketing risks, but I don't think it's unfair to say that a lot of anime marketing comes across as very generic. Maybe in today's troubled marketplace they'll have to come up with some brilliant new concepts to sell shows to fans and casual consumers alike.
Hey, this one kinda relates to my first question.
Here's a bunny with its head stuck in a bag.
He's looking for the first DVD of Mutineer's Moon, you see.
Here's last week's question:
SPOILER WARNING: THE FOLLOWING SHOWS GET SPOILED IN THIS SECTION, IN THIS ORDER: Utawarerumono, Rurouni Kenshin, Cowboy Bebop, Shuffle!, Chrono Crusade, Samurai 7, Rumbling Hearts, MoonPhase.
Shockingly, not Evangelion.
First, from Marcelo Gomes:
That's quite a spoilish question... let's see:
Most of anime I wouldn't actually CHANGE the ending, but I would GIVE an ending. I'm talking about series that were concluded (or discontinued) leaving a lot of plot holes (such as Ouran High School Host Club or Haré+Guu).
Despite that, when I was little I used to want to change the ending of almost every anime I watched. Nowadays I am more acceptive, so my list is reduced to a few names. And from these few names, I can only remember one:
That would be Utawarerumono. I'm no fan of eroge visual novels but I liked the anime, I just thought the ending was completely screwed. The story was fine and then, all of a sudden, absurd and bizarre magical bloody sword-using mechas were introduced followed by a weird time-traveling story that didn't make any sense at all. If I could change, first of all I would get rid of those mechas (I mean, what is that? The mechas are in a fantasy world that resembles the Sengoku period and they can even BLEED? Who had this idea?), and then I would get rid of the time-traveling thing, focusing on the other part of the story (I didn't find the "he has a demon sealed within him" stuff very original, but at least it made more sense). Except for that, everything else is fine by me.
On the other hand, I like almost every ending because I look at the bright side of them. And I feel different than many people about changing the ending of some anime series (specifficaly, Chrono Crusade, Fullmetal Alchemist and Blood+). Sometimes people don't like the ending not for being bad, but for not being a happily ever after of their favorite characters. I understand that, as much as I understand that no story can be completely happy or it will get extremely annoying. I mean, as Zac said in an earlier column, fanservice for the ending is not always a good thing. The idea of Sesshoumaru and Naraku having sex in the parking lot really creeps me out.
Change the ending of a series, hmm? Well obviously one series that desperately needed the ending changed would be Rurouni Kenshin, since the ending of the manga was completely left out and replaced with some of the worst fillers ever...I mean, Kenshin's last major rival, Enishi, was only seen very briefly in the last OVA, Reflections, and people who didn't know the manga were like, "Who's that?" Kenshin is one of my favorite series, and when I think about the way the anime producers ended it, it makes me want to fall on my sword...So yes the anime that needs its ending changed most is Rurouni Kenshin, at the very least it needs a fourth season, in which the Jinchu (revenge) arc is played out.
From Michael Loudon:
I would change Cowboy Bebop's ending. Surprised? No, you probably aren't, actually. Everyone remembers the sad ending this series has. But it's not the sadness per se that bothers me. It's the fatalism and the glorification of death.
From Forrest Sayrs :
So when I saw this question, I dug out the old list of things I've watched and was struck by two things. 1. I have never been completely satisfied with the ending of any anime, and 2. I can't honestly say I would change that.
For starters, some anime realize when they botch things and go back and fix it. I bumped Evangelion (who is on chance 3 with the Rebuild of Evangelion project), Hellsing, and Wolf's Rain because they all got second chances. Some did better than others. Then there are anime that just sort of trail off. I didn't like the ending of Ouran High School Host Club, but short of adding a second season, I wouldn't change a thing. Same thing applies to Witch Hunter Robin, Nodame Cantabile and Darker than Black.
Of course, there are straight up bad anime. Ones that no ending, regardless of quality or beauty, can salvage. And, in contrast, the anime that are so good that the ending doesn't matter either way.
After eliminating these from the running, I was left with a very short list of anime I'd actually like to change. And none of them were even anime that I cared about very much. I mean, the top of the list was chrno crusade, as asinine as it was. Now, I write my own reviews of series in my spare time and I tend to harp on the ending as a sticking point for a bad review. I'll do anything to rip an ending a new one. Happy ending? Too trite and sentimental. Sad ending? Trying too hard to break literary tradition and therefore, forced and false feeling.
So it came as a surprise to me when I started working on this reply, that I didn't want to change anything. chrno crusade was the only one that bothered me a lot, because it was so bittersweet. Please stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers. I would have either liked the pair of Rosette and Chrono to die in the final battle, sacrificing themselves and thus, accomplishing the sad ending. Or, for them to have survived and transcended the bonds of the contract. I don't really care which one. The sappy "fade into death" ending was stupid and poorly executed. It was really the only downside of an overall decent, if somewhat silly, anime.
From Nina Davis:
So many series, so many WTF endings, but I'd like to change the end of Samurai 7. I admit to being a hopeless romantic, and while it'd be nice to have Kirara end up with Katsushiro or Kambei, I can live with the classic "lone samurai warrior riding off into the sunset" finale. What angered me, though, was how disrespected she was by both in the end. After writing a female character into the mythos with such sensibility and courage, a girl who wasn't just there to be kidnapped, but was actually a contributor to the group and saving the village, the writers just kicked her curbside hard. Insulted and left by both lead males, and supposed comrades, for no reason other than machismo. I would've at least liked to have seen some foreshadowing of a better future than washed-up priestess. I really wanted to see her knock the taste out of Katsushiro and Kambei's mouths. Thankfully, for that, we have fanfic.
From Zach Leight:
Given the dismal air near the ending of Rumbling Hearts, I really wasn't satisfied with the relatively happy conclusion. I would have preferred that Haruka rolled her wheelchair over the edge of those steps and committed suicide. This is not something against that character. The anime needed at least one of the main characters to die. An emotionally turbulent series should end tragically to cement the viewer's feeling of despair or sadness. Series that end with a good tragedy are fondly remembered; I'm sure you can think of some (I wont ruin endings by listing any.)
'Happiliy ever after' endings abound in anime -- and while Rumbling Hearts isn't quite the epitome of joyful endings, I feel it did not utilize its perfect buildup for an epic conclusion that would have set it apart from others.
Finally, from Josh Ernst:
While my initial thought was to comment on the ending of Evangelion, I realized quickly how futile that would be. So instead, I decided to be original and talk about the ending to MoonPhase, a title that I had high hopes for. Oh btw, there will be *SPOILERS*.
The trailers were what originally got me into the show; they looked sufficiently creepy and interesting to hold my attention. Once I started the series, it was evident that it was more of a comedy than the trailers let on (especially after Hazuki left the castle), but the underlying plot of Hazuki being a daywalking vampire with a dual personality being hunted by her mysterious evil father was quite intriguing. The darker moments of the show far outweighed the goofy ones.
Unfortunately, while the plot keeps building and building, with characters dying and the villains becoming more sadistic, ultimately there's no payoff. We keep hearing about Hazuki's evil vampire lord father for 26 episodes, and then HE NEVER SHOWS UP. Hazuki rejects the vampire castle and the Luna personality and makes nice with her half sister, providing closure to a few plot threads, but the BIG ONE is left dangling. Why were all these vampires working for her father? Why do they all wear masks, even at night? And just how uber is her daddy if he can spawn someone as powerful as Hazuki?
I would have added a major confrontation with her father; something along the lines of a big battle, and in the end Haz is forced to choose between her own life and Kohe's. Yeah yeah, not exactly original, but it beats the heck out of what we got. This show could have been great with just a very solid, emotional ending; instead, we get two goofy filler episodes with a lot of lame comedy. Wheeee..... :( The first half of the show involving Count Kinkle was vastly more interesting than the ending.
Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.
For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.
Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.
That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I hve so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.
Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!
Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.
We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.
Things To Do:
* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.
Things Not To Do:
* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.
So check this space next week for your answers to my questions!
See you all next week!
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