Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy, Aug 8th 2008


I'm back! I know you missed me so, so much. Eyes glued to the monitor, desperately watching, waiting for my return, silently sobbing every second my absence grows deeper.

Either that or you're mildly irritated. The latter is vastly more probable.


Hey Answerman, I saw Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog and was wondering why there arent a lot of anime musicals. The only ones I know about are liveaction and you can't buy them on DVD. So whatsup with that?

Also someone should get Joss Whedon to write an anime!!

Off the top of my head the only anime musical I can think of that isn't a stage production is Nerima Daikon Brothers, which ADV released (and Funimation will re-release) to, I'm told, underwhelming sales. Then again, my definition of "musical" is a production where the songs are part of the story; they move the plot forward. So I guess some people might categorize shows like Full Moon wo Sagashite or Kodomo no Omocha (or even something like Utena) as musicals, but to me, those are just shows that have a lot of music in them rather than being real "musicals". So your mileage may vary.

I can't imagine muscials are easy to write; surely the sheer effort required to write that many songs for a single production must be taxing, and the number of composers who can do it well is pretty small to my understanding. Your average Broadway musical has what, 10-15 songs over a 2.5 hour runtime? So if you extrapolate that out, a 26-episode anime musical would require a ridiculous number of songs to be formally considered a proper musical; a 13-episode series wouldn't be much easier. Nerima Daikon Brothers had generally very simple songs, as a comparison; I can't imagine how much effort would've been required to have the typical sweeping, epic music you normally hear in a musical production.

That said, there are plenty of those live-action stage musicals based on anime that most people I believe enjoy ironically. So you can always check those out.

As for Joss Whedon, well, I'm not his biggest fan, but if he wrote an anime series it'd probably sell pretty well based on the number of frothing rabid fans he has. Most of his female characters are "generic kick-ass girl who can be a bitch sometimes" which fits right in with the anime medium!



I was wondering how the duration of anime shows is decided.  It seems that, unlike American tv where a show's life is based entirely on ratings, that on anime they know starting off how long of some-multiple-of-13 ep run they have and are able to wrap things up in a timely fashion.  However, I was watching the first Saiyuki (I know, I know) series and it's not that I expected them to actually fight the big resurrecty demon guy before the end, or, you know, do anything besides be angsty, but the introduction of this war prince dude who's now the primary antagonist right after the 26-ep mark seemed to smack of stetching to fill an extended run.  So which is it?  Are anime creators slaves to ratings too?

PS Normally domesticated bunnys make me sad, but yours seems happy enough.  Good job.

It depends entirely on the individual production; there are a lot of factors that play in to how the length of a series is determined. If the show is a manga adaptation, generally you can always count on the length of the original manga to be one of the biggest factors. Obviously you're not going to get 26 episodes from a 2-volume series; that manga would more likely become a 10-13 episode series (with the content stretched out a bit) or more likely, an OVA. If it's a giant shonen tournament franchise like Naruto that stays open-ended for years at a time, they do (infamous) filler arcs to artificially extend the length of the show until there's enough new manga content to last a while. Other things matter too; how pushy the production company is, what the original manga creator wants, how long the director wants the show to be. Any one or all of these could factor in to how long a show is.

Original productions are a bit different since it's really up to the production team's creative decisions and, of course, the budget. Lots and lots of things rely on the show's budget, and length is certainly one of 'em. That applies to adaptations as well, naturally.

My bunny looks happy because she lives like pampered royalty and has someone who works from home to dote on her every need. I recently installed black marble tiles in her cage and in her favorite around-the-house spots so she can lay on them to avoid the California summer heat. She also has her own fan, which keeps the tiles nice and cool.


Why do so many American anime fans hate moe so much? Everywhere I go on the Internet, it seems as though lots of people hate moe anime. Furthermore (At least on the ANN boards anyway), it's always the men who bash it. Why all the moe hate?

It's a divisive issue, certainly one that I haven't helped calm down over the years. I've made my opinion pretty clear and a lot of people disagree with me.

Thing is, though, as much as a lightning rod as moe has been for me, there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way I do. Much more passionately so, as well - just look at any of Daryl Surat's screeds on the issue, not to mention countless other fans who rail against it like it's the plague.
To me, the whole thing has died down considerably over the last year. It was a big hot topic in 2007 but now it just feels a little stale, mostly because fandom itself seems to have segmented a little; the people who like moe shows watch and enjoy them amongst themselves, and the people who don't ignore the genre entirely.

But the number of people you see railing against it is, I believe, a backlash. For a while there, as the genre became more and more popular, you had really rabid moe fans crowing endlessly about how awesome anything and everything moe was. On and on they'd go, singing the praises of ~uguu~ or whatever, and some people got pretty sick of it so we had a backlash, which resulted in a bunch of people crowing endlessly about how much moe anime sucks (I'd fall into this category). The other thing is, a lot of people blame the rise of the moe genre for the almost-equally vocal rise of loli fans. I'm not sure I'd go that far; I made some pretty irresponsible comparisons between the two genres, which I now regret. But that conflagration is one reason there are a lot of vocal moe detractors.

Me, I'm over it. The genre itself seems to be fading a little among American fans, or at least becoming its own seperate subculture, which is fine. I don't really hear too much from moe fans these days; maybe it's because I've let the issue rest, but it doesn't feel like there are as many popular moe shows as there used to be. Perhaps my perception is wrong, but the general vibe I'm getting is that anime fandom - in America, at least - does seem to be refocusing a bit lately.

Either that or I'm just used to it now and it doesn't bother me anymore so I don't perceive it as a problem.



God, you have no idea how many emails I get from people who think I (or Anime News Network) personally remove anime from YouTube.

well you know everytime people upload anime on YouTube tokyo tv ask's YouTube to delete the anime and they delete and suspend the person
so i was wondering if i can make a YouTube account only for anime episodes and you can ask YouTube to let me add anime episodes i mean alot of kids love anime and its not fair that only kids on japan can see anime.

i mean theres alot of kids all over the wolrd that love anime but can't see them becuase of you
do you know your losing alot of money because of that
the best anime right now are Naruto shippuuden,bleach,hitman reborn and D.gray man
and by now letting YouTube add anime alot of kids can't see them.
so please have a heart and tell YouTube to let me add anime episodes.

even if you reject my request that won't stop me ill keep messaging you ontill you let me.
im not doing this for me im doing it for the anime fans

Because of me, kids all over the world can't see their animes!!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN


I would rather think of this bunny. Even though he has crazy eyes.





Here's last week's question:


From Mr. F:

In addition to my love for anime, I'm also a lifelong science fiction fan, so to resolve the current  issues in the R1 industry I'll employ one of my favorite s.f. staples; the time machine. First, I'd travel back about nine years, right as studios were beginning to gorge themselves with licenses in anticipation of the likes of Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon igniting a nationwide anime craze. After providing proof of my identity, and in violation of any number of temporal protocols, I would hand over evidence to the heads of ADV, Pioneer, and other studios that this road of rabid expansion would eventually lead to their ruin, and that they must find and destroy the future creators of "YouTube." Thus, instead of licensing every title in sight, they would conservatively track, through surveys and Japanese ratings, which shows would yield the most profit. I would also appear to the heads of companies like Tokyopop (or Mixx, back then?) and demonstrate that they also need to exercise restraint when licensing, and that trying to farm domestic talent would render naught but barren coffers. After forcing a pinky swear that they would only troll for hits and leave any would-be American Toriyamas flapping in the wind, I would return to the future, confident in my salvation of domestic anime for everyone.

What would I find upon my return? Well, after the unfortunate destruction of my machine by a misplaced cat, (seems to happen a lot in science fiction), my near-fatal guilt after realizing I'd wasted my time in the past on anime, and the revelation that I am my own grandfather, (one of the hazards of time travel), I would open my door to the golden paradise of my creation. And what a sight. All series are an offshoot of a single entity, called Dragon Ninja Sword Battle Robot Angel (DNSBRA), that simultaneously embodies every shonen AND shojo stereotype conceivable. There are no domestic comic artists, let alone domestic attempts at "manga," because Marvel and DC, as well as every other American studio, closed their doors after the DNSBRA manga hit. It's Pokémon at fifty times the potency, it's Naruto at fifty times the inspirational "you can do it" speeches, it's more emotionally conflicted than a thousand pregnant shojo heroines in unfortunate circumstances, and it's rammed into your cerebrum like a Mac truck with afterburners on every one of Cartoon Network's thousands of stations 24 hours a day or at any of the ten-thousand DNSBRA bookstore outlets (formerly Borders and Starbucks). It stands like a monolith, uncontested, as the founders of YouTube would have provided a means of resistance that covert action by voice actors under the employ of ADV had obliterated soon after my departure. Thus, everyone buys everything all the time. No file transfers, no websites, nothing but manufacturer suggested retail as far as the eye can see. And just as I'm breathing in the satisfying smell of a secure industry, I hear the sound of skates behind me and turn just in time to see the golden bat come down on my head and to hear "the distant sound of thunder." (Bow to Ray Bradbury).

Maybe I'll just stay home and wish that some of these companies had pursued the dollar less aggressively, but with the somber realization that without the "mistakes" associated with their greed, some exceptionally neat stuff never would have happened in the industry.   


From Patrick Castleberry:

Pure and simple, the biggest mistake the R1 industry has made in the past few years is not going after the fansubbers.  They're killing the industry and if the companies continue to refuse to address the issue, they're signing their own death warrants.

From Pat Payne:

The number one mistake that I can see, as an interested outsider (in that I'm an otaku, but of course nobody in their right mind would let me see proprietary financial documents) is that it appears that the anime industry expanded way too far, too fast for a niche industry. Anime companies up till this year were cranking out loads of new licenses, some for shows that appealed to a very niche-of-a-niche sector (I love Gatchaman and Macross, and am eternally grateful that ADV bought one and ressurected the other license, but, really, just how many units of both did ADV really sell?), and others that just weren't that good to begin with, believing that "big eyes small mouth" animation would sell no matter what it was. In the end, there was too much product for too few buyers and the structure contracted under its own sheer weight.
 
Then there were, along with the licenses, a number of high-profile flops in terms of subsidiary merchandise, which was another symptom of the massive overexpansion. Newtype USA (which was more expensive than most mass-market paperbacks and probably beyond the finances of many younger anime fans) crumbled, and the replacement magazine, PiQ was a colossal white elephant as far as I can tell, not even lasting the year. And, Bandai Japan did the fandom no favors by trying to forcefeed us anime EXACTLY as Japanese get it (meaning high-price, low-episode count discs), leaving Bandai Visual in the lurch as only well-heeled uberfans were apparently willing to shell out the money needed to buy their discs.   
 
Really, the situation is eerily analogous to the video-game craze and then bust of the early '80s. Back then, after the success of Pac-Man in arcades and the Atari 2600 in homes, every imaginable company jumped on the video game bandwagon. There were games about Chuck Wagon dog food and Kool-Aid, for crying out loud! There were more games than any person could play in one lifetime, ranging from the excellent, to the mediocre, to the awful, to games that made you question the sanity of the publisher. And there, the bottom fell out. After the high-profile cratering of ET (which Atari was pinning its Christmas dreams upon, but ended up in a landfill in Alamagordo), video games went into a tail spin. Suddenly you couldn't sell a video game and make a profit...till the Nintendo came out in '85 or '86.
 
That's where the anime industry, in my opinion, is heading. They can still halt the decline, though, by throttling back. Don't buy every license under the sun -- buy mostly what will sell, a mix of cutting edge shows leavened with timeless classics. Don't try to expand far and fast into radically different arenas -- magazines ought to be left to magazine publishers and toys to toymakers. And for Pete's sake, don't cheese off your core customer base by pricing them out of the market.

From Peter Laliberte:

Bandai Visual USA. I don't know what's worse, the fact that they thought $50 for 3 episodes was a good idea, or the fact that I actually bought all of Super Robot Wars.
 
My wallet, she cries.

From Faulken:

At the start, it was horrible dubs. Now I would say its the unabashed marketing of "mainstream" titles. Don't get me wrong, some of these series do have merit, but I believe there should be more money spent on marketing "niche" titles. Alot of the large publishing companies have more then enough resources to "take a chance" on a niche title. (I never once saw anything in the real-world for Paprika, Plannetes, Five Milimeters Per Second, the three-story mini-serial: Memories. By comparison I am surrounded by merchandise and advertising DBZ, Bleach, Naruto, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, etc.) Maybe I'm sheltered, but I think that if more exposure were given to less known titles after something like Naruto is well established, it would help draw in wider audiences then companies are currently.

From Angelica Brenner:

As far as I'm concerned, the biggest mistake that American anime - and manga - companies have made is licensing so many titles. It's not the number of titles that bothers me, as much as the number of lame titles.

There are two kinds of titles that make sense. The titles that have a lot of anime-fan appeal - Shounen Jump titles, series from a long-popular creative team, etc.. - and titles that are very, very good. Things that might make a Japanese anime/manga enthusiast's list of "classics", or newer titles with innovative art, stories, or writing.

Lately, certain anime companies have been having trouble, and bookstores are starting to worry they're running out of space for manga. Certainly fansubs, a crummy economy, and a small army of other troubles are to blame for bits of this, but I can't help but feel that the sheer number of low-appeal, low-quality titles out there have done their damage as well. Cyberteam in Akihabara? Legend of the Mystical Ninja? "Burn Up!" anything? Certainly there are handfuls of people who absolutely love such titles, but I'll be darned if I ever met 'em.

Now, as far as I know, American companies are doing none of this is on purpose. There could be some sinister conspiracy where Japanese companies hold top-tier licenses ransom until American companies agree to take "Mitsuru no ~Kankiri~" and "GothBots Revenge EX" with 'em. But if that's not the case, I have only one question:

What the hell, man?

From Patrick Schulz (I think we have a new record for number of Patricks responding to a topic this week):

There are two things that I think are at an equal level here.  First is the price point set for most anime.  Yes, as some have said before it is somewhat comparable to other multi-episode media.  However, that media usually comes down in price.  The only places I have seen any anime cheaper than normal prices is sales on The Right Stuf for series going out the door (Or on special for a week or two) and at Amazon.  Even if I had a job (And one that paid really well) I would still have to be selective of the series I buy.  I've missed out on several series because I didn't have the $45-$55 to buy the boxed set for 26 episodes (Barely a season).  And the prices don't seem to be changing.

Secondly, it's the snagging of different series.  Many anime that I would like to see are only available via fansubbs (Which I will not support.) or untranslated versions uploaded to YouTube or other video sharing sites.  This has started to change (As some companies are now offering series not normally released in the US on their websites in high quality formats) but there are still a lot more Gundam variants available in the US.  Do we really need another Gundam variant?  How many ways can you tell the same story?  Apparently, they can milk it for a lot.  (Note, this is not a slam on Gundam fans, more of a slam on the studios for constantly producing the same thing over and over again.)  Now, maybe it's just me, and I'm getting crusty and old, but I'd like a little more variety in my selections, without having to take advanced Japanese classes.


Finally, from Troy Williams:

I brush against the idea that the R1 industry's situation is due to a mess of huge "mistakes" they made. I don't feel that their problems were even within their control to manage.

For instance, around the time that downloadable fansubs started to proliferate and diminish sales, license fees for titles were rising sharply. Expenses went up, sales went down. Some fans shouted for day and date releases as the "obvious" way to fix things, but Japanese companies couldn't grant that even if they wanted to due to exclusivity agreements with Japanese television, among other constraints.

Then there's the demise of Musicland/Suncoast. They were the biggest and most critical outlet for anime products. Their fall was an epochal moment which almost all of the companies got caught up in and still have yet to recover from. Was that within their control at all?

The situation has yet to get better. Today's fansubs are in HD and in a quality beyond anything the DVD specification itself is capable of. How can even best R1 DVDs compete? Blu-Ray is the answer, but that's not cheap to produce (and that's assuming they DON'T have to renegotiate for HD materials). Again, expenses go up, but will sales follow?

I don't see anything the companies really could have done differently. They simply got caught--and are still caught--in a perfect storm.


So here's the question for this week:




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!

Howl's Moving Castle © Nibariki * GNDDDT

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