Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy, Sep 19th 2008


Just a heads-up - Hey, Answerman! will be on hiatus next week while the rest of the ANN team and I will be working our butts off at New York Anime Festival. Keep an eye on the site next week for an interview with the convention's organizers and our usual con coverage, from panels to cosplayers.

Last year we waited until the last second before booking our hotel rooms and wound up at a Howard Johnson in Flushing. NYAF is held at the Javits center, which is
on the far west side of Manhattan, or a roughly one-hour subway ride away. So the lot of us had to commute, waking up at 8am to cram ourselves into a stuffed subway car, glumly staring out the window. It was almost like we were on our way to the textile factory. This job hardly ever feels like a typical daily grind, but for those few days last year, I definitely got a taste of what that grind must feel like, and it definitely made me appreciate the joys of working from your home office.

Anyway, let's get to it.

1).  This has been bothering me for a while.  AMVs- technically, they would be copyright infringement, right?  You're using someone else's property (clips and music) to make something and post it on the internet (we assume).  Yet, the anime industry encourages AMVs, showcasing them at cons and things.  Why?  Does it help the industry, and even if it does, isn't this a little unfair?


2). (the stupid question): Most people know about "that guy."  If there's a that guy, what would "that girl (gal?)" be like?  Or would there be a "that girl" at all?  Is it sexist to say that there's only a "that guy"?

Yes, anime music videos are copyright infringement, no doubt about it. But nobody really cares - they're harmless, and nobody's making any money off of them (unless you want to argue that they're such a draw that they pull in enough con attendees alone to turn a profit for the company running the convention, which would probably be a stretch, not to mention almost impossible to prove). A few bands have asked that their music not be used in AMVs, and generally those requests are honored, at least on sites like animemusicvideos.org.

As for helping or hurting the industry, I don't think they do either. Sure, sometimes a well-made music video can kind of act like a promotional trailer, encouraging people to seek out the show used (not to mention potentially turn new fans on to whatever band's music is being used), but they're basically disposable, a fun activity for fans to partake in and not much else. If the industry gave a shit at all the practice would've stopped years ago. Not only that, but the industry isn't "encouraging" AMV use by "allowing" the event to happen at conventions - the industry doesn't dictate the programming schedule and I doubt any of the major companies would want to deal with the potentially bad PR they'd get if the fans learned that, say, Funimation threatened to yank their convention sponsorship and exhibit hall booth unless the AMVs were cancelled. That wouldn't be good for anyone. Hell, there are plenty of people who work in the industry I know that like AMVs.

Of course there's a "that girl". I asked an Answerfans question a while back about "that guy" stories from anime club gatherings, and I'd say roughly half the responses were "that girl" stories instead. It's speculated that anime fandom is maybe half - or more - female, and when you get that many nerds, regardless of their gender, a bunch of them will be socially inept. Awkward or obnoxious nerd behavior is definitely not isolated to males.



I've just entered university, and while watching Escaflowne (again) I realized there's a huge abundance of anime with a high school theme or even just high school as a setting (and not the focus). However, off the top of my head, I can think of very few anime/manga that have used college/university as a backdrop in the story. "Honey and Clover" and "Death Note" are the two I can think of at the moment, although there are probably more.

Have I been missing a lot of anime with college settings? If I haven't, why is it not more common? I know the high school setting probably helps sell the product to teenagers, and the uniforms (and accompanying panty-shots) are probably a big deal too; but college students represent a pretty huge demographic in Japan as well, I would think.


Well, the answer is fairly obvious; anime is, by and large, aimed at a high school crowd (or younger) and so the material is tailored to their tastes. You could probably also argue that based on otaku taste and culture, high school-aged girls are more desirable to that audience. There are a hundred other reasons you could postulate why there are more anime series set in high school than in college; high school is a more intense and somewhat more common and relatable experience, the whole high school romance thing is big in both drama and comedy, etcetera. College just isn't a wistfully remembered for some folks, I guess.

To be honest, I wish there were more anime series set in college. Genshiken is one of my all-time favorite anime series, because it so perfectly encapsulated some of the people I knew in college and reminded me of my freshman days in an anime club. But it's true that shows like that are pretty rare; hell, other than Genshiken, it's tough to think of many. Other than the ones you listed, I can think of Moyashimon, Maison Ikkoku (of course), but few of these deal with the reality of actually being in college, going to class, yadda yadda. Ah well; at least the second season of Genshiken is coming up soon.


As we all know now, the bombshell dropped this thursday (Sep. 11) that Code Geass and Moribito have been moved up to the "death-slot" of 5:30 and 6:30 AM EST. Specifically, one which has little more than a month before it switches into its second season and another that hasn't even premiered its first four episodes yet! Now it's generally pointless for me to repeat all the rantings given on the ANN and AdultSwim boards, so I'll get to the general points: How likely do you think is such a schedule able to to hold out? Indeed, how feasible is a schedule that moves the repeat of an anime (one that's great but over 3 years old) way up ahead of shows that are less than halfway done or even a quarter done, as well as AdultSwim original shows (most of which seem craptacular) that receive tons of advertising no matter what time they show? Now I know they don't "hate anime," and that television is a whole business and stuff, but still, isn't it reasonable to kindly ask for some more respect for tv anime viewers that are more vocal about their shows than the college students-and-up that probably have to turn off their brain to consciously stand some of the stuff put on?

It's "feasible" because they're concerned with ratings, not when Code Geass fans would prefer to watch the show. Cowboy Bebop reruns will outdraw something like Moribito every time, and frankly when they do make a move like this it's because the ratings for the new shows are dismal. The fans might be "more vocal" but what you're suggesting is that they listen to the whining of anime fans on the internet (anime fans on the internet who apparently don't have TiVOs yet) rather than basic ratings data, which is the opposite of sense when you're running a TV network. That said, I'm not sure Geass or Moribito will last long; that 5:30 am "death slot" is basically where shows go to die.

And while yeah a lot of the original Adult Swim programming is pretty bad I will not allow anyone to make that statement without adding the caveat that The Venture Brothers is one of the best shows on TV and the best show to have ever been on Adult Swim. Go Team Venture!





No flake this week, but there is a bunny dance party, which everyone has to admit is probably better.





Here's last week's question:


From "Pie Man":

  I'd like to start by saying that, in general, there is no real clear line between American and Japanese productions.  I mean, it's not like some person drew a line and said ‘Good producers on this side, sucky ones on the other!’ then proceeded to ship all the good ones off to Japan.  Some shows are good enough to make it to the big time, whilst others just…flop.

            Of course, that's not to say that there aren't exceptions.  And when I mention exceptions, I mean big ones.  Has anyone taken a look at Cartoon Network lately, for example?  A while back, I used to like that channel a lot.  When I was younger, I watched Pokémon a lot, and as I grew up, I had an hour or two scheduled out for a Saturday crash on my bed to watch some Naruto and MAR—quite welcome after a long week of hard work.  Even if I happened to turn on the TV at some random hour of the week, there was usually something semi-watchable on.  A short time ago, however, after a stint of watching fansubs on the computer, I turned on the TV and was horrified at what I found.  It almost had more junk than a dump.  Sitting through an episode of ‘Chowder’ was frighteningly close to being a literal half hour of watching super-deformed animals (I think the main character's supposed to be a hamster) stick their fingers up their noses, pull out whatever happens to be up there, and then proceed to eat it.  My breakfast suddenly didn't seem so secure, and lunch was just a subtle threat on the horizon.  It took every ounce of willpower (and a whole lot of Friday-night laziness) not to get up and turn off the TV immediately.  After a few more tries, I found that there were, indeed, some shows that left your stomach intact, and were actually able to be enjoyed, but in the end I asked the same question that I've been hearing my elders query since I've been old enough to understand words:

            “What is this country coming to?”

            But this is where Japan typically excels over the US.  Our home sweet home just seems to have lost grasp on the fact that children have brains too.  Even at a young age, it's a bit more riveting to watch people go do actual things for actual reasons than stare at two people hit each other with salami for half an hour—this, of course, being because one may or may not have stolen the other's lollipop.  Especially when it's blaringly obvious that Salami Man 1 dropped his lollipop roughly two feet away!  Salami Man 2, on the other hand, although maybe not as obviously in need of help, is typically in the plot for the sole reason that he's a main character and needs a place in it.  Although in afterthought, this may be the only saving grace.  He may in fact necessary for the show to have any plot at all.  After all, even those severely biased against the intelligence of children would find it tedious to have one character standing there hitting himself with a salami—and for stealing his own lollipop…right?  Or maybe not.  It does sound awfully familiar.

            Anyhow, as horrible as some fans might think the younger-demographic Japanese animes are, it's the sad truth that the vast majority are better than what we as a country see fit to air for our own.  And although I'm not saying that this is true for all children's television, I have found it to be the norm.  Even in the past, most of the better shows did, actually, have their roots in Japan.  For any doubters, try comparing a few.  ‘Wild Arms’ blows ‘Chowder’ out of the water by a long run.

 
(P.S. For those of you who like Chowder, I'm sorry to keep bringing it up.  I'm not targeting it specifically or anything, just using it as an example)


From Heather Cameron:

To put it simply--yes, I do think that anime is on average better than American television and cinema. The way I see it, anime has more interesting plots (even if only because of its bizarreness), and the stories are finite. When something lasts 13-26 episodes, (one hopes) more careful consideration has gone into planning them out, rather than continuing a story until it fades out.

I would argue in favor of some American programs, however, because they have things you don't find in most anime. I'm a fan of GL, and yet, most of it, to my understanding, follows the girls as they discover their love for each other. However, in an American TV show, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a definite powerhouse, the girls are then followed after, and you get to see them as they develop together. For this reason, I enjoy some American television shows.

Even though I enjoy anime more, I wouldn't have an easy time choosing between the two, though. What one lacks, the other makes up for, and that makes for a well-rounded media experience, in my opinion.


From Dillon Cote:

I think anime is better than American TV. That being said, I love watching things like House and Seinfeld, and I hate watching things like Naruto and Bleach (I know, I'm the minority there).
 
To be fair, I am 15 years old, and there are not alot of shows aimed at my age group that can appeal to someone with an IQ above 30. Sure, you have things like Family Guy, but if you actually pay attention to that show, you realize it's just not that funny. It seems to be entertainec in North America, you have to be a brain-dead fecal pervert.
 
But with Anime, the writers seem to assume that you can think. I love watching things like Deathnote and Fullmetal Alchemist, because they take some thought to understand. I don't have to be spoon fed every complicated line, and things can be left unexplained for me to infer myself.
 
Second, American TV seems to stick to one mood throughout the entire show. If a show is serious, such as Prison Break or 24, they stay serious, constantly. If a show is silly, like Simpsons or most sitcoms with a fat husband, they stay silly. This isn't natural. Nobody (or group of people) is completely serious/silly. Moods change. This is why I like watching Kanon and Haruhi, because they set different moods in different situations. They can be serious when there is some drama, but they become more whimsical when there isn't.
 
But American movies are still better. Viva la Dr. Horrible!


From "jak kaj":

Is there an anime as intelligently written as The Wire? If so, they're probably more or less equal. If not, then American television is far superior.


From Ani Ben:

Well, I believe that some cheap anime series is worth... nothing. Why? Well, even a couple of otakus between a pirated copy of Flash MX and a whole bunch of spare time can pull off what some animators in Japan have accomplished... in other words, the cream of the crap.


From Ryan Collins:

Believe it or not, I am currently researching a topic along similar lines to this question, so the timing could not have been better. I may as well chip in. 
 
This summer saw the release of such films as The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Hellboy II, and various other films that have been generally well received [or, in the case of TDK, hailed as the second coming]. This is quite a leap from last year, when the biggest release of the year was Spider-Man 3, which is generally considered the weakest of Spidey's films. Last year, I would have said that anime is better than most films these days, but this year, the two mediums seem to be equal. Then again, the films I mentioned are sort of the minority, and only mentioning them ignores the dozens of bombs that surrounded them, like, say, Disaster Movie.
 
Seems like I'm talking in circles, doesn't it? Well, even though I like anime, my general view [and it's just my opinion] is that 80% of all anime is crap, and that a fan's job is to find the 20% that appeals to him/her. This is very much like film. Believe it or not, folks, there were some negative reviews of The Dark Knight. Shocking, yes, but true. So, as far as film goes, I think the two are too similar.
 
Now, as far as TV goes... Oh boy. For every Lost, there are 30 Daisy Does Americas. [I pity anyone who remembers that steaming pile, which thankfully was disposed of quickly] Good series are painfully infrequent, and unlike movies, they are not on the rise. As far as cartoons go, there was a time when cartoons were truly universal in appeal. The Flintstones and Looney Tunes were not made for children, but children could still watch them with their parents. These days, we have "children's cartoons", which are immature and filled with fart jokes, "adult cartoons", which are immature and full of sex jokes, and "Americanized anime", which gets the visual style of anime down to a T, but lacks the depth and complexity to make it good. [As the Corleone character said in Excel Saga: "Nothing produced in America could ever be considered Japanimation."] Without question, the quality of television is in seri! ous dec line here in the West. Also, even a good series can be spoiled if it runs too long, when everyone knows it should have ended years ago. Anime gets it right. They are not built around seeing hw immature and gross they can be. They actually set out to tell a story, and that story rarely runs too long [excluding Dragon Ball and Pokémon].
 
So, to summarize: Anime is on par with the American film industry, and is miles ahead of American television. If only the stations would realize that and stop airing Code Geass at 1:00 AM.


From "A Canadian":

     Overall I'd have to say yes, most of the American TV I've come up against is pretty terrible. I enjoy a few shows but American TV simply seems to lack the depth I have found in anime, I've actually gone from a kid watching cartoons (and i lump Dragon Ball and Pokémon in those) to watching live action and then going back to anime because as I matured each became more appealing. Thinking about this I perviously put it down to two reasons, firstly anime requires less money and space than live action. For anime the use of props paid actors ect. is not required instead everything is drawn voice acted or made using computer graphics, also there's no need for location shoots and complex camera angels are no problem. Because of all this its easy for an anime to develop a distinctive visual style without killing their budget. This means anime is more expensive in terms of time than money probably making the creators more attached to their creation than if they'd used a single explosion worth a couple grand. Secondly and more importantly actors need some control over their character or they're unable to act well; however as needful as this may be it can derail the director and screen writers vision for the series. Each person from actors to producers and probably even the cameramen have their own vision in a live action shoot. These assumptions have been challenged recently though, as valid as they still are American TV isn't written for the fans, its written for the masses. The bad rep of anime might be what makes it so good, the creators of anime realize that doesn't fit mainstream culture and in response they write for a much smaller demographic. Us! The reason I came up with this idea is recent Canadian television, Intelligent, dialogue driven it seems to have as much depth as anime. So, long story short? Anime is much better than American TV but is only on par with western TV, in fact live action TV is a lot like anime you just gotta find the good stuff and ignore the bad.


Finally, from Andy:

I think that the best of either is better than the worst of the other. By that I mean that the best anime is better than the worst TV/movies and vise versa. And I enjoy good anime just as much as I enjoy good movies or TV.

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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