Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson, Feb 6th 2009



That screeching sound you here in the background? All that panting and wheezing and profuse sweating you hear? That's the sound of me being a little late with Answerman last week, due to various circumstances mostly my own fault. Mostly. We're on track to go a long while without a missed column, I promise!

And yet, I'm here, ready to stand up to your immense questions with resolute resolve, and answer them with my usual devil-may-care attitude. Of answering.

(Answer-tude? That is going on so many T-shirts. I'll make millions.)

Obviously we have a winner for the Make Answerman's Banner contest! A HUGE thanks from myself and the whole editorial team here to Phillip Harrington for creating this new banner (and our new Answerfans banner below!). We never expected to get something that perfect. Thanks Phillip!

Also, if you're wondering where Flake of the Week is, it'll be back next week. Had a minor email hiccup. And now, on to business. Sexy business.


“I've loved writing ever since I was little, and one of my goals is to create a (hopefully!) popular manga/anime series someday. But there's just one problem...although I love writing, I'm not really interested (or creative) in art.

I know manga/anime need artwork, so what are my options? Do I *have* to force myself to learn how to draw? If not, how do I find an illustrator(s)/partner(s)? Is there a website where I can find an artist, maybe an artist who's not creative at writing stories (does MatchMeWithAnArtist.com exist yet)? Has there *ever* been anyone with my problem before? (Please say "yes". ;___;)

Before I get into the specifics of answering the question as asked, briefly allow me to rant at some length about something that's been bothering me lately; why do people get so hung up on creating a product instead of just producing something creative? You have a good story, but you aren't a good artist? Then just write a story, damn it! Making something popular in any particular medium has always been about 50 percent promotion, 50 percent dumb luck – unless your name is J.K. Rowling or Stephen Spielberg, there's no guarantee that anything you create has a real chance of becoming popular anywhere. I run a personal website out of my own pocket every month simply to showcase my silly, crappy cartoons, not because I want my cartoons to adorn T-shirts and get adapted into a big-budget CGI film by Dreamworks. I just love drawing silly, crappy cartoons, and feel the need to put them out there so people, however few they may be, can look at them.
My advice, tempering my righteous indignation a bit, is to simply write. Write out your story, beat by beat, and finish it. Don't worry about finding a manga artist or publication deals or anything, because that'll cause you undue doubt that will compromise whatever vision you have. When it's all done and you still think it'd make a great manga, THEN shop it around. No, Matchmewithanartist.com doesn't exist, but facebook and MySpace and DeviantArt do, and through those connections alone, if your story is at least interesting enough, there should be a plethora of talented artists willing to collaborate with you and your story.
So: good luck, and grab that mighty pen with all your.. might, and make the best damn story you can. The end “product” will come in time.



This is something that's been bugging me for the past few years. I understand when an anime con, especially a small/new one, can't afford to bring over a Japanese guest and has to rely on Western talent for guests. What I don't understand is why so many anime cons keep bringing over niche J-rock bands that are tenuously (if at all) related to anime. Why not bring industry guests instead of spending all that money on a whole band plus entourage with all the security and riders and things that accompany them? Do cons not want to bring industry guests to conventions any more? Are Japanese manga authors, voice actors, directors, etc. simply unwilling to come to conventions? Are there scheduling problems? Do cons make that much money from these bands that they're considered more financially appealing, even with all the overhead fees? It's disappointing as an older fan to go to a convention just to see the same English voice actor guests over and over, with bands I've honestly mostly never heard of.

You know, I used to agree with you completely. Really. I remember the numerous conventions and such about seven years ago, when J-Rock and Visual Kei bands were starting to get noticed with gusto by lusty fans and were starting to get booking in some of the bigger cons. It's not simply that most J-Rock doesn't appeal to me, but that anime cons were about socializing and celebrating Japanese animation, not preening Japanese rock stars. There was a lot of hemming and hawing about it, and look where we are today – as big as Anime Expo and Otakon still are to this day, the only events during those conventions that tend to sell out and garner huge, traffic-stopping lines are the concerts.

I believe that Zac once commented that most anime cons are now “one big teenage party weekend,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Not to say that we aren't still bound together by one big geeky love-fest to celebrate Japanese animation, but much of the crowds there these days are simply around to dance and party and scream at androgynous Japanese celebrities and do drugs and have sex. The big anime companies are still around to show off their wares, but since they don't have as many wares to show off, many of them have forsaken the large but devoted crowds of anime cons for the larger, more mainstream-friendly exhibition of Comic-Con.

Putting it simply, cons need to have the J-Rock fans show up, no matter the expense. Which, to be fair, isn't all that much – it's about the same cost to have Dir en Gray fly over for a gig as it would be to book any number of relatively popular American bands. And considering that most cons charge a fee for tickets to see them on top of the price for general admission, they easily recoup that cost. Dir en Gray is happy to see fans from across the Pacific swoon over them into a comatose state, the fans are more than happy to pay a premium to see them, the creepy older men with cameras are happy to see all the little girls in their gothic lolita outfits, the con owners and exhibitors are happy to make a profit, everyone's happy!

Unless you, erm, don't like J-Rock. In which case, I have some very simple advice: don't go to see their shows.


Okay, so I remember several years back when Adult Swim was first coming out, and they were doing those interstitials/bumpers with content from the AS forums. At one point, they asked the viewers what they'd like to see on AS, but with the caveat, “Don't ask for Ranma ½.” From a speculation standpoint, what do you think would have happened if they *had* run Ranma? Would anything have been different? Would the ratings bump from us 30somethings have meant anything? That was kind of the peak of the anime craze, and an influential-yet-niche title was taken off the table. I'm curious to hear what you have to say on the matter.

What if Adult Swim had had Ranma ½? Why, things would be so, so different – screw The Office or NCIS; water-cooler office discussions would practically revolve around it. “What Ranma character is your favorite?” would replace “What's your sign?” as one of the most common ice-breakers in casual conversation. A giant P-Chan balloon would adorn the Macy's Day Parade, and in a tragic deflating accident, would kill dozens.

Seriousness aside, nothing would have changed, probably. It's nice to think that the extra 30-something ratings would've helped Adult Swim from relegating their anime programming to an uninhabitable ghetto, but, and I say this having written The Click for several years prior, that happened for a variety of reasons unrelated to anything Ranma would offer. Chief among those, being that anime never really gained much traction in the ratings demographics that Adult Swim needs – 18-34 year old males. Anime always did well with teens and younger, and for a time Inuyasha was the number-one show on TV for 12-17 year olds, but Adult Swim was paid by their advertisers for those stupid 18-34 year olds, so really it's like all those ratings didn't count, sad to say.

I'm sure Ranma would've been popular, though, because why wouldn't it be? It's a charming, immensely entertaining show (... at least for the first 3 seasons, after that the quality gets a bit more iffy). But, nope, Adult Swim's animosity towards anime has more to do with public perception damning it to a very specific and wholly unmarketable demographic, and with Adult Swim's ratings in general taking a serious hit lately due to the rise of streaming video, I don't see that trend reversing any time soon.




Here's the question from last week:


From Bryan:

The sad fact is I don't feel much of a sense of community with my fellow anime fans.  In fact I'm embarrassed to have the same hobby as them most of the time.  Now, I'm all for showing your love for whatever it is you're into... but, my fellow anime nerds, learn to read your surroundings.
 
There seems to be an epidemic of tastelessness surging through the anime community.  A hello kitty purse is cute, but a hat with little ears on it and a backpack that belongs on a 9 year old is not.  It is made of plastic and you got it at Wallmart for 10 bucks. Throwing on every piece of anime paraphernalia that you own to go out is just... wow.  It looks terrible. I don't want to tell you what to do and what to wear, but if you can tone it down a little please, then maybe the rest of us wouldn't be embarrassed to tell other people we like anime...
 Anime shouldn't be your life... unlike other hobbies (such as sports or science) the more you do it, the worse it is for you.
 
What is it about anime that attracts the fat woman who doesn't know how to shut up or shop for shirts that fit, the whiney little teenager who ... also doesn't know when to shut up, and the man who is seems oblivious to oral hygiene and... once again doesn't know when to shut up?
And just like me, they think that they are always right.
 
Luckily not everyone is like this, but such a large portion of the community is that is that it becomes difficult to relate or even want to relate to the anime fandom.
 
Never mind internet factions.  The anime world is split up into two groups.  People oblivious to anything outside the anime fandom and those who are all to aware of how the fandom appears.  And if you ask me, this is one case where things are exactly as they appear.
 
Only star trek has it worse.

From Caleb Dunaway:

The stratification of anime fandom is nigh-on inevitable, given how large the fanbase has grown in recent years. With a larger fanbase, fandom in any particular environ stops being centralized; rather than a single horde of anime fans in a given locale (real or virtual), you get, instead, hordes of   smaller, tighter cliques.

The process, unfortunately, lends itself rather quickly to fostering bitter factionalism. Older fandom hearkening back to the 60s (or earlier!) cracks and breaks under the strain imposed upon it by subsequent generations, all of whom are pressured by the still-loose sands of the current era. Even the current fans can't seem to properly cooperate: the girl-heavy schoolhouse romance fan cannot comprehend why someone would watch a series with a giant hunk of metal (who does not also turn into a cute girl), the mecha fans can't figure out why someone would like a girl who is not a) a robot pilot b) romantically entangled with a robot pilot or c) a robot themselves, all get bothered when an anime character of one gender even thinks about being attractive to a real person of the other gender, and fans of Masaki Yuasa look upon all and lament as the magnificent artistic potential of anime goes squandered.

So much incomprehension, in fact, that it almost seems as if people forgot that anime is all these things mentioned above, countless others not mentioned above, and an infinite range of possibilities still to come. They forget that just because they were moved to tears by Kittan's sacrifice in Gurren Lagann doesn't mean that someone else can't be equally moved to tears by Nagisa's theatrical triumph in Clannad; that just because they feel a surge of adrenaline when an Itano cirus fills the screen, that others can't pump their fist in the air when Ranka Lee busts into Seikan Hikou; that a well-deserved and much-delayed punch to the face (possibly followed by gruesome explosion of said face) can be as cathartic as a well-deserved and much-delayed kiss (possibly followed by somewhat more explicit and off-screen acts).

Without that mutual understanding that anime can be all these things, there can't really be much in the way of a supportive, enriching community; there is only bitterness of one group for another for liking a different set of pandering tropes than they do. Understanding does not necessarily alter one's personal taste--no one should ever feel it necessary to alter their taste to suit others--but one's perspective on personal taste: that it is personal, and people are as free to dislike something you like as you are to dislike something they like. As long as people consider themselves free to dislike what someone else likes without them being allowed to do the same--even for mutually ridiculous reasons--and as long as people insist that it is their taste inscribed on the stone tablets of Awesome Anime Taste that were handed to Moses after the Ten Commandments, and not yours, Internet factions cannot foster a sense of community except in rigid, walled isolation from each other, ever mindful of the borders with the sort of camaraderie normally reserved for soldiers at arms.

From James:
I think everyone is in a different faction when it comes to the sense  of such a community.  Each person has a different taste into anime,  whether it's for the music, for the storyline, fanservice, character  development, mainstream and the choices can be endless.  People will  usually enter in a certain community based on their needs of how to  watch certain Anime shows and what to watch.  The community will lead  them towards those points of view.

Now, the only place where I can sense the Anime communities coming  together are Anime conventions.  You get to see all sorts of people  who are either into Anime or getting into it.  I've been going to  conventions ever since 2002, and my first one was in Otakon in  Baltimore, Maryland and there's a ton of people there.  You can  definitely see that lots of people enjoy Anime to a certain degree,  but not everyone there has the same point of view, which is why a  convention offers a lot of different events and options.


From Luke Pierce:

Okay, I'll actually bite on this one (also, with reference to the previous column, shouldn't a certain Matt Kamen be working? :D )


Is there a sense of community within the anime fan community? I have to say that it's a combination of yes and no, depending on where you actually go or who you are. I'll try explain myself a bit better than that.

If you're relatively young, say 12, and going to conventions for the first time, there isn't the real sense of community spirit as you'd most likely be going with friends and a responsible parent/guardian, so you won't really get to forge new friendships quite so much. As you get older and learn about more series, then the opportunity exists for there to be friendships struck up and a community spirit formed.
However, possibly from around the age of 14 upwards, there also exists the potential for flamewars to start between fans of anime series abc and anime series xyz, even just because of the difference in a characters' hair color.

In my personal homeland of the UK, the community is still pretty small, although it has to be said that it is growing, especially off the internet forums. However, sometimes it can be quite closed off from the rest of the world and it does take some effort to try and break into the circle. In certain places, everybody knows everybody and it can be hard, and this is speaking as "somebody who does know somebody", but there are a few of us who try and include new people.

In all that, it has to be said that the most wonderful place I've ever had the pleasure to mix in with fans and friends alike has to have been at a convention not even of my, or the American shores. It's with our dear friends in the Netherlands! I have to admit that I only have been to Animecon, but they've been the absolute epitome of friendly and knowledgable fans and, in that regard, I think there are some anime conventions that should take lessons from them.

From Ian Strope:

I suppose there is a sense that people get along when they share interests.  I was working on a movie project with some people I only knew a little and one of them mentioned not to open a mini-fridge because it stunk.  I threw out the obligatory "what's the real lesson?  Don't leave things in the fridge." and somebody smiled and told me I was their favorite person for the day.  And I know that this person and I probably don't have things like politics or many other thing but we agreed that this one cartoon was good.  So yeah at times I feel my knowledge of cartoons and other things of this nature help me get along in a community better.   Just depends on the people. 
 
An Actual question:  I know a professor of Japanese culture and whatnot gave a lecture in one of my film classes years ago and he was talking about the Yakuza films.  He mentioned the idea of eyes and people losing them as having a symbolic meaning.  Do you know in anime if there is a specific meaning to the eyes not being drawn on characters in some scenes?  Seems this usually happens in moments of tension in the story.  Also, does the obligatory cheek cut that so many people get in so many shows have a specific meaning? 
 
Well I managed to use obligatory twice (three times) so I consider this a successful email


Finally, from N.R. Lopez:

I do not feel a sense of community with my fellow anime fans. Whether it's at the manga section of the local bookstore, an anime/manga specialty store, internet forums, or even at a convention. There are several reasons for my feeling of disconnect with the larger anime community and I will focus on two of them. First, although not basking in the mainstream limelight just yet, anime has gotten very big gaining an equally large legion of fans. Second, the demographics of the anime community has become more diverse.

As a long-time anime fan, I've seen the growth of anime in the U.S. come from the niche sci-fi and action segments targeting boys to the mass appeal of the pocket monster craze. Today there is so much anime to choose from. When I was growing up, the only anime available were the action and sci-fi series on TV (e.g., Star Blazers, Robotech), and absolutely nothing in terms of the home video market. Fast forward to the present and there is a plethora of genres to choose from in anime, whether it be on TV, home video, or the internet. Now there are shows that cater to virtually every anime fan. There is much good in this in that there are now more shows available that are able to capture more fans. The negative aspect is that a certain segment of some fans of particular genres start to dislike other genres and even go so far as to criticize and demean other genres outside of the one or few that they enjoy. Nowhere is this more apparent than on internet forums. I'm sure most fans have seen posts that bash other genres/fans/segments of anime fandom. Possibly the most recent example of this nerd-on-nerd hatred is the outcry against moe. I cite another example when I attended AX a few years back. At the time, Naruto was getting really big, and I saw a few kids wearing orange T-shirts that read something to the effect of “Friends don't let friends become ‘Narutards.’” Although some may find it somewhat amusing, the bottom line is that it shows the disconnect and different factions within the anime community. As a result, anime fans have become increasingly cliquish. Giant mecha fans dislike magical girl fans, seinen fans dislike shojo fans, etc. In essence an “us against them” attitude has been created and fostered within the anime community. We've come to the point where if something becomes immensely popular everyone turns against it, with Naruto being a classic example. This infighting isn't exclusive to only anime. Most of us have long known the debate between which Star Trek series is “better,” the original Star Trek or The Next Generation.

The diversity of the fan base has become a divisive force within the anime community. There are many positive aspects about having a diverse fan base. For instance, it gives anime fandom a sense of inclusion and accessibility. Anime, as a whole, is not an esoteric club that only a few select members can join. Literally anyone can be an anime fan. Gender, age, religious affiliation, political views, or sexual orientations do not prevent anyone from becoming an anime fan. The downside is that this great diversity actually helps divide anime fans. During the developing stages of anime fandom in the U.S., just about all anime fans were college-aged males. It was during this time that perhaps had the greatest sense of community among anime fans. During this time, everyone was on the same page. Coincidentally, it was also during this time that U.S. anime fans had the narrowest of selections, namely the sci-fi and action genres. Today, you can almost predict what type of anime fan someone is just by knowing their demographics. For instance, 13-17 year old girls are much more likely to be fans of shojo or magical girl genres than 13-17 year old boys. Of course there are other examples as well. The college-aged and older male segment may lean more toward the seinen genre than females of the same age group. What I think we are seeing now in anime fandom is more segmentation. Fans are segregating themselves from other fans based on their genre preferences and demographics. In essence, anime fans are forming cliques. There's the pop anime clique, shonen anime clique, shojo anime clique, yaoi anime clique, seinen anime clique, etc. It seems like the more cliques there are, the more disdain they have towards the other cliques. This is no fault of the fans themselves as certain shows are directly targeted to a particular demographic segment. But what fans fail to see is that no matter what particular genre they are in to, it still lies under the larger umbrella that is anime. In short, fans today are not on the same page as they once were when anime was first introduced to the U.S. populace. Fans of a particular genre may not like other genres, this is understandable as there isn't a genre or series that ever has or ever will receive 100% universal appeal. But continually bashing and hating a particular genre will only segregate anime fandom and I get a sense that this has been going on now for the past few years and has only been fueled by the anonymity of internet forums.

            In summary, the popularity and growth of anime, with the wide availability of genres and sub-genres, has gained a devoted fan following that have segregated (whether consciously or unconsciously) themselves from each other. In so doing, these groups have lost the unifying ideal that no matter what genre they like or dislike, ultimately they are all still anime fans.            



Here's next week's question:


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.

I suppose, then, it's time for me to step off of my virtual soapbox (answerbox?) and allow you all to return to your daily lives, without me. It's okay: I'm used to it. Everyone have an awesome week, and see you next time!


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