Hey, Answerman!by Brian Hanson, Mar 6th 2009
Hey folks! Welcome to Answerman. The thing on this website-deal that answers your... stuff.
Before we start, though, I have two things to discuss that we, and by “we” I mean Answerman as an entity unto itself, don't do very often.
Firstly, I'd like to plug something. I'm doing a play! I wrote and will be starring in a show called “I'm Sorry I Liked You” that'll be running for a week starting April 17th. If you are happily located in or around Tucson Arizona, or perhaps wouldn't mind driving or even flying across this great nation of ours just to watch some guy on stage (with a bunch of other actors, too, I guess) curse like a sailor and complain about his personal problems involving women and success, then come on down! Here are the facebook and MySpace event pages for those curious.
Secondly, I'm publishing a follow-up to a question posed last week! This won't be a regular thing by the way, so please don't make a habit out of responding to every little thing that bugs you via e-mail; that's what the forums are for, folks.
But! Last week somebody asked a question about why anime seems to cover a wider range of genres than American “cartoons.” I of course did my usual song and dance about how I hate that “genre” is often synonymous with the word “animation” when it shouldn't be, and outlined several business-minded ways as to why your average mainstream American “cartoon show” seems limited in scope compared to anime. During which, the Cartoon Network show Chowder was mentioned as an example. Well, I got a letter from the creator of Chowder himself, C.H. Greenblatt! It's pretty insightful, so give it a read.
I'm writing in response to the letter from the person asking about the difference between American and Japanese animation. As a long-time fan of ANN and a regular reader of your column, I thought I'd chime in. Plus as the creator of Chowder, the show you both seem to diss on, I figure I have to represent a little.
I think you've actually oversimplified the problem in blaming it all on the executives. Yes, most development executives in animation are pretty worthless. Most of them really do not like animation and look at it as a stepping stone to get into “Hollywood.” There's very little glamour in animation and those of us who do it do so out of love for the medium. It's a miracle any good show ever gets made on tv here.
Every show is a child of what came before it. You can say Chowder is like Spongebob, but to me it's only really similar in the tone and the audience. I'd like to think it owes more to the cruddy but wonderful Saturday morning cartoons I watched in the 80's. I worked on Spongebob, and I remember when that first came out everyone was saying it was another Ren & Stimpy. All of us who work on these shows live, eat, breathe, and love animation. We're really just trying to carry on the silly cartoon antics of what was started back in the Warner Brothers days.
Chowder was an extremely hard sell to the network. They thought it looked too young. They didn't like the use of patterns. They didn't like the stop motion. They were afraid it promoted over-eating. But everyone really responded to the vibe of the pilot and a few people at the network who really believed in me helped push it through to greenlight over a grueling, two-year process. Spongebob was a hard sell, too. Nick felt that no one wanted to see a show about a nerd. Very few shows are actually dictated by the executives. They tend to kill good things more often than make them happen. It's a lot easier to say “No” than “Yes.”
For the writer of the letter to say there are no action shows on anymore is kind of ridiculous. Action is actually the easiest type of show to sell because toys are involved. Often the toy deal is in place before the show even begins. But I agree with you about Batman. Batman was groundbreaking and almost every action show since then has been trying to catch up.
But I think the real difference between American and Japanese animation is a cultural one. Animation in America has long had to fight against the stigma that animation is just for kids, and any attempt otherwise would be corrupting the youth. Because why on earth would adults ever even watch such drivel? But in Japan, comics and animation are enjoyed by the masses, by people of all ages. So you have a greater diversity, by nature of having a more diverse audience. I think it's just now, with shows like South Park, Family Guy, and the Adult Swim block of shows that Americans are starting to see that animation can transcend more than one age group.
I remember seeing Akira when it first came out on video. That was a cornerstone and it really did change everything. The only other thing that has come as close to opening my eyes about animation is Fantasia.
I've been a big anime fan for a while. It felt like really fresh take on a medium I love. And for a while I ingested everything I could. So I think it's natural, when you first see Japanese animation as westerner to be as smitten. But Japanese animation has it's own share of crap. And a lot of it. For every good show, there are 30+ bad ones put out by Japanese executives looking to cash in on a formula. So to say that Japanese animation is a Mecca while American animation sucks is a bit of a oversimplification. We do a lot of things well that the Japanese don't do. They don't do cartoony. A lot of their storytelling is vague, incoherent, and pretends to be deep (which is probably why it plays well with teens. Ahh, youth.) Each side has its strengths.
I praise the heavens every time I get to watch something wonderful and new like a Samurai Champloo, a Paranoia Agent, a Beck, or I get to read a Monster, a Vagabond, or a Mu-Shi-Shi. But I also really like watching South Park and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I like laughing. And the medium of animation lets me do things with my imagination that no other medium can do. When you see a show like Chowder, you're seeing the efforts of people who believe that animation can make people happy. And most people don't think about this, but it's actually a lot harder to make funny family entertainment, where you are operating under lots of rules and constrictions, than if you have carte-blanche to be as wild and crazy as you want.
I guess we shouldn't bemoan the differences, but hope that we keep getting good stuff from both sides. And as the influence of anime spreads, more and more people will start to believe that animation can be more than just entertainment for kids. Not that there's anything wrong with entertaining kids.
Well put, and honestly I feel a little bad for what must've seemed like a dismissive attitude about Chowder – because I actually, honestly really like it. It's colorful and fun and silly and, I think, one of the best-looking cartoon shows on TV.
...well dang, now I just want to talk about cartoons for the rest of this thing. Which, in the minds of many, I actually am. Can't we invent some kind of new term for this stuff that is all-encompassing and sounds intelligent, like when comics people invented the term “Graphic Novel” and “Sequential Art”?
For now: Questions!
I just wondered something. Is it a bad thing to like Yu-Gi-Oh!? After watching Yu-Gi-Oh! the Abridged Series, I think I am growing fond of it again. I genuinely want to enjoy that crazy franchise, but there is a lot of hate directed at it. Is liking Yu-Gi-Oh! bad? Or am I allowed to go for it?”
You wanna like Yu-Gi-Oh!? Go on ahead and like frickin' Yu-Gi-Oh!. I'm going to allow it, even though I think Yu-Gi-Oh! is immensely lame and retarded even for the drooling ten-year-olds it's designed for. Why? Because, in your own words, you want to “genuinely enjoy” it.
And I appreciate and approve of that. One thing that always bugs me about people in my generation is that they find it difficult, for some reason, to “genuinely” enjoy anything. There always has to be some level of irony or something else there to distance themselves from something silly for them to be caught dead “enjoying” it. I have more respect for the trailer-park residents of Oklahoma that actually think Walker, Texas Ranger is really a good show versus the sophomoric hipsters that like to quote True Facts About Chuck Norris. So really, if it entertains you, then by God, dig into it. Doesn't matter if it's Yu-Gi-Oh! or, heaven help you, M.D. Geist, just go nuts. So long as you aren't writing Bible-length Yu-Gi-Oh! / M.D. Geist crossover fanfiction or walking around in public wearing a ceramic medallion of Yugi you've crafted yourself. It's perfectly sane to simply enjoy even the most insane, moronic parts of our already sort of insane and moronic anime fandom.
That said, though, be prepared for a host of weird looks from adults should you ever mention your penchant for Yu-Gi-Oh! in public. Honestly, I'd keep that bit of information just between you and me.
I am going to a convention for the first time at the end of this month and I am overly excited about it. But there is one problem, special guests. I mean, what do I do for special guests? Do I wander by them, stare, and gawk at their presence like animals at the zoo? I realize I can go up to them and ask them to sign items but I don't have any of their items though due to a very limited budget. There is a "meet the guests" session but if that was all they had the guest do at conventions. I imagine there would be no need of special guests. My questions are many and nervous they sound but concerned at the same time. Any advice is apperciated.
Here is what you should do when approaching the special guests:
- Bathe beforehand
- Shake their hand (or, if the situation calls for it, a hi-five is similarly appropriate)
- State your name and politely mention that you are a big fan of their work, and what a pleasure it is to meet them in person!
Here is what you should not do when approaching special guests:
- Ask for certain, unspeakable parts of your anatomy to be signed
- Ask them if they'd like to come back to your mom's house and play WoW with you and eat Cup o' Noodles
- Awkwardly demand a hug while being visibly sexually aroused
- Demand that they call up Japan RIGHT NOW to make a new season of Sailor Moon
And that's it, really, Frequent con-going guests are always pleased to meet and greet their fans in almost any capacity; that's why they're there! Even if you feel like you've got nothing really to say or nothing to have signed, they are simply human, and always appreciate a compliment or two from one of their fans.
Of course, they appreciate those compliments better when you have showered and aren't trying to whisper naughty things into their ear.
There is a thought that has been nagging me for a while. With a company as great as Geneon (the US division at least) gone, it isn't safe to assume that all big distributors will be around in the next 10 years. It is sorta scary (not in the jason vorhees sense), to imagine not seeing anime in any physical stores. I want to support the industry for their determination to stick with such a bleeding market where alternatives such as youtube and piracy is prevalent. As an avid collector I owe them that much for giving me something as enjoyable as anime all these years. What do you think will save the American anime industry?
Reading one of the questions you answered on Feb. 13th about box sets prompted this question. I found it to be a dire move industrially. Shying away from individual volume release and moving towards straight to box set release (as was the case for Ouran) cuts production costs and saves us collector folk time and money from having to wait six to twelve month spans to finish whole series at $30 a volume.
So, after this, I'm gonna hold off on the “ANIME IS DOOOOOOMED!!!” questions for a while. I think after this week we've covered it enough from just about every possible non-boring angle.
In the retail market, I'm with you completely; inexpensive boxed sets are the way to go. Provided, of course, that other methods are available to casual consumers to “sample” the product first, which is where sites like Hulu and Youtube and Crunchyroll (uh, not to mention the vast video streaming archive we have right here on ANN!) come into frame. I think it's a smart move by all parties concerned, and once the economy in general evens out a bit (hopefully), they'll start to reap the rewards for it.
Generally speaking, though, I think what'll save the anime market in the US is, well, the question I posed for last week's Hey Answerfans – whatever the big, new mainstream anime hit turns out to be. Viz looked like they were gonna explode into a pure volcano of profit when Naruto and Bleach started out, but the barrier to entry on those shows is pretty high since they're so long and rather uneven in quality, episode to episode. Plus, they're mainly marketed towards teenagers. Afro Samurai could've been that show, but it's famed delayed production between seasons prevented its audience from becoming too familiar with it. If I may be obliged to answer my own question, I think that the next big hit here is going to come from something bold, stylish, and unique from some enterprising, young Japanese animators that are sort of tired and bored of working on late-night softcore porn shows, and create something episodic yet challenging, silly but sophisticated, for the western audience in mind.
Another Cowboy Bebop that isn't actually Cowboy Bebop, basically.
A reader named Momo sent me an email describing why I don't get good Flakes of the Week, which was mostly a none-too-thinly veiled series of disparaging remarks against the previous Answerman, and my editor, and my gracious, wonderful, beautiful friend, Zac Bertschy. She ends it thus:
“This is why you never get good Flakes of the Week. You should try to be more antagonistic and nasty. Also, your bunny cartoon isn't funny.”
Here's the question from last week:
As per usual, great responses, all! Here's the cream of the proverbial crop.
Kerry has a few shows in mind:
Gosh, the newest breakout series to me would be three. Vampire Knight and it's sequel Vampire Knight Guilty, which are still in Japan, but have finished their run, Soul Eater, and Kuroshitsuji. Before Funimation announced the My Bride Is a Mermaid release, I read their blog and almost everyone wanted Vampire Knight. Thanks to the Twilight Saga, vampires are becoming rather popular and I know that it'll be one big hit once it's released here in the States.
Soul Eater, although new, has recieved some good hype as well, bringing in the dark tones as well. Although I rarely find good dark anime that suit my taste, but Soul Eater has been a good one and Kuroshitsuji, which I dunno when the heck they plan on putting the manga out either. I know Soul Eater's no D. Gray Man, but it's also one anime we're all waiting for as well here in the states.
As for Kuroshitsuji, it's brand new, a tad dark to a point, but has comedy and of course shinigami, demons, and a butler who can do anything (not to mention he's dashingly handsome). There's no release date for the manga to be sterilized in English however, which gets me down, but after watching the anime in Japanese, I see a rather big hype with it later further down the road.
You ask what we think will be the next big mainstream hit? Why, i've already seen it. I'll tell you about it. Its about a young boy who realizes that he is different from everyone else, and that he has a power that no one else can match, should he be able to control it. The boy will be somewhat oblivious, which will allow many scenes of comic relief as he traverses through the dark and dismal road to defeat the power that threatens the woman he may or may not be in love with. As he continues on his way, he will meet many foes and allies, who will all get their own episodes to show off their own powers; honed from the tragic pasts they suffered through all their lives (which will allow further episodes to fill in with flashbacks.) As he trains and develops his skills, he will gain attacks that swallow thousands of dollars in animation costs, and cause fanboys/fangirls to swoon. Once the initial thrill has worn off, however, he will realize that to TRULY defeat the evil, he needs MORE power, and MORE flashy attacks.
What a spunky Saiyan... i mean Ninja... i mean Soul Reaper...
Sarcasm aside, this is the formula that seems to engross the mainstream Americans. I have friends who will make fun of my anime hobby, calling me (jokingly?) a pedophile, and telling me to go watch my "Hen-tee" and fap to some furries, then they'll go back to their dorms and discuss how Cell's second form was much better than his third, and that Vegeta could kick anyone's ass if given the chance.
Anything that requires more thinking, like Death Note, or Cowboy Bebop, is stupid and annoying to them.
So until Japan follows the formula and stops trying to create shows with unnecessary things like "plot development", "ethos", and "requiring intellectual thought/discussion", there won't be another mainstream hit. Oh well. Now i'm off to listen to my friends recount the entire Garlic Jr. Saga, while acting out the battle scenes. Hopefully i can rewatch Akira later.
Laura Chris thinks:
I'm really glad you asked this question because it's something I relate to and I actually have time to give an answer. I seem to be in the declining years of my anime consumption but every now and then there comes a “big hit” that actually deserves its title. And that's when I actually start watching a decent amount of anime per month again.
So, what I think will be the next big hit? Easy, Liar Game! Currently the manga is available in Japan but I have a distinct feeling it's going to cross the pond any day now. Heck, if a manga is this good after 5 volumes it has my vote!
Now I know that assuming means making an ass out of you and me but I'm still going to present my reasons for considering Liar Game the next big hit:
1) Good plot. As in the author actually thought of something intelligent to put in it. Great twists and turns: you bust your brains trying to figure out what's going to happen next. No more mindless nonsense about stupidly presented values like friendship, love or the excessive need to protect…stuff. The plot is so good (for me at least) that I'm even willing to over look the conspicuous gender roles (thought I admit they are a little itching). But hey, I can still wait and hope for more character development.
2) No quest like nothing. There, I said it! In my opinion the anime industry lately has been spammed with quest like animes that, gah, never ever end! Now though some are somewhat enjoyable (like D.Gray Man minus the fillers) some are just getting on my nerves. And the best part about it, there is no bitching about having to become stronger in a 3 day training session that might kill you but never does. C'mon, if you can't make a point in 200+ episodes maybe it's time to reassess what you're trying to say. Even we, the fans, need closure some time soon after episode 70!
3) Ah, the cool use of intellect *heart-throb*. I think we all had our fair share of really strong heroes with no brains what so ever. Finally the main characters all use their smarts to get around. Well to some extent, maybe they don't deserve all the credit since they are placed in situations that simply cannot be resolved with violence but it's still a pretty refreshing change.
4) Judging on the response Death Note got, I think Liar Game is also going to be loved. Sure, we don't have death gods with funky hairstyles floating around but then again, humans are far more interesting.
That all I can say in the limited time that I have. Hope I made it convincing enough to make you pick up a volume of Liar Game and enjoy quality entertainment.”
Ian Strope may be a bit confused:
“I may have misunderstood the question but I'll give it a shot and pitch a few good ideas for what may become popular animes:
1) Since economies are becoming that of the 1930's and 1970's, I think that music similar to Woody Guthrie but combined with disco will get big. I think this will result in They Shot Horses Don't They? style dance competitions where people will boogey down to this folk-funk. An anime based on such a competition will come to exist and become quite popular probably in 2013 or so.
2)Since people are all kinds of paranoid about all sorts of things a show about parasitic alien micro-organisms taking over the brains of world leaders and bringing about an Armageddon on Earth might be appealing. I guess it would be like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or that TV show V. Maybe they could get Michael Ironside to do a voice?
Finally, Josh puts it simply:
BAOH. It's only a matter of time.
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.
Alright, well. That's all I've got. All be around next week, of course! Barring any unforeseen fatal accidents or sudden influxes of millions of dollars. Either one. Keep it real, guys!
Thanks to Phillip Harrington for the Hey, Answerman! banner. We are forever in his debt.
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