Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson, Apr 10th 2009


Hi guys! It's been a week and so I'm back to fulfill the duties that have been set forth by your questions and the many rapt and eager attentions waiting to view my responses. Not that I'm getting somewhat mildly egotistical about this.

Just a quick note, though, that I won't be here next week for Answerman – that's the first production week for my upcoming play – so instead there will be a very special guest filling in for me. Maybe perhaps someone you've heard of before. Something like that.

But, um! Let's just get on with the question-answering for now, and I can worry about all my stupid and forgettable creative endeavors later!


Answerman,
First off, I thank you very much for eventually getting to my question as I know that there have been somewhat similar questions in the past regarding this issue; I would like to state that this is not meant to be a rehash of the "Why can't they bring blu-ray anime discs to the US" argument. Beginning perhaps around last Spring with titles such as Nodame Cantabile: Paris-hen and Vampire Knight Guilty I noticed that fan-subbers were beginning to realize things in 720p HD content and without starting on the whole fansub argument I found this rather surprising. My question in short is how are production costs and times effected by airing anime in HD? I know that the resolution is strikingly larger but are the original drawings that go into the shows large enough to translate into the larger 1280 x 720 without having to add more detail and size to the original drawings. Depending on the answer to that question, how drastically does this affect production costs and would this therefore lead to only more popular series getting this kind of treatment, etc?
Thank you (and sorry for being long-winded)

If that was considered “long-winded” in any sense then I dare you to spend possibly ten minutes reading Pitchfork Media. Seriously; your brain will choke you to death.

Actually, to be honest, the animation industry is perhaps the easiest and cheapest entertainment format to convert from standard-definition to high-definition. The main reason being that for the past ten years or so, with the exception of certain feature films from Miyazaki and a few technophobic independent filmmakers, all of animation has been produced digitally anyways. The technology is already there and everybody knows how to use it; compare this to switching to HD on a big live-action show, which requires a substantial investment in new cameras, editing equipment, new lighting to compensate for the increased detail, et cetera.

So seriously, all the studios need to do to produce their anime shows in HD is simply scan and format their drawings in a higher resolution. Although that's actually not quite as simple as I'm making it sound; sure, they can just scan in their drawings at a higher resolution, but in order to make those drawings suitable for an HD broadcast requires quite a bit more post-processing and digital enhancement work than on a standard-definition show. Luckily, the networks typically shell out a tiny bit more cash for an HD show so it isn't much of an issue to work around it.

Do you think declining birth rates in Japan are going to affect the amount of anime aimed at children in Japan?

I love speculative questions! Short answer: not really. Longer answer: of course, but not in such a way that will be noticeable to anyone but the most ardent anime nerd and devotee. I think the real question will be, in the larger state of the Japanese economy, will shrinking birth rates do anything to upset the value of the youth demographic in general? That's going to affect more than just anime, and could have a drastic impact on their entire entertainment industry. Every week Japan's top toy companies debut a new collectable action-figure card-game whatever and it debuts alongside a tie-in video game and anime series; if that market suddenly dried up, that would certainly deprive a hefty portion of the anime industry a lot of work.

But really, anime is such an ingrained and, at this point, culturally significant part of Japan's identity that it's not likely to cause the industry to completely collapse. If anything will cause that to happen it'll be their recent proclivities towards producing dozens of shows every season that cater exclusively to hardcore Japanese otaku and have little to no hope of gaining a wider audience, which in turn drives down demand for more acceptable anime fare and lowers the budgets for anime shows across the board! Hooray!


Hey, Answerman!

With the spring season beginning and everyone on ANN posting their impressions of the shows debuting, this seems like the perfect chance to ask these questions. What's the most novel idea you've seen an anime begin with that you didn't believe would work but actually did? Also, what anime began with a routine or mediocre setup that changed into a fantastic series?

Arcade Gamer Fubuki.

Kidding! For the latter part of that question: Detective Conan or Case Closed or whatever you feel is appropriate to call it. There is a show that should not work under any rational circumstances: a show with such twisted, insane internal logic that it doesn't simply ask for your suspension of disbelief, it sexually assaults it at gunpoint. A show that lasts for over one-thousand or so episodes where a teenager solves every murder in Japan except that he's only six years old because of some magic poison and also he has a rocket skateboard and a scientifical voice-changing bowtie. And every episode unfolds in nearly exactly the same formula; Conan and his friends go somewhere to visit, a murdered body is “mysteriously” found, and everybody who was previously introduced in the episode is a suspect. And the murders are always distressingly gory.

And yet it's the most addictive and entertaining damned show I've ever seen. The skill and energy at Case Closed's disposal is what really sells it; the animation is unusually colorful and fluid and distill the weirdly gruesome but childlike vision of the original manga, and the characters quickly become such lovable archetypes that you don't necessarily care that the show is formulaic and insane.

For the former: I don't know if it counts, because it's a movie and not a series, but Wings of Honneamise, definitely. I don't think any other film, animated or live action or Japanese or Croatian or otherwise, has even approached the story that film tells and certainly not in the way that the film tells it. It's about space travel, but it's not super-robots and Star Trek nonsense, but a calm look at a strangely alien and comfortingly human planet and it's first astronaut hero, coming to grips with his faith and his desire to do great things, in spite of himself. No part of that movie is a cliché, and the art direction is some of the best I've ever seen. I only wish that the DVD weren't prohibitively expensive and hard to find so that I could sing it's praises even more.

Curses and profanities at you, Bandai Visual.





Somebody with a name I can't print sent me this message:

Hey Answerman,

I was wondering what hentai animes (any kind,furry,rape, guro, scat, yaoi or a combination of such) gets you really horny? I'm into alot of stuff that often objectifies women, involving no emotional direction with the characters, [gross stuff deleted] everywhere; just ground-to-earth heavy hitting hentai action. Which series get so hot that [more gross stuff deleted]? I'm sure an otaku such as yourself would be an expert on hentai seeing as most of us sit around browsing [link deleted] all day long.

Here are some awesome videos about giant octopi.






Here's the question from last week:


Josh gets us started with coats:

From the top of my head, one of my favorite anime cliches would be "The badass Longcoat". I mean come on, it's just stylish, and it always will be awesome. Although it's normally worn by characters in cliched shonen shows, I can't help but always wish I had one myself, but always realized that it would completely absurd in real life. Another would be the extreme happy ending, and when I meant that, I mean like you had to see people in the series acting like complete, then seeing that some people aren't so bad after all. To me that brings in some more dept and emotional punch to a series, it helped Now and Then, Here and There.

Otaking feels the love:

Most cliches in anime are, more or less, unnoticable to me. Others, if I am looking for that sort of thing, are pretty obvious. Some cliches are VERY enjoyable, and those I am going to say.

I LOVE the part in romances where they "don't" really confess their feelings to their counterpart. What I mean is, it's confession time, but they don't Say, "I Love You".!", they say "I want you!" or "I can't live without you!" The reason is because, when two characters Say, "I Love You"., it doesn't sound right, unless they've been in a relationship for awhile, which is rare in an anime (except Eureka Seven), or until the person seemingly and convincingly dies before their very eyes. It sounds forced, especially if all they have been doing is fighting or arguing. That is not love!

Examples of these are the final moments of Elfen Lied which both made me scared, yet made me cry, and they didn't really say it.

Another one is in Code Geass, how both Lelouch and C.C. have their moments, they don't it, but you can feel how much they are drawn to each other..

One last example is in the last episode of Negima The last episode is not as powerful as my last two examples, it proves that sometimes actions do speak louder than words, and it made that ending much better than "I love you!"

Lindsay wants to eat toast:

One of the anime clichés I genuinely love is the "late girl running with toast in her mouth". (I think you may have had this as an answer to the Answerfans with hated clichés, but oh well. ^_^) I was reminded by the first episode of K-ON! that just came out. I've seen it in many anime before, the one most prominent in my mind being Sailor Moon. The food in the scene really has to be toast, or it really doesn't have the same cuteness factor. I'm sure the American equivalent would be something like a muffin or granola bar or doughnut, but they aren't comparable. Who hasn't been late for school/work/whatever and grabbed something to eat? It's relatable but adorable. In the future, when they have food pills and supplement drips, girls will still be grabbing toast off their floating tables and zipping off to space school.

Alex likes to mix it up:

Dear Answerman, You really threw me through a loop on this one. "What anime cliches do I LOVE?" you ask. I was dumbfounded upon first reading the question. One of the main reasons I watch anime is because of its diversity in pretty much everything. What other entertainment medium can be as easily diverse as anime? My "Currently Watching" list last season included Bleach, Vampire Knight (Guilty), Casshern Sins, and Ghost in the Shell (among movies like 5 Centimers Per Second). The themes, tones, moods, execution, demographic targets-- the list goes on for the aspects that vary greatly among just these shows. But then I look at that list. I stop at Bleach and think, "shounen" pretty much IS cliche. Especially if you watch multiple shounens like Naruto, D.Gray-man, Shakugan no Shana, and Soul Eater. I'm saying it-- if you enjoy shounen, you enjoy cliche.

While I'm always looking for something different, I can always fall back on teenagers with weapons cutting each other up with flashy colors. Was I SURPRISED when Ichigo from Bleach is always magically 100x stronger between the fights he participates in throughout the show? No. But do I return time and time again unwaveringly to watch him do it without question? You can bet your Evangelion toy collection I do!

But aside from genre cliches, anime is one of the most varied mediums. As such, each genre is a self-contained world of cliches and tropes that are fantastic in small doses. Because of this, if you don't enjoy the tropes within said genre, you won't enjoy said genre. This is specifically different than non-anime TV programming. For example: just because you enjoy South Park, does not mean you'll enjoy Family Guy, Futurama, or American Dad (but then again, no one enjoys American Dad). And these all fall under the genre of "(animated) comedy". LOST is certainly a "drama" and many of its followers do not usually enjoy drama (including myself).

Which is why, when you get tired of the shounen cliches, you can move on and enjoy the magical girl cliches, until you get tired of them, and settle with mecha cliches for a bit. It's a happy, healthy cycle of repeated genres and shows just broad enough to give you the illusion of new; just until something that is actually new comes out. This, in fact, might be the biggest cliche that brings us all in and never lets us go.

Sarah has one soft spot for each of these clichés, or many soft spots that correspond to each cliché individually? I'm confused:

Of all the cliches in anime-dom, I have a particular soft spot for these:<./p>

--The average kid who wants to be the very best at whatever: Be it Ash and his dream of being a Pokémon Master, Luffy and his quest for One Piece, or the Yakitate!! Japan cast and their adventures at finding the perfect bread, I resonate with this trope because the character that wants to be the very best at whatever puts a lot of heart into attaining his/her goal, and are (usually) likeable enough that you want them to succeed.

--Sparkly transformations with cool music and cooler outfits. Ever since I saw Sailor Moon transform for the first time all those years ago, I have been fascinated by magical girls (and magical boys) and their transformation sequences, partly because they give me inspiration to keep designing magical girls (and boys) of my own.

--A motley crew of misfits that have to save the world--It's not so much the saving the world part that resonates with me, it's the growing, bonding, and maturing of the misfits that makes me keep watching. For example, in Slayers, Lina and Gourry start out not exactly on the best of terms, but as their quest goes on, they gain a newfound respect for each other.

Marcelo gets all dramatical on us:

Favorite cliché? Easy one! The battle is almost lost. There is no energy left in our hero's body. He can't move, it's all going to end... wait, what's that? Whose voice is this... oh! It's from his girlfriend/childhood friend/sister/brother/father/platonic love! After hearing it, he remembers of all the people he has met, notice that he's not alone, and that all those people's powers are being transfered to him! This is it! With the power of all of his friends, he will defeat his opponent, with... The Ultimate Ultra Super Friendship Family Eternal Holy Power Mana Spiritual Sacred My Last Shot This Is All I've Got Shining Magical Attack of Destruction and Salvation!

It's been done a million times by now, but in my opinion, it just never gets old. It's like the only message about friendship that actually hits the viewers - it's cool, it's awesome, it makes you remember why you're watching the show in the first place, and eventually it brings back some characters that you forgot, but then they're mentioned and you get like "oh, I know him! Wow, he was so cool!". The animators usually put their best animation for those scenes, as they just know they're awesome. To say the truth, I like that cliché so much that it's the main reason why I think the ending of the Shaman King anime is better than the manga's (altough the manga hasn't actually ended, but still).

Anyway, it's just the perfect way to end the battle against that evil overlord who spent the last 70-something episodes trying to destroy our heroes. It doesn't matter whether the rest of the battle was good or dull, this last bit just HAS to be the best. The world would be a better place if conflicts could be solved with the Ultimate Beam Stuff of Friendship.

Lianna's word is bond, friends:

I had to think pretty hard on this one. Cliches in anime usually make me want to tear my hair out (which is one of the reasons I tend to prefer older anime, even though I'm part of the younger generation), so trying to come up with one that I actually like was pretty tough.

Oddly enough, the one I came up with is the classic but worn-out magical girl genre, which, with a few exceptions, is almost a cliche in itself. A billion different titles come to mind when you hear the words "girl is given a piece of jewelry which she uses to transform into a costumed super hero and collect objects/defeat enemies with the help of a furry mascot," the most common probably being Sailor Moon. Look at Tokyo Mew Mew: it's pretty much exactly the same thing, but with some added romance, environmental awareness, and the weirdness of all of the characters being named after foods. Even Card Captor Sakura, which is arguably one of the best magical girls ever made, follows the same formula.

In spite of that (or perhaps because of it), I love magical girls. I love the extremely irritating, repetitive transformation sequences, I love the "dramatic" names they give their unbelievably unimaginative attacks, and I love the ridiculous costumes. I even love how pointless and ridiculous the little mascot characters are. There's something oddly reassuring about watching a magical girl series, especially the really cliche ones. It's good to know that no matter how screwed up the world becomes, these old formulas will always be around, and people will always be idiots. Plus, every now and then you come across a magical girl series that took up the formula, added in a few extra ingredients, took away a few others, stuck it all in a blender, and came out with something amazingly original and interesting in an amazingly unoriginal, uninteresting genre. Princess Tutu sounds like one big, overly-cute mess when you read the synopsis or even the title, but the series manages to be amazingly touching and funny and interesting. Card Captor Sakura is just like every other magical girl out there formula-wise: Sakura is given magical powers by a cute, talking stuffed animal and has to seal all of the magic cards wandering around with a pink staff. It's the fact that Sakura actually has to work and think that makes the series interesting; in the first episode, she takes on a huge bird with nothing but a staff, a card, and a pair of roller skates, and you end up leaning forward in your seat to watch how she does it.

And pretty much every thing is is something like Magical Kanan, a show I saw before I stopped watching fansubs. Everything, even the main character's design, seems to have been taken from about a billion other shows. The main character's "pet" is a freaky pink rabbit-thing that can talk to her telepathically, and the girl herself is a complete rip off of Sakura from CCS. She has to go searching for lost "seeds," which were stolen and scattered all over the place for no apparent reason from some magical place somewhere, and that's all we know. Apparently she's "the only one who can save us," but we don't know why, and the statement loses all of its meaning when a rival magical girl shows up out of no where. It was also apparently based on a hentai OVA, which is such a frightening concept I don't even want to think about it.

Basically, magical girls will always either be entertaining for either the sole purpose of being exactly like every other magical girl ever made, or actually be good shows by some miracle. Some of it's anime gold, and the rest... not so much, but whichever it is, it's bound to be entertaining, or at least stupid enough to earn a few laughs.

Anton is quoting the original ending to DuckTales for the NES:

There's no need for a specific example, because every and all anime either do or should-do (if they haven't already) this: when characters become their strongest because they realize their friendships.

Because everything should be about friendship.

Great job everyone! Very insightful and entertaining, and now we've got NEXT WEEK'S AMAZING 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.

Okay guys, I'm off to go perform some horrible thing in front of a crowd in my dinky little desert town that nobody cares about! I'll be back in two weeks!


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