Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson, May 29th 2009

Hot dang! Welcome back, everyone! I'm ready for another round of this civilized madness known as Answerman, and I'm going to assume that by clicking on the link and reading this that you are, too. First, though, a big hearty thanks to everybody who said nice things about my cartoons and such on my personal site. I love each and every one of you. I half-love those of you who said not-so nice things about them. I have something resembling love for everybody who didn't say anything. I have to ration my love around.

Now to the questions:


Dear Answerman,

I am a fan of Gegege no Kitarō and I have known that very little stuff related to it have been imported (live-action film, manga, "Yokaido Road exhibits, etc.).

I can't believe Toei is exhibiting this property. I have three questions about this:

1. Does this mean the Gegege no Kitarō anime is finally coming to the US?
2. If it is, what kind of impact will it bring here?
3. Could this save anime on US TV and the American anime licensing industry?

I think that you're thinking a bit too heavily about all this. Gegege no Kitarō has been one of Toei's flagship properties since the 1960's, and they've been shopping it around to potential buyers/licensors/broadcasters since then. I haven't seen too much of the newer show, but so far I like the look of it much better than any other recently aired anime series that are based off of much older manga - the designs hew close to the original, appealing manga designs from the 50's, without adding layers upon layers of crappy, chunky-looking shadows and CG lighting, unlike the new Golgo 13 or whatever else.

The fact that Toei's trying to shop the show around isn't at all surprising, honestly. Now, will it come to the US? Maybe. I'd say it's highly unlikely that any of the major US anime distributors - your Funimations and Vizes - would want it, because it's too odd, too Japanese folklore-y, too old-looking. Toei could, though, simply release it here themselves, as they've done with a few of their other properties like Air Master and Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. It wouldn't be terribly successful that way, but at least it would be released.

Gegege no Kitarō is good-natured cartoon fun, but that, sadly, isn't what sells in the anime landscape these days. The few shows that manage to become bona-fide hits need to be darker, less fanciful, and more in line with the likes of Inuyasha or Vampire Knight or Fullmetal Alchemist. I used to be optimistic that one single title could "save" the anime industry, but we're a long ways away from the days of Cowboy Bebop; the economic issues that are plaguing the anime industry from both the inside and out are far beyond the scope of any one specific title, no matter its quality.

Unless Ponyo turns into a hundred-million-dollar blockbuster from out of nowhere. Which would rule. Too bad it won't happen.


I've always been a little curious that World Apartment Horror, the live action film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo was never released in America. I have assumed, perhaps incorrectly that his name had some clout with distributors. I mean, all four of Mamoru Oshii's live-action films have gotten released here. Is it a matter of content (it was just not expected to appeal to American audiences), production values (from what I hear it is supposed to be darkly lit), technical, rights problems, etc.? Thanks.

Me too, actually - I've been curious about World Apartment Horror since I first started watching anime when I was 15. I still haven't seen it, but I *did* snag an imported DVD of Otomo's live-action Mushishi film, sadly titled "Bugmaster" in English, from a friend of mine. It was an interesting but plodding mess, that brushed off much of the development of one of my favorite manga series in favor of confusing exposition and mindless tracking shots of sub-par CGI.

But anyway, Otomo's name does have a bit of clout, but really only when it comes to Akira. Considering that his only other animated feature - Steamboy - was a massive flop, it's probably disconcerting from a business perspective. Honestly, though, I'd say that the biggest impediment for the release of World Apartment Horror is just the timing. It was released in 1991, a full decade before goofy Asian horror movies became en vogue. By now, World Apartment Horror is probably seen as a unique venture but is "too old" to sell well on DVD. That, and it's apparently all kinds of weird. Dark lighting as you mentioned, bizarre social commentary on racism, Sam Raimi-esque horror freakouts, you name it. I'm game for it, as I'm sure a similarly-minded group of eclectic film-goers are, but in these dark times of declining DVD sales I can understand why World Apartment Horror seems destined to be marked as an import-only curiosity in Katushiro Otomo's filmography.


So, I've been hearing rumors about the possible casting of the American-live action Death Note. movie Someone reported that in the magazine "Anime Insider", that Ben Stiller is playing Light Yagami and Owen Wilson is playing L.

A lot of people are confused and I thought it was a big joke from AI or something but I don't physically own the magazine to tell. Do you think you can clarify this?

Gah. I've been getting these Death Note casting rumor emails since I got this gig, and I might as well just address it.

First and foremost, that Stiller/Wilson bit in Anime Insider was obviously a joke. Taking that extremely obvious joke seriously is like someone watching that "Motherlover" sketch from SNL a few weeks back and being legitimately shocked, dismayed, upset and concerned that these two young men were going to f*ck eachothers' mothers.

But as an overall rule, aside from that nonsense, do not, I repeat, DO NOT believe casting rumors on anything. ANYTHING. I thought this was the internet age! A time when skepticism, cynicism, and outright hostility and distrust for authority reigned supreme! When not even cold, honest facts rooted in truth could personally affect anyone!

The only people who are officially attached to an English-language Death Note movie is the studio, in this case Warner Bros., and the screenwriters - Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, who are regarded as up-and-coming Hollywood hotshots for reasons that are unbeknownst to me. I can say this with authority because IT HAS BEEN CONFIRMED BY THE STUDIO THEMSELVES. Now, Warner Bros. is a big studio and is undoubtedly looking for Death Note to be a huge hit, so we're probably going to be hearing a lot of big names tossed around - Zac Efron, et al - as potential cast members up until the movie is finished with pre-production. Since the movie has a tentative release date of 2011, that will be a long time from now.

So do me all a favor, guys. Until Variety or the Hollywood Reporter writes something about the live-action Hollywood Death Note movie, DON'T BELIEVE A DAMN WORD OF IT. There will be a lot of rumors, because it's fun for some reason to assume that your favorite commercial entertainment product will somehow be RUINED when it transferred into a different commercial entertainment product because of the people involved. Until that day comes, though, don't bother looking for anyone to confirm or deny any rumors you hear, because I can assure you that they're all completely bogus.




Speaking of annoying emails I get! In between the vast amount of spam that infiltrates the Answerman inbox, I get lots of confused emails from foreigners wanting to promote their lame anime knockoffs. I of course ignore these, but just today I decided to check one out on a lark.

Hi,

We would like to introduce ourselves as one of the leading Concern provides 2D TV Animation, Cell Animation, Animated TV Series, and Animated Music Video, Educational CD / DVD Etc.

If you are interested for outsourcing we are ready to serve you.

To provide services at right price, right time and best quality is our ultimate aim.

So for any type of queries please contact us without any hesitation.

Thanking you, assuring our best & prompt services at all times.

http://www.tcdinfoline.com

I highly encourage you to visit their website. It contains no actual samples of any of their work, just lots of clumsily worded business-speak with the same banner of excited white people in their offices on every page.

I've always wondered what it would be like if I actually met with any of these people.






Here was last week's question, in case you forgot:


There were a ton of the obvious answers - Cowboy Bebop and Miyazaki - so I probably should've mentioned that I was looking for something a bit different. But I still got plenty of responses aside from those two, so here we go.

Nate praiseth Lovecraft:

Hey Brian,

Something happened recently that made me compelled to answer your question this week (another one of those long-time readers, first-time writers here).

My girlfriend does not really like or approve of my anime watching habits. She lives a good bit away from me, but decided to visit for a weekend not too long ago. I just set up 'Saya no Uta' on my computer, and was ready to get right into it. Saya no Uta, for those who don't know, is a visual novel that is known for its crazy, gore-ridden visuals coupled with a disturbing, Lovecraftian plot. Somehow, later that evening, we ended up reading the whole thing through, and she really enjoyed it.

Let it be said that my girlfriend is timid, and I would think that Saya no Uta would be the farthest thing from her appeal zone. Just goes to show, you never know what will grab people. I think offering up a work of substance instead of fluff goes a long way into showing how versatile the medium can be (both anime and visual novels). While easy watching certainly has some appeal, if you want to generate excitement for a show (at least for my college peers), you have to demonstrate how versatile and intelligent shows can be, while still being entertaining.

Where to develop from here? She may have a dark streak I never knew about, I think Higurashi would be an appropriate choice, or maybe Now and Then, Here and There. I may make a fan out of her yet!

Archangel42 wrote a whole buncha words about Death Note:

This is probably the first time I have ever been driven from silent observer to vehement participant, and it feels like I'm at a great awakening! Usually, most girls I go after are open, but completely oblivious to anime in any incarnation. The first show I usually decide to show them is Death Note not just for what it does but for what it doesn't do.

Its a creative new venture with an angle so bizarre it makes you want to discover where they take it. It tracks the descent of a model citizen into megalomania and madness, pushes the borders of the standards of morality set by a society and chronicles the deadly tactical game between L and Light. And sure, all these qualities add intrigue to the plot but what really adds a layer of depth is the perspective of the work. The story is told mostly through light's point of view, the clear villain of the story. In doing so, it forces the viewers to truly understand his motives and therefore question whether or not his actions are justified. Before they know it, many people find themselves disgusted by light but secretly rooting him on. They learn to hate him, cheer for him, pity him and love him for all his genius, arrogance and twisted ambitions. Any show that can draw upon such a myriad of emotions at such a high intensity and mix them together, that throws the viewer's heart into frenzy as he struggles to make sense of light's contradictions, is a true work of art.

Aside from the plot, there's the quality of the dub. I can hear the conviction of Light from Brad Swaile, the venom in his hate for L, the arrogance behind his sneers. I can catch L's obvious disdain but subtle affection for light or Misa's misguided innocence. And I'm sure others can hear them as well if I show them.

All these aspects of this anime are not the main reason, I would use Death Note to introduce a girl to anime. They're just icing on a rich cake. The flavor? Suspense. Each episode throws the characters into a new and increasingly tighter situation as L and Light get closer to victory. The viewer is almost always on the edge of his seat, always having to swallow his stomach after it nearly leapt from the throat as the credits roll. The show expertly tosses around the viewers' heart in a way that few American thrillers are able to do. In doing so, its a step above them and that is why I would love to show my girlfriend that and why I value such an art form. Any show that manages to have the viewer suspend their belief enough that they skip a heartbeat every minute is one that handles itself in a truly masterful manner.

I also would present this show first because it succeeds in debunking several of the stereotypes of anime that turn so man y people off. There are no overly grand mecha battles, predictable shallow shonen elements, or signs of shoddy animation. There are plenty of shows out there that are just as great but may turn someone off because they might not be able to see past, oh say, the gratuitous yet inseparable gore of Elfen Lied or the thoughtful though confusing conversations of Ghost in the Shell. Death Note has a moderate level of action, believability, fantasy, and light humor that wouldn't scare anyone off and that would make a closed minded critic think "Hey, this is really well done. I wonder what else Anime has to offer?"

The complexity of the themes in the plot, the raw emotions and motives of the voices, the caliber of the suspense and the wide audience appeal. All these factors together create a great (and of course flawed) artistic work that I would gladly show to a girlfriend. Out of all the shows that capture my interest, This work is one that embodies the fundamental elements of the art of storytelling. Because of that, I choose Death Note as the figurehead for anime to a newcomer. And if she doesn't like it, then either it just wasn't the one for her or I probably was talking to her for more than our artistic interests.

I can sense the palpable tension in Liz's marriage:

My husband does not like, nor is he remotely interested, in anime. I, on the other hand, love anime, and for that he calls me a "huge dork" (I won't mention his huge World of Warcraft addiction...oh wait, I just did). So, I took it upon myself to introduce him to some anime, in which, I started him out with your basic Inuyasha. Basically, because it's simple, there are dudes with big swords who are demons, fighting ensues, rinse and repeat. Lo and behold, he loved it (okay, maybe love might be a bit strong). Basically, if it's in English, has fighting, and basic plot he'll watch it, and possibly request to watch more. I've managed to get him to like 2 more series: Trigun and Blood +. Even though my efforts have not been completely fruitless, he still doesn't really like anime and I am still a huge dork. Oh well...his loss.

Alex leaps into his answer:

Most non-anime fans have already seen Miyazaki's work and generally view it as slightly separate (and let's be honest, he is sort of on a level of his own), so I wouldn't really use that as an intro to anime. Satoshi Kon's films are also really good - I especially love Paprika - but he has a tendency to be a little more confusing and much more cerebral than most other filmmakers, so he'd be a little heavy for a first look. I also think that starting with a series rather than a movie would be a mistake because they generally require a larger time commitment and are easy to get up from between episodes. Therefore, I would show The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It has a very sweet story and is a wonderful watching experience without being overly arty and doesn't really make people work to watch it. Also, it strikes me as a pretty good date movie. I mean, Akira is a great movie, but it isn't exactly romantic.

Andrew goes right for the jugular:

If my significant other was not familiar or didn't care of anime, I would show them 5cm per Second for the fact it is a good story and could be played out in a real movie. I think the main reason people don't care for anime would be they see it as a huge sci-fi/comedy genre that appeals more to children than adults. By showing 5cm per Second, I could show the genre is filled with good quality work and compares to modern stories made in real life movies.

If my significant other was more patient to go through a whole series however, I would have them watch ef: a tale of memories because when I first watched the series, I couldn't stop watching after getting to Episode 2. This was the first series I couldn't quit watching in the middle. Also, the ending of both of the stories is done so beautifully I would say it is one of the best works I have seen of any genre of movies and TV shows. I still watch the final two episodes every now and then.

Matt poses an important question. I just sort of assumed that if you read my column and are seeing anyone that they are comparably geeky, so there you go:

The question actually has one other major factor: whether or not your significant other is a geek.

If they are not, you have to tread a slow and narrow path, sticking with the most widely accepted anime around (Studio Ghibli). Also you really have to stick to anime movies for a good while. Non-geeks are a lot less familiar with sitting down to watch several episodes of a show on DVD. Be wary of anime series though. Just because they like American romantic comedy shows does not mean that they will like His and Her Circumstances. Similar themes cannot necessarily overcome the difference in media. Do not introduce Martian Successor Nadesico very early on. I've made that mistake before.

Geeks, on the other hand, may well be accustomed to marathons of Firefly, Dr. Who, or Farscape. So it's not a huge stretch to introduce TV series right off the bat. Cowboy Bebop is often a good decision. They may also be interested in stuff like Escaflowne, Crest of the Stars, or Fullmetal Alchemist, depending on their particular area of geek expertise. Also, they're generally less confused by animation, so you can be more comfortable with somewhat less conventional films like Millenium Actress.

I should let Kevin know that my One Piece obsession is sort of a deal-breaker for me:

What a great question! Let me begin with a few "real-life" experiences about this topic. In my family, we all started off with what was available to us kids: Pokémon, Digimon, and whatever other "mon" show that there was with the occasional unintentionally hilarious Battle Arena Toshinden OAV that we rented from a local Hollywood Video (and am still convinced we are the only ones that did; ever). As we got older, our interests expanded all over the place, with marriage, kids, work, and all that entails "real life".

Getting to the point. My older brother is obsessed with Gundams. His obsession began with the Transformers cartoon of the 80s, and he faithfully watched every incarnation of the franchise and developed a deep love for giant robots. However, he fell in love with a real woman after time, and soon after, she married him and his humongous robot collection. Being the huge Gundam fan he was, he knew he wouldn't survive if his significant other didn't at least tolerate Gundams and anime in general. Thus, the first thing that he watched with her to expose his love interest in Gundams was... believe it or not, NOT Gundam Wing but G-Gundam. And she loved it. Today they maintain the tradition of watching the whole dang series once per year. They have since expanded to watching Rurouni Kenshin, Fullmetal Alchemist, Gundam 00 and Code Geass.

It would depend on the type of person that your significant other is. If they're sportsy, I would try my hand at exposing them to Whistle! (not the anime), Eyeshield 21 or Slam Dunk. If they were into fantasy, I would definitely try Fullmetal Alchemist, as a matter of fact, FMA is probably one of the safest series to expose a non-anime fan to. When most people think "anime" they have in their minds images of mouths not matching words, dramatic poses, card games, blue hair, and little yellow rats that shoot electricity for some reason. However, Fullmetal Alchemist doesn't really have any of that. It doesn't rely on gimmicks to tell a really great story that just captivates people. I have found that another one of the best series to expose them to is Death Note for the same reason. I personally love One Piece, but I wouldn't consider it a good "starter series."

Rounding it out for the week, Conrad is a man of simple convictions:

The first anime I'd show my significant other would be Eureka Seven because if she doesn't like it, our relationship is so over!

Your assignment for next week is as follows:




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 guess that's it, then. I'll see you guys in a week, so keep on keepin' on. And by that I mean pore your thoughts and hopes and dreams into my inbox so that I can keep doing this thing. Good night!


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