Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson, Jul 17th 2009

It's pretty late, I'm tired, and my deadline approaches, so I'm foregoing any sort of pedantic introductions and just moving along to what I'm assuming you're all here to see. No, not bunny pictures.


What makes One Piece so gosh darn good? I love it, but can't figure out why. It's hard to explain to people I know, even other fans of the series.

One Piece is terrific! Except when it isn't. And it often isn't. But more often than not, it is.

Setting my own theories on One Piece aside for a moment, people on the internet spend a vastly inordinate amount of time trying to justify to complete strangers why they enjoy some kind of mindless popcorn entertainment. It seems like these days it's not enough to simply say something like "I enjoy it because it's fun," or "I like it because I just do." And really, that's all everything comes down to. Let's face facts here, shows like One Piece are purely disposable entertainment, meant to make you grin for 24 minutes so you can go off and accomplish other things throughout your week until the next episode hits. If it succeeds at that, any other sort of deep-minded reasoning is incidental and largely unnecessary. One Piece doesn't need a huge treatise extolling its virtues - it's a popular, well-liked manga and TV series that is hugely profitable across the globe.

Now, for my extended take on One Piece: It's great. It's a grandiose adventure story littered with likable and completely insane, cartoony characters that all speak to the inner 10-year-old retarded child in me. It strikes the right balance between outright insanity and genuine development - as simple and outlandish its characters are, Eiichiro Oda has taken great pains to ground them in actual emotions, hopes, fears, and actions. And then there's rubber-pirates and violent fighting and a crazily detailed backstory and lore that grows ever more complex as the series moves forward every week.

Personally, though, probably the biggest thing I enjoy about One Piece that isn't talked about much is the sheer inventive colors throughout - Oda has such a keen visual eye for attractive and interesting colors, something you only get a little taste of in the largely black and white manga but really comes together in the animated series. It goes far beyond the typical anime cliche of defining anime characters by their hair color; the entire cast of the series is appropriately shaded in bright, saturated hues.

But really, I just like it. That's all.


Hey Answerman!

Why is it that ANN has this big preview feature twice a year with the new series for April and October, and yet features no preview for anything coming in the mid season, like the stuff coming out this very month? Is there some dark little secret to it? Do reviewers suffer some kind of side effect from previewing mid-season series?

Odd coincidence! This is something that came up at our panel at Anime Expo two weeks ago. For those of you unable to participate, I'll reiterate.

Basically, those preview guides are a bitch and a half to write, and our beleaguered review and editorial staff is stretched thin as it is. It might not sound like a lot of work to simply write a few gut reactions from the first episode of a show, but consider if you will the sheer glut of anime releases that hit Japanese TV every season. This season alone, there's about two-dozen brand-new TV shows and OAV releases clogging up Japan's airwaves, and we here at ANN do at least try to strive for a certain level of quality in our coverage and reviews. Which is something that would have to take a bit of a drop if we actually were to attempt to write something at length about each and every one of those shows.

That isn't to say that we wouldn't like to do a summer preview guide. You fine, sexy readers sure do enjoy reading them and they're one of the most popular features on this site. Unfortunately, Japanese TV anime broadcasters don't take the blood and toil of ANN's reviewers and writers into account when they schedule their programming slate every few months. Short answer: we would love to, we don't have the time, we would also love to travel through time and punch dinosaurs, but time machines don't exist and the dinosaurs would probably kill us, so alas.


What do you think of moot making the TIME 100 list for this year?

Personally? I think it's fitting, I suppose. Whatever your thoughts on 4chan are (mine are somewhat in the middle, ebbing slowly towards the bottom, then a little bit closer to the top, and then all the way down to the very dank, very disturbing bottom), it's a definite force to be reckoned with. And "moot," alias Christopher Poole, alias Eduardo San Miguel Montreal, or whoever, seems like a pretty genuine guy that's mostly shocked but pleasantly alarmed by the craziness he's inspired. If anything, it's probably an admonition by the TIME editors that got a chuckle or two out of LOLcats and Rickrolling, not to mention the media storm surrounding the Scientology protests.

In all honesty, I'd like to meet moot in person. Not to harass him with inane catchphrases or ask him burning questions about the future of New Media in a Web 2.0 social networking environment. Just to say, "Hey, 'sup" in that awkward passing-each-other-in-the-hallway-in-High-School sort of way, where you sort of know a guy that you think might be cool or might be a douche, but whatever, you're going to say "sup" to him because you're cool like that. And maybe he'll nod his head quickly upwards in silent approval, or perhaps reply with a casual and demure "yo" or even another "sup."

And then he'll be like, "who was that guy?" and his buddy will kinda shrug his shoulders a bit.




Wholly unrelated topics!

What do you think of No Doubt reuniting? Would you go watch a No Doubt concert?

I'd say that the answer is DOUBT-ful.

I lived in Wyoming for a year, staying with my grandparents, in the 5th grade. Our neighbors had a family of ducks as a pet that I used to love to chase around and harass with extreme prejudice. Then, the mama duck laid a batch of eggs, and my usual harassment led to an exceptionally angry, hissing beast that bit me and left a large and exceptionally nasty bruised welt on my leg for four months over the summer. Being unable to enjoy any sort of physical activity at 11 years old when, really, that's all there is to do in Wyoming, was sort of a problem.

Anyway.





Answerfans is back to its unregulated, possibly illegal full glory! For the easily forgetful, here's a reminder of last week's question posed:


Mirko kicks this thing off with a few examples:

Hey Brian,
So you ask if AMVs are enjoyable, huh? Well, that's a tougher question than it might seem. It'd be just as hard as asking whether animes or songs are enjoyable. A generic answer isn't exactly fine, because some requisites are needed for an AMV to be enjoyable. First of all, they need to have a point. Be it cramping together the story of a series in a 3 minutes-something worth of space or just random light-hearted fun. Then, they also need to be well executed, cause the music is there to be tied to the video, not just as a separed thing on its own. If the aforementioned criteria are met, then sure, AMVs are enjoyable. Whether you are into anime or music or both or neither, AMVs can be enjoyable, because they are a different thing altogether. Think of AMVs as if they were a pizza. Some people don't like tomatoes, others don't like cheese, but when craftily put together, they become another serving altogether, which might be liked by people whom dislike its originary ingredients. This is especially true as, much like with food, AMVs do have a recipe. There is a proper way to do things, but I won't cover that here since this isn't about how AMVs are made. Suffice to say that a poorly edited AMV won't fit many's taste just as burnt eating.

As for what I personally like in AMVs and look for in them, well, I'd have to say it's the originality. A unique amv generally comes out much more interesting and re-viewable than the usual same-old-same-old routine. The prime example of this would be piiiiii's "End". On a first generic look, it might turn out as a smart and funny, lighthearted upbeat amv that uses some... non-conventional footage from anime. And that'd make it already original. However, looking a bit deeper, one realizes that the song choice ( "Pinocchio" by Carpi ) has a clear reason. The video in fact is about the two emoticons ( the blue and red \o/ ) that from mere text finally become real anime characters in the end. To me, that's a unique way to concieve an amv. Another recent example of an original AMV would be Qwaqa's "Time". It takes the story of "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" and changes it a bit, creating its own alternative storyline. The storytelling is very good, in fact anyone can grab it clearly, even if they haven't seen the original movie, and as far as the audio is concerned, he edited the original song and mixed additional audio in order to concieve its concept.

Looking at AMVs under this light, they surely become an interesting form of derivative work, since they allow for a broader fanbase to create own works by using sources that are easily modifiable ( rotoscoping with anime, for example, is much easier than rotoscoping with live action footage from movies ), and to me this means letting more people to visually create their own stories or concepts, even if they aren't able to draw or don't have access to expensive shooting tools.

Otohiko has a point-by-point response:

Hey Answerman,

I thought I would pitch in on your call for responses about Anime Music Videos.

Let me start by saying that I am, of course, just a little biased - I have been an AMV editor and active member of the AMVing community for 6 years now, and I am now also part of the administration of animemusicvideos.org (for many years, the central hub for AMVing on the internet, with a catalogue of videos now in the hundreds of thousands). It goes without saying that I have a rather positive view of AMVs. I think anime fandom, both online and in "meatspace", has proved their reselience and appeal - we wouldn't have so many editors and viewers otherwise; we wouldn't have full theaters for AMV contest showings at cons if there wasn't a demand and recognition for them in the fandom. I think ANN and some previous postings in the Answerman column have really done injustice to AMVs by dismissing them as irrelevant, pointless and illegal. I think the situation is complex - like a lot of other things, AMVs can't all be painted with the same brush; and as for the legal aspects, we're firmly in a grey area which, in my belief, is somewhat more white than it is black.

But instead of just singing AMV praises, let me try to answer your questions:
Are AMVs...
-enjoyable?

Well, over a million AMV fans can't be wrong...
Personally - I think AMVs tap into something that's fundamentally enjoyable for people. Because of the way AMVs developed historically, accurate timing sync has become an integral point in what is acknowledged as "good" AMVs. Even on this basic level, AMVs are usually appealing and fun in a visceral, eye-catching sort of way. I think to a large degree this is what draws people to AMVs in the first place. But that's not all there is to them either. My personal interest in AMVs has always been an experimental one - some have dismissed AMVs as nothing but banal timing that anyone could do, but just the same - one could treat these as short pieces of film art. There is in fact an enormous number of talented visual artists in the AMVing community that can take videos well beyond a simple sum of anime+music. Some people do it with clever ideas, innuendo, and unusual combinations; others do it with interesting technical work. There's food for thought there, as much as you're willing to look at it seriously of course.

-celebratory?

Certainly! I think they're a great way to celebrate anime fandom. All AMV editors are anime fans at least to some extent. AMVs have in fact kept me interested in anime for many years and continue to make me go and check out new anime titles. This has been a "selling point" for their legitimacy, which I will mention later, but if we skip the legal aspects for now - I think there's no denying that AMVs are a good way to remember good times from watching anime you've seen, and get interested in the anime you haven't.

That said, one should also remember that anime fandom isn't all there is to AMVs, which from ANN's point of view is perhaps a bit unobvious. I personally got into AMVs not because of being a giant anime fan - in fact my draw was more musical. I've always been very much into music and visualization. AMVs are a unique culture of visualizing music and has always appealed to me in that way. For many others, it's a great way to get their visual and technical talents out without having to produce their own footage, while being able to present it to a community which demands, enjoys and gives lots of feedback on such work. For many people in the AMV community, AMVs are a stepping stone to a career in video production - but not a stepping stone they trod on carelessly. For them, it kind of is a celebration of video art in general, not just anime specifically.

Which brings me to the next point...

-pointless?
Well, philosophically speaking, isn't our whole fandom pointless in the end? :P
There is a symbolic and social potential to everything. It's a matter of how it's realized.

It's what you make of it. I think it's a real tragedy for the community that many people are choosing to see it precisely as that. Again, knowing the community closely, I can tell you that AMVers certainly don't see the hobby as pointless. The fact is that socially, there is a whole network around AMVing, with individual editors and viewers, studios, contests and showings, multiple websites, events such as "iron editor" competitions, and so forth. There are many ways to enjoy AMVs. There are many reasons, too. It's in the eye of the beholder if one wants to see these as valid or invalid. But they're no more pointless than the rest of our anime fandom.

-illegal?
Well, this has been discussed endlessly and will be until the end of days. The truth of this can be summed up succinctly:

In today's legal environment in North America, AMVs are a grey area, i.e. there are legal interpretations that can be made in their favour and against them equally. There is, absolutely, no way to paint them with "white" at the moment - argue as you like, you cannot deny that in fact, AMVs are overstepping common-practice license agreements. There is anotehr thing that is true about the legal environment in North America today - in "grey areas" like this, the one who is "right" is always the one with more and better lawyers. Which means that were major video and music companies to go after AMVing, they would in fact succeed. This doesn't make them ethically right, and in my view, it would make them criminally wrong in my personal opinion, but I'm just one man.

However let me provide a plug for Lawrence Lessig's "Free Culture", which makes great arguments for why remix culture should be legal and tolerated. And there are many. The fact is that AMVing has actually been recognized by both musicians and anime distributors as a "very cool thing" in many ways. For both, it holds promotional strengths. In many countries, both have now sponsored and continue to sponsor AMV contests. For both, cracking down holds a risk of negative publicity. And finally, the AMVing in its current form also has a certain "code of ethics" whereby AMV websites and other organizations such as contests have rules to ensure that the no blatant, unjustifiable infringement takes place, and are always keen to emphasize promotional aspects of videos. I don't think anyone can make a case that musicians or video companies have lost any money due to AMVs, and at least anime distributors have probably gained quite a bit of free advertisement thanks to them. I think at the moment, there is a mutual, if often unspoken recognition of this benefit. And music-wise? Well, let me tell you a story: once I made a short silly little video. And then forgot about it, only to later find a link to it - where else - on one of my most favourite music artists' myspace page! I sent them a note about it, being rather apologetic about using their music. It turned into a very interesting creative exchange by email with a musician that I had always been in awe of and was used to watching on DVD or from far, far in the concert crowd. He was not only fine with it, but he thought it was absolutely great that people were doing this, and in his words - "you don't make money off it, so it's absolutely fine with me". He encouraged me to do more. And I know for a fact that he is not alone in this sentiment.

This isn't to say nothing can go wrong. It always can, and the side with all the lawyers will win. Or will they "win"? This is why I personally have taken offense to people slamming AMVs as illegal, and irresponsibly so. To see everything through a black-and-white prism is dangerous and irresponsible in this case. I repeat: there are legal devices through which AMVing could easily be repressed and branded illegal. And what will anyone gain from it? Chances are, everyone will lose. And a great community will be destroyed. I will say this: AMVing as a community has been an absolute surprise to me. I came to it with a dismissive attitude myself - I thought there were too many unoriginal videos that were wasting the potential of the hobby. Instead, once I took a bit of time and paid attention, I discovered many great talents hiding beneath the surface of a banal anime+music straight-matching. I've discovered a culture which encourages creativity, criticism, and pushes people to gain technical skills and find new inspiration. I've also discovered a remarkable bunch of personalities, with whom I have become the best of friends over the years.

So, you can choose to see it as meaningless. Or you can see it otherwise. Which will it be? It's up to you, but I invite people to see it from my point of view, pay some attention and try to give AMVs a chance as not just a silly bit of geeking-out, but as an interesting remix-art form and an engaging community that benefits the anime fandom as a whole.

The Soc dissents:

Heyo,
In my honest opinion, AMVs are generally despicable for a variety of reason. How about a list?

1. Terrible music selection. Honestly, how many shows and movies can you set to "In the End" by Linkin Park, or "Girlfriend" by Avril whatshername? If not that, you get AMVs with terrible christian pop rock "metalcore" bands whining in the background. Will you ever see an AMV with Kasabian or The Wombats? I doubt it. And past that, how many videos can be set to "Mad World?" It's a great song, but I mean let's be honest here, it's so ridiculously overused that any meaning or emotion it could draw is gone. AMVs might as well be called "song ruiners."

2. General lack of effort and originality. There is the occasional stand-out that looks like someone actually spent a few days working on it, and then there's, well, every other one. Each AMV seems to use the same 2 clips from a show's "dramatic" moments or the 2 scenes deemed "funny" or whatever with little to no editing. Some are just clips put in an order that would allow any song with the same feeling of the song initally set to it to fit perfectly.

3. It's always one or the other. Sure sometimes you get good editing, but then the song is terrible, visa-versa. A perfect example being one particular Haruhi AMV with the aforementioned Avril song in the background.

AMVs are a joke to me, and when I hear one of my friends say they are going to make one, I laugh. Whenever I tell a person why their AMV isn't good, all I hear are excuses and laziness. The motivation for people making these is far beyond me. In summary, I think they're terrible, with rare exception.

Ojisan59 gives thanks:

AMV's got me into anime, and while I've had little interest in them since that strange spring eight years ago, time to acknowledge that debt.

They didn't do it singlehandedly - I was just getting interested in manga & was searching on the Interweb for related titles when I found Kusoyaro's old site, where I saw AMVs with footage from FLCL, Miyazake and Utena. Being introduced to strange new imagery by music you love is a potent recruitment tool. It's less manipulative, more oblique and more curiosity-provoking than, say, commercially produced previews (and anime previews so often suck...why??) So: I approve, and thank you to whoever made that great Radiohead/FLCL AMV.

Susan mixes her bags around, and no that is not meant to sound dirty, I just couldn't think of a funny way to introduce her contribution:

Amvs are really a mixed bag. When done well they can be a fantastic celebration of somebody's passionate love of an anime and their own creativity. When done badly...well...I'm sure everybody's seen what comes up if you just type "amv" into YouTube.

It used to be that video editing software was harder to come by and harder to even get some kind of result...and before widespread broadband you HAD to get the footage yourself instead of using somebody else's fansubs. And before YouTube it was much harder to get your video onto the web...AMV.org was much more of a niche site then YouTube ever was, the ftp to upload it is a bit more complicated then YouTube's uploading, and you had to actually sit and wait for something to download. There's been an explossion of amvs now, almost all of them bad. The good ones still exist, they're just burried now. I'm baffled all the time when I see amvs with no timing and random subtitled clips with 250 thousand views and 5 stars and then stumble upon extremely well made ones with only about a hundred. I've won at conventions several times, and could have had a second part time job in the time it took to make them, but to most people now, unless they happen to go to conventions, amv is almost a dirty word now because of the over saturation of the completely terrible ones.

And really, I'm just waiting for somebody like Warner Music Group to catch on to AMV Contests at conventions. A lot of conventions I know work as non profit groups, but it comes down to it, you're still paying to be there, and the AMV Contest is always one of the biggest events. So even if it's in a round about way, they still make money from showing things with copyrighted music. Plus, some of the prizes I've gotten have been gift cards, so I've basically been paid for using something I don't have any actual rights to use.

Jezzy speaks of economic prosperity:

Overall, I think AMVs are a wonderful asset to the industry. Though some leechers take the easy way out and download fansubs as source material (which inevitably looks horrible), most tend to buy DVDs, which supports the industry. More importantly, it's a walking billboard. "Hey, I thought this anime was awesome! Here's a video about my favorite character/major conflict/pointless action/etc!" If it's interesting enough, it will make people want to check it out. Even if they don't fully understand what the video about, but they liked what they saw, all the more reason to want to watch it.

Honestly, how many people can remember seeing an amazing video and thinking "OMG MUST BUY!" I myself got into Trigun and Rurouni Kenshin long before they aired on Cartoon Network. I saw AMVs of them and decided to try them out, and I don't regret a single dollar I spent on those DVDs (yes even those overpriced tin sets Geneon did for Trigun). Other, less main-stream anime that I discovered due to AMVs include Hana Yori Dango, the Munto OAV, and more notably Princess Tutu. Even though I'd already watched Gurren Lagann and decided not to purchase it, an amazing AMV at Anime Boston this year made me rethink my decision. I apologize for rambling, but hopefully it helps prove my point - AMVs are an important asset to the industry in terms of advertising.

Copyright infringement? Of course. I can't deny that. You're using footage that blood, sweat and tears went into, and cost thousands of dollars to make. Not only that, but you're using music that companies have become extremely protective of over the years, especially in the US. But even anime companies themselves have decided to look the other way. ADV knows this better than anyone, I think. Remember "Hold Me Now?" A year later, and I was STILL waiting months for Amazon to deliver my boxed set. You couldn't find that thing anywhere.

Overall, I think the pros outweigh the cons. Yes, there are some nimrods that will go steal the series online, but, especially if the AMVs are shown at conventions, people will be inspired to dash to the dealer's room or FYE or Best Buy to pick that series up. That may be a strong statement to make, but I wholeheartedly believe that the industry would be even worse off than it already is if AMVs were banned.

purplepolecat totally got me with that last bit:

When Michael Jackson passed away, the world was reminded that some of the King of Pop's greatest achievements were in the world of music videos. The epic Thriller transcended the standard crude promotional tool and showed us, with dazzling choreography and shocking visuals, that you could build a short movie out of the most basic catchy tune.

25 years on, the music video is on the decline. Sales figures for singles no longer justify a large promotional budget, and following MTV's absurd decision to stop airing videos, no-one will get to see them anyway. This has left a gaping hole in the landscape of pop culture. Songs need to be brought to life with exciting visuals. Moving images need rhythm and song to give them impact. Music needs video like video needs music.

Fan vids started with shows like Star Trek, and "vidders" still make live action music videos, but anime music videos have an important advantage : the relatively economical motions of anime make manipulating the images so much easier, especially when "lip syncing" a character to a song. Moore's Law of computer hardware means that in the present day almost everyone can afford a PC capable of video editing, and anime is readily available in a variety of digital formats. The culture of Web 2.0 invites anyone with an internet connection to create something, anything, and share it with the world.

For AMVs this has been a blessing and a curse. Typing "AMV" into YouTube yields literally millions of results. How many of these are worth the time necessary to watch them, much less make them ? How many Naruto / Linkin Park videos do we really need ? Many people, having stumbled across a few of these creations at random, have formed the opinion that AMVs are a waste of time, a pointless activity for socially maladjusted nerds.

The evidence suggests otherwise. Conventions across the country are finding that AMVs are incredibly popular with anime fans. AMV contests regularly draw bigger crowds than cosplay, and a dedicated AMV theater will attract a steady flow of people who want to chill out and be entertained for a few minutes before returning to the rigors of the convention floor. American anime distributors have stated publicly that they tolerate and even welcome the use of their product in AMVs, and so they should; a good video will show the anime in the most attractive way possible, and is invariably more entertaining than the tedious official trailers. I can't count the number of times I've seen a great AMV and immediately thought, "I have to watch this series, now !" Serious AMV creators always have huge DVD collections, as the use of fansubs is heavily frowned upon, for reasons of quality more than legality.

In my opinion, AMVs will always be an essential part of anime fandom, along with cosplay, doujinshi, and flaky letters to journalists.

Somebody used the word succinct earlier, and that definitely applies to Thomas' contribution:

AMVs make great excercises for the aspiring editor, but little beyond that.

Vincent closes us out with his measured take:

Dear Answerman,

Starting with the hard facts AMV's like all fanworks consist of 95% garbage and 5% hidden gems, most of which comes down to the fact that every moron with a pc can make them. The trick is to find the ones worth watching. For every 10 randomly thrown together clips of Naruto or DBZ with Linkin Park music there's a hidden gem worth watching. The fact that certain conventions have AMV competitions makes it easier to find them.

One such gem would be "Sail On" the One Piece AMV by ManyLemons. Here's an AMV with brilliant editing and a song that if you didn't know better you'd think was especially writting for this AMV (it wasn't), most importantly it shows one side of what a great AMV can be, an advertisement to the show itself. I dare anyone to watch that AMV and not come away wanting to watch One Piece (which you should do anyway but I digress)

There are plenty of other great AMV's out there but suffice to say that, while there is a lot of really bad stuff out there, one can not help to admire the time and effort some people put in these AMV's. The great thing about all the great fanworks is that they can make you forget all about the usual fights over things like shipping, dubs vs. subs and why X is better than Y. It is in watching a particularly great AMV, or any other form of fan produced work, that one truly appreciates the fandom and make one feel proud to be a fan.

Alright, ready for the next one? Here it is, below, in the box with the big words in it:


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.

And now, I'm off to do something far less productive and interesting with my time. I have no idea what that is just yet, but maybe I'll learn.

...maybe.

See you next week!


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