Hey, Answerman!
I'm Sorry I Wasn't Here Last Week Edition

by Brian Hanson, Aug 28th 2009

Good golly! Hi folks! I'm back. Sorry for taking the week off last time - sudden, excruciating mouth-related pain made writing this otherwise joyous excursion an especially tiresome chore. And now I'm back, beginning anew, but with several hundred dollars' worth of dental bills! Hooray! On a related note, I will personally perform any sort of service, bizarre or otherwise, to whomever gives me several hundred dollars.

I'm just kidding. Maybe.


Answerman,

Hello Answerman,

Just a friendly Brit sending you a friendly e-mail to ask a couple of friendly questions.

What's the current state and future prospects of the light novel market in the West? Do you reckon they'll enjoy long-term success over here as they do in Japan?

As an aspiring novelist, I've researched into the processes (as well as the potential pitfalls and rewards) of getting fictional literature published (agents, submissions, etc.), and the light novel format has piqued my interest somewhat.

Is there a market for works in that particular style from English-speaking writers? Will more traditional publishers be willing to take on works targeted at such a niche market? Or would potential light novelists have to approach the specialist publishers like Yen Press to have a chance of success?

Essentially, the "light novel market" is about as successful as anything that falls within the narrowly-defined aegis of Japanese pop-culture in the west. Which is to say, *certain* light novels are doing well. Unfortunately, those *certain* light novels are those that are either based on or were the inspiration for shows/games/series that are already well established properties. Haruhi Suzumiya is the prime example here - the niche market for light novels in the west has been made aware of Haruhi's crazy antics for several years now, thanks to the broader exposure given to the anime and the manga and the reams upon reams of merchandise. So of course the original light novels will sell.

And, yes, I did say "niche market." Fortunately for light novels, being in a niche market isn't such a bad proposition compared to anime and such - printing books is comparatively cheap. All you need are the licensing rights, a translator, a copy editor, and a small printing run. So even if sales of non-established light novels are weak, it's still likely to at least break even.

As far as writing your own light novels? Ehhh... I don't know about that. Yen Press and the others are primarily focused on simply translating the few novels they know that their fanbase is likely to read, and, tough as it may sound, probably think of "original" novels written by Westerners as a waste of their time and effort.

However, you've given me yet another opportunity to yell at length about the value of creativity! Specifically - who cares about how your written work will "sell"?! Get out there and write it! Write it NOW! Worry about the rest later. Or, better yet, don't worry about it at all. Being concerned about the salability of their work is the number one way that creative people of all stripes end up sabotaging themselves. Ultimately, your work will speak for itself. Not its sales numbers. Not its page count. Not anything. So write that sucker already.


I'm going to be greedy and ask 2, but both are vexing me, and one is short, so think of it as a question and a half.

The short one...

Why dub the inarticulate? I see on English dub cast lists, that English language VAs are often cast to play the parts of cats, dogs and other less than verbose beasts. Surely 'nya' or 'wan' doesn't need much translation, so why do it?

The longish one...

I was reading up on Dororo (after watching the fun live action movie, tentatively recommended BTW, b-movie effects, nice chemistry in the cast) and noticed the anime was made back in 1969, and the image in the Encyclopaedia is a dull monochrome. But I got to thinking, surely when these shows were animated, the actual cels weren't painted in greyscale (or were they?). I'd think it would be more convenient to actually paint them in colour, and then photograph them onto B&W film to produce the final animation.

If those original colour cels still exist, why don't we see those cels photographed (or scanned) using modern techniques so that those shows can be seen in the original colours?

You people and your two-part questions. I should charge extra for that.

Question One:
They dub the animal voices because, oddly enough, they typically have to. Kinda. I remember on the commentary track for one of the Evangelion movies they discussed that when they were given a dialog-free soundtrack with which to record the English dub, the various moans and roars of the Eva units was also omitted, so they had to simply dub their own. The raw Japanese dialog tracks are, by and large, unavailable for major dub studios to play around with, and the time available to produce a dub in the first place is prohibitive - so, that's why Ryo-Ohki's various mewlings were technically "dubbed" by a vile English-speaker.

QUESTION TWO:

Honestly, I can't speak for certain on this, since I've never seen the 1969 Dororo anime anywhere, and it's likely to stay that way. However, and I *can* speak with certainty on this, by and large, if something is animated and intended to be viewed in black and white, it was appropriately painted and inked that way.

Creating color animation and photographing in black and white can be imprecise - the shades of lighter colors can often blend together and create some unusual light levels in the grays. So, in order to have more control on the exact balance between the black and white levels, the animation itself is bathed in shades of gray.

This brief tidbit of cartoon knowledge brought to you by the dozens of commentary tracks on old cartoons I've listened to over the years.


Answerman,

I was curious how the production cost varies between American animation and Japanese animation, for say a 30 minute show to an hour and a half long movie.

Animation budgets? Oy gevalt - those run the gamut.

Obviously, it depends on the show - South Park and whatever craziness Kaeruotoko Shokai comes up with can be produced for a measly few thousand dollars or so. Now, as for a mean average of your run-of-the-mill "tradtionally animated" series? Shows produced in America tend to be about 200,000 to 600,000 dollars per episode. Anime series, on the other hand, tend to cost anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 US Dollars per episode.

That percentage applies to feature films, too - but you can see how truly drastic the difference is when we're talking about budgets for your "average" Hollywood-produced animated feature. Since Pixar and Dreamworks together control about half of the world's venture capital by the astronomic success of their films, their budgets are completely insane - up to 200 million dollars. But that's CGI - I think a more apt comparison would be for something like, say, Disney's upcoming The Princess and the Frog. That movie is being sold as having a "modest" budget, comparatively - which is to say, it's costing them somewhere around 100 million. That's still goddamn insane when you really think about it, but whatever. Meanwhile, the average budget for a Studio Ghibli production usually falls somewhere between 20 to 25 million US dollars.

But, those are the average budgets of some of the biggest animation studios in the world. Everything else falls far short of that number, and yet amazing animation is produced on practically any budget. Look at, say, District 9 - that movie was produced for less than the catering budget of Transformers 2, and yet it looks comparably impressive from a special effects standpoint. Budgets are just more numbers that people like to get hung up over, rather than the quality of the work itself. The Thief and the Cobbler was produced over decades on a shoestring budget and was never completed, and yet what footage does exist is the most impressive animation I've ever seen. Numbers schmumbers, budget schmudget.




I know this isn't really a flake, per se, but I can't resist posting this because I am twelve years old.

Yes i don't where to find the song from anal sanctuary

That sound you here? That is the sound of a thousand churlish guffaws from a weary columnist.





It's Hey Answerfans time! You all had an extra week to chime in this time, so let's journey into the minds of my readers, as they responded to this question from a fortnight ago:


Neil begins this critical endeavor with a self-deprecating dose of self-criticism:

It's easy to define what is overrated in anime: the stuff you like is "overrated", whereas the stuff I like is "underrated". I think pretty much everyone can agree with this definition!

A more serious answer would be a little more complicated, and it's important to decide on terms of reference. First, by whom is the anime etc being rated? "Official" critics, bloggers, random forum dudes, people who rate things at sites like ANN, anime distributors, or the consumers who determine sales figures by laying out cold hard cash? Is one group's opinion worth more than another's, or are we looking for consensus across a majority of these groups?

Second, the problem of differentiating "overrated" from "well known", and "underrated" from "little known". For example, Wolf's Rain would be rated above Naruto by most who have seen it, but they represent a tiny minority compared to the hordes of Naruto-lovers.

Third, there's the matter of taste. There is a constant tension in anime-dom, between two parties: (1) a minority of older, more sophisticated viewers who assess the worth of anime based on relatively subtle criteria of character realism, writing consistency, depth of underlying themes, and art quality in relation to preexisting works and the requirements of the story; and (2) a majority of younger, less experienced viewers who are less capable of, or at least less interested in, detailed analysis of theme and character construction, the aesthetics of subtlety, and the historical development of the medium, and more interested in immediate sensation (fighting, shouting, heavily underlined dramatic moments). We can't really advance the tastes of one group over the other, as they have different needs from the medium, and so naturally have different opinions.

When we can solve the issues raised above, then maybe we can BEGIN to answer the actual question you have raised.

Hmmm. Sorry about the less-than-satisfactory response.

Anthony defends the harem genre, film at 11:

There are a few definitions in my book of how I see something as either overrated or underrated. Here is my list for both.

Overrated:
1) A movie, OVA, or TV series that I think is good, but is not as good as the hype it may have or it is not worthy of its hype (An example of this is the The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya which I though was a good series but it's not the greatest thing since sliced bread.)

2) Part of a movie, OVA, or TV series that I do not feel is as good as it should be or is not as good despite the praise of it by others (A prime example is the English dub of Excel Saga, it's alright but not as good as the original Japanese audio track.)

Underrated:
1) A movie, OVA, or TV series that I liked even though it does not have a favorable view in the eyes of other fans (Most harem shows like Ai Yori Aoshi, and Shuffle! come to mind and Ikki Tousen, and Negima! are other examples that come to mind..)

2) Part of a movie, OVA, or TV series that I felt should get more praise than it does normally (The ending of Gurren Lagann is much better than what some people think of it.)

Zeb plays the minority card:

When it comes to what is considered under or over rated, I think it comes down to the "majority/minority" factor:

The majority of fans for a overrated series may actually enjoy the series, but it is the minority of people who have seen it that may think that it is overrated. On the other hand, for a series that is underrated, although not as many people may have seen it, the majority of the people who have feel that it is underrated for one reason or another.

When it comes to some series that are overrated, many people have seen it somehow (TV, DVD, fansubs, etc.) and fans tend to seem more vocal about those series. Even if a series is considered "good", the fandom of a series can ruin it for those who have even the slightest interest in a series.

When it comes to a series that a lot of people may not have seen in masses, people are more prone to ask about it and may want to check it out no matter how a person may feel about if it's overrated or not. Since it's not a "well-known" series, a person who really liked the series isn't just vocal, but probably could go into detail about the answers he gives as to why he enjoys it, unlike the majority of fans of an overrated series.

By no means am I saying that all of the fans of overrated series can't have a discussion about the series in question, but this is the internet we're talking about here.

Jonathan has much to discuss:

I think that in the most basic sense, someone considers something to be overrated when they perceive that the majority of people rate it better than they do. Conversely, they consider it to be underrated when they perceive that the majority of people rate it worse than they do.

I think there are some things about anime which can be objectively rated, but most of it's pretty subjective. Just about any aspect of an anime is going to be rated subjectively. For instance, is the art any good? Well, there are some aspects of art (especially if you're an art major or professional artist or somesuch) which can be objectively rated (for instance, you can generally objectively rate whether the body parts of an anime character consistently maintain the same proportions from scene to scene), but art is by its very nature quite subjective. The same goes for just about any aspect of an anime, or any form of entertainment for that matter.

Now, there is often a consensus as to whether a particular type of artwork (or whatever other aspect of anime you want to look at) is better than another (e.g. most people would consider Clannad to have better artwork than DBZ), but it's still highly subjective.

While pretty much everyone would think that they're nuts, there's probably at least one person on the planet who thinks that DBZ's artwork is the best ever and that Clannad's is mediocre at best. The only thing that lends any more weight to the opinion of someone who thinks that Clannad's artwork is better is the fact that most people agree with them. While they may be in the majority, those that rate Clannad's artwork as better are expressing their opinion just like the nut who thinks that DBZ's artwork is better. None of them are generally rating the artwork by anything objective, so all they're doing is expressing their opinions. Unless you can objectively measure something, your rating of it will be subjective, and therefore is an opinion. So, if Clannad is generally considered to have better artwork than DBZ, it's a consensus of opinions, not an objective rating.

And I suppose that the key point here is that usually quality is based on consensus. If the majority of people who watch an anime think that it's good, then that anime is highly rated. If most people think that it's bad, then it's poorly rated. But that's just a lot of opinions adding up, and no matter how many opinions are put together, they'll never make an objective rating. Opinions are by their very nature subjective.

So, really, an anime's rating is a consensus of opinions about it. And, there can be nothing over or under about that unless you have something to compare it *to*. After all, over and under (when used as prefixes) are comparisons, and you can't have have a comparison with only one thing to compare.

If we could somehow objectively rate the quality of an anime, and the consensus rating of those who watched it was higher than the objective rating, then that anime would be overrated by those watching it. If the consensus rating was lower than the objective rating, then the anime would be underrated by those watching it. Because you would be comparing the consensus with an objective rating, the resulting comparison would be totally objective and we could definitely say whether an anime was over or underrated (or whether it was actually accurately rated) by the majority of people.

However, there is no way to objectively rate an anime. So, how is overrated or underrated determined? After all, you have to compare the rating of the consensus with _some_ kind of rating for it be over or under. Nothing can be over or underrated on its own. It can only be over or underrated in comparison to another rating.

So, what people do is compare the consensus rating with their own. And as I said at the beginning, they then consider it overrated if the consensus rates it higher than they do, and they consider it underrated if the consensus rates it lower than they do.

So really, since we can't be particularly objective about anime (much as we might try), all that overrated or underrated indicates is how the person using those terms rates the anime in relation to how most other people do.

Now, if you *really* want some kind of objective determination of over and underrated, I think that the closest that you could ever get is by comparing how people generally rate it against how well it actually sells. That way, you could more or less compare how many people like it vs how many people actually watch it. In that sense, if it's generally rated poorly but sells well, it could be considered overrated, while if it is highly rated but generally sells poor, it could be considered underrated. But that's not really a measurement of over and underrated so much as a reflection of its market penetration. And market penetration doesn't necessarily have anything to do with quality.

So, when it comes down to it, when someone refers to an anime as over or underrated, they're just talking about how they rate it vs how most other people do (or how they *think* that other people do). It's not objective in the least and doesn't really say anything about the actual quality of the anime.

I have tickled Matthew's fancy:

You, sir, have delighted me by giving me a chance to touch upon one of my greatest peeves. The current abuse of the terms "overrated" and "underrated" must be stopped at all costs; I consider the damage it does to the English language second only to the infuriating havoc wreaked by the present misuse of the phrase "to beg the question" (please see http://begthequestion.info and yes, I have the t-shirt).

Although "to overrate" properly means "to appraise too highly" (and "to underrate" quite naturally the opposite), numerous nefarious ne'er-do-wells have begun employing the adjective "overrated" to mean, "a show I don't like that is very popular," and "underrated" for "a show I really like that is not popular enough." Thus we get descriptions of anime like "Serial Experiments Lain" and "Aria" as being "underrated," despite the fact that they are really quite well-appreciated by those who watch them, and "Naruto" and "Sailor Moon" as "overrated," despite the fact that very few fans of those shows would argue that they are perfect works of art hewn from the shimmering gems of genius. (In fact, some people like "Naruto" precisely *because* it is crap.) This hideous abomination of English basically serves to make the speakers' opinion about a show's value into a thinly-veiled condemnation of all those fools who aren't experiencing this brilliant animu, or all the fools who are subjecting themselves to such tripe. In short, it is self-centered snobbery disguised as educated elitism*.

For example: "Haibane Renmei" is my favorite anime. I wrote papers (the plural is deliberate) on it for Film Theory. I wrote papers on it for Lit Theory. I wrote papers on it for Theology. (I am not kidding.) Each of these papers received an A, and I still feel like this amazing series has more fascinating insights to offer up on each fresh viewing. Alas, "Haibane Renmei" is not the most popular anime of all time. Indeed it is often difficult to find people at conventions who have seen it. So is it "underrated?" No indeed! Apart from my obviously mentally unhinged sister, everybody I know who has seen it has loved it, and the overwhelming majority of reviews and online reactions has been as enthusiastic as mine. It is generally appraised exactly as it should be.

So what is the proper way to use the terms in question? Let's try, "as they were intended to be used." An "overrated" anime is one that has received plaudits that the speaker does not feel that it deserves, while an "underrated" product is one that has received unjustly negative appraisals. Both terms are subjective, but can be validated with a strong critical argument. "Hellsing" is an example of an anime I believe is overrated: although it does boast an excellent score and lots of technical polish, it neither does anything original with the (very provocative) idea of vampirism nor develops its characters beyond simple "Vampire Hunter D"-derived stereotypes. It does not deserve the iconic status it has achieved among fans (who often make excuses for the series---you should never have to do this). On the other hand, I strongly feel that "Tales from Earthsea" has been disastrously underrated by critics and fans alike, to the point where it was actually winning Raspberry Awards. These poor evaluations were due, in the main, to preconceptions that the film failed to fulfill: thanks to marketing and a dramatic opening, viewers expected a rousing action-adventure in which the fate of the world hung at stake. Instead, they received a Taoist morality fable about life and death, desire and despair, hate and love, light and darkness, and all those other complimentary opposites, as played out in the doings of a very small group of people in the midst of a huge world. But the thing is, "Earthsea" is a really GOOD morality fable, one in which every shot contributes to the tale's meaning, and in which (as in all the best fables) the small personal concerns of relationship and motivation are seen to be far more important than the politics and conflicts of the world at large. Thanks to a sadly skewed viewpoint, critics savaged---that is, underrated---one of the most interesting debut anime in years.

I have now made my point, although I feel it necessary to add that there should really be a term such as "misrated" to describe those anime that are considered excellent or poor for the wrong reasons. An example would be "Hidamari Sketch," which is admired for its cute cast and slice-of-life antics. Although there's nothing wrong with these attributes of the series, where it really shines---and what it really deserves to be rated on---is its fascinating and original direction, which utilizes a kind of visual metonymy in which characters, places, and objects are often introduced with an image of one of their parts: Yuno IS her hair-band, Hidamari Apartments IS its nameplate, the school IS its clock, etc. The idea can be found in earlier anime, but "Hidamari Sketch" takes it in very interesting directions.

So I say to you all, if you made it this far: stop the horrible linguistic abuse in which you are engaged! Choose your words carefully, and don't let anyone underrate your intellect!

*As opposed to this e-mail, which is educated elitism disguised as self-centered snobbery.

Cyan Bloodbane sure has an even temper and calm demeanor for such a name:

Heya Answerman, I will try not to get too bogged down in the semantics of "taste" as we all know that argument.

First off, as for what makes a series count as underrated; A series of highly redeeming quality in one aspect or another (originality in subject for example) that somehow only either made it to cult fan status, or didn't make it at all. Usually becoming a niche show withing a niche genre of entertainment like anime.

A great example of an underrated show would be "Key the Metal Idol" by Hiroki Sato. You will never see a more devoted fanbase and a more beloved series....however, the fanbase is incredibly small. If Key only needed 30,000 friends/fans to become human, than she barley scraped by in my opinion. It is a show deserving so much more praise, but it was fairly unknown by the community even when it was new. Let alone getting people to know what it is now.

An overrated show is a show of exceptionally low quality in either creativity or concept. A generic show that has nothing original to call it's name, yet somehow has garnered the attention of the entire community and the masses at large. That is an overrated show.

Examples of such a show to a tee is Bleach. Here we have a show that seeks to merge three other shows we've seen already. Yū Yū Hakusho, Inuyasha, and Kenshin. And besides having nothing original to call it's own, it's generic shonen to the highest degee. Which for one reason or another has a huge following. A much larger one at that of a show that should actually deserve a large fanbase.

Of course, there's always the problem with good quality shows becoming not overrated, but over-popular, ruining the fanbase a bit. Sometimes it's nice to have a underrated show that only you and a select few know about. But the bittersweet part is that you know the show deserved to do so much better...

And finally, Vincent chides me harshly, and I forgive him because he's right:

Wow, that's a stupid question. I mean, I realize you ask this because of the abundance of internet blowhards that spout their assessment as a scientific fact, but this really is just an opinion. If you ask me what is something that's overrated I might say something like Naruto due to the massive fanbase that carry obsessive loyalty to the series. While I think there is a good narrative in the background; there is still a lot of filler, poor writing, and overdrawn storylines. Hey, I'm not saying I hate the thing I just don't think it's all that amazing. Now, If you ask the person to my left holding the ninja star and practicing his justu; he might beg to differ. He'll say the series is underrated because of the large group of haters that don't understand the joy of molding their chakra and were probably mislead by some friend that told them that ninjas are gay. Ninjas aren't gay but that's beside the point. Who is right. Now I'm an arrogant bastard so I'd say my opinion is vastly superior but it's just an opinion. If a friend asks me what I think I'll gladly share but its just my perception of its fanbase versus what I thought of the anime. We should feel free to express our opinions just perhaps not so forcefully and realize that someone else's opinion is not wrong because you think differently.

And I'm a mathematician so for the love of god don't use the word "quantify" when asking for someone to explain their perception.

Are we all over-and-under-rated out? Good. Here's the question I've got cooked up for next week:


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 have 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.

My time with you is finished, readers. Keep sending questions! And answers to my questions! Please! answerman (at) animenewsnetwork.com! And please more hilarious misspellings. Good night.


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