Hey, Answerman!by Brian Hanson, Sep 18th 2009
Hi folks! I am so very, very tired. Been a busy week. I tried to take a nap on the couch today but made the mistake of watching L.A. Confidential while doing so; I forgot how completely awesome the last hour of that movie is, to the point where I deliberately forced myself to stay awake and watch it even though I've seen that movie maybe six times.
But that's enough insomnia talk: You've got some questions that I must answer.
I don't know if this actually happens a lot, but there have been a couple of times when I've been in a discussion about manga vs. anime. Well, they were really more like "flame wars" more than discussions. Personally, I've always preferred anime simply because I like animation in general. However, whenever I say that I'd rather see the action and talking happening on screen instead of reading it, the manga fans would get all hyped up and say their medium was the superior one, and that people only watched anime because they were too stupid to read manga or something. I don't know if this is common, it's just my personal experience. I like some manga too, but I wanted to see if you had any opinion for why (hopefully only a few) manga fans believe that manga is always the best no matter what.
Well, in this case, I think they're merely stating that, in the grand scheme of things, whenever there's an anime adaptation of a manga, the manga is superior. And about 99 percent of the time, that's hard to argue against.
That's certainly true with the bevy of anime adaptations made to slavishly follow long-running shounen manga and the like; I love watching One Piece, but the One Piece manga is this grand, fast-paced visual spectacle that the anime rarely catches up with. A lot of the reasoning for this is simply production hurdles - budgetary constraints, pacing issues (filler arcs to drag out the timeline when they invariably catch up to the manga, et cetera), and whatever else. I love Naoki Urusawa's Monster, but the anime adaptation follows the manga story so closely that the pacing feels unnatural and slow. Even some of the better, more faithful manga-to-anime adaptations suffer in comparison to their manga progenitors. Berserk is a perfect example; the anime is about as perfect an anime series gets, in my professional estimation, but it still lacks the powerful, often grotesque beauty that the manga, covering virtually the same storyline, packs in spades.
The one thing that throws a wrench into that argument is whenever an anime adaptation comes along that completely deviates from its source material. Stuff like the second half of the first Fullmetal Alchemist, or the Akira movie. At that point, comparing it to the manga becomes a strictly apples-and-oranges affair, because they're similar in name only, and it's up to the viewer to decide which "version" they prefer. Personally, I like the anime adaptations of both moreso than their manga counterparts, but again, they're so vastly different that it really doesn't matter.
And that's the sort of thing that I wish would happen more often. These are supposed to be "adaptations," not a complete exercise in redundancy. I know that certain vociferous members of anime fandom like to cry and whine when an episode of Naruto or whatever doesn't simply copy each individual panel of the manga chapter it's covering, but to me that's just a cop-out. Manga and comics are a completely separate medium from animation; they share a certain aesthetic, sure, but as a means of storytelling they couldn't be more different. I like to see adaptations that understand that key difference, and work with it instead of against it.
I don't know how much yaoi and shonen-ai you're into, (probably none,) but I was curious: What do you think of the whole "seme/uke" relationship? Do you think that's something that's more of an invention of the genre or is it something that's actually real? Is it a possible to be in a good relationship that way or is it something that's unhealthy?
Err... uhh. Hm.
For the uninitiated! "Seme" and "uke" are terms that denote which member of the yaoi, uh, coupling takes... center field, and which one plays outfield. Uh. You know, which one plays bass and which one's on lead guitar. I mean, which guy is the Abbot and which guy is the Costello. Or, to be less coy, it's about which guy is the more "dominant" member of the pairing, and which one is the more "submissive" one.
Now, is that a realistic portrayal? Absolutely. To an extent. There are dominant/submissive aspects to a lot of relationships. For the purposes of yaoi manga fantasy, it works as a way to distill a relationship to its essence. Its sweaty, sweaty essence. In regards to the concept of things like hair color denoting who plays the uke and who plays the seme, that's obviously all the invention of yaoi creators looking to create a sort of visual shorthand for this sort of thing, and obviously doesn't really have a real-life analogue.
Of course, actual relationships with actual people are far more complex than that. And as far as whether or not it's "healthy," well... I can't really say, honestly. People should do as they want to do, so long as nobody gets murdered or savagely beaten. Besides, I am absolutely the worst person in the world to ask for any sort of relationship insight, as far as I'm concerned. Get back to me in, say, a few years, maybe. Or at least some point when it doesn't seem like a week goes by without another incident of frustrated heartbreak.
(This tiny, unprovoked insight into Brian's personal life brought to you by: Shameless Pity!)
How come whenever a company licenses a show to release in the US, they have to do whatever Japan says? This question comes from listening to Justin on one of the ANNcasts where he made it sound like Geneon Japan, basically, caused the downfall of Geneon USA because they made them make all the bad decisions that led to their demise. I've also heard people from Funimation talk about how they have to get approval on everything from name pronunciations to dub actors. Greg Ayres has mentioned how Japan has required them to change casts around completely. I could understand keeping in touch with Japan when they need help with translations and whatnot, but to have Japan's approval on everything makes it sound like the US industry is nothing more than a pawn in the hands of the Japanese.
Well, seeing as how Justin Sevakis is only a quick email away, I figured I'd let him expound upon this subject he briefly touched upon on ANNcast:
The answer is pretty simple: it's their show! A license is really just borrowing it for a few years within a specific country. Back in the day Japan just sort of licensed it off to American companies and forgot about it, but once anime really started to get big in the States Japan started caring a lot more about presentation and keeping it true to the intent of the creator. So since the late 90s Japan often has more and more control over the various aspects of the American side of the production built into the contracts.
Usually this isn't a huge deal. Some licensors really only care about looking at the box covers and marketing materials, checking to make sure you didn't flip some artwork (they HATE that), that your copyright lines match what's in the contract, and that you didn't misspell anyone's name on the credits. There's some level of trust built into the relationship that the translation will be faithful, that you're not going to chop up the video or change character names. Unfortunately, though, some licensors take approvals way too far and start micromanaging every aspect of production, from approval of the dub script to casting decisions to even advertising copy and show synopsis. For a select few licensors, it becomes this giant headache of bureaucracy and passive aggression that drives American companies up the wall. I know that at least one company's licenses were actively avoided by more or less the entire industry at one point, simply because they were so unpleasant to deal with.
This isn't to imply the Japanese are always wrong in what they demand. Sometimes the Americans lose something in the translation, or have a crappy artistic instinct when doing creative work like box layouts or dub casting. But sometimes it IS a huge mistake. It's usually a safe bet that industry pros working for American companies would know better what will sell a show in America than a Japanese manager who's only been here on business. To that end, I highly doubt any of them were too happy to release shows with titles Americans would find unpronounceable and meaningless, like "Utawarerumono" or "Kyou Kara Maoh" and I'll bet that in each of those cases they fought the licensor and lost. Some licensors kill creative marketing ideas, others might insist on translations that are CLEARLY wrong or misspelled, or that the dub incorporate some acting nuance that just doesn't work at all in English. Sometimes really powerful creators insist on overseeing American adaptation of their baby themselves, and that's often a disaster. Can you imagine having a guy sitting in the dubbing studio, who knows so little English that he needs an interpreter to express himself, telling you that he doesn't like how you translated something, and demands that you use his nonsense Engrish translation? (And yes, that has happened. Several times.)
As happens when any strong willed people from two different backgrounds come together to collaborate on something, things can either go really well, or degenerate into a battle of egos. Sometimes one side is clearly right. But ultimately it's the licensors' show, and if they don't like how they're being treated they can cancel an agreement or make life miserable for the company in other ways. So what they say goes. And usually that's just fine. But sometimes...
In the case of Geneon, however, they were actually OWNED by the Japanese company, so they were literally the boss.
So basically, it's not entirely cut and dry - the Japanese licensors can be over-protective, overbearing parents at times, but generally they just care about the stuff they're selling, which is a good thing. Unless they care a little too much.
So! We're diving straight into Hey, Answerfans! this week because I didn't get a suitable Flake of the Week and I'm not going to waste any time trying to write a dismissive response or retarded cartoon for a genuine email. Here was last week's question, for those who spend their days living under heavy rocks in remote locations:
Mysterypretender begins our foray into Disney Ninjas with his double-edged response:
maybe it's a good thing. Maybe Disney picking up this anime will lend a financial hand to the anime industry. Cartoon Network seems to dislike anything deemed japanese animation and while they air it saturdays, they've had a past history of putting up stupid things on their Adult Swim site that saids things like "you're lucky we like anime this much" with an anime image behind it. Maybe once Disney sees the ratings on Naruto: Shippuuden and the financial benefits of the audience they will get viewing this series once they begin airing it, will make Disney see this is a good thing and maybe will pick up other animes and air them and maybe hand over money to the industry giving it the financial boost it needs to survive a bit longer.
this is really a double edged blade and I will make no actual judgment one way or another on this, only give my opinions on it and see what happens once Disney has it.
Hans is cool and measured:
I think showing Naruto: Shippuden on Disney XD is obviously a smart business move. Aiming for as much exposure as possible is always a smart move.
Whether or not current anime fans really want to deal with a resurgence of Naruto in mainstream culture is a different story. Myself, I've fallen out with the show and I bet there are hundreds upon hundreds of other anime fans who really don't want to see more Naruto.
But you know what? This is anime we're talking about here. Each anime fan has their own story of how they were drawn into the anime world and people should be happy at the idea that one of their passions (i.e. anime) could possibly be spread to people who don't know about it, even if it's via a show they're not fond of. I think if everyone in the anime community just set aside the elitist crap things would be much better. People are entitled to their opinions, but shoving them down someone else's throat shouldn't be.
Kyoko throws her hands in the air, not because she just don't care, but because she just don't know:
Man, now this is an interesting question. I think it's too early to judge whether or not this is a good business decision. This IS Disney, after all, so I doubt they didn't do this without any thought.
The thing I find most weird about this whole situation is that they're starting with Shippuden, considering that it's a continuation and the kids who will be watching the show without seeing Naruto before will most likely be confused as to what's going on. That will probably make getting new viewers to the show right away a challenge, and the ratings will be hard enough to get considering that not all the fans of the series have the cable/satellite package that comes with Disney XD.
Then there's the obvious issue, the censoring. Disney XD is still Disney, and Disney isn't shy of cutting or censoring scenes with "inappropriate material." Depending on how much is censored, fans of the show may decide to not watch it and stay with the DVDs or whatever other methods they are using to watch it. However, since it is Disney XD and not the regular Disney Channel, I have a feeling it's not gonna be quite as bad as everyone fears.
However, this could be a great idea as well. Disney XD has some pretty cool shows on it, such as X-Men Evolution, Static Shock, Recess, etc. A shounen anime could bring more fans to watch the network, and notice another show or two that they might find interesting or something they saw when they were younger and watch it again to reminisce. Something like Naruto could certainly bring more ratings to their other shows if it succeeds.
Furthermore, I don't recall having any problems watching the censored dub of Sailor Moon on Cartoon Network in the afternoons, and even though I started watching it in the middle of the series, I didn't have a problem understanding the storyline after watching a few episodes. If we don't look at this as having seen the show uncut and wanting to preserve it, and instead look at this from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy who somehow missed seeing Naruto on Cartoon Network, or who did watch it on CN and can now keep up with it on Disney XD (which is probably the most likely case) this could actually be a good idea for the industry as well. If more kids could see an anime they can get into, and start becoming a fan of it after that, there is a chance we may have to deal with more "japanophiles", but we could also use this to work the industry back to its glory days. I could certainly handle watching my favorite anime with fake bikinis, no cursing, and virtually no blood again on TV if it means my local Best Buy can go back to practically having a whole half-isle of the DVDs on its shelves vs one four foot section.
And finally, I would like to point out that newer cartoons like Phineas and Ferb are showing evidence that Disney is showing signs that they're considering taking risks and giving us children shows with some level of intelligence that adults can also sit down and enjoy and won't just assume that kids can't handle anything that isn't completely mindless and void of thought. I believe the success of Pixar's films and their recent purchase of Marvel is showing signs of a willingness to take more risks and give us entertaining television that can be for younger and older audiences, instead of the current trend of mindless dribble like what remains of Spongebob. At least, I'd like to hope this is what is going on in their heads.
But in the end, it's not on air yet, so we don't know. If they edit the hell out of it until the storyline doesn't make sense anymore, then this is a bonehead move, as fans will refuse to watch it and kids who haven't seen it yet will not understand what's going on and lose interest. If they treat the show with some respect and understand that this show is entertainment for both younger and older audiences, this could work out for everyone in the end.
Rednal, tell us what you *really* think of Disney XD:
XD indeed. I think I'd have to say boneheaded. See, Naruto is already an extremely popular series, and whatever complaints (and there are many) one might have about the most vocal fangirls, one can't deny that the series sells, and I'm sure that Disney wants in on that. In on ALL of it. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if that company had a sixteen-step plan for taking over the entire American anime industry if they thought it would make them enough money to be worthwhile, and starting to air anime on their networks could just be the first step of it. Am I paranoid? Yeah, probably. I want the anime industry to grow, but I want it to grow because of its own merits and smart business decisions, not because a mega-company like Disney decides to enter the scene and start taking over. Sure, anime sales might go up... but it would probably be for series that are already selling well (i.e. Naruto), and they might be perfectly content to let all the other series be left to the side, the ones that aren't as profitable (thus running other companies out of business), forcing us to watch fansubs to get our anime fix. That might be a little extreme, or a lot, but I could see it happening. Disney isn't really a company that supports the little guy, and if they get in on the shows that really help the American companies, I just don't think it's good for anime in America as a whole. If they want an action-y show that will appeal to massive numbers of teens and pre-teens, they can just go ahead and make their own. They have the budget for it, after all.
Hikari is less optimistic than most:
I think Naruto Shippūden and Disney are a bad bad combo. Seriously, even though I am a huge fan of the series, that would probably spoil the whole thing for me. Naruto is famous enough by itself--world's most popular manga,duh--so I don't think throwing the creators of Mickey Mouse in there is going to work out very well. Adapting a manga/anime series with ten years of history into a Disney movie would have dire consequences. The two are like oil and water (excuse the cliched phrase).
Anyway, tossing Naruto into a Disney movie is going to spoil it for Naruto fans like yours truly (I don't want to think about how they'll cast the Sand Siblings) so it will be a flop.The experience would be too painful, like when Dragonball was made into a live action movie--and ruined.
Hell yeah, Kelvin!
Hell yeah, it's a good business move. Cartoon Network was an idiot for removing Naruto, one of the only things that actually got them ratings. While I'm at it, they were idiots to remove Toonami in general.
Whether you like the show or not, I personally love it to bits, you have to admit that they know what they're doing. Naruto on CN grew a huge fanbase, and with the sudden disappearance of the show from tv, they're obviously quite hungry for their orange ninja. It'll be like throwing huge wads of cash right into disney's cryogenic chamber. Some people may not be happy with it, the whole disney is evil thing is always valid, but where else could they show it? Cartoon Networks given it up, Naruto needs a way to reach it's prepubescent/teenage/me viewers.
Unless, of course, we all just go buy on dvd. But that's crazy...
Ooh, drumstix probably just made some enemies today:
Personally, I think that Naruto Shippūden could actually benefit from a little bit of editing. Now I understand that anime fans really hate any sort of editing whatsoever; but hear me out, because I actually have a reason. The original Naruto series (filler aside) carried along with the manga storyline at a watchable pace. But once I got to Naruto Shippūden, the show's pace absolutely hits a wall. It started going SOOO SLOWLY that I couldn't take it anymore. If Disney cuts out all the stupid internal monologues and stare downs (a la Dragonball Z) then Naruto Shippūden could be salvageable.
To sum up, I actually think that Naruto Shippūden could be salvageable if Disney edits it right. However, that will take a lot of money and time, so it is probably a bad business decision.
B. J. puts two and two together:
Disney just bought Marvel, so maybe it's another sign that they're trying to take over the entertainment world!! I mean, if they're going to go after anime, Naruto is the biggest current international property. It's another step towards WORLD DOMINATION!!
Seriously, though, I can think of a few good things about this. First of all, it's a new title on American television, which is victory no matter how you look at it, in my opinion. Also, the word will get around to the kids and teenagers who watched Naruto on Toonami that there's a new series to watch and they'll probably like it. Disney and Viz are seeing dollar signs, so who can really blame them. Disney has always been fair in their treatment of the Ghibli films, and anime as a whole does better when it is in the public consciousness anyway.
However, I also don't blame the deeper anime fans (AKA the majority of people that come to ANN) for feeling a bit wary about this. It's probably going to be edited down and be mixed in with Jonas Brothers commercials. Let's face it, except for Ghibli, most of us don't really go to Disney for our anime. This could go anywhere.
Personally, I'm surprised Adult Swim didn't jump on this. Then again, they don't really jump for new anime properties. I think it would've been right up their alley.
David wraps things up for this week's Hey Answerfans! And he does so by making up a new word:
I believe that apart from the content edits, which I am sure will come, this is a smart move for both companies involved.
Recently, I know for a fact Disney has had a whole debark-al about this season of Power Rangers currently airing being the last. Power Rangers was obviously a big pull for the young boy's market and with Power Rangers no longer airing (or Disney trying to outsource it, either way), they need new boy properties for their network Disney XD. Obviously with the Marvel buy-up, they would have access to Marvel's properties and can have the boy's market with the Marvel superheroes.
By the same token though, you have this mega fanbase of people who like Naruto. It is one of the largest anime properties around and the company currently producing it doesn't have a network to air it. On top of that, they have a huge back-log of already dubbed episodes. It has ninjas. The boys are sure to love it.
Disney probably figured that if they netted in the new series of Naruto, then they would catch not only Naruto fans on a large scale, but also bring in new younger fans who watch Disney XD. This would enlarge the Naruto fanbase for Viz, which would obviously be beneficial to their company. Disney needs new boy properties and they got that with Naruto. They can also bring in the Naruto fanbase at large and have them stay for some more shows on their network and net new Naruto fans with their excellent marketing and network advertisement.
It's a win-win situation for both companies.I think the more pertinent question is why not?
Switching gears, then, to next week's question. WHICH IS THUS:
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.
I'll leave you all to your own devices, then, until next time! Send in those questions and answers, guys! Be back next time!
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