Hey, Answerman!by Brian Hanson, Sep 25th 2009
By now I'm assuming that you are all quite inured to me talking during these brief introductions about how tired I am. Boo-hoo, the anime columnist isn't sleeping enough, whatever, I've got better things to do with my day than listen to some nerd complain about sleep deprivation. And that's fair. I get that. But let me just reiterate: I am very, very tired. I say this not to excuse any shoddy writing that may occur as a result, but simply because it's cathartic. I can't sleep, but I can whine and moan about not sleeping. And that at least helps, somewhat.
What's this? Questions? Oh, yeah:
I was wondering what, if anything, determines whether an anime gets dubbed for American audiences and why we see some titles popular among fans (the only one I can think of right now is Honey and Clover, but I'm sure they're others) go undubbed. Is it just economics that American companies are using to determine which series would supposedly be profitable to dub or is there some underlying cultural work going on? Sure, anime purists might not enjoy dubbing, but they do bring our beloved artists more money, which means more opportunity for them to continue making the anime/manga we love. What I'm really getting at is if there is a sort of criteria that is fairly common among all anime that gets dubbed (aside from the obvious profitability).
Here's the thing: "Popular among fans" does not always translate into "popular at retail." Honey and Clover is a relatively popular manga series, sure, but there's a dedicated market for shoujo manga in America. Unfortunately though, that market hasn't really translated over into the realm of anime. By and large, shoujo anime just dies when it's released on DVD shelves. Why that is, I don't know, but let's just be happy that we're getting Honey and Clover on DVD at all here.
(Addendum: Honey and Clover actually *has* a dub track. Dunno why that slipped by my radar. --Brian)
So, yeah, it's entirely about profitability. Viz recently got burned by Full Moon when it was released dubbed on DVD a few years ago, and Funimation has similar tales of woe regarding Kodocha. But it's not just shoujo titles; Justin Sevakis mentioned this a few weeks ago on one of the ANNcast episodes (which you should be listening to weekly, by the way). Any anime that fits within a sort of niche inside of anime as a whole faces an uphill battle when you include the cost of dubbing, be it a slow-paced moe-fest based upon a dating-sim, a shoujo title, or, God forbid, something made in the 70's or early 80's. Even Gurren Lagann was initially released dub-less.
Unfortunately, in this terrifying modern era of the stark anime market, the simple act of including a dub is no guarantee whatsoever of being able to connect to that elusive "wider audience." Make no mistake, it's been statistically proven that anime DVDs do not sell above a certain amount if they don't include a dub, but it's also been proven that the audience that buys Naruto and Fullmetal Alchemst on DVD do not seem too interested in much else, dub or not. So, simply put, companies consider it a wiser move to save themselves the $30,000 dollars or whatever it costs to dub something and make a sub-only release to cater to the hardcore fans, and call it a day. In a perfect world, either every anime would include a dub, or the so-called "wider audience" would be more accepting of watching a subtitled product, but as we all know the world is far from perfect, so we have to make do. And make do we shall.
What is the real story with Cartoon Network and Anime? I understand why Cartoon Network has reduced their amount of anime shown, but do they really disdain it as it seems and has been mentioned in other forums. I have seen some of their apparent wisecracks about anime and its viewers in their several second spots that they litter around their anime broadcast hours. I have rarely seen much nice said about Cartoon Network in anime forums. Is it a love/hate relationship with Cartoon Network? Does CN only view anime as trash filler for their dead broadcast hours?
First, let's make this a little clearer: Cartoon Network doesn't "disdain" anime more than they seem to disdain animation in general at this point. I mean, who needs actual cartoons on the Cartoon Network when kids are all about lame reality shows for teenagers and Andrew W.K.?
Second, I think you're really referring to Adult Swim, here. Adult Swim operates under a much different aegis than the Cartoon Network it was born from, as it caters to an entirely different (i.e. older) audience. As far as Adult Swim is concerned, this is something I mentioned quite frequently when I was writing The Click every week. Adult Swim does not, in any way, "hate" anime. That said, they definitely don't seem to treat it very well. And they certainly tease anime fans as often as possible. I imagine the teasing and wisecracks occur because they enjoy watching their forums explode with fanboy anger, but that's still a far cry from hating anime.
I mean, in all honesty, if they hated anime, why would they still air it? Why the hell would they put Moribito, one of their lowest-rated shows in the network's entire history, back on the air to complete its run if they hated it? Why would they run old episodes of black-and-white shows like Gigantor and Astro Boy, when they know that no one in their right mind would ever watch them? Sure, yeah, those shows are given lousy "filler" timeslots, but Adult Swim could easily throw a repeat of Family Guy or King of the Hill in place of any of their anime shows and the ratings would triple, guaranteed. Even at 5:00am on a Sunday morning.
I definitely think it's a love/hate relationship that Adult Swim has with anime, but probably not in the context you're thinking of. Adult Swim loves anime, but they hate that nobody watches it. The blame for that simple fact could be attributed to many things; lack of promotion, lousy timeslots, or just plain lack of viewer interest. But anime is still on the air, and that's a good thing.
I was watching TV last night and came across an old Jackie Chan movie, Operation Condor. Well one of the voices of a main character sounded familiar (This was the english Dubbed movie). People on ANN always talk about how all the same dub actors/actresses are used in every anime, so I was able to pick out the voice of Bridget Hoffman as Ada (Played by Carol Cheng). Halfway through the movie I had to IMDB it to make sure I was correct. But I couldn't find an english dubbed cast list for it, nor was it listed when I looked up Bridget Hoffman's filmography. But when the credit's rolled and we got to the US production company stuff, sure enough her name was there but It was not credited properly with her character's name. They just listed all the voice talent by their names only and not the characters they were dubbing.
So my question is about Dub actors. I had thought all entertainers had to be part of some guild or union. Is this the case with voice actor's? And if they are, don't they have to be properly credited in everything they do?
Two dubbing questions! My.
In case it's not fairly obvious to everyone, dubs of nearly every stripe tend to be done on the cheap. And I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way. Unless Disney is dubbing a new Studio Ghibli movie, dub studios and especially dub actors have to work very fast to produce the best product they can with a shoestring budget. And that becomes a problem when you enter Unions into the equation.
If you're any sort of an actor in, say, Los Angeles, even a voice actor, you need to be a member of the Screen Actors Guild to find regular acting work. And if you're a member of SAG, you're lucky in that you have a minimum wage that your employer, even a lowly dubbing studio, is required to meet. But let's say that you're having trouble finding work, even as a SAG member, and this little dubbing studio is willing to hire you on for a few voices, but they can't afford to pay you SAG wages, ellipses...
One of the dirty little secrets about the dub industry that's often mentioned but never really discussed is that often, not so much recently but certainly in the past, recognizable voice actors took part in anime dubs under pseudonyms. Dub actor needs work, dub studio can't make the SAG wage, so the dub actor just accepts credit under an assumed name and uses the smaller check to buy his daily bread. But that's the sort of thing that could get both the actor and the dubbing studio in a lot of hot water, potentially, so the subject is usually brushed aside. Again, this really only applies to dubbing studios around Los Angeles, as SAG's control doesn't extend beyond the borders of California, so studios in Texas and Canada don't need to worry about Union-related litigious troubles. Besides that, there's also the little thing about fewer and fewer anime dubs even being made anymore, so this is largely a relic of anime fandom since past. So now, instead of actors having to take extra work under a pseudonym, they're not able to take extra work at all! SO it's kind of worse.
I gave the Flake of the Week segment a little bit of a breather last week, so this week I made a concerted effort to delve into the darkest recesses of the Answerman inbox to find something special.
I mean no sincere disrespect to the guy who gave me his Dragonball script treatment. All I'm sayin' is... no Comic Sans.
And now it's Hey, Answerfans time! Put on your Answer-caps and Answer along to the Bouncing Answer Ball as we revisit last week's question:
According to Jay Lorenz, it's all in the tagline, baby:
In one of our Journalism classes, we had at least 2 activities on advertising. (Strangely, some Journalism graduates here in the Philippines go on to become advertisers/PR men, if you could get your head around that.) One of the techniques I abuse often is the use of taglines or slogans. These short but meaningful statements in slogans, as we have found out, effectively gets the audience's attention, among other things.
I had an idea a few months ago for an advertising campaign for both Hayate, The Combat Butler and Kuroshitsuji (if, for some miraculous reason, they get premiered on local TV here). Since they are both butler-centered anime titles, I'm going to use their similarity to market both of them. And the ingenious slogan I made for it is:
"Who says we can't serve two masters at the same time?"
And the ad campaign pretty much shoots off from there.
Avoll oversees his answer:
If there was one show I'd want to try and introduce to the American audience, it'd be Soul Eater, mainly because it has enough action for the action-show fan, enough comedy for the comedy-show fan, and enough horror for the horror-show fan. If marketing money is no object, then I, the grand overseer of the whole production, would run several TV spots that highlight both the action and comedy of the show (which wouldn't be much of a problem, seeing as there's plenty of both.) I'd also make sure that the English adaptation of the manga was good; if people read that first and don't like it, nothing's going to get them interested in the series itself. The one thing I definitely would not do, though FUNimation seems to be going that way right now, is focus solely on the comedy or action part of the series; that cuts the audience's interest by half. Also, in an ideal world, I'd get Soul Eater a spot on a network like Cartoon Network, though likely on Adult Swim. I'd also boast about previous things I'd helped produce; somewhere along the lines I'd squeeze in a popular name like Bleach or Naruto to grab a casual anime fan's interest. I'd make a pretty good grand overseer... that is, if I had the money to do all this.
Tom is nothing if not a dude:
Well, I'm aware this series isn't exactly new, but the show I can envision a place in the U.S. for is Sky Girls. Now I know that might sound slightly fruity with me being a dude and all, but think about it. It's like Sailor Moon for the new generation of anime lovers, plus it combines mecha action with rather well-done female models.
But, being both a dub fan and an aspiring voice actor, my biggest reason for wanting this show on U.S. air is to take advantage of the DOZENS of good female actors we have working in the anime industry: Cindy Robinson, Mona Marshall, Maryke Hendrikse, Tabitha St. Germain, Melissa Fahn, and so on and so forth...
Now, as to how I would go about promoting it...well, it doesn't seem like a show that would suffer from editing, so I would show it in daytime on Cartoon Network or CW4Kids/4KidsTV. I'd just have to make sure to promote it like crazy on the regular CW as well as make sure the content contains the same quality as the first season of "The Spectacular Spider-Man" did.
How about Movie Theaters? There are several advantages to this; first, American movies as a whole are generally mainstream entertainment, and especially with the major films, a lot of people see them in the theaters. So that's a quick and easy way to actually find the audience, and get them to associate anime with being "normal", not "weirdo Japanese stuff". Next, the series can actually be chosen to fit with the movie; imagine, for example, having a commercial for Gundam 00 playing right before Transformers. People are already going in thinking "Giant Robot Awesomeness", so why not advertise when people are already in the mood? On top of that, Movie Theaters are used to playing relatively long commercials for other movies and such, and people actually expect this, and they're probably going to sit through and see the whole thing instead of walking out or changing the channel like they might in other places. I'm thinking that the Intro for a series, textless, might make a very good commercial, especially for a series that's action-oriented. In this economy, we might even be able to get a bit of a discount; I'm sure the theaters would enjoy any extra revenue. This might not be the greatest advertisement for the more... niche... titles, but for a series that can appeal to a wider audience, there's a good chance for it to work.
Raga's idea would go great with those elusive Mennonite anime fans:
I would choose to market Spice and Wolf. Obviously, the best way to do this would be to gradually introduce Trenny silvers into the American economy, until it becomes the dominant form of currency. Once that has been accomplished, the anime company that licensed it (which produced said Trenny silvers) would be able to rule the US via economic dominance, and, consequently, any further action would be child's play. Not to mention that the prevailing form of currency would double as promotional material, thereby further enhancing sales.
Alternately, hire pairs of representatives to travel via horse and cart from town to town bartering box sets.
Maureen's Response Ensues!
If the US anime companies had a surplus of cash (dream big, guys....), it's hard to say initially what show should be marketed to a mass audience. Safe to say, the only shows in recent memory that have truly become legends in anime fandom have been Trigun, Inuyasha, Naruto, and Fullmetal Alchemist (as well as Haruhi and Ouran, but I think those weren't nearly as widespread. I'm talking you-can-find-tshirts-for-these-shows-in-normal-american-stores popular). Recently in Japan, though I have watched and loved many shows that have come out in, say, the past two years, I have a hard time imagining any of these shows reaching and captivating a mass or even relatively mainstream audience; they would simply thrive within their niche, and die out, regardless of how much money an american company threw at it. Two shows that I WISH would reach to a mainstream audience, however, are Toradora and Michiko e Hatchin. Though the latter could be slow-developing at times, and the former slightly annoying in it's love-square/pentagon, both anime truly had heart, and they made you just the tiniest bit happier going through your day (which I think any true piece of entertainment should strive for). Toradora I could see reaching the general anime populus, though it may be written off as just a school drama at first; it's Michiko e Hatchin that would be tough to market: "Badass Brazillian Woman Sort Of Kidnaps A Boyish Young Girl; Adventure Ensues!". Not much of a campaign. But hey, if they have this monopoly money we're pretending they have, why the hell not? Let them think up a slogan. I just want people to love these shows.
And... that's actually all the responses I got. Yikes. I guess people had a hard time relating to the question? Well, anyway, I've got a new question for next time that'll hopefully set your creative-response-glands ablaze:
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.
So please, respond respond respond! Without responses of both the question and answer variety I'm merely a tired man typing random letters on a website! So get on it! The amount of which I love each and every one of you is mathematically linked to how many questions and responses I get! It's been proven by science. Until next time, then, adieu everyone!
discuss this in the forum (56 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history