Hey, Answerman!
Modern Guilt

by Brian Hanson, Dec 10th 2010

Hello hello, boys and girls and ladies and gentlemen! Welcome once again to another round of the patented Q&A madness that is Hey, Answerman! We've got some unique questions this week, so let's get to 'em:


Dear Answerman,

What do you think is better, trying to make a career out of creating new content, or only presenting things you think are really good?

Last week you recommended to someone that they write as much as they can to get noticed (or something similar to that). But the thing is, I'd bet that probably leads to people basically running out of good ideas and inspiration and people having to resort to uninspired or generic content. We can probably both agree that's a big problem in the anime industry and probably most other mediums too (movies, games, books, ect). I'd say there's even a possibility that it could even keep them from creating truly great content since they could never combine good ideas. Personally (I fancy myself a storyteller) rather than creating a bunch of generic, one-off, semi-good story lines I prefer to combine as many of the good ones as I can into the same universe. I think it makes for better content. What do you think?

Okay, sure, I'll elaborate a little bit on that.

When I said that aspiring writers need to "write as much as they can to get noticed," that wasn't at all me saying, "churn out a bunch of crap and pray that somebody likes it." My point is that the reality of creativity is that, well, honestly, a good portion of the stuff you'll be writing (or drawing, or singing, or anything) at an early stage in your career is going to be crap. And, again, that's not me being bitter or anything. That's just the way that it is. You may think that you're a talented storyteller, and you very well may be, but without the necessary training and toil that every successful artist undertakes, that talent is going to look unrefined and uninteresting to the casual observer. The only way to work through that is to simply keep on working; start developing the skills and the abilities to hew that natural talent into the kinds of stories and pieces of entertainment that people want to see.

Also, a good writer is a good writer, no matter the assignment. It's important, especially if you "fancy yourself a storyteller," to be just as comfortable writing something short and brief as something long and ponderous. You should be able to create an interesting story with just two characters at a table for ten pages just as easily as you can create an interesting ten volume fantasy series about dragons. Dragons that fix malfunctioning time machines in the land of Ul'urqath.

Does this have anything to do with the lack of creativity in anime? Not at all. The slow-turning machine that churns out writers for anime and movies and comics and everything else hasn't really changed all that much since the 90's - if anything, the internet has democratized the process to such an extent that virtually *anyone* willing to put in the effort for it can find themselves published as a writer. The pool of talent to pull from has grown, and grown rapidly. That would all be well and good - if writers actually had any real control over the projects they work on. (PROTIP: They don't!)

And the reason the writers don't have any control is because, y'know, hey, this is entertainment, folks. If you want to see some anime with creativity and an abundance of ideas, I can show you an episode of Trapeze or something similar. But why would *anyone* wanna watch a show like that? There's no boobs in it or wooden tsundere archetypes or silly characters with superpowers fighting each other.

There's never a lack of creativity in any medium; it's just that occasionally we'll run into a rough spot every other year or so when all of our big, expensive movies and TV shows and anime projects are dictated by expensive, poorly-scripted setpieces or cheap plot twists or a dartboard of nerd fetishes the producers are required to cater to.


Hey, Answerman! So, I stumbled upon this particular thread in japan-guide.com, a site where native Japanese speakers help answer questions about Japan. Among the responses to the thread-starter's question of whether or not anime is a "kid thing":

"Anime is not a kid thing. It's an otaku (geek) thing. They show a lot of them after midnight for those who'd rather watch anime than get some beauty sleep for tomorrow's work."

And in regards to adults watching anime like Elfen Lied:

"Yes, but it does not mean many Japanese adults watch such anime titles. They are geared only towards anime-addicted adults. Many Japanese adults even don't know existence of such anime."

Granted, the responses there are quite minuscule, and it's possible that the responders were exaggerating. But it is a little surprising to think that (non-otaku) adults in Japan wouldn't consider watching intelligent shows like Ghost in the Shell or Neon Genesis Evangelion. I've always thought that anime encompassed the tastes of everybody living in Japan, both old and young.

Yep, they're absolutely right. Anime that doesn't have the name "Studio Ghibli" on the cover tends to either be for children or otaku. Even shows like Evangelion or Elfen Lied or other "adult oriented" anime programs.

Lemme ask you this, though: Are they wrong?

I mean, yes, technically, we here in America have comic books and "Graphic Novels" for all ages and all walks of life. But in all honesty, strictly percentage-wise, how many people are actually going to be familiar with Alan Moore and Grant Morrison? I'll tell you who's going to be familiar with them: Nerds!

No, I'm not suggesting that all comic books and graphic novels are for nerds. But I can't exactly blame any random person off the street for thinking that they are, because what rational adult would want to read comic books for stupid kids and maladjusted sociopaths?

It's just yet another one of those frustrating little stereotypes that has stuck and is unlikely to change anytime soon. Even though Evangelion was a huge success in Japan that reached just enough outside of the Otaku culture to become a mainstay Japanese pop-culture stalwart, the same can't be said of contemporaneous anime series like Elfen Lied. Much in the same way that the huge success of the Iron Man movies hasn't turned everyone in America into a Marvel Comics subscriber.

So again, I mean, are they wrong to assume that all anime is made for Otaku? They kind of are; even a show like, say, Eden of the East, accessible and intelligent though it is, isn't going to convince every adult in Japan that anime isn't just for sweaty nerds and children. That show is good enough that it will hopefully reach a broader audience (hopefully in the West as well), but the nice thing about Japan is that there are a lot of hardcore Otaku fans there, they are devout, and they will wholeheartedly support a show with all their might. And disposable income.


Man of Answers,

I have a question that I hope you can provide an answer for. I am not a big manga reader, but for certain anime that I really like, I want to read the source manga. Viz is bringing us Cross Game, so I can just buy that with no problem, however certain titles are not being brought to the English speaking world. In these cases I can scratch the itch with (often poorly worded and edited) scanlations, but I feel bad when I do. I want to support the source, but I don't really see manga as art and I can't speak or read Japanese, so I have no desire to actually own Japanese manga. So here is what I want to do: I would like to purchase volumes of manga from an online store in Japan, and have them sent to a charity or library of some sort in Japan. This is hopefully where you come in.

Is this a feasible idea?

P.S. I think you should start a friendly Internet slapfight with Todd Ciolek, using your respective columns as platforms. You are both funny writers, and it could be very entertaining.

Aw, thanks. (I actually don't know Todd all that well outside of the realm of ANN, sad to say. Internet slapfight, though? C'mon. Let's be mature here. Even though I'm probably an even bigger nerd for Japanese videogames than he is. BOOM)

Anyway. You have what I like to call "Scanlation Guilt." That's okay.

I think you've got a good idea here, but it is a little bit... unnecessary. Look, I mean, everybody in this industry has been harping on fans for the better part of a decade now to support them. But, as I've said before, it's not at all necessary to support everything. Mainly because not everybody has a treasure trove of unreasonable wealth to afford such an endeavor. My simplest response to your question would be - you know, if manga simply isn't your thing, for whatever reason, you're not one-hundred percent obligated to support it out of pure loyalty. I won't get into how completely bizarre it is that somebody who is into anime as much as you seem to be doesn't see manga as "art" (seriously?) but you don't, so why bother? I love N.E.R.D., but their new album is pretty lousy, so I'm not in any big hurry to "support" that by buying it.

Should you feel bad for reading scanlations? Yeah, sure. A little bit, of course. Most people don't, but I applaud you for having the decency to admit to yourself that what you're doing is a bit sketchy. But there's no need, really, to go completely out of your way to buy something you don't really want and don't really need.

But! Your idea of donating them is rather cool. I don't have any specifics for how that would feasibly work at the moment, but I can look into it and plug it at the beginning of a future column. There's a ton of English-speaking manga specialists and bloggers and others who actually live in Japan that would have a much better idea of how to do this than I would, so I'll ask around and see how this could work in a practical sense. Two wrongs never make a right, but two rights always do. Mathematically speaking.




Somebody had too much time on their hands. Normally I wouldn't reward this kind of misguided attempt at capturing my attention but I was just mildly amused by it enough so HERE YA GO

All I wanna know is....

Where the hood, where the hood, where the hood at?
Have that anime in the cut, where the wood at?
Oh, them anime actin up?!? Where the wolves at?
You better BUST THAT if you gon pull that

Where the hood, where the hood, where the hood at?
Have that anime in the cut, where the wood at?
Oh, them anime actin up?!? Where the wolves at?
You better BUST THAT if you gon pull that

Man, cats don't know what it's gonna be
messin with a dog like me, D-to-the-M-to-the-X
Last I heard, y'all cowards was havin anime, with the same anime
I show no love......
To anime thugs
Empty out, reloaded and throw more slugs
How you gonna explain born in a man?
Even if we anime the anime, I ain't touchin ya hand
I don't mess with chumps, for those to been to jail
That's the cat with the Kool-Aid on his anime and anime
I can't deal with brother that think they anime
Only know how to be one way, that's the dog
I know how to get down, know how to bite, bite
Bark very little, but I know how to fight, fight
I know how to chase a cat up in the tree
man, i'll give you cowards the business for messin wot me
ay you crazy!

Once a song, I come though, guns is drawn
BLAM BLAM, lungs are gone, sons will mourn
From dusk till dawn, nighttime belongs to the dog
On the street passed midnight, look for 'em in the morgue
Don't play with these cats cuz I ain't got nothin to say to these cats
For the mothers that really do love em, please pray for these cats
Cuz I know they all is hardheaded but I ain't got the patience
Don't want me havin no patience turn into more patience
More trips to I.C.U cuz I see you
Tryna get away with things a real anime wouldn't do
Where my dogs at? (right here) See them anime? (right there)
get em boy! (right there) That's how we do... (aiight then)
This is for my dogs, this is for my dogs
yo, where we at baby?!? (creepin through the fog)
From then till now, don't ask me how
Know that we gon roll like them chaps and hit every block on the job

Where the hood, where the hood, where the hood at?
Have that anime in the cut, where the wood at?
Oh, them anime actin up?!? Where the wolves at?
You better BUST THAT if you gon pull that

Where the hood, where the hood, where the hood at?
Have that anime in the cut, where the wood at?
Oh, them anime actin up?!? Where the wolves at?
You better BUST THAT if you gon pull that

where the hood at?!

BTW this e-mail will be sent once a week every week until it is addressed on your

Congratulations. You Win.


Is it Answerfans time? It is. It so, so is.

So, once again, I didn't get all that many responses to the question - it probably required just a little bit too much effort I guess - so lesson learned. As a little reminder, here was my purported task to everyone:


Joshquinne begins with his lofty goals for his Shonen Jump rival:

If I were to start my own manga magazine the demographics it would target would be both boys and girls (specifically for teenage boys and girls). This would mean serializing both shonen and shojo manga. The magazine would feature stories of every genre from Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Sports, to even Urban Fiction. The magazine would feature manga made by both Japanese and U.S mangaka so as long as their manga met certain criteria, which isn't much. The art just has to be good and of high quality, as well as the art itself has to look like it can tell the story without the use of word bubbles. But the most important thing is that the story itself has to be good. Expectation for a good story would be a bit higher then art because there's no point in a manga having a good looking art when the story itself is either bland or terrible.

As for competition it seems that the only magazine I would be competing against would be Shonen Jump. No problem though, for my magazine won't just focus mostly on serializing manga like Shonen Jump, but it would also feature topics of different subjects. Topics would include Japanese culture (as well as pop culture), art, music, video games, cooking, fashion, science, and gardening. That would be my strategy to compete against Shonen Jump. That and to just have manga that is well diverse and have high quality story telling.

My magazine would be something that would appeal to a wide range of audience in their teens but it would also be open to adults as well. After all there would be some topics that both teens and adults can enjoy as well as stories they can share together. In a way it could bring people together.

Mr. Blue wants to serialize Kate Beaton and that is okay with me:

Since I'm not likely to be approached in Real Life to begin a weekly manga mag, I'm going to make this a Lottery Dream Ego Project type thing and skip any realistic thoughts about making a profit, reaching a broad audience, etc.

So, if I were to publish a weekly manga mag, the cornerstone stories would be serialized versions of SF novels I happen to love. I'd commission a few good artist to draw up faithful adaptations of “Hyperion”, “Starship Troopers”, “The Mote in God's Eye”, and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. I'd also like to have a rotation where the artist would have about two weeks to draw up each chapter.

But wait! There's more! I'd give regular space to some of the webcomics I can't live without, such as “Lovecraft is Missing” or “Hark! A Vagrant!” It would also be interesting to allow space for open submissions of original works.

I may even put in some Japanese stuff too…

And now, some shameless toadying from Anth!

You, Answerman! :3

That seems like the right answer to the question.

If it were me I would just resurrect Raijin and Pulp and combine them into one weird, arty, silly manly magazine with crazy manga about crazy people doing insane things followed by big beefy guys punching each other into bloody, meaty chunks.

It would fail miserably. Just like Pulp and Raijin!

So. What's the big question that is SURE to be on everybody's mind next week? Why, it's this:


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.

That's all I have in the way of content for this week, but make sure to drop me an email at answerman(AT!)animenewsnetwork.com if you've got ANY questions or answers or anything. Really. Any old thing will do, as verbose or as concise as you'd like. In the meantime, have a fine week full of fun and adventure, and I'll be back next time!


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