Hey, Answerman! Daddy Loves Death Note
by Brian Hanson, Apr 15th 2011
Salutations, friends and neighbors! It's Answerman again.
Lacking any sort of amusing anecdote-slash-critique of our medical system, I'll instead just get right to the heart of things:
For the past year or two I've switched from buying manga from bookstores to online sellers such as Amazon or The Book Depository due to cheaper prices. How are these sellers able to charge at a much lower price? And does the manga industry benefit the same if I paid the discounted price as opposed to the MSRP? Or does the price come at a cost to the sellers only?
Ah, well. How can they afford to discount their books? Several reasons, most of which come from the fact that online retailers don't have to pay for things like... say, rent on a storefront. Pay for low-wage employees. Shipping costs from their warehouses to the stores themselves. All of that adds up, and that's why you pay full MSRP at your local Borders and Barnes & Noble.
Amazon and Right Stuf and others don't have any physical stores, so that cuts those budgetary concerns away. Even still, their profit on each manga volume sold is pretty marginal, all told. Luckily! Since you yourself have stated that you've switched from bookstores to online stores, they make that margin count with one simple thing: volume. Even if the profit margin for each book sold is slim, so long as they manage to sell a buttload of 'em, nobody ends up complaining.
As for how much of that profit ends up in the pockets of the manga industry... that, uh, depends. Which is my way of saying that nobody really knows - that's up to whatever confidential agreement that was decided upon between the publisher and the retailer. You know, the sort of information that's closely guarded as a business secret and will probably never be publicly disclosed to the general populace. Rest assured though that you're not gypping the manga industry out of any much-needed cash if you decide to buy your books cheaper online as opposed to brick and mortar stores; the publishers will wind up getting their agreed-upon slice of the sale either way (unless you're buying used, in which case the publisher gets nada).
We've all seen how harem shows and 'cute girls doing cute things' shows get a lot of flack in recent years. They're derided for high amounts of fanservice, single trait characters, lack of plot, and so on. However, Love Hina and Azumanga Daioh received much praise when they came out and, to my knowledge, they still do. So why are similar shows now regarded as trash? Is it because Love Hina and Azumanga were many people's first exposure to those types of shows, and thus they are fresh and anything that followed are mere imitators? After so many years of those kinds of shows is it just a matter of fatigue? If everyone were to watch Love Hina and Azumanga Daioh today, do you suppose they would hate it just as much as recently released shows or would nostalgia goggles win the day? Or is it just that hating on these kind of shows is merely what all the 'cool kids' are doing these days and everyone is hopping on that bandwagon?
In short, how would you explain this change in attitude over time?
This is all just human nature, really. If we see something that we haven't seen before, and most crucially, if it's done well, we cast everything else that's even remotely similar as a pallid shadow of the Thing We Loved Originally. Because I love analogies, let's look at Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings movies. They were well-executed and audiences loved them. But, how much did they love Starchaser: The Legend or Orin or the movie version of Eragon?
Love Hina and Azumanga Daioh weren't "new" in and of themselves, honestly - harem comedies had existed before in various incarnations, and a 4-koma gag manga in itself can hardly be called "original." But the settings and the characters and the situations those shows introduced were new, and, most crucially, they were executed well. More importantly than that, they were popular. Popular enough that a long string of "imitators" as you call them persist to this day. If I were to pop in a disc of Love Hina right at this very second I doubt I would enjoy it today as much as I did a decade ago - mainly because, as you pointed out, the jokes in that show have been repeated to death by other, lesser products - but I would still probably enjoy the characters and the story for what it is.
I mean, the reason that current shows like Sofutenni are seemingly being crapped on isn't because every ANN reviewer has an axe to grind against Cute-Girls-Doing-Stuff shows - nobody's being cynical for some indie hipster cred or anything. It's merely that Sofutenni doesn't do much beyond what a bunch of other shows already did. Which is fine for the people who crave more of that, but for the rest of us - the rest of us who are starving for something new and unique... eh.
It is fatigue. It would be one thing if every harem comedy were as likeable as Love Hina, or if every cute-girls-doing-things show was as good as Azumanga Daioh... but they aren't. And even if they were, we're sort of biologically designed to think of everything that's even remotely similar to something we saw the first time as inherently inferior.
That's why we like new things.
I have made a horrible mistake. It began about a year ago, when I tried to get my 50 year old dad into anime. I didn't really have anybody in my high school who was into anime, except the anime club, but they were too hardcore for me. I considered myself to be more of a casual fan, but if I'm writing to you now, I suppose that's no longer the case. Our family had seen all the classic anime movies, but they got no respect beyond “Oh, that was cute.” I wanted to move on to the next level, anime with actual episodes.
I knew my dad did not take anime seriously, and I only had one chance to get him interested in a series. I had the perfect show for the occasion however: Death Note. It was the first manga I read, the first anime I loved, and I felt no man could resist it's charms. When I first showed it to him, I thought I had failed, but after the first episode was over, and I was about to turn it off, he said “ Play another one, I want to see what happens next.” I was so overjoyed, we watched the whole series and he loved it, even the dreadful second half. He asked me to find more of this thing you call “anime” for us to watch, so I did.
But as we tried out numerous new series, I realized a flaw in my plan. Now he compares everything to Death Note! Shows he rejected before the first episode: Evangelion (too whiny), Baccano! (too silly), Lain (too weird), Mushi-Shi (too slow), Hellsing (TOO BORING), and I don't know why he didn't like Ghost in the Shell, but he was too asleep to ask. Weirdly, he loved The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Black Lagoon. Do you see a pattern in this madness, because I need a new show to sate his lust for Death Note. Suggestions or solutions?
Pattern? What pattern?
The reason I brought this question up - aside from the cute anecdote about a 50 year-old man enjoying Death Note - is because I wanted to make an important point: there is never a definable pattern for a person's personal taste. Never ever never.
I mean, seriously. How many times have any of you, personally, found yourself somewhat unimpressed by something you thought you'd love? Speaking for myself: according to iTunes' "Genius" program, I would love the band Mountain Goats, but I don't. I find them hollow and boring. My friends all love the God of War games; I think they're repetitive and silly. Even though I love Devil May Cry and Bayonetta.
My point is that we all have individual personalities and tastes that make us all unique, and even if there's something even remotely similar to something we liked before, as I mentioned in the previous answer, there's never any guarantee that we'll respond favorably in the same way. Quality is a subjective opinion, and all of that. And honestly, even though I love Evangelion and Baccano! and Lain and Mushi-Shi and Hellsing, I have to agree with your dad's initial gut reactions - Evangelion DOES get a bit "whiny." Baccano! IS silly. Mushi-Shi is a bit slow and Hellsing has some pacing problems where I wouldn't be surprised if somebody found it "boring." But, hey, he loved The Girl Who Leapt Through Time - I did too!
The great thing about your dad, though, is that he's at least giving these shows a chance. He's not dismissing all anime sight unseen as garbage. That, in and of itself, is a testament to the man's open-mindedness. My suggestion to you? Try everything. Any show or movie or what-have-you that you find enjoyable, show to your father. He's already gotten over the difficult part of being an anime fan - namely, setting aside any pre-conceived notions of animation as a "genre" and enjoying a title for what it is. Who knows what he'll like next? He might like House of Five Leaves, or Garzey's Wing for all you know.
There is no real metric that dictates that a person who liked X will like Y. As much as people like to try, at least. I can't count the number of odd things that Amazon thinks I'd like to buy, or the weird stuff that shows up on my "Recommended for Brian" list on Netflix. It's impossible. And it's because I'm an individual, with my own tastes and preferences.
I like the cut of this guy's jib!
you guys are really wonderful . i enjoy the way you have put together your website making it easy too search for fabulous anime. I am an artist and story writer I usually put together mangas but my business hasnt been exceeding very well. but recently i have come up with a wonderful idea for an anime that anybody would like to get there hands on ive been trying to contact any anime company i can. If you dont help im afraid someone will take my idea. PLEASE help i just need to talk to one of your represenatives it will only take an hour if that . you eat lunch everyday anyway why not spend that time to make a eye poppin jaw droppin show stoppin anime that will blow peoples minds. this story is out of this world man im not lying to you one bit i just need someone to listen if u dont like it fine but its a better story plot than any anime ive ever seen in my life no lie . it walks the razor edge of imagination and reality. and thats something the anime industry thrives for PLEASE . i just need a smart company to believe in me it puts bleach and full metal to shame really easy like. contact me this is urgent . im not playin around and i know you guys are smart enough to realize oppurtunity im just sick of seeing these second rate animes come out when this is right in front of me . its really unbelievable the theme flavor romance and morals that ive interwoven into this one and would love to see you guys go places with it . please contact me and keep up the good work . Its not going to be a waste of time i swear that on my mother
I mean, I like that this guys likes us and all. That's all well and good. But, why leave me hanging here? Why not tell me this "eye poppin jaw droppin" idea? I WILL NEVER KNOW AND NOW I AM SAD.
Alright, alright, alright! It's time for me to stop talking now and let you guys take the bullhorn atop the soapbox - otherwise known as Answerfans.
Last week, as I was cooling down from the malaise known as March Madness, I was curious about something:
Black Mokona begins my sports-related Bacchanalia by examining cultural divides:
I'm not willing to bet a dime on this theory, but I thought it sounded semi-logical.
First of all, manga is an escape. It explain why so many fantasy series are popular and possibly make up what is mainstream in America. But culture is also an escape, one even more extreme, in fact, and fascination with Japanese culture has been identified since, well, very long ago. The theory is that sports is so loved in America that a different interpretation is unwelcome. One could say that America is at the centre of the happenings of sports, and since Japan all but imports the sweaty, bloody carnage called sport from other parts of the world, sports manga loses one critical driving force (?) of interest, cultural value. Consider Hikaru no Go which has done fairly well in the States for such a low-action manga, arguably both renewing passion for and benefiting from fascination of some old, Japanese board game.
What can be done for such a fundamental difference (that may or may not have contributed to sports manga's unpopularity)? For one, US publishers could spare some attention to other traditional games such as mahjong, go the extra mile to explain de rulez, and try for small profits. There is also hope for Mitsuru Adachi's slice of life looking at the recent Cross Game release, I think, because they hold a fine blend of high school romance, humor and massive subtext, which is generally unfamiliar in American shores when placed next to sport. Not forgetting to cross fingers all the while, of course. Commercially though, I can't imagine anything good enough. Viz could always put long previews of hits like Slam Dunk online, hm, now there's a thought.
I got yer twenty dollars right here, Neal:
I don't think Sports Anime/Manga have made any traction in this country for a very simple reason--the audience has a bias that is very difficult to overcome. They think the anime or manga is about the sport. And my experience has been people watch the sport for the event itself, not to experience a drama.
These shows/manga are never about the sport. They, like all good stories, are about the characters. In this case, sports are merely a vehicle for the personal growth of the protagonist (and by extension the audience). Friendships and rivalries are born through competition and life lessons are learned through the outcome of each game the team plays and all the drama and comedy that ensues. The good ones go beyond the sports trappings and find something universal for everyone. If the characters are strong enough the audience will want to know what that character does outside of the gynasium, stadium or dojo.
The only way to convice people is to show them the material and that might need a little creativity. I'd start placing bets. $20 to prove to me that mahjong isn't boring, for example. (And after watching Saki I'd like to learn to play mahjong).
Alan, don't tell that to the Point Guard on my high school basketball team who always wanted to talk to me about Outlaw Star:
An anime or manga series that clearly focuses on a particular sport will not attract the attention of the average otaku who has little or no interest in sports. I don't mean to generalize, but most high school football players are not anime fans (at best, a few may be "closet" fans). Furthermore, the mentality is prevalent that sports anime and manga will lack cohesive plot and character development; any sort of plot will focus on some goal of winning the big game, tournament, championship, etc.. And finally, with the exception of maybe sumo wrestling, sports are not something that anime and manga fans outside of Japan want to see in their favorite series because, well, they're not unique to Japan. If a fan were to choose between a manga volume of Sailor Moon or Slam Dunk, it's a no-brainer which one she's going to pick! You don't see many magical girl series produced in America, but we are inundated constantly with basketball, especially recently with the NCAA Tournament.
I don't know if there's much that can be done to turn it around, aside from word of mouth, which is almost non-existent. I thought there might have been some hope a few years ago with the Eyeshield 21 anime with support from Toonami Jetstream and NFL Rush, but it didn't last long. No fast and easy answers here as it appears sports anime and manga cannot find a home among sports fans nor anime fans.
You are welcome, Adam. You're welcome.
First of all, on behalf of all of us college basketball fans with a soul, let me thank you for knocking off Duke. Now, on to the question...
Drawing somewhat from my own experience, I think sports anime/manga hasn't taken off for two reasons:
1. In the US, anime is marketed primarily towards kids and teenagers. I think in general, this limits the appeal simply because most kids don't actually understand the sports they grow up watching until they get to middle school or high school and start paying more attention to them or start playing them. I'm as big a football fan as I know, and I was raised that way, but honestly, I didn't really start to understand football until 2006 or so when I was halfway through high school. I got the general idea, sure, but it wasn't until then that I started to pick up on the finer points of offensive and defensive schemes, some of the less obvious rules, etc. Ditto for most other sports I enjoy, pushed back another year or two. In order to pickup a sports title purely because it has a baseball, or a football, or whatever on the cover, I feel like you would have to really enjoy the sport for what it is, not just when your tea is playing, and I don't think that people become truly hooked on a sport until their later teens at the soonest, and perhaps not often until they got to college where having a good team might get them hooked. There are plenty of exceptions here, I am sure (See: Texas high school football), but I'm going for the general case here. Even then, I speak from experience that most of the students at football games are frat boys or sorority sisters who could easily blow a .14 and even if they did know much of anything about football, they'd be too drunk to use that knowledge and too busy falling into me. Quite simply, the sports genre is not well marketed to people who might bite on it purely because its about sports.
2. The second reason the sports genre doesn't take off is because the people that do most often see them, anime fans, don't really care for sports. Its really a shame in my humblest of opinions, but the stereotype of anime fans is usually spot-on when it comes to sports. For the same reasons that sports fans might pick up a title just because it has something to do with their sport, anime fans are likely not to. Getting an average anime fan to pick one of these up generally takes a strong recommendation from their friends, and it requires the sports aspect to be rather secondary. This isn't pure speculation, either. I once went to a sports anime panel at a con, and that is exactly what the panelists said to the nodding of heads of most people in the room. Basically, there was no chance they were trying any of those series until someone swore to them it was good. Again, I find that to be a real bummer. Just as we swear up and down that average Americans can enjoy anime, I would say the same for anime fans and sports.
How do we solve this? Well, I can think of only one solution. We need some hockey anime. As a student at a university that has won a national championship with a 5'6" Japanese-Canadian forward (who was also the captain) on the top line, I feel qualified to assert this. That player would go on to coach the Japanese Olympic team in 1980 and become President of Seibu Canada, I might add.
LillyPhrilly has the idea that, gasp, there should be some amount of enthusiasm and promotion for these titles:
Well it kind of makes sense. I love anime for it's adventure, unique fictional worlds, and mystical battles. A great amount of anime fans enjoy anime for similar reasons. We love being thrown into a different world and having to learn a new set of rules for the places and powers that appear throughout the series. And when you're so interested in anime/manga geared toward fantastical battles, it doesn't seem quite as exciting to watch a cartoon about sports. It feels dull going from one genre where everything can be different and new, and then another genre where generally someone wants to play some sport but must face some difficult task to achieve his goal of being the best something player.
I'm not at all saying sports anime/manga are dull. I've actually quite liked the few I've tried. (I loved Big Windup! and I hear great things about Cross Game.) It just does not seem quite as appealing as a completely unique fantasy anime/manga to a good portion of anime fandom. There are tons of sports stories in American entertainment, so I give priority to buying the very different fantasy/action/adventure of anime/manga.
I think if American anime/manga companies really wanted to make the sports genre take off, it would take a lot of work. Not only is anime very niche interest, sports is one of the least appreciated genres of this niche. It would take a lot of advertising (which I don't see a great amount of anyways for anime/manga) and someone would actually need to explain to hopeful fans what is so great about another sports series.
For example, a few ANNcasts ago one of the guest speakers talked about a manga called Kami no Shizuku. Which is about wine tasting. So what? To me that sounded very uninteresting. If that's all she said about it, I wouldn't have bothered to remember the title. But nope. This person spoke on and on about what makes Kami no Shizuku so interesting, and what really got me to care, is that she explained the incredible effect and influence this simple manga has on the wine sales all over Asia! Hearing what she had to say about the series just made me so interested that I couldn't help but go look up anything and everything about it. And I think that is the only way sports anime/manga would ever be able to become popular in the USA. No one will care if you just say "Hey, we dubbed a soccer anime...yeah..." Companies are going to actually have to try selling this genre if they want it to take off. That means advertsing to make people aware of it, and actually explaining enough about what makes the series unique and not just "another one of those sports stories" so that new fans - and old fans who've never given sports anime a shot - will be interested enough to try it.
Lastly, Bentley just needed to get in a little plug:
Your question about why sports anime fails is a really good one and timely, since baseball season started a week ago. I like to follow baseball, football, and racing (Formula 1, not Nascar), the long and short of it is:
1. I get enough of that. Baseball just started and it's on pretty much everyday for me until September (then playoffs). Football could be longer, but hey I'm not complaining. And this stuff is pretty much free. I can go into any local pub and check out the local team for free (I pay for drinks but not the entertainment of the game).
2. I get to share all my feelings with the other fans in my area of seeing our team succeed. Anime is a niche market and I can't go out and show my friends a show like Big Windup! and say "hey get excited about this team". It's scripted and not real, like my first point, I get enough real life sports on TV so I don't need it in anime.
I'm not a big Baseball guy, but I forget; do the Phillies still have that creepy-looking mascot with the horn on his nose? Anyway. Here's my question 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.
And there you have it, another Answerman over and done with! Remember, though, to drop a line to me at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com if you've got a question that's burrowed deep into your brain, or an Answerfans response begging to be read by the teeming masses! Until next week, everyone!
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