Hey, Answerman! - Foisting Gundams

by Brian Hanson, Jun 17th 2011

Hey everybody! What's the good word, what's shakin', what's goin' on?

I'm a little punchy at the moment - I'm reuniting with some of my theater chums as we scramble together to perform a sketch comedy show on the 1st of July, which means a lot of last-minute writing and rehearsals and such - so bear with me if I either insult everybody, or don't insult everybody enough.

Let's get to these questions, here:


Hey Answerman,

There's been a manga series I've been reading, Hayate X Blade, in its official translated releases by Seven Seas Entertainment for some time now, yet barring releases of two omnibus editions of the beginning of the series, no volumes past volume 6 have been released over here in the west. Seven Seas have often said, since people started asking for the next volumes, that because the publisher of the serialised chapters in Japan changed (from ASCII to Shueisha I believe) that the rights to the localization of the series have to be re-negotiated, something which has been going on for at least a year.

So my question is this: what exactly goes into the negotiation (or re-negotiation) of the rights to a series? Seven Seas often says that the negotiations with Shueisha for the next volumes are 'tricky'. What are the elements of rights negotiation that are tricky to a publisher looking to translate and publish a title in the West?

Well, rights negotiations are always tricky, no matter the situation or circumstance. The reason that re-negotiations sometimes either take as long as they do, or otherwise implode, is because... when the rights to an anime or manga series are initially negotiated to bring a series to the English-speaking world, there's a certain factor of uncertainty to it all. Everyone certainly hopes it does well, and they're armed with reams of data and demographic research going into these negotiations that estimate how many copies they think will sell, and they bargain back and forth around that, in order to make sure that each side gets whatever piece of the profit-related pie they think they deserve.

But of course, nobody really knows how well anything will sell here. Stopping just short of marching into people's homes and forcing them at gunpoint to buy a DVD or a manga volume, there's never any guarantee that these companies will either meet or exceed whatever sales expectations they have. On the flipside, when you then have to re-negotiate these contracts... you know exactly how many copies have been sold for each specific volume thus far. You don't have metrics and demographic estimates; you have cold, raw data.

So when it comes time to renegotiate these contracts, companies from both sides - both in Japan and in the West - get a sort of second chance to re-evaluate their assessment in order to try to come up with a contract that's more beneficial, now that there's specific sales numbers on the table. And that's, unfortunately, where things tend to break down. Maybe the original Western publisher got the licensing rights on a mint, because the Japanese side didn't think it would sell all that well? But surprisingly enough it sold pretty good, and now the Japanese side wants a bigger cut, but the Western side sees no need to change the contract as it was, since they were the ones who made it a success here in the first place? Or maybe there's new management in place, with a different set of rules and practices that either side is unable to follow? Or maybe, in Seven Seas' instance, they're having to talk to a wholly different publisher - Shueisha, one of the biggest publishers in all of Japan. Seven Seas is a pretty small publisher compared to the juggernaut behind Shonen Jump.

The licensing game is a tangled, intricate web of politics and profit. It is, sadly, the sort of thing that reminds you that this anime and manga stuff we all enjoy and get really excited about and get into big dramatic forum arguments over... is still a business, and these are products that are sold to us by businessmen.


Hey, Answerman!

I am a big Gundam fan. I've enjoyed almost all the series but I absolutely prefer some Gundam series over another. There are still a few Gundam series that have never seen a stateside release (V Gundam, ZZ, X Gundam) and with every passing day, I lose hope that they ever will. Bandai nowadays seems to be pushing out the newer flashier series such as 00 and Seed while continually skipping some of the older models which I can understand. People like the new animation style and I know After War X and V Gundam were not the most highly regarded entries. My hope rose again for the older series however when I read an article from July of 2010 (on ANN) that Bandai had licenced Turn-A-Gundam but since that article, I have not heard a peep about it since and it is coming up on a year and still nothing.

So Answerman, is it possible that Turn-A-Gundam will not see a release afterall? When a company licenses a product for release, does that mean that they are really only bringing the possibility of releasing that product stateside but may have actually not fully committed to it?

Bingo.

Just because a company has the license to a title, it is never in and of itself a guarantee that they'll ever actually release it. It's the same with movie studios, who spend millions of dollars developing things that will never see the light of day (just look at the increasingly sad state of the Akira movie, folks). The R&D departments of tech companies like Apple and Microsoft and Nintendo and the like are just littered with fully-functioning, completely finished devices, that nonetheless never saw the light of day.

In short, just because they can do something, it doesn't mean that they will.

With the Gundam series in particular, it's especially frustrating, because Bandai Entertainment has the rights in perpetuity to every single Gundam... thing that ever exists, as they are bequeathed to them by their corporate fathers at Bandai in Japan. But thinking about it rationally, that's both a blessing and a curse; while they've got decades of Gundam greatness at their fingertips, they're also beholden to the corporate mandates from Upon High, i.e. Bandai Japan, which forces them to foist things like SD Gundam Force and Gundam Seed Destiny upon the world.

Gundam is sort of a strange creature. It's a huge moneymaker in Japan - absolutely huge - but its introduction to the West has been completely bungled at every step with a few strange exceptions. Bandai in Japan wanted Bandai in the West to turn Gundam into the Next Big Toy Phase, which meant attempting to sell expensive, intricate model kits and slow, densely plotted shows about death and betrayal to 5-year olds. And then they wanted to do things like, I dunno, air the original 1979 series on Cartoon Network, and they expected that to somebow be successful. The whole franchise has been mismanaged to shit, and like I was saying on ANNCast a couple of weeks ago, it's really a shame, because Gundam Unicorn is so utterly fantastic and it totally could've been that big breakout hit that makes people give a damn about the whole series.

So, yeah, basically all of Gundam is licensed, no question. How much of it will we ever actually see though? Personally, I'm thinking that, outside of whichever newer, flashier Gundam series arrives on Television in the coming years, I think we've just about seen all of the "older" shows that we're ever going to get. Which is a shame, because I'm quite fond of Gundam X actually, and I would totally kill to get the original Mobile Suit Gundam series in a complete set with the, y'know, original Japanese audio. But none of that seems very likely.

Bummer.


Hey, Mr. Answerman!

I've been a fan of the Battle Angel Alita (GUNNM) series of manga from Viz Media for years now. I love it and would like to see the movie if it ever gets produced. Anyways, recently while trying to collect the Last Order series I have come across a serious problem, volume #7, translated. I have seen it listed for upwards to $300 on certain sites, but usually a $70 minimum is the average. Even on Viz's website they now list it for a going rate of $110. Is there any particular reason why only this one book is so expensive and rare to find? I am planning to write Viz Media and ask them this question as well, but they only accept mailed letters, so their response will take some time to receive. Any ideas on your end?

Man, for all the bullcrap that's been happening to the Akira movie, it's kind of funny to think that the ONE big anime film that could totally go into production tomorrow would be Battle Angel. All James Cameron would need to do is get out of bed, punch a random crewmember in the face, call Fox and ask them for 500 million dollars for his next movie, and bam, Battle Angel production begins after lunch that same day.

Anyway. The reason volume 7 is so expensive is because they, for whatever reason, simply did not bother to print as many copies of it as they have for other volumes. And there's many reasons for that - orders from bookstores were probably low, they had too many returns on the previous volume, sales for previous volumes were underwhelming, etc. etc. - but the bottom line is that they simply didn't make enough of them. For what it's worth, Amazon's got a few second-hand copies of the book listed for less than 40 bucks - hardly the 300 dollar nightmare it once was, I guess.

The silver lining to this, hopefully at least, is that Viz may, some day, rectify this mistaken case of Rare Independent Volume Syndrome with a decently sized reprint. Or at least they would if they ever got that damn movie made, I'm sure.




So, a couple of days ago I got a message from a musical artist of some sort or another promoting their band and their YouTube videos and such. All well and good. So I opened the email, read it, and... it was full of stuff like this.

<3 <-heart

=3 <-cat smile

[T_T <-tears]



Having resurrected myself from a diabetic coma caused by text smilies, welcome to Answerfans! Last week I wanted to just get your video-game-type perspective on the gamin' systems, wrought by the wrath of the big E3 show that just wrapped up:


Andrew starts the show, and tells me to deal with it, which is fine I guess, I can do that:

My must buy video game after watching E3 2011 is definitely Battlefield 3. I've been long and big fan of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 so I'm eagerly awaiting to see all the new features Battlefield 3 brings. Its graphics look stunning and intense, and I'm saying right now I think it will sell more copies than Modern Warfare 3. Yes, I said it, deal with it.

I would love to own a Playstation Vita. I was shocked to see it with all those features for $250 for the regular bundle. Its graphics look gorgeous and I liked how you can use the dual touch pads during the ModNation Racers demo. I admit I'm not very keen on being stuck with AT&T services, but I'm keeping my hopes up in the future. Also, unlike the 3DS at least the Vita has games I do want to play on it.

As for the Wii U, I still say someone at Nintendo decided to name that console after the sound a police siren makes. Joking aside, I wasn't impressed with it at all. Frankly it looked like Nintendo was trying to butt in on Apple's iPad with that controller. And why was no price announced for it? My guess is it's so expensive Nintendo didn't want to scare people away from buying it. Which is already probably easy since that white iPad -- excuse me, Wii U controller -- looks large enough to land planes on. In other words, I'm passing on this one.

People seem to dig the Vita, judging by Andrew above and Ronan below:

As usual, this year's E3 was filled with high-profile sequels. A lot of them look great - I am particularly eager to get my hands on Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Zelda: Skyward Sword - but for once, the most exciting game currently in development is completely original, both in the sense that it isn't part of any pre-existing franchise and is unlike anything the game industry has ever seen. I'm referring to indie developer Thatgamecompany's Journey. In order to explain why I'm so excited about this I have to briefly talk a little about Thatgamecompany's history and my own tastes as a gamer.

Thatgamecompany first became known with Flow, an experimental game that had you taking on the role of an abstract sea creature and getting Darwinian on your fellow snake/eel things by growing large enough to eat them. They followed this up with Flower, a game where you play as a flower petal being blown in the wind. It's better than it sounds. Both of these games were noticeable for having simplistic but absorbing gameplay and (particularly in Flower's case) for being jaw-droppingly gorgeous. As you can probably tell from the way I'm describing them, I'm quite a big fan of both of these games. So that's one reason to be excited for Journey.

The other, more significant reason I can't wait to play Journey is that it is in many ways the game I've been waiting my whole life for. I'm the sort of gamer who sank more than 50 hours into Oblivion but never got past the first storyline quest. I explored every nook and cranny of Shadow of the Colossus' vast, silent Overworld even though I knew full well there was no gameplay reason to do so. And in the STALKER games I'm perfectly willing to expend huge amounts of time, ammo and supplies wading through dangerous anomaly zones just to see if there's anything in the middle of them. In other words, I like to explore. Give me even the flimsiest reason to abandon the main quest and go wandering off toward the horizon and I'll take it. You can probably guess why a game called "Journey" would appeal to me, then.

Games have sought to capture many aspects of human psychology- curiosity, perseverance, intelligence, the desire to shoot foreigners with high powered automatic weapons- but so far no game I've come across has based itself entirely on wanderlust. I think it's about time someone fixed that.

As for the two big console reveals, Sony made a me a believer this year with the PS Vita. Handheld games that look and feel identical to their console counterparts isn't something I thought I needed, but as it turns out I do, particularly at such a low price. I am somewhat worried that they've stuffed too many input methods into the thing, though. I have nothing against touch screen or motion gaming, but in many of the presentations shown at E3 they seemed to be taking the place of actions that could be more easily be performed with the traditional analogue stick/ button combination.

As for the Wii U..... come back when you have some games to show us, Nintendo. And no, Darksiders 2 doesn't count, I already have a PS3 for that.

STOP MAKING ME WANT TO PLAY BIOSHOCK INFINITE ALEX, WE BOTH KNOW IT DOESN'T COME OUT UNTIL NEXT YEAR GOD DAMN IT:

Coming out of E3 and seeing all the various games put on display by Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and the multitude of 3rd parties there is one game in particular that really grabbed my heart. Irrational's "Bioshock Infinite" absolutely had me amazed by what they were presenting. The various (short) trailers set the tone beautifully set the tone and story of the game and the sheer concept has me fascinated. It essentially feels like a game where you are Prince charming trying to rescue the beautiful and naive princess Elizabeth (and can also essentially open tears into space time) from a Jingoistic world that is at war with itself while in the meantime being hunted by her gigantic winged protector, "Songbird" trying to take Elizabeth back to the tower she was from. Not only does this game have an amzing premise but the mechanics of which you view this world are truly stunning. By being set in the American Sky city of Columbia it allows Irrational games to have a more open world that can be traversed via there Sky tram system, showing the player a very stunning view of the city as you soar above the clouds and fighting pursuers. Added on top of this is the interactions you have with Elizabeth, the small touches of grabbing an Abe Lincold head, putting it on and gleefully stating, "four score and seven years ago", to her grabbing your hand and placing it around her throat, making you promise to not allow songbird take her back... even at the cost of her life. All of this plus the various narrative twists the Ken Levine is crafting into this story (an example I can give is an instance where Elizabeth opens a time rift where both you and her are transported to the 1980's and you see a movie poster for, "Revenge of the Jedi" {this demo was shown at both E3 and the pre E3 show}) Equals to me what I consider to be a game that will be fill with both dynamic and exciting gameplay as well as a rich and and detailed narrative.

On the subject of the Playstation Vita. While everything about the technology and the screen display look very impressive I can't stop but have the feeling I have had from the PSP and when they first unveiled that. When they first unveiled the PSP everyone was amazed by how beautiful the graphics were and how sleek and effeicient the design was, people felt that it was overall the superior handheld to the DS. Flashforward and the PSP has very few interesting and compelling games (simply offering ported down version of the console games) and was plagued with Piracy issues. While I am not saying the PSVita will have these same issues it is very stiff competition from not only the 3DS but also Mobile Phone Games. I will say they did a great job with the overall design and price point of the PSVita, but when it comes down to it I feel that when all is said and done regarding handhelds I predict the PSVita will not perform to the expectations Sony would like it to.

Coming to the Launch of the new Wii U this marks Nintendo's entry into the world of HD gaming but also offering a new way of playing the game in the form of there new Controller. The new controller seems interesting in concept (and according to reports from various people that tried it at E3 the controls felt fine in general). With that said I am nervous as to what exactly Nintendo plans to do with this console. While I am giddy with the prospect of playing HD versions of Legend of Zelda and Mario I don't feel like these are enough to really make me go out and grab this new console. Granted they will be getting games from 3rd parties such as 2k, Ubisoft, and EA but if these games are fundamentally the same as they appear on the 360 or PS3 I have a very had time being convinced that I need to get Nintendo's new console. With all that said however, I feel like Nintendo did a great job introducing there new hardware and am curious to see what more to expect from the Wii U (especially in regards to its online).

And that's it! Next week, I was inspired, as I often am, by some of the questions I got this week that led to some niggling questions I couldn't quite shake out of my brain; and that of course is where all of you step in:


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 a wrap! Please remember to stuff my inbox so full of questions and responses that it explodes and makes a big huge mess. And you can do that by emailing me at answerman(at!!)animenewsnetwork.com. Until next week, everyone!


discuss this in the forum (38 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

Answerman homepage / archives

Around The Web