Hey, Answerman! - It's Time to Pay the Price

by Brian Hanson, Jul 8th 2011

Ah, yes. Hello everybody, welcome again to Hey, Answerman!

No time for a lengthy preamble today - the little cafe I visit to write this thing every week is doing some kind of loud and silly art gallery, and all the pretension on display is driving me a little bit nuts, so I gotta get outta here.


Hey Answerman,

Do you think that other Japanese anime distributors like Aniplex will start releasing their own shows over here too? And is this good thing, we'll get more show released over here, or a bad thing, we end up paying higher prices for everything?

Good question. I'm not sure, honestly.

My thinking is, between all of the big western companies who scramble for all the big hit titles, and the streaming options available for everything else, what's the need? Where's the rush to dump tens of thousands of dollars on a DVD run of something that was passed over by Funimation and Viz and the others? Streaming is the thing, honestly. It allows virtually everything to be, technically, "brought over" that would otherwise never have a chance in hell of being legitimately viewed by Western eyes. (I know, I know, I can hear the cries and the tears of European and Australian readers crying foul as we speak. I'll get to that in a second.)

Of course I realize that's not what you mean when you're saying "brought over." But the cold and irrefutable truth is that the DVD market is shrinking, ever so slowly. It's not a healthy marketplace to jump into at the moment, no matter how good your intentions are. Besides, Aniplex USA's success hangs heavily in the shadows of the dismal failures of both Bandai Visual and Toei, who are absolutely monolithic entities in Japan, yet couldn't leverage that success to anything fruitful in the Western market. In Bandai Visual's case, it was their stubbornness as far as pricing titles with limited appeal. In Toei's case, it was releasing cheap and shoddy product without much in the way of marketing. At least Aniplex played it smart, considering that they've been sticking pretty closely to titles with name recognition, like Rurouni Kenshin and Gurren Lagann, or at least titles with fervent fan demand, like Garden of Sinners.

Simply looking at a list of Japanese anime producers, I can't really fathom how any of them could potentially withstand the rocky weather of the western DVD market. All of the biggest titles from companies like VAP, Avex, and others have already been gobbled up by the US companies here who know what they're doing. (Subject to debate, I suppose.) It's not like Anpanman is so dying to be on store shelves in the US that VAP is willing to bet the farm on it.

Although! I can tell you what I'd like to see happen. I'd like to see these companies perhaps take some of their titles to territories that are, quite frankly, underserved, like Europe and Australia. You know, untapped markets that don't have the ubiquitous reach and panache of a Funimation on their side. That would be pretty cool, I think.

Too bad it probably won't happen. Oh well. It's nice to want things.


Dear Answerman,

Do you think it's ever appropriate for a company to sell its own products for way higher than their original MSRPs?

For example, a small company has a niche area - they make relatively small print runs of titles, and a couple titles per year probably go out of print within two years or less depending on what the economy is doing. They have their own retail site, and also do business at the usual suspects (eBay, Amazon Marketplace, etc.) as well. Do you think it's kosher for them to charge $50+ for a (MSRP $10) book or DVD that they themselves published on one of the secondary market sites? To be fair, out of a catalog of hundreds of fairly priced titles, only 2 are at the "collector's" price of over $50.

On the one hand, I'm happy they're publishing anything at all and would like to see them succeed in this terrible economy. On the other hand, it seems like a vaguely underhanded way to take advantage of their own short supply of titles (that and they ought to have some pretty good insider knowledge of when their titles are about to go out of print). Shouldn't a company try to avoid this in the interest of appearing fair?

Fair? Fair?!? This is economics, son! Economics don't know the meaning of the word "fair"!!

Seriously though. They are the company that publishes it, the MSRP is just that - "suggested." Instead of the markup going to either a secondhand scalper or a faceless retailer, I guess it's better that it winds up in the pockets of the company that produced it in the first place.

Is it underhanded? Yeah, it totally is. At the very least, though, take solace in the fact that they're not charging exorbitant prices from the get-go, a la some of the companies I mentioned above. It's not quite "fair," I guess, but it's their product in the first place and they're free to charge however much they please.

As with anything else, it pays to get there early, folks.


Some anime and manga have different titles when they're released stateside and I was wondering how that works. (The first thing that came to mind was Working!! being released as Wagnaria!! because it's a more unique search term.) Is the ability to change the title part of the contract? How difficult would it be to get The Stamp of Japanese Approval? What would the negotiating banter sound like? What is the basis on which a company would want to change the title of an anime or manga? I understand Sengoku Basara becoming Samurai Kings because I think it would be an awkward translation. Changing Working!!s title makes sense to me too. Can you think of any other examples and reasons? Both good and bad changes would be great to hear.

Firstly - Working!! didn't get renamed because it's a 'more unique search term', it was renamed because that title and virtually every variation on it has been copyrighted in the States since the 90s. That said, title changes are much more common when it comes to manga, because in that market you have a ton of titles that undergo a title switch in order to catch the eye of the teenager browsing the manga aisle for the next volume of Fruits Basket or Naruto. Hence you end up with Battle Vixens instead of Ikki Tousen, or Girl Got Game instead of Power!!

It's much less likely in the anime realm for titles to change, mainly due to it's less mainstream nature, and in the few cases where it does happen it's usually because of some licensing snafu where nobody wants to get sued. Hence Detective Conan becoming Case Closed, because neither TMS nor Funimation wants to run afoul of the estates of either Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Robert E. Howard.

Rest assured though that any title changes in either manga or anime are, an overwhelming majority of the time, hammered out during the contract phase. When a company licenses a title, they've got a pretty good idea of how to market it, and they've also done their homework and checked with their lawyers to make certain that they're not going to be sued by famous dead people. In certain cases, it's often the Japanese licensor who have certain... "ideas" about English title translations. Typically they're all terrible.

At the end of the day, though, a title is just a title, which is something that both the Japanese licensors and the Western companies have come to understand, I think. Gone are the days when anything vaguely Japanese-sounding would be scrubbed away for fear of frightening potential customers, for whom Japanese titles cause paroxysms of blind rage and terror. And so English voice-over artists are required to say ridiculous things like Utawarerumono in promotional trailers. The end.



And now, the very special part of Answerman where I turn the attention to you, the readers. We got a bunch of awesome submissions this time! It's like you heard my plea and responded in kind! Good job.

As a refresher, here's what I wanted to know from last week:


To start! Yes, Black Mokona, you certainly can pick your own logo:

Well, if I had to choose a series, just for fun, mind you, it'd be GTO, for the very reason that I couldn't possibly sponsor such a project in a million years.

I gather that for a franchise like GTO, hugely popular in Japan, whatever company's holding the rights is probably extremely protective. And what with Tokyopop dead, Vertical, who is publishing the sequel and the prequel, must be eyeing the series as well. Who am I to go up against actual companies who actually know what they're doing and who have actual funding and research and promotion capabilities anyways?

But if no one's going to grab it, then I will. Sure, the texts are massive and the contents not very marketable to the young or the female audience, well, okay, it's not realistic for an independent publisher. You could buy old copies with condition ranging from acceptable to very good to new anyways. So let's throw logic out the window, okay?

Suppose that I convinced the bank to lend money to an underage to print a comic which has already been printed before, and established a company under my father's name, and somehow I secured a meeting with Kodansha, maybe by misleading them to think that I was a representative of Viz, maybe. I'd get (threaten) a colleague (underling) of my mother, who's Working!! in Japan and knows Japanese, to translate the thing into English including *sweat* the ridiculous diary-slash-summary, and then I'd revise the grammar myself. Forget about those translator notes, if any were to be done seriously I'd have to bite my own head off.

As for the adaptation process, the redrawing phase seems a hassle of course, so the only thing to do is 'preserving' the spirit of the original and promptly leave sound effects unscathed and questionable scenes unedited (and boy is there a buttload of them). Just hope that those sound effects played no part in the recent demise of Tokyopop whose favorite motto was, as memory serves and as message boards reflected, skim as much as possible.

I suppose for printing, research will have to be made as to how many copies would be printed. And well, the only thing I can gather about manga sales is that Naruto has sold more than 2 mil (so says the cover), whereas Pokémon had seen better figures in the haydays. Which is to say, I know absolutely nothing about sales. Nothing! I guess you'll have to find out that part out for me, since you started this whole dream project. But for the sake of the argument, let's settle around 15,000 copies.

What about the Internet with its new iPad readers and platforms? To which I say No Thank you very much. Like the decrepit companies, I am reasonably wary of the Internet and would like to stick to what HAS ALREADY BEEN PROVEN TO WORK. The only ones trusted to buy manga in any form are die-hards, and die-hards like to collect, and so publishers should give them actual volumes with which to collect.

And what's with the omnibus editions anyways? Fans are plenty content to with just a 10-15 dollars copy which they can actually hold with two hands and the next volumes for which they don't have to wait half a year.

I have little idea what to do for promotion, having spent most net time around leeches and thus clueless about where real money can be found. Maybe putting up an ad or two around the various fan clubs and manga forums, setting up and linking everywhere to a private website. I know for a fact that GTO is popular on the web and *ahem* "heard" that the free scanlations were sub-par. But how did the thing sell first time around anyways?

How about an ad on ANN then? But how far do you think a student discount goes?

Anyway, since this is strictly hypothetical, I'll take liberty to concoct whatever scheme here, and no one can sue me. So, I was thinking of leaking the live action drama to YouTube to raise a bit of rep for the series in the English speaking world. What other kinds of tricks can a publisher use, do tell.

And since I have had absolutely no prior education in designing, I'll just host a contest to design a GTO add on some forum, the prize as a rare poster maybe. Enough suckers will turn up!

Wait, do I get to choose a company name and logo as well?

Chantal has a list! A whole dang list!

If I were to translate and release any anime myself, I would do it with a small, reliable team of fellow otakus who knows a thing or two about technology and the Japanese language. We would choose anime that were once licensed but were not completely finished. So, basically we would only translate shows that weren't "completed" and release all of the missing episodes, OVAs, and/or movies on DVD. We would go to the original license or distributor company of the anime that we want to complete and have our salesman pitch our idea to them. We would convince these anime companies that, by allowing us to translate and release these incomplete anime, they will be saving money by not having to the work themselves. The anime companies can, if they wish, place their name on the product, you know for advertising. The companies must, however, include our team as well so that we will receive recognition for our hard work.

If this plan were to succeed, we would start with:
Kodocha (episodes 52-102)
Air Gear (the OVAs)
Gintama: The Movie
School Rumble (the Sangakki OVA)
xxxHOLiC (Season 2 and the OVAs)
and Kyo kara Maoh! (Season 3 and OVAs)

We (or rather I) would choose these shows because they are the end of shows that would have ultimately left on a cliff hanger and I think that fans of these shows would like to own the complete series and not just the first season. (Gintama doesn't count since it's just a filler movie)

Grant is speaking my Shinesman language:

Hey Answerman!

If I had to choose one manga series for myself to translate it would have to be Tokumu Sentai Shinesman. There are a few reasons why I would choose this series over all of the other series out there, first one being curiosity. Tokumu Sentai Shinesman was never translated (DUH!) but the OAV of this manga series was, but every time I watch the OAV I feel that there is something more to the story. I want to know the reason why one person turned evil and why this evil group is attacking earth, but I will digress. Another reason why I chose this series over other ones is because childhood memories. The Shinesman are very much like the Power!! rangers in the US, which was a show that I watched religiously. The final reason is starting small. You have to crawl before you can walk and this series would be a good stepping stone. It is a 9 volume set and the only hard part would be talking with the Japanese company that owns the license to allow me to translate and distribute.

On to the other question on how I would get the word out. There are two broad ways that I would get the word out and those are: The Internet and Conventions. As for the Internet, there are a two ways and the both work together. The first way would be using forums to my advantage. Sure, everything you read on forums should be taken with a grain of salt, but if you post in enough places someone would be bound to believe your word that it was an actual license translation and not a fan one. The last way I would get the word out would be in buying a domain for the said translation. You have to have faith in your product and creating a website is a start. Using the website as a source for when I would post on multiple forums would allow people to see that this is an actual publication and once again, not a fan translation. As for conventions, there are multiple ways to get the word out at those. First would be the obvious Anime Conventions where you could use the artist alley to show that you have the license and that they can go to the site to purchase if the are interested. I would also try to get a booth in the dealers room to sell copies of the manga. Of course, there are Sci-fi and Comic conventions also and the same plan would go in effect at those conventions also.

All in all, it would be a hard road to do that considering I first would have to get the company up and running, then find a way to mass produce the product, and finishing with getting staff to help with the process.

James wins the award on the Obscure-o-meter:

Without question, the manga I would most like to translate is Explorer Woman Ray, written by Takeshi Okazaki. Odds are pretty good not many others even remember this series, or the OAVs it spawned, but for me it remains a favorite in spite of its many flaws. I can remember pawing through the meager video selection at my local Hastings hoping against hope that this time there would be a wider selection, only to once again go home with the second Bubblegum Crisis tape or the trusty Ray. I don't know how many times my sister and I watched that video. Now I'm older and can read Japanese; I've read the manga, and I'd like to give my sister and the legions (hah!) of other fans the same chance. You know what? While we're at it, let's get a remastered dvd rerelease for the OAV; that would be sweet.

Brian-san? No need to be so formal, JP:

This is quite a tricky question, Brian-san.

I guess if you can translate and release something by myself, I guess I called that “fansub” in case of anime and “scanlation” for manga. And why if you ask, there are many kinds of answers for my case, such as:

- I can't wait for whatsoever companies to earn the license of the anime/manga and then release a translation for them. Zero from Code Geass said, “If you wait for someone to make a revolution for you someday, that “someday” will never come!!”

- I have the knowledge…. Okay, this statement is DEBATABLE. As far as I know that in the world of fansubbing and scanlating, there's no clear international qualification certificate for translating or timing or encoding or cleaning etc. Which means that I only have my only self-conscience and ego which telling me that this is the best translation, and lastly but not least, a partner to “proofreading” it. AND this is also debatable, because there is no such clear international qualification for “proofreading” besides that he/she is a native of the language for translation. Allow me to quote Kenpachi of Bleach when he fought Ichigo for the first time at soul society, “You're the one who's crazy! If you have the Power!!, why don't you like to fight?!” And I bet, Kenpachi also don't have international standards for “Power!!” besides his ego and brute strength to use as a measure.

- I want others to thank me, praise me, think highly of me……not. If you started a fansubing or scanlating, I suggest you'd rather not expect these kinds of things. It's a matter of conscience, man. I got one quote from Dark Knight for this thing, “You can quit as a hero, or you can live long enough to see yourself as a villain”. I mean, don't hate your readers or watchers if they never thanked you in the forum or through emails. If you starting to feel not up to fansubing or scanlating, just quit. End of period.

As for how do you get the word out? Made a site or blog, or join a team. I mean, many scanlation or fansub teams that are still recruiting translators. If you're looking a way to make yourself known to the world, you need to be:

- Fast. Be the fastest to translate and release something. Usually, fans only searched the google looking for the fastest to release their favorite ones.

- Good quality. Keep the good quality of the translation. I don't have a standard for this. But, as long as the story is intact and well-understood, I guess you qualify. For more details, don't make misspelling; don't make ridiculous footnotes; don't use font types or colors that are too flashy the readers cannot read them, use the standard ones; don't replace the original theme song to other song to make funny impression to the fans but it just made them feel sick.

That is all, I guess.

HEY ERIC!

HEY, ANSWERMAN!

Let's cut to the chase, Sket Dance. If I could pick a series to translate and release something by myself (with the help of a few others) it would have to be Sket Dance. Since I don't care to much for writing in paragraphs please accept my reasons as the list below.

Pros:
1. I love the series and would like to share it with others.
2. The manga is currently not being released here in the USA so I think it is fair game for whoever wants to try for it.
3: Since it is a gag manga, I could get away with not following the original Japanese and create my own jokes. If I am having trouble expressing a joke that is based on the Japanese culture and wouldn't be funny here in America, who cares?! I'll just forget and make something up.
4: It is already being translated by scanlation groups, so I would just need to convince them to work for me.
5. The anime is being streamed on Crunchyroll so I might be able to use their translations. Plus it would be good promotion. "Hey kids, did you enjoy watching Sket Dance just now? Well, now you can read it too!"

Cons:
1: The series is long, I would prefer to work on a series that is short (<100 chapters) and is already finished. I just feel better knowing that there will be an end to the work.
2: I am not that comedic of a guy, so creating my own jokes might be tough and fail miserably.
3. The series is running in Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan. I imagine getting permission from a giant such as them would be harder than say, getting permission from a smaller publisher.

After going through all the steps, once I had the finish product ready to put on the shelves, I would try to advertise though the scanlation groups who did the series in the first place. The way I see it is the people who read the scanlations enjoy the series and would hopefully be willing to purchase it and own it legally now that it is available. I know this wouldn't always be the case but this is a discussion for a later time and place, not here. Other ways to get the word out would of course getting advertisements online and specifically on Crunchyroll in their Sket Dance section. I would also make an announcement during one of my college's anime club's meetings. I wouldn't advertise by making posts in forums or chat rooms though since I wouldn't be able to shake the feeling that I was like a spammer.

So as you can see, there are more pros than cons. My second choice for a series would be a gag manga still, but one that was shorter, already ended and was less popular. Since I don't know of any other like this though (probably since they are less popular), I'd have to stick with good old Sket Dance.

If I could give you your druthers, Lee, I would:

Given my druthers, I'd translate and release the Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou manga by Hitoshi Ashinano. Why? Because I think it is one of the most beautiful, thoughtful, and incredible comics ever made, in any country. How this never got released in the US and so many other titles did is a mystery to me, other than maybe the owner just doesn't want it released here.

Getting word out... hmm. I'd probably hit all the internet forums that I could, maybe put an ad on animenewsnetwork? Try to get Right Stuf to put it in their catalog? List it on Amazon. I am pretty sure it would have a market, might not be able to profit, but I think I would profit in the satisfaction that this work of art is being seen by new eyes, or being held warmly by fans like me who thought they would never have this work of art in their own hands, in their own language.

For those who don't know about YKK manga or anime, it's a rather pastoral piece about the long decline of mankind, what is described as the quiet autumn of mankind, told from the perspective of an android. It's slow, beautiful, and thought provoking. It is also award winning, in Japan. It reminds me of some of Clifford Simak's works, like City, specifically, but he uses the same theme several times in other ways. From the viewpoint of a Science Fiction and Anime/Manga fan, this is an important work that has been neglected.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure the Rock Opera. You tingle me, Dave:

If I were to translate and release something all by my lonesome, provided that I have excellent skills in reading and writing in Japanese, it would be probably be Doraemon. Despite his huge following in so many other parts of the world, so little of the series, cartoon or comic, can be found here. The manga with bilingual translations can be bought at Japanese bookstores, but they are rather expensive and few. As a child who vacationed in Hong Kong once in a long while, Doraemon was a pleasant way to end a day of sightseeing or confronting my relatives. The seemingly simplistic and absurd plots captured my imagination and helped me think of even more strange story ideas at a time when my access to manga, or even vintage comic books for that matter, was pretty small.

If I had a partner well versed in music, I would tackle JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. The multi-chapter epic saga of the Joestar family and their ceaseless struggle to save the world or even the town from a terrifying menace is just plain fun. I would start at Part IV: Diamonds Are Unbreakable for Tonio Trussardi's seemingly endless organ regeneration feast. I might rewrite all the dialogue to fit the template of a rock song, and may even go further to make it an opera if given the chance.

Katie is correct, cats are cute:

I actually have two series that I would publish: Black Blood Brothers and Junji Ito's Cat Diaries: Yon & Muu. The first I would publish due to my love of the anime--it's the anime that sucked me into the world of anime (for the record, I was hooked at the opening credits.) But, the anime stops short at a measly twelve episodes. It felt as if they didn't give us the entire story, like the rest had already been created, but they refused to let us see it. This untold bit of the story is something I have been aching to read since I finished the anime. But, it hasn't been translated into English. So, if I marketed this, how would I promote it and get it to sell? Well, I would try to gear my advertising towards people who like vampires and people who like blood. Also, because I am running a tiny manga distributor, I need this advertising to be very cheap. Like setting up a website with previews of the manga, or handing out black-and-white flyers at an anime convention. Hopefully a big one like Fanime or Anime Expo, but I may not be able to afford the gas to get to either of those locations. One way to get a little word-of-mouth going is to donate a volume or two to several library branches. This would be a last resort, though.

Now say that my endeavor publishing Black Blood Brothers in the US has made a fairly good profit, and I have been able to publish a few more reasonably successful mangas. The horror manga magazine I've just started publishing is doing well. I'm ready to take a risk with Junji Ito's Cat Diaries:Yon and Muu. The reason I would publish this is because A: Junji Ito is my favorite mangaka. The first manga I ever read was his Museum of Terror, and all the other stuff I've read by him is amazing. I don't have to think twice about purchasing his works (with the exception of Gyo.) B: I love cats. They're soooooo cute. I don't mind if they're depicted in a scary way, just as long as they're cats. Of course, the only reason I know about this manga is because of the most recent Jason Thomson's House of 1000 Manga column.

I would advertise this manga by putting a sneak peek of it in my magazine and on my website, of course! I would be able to afford more expensive ads now, so I could take out adspace in magazines like Otaku USA.

And finally, Ali brings the old-school shoujo love, as is ought:

If I could translate and release anything, it would be any one of the works of Magnificent 49ers: Riyoko Ikeda, Moto Hagio, Ryoko Yamagishi, Yasuko Aoike, Keiko Takemiya, and others. I really wish there were more old-shojo manga out there, because the pioneers of shoujo deserve more exposure than they are getting. There are barely any older shoujo manga released, other than what CMX and Vertical put out, including what Matt Thorn's translations of Moto Hagio's work (which really made me happy). I really try to get my hands on any older shoujo series that's released. But if I had to release only one, I would want to continue the release of From Eroica with Love, especially because it's unlikely another publisher will pick up. In my opinion, I think deserves a second chance, because I though it was a really great series; it was funny and entertaining. The most obvious problem with getting the word out is that it won't appeal to younger audiences, since they always want what's new or maybe the art style seems unappealing. But I'm a teenager and it really started to appeal to me even though it wasn't my cup of tea to begin with. The art even began to look amazing and beautiful to me, and I realized it was just because I wasn't used to it. Despite the art, I think older shoujo manga have a lot more to offer, like in A Drunken Dream I felt it was really relevant (and this is cheesy) to the feelings as a girl that I didn't embrace before and it really made me cherish older shoujo. Maybe if there was more exposure, which is another reason why From Eroica with Love and Swan didn't sell so well at CMX, it might begin to sell well. Of course, exposure is an obvious answer, but it really isn't often that older shoujo manga are released or heard of. Now, a lot of people would beg to differ that it can sell well (and that I'm basing it too much on my own experience..), but I think the Magnificent 49ers are significant for a reason; they proved that women can write great shoujo and they have many merits. Honestly, it would be a dream come true if they were published.

That was great! I love it when you all postulate. Wait, that sounds gross. Nevermind.

So, next week! Get ready to have your spoiler tags ready, because here we go with this little doozy:


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, that's all! Remember to keep sending me questions and Answerfans things by dropping me an email over at answerman([at])animenewsnetwork.com! Until next week!


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