Hey, Answerman! - Onward, Otakon!

by Brian Hanson, Jul 22nd 2011

Ah, hi everybody! My name is Brian, and this is Hey, Answerman!

Just in case you missed it last time, I'll be roaming about Otakon this coming weekend, sweating buckets under the heavy Baltimore humidity, and helping ANN with convention coverage. So I'll see you there! I mean, if you're going. I won't see you if you're not going. Unless you or I (or both of us) can astral project.

That means, of course, that I won't have a column up next week, seeing as how I'll be too busy writing up Otakon stuff to answer any questions in this format proper. Sad, I know, but you are strong and resilient readers, and I'll be sure to make it up to you the week after.

And so, let's get down to business, here:


Hi Brian,

At the beginning of this year, I finally bought a PS3, and with it the promise of Blu-Rays everywhere, with their high definitions and their uncompressed audio and sundry other features to warrant the higher price tag.

So far, the couple movies I've watched on Blu-Ray look great, but I haven't watched any anime on Blu-Ray yet. Though I've considered a number of anime Blu-Ray purchases, I've always ultimately held off because I've gotten the distinct impression that anime on Blu-Ray is a hit-and-miss affair. Often it's not easy for those not trained in video-jutsu to intuit whether a series will be a legit remaster or just an upscale. In the cases where the Blu-Ray is an upscale, there are times when viewers seem to think they're pretty good, and times when it seems like it's such a trashy upscale that one should just buy the DVDs.

Even when one gets past the minefield that is anime Blu-Ray quality, there's still the viability of the format to consider. I don't think there's any doubt that Blu-Ray is a really nice standard and well above DVDs, but I still don't feel that Blu-Ray has achieved true ubiquity yet - the kind where you can get a basic Blu-Ray player for $60, or every computer's optical drive is also a Blu-Ray drive. Without that kind of ubiquity (the sort that makes one feel that DVDs are a pretty "safe" investment for the purpose of watching in the future), I feel like the onward march of streaming content and digital media may hinder Blu-Ray from gaining the full traction that DVDs have. If I snap up, say, Fullmetal Alchemist in the Blu-Ray sets as opposed to the DVD sets, I'd fear that due to the ever-shifting formats, I'd become unable to watch my Blu-Rays easily before the same fate would befall my DVDs.

So...is the water safe for Blu-Ray buying sprees, or should I still watch out for sharks? What's your take on all this?

In regards to the oft-derided "quality" of anime on Blu-ray, that's a question that I've answered before, so I'll summarize: unless you're a serious audiophile and videophile, most likely, the Blu-ray upscales won't bother you. And of course the shows and movies that were natively animated in HD or on film (like the gorgeous Akira Blu-ray, or Eden of the East) look incredible. If you're *that* worried about any video issues hindering your enjoyment, there is no shortage of discussion here on ANN and elsewhere of what Blu-rays to get, and which ones to avoid. But generally speaking, most of the terrible, terrible upscales that have drawn the most ire are from the past, when Blu Ray authoring was an expensive and untested gamble. Now that companies have the whole thing more or less figured out, and with companies like Funimation with their own in-house Blu-ray authorization, any Blu-rays on the horizon are usually pretty safe bets.

Now, as for the "viability" of the format itself! Yes, I agree that streaming media is indeed the future, and one day we'll be able to wirelessly stream movies directly into our corneas via satellite receivers implanted in our rectums; however! That idyllic future where everything you want can be streamed instantly, in high definition and surround sound, in 1080p without server hiccups or lag... that's still a ways away. Streaming is a perfect entertainment solution in theory, and an imperfect one in practice. It's awesome that between Hulu and Netflix and Crunchyroll there are hundreds upon hundreds of titles available for me to watch, but... there's still going to be things that I can only find on DVD and Blu-ray. Like Akira, for example.

And that's to say nothing of the luddites out there, myself included, who prefer owning a tangible, physical copy of something. Something that is ours, ours alone, that we can watch whenever and wherever we want. No Netflix or Hulu executive is going to come into my house and swap out my Nausicaä Blu-ray for something else because they let the contract expire. Nope, it's mine until I give it away or mistake it for a shiny, thin donut. To put it in another perspective; they still sell vinyl records. And CDs. And people still buy them! Certainly they only buy a small fraction of the amount that they used to, but an album can still sell well on physical media, even in this era of iTunes and Pandora.

I mean, sure, there's always the risk of buying into a new format and feeling cheated when the "next thing" comes along and renders it obsolete. Even so, so long as you get enough use out of them to the point where you feel like your purchase was justified, I don't see the harm. I certainly didn't mind paying 30 dollars MSRP for two episodes of Ranma ½ on VHS in the 90's, because I watched the crap out of them, and when the DVDs came out, it's not like I threw up my hands in frustration, shouting, "WHY DID I WASTE MY MONEY ON THIS INFERIOR DYING TECHNOLOGY ALL THOSE YEARS AGOOOOOO." And it's not like I angrily threw my Nausicaä DVD in the garbage once Disney finally released the Blu Ray. I got enough mileage out of it on DVD that I didn't feel cheated. And besides, I love that movie. I'm cool with paying for it again, especially given the great job that Disney did with the HD transfer.

In keeping with your ocean analogy; The Blu-ray waters are safe. They're sharks, yes, but they're... Nurse Sharks. They won't bite you. They're harmless. But they sure do look like they want to kill you.

Wait, that makes no sense at all. Nevermind.


Hey Answerman,

I have recently been hearing fans complain on how Viz has been cutting back on the episode count of their box set releases of Bleach, Naruto Shippūden and other series. Basically saying they went from 13 to 11 episodes in their box sets and how they're charging more for a lower episode count. Is this something fans should really be upset over or are there other factors going on over at Viz that fans are unaware of?

Yeah, those fans can go cry me a river. FIFTY DOLLARS FOR 11 EPISODES, A BLOO BLA BLOO!! Just seven years ago you were paying 20 to 30 dollars for 3 or 4 episodes on a disc, or more than that if you wanted the neat-o artbox with a crappy pencil board that melts under any degree of heat or a size XXXL T-shirt.

Now, I understand that up until recently people were getting used to 13 episodes on each set. Certainly there was an expectation perhaps on Viz's part that they would stick with that episode count in subsequent releases, and certainly fans are allowed a sense of betrayal that Viz broke that sacred bond. Except of course that I can't find anything, anywhere, that states that Viz said, in writing, that their boxed sets would have 13 episodes in each set, all the time, forever and ever.

Listen, people. They cut the episode count by two episodes. TWO EPISODES. There is no reason to be up in arms about this. A little embittered? Sure. But to march onward to Amazon and bomb the scores with one-star reviews is ludicrous. Especially considering that, with a little deal-sniffing, you can still find these new sets for around 25 to 30 bucks. Even for 11 episodes, that's still pretty damn good in this business. I'm reminded of the outcry when ADV announced that they were going to "experiment" with their DVD release of Gantz by lowering the episode count to 2 episodes a disc, and lowering the price. People were furious, even though when you crunched the numbers for each volume of the series, it cost about the same as any other 12 to 13 episode anime series that had been released on DVD at that point.

To be honest, the "other factors" at Viz are sort of moot on this issue. Rest assured though that Viz isn't doing this to implicitly screw over their fans, nor are they doing this as a last-ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy or anything. They're just simply trying to sell as much of their most popular shows as they can during a difficult economy. And they're completely entitled to do so.

Now, if Viz decides to switch to only 6 episodes a set, and still try to charge you 50 dollars MSRP? I'll be with you there. But for now, I think everybody needs to chill out a bit.


Hi,

Are the Shueisha's Jump J Novels Grand Prix and Dengeki Light Novel contests open only to Japanese writers? And if not, how does one enter? - I can't read the Japanese rules at their sites. I realize that with the thousands of entries they receive, I wouldn't have a chance; but it's something I'd like to be able to say I tried.

Aspiring Writer

Interesting question.

Just from glancing at the J Novels Grand Prix site, especially the lousy Google translation, I don't see anything that explicitly states "for Japanese residents only" or anything like that. But! Let me be honest, here; if you can't understand the rules, DO NOT ENTER A CONTEST. It is a very bad idea to do that.

If, however, if you are able to fully comprehend and read Japanese before the contest deadline, then sure! Go for it! But do not, I repeat, do not continue operating under the pretense that any of these contest judges are going to judge your entry if you write it in English. Because they won't.

Some may cry xenophobia, but the way I see it, these are Japanese publications, in Japan, who are looking for bright and aspiring young writers and artists who maybe, some day, might join their Japanese crew in the Japanese manga industry. From the thousands of entries they receive, they certainly won't have the time to properly translate your English masterwork into a form that they can accurately judge alongside the entries that were natively written in Japanese. They will open up your manuscript, find a bunch of English, and toss it in the recycling bin.

So, if you or someone else is able to translate your light novel idea into proper Japanese (i.e. a level of Japanese that will impress the editor of a Japanese publisher), then I say, go for it, sir. With gusto. Follow the rules, enter the contest, and bask in the potential fame and glory. I'm all for that idea.



And now we move along to Answerfans! Allow me to turn off my braindead megaphone and turn the mic over to you, the reader. Last week, I wanted to know your specific answer to this little teaser:


Mark starts the reverie with his hi-falutin' high-brow nonsense:

I don't know under what statute of the penal code criminally under-appreciated anime falls but I can think of two recent titles that deserve a wider audience in North American (I think both did well in Japan).

The first is Cross Game, the anime adaption of Mitsuru Adachi's manga of the same name. It's an epic tale of love, death, friendship, loss and high school baseball. While it has a few strikes against it, it's a sports anime (they never seem to translate well), it's 50 episodes long and the character design is "old school", the quality of the storytelling is high throughout the series and it's always an uplifting positive show. Plus it has no beach episode/onsen episode/fan service, so you can show it to you kids and to your parents and not feel embarrassed. To their credit, Viz Media is publishing the manga and the videos are being streamed (right here on ANN in fact) but it deserves a DVD release.

The second show that deserves a wider audience is Nodame Cantabile which is based on the manga produced by Tomoko Ninomiya. While the manga has been released here in the United States, no one has released the original anime, the two sequels, the live action television show or the two theatrical movies, and that's a shame because the story is really good. It follows the paths of two students at a music conservatory as they try to perfect their craft and showcase their love of classical music. I'm not a big classical music fan myself, but their struggles and ultimate triumphs were very inspiring (the music was pretty great too). Again, no fan service, no steamy bath scenes, there's no reason it couldn't have a wider audience. Perhaps it's considered too high brow?

I've had egg salad go bad on me one too many times to trust it, Tomboy:

It has got to be Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai, otherwise known as The World God Only Knows. Take the dweebiest of gamers, add 1 (rather clueless) Demon, shake well, and stir. This duo are set up to take on truly nasty demons that take over girls. How do they do this? Our gamer, Keima, is told he has to LOVE it out of them. Poor boy - he's never had the opportunity to have a girlfriend, and he has to romance someone? Fortunately, the games he like are Galge, gal-games, where romance is the object of the game. And he excels at these games.

The manga currently stands at over 150 weekly chapters, and looks to just be catching it's stride. AND NO-ONE IN THE U.S. HAS PICKED IT UP YET? Come on, already! I want my Capturing God!

It has also had two seasons of anime (with an OVA scheduled for this fall, distributed with a special edition tankoban of the manga). Unfortunately, disc sales have been rather lousy, just barely making ends meet. So, likely, no third season. AND THEY HAVEN'T EVEN GOTTEN TO THE GOOD PART YET! Are the Japanese not aware of just how good this Anime is? Humor (plenty of it), some action, romance... blows me away that this isn't doing any better. Bet it does better in the States... :)

What can I say. I like it.

Bonus: In this heat, I have to say the best sandwich would be a nice egg-salad or tuna salad. Anything with a cold core to it that isn't too heavy. Maybe turkey with bacon, avocado, green apple, tomato, and some cheddar (extra sharp if you have it) if I was truly hungry.

Andrea is the Ralph Waldo Emerson of sandwiches:

I honestly haven't kept up with anime lately, and if I were to be perfectly honest I've never been one of those "have to see everything new NOW" kinds of people, so a lot of new shows never even show up on my radar. The most recent thing I've seen is Toradora! and while I'd never heard of it before last month, I have a feeling it was at least reasonably popular, and for good reason. That show is excellent.

On the other hand, I have quite definite opinions on the perfect sandwich . . .

A truly excellent sandwich is a work of art, and must be considered carefully. My years of sandwich eating have informed me that while many perfectly good sandwiches can be obtained easily, those of the most delicious quality are an elusive quarry, escaping once you believe you've found it. Perhaps I've read too much Steven Brust (who can never resist a mouthwatering description of food) in the last several days, but a proper description must be rendered of this rare delicacy. My description follows thus: The best sandwich requires proper preparation, the first step being the bread, the fundamental essence of a sandwich, despite whatever lies KFC may wish to tell us. You must have fresh bread, multigrain, with almost a nutty flavor, real rich and soft, sliced, and you must toast it lightly. Fresh, leafy romaine, good and crunchy, red onions optional, and dill pickles, plenty of pickles: layer that onto the bread. Then, you put a nice layer of thinly sliced, smoked turkey on next. It's important that the turkey is smoked! Roasted turkey is fine for a run of the mill sandwich, ham and roast beef decent but lacking in flaky sweetness, and chicken, of course, taken only when the turkey is sub-par such as at a Subway, where their turkey is terribly bland and somehow rancid tasting. I must insist, most strongly, however, that for the finest sandwich you need a flavorful, flaky and moist smoked turkey. Then you add the bacon because bacon is delicious. Once you have these components readied, you slather on a plentiful heaping of chipotle, for the smokiness of the chipotle and the turkey will combine into a rich, heady sensation heightened by the cool crunch of the romaine and the excited bite of the pickle. This combination will excite all the regions of your tongue, overwhelming you with flavor. The sandwich will burn as you eat it, but it will burn GOOD.

RPGothic's last statement has turned this column INTO A HOUSE OF LIES:

Your Hey AnswerFan question really struck a cord with me. Since picking up Vol. 1 at the London MCM Expo a few years ago, Kenjiro Hata's Hayate the Combat Butler has evolved into my favourite Shonen Manga of all time (and one of my all time favourite anime series as well). I can honestly say I have only met two other anime/manga fans who have heard of (or read/watched) this hilarious story. The series which spans 27+ manga volumes, 2 complete anime series, an OVA, an upcoming movie and a planned third season, tells the story of the most unluckiest hero in anime history and the series of unfortunate events that follow him everywhere he goes. The art work gets put-down by a lot of critics for being rather simple but it really works and unlike some series the character are all distinguishable. The manga is currently released by Viz Media, however they don't seem to put a lot behind promoting and releasing the series (it looks like only Vol.17 & 18 will be released this year, despite the amount available in Japan). And Bandai have thankfully released series 1 on DVD but doesn't show any signs of Season 2 (which is thankfully available via Crunchyroll) or the OVA (which sees many of popular characters in some form of Fan service) and I doubt anyone will license the movie anytime soon. I would really love to have Season 2 on DVD (it's my favourite of all the anime releases so far and has a heavy focus on my favourite character Katsura Hinagiku!!!)

I wish more people would give this series a try as it has me rolling round on the flood laughing (or busting out laughing on the train). It always leaves me smiling and I am never disappointed.

As for favourite sandwich, I can't stand sandwiches in any forms (can't stand the texture)

You all know my opinions on egg salad, but I've yet to have tuna salad do me wrong, Matthew:

It's rather difficult to single out something that was significantly under-appreciated in just the past two years (give me a longer time range and I could bring up such obscure gems as Gosenzo-sama Banbanzai! or Windy Tales, although of course the latter is so often cited as an example of an undervalued show that it has probably lost that distinction), but a few titles do spring to mind. Foremost is the outstandingly complete Kemono no Sou-ja Erin, a solid and quite involving saga which appears to have suffered tragically from misplaced fan expectations. (On a related note, how can anyone hate Chitose Hajime's rendition of the series' OP? It's a lovely little bit of musical prowess that deserves proper attention.) A close second is Sora no Manimani, which is just the kind of low-key slice-of-life I feel should be encouraged rather than ignored. And finally there is Umi Monogatari, which seems to have been dropped by most viewers before its gloriously dark and satisfying conclusion (and also features a beautiful OP, particularly notable when an acoustic version is played in the final episode). I shall leave the task of enumerating the runners-up (someone has to mention "Otome Yōkai Zakuro," right? Right?) to your other respondents.

...Who ought to be quite numerous, given that everyone loves talking about their favorite food. Give me a tuna sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and cheese on crusty French bread any day.

And finally, finishing up this week's nonsense, I think Kat and I have set a date. A sandwich date:

Okay, right now I don't really care about under appreciated anime. If I spent more time thinking on what I've watched in the last two years I might be able to come up with a somewhat coherent paragraph on why anime x, y, or z is the best show ever. But honestly, I only care about making a sandwich now. So here it is.

Spicy Roast Beef with chutney.

Rare roast beef smeared with fresh horseradish, topped with major grey's chutney. Cheddar cheese on top, sandwiched between lightly mayonnaise fresh onion roll. Oh, better toast that sucker too. You could put lettuce and thick sliced tomatoes on after you toast it, but I think that takes up important roast beef space.

Come to NH sometime. I make killer sandwiches. (Grilled PB&J pita pocket is easily the number 2 best sandwich ever btw )

Alright! Great job, everyone. Your assignment for next week, though, is-

Oh wait, I'm leaving next week. That's right.

So! I'm putting Hey Answerfans on hiatus so I don't have to sift through two weeks' worth of responses while recovering from jetlag.

And with that, I think I'm done for now. To all of you Otakon-goers, I'll see you there! And to everyone else, make sure to stuff my inbox full of questions at answerman((at))animenewsnetwork.com so I'll have plenty to choose from when I get back! Take it easy, everyone!


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