Hey, Answerman! Haters Everywhere We Go
by Brian Hanson, Aug 5th 2011
Hey all! I'm back from the sweltering humidity that is Otakon, and I had a great time. Thanks to all of you, especially, who showed up at the ANN panel last Friday. Of course we ply you with the opportunity to snag free DVDs and goodies, but the chance to see you all in person is particularly fun and neat. The danger with writing these things is that it often seems so impersonal; almost as though I'm typing up these columns in my own brain and throwing them haphazardly into the wide and dark corridors of the internet. But! You readers are all real, actual people, and the chance to actually interact with you folks in person is always pretty special.
Moving on! Time to put on my Answerman hat once again and get crackin'.
I was wondering about fan input on editing of titles. I know at times fans have had an input into how a series is edited, but is there a way for someone to say, "hey, maybe this title change you guys came up with... isn't so great. Some very recent examples I can think of are the name change of Asobi ni Iku yo! ("Let's Play") / Bombshells of the Sky to... Cat Planet Cuties (I know sex sells but... isn't there a limit to where you can misconstrue a series?), and S23 recently picking up Kami-sama no Memo-chō, ("God's Notebook") which is named after the detective's collection of knowledge, and renaming it Heavenly Memo Pad. I can understand it is their editors' choice what they want to edit something as... but is there a way to say I disagree with you and here is why?
Okay, I'll agree with you that "Cat Planet Cuties" and "Heavenly Memo Pad" are pretty lousy names. But! I will ardently disagree with you that they in any way "misconstrue" the series themselves. I haven't seen, groan, Cat Planet Cuties, because it looks like the sort of MAN FALL INTO BOOB HILARIOUS bullshit that I hate, but... isn't that what the show is? There's a Cat Planet of cute girls and one of them falls to Earth and she does cute catgirl things that involve a lot of nudity. Sex sells, definitely (case in point: Girls Bravo is one of Funimation's best-performing titles on Netflix Instant Watch, and I WONDER WHY), but I think that's sort of the point of the show to begin with. It's not false advertising, nor is it overselling the more prurient aspects of the show. It's a fanservice-fest and it works. And as for Heaven's Memo Pad, it is virtually indiscernible from "God's Notebook." Maybe they're going with "Memo Pad" because Death Note is still firmly in the brain of every anime fan out there? Maybe they were worried that the title "God's Notebook" portrayed the series as a bit more theologically-inclined than it actually is? Who knows - that's all speculation. What isn't speculation is that Heaven's Memo Pad isn't too far off base from the original translation. A synonym here, a word substitution there, and bingo. Just because it sounds like a rather dull yet fanciful title for a relatively dark series about teenage detectives running afoul of drug rings doesn't make it any less accurate.
As far as registering your distaste! You're more than welcome to, absolutely. Representatives from Funimation and Section23 are all on Twitter and their emails are there on their respective websites and will be more than willing to field your complaints about the titles. That's what their jobs are, honestly. But falling short of a massive grassroots campaign, I wouldn't expect them to change anything. They've announced what the new titles are, which means they've spent time and, more importantly, money on hiring graphic designers to print their new title on DVDs, banner ads, magazine ads, official websites, and more. Changing the title yet again means more work and more money, and for a relatively small license like those two, especially for such a small company like Section23... that's unlikely. Also keep in mind that these title changes do have to be fully vetted with the original Japanese license-holders. It's not like Funimation and Section23 just went on a tear one day and had an internal contest to come up with the dumbest names possible. There's a lot of back-and-forth that goes into things like a title change, which is something I've discussed before in regards to the manga industry, where it happens more frequently than it does in anime. Long story short, there are business concerns with so-called "casual consumers" when it comes to folks just staring at the title on the spine of a DVD cover, or browsing the title through Netflix or Hulu or what-have-you, so anything involving changing the title is typically a big deal.
Suffice to say that anytime, anywhere that any anime company here in North America, or Europe, or Australia, or wherever does something you don't like - they have folks who definitely want to hear about it. No matter how small it is, or how impossible it might be to get fixed... if there's something that bugs you, it never hurts to simply type out a civil, well-punctuated email to the parties involved that you are dissatisfied. The customer is always right, after all.
I've been watching anime since I was 14 going on 24 now, and I can say I've got a nice grasp on things. I've done both fansub and buying for many years. And that has earned me some hate. I'm proud to say I've got over two TB of anime and growing no less than 5Gb per week on average. I own over thirty series on DVD but I'll admit that's nothing close to my fansub collection.
I make a strong effort to avoid licensed shows. But sometimes I gotta download anyways. Bleach is a strong example. I've watched it since episode 1 and downloaded it every week without fail.
But why all the hate on fansub groups? A vast amount of anime will never reach America or other countries but fansub allow us to watch them. I'm learning Japanese and I should be able to understand by new years but that's beside the point. Anime costs money to make so we can't expect it for free. But at this stage of the game I don't think fansub groups will go away. They have been around since VHS times and I don't remotely see it changing. I will still buy anime I deem worthy of owning. But I don't make enough money to buy it all. Again - why is there all the hate against fansubbers?
Man! I can't wait to open up this can of worms again! Mmm, worms! My favorite thing to open!
Here's how I see it. Nobody, and I'm talking specifically about the professionals in this industry who try to make a living, actually "hates" fansubbers. Why would they? A good portion of them started out that way - our own Justin Sevakis, for instance. The entirety of ADV Films started out as fansubbers. We know that they're a passionate group of fans who are simply under the impression that they are providing a service for their fellow fans. And we are well aware of the amount of time and work and effort that goes into doing a quality fansub. Most people don't really doubt that, and most reasonable people don't "hate" fansubbers.
Do we all hate certain things that some fansubbers do? Yeah, absolutely. I, personally, hate how many fansubbers seem to be immune to proper grammar and spelling, and how they sometimes like to leave things untranslated on some bizarre sort of principle. We all hate how some fansubbers will insist, again on some sort of bizarre and ill-defined principle, to keep fansubbing a series that is being simulcast under the pretense that everyone absolutely needs - in the same way people need water, food and access to a restroom - to be able watch episodes of their favorite shows within a 24-hour window of the Japanese release, regardless of their region and regardless of the business decisions being made by the companies that pay to produce the content. Speaking of which, hey! Bleach is now simulcast on VizAnime.com! But of course there will be the hemming and the hawing about how the Viz simulcast "doesn't translate the attack names correctly" or the fact that they're not in HD, or that they don't have stupid karaoke font, or whatever.
Largely, the point that gets made - time and time again - is that there was a time, within the past few years, where fansubs, essentially, were rendered *mostly* irrelevant, outside of the people who just wanted them for free, and the people who *really* just want them for free but come up with asinine justifications for their behavior. Crunchyroll came by and decided, "Hm, all these people are watching fansubs on our site - why don't try and do this legit?" And they did. And they are very successful. And then virtually every other anime company outside of Japan looked at that and copied it, and all was well.
And that's great that you actually buy the things that you like. I've made this point before, but it bears repeating - no company EVER is asking you to pay full price for something sight unseen. Mainly because nobody does that. Nobody buys an expensive US TV series on DVD for fifty bucks unless they're already a fan of it. Nobody picks up a brand-new Hollywood movie on Blu-ray on release day for 25 bucks unless they've already seen it and they want to own it. When people ask you to "support the anime industry," nobody's telling you to shell out 30 dollars for the DVD if all you want to do is watch the first episode. Luckily, you don't have to do that anymore! There's Crunchyroll and Hulu and Netflix and many, many options available. (Unless you live in those dreaded OTHER REGIONS, yes. But that's a separate issue involving archaic and draconian licensing policies set forth by the Japanese companies in the first place.)
Basically, if you like it, support it. Support it by buying the DVD if you're a fan. Support it by watching the legit simulcasts if you can. Fansubs support nothing, aside from perhaps the fansubbers' ego. And we don't "hate" fansubbers. That's just silly. We might hate some of their behavior, and we might hate some of their particular choices, but that's about it.
Well, now that I've let that can of worms fester in the fetid air, I've got an interesting question to follow it:
I've a rather interesting question for you. It's to do with one of those things that ultimately pushed me away from the anime fandom in the first place; the sense of entitlement that a lot of anime fans seem to embrace.
On a previous week, you asked a question about people being upset that Viz were releasing 11-episode sets. Now, I first came into anime in the early 90s. At that time, shows were released on VHS, because DVD wasn't around at the time. At the time, they were released dub-only, and contained maybe 2 episodes each and were priced around £13 (around $17 US). The UK Manga Entertainment release of The Guyver released 1 22-minute dubbed-only episode per tape, for example. This was considered normal.
Over time, the number of episodes on each tape increased, and around the mid to late 90s you were able to choose from either dubbed-only or subbed-only tapes. Needless to say, at this time the shows still received massive edits and changes - and not simply to change the characters' names (you can read up on Robotech, for instance).
Around the time DVDs started to become popular, DVD sets became useful. Many had hybrid audio, and I remember picking up my Tenchi Muyo! set (around £70 for 13 episodes). But many didn't, and the numbers of episodes per disc would fluctuate between series. Around about that time the internet became popular for trading anime shows, and that's when I started to notice that some parts of the community were really unsavory.
Specifically a lot of people were extremely demanding and bitter towards US companies and their releases, continually demanding that they release more for a lower price and entirely unappreciative of just how far things had come in so short a time. They would decry shows that they didn't personally feel were adapted 'purely' enough, even if the shows in general were adapted in a way that was still faithful to the spirit of the original. Most awkward of all, a lot of them would just download the shows from the net, all the while blaming the US distribution companies for being unsatisfactory in some manner or other. At any point when I have pointed out that these minor issues that people can be so dissatisfied with are genuinely minor in contrast to some of the hurdles that myself and others took as 'par for the course' when anime first started its overseas release back in the early 90s, I've been shouted down as being 'a fossil' or told that I'm talking about 'the bad old days'. All the while I was left to feel that people were just very spoiled with the high standards we receive these days, but that doesn't explain where this inflated sense of entitlement comes from. Japanese anime isn't made -for us- as it's made for a Japanese audience, so why do so many anime fans simply assume that they are entitled to it for cheap or for free and to-hell with anything else?
"Entitlement" is one word for it, sure. Personally, I prefer to call it "expectation."
Anime fans don't just watch anime in a vacuum. That sounds weird, but... it's not like anime fans just watch anime and nothing else. They watch movies, they watch TV shows, they watch YouTube videos of cats farting, everything. And when it comes down to it, people watch anime mostly the same way that they watch everything else. We're talking about watching colors move on a screen at the most basic level, here. And for anime TV series in particular, I mean... look, when the TV on DVD market literally exploded, everyone got spoiled on relatively cheap boxed sets of their favorite shows that had 13 to 26 episodes on a set. That was the standard, and everything outside of that standard was seen as a ripoff. And, sure, there are "premium" items that exist on a separate plane - we still have things like Garden of Sinners that command a much higher price due to their niche status - but by and large there is the common standard of getting a bunch of episodes contained within a relatively inexpensive boxed set, and anything outside of that standard is laughed off the shelf. I can't blame the fans at all if it turns out that collecting an entire series on DVD will cost an arm and a leg, when I've been so spoiled by the rest of the home video market and the standards that they've set. They're merely reacting to what the general "standards" are.
However! There's still the disparate reaction between the fact that fans often forget that the anime industry is just that, an "industry," and companies need to turn a profit to survive at a time when the economy is in the toilet and people's wallets are much more tightly closed than they've been before.
And as with anything else, there's always a minority - a vocal minority - who are just absolute leeches who don't buy anything because the internet is their personal library where everything is free forever, and they're able, no, commanded by the hacker gods to steal everything they can get their hands on. Their reasoning is, as I've said above, complete crap. Those people can go jump. But for every one of those there's a solid dozen or so reasonable folks who, honestly, are just used to things a certain way. And considering that only now, in 2011, after nearly a decade of fans who grew up getting used to watching downloaded Bittorrent fansubs, internet streaming has finally mostly caught up with what fansubs used to offer... I can't say I blame people for simply being used to things being a certain way, and unwilling to change.
It's about expectation, as I've said. The fans have had several years' worth of expecting their anime released on the internet within 24 hours of it airing, and the fans have had several years' worth of TV shows on DVD costing little and containing a lot. Any time a company errs outside of that expectation, they have to understand that a good portion of the backlash comes from defying those expectations. And the people who believe "entertainment product should be free because I said so" as though it's some kind of religion are irritating.
It's time for Hey, Answerfans!
Or at least it would be, if I hadn't taken a week off to go to Otakon.
Obviously nobody could write in if I didn't have a question, so allow me to present you with next week's burning question of utter intent:
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 for now, but remember to keep sending me emails of the question or answer variety located at answerman((at))animenewsnetwork.com! See you next week!
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