Hey, Answerman! Where Are They Now?
by Brian Hanson, Sep 9th 2011
Greetings and assorted salutations, friends and well-wishers! Welcome to another Answerman-type-deal where I answer your, yes, YOUR questions.
So I think I'm about halfway through Xenoblade, and I gotta say, for all you Region 2 folks from the UK and other parts of Europe who often gripe (rightly so) about how you guys get screwed on licenses and region-locks... well, there's your consolation prize. A great Japanese RPG that will never be released on American soil, ever. And those of us who want it (like myself) are stuck with importing from sticky British websites.
It cuts both ways, is I guess what I'm saying. Moving on!
I will admit that I am (almost) completely ignorant of the legal side of the anime industry. Recently I learned that streaming rights and physical distribution rights are completely different from each other. Though it seems kind of obvious now, I thought a company could acquire the rights to show and that left them free to both put it on-line and sell it in stores. My question is this then: A company has a show that they have gotten the rights to stream/simulcast, what sort of work goes into getting the rights to make a physical product? Is it more difficult for companies to get "physical rights" from a show that they simulcast (or visa-versa?)
Well really it all comes down to the fact that certain companies simply focus either more on streaming or disc, or vice-versa.
Crunchyroll is basically all streaming, save for the odd physical release of something by Makoto Shinkai (which at this point they've made it pretty clear was a one-off and they have no further plans for physical releases). Funimation does quite a bit of streaming now, but save for a few stragglers here and there, Funimation's not interested in licensing something strictly for the purpose of streaming; they're typically not interested in licensing a show unless they intend to sell it on DVD, since that's still where they make the bulk of their profits.
I wouldn't say either streaming or "physical" rights are more "difficult" to acquire than the other; they both require lots of contractual back-and-forth between the numerous production companies in Japan that tend to own the various parts of the series you're looking to license. It's not like acquiring the streaming rights to a new show is going to be a walk in the park compared to licensing it for DVD.
But of course it helps nowadays that companies like Funimation and Crunchyroll and Viz have built up enough of a reputation in their respective fields that Japanese production companies actively seek them out far in advance to see if they're interested in whatever series they have lined up. Not to mention recent entries like Niconico, which is straight-up owned by those same Japanese production companies, so I have to assume licensing titles is a much simpler process there (but you never know - I'm sure the guys at Niconico get to deal with plenty of their own headaches).
So basically, the answer is that it's difficult to license something no matter what the intended format is going to be. It helps of course when there's something akin to a pre-existing relationship between the licensors and the Japanese companies representing the show, but that's never a guarantee either. Look at Tiger & Bunny; that's a Sunrise show, and by all accounts that probably should've been picked up by Bandai, considering that Bandai is the majority shareholder in Sunrise, but no! Viz has that show all locked up. Which, good for them; that show should be a huge hit for them if they play their cards right. Which they usually do when they're given a sure-fire success.
This is a two part question so bear with me (they are somewhat related). What is going on with Shinichiro Watanabe. Where is one of the most influential anime directors ever when you need him. I know in the last few years he produced music for Michiko e Hatchin and did some work for Star Driver, and also recently he's trying to get the Cowboy Bebop movie up and running; but come on!!! His work on Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo speak for themselves. You would think he could get any anime he wanted green lit in a second (that's if he wanted to direct).
Speaking of Samurai Champloo, what is going on with Manglobe (my second question). Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy to Michiko to Hatchin (I guess you can include House of 5 leaves in there, but I don't consider it as good quality wise). Now that's a pretty impressive run. But what stood out for me for was the character development. When a series makes you care about the characters, almost no plot is necessary, it simply adds to the quality. Now tell me with a straight face the first time you watched Samurai Champloo or Michiko to Hatchin you didn't know you were watching something special. I just don't get the same feeling from House of 5 leaves or Deadman Wonderland. I feel like the characters in their recent series just don't stack up. Now the stories might be interesting, but the execution is just not as good. Now I might be spoiled, but I am just worried about and I quote,"Manglobe's recent trend of adapting pretentious adult novels.""
Yow, man; I get that House of Five Leaves might not be everyone's cup of tea, but don't knock it down a notch just because it's not Samurai Champloo. It's not intending to be; it's something far more experimental, which to me is more interesting than retreading past successes. And also, I must've been asleep when I was watching Michiko to Hatchin, because I wouldn't necessarily characterize that show by its "character development." Actually that's probably true, I think I did fall asleep trying to watch Michiko to Hatchin - to me that show is a textbook example of a great premise, great visuals in service of a pretty flat story.
So, Shinichiro Watanabe? Where's he at? Man, I dunno. Amusing himself with all the money and critical acclaim he's amassed from Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo and maybe those Animatrix shorts that he directed? Watanabe is in the upper echelon of respected anime directors, and the guy basically only has to really direct a show that he wants to direct; most anime directors outside of the Miyazaki's of the world have to work as directors-for-hire on a wide variety of different projects to make ends meet, directing episodes hither and yon of all kinds of stuff in order to keep working within the anime industry. It's no different in the realm of live-action here in the West, either; for every Scorcese, there's someone like Greg Mottola and Noah Baumbach, who both had "breakout" films in the 90's but still had to pick up odd jobs in television to keep up in Hollywood, until they both had enough critical and financial cache to focus on their own projects.
Now I've obviously never met the guy, but Shinichiro Watanabe seems to me like a guy who's only really, really ready to get down to the director's chair when it's something he's 100-percent passionate about - like, for example, the live-action Cowboy Bebop movie that will never happen because it's too expensive. However, he also seems like the sort of guy who likes to keep himself busy, and considering he still loves to draw and he loves music, that's why he picks up odd jobs here and there, like storyboarding parts of Birdy the Mighty: Decode and producing the music for Michiko to Hatchin.
In reality, the guy probably doesn't need to direct another show ever again. His reputation is set in stone as a visionary, exciting director, and that's not going to go away, no matter how long he takes to actually "direct" something again. He doesn't "owe" you another show, or anybody. He's going to take his time until he finds something else that's exciting and interesting enough to replace the sour taste that's no doubt in his mouth from the Cowboy Bebop movie's stalled development.
Going back to Manglobe, uh - I don't think that anything has "happened" to them at all. They simply made a few shows that you, personally, don't like. I mean, it would be one thing if something like Deadman Wonderland was panned far and wide as an absolute piece of crap, but uh, it's not - in fact people seem to love it, by and large. Not your type of show, apparently, but that's okay. I'd say it's not them, it's you. Manglobe hasn't jumped over any sort of proverbial shark; they're just doing some adaptations for a change instead of original shows.
Let it slide, buddy.
I live in a well-funded county with a great library system, and being a usually broke teenage anime and manga fan, I love how the libraries have such a wide selection to borrow from. However, their manga collection confuses me quite a bit. Of course, there's the usual Naruto and Bleach fare, but then we also have the releases of rather obscure titles like Two Flowers for the Dragon and Heaven's Will. You'd think with all those, we'd also series as popular as Boys Over Flowers or Gantz. but no. Really, who picks out these titles? Was it some lady, randomly buying whatever manga came up? Or do they actually go by some guidelines?
Well, no matter how "well-funded" your library is, most of a library's, well, library is going to come in the form of donations. Donations from individuals, stores, estates, and other such philanthropy.
Now's as good a time as any, I think, to bring up the fact that most manga publishers are actually cool with donating their titles to libraries themselves - all it takes is a nice little letter. Here's the Viz contact page with information on donation requests.
Now of course, since these titles are being donated, it would be, shall we say, uncouth to make requests for donations of any specific titles. Typically, though, US manga publishers are pretty good about giving libraries some of their best stuff. Why! I remember getting my high school librarian to bug Viz to send them more copies of the flipped version of Ranma ½. And it worked! (As a side note, I probably should've held on to those copies of Osamu Tezuka's Adolf that are now woefully out-of-print; I think they're worth a pretty penny now.)
So anyway, obscure or no, since these books are donated, the usual rules of "who on earth picked these titles?" does not apply. If there's something you feel like your library is missing there, just let them know that any number of manga publishers here in the States have very cool donation programs for that very purpose.
Oh dear, lookit that - it's time for Answerfans! Below you will find all the responses to the question I asked everybody last week, which is thus:
Beginning our sojourn into the realm of the obscure, Pachy_Boy has a title that I certainly have never heard of:
If I had to pick just a single one-off manga title that's an original story it would be the one-shot Angel/Dust by Aoi Nanase, released by ADVManga. I remember following this within the pages of Newtype USA magazine from back in the day, and knew I had to get the book itself afterwards.
It's a story about a plain-jane high school girl named Yuina. Everything changes when a winged angelic woman literally falls from the sky in front of her. Named Seraph, she is an Emulate, a bioroid from an alternate Earth dimension, where her kind can assimilate with human beings on an atomic level and draw out their latent capabilities. Stranded on Yuina's Earth, she forms a contract with Yuina, who thus becomes a winged super-girl. Coincidentally, another female Emulate named Lucifer arrives, forms a contract with a classmate of Yuina's, and what follows is the traditional battle between Good and Evil.
The artwork is lovely, if not groundbreaking. In general, I'm usually a sucker for angelic imagery (so of course I'm also a fan of both Haibane Renmei and Angel Sanctuary). Story-wise, there's a range of plot complexities squeezed into just nine chapters, and rather than explain everything about everything it would deliver some vague revelations and imagery that leave you wondering. But at its heart it's a deceptively simple story about a young girl growing up and fighting in life. And for those who like the genre, it also has a little Yuri subtext.
It's one of those stories where one can either find deeper meaning to it or take it as enjoyable light reading. Unfortunately, this having been an ADV release, it's long been out of print. There's no guarantee that someone else will pick it up after all this time, which is why I'll always treasure the physical book I keep in my library.
Juan, I think you are welcome to take "slice-of-life-in-the-peloton" all the way to the bank, sir:
when i saw your question for this week, "Nasu: Andalusian Summer" immediately came to mind. of all of my anime collection, it's one of the few shows i've watched multiple times and still enjoy it each time.
the thing that first attracted me to it was the theme: a stage in the "vuelta a espana" cycling race (which ends this sunday, btw). there have been precious few cycling anime, and i have never seen one that captures slice-of-life-in-the-peloton like this. (i would like, if possible, to lay claim to the phrase "slice-of-life-in-the-peloton" in case it ever catches on.) some may argue that it captures the realism by stealing from several real-life incidents in the recent history of pro cycling. but it does it well and with sympathy.
once i started watching it, though, the art drew me in. beautiful, ghibli-esque backgrounds that captured southern spain and made you *feel* the heat. the characters are well designed, and many of the riders in the peloton (and their styles) are aggregates of real riders from the past 20 years.
but i think that my favorite aspect is the stories behind many of the (non-racer) characters. there's the obligatory cranky character who runs the local bar. his employee is a small-town kid who idolizes one of the pro racers who's also from the same town. then there's the racer himself: pepe benengeli. he's doing his best to keep his job as a pro cyclist while trying to forget the rivalry between himself and his older brother, who happens to be marrying his old girlfriend ON THE DAY THE VUELTA FINISHES IN THEIR HOMETOWN! cue the dramatic music!
it's a story filled with action, emotional flashbacks, and rarest of all in anime: professional cycling! the story switches from scene to scene nicely, blending the past and present and leading to a terrific climax.
just a couple of years ago, there was a sequel set during the japan cup race, but without the interplay of characters in the original it just didn't capture the magic.
I saw Imperial Boy some years ago, but Matthew has convinced me to go back and give it another look:
You have asked an intriguing and dangerous question this week, Answerman, as I'm an acolyte of the arcane and the bizarre---from truly experimental works like Osamu Tezuka's Pictures at an Exhibition, Koji Morimoto's Dimension Bomb, and Koji Yamamura's A Country Doctor to merely strange experiments like Eternal Family or Dead Leaves---and, as my friends can attest, you never know what sort of eldritch horrors I may extract from the tessellated recesses of my febrile mind. But fear not--- you have dodged the bullet--- for my sentimental favorite is neither grotesque nor bewildering; instead, I humbly submit for your readers' consideration the gentle, encouraging, and quietly inventive Rain, the Little Girl, and My Letter.
The six other people who actually read the Robot books may recognize "Imperial Boy" as the handle of a CG artist specializing in cluttered, imaginative cityscapes rendered in warm and comfortable palettes. His only animation work to date is the 6-minute Rain, the Little Girl, and My Letter, which tells the small story of Katari, an aspiring writer in a canal-crossed city. There are no grand human dramas or profound truths to be found here; merely a reflection upon the importance of writing, reading, hugging, dreaming, and listening to the sound of the rain from a warmth-filled place. While it is true that Imperial Boy is no master of the human face, and that as a one-man amateur ONA both the framerate and the encoding of this delightful piece often leave something to be desired, Rain, the Little Girl, and My Letter more than makes up for in emotional fidelity and pure imagination what it lacks in pure technical accomplishment. Katari's breathless, realistically self-confident narration meshes gloriously with the city she inhabits, full of sun-drenched skylights, rotating clocks, antique automobiles, and constantly reflecting water disturbed by the rocking motions of the small boats. I love this little gem with both my written and visual consciousnesses, and I do wish that more fans would take the time to see how many wonderful ideas Imperial Boy has slipped into this deceptively unimportant tale.
[This reponse was almost about Yuki Urushibara's deeply moving "She Got Off the Bus at the Peninsula," but alas, I now have no space left to address its tenderly unspoken longing and beautifully evocative artwork. Ah well, such are the things we sacrifice...]
We all miss Buried Treasure, except maybe Justin, who is glad to have his free time:
My favorite short OVA series is Alien Nine. I honestly would have never heard about this show if it wasn't for Buried-Treasure (which I miss), and this is one of my most prized DVDs in my collection.
The short four episode series is about a young girl named Yuri, who was selected as her the Alien Party member for her class and is tasked to capture aliens on the school grounds. The character designs feel as if they were taken from a kid's anime, and this creates a strong contrast with the chilling story. Alien Nine has a nightmarish feeling to it, like a children story gone horribly wrong. It seems that Yuri is the only one who can see something is not right, her peers don't understand her aversion of sticking a slimy alien on top of her head. The teacher in charge doesn't even remotely have the girls best interests in mind. And even though she is risking life and limb hunting aliens, Yuri's parents just tell her that she needs to do the job she was assigned.
In the way Voices of a Distant Star felt longer than it was, each episode feels longer than 25 minutes. This is the result of good pacing, even the 'filler' beach episode works in a good amount of character development and demonstrates a disturbing side effect of the alien's 'symbiosis'. For the short length, Alien Nine manages to effectively weave in themes of loneliness, isolation, despair, and the loss of humanity. All the while it is treated like a completely normal slice of life story of school life.
Eh, 4 volumes is short enough, so it's all cool Evan:
While I usually prefer longer series with large casts and overarching plots, there have been a few short series that caught my eye. The greatest in my opinion though is Clover, a 4 volume series (yeah, one more than you said, but cut me some slack. It's worth it) by CLAMP, who's always putting out good stuff. What really got to me about Clover, though, was how different it was from other series. The art style itself was pretty out there. Instead of the traditional 'pages of panels' layout, many pages are mostly white space with panels spread out around that makes the story feel as if it's flowing along. The characters and scenery are amazing, both beautiful and interesting, and there is a distinct lack of exposition that somehow fits. Instead of spreading out a story for the reader, you're dropped right into it, having to learn who characters are and how the world works step by step. The plot doesn't follow linearly either, the first two volumes make up the main plot and the conclusion, with the next two volumes going back in time and developing a sense of depth for the characters. It's wonderful and sad at the same time, because as you're learning about them, you know you're not going to see them again. It's a story told in reverse, where you can only understand the beginning when looking from the end. Even better, Dark Horse Manga published it in a beautiful omnibus with a ton of full color illustrations. Definitely one of the most unique series I've ever read.
Megazone 23 is so aggressively 80's, with it's SWEET MOTORCYCLES and NEON and crazy-ass hair that I love it, and Greg is here to explain why it's actually more than just that:
"Megazone 23" is not exactly obscure, but ask anyone off the street today, and most wouldn't have heard of it. Interesting, considering how revolutionary it was at the time, helping to ignite the OAV market, pushing the envelope on content, and existing as a sort of "lost chapter" of the Super Dimension / "Robotech" series of the mid-80s. That's its place in history, but now I'll talk about why I think its awesome.
"Megazone 23" was a direct-to-video short film that was the result of an aborted mecha series coming from the producers of "Macross". It features a lot of the familiar players, including Haruhiko Mikimoto as a character designer, and director Noboru Ishiguro. Without tipping spoilers here, I'll just say that its a story involving bikers and a transforming motorcycle, in idol singer, and a crazy conspiracy surrounding the seemingly normal world of Tokyo in the 1980s. What really makes "Megazone 23" shine is the pop culture vibe that resonates through its visuals, amazing soundtrack (a a mix of Showa-era J-Pop and anime music, rock & jazz fusion) and quickly paced story that takes some shocking and definitive turns. It doesn't pull its punches, and also offers one of the few examples I've seen (even to this day) of a more mature and sophisticated sexuality among the characters. There are no typical juvenile anime antics--there's something surprisingly genuine and grown-up about the unfolding relationship of the principals in the story.
The weaving of anime and pop culture in "Megazone 23" perhaps isn't a surprise, as it follows a similar approach to "Macross", which was indeed a pioneering nexus of pop music and fashion, and anime. The OAV plays up the punk, and also offers a more contemporary setting that radiates 1980s Tokyo.
The Science Fiction hooks in the story are awesome. It's related to a couple reveals that I won't go into details about--better to enjoy the movie fresh. But it deals with the kind of big ideas that the producers of Macross, Orguss, and other series of the era often dealt with, and predates some similarly-themed works in both Japan and the United States, and hits on concepts that are relevant in the present. Truly ahead of its time. And the robots? I often dreamed of cruising the bike in the movie, the "Garland" through town. Its a solid of example of 80s mecha design, and remains both slick, and believable to this day.
There is a sequel, "Megazone 23 Pt. II", but its something that's arguably a "take it or leave it" type follow-up. The sequel does indeed carry forward the most important story elements of the original OAV, packaged in a radical makeover of the character and production design by Yasuomi Umetsu (of "Kite" fame). Its not without its own benchmarks, pushing the envelope even further in terms of graphic violence and sexual content--and it delivers on the big Sci-Fi ideas as well. However, there's a kind of nihilism that is pervasive in the first OAV that almost asks, "is a sequel necessary?". In fact, the original was titled "Megazone 23" (without a "part 1") and the producers, as I understand, were not necessarily planning a sequel when the first film was made. The ending of the first movie definitely could provoke a discussion about what justifies the "the end" for a story. But it's very cool, and not at all frustrating. Take my word for it.
There was another sequel, a 2-part OAV called "Megazone 23 III". While not terrible, its forgettable and not at all necessary. Stick with the original, and watch the second part if you feel the need for more resolution to the story.
"Megazone 23" was a revelation for me when I first saw it. It took a lot of the concepts of Macross/Robotech--things I was already fascinated by and loved, and presenting them in an edgy, and provocative and unpredictable way. It was truly an anime trendsetter, and accomplished some things that I've seen few anime projects do, even since then. ADV released a nice version on DVD, (complete with great liner notes) a few years ago that you can still find on ebay.
And to close us out, I think Max is giving men with half a brain cell too much credit:
You want obscure? How about a one-shot manwha called Hotel? It's sort of like WALL-E, but it's a lot more seriously toned: All life on Earth is dead, including humanity, but a sentient supercomputer built by humans guards the DNA of all life on Earth, standing up to the test of time. If you know where you can read it, go ahead and do it, because it's one of the most amazing things I've ever read, right up there with Ghost in the Shell and Akira. It reminded me a lot of Gunbuster's ending, which is a very, VERY good thing. If you like good art and good stories at all, read Hotel. I doubt any man with half a brain cell would regret reading this.
Good show, everyone. A good mix, I'd say, of truly obscure things, as well as things that are certainly obscure nowadays. Onward, then, to next week's question! Study the image carefully below, for it will IMPEL YOU TO RESPOND:
Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.
For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.
Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.
That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I have so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.
Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!
Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.
We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.
Things To Do:
* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.
Things Not To Do:
* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.
And I am out of here for this week, but of course don't forget to stop by during the week and email me with your questions of BURNING DESIRE or at least smouldering interest, as well as any Answerfans responses over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! G'night everybody!
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