Hey, Answerman! - Made To Hit In America

by Brian Hanson, Jan 27th 2012

Greetings and hello, for this is yet another in a long line of Hey, Answermans! As per usual, I've got some questions, some answers, and some fine responses from all of you, the reader.

Normally I'd have some sort of clever repartee here in the opening, but over the past five hours or so I've developed a sort of troubling headache/cough/sinus combo of infectious fun! I'm going to blame all of this from the bad vibes and negative chi emanating from the GOP Presidential debates. Usually Newt Gingrich just metaphorically makes my head hurt. Did not know he actually had Magneto-like superpowers. Huh.

I should really just leave the political jokes to the professionals. Questions, ho!


Hey Mr. Answerman!

Do we ever get a sense of what creators of Japanese manga and anime think about American dubbing and translating of their work? In other words, in cases where the American dubs are radically different in some way from their originals (anything 4kids has touched, Funimation's DBZ, and so on), how, if at all, have the creators reacted to them? Have they agreed / disagreed with voice actor choices, censorship, etc.? I suspected that maybe they don't really care about overseas versions of their work, but I wouldn't know how to find out their opinions since I don't know even a lick of Japanese.

This answer is courtesy of Justin Sevakis:

There have been a few cases of a Japanese creator speaking out about the English versions, though most of it is hearsay at this point. The late, great Satoshi Kon once remarked that he wasn't particularly excited about his films getting dubbed. He was of the mind that it's laughable to watch a live action film dubbed, and he wished that audiences would treat his films with the same respect for his vision. But of the few creators that have commented publicly on dubs, he's been the exception to the rule. Hiroyuki Yamaga once remarked that he preferred the English version of Wings of Honneamise, since he felt that the Japanese had an awkward rhythm to the dialogue that the dub had avoided. Yasuomi Umetsu reportedly preferred the English edited version of Kite, going so far as to have it released in Japan as the International Version.

Most creators haven't bothered voicing an opinion at all, likely because they don't speak English well enough to have what could reasonably be considered an informed opinion. A few creators have said that they find them interesting, but more as a curiosity -- the reaction is usually somewhere along the lines of, "woah, my characters are speaking English! That's so weird!" They might have a suspicion about the casting, or a translation choice, but if they don't speak the language, they're not really in a position to argue too strongly. And besides, they're really really busy. And it's a version that they and probably nobody they know have seen or can get easily. Out of sight, out of mind.

The original creators usually assign their publishing company, or whoever manages their rights, to look over things like approvals, and generally make sure the foreign versions are true to the spirit of the original. These companies (the Gensaku-sha, or Creator company) can either be really lax and hands-off, or they can be really over-the-top controlling. These days the latter is more likely, especially with a really popular high-profile title like Naruto or One Piece. For the last 5 years or so, virtually every subtitle script, every box cover, every dub cast, and every ad blurb is subject to to the widely varying scrutiny of the licensors, whose agents are tasked with making sure things are done the way they think it should be done. For better or worse.

Whether their demands match at all with those of the actual creator is anyone's guess, but that's between the two of them, and if there's any conflict it's highly doubtful we'd ever get wind of it.


Books fray, discs scratch, and both can take a lot of space if you collect them, and I'm not very fond of streaming, either. I want to give the artists and producers their due, though. Is there any way I can legally download Anime and Manga?

Short answer: Yes! Long answer: Yes, but probably not in the way you'd want.

There's a couple of places where you can download anime from some of the bigger publishers in the business - Viz and Funimation both have a large amount of their current lineup available for download between Amazon, XBox Live and the PLAYSTATION Network, and iTunes. And, so long as you don't mind paying two bucks an episode, or three bucks for an HD file, you've got plenty of solid content to sort through. (As an aside, thank GOD Zac told me about Gundam Unicorn being available for rent on the PLAYSTATION Network - saved me a pretty penny on those expensive Blu Rays.)

Now - and I hope you're sitting down for this - don't think for a second that these files are free of DRM, and can be easily transferred between devices and accounts. No sir. As nice as it is to download a file that's free from the hiccups and the sometimes-low-quality nature of internet streaming, you're basically still just paying for a license to watch that content, and any of the content holders can take that license away from you at a moment's notice.

And, for good or ill, that's where the entire entertainment industry is headed. As DVDs and physical copies falter, studios and artists seem to be more interested in making some sort of closed-off content delivery system, where they, and they alone, control everything. Hence why Shonen Jump isn't just uploading their new, digital-only edition as a PDF or on iTunes or anything - no sir, you need to download their official app, where all the eyeballs and all the advertising goes directly through them.

Now, don't get me wrong here - I'm not suggesting that this is somehow diabolical in any way. I mean the idea of anything that is "closed" on the internet is considered sort of, well, upsetting to most of the activists out there. But, y'know, listen; after years of dealing with slimming profit margins and flatlining sales of physical products, not to mention rampant piracy, it sort of feels like karma, in a sense, that these companies can now fully control every aspect of the presentation of their products digitally.

And honestly, I can't really see the idea of downloading these TV series and movies sticking around for too much longer; At some point, the next Xbox will come out, as will the next Playstation, or the newest iPhone, and the latest iPod, and nearly all of those devices are moving into license-based, cloud-based computing and content delivery. It seems to be what the content owners want, and it definitely seems to be what the technology manufacturers want; soon, I wouldn't be surprised if it was downright impossible to watch just a simple video file on anything but your PC. Mobile devices and so-called "connected" devices seem to want no part of downloading anymore.

So, I mean, head on over to Amazon or your video game console or iTunes, whichever you prefer, if you're still keen on downloading some "legit" anime episodes. Because the way the tides are a-turnin', I don't think they'll be around for too much longer.


Hey Answerman,

The topic of licensing anime in North America and how to effectively market it to the target demographic being so prevalent at the moment, especially with all that is happening in the industry. This has got me curious about the reverse. There are many American animated shows which target the same audience as anime here in the US. Do any of these end up being licensed for sale in Japan and compete against anime? With the recent anime versions of US superheros, do the American cartoons still make it to Japan? Also, there are titles for an older audience which seem to greatly overlap with the target audience of anime fans. Do shows like Family Guy, Archer, Beavis and Butthead, or The Boondocks ever make it over to Japan or do they simply get overwhelmed by Japanese produced shows?

Oh, sure. A lot of American cartoon shows and such find their way over to Japan. I mean, Cartoon Network has their own Japanese channel, that airs Japanese-dubbed versions of their hit shows. And, much like how your average anime show is (sometimes) carefully tailored for Western audiences, many of the American cartoon shows that arrive in Japan are completely re-tooled for Japanese audiences. And, much like here in the reverse, most of the American shows aren't aired on Japanese broadcast television - South Park and The Simpsons, for example, air only on Japanese satellite stations. And in a weird twist, The Simpsons is mostly known in Japan for their appearances in a series of advertisements - in fact, The Simpsons are the official cartoon spokespeople for the soft drink CC Lemon.

And in the case of South Park, who can forget the rather odd parody from FLCL? Suffice to say that these shows aren't really all that popular - really, the biggest impact that American cartoons have made in Japanese pop-culture are probably Disney cartoons and Tom & Jerry, and also Wacky Races for some weird reason - and that's because all of those cartoons are pretty all-ages, audience friendly entertainment. Something like Family Guy, The Boondocks, and Beavis & Butthead are much, much more specific, both in tone and in their senses of humor. Family Guy relies on a relentless barrage of US-specific pop-cultural references, The Boondocks relies on a lot of socially-conscious stories, and Beavis & Butthead relies on a very specific portrayal of blithe American stupidity. The Simpsons and even South Park are much more traditional shows in that regard - they rely on pretty well-worn, likable characters and traditional stories. South Park obviously has a few more edgier jokes that probably wouldn't fly on Japanese satellite television, but that's nothing a decent dub can't fix. (For example, Kappei Yamaguchi is the Japanese voice of Kyle. And Bugs Bunny, too!)

So, even though all of the animated shows you mentioned target the same audience as anime in the West, they are so very specific to the American experience, and in some cases so reliant upon them to their own detriment (cough, Family Guy), that it's difficult for them to really gain traction in Japan. Where there are, at any one time of the month, probably at least ten to twelve brand-new anime series airing on both broadcast television and satellite. And so it takes a pretty solid dub, written with the Japanese audience in mind, to bridge that gap.

Sort of like how it is here, honestly.

(Also: if anyone can point me to a Japanese forum post or Tweet talking about how the Japanese dub of South Park was "raped" by the dub, you will officially Win The Internet, as the entire web is sucked into a quantum singularity of irony.)



It's that time again! Time for me to shut my massive pie-hole and turn the tables of conversation to you, the readers! Last week, in the midst of lots of depressing news about SOPA and piracy and all that jazz, I thought I'd open things up to something a little more fun, and a lot geekier. So! Let's see what you all have to say regarding this:


J. Douglas begins our expensive reverie, by recounting a near-miss and a done deal:

Let me first mention a purchase that I almost made: $400 for A Garden of Sinners, despite having never seen it and not having a Blu-ray player. But for those two reasons, I finally convinced myself not to buy it and to just hope for a stripped-down DVD version in the future.

I did, however, spend $225 for the 3 limited edition sets of Puella Magi Madoka Magica [with DVDs and Blu-rays], despite having never seen that anime. I certainly hope that it lives up to its hype.

Finally, I am spending about $100 to get the limited edition Negima #37 from Japan. I have followed that series from the beginning, and couldn't resist the opportunity to own the 31 pactio cards.

David throws another prop Madoka's way:

I enjoy buying the anime series that I truly enjoy and would care to share with others. On the flipside, I don't buy as many series as others, but the ones I do go after I can end up spending a bit on. Three occurences come to mind. The most time consuming, most expensive, and the one that is to come that will likely be the even more expensive.

The most I've paid for a series (in this case one season) is the Geneon/Funimation When They Cry season 1. I spent $110 on it. (For a college student, that can be a lot). It has remained my favorite series since, and I've shown to to tens of people who likewise have enjoyed it.

I spent more time acquiring Fate/stay night just recently. After having seen Tsukihime and hearing about the new Fate/Zero series (made by the author of Madoka) I figured I should finally take a look at this cult classic. I finally decided to bunker down and buy the series even though I hadn't seen it. It had been awhile since release so I had to look around a bit (ebay and Amazon are your friend). I wanted to buy the series before Zero started in case newfound attention drove up demand. When all was said and done, I owned the series for about $85.

And the series that is likely to change all this is Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I'm buying at least the LE of the first volume, so even conservative estimates will put this series at the most expensive I've yet purchased. I don't like the price tag Aniplex is putting on it and I think it is a bit unreasonable. I won't be paying that kind of price for any anime of a lesser quality than Madoka. Aniplex, consider this a freebie. I'll be more stingy after this.

If I were Joe I would be much creepier about my Ifurita cel, kissing it tenderly every night before bed, that sort of thing:

What's the most I have spent on an Anime related item?

In my case my particular hobby is collecting the anime cels and sketches from my wife and my favorite shows. While they do vary in price so far the most we have spent is $1000.00 on one beautiful portrait cel of Infurita from the El Hazard OAV “The Magnificent World”. As far as sketches from the newer CG shows the most we have spent is $500.00 for a Genga from an Ah! My Goddess Hanken.

Dugan, meanwhile, burned a lot of calories instead of a lot of cash:

Rather than answering this directly, I'd like to talk about the one thing that was *most difficult* for me to create or have. The thing is an AMV. I lived in the city where the pioneering fansubbing group Arctic Animation was active. They had A/V equipment and an anime archive. When I wanted to make an AMV, I would book a day on their equipment, specify which tapes or laserdics I would need, and then just go there to edit.

Now, there must have been a flurry of activity at Arctic when I wanted to make this AMV (during the very late 90s), because the earliest booking I could get was three months ahead. Furthermore, they did not have a copy of Nausicaä. So I had to find one. I managed to locate one at a Japanese video rental shop on the opposite side of the city. This tape being Nausicaä, it was always rented out. So would I rent it ahead of time and copy it? Uhm, no. The tape was a copy in the first place. It would be copied again in the process of making the AMV, and again for distribution. Obviously, an even further level of quality loss would be unacceptable. So I had to make a gamble that the tape would be available the day before my booking. Fortunately, it was.

When I went to edit, I found out that Arctic, without telling me ahead of time, had double-booked the equipment. They had expected me to do this five and a half minute AMV (edited with high end VCRs) in half a day. Now, if you've talked to (or are) anyone who's made an AMV digitally (which still takes a long time), you must know how ridiculous this is. Keep in mind that at this point, I had spent three months planning this AMV out on paper. I used looseleaf sheets divided down the middle. On the left side, I wrote out the song in pen, with each line representing either one line of lyric or 5 seconds of instrumentals. On the right side, I wrote out in pencil the scenes that would accompany that exact part of the song. I had worked on this script for three months! There was no way I could compromise now. Fortunately, the other guy (who wanted to fansub something) agreed to let me go first.

Unfortunately, he popped in every 60 minutes to ask me how much longer I would take. As I had watched the the extra features on the "Aliens: Special Edition" laserdiscs, in particular the feature on how the movie was edited, I knew that editors paid attention to reaction shots. So I started by shuttling through the tape and writing down the time tracking numbers for all the reaction shots. Every fourth time I did so, I would hit the wrong button and reset the time code, forcing me to rewind the tape and and start shuttling from the beginning. That was very frustrating. Furthermore, to make a frame-accurate cut on two VCRs isn't that easy. The way to do so is with a with a "5 second lead in". You rewind the tape to exactly 5 seconds before the frame you want to cut on, then you press play, watch the timer, and count down the seconds before you press "video dub". It works, but it takes time to do each cut, and often several tries to get right. By the time I finished, I had taken six and a half hours. I had to apologize to the other guy, who had been waiting the entire time and looked very disappointed.

About three years later, I needed another copy of the AMV (I had no idea what had happened to the copy I'd taken home then), so I went to Arctic to request one. Do you know what they told me? They told me that they had lost the master tape. Needless to say, I was completely devastated. By this time I had a computer and software that I could make AMVs on. There was only one thing to do: remake the AMV from memory. I hadn't seen it for three years, but that wasn't a problem. I remembered the VCR-edited AMV well enough to remake it. I remembered what I had in it, what I wanted to have, and what didn't work. As I had my own equipment and I had Nausicaä on DVD, I could now take as long as I wanted and get it right. This time, it took about two and a half weeks. The final result is my personal favorite out of all the AMVs I've done. I entered it at Anime North 2003 and it was one of the finalists.

When I moved a few years after that, I found my old tape (of the VCR-edited version of that AMV) in a box. I was so happy.

George is that rarest of creatures - the self-loathing Region 2 importer:

My expensive anime-related purchase comes from the oh-so-not-fun & money-draining world of Region 2 Japanese DVDs. In Spring on 2010 I was anticipating the return of a favorite anime series of mine that is highly underrated, Ring ni Kakero 1. After a four year break, Season 3 of the series, Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow, was finally debuting and since the previous two seasons had been fully fansubbed at this point, after taking a good while, I was hoping to see it being fansubbed while it was airing but I was also willing to watch it "raw", just in case. I mean, it was only two episodes per month across three months, totaling 6 episodes... That's nothing too extreme to expect, right?

Well, the day the show debuted came and nothing appeared; no fansubs and not even a raw. The same happened when the next two months went by, resulting in the entire show not even being getting raws distributed for it. I really wanted to watch this show, so I had no choice but to import the DVDs from Japan... Which were, after currency exchange, roughly $80 each. And considering that each DVD had only two episodes, I was paying $40 per episode just so that I could watch the series without any subtitles. It took me a little bit of time, but by the end of 2010 I had all three DVDs, which meant that I paid a total of roughly $240 for a six-episode TV series that no one seemed to give a damn about, which is a giant shame both for the show itself, since it deserves more appreciation, as well as my bank account.

Granted, Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow was all kinds of awesome, which made the purchase worth it to an extent. Plus, the fact that English fansubs for this season, which started coming out after the DVDs were all released, still haven't gone beyond the first half of the show makes it a bit more worth it, as I can easily go back and watch those unsubbed episodes that the people that have to rely on the fansubs can't see yet. Still, after that experience I am never paying that kind of price for anime DVDs ever again. I'd be willing to pay a premium price for Ring ni Kakero 1 if it was ever licensed, as nigh-impossible as that seems, but even that wouldn't be as high as what I payed for Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow's R2 DVDs.

And lastly, Svenge should receive some sort of Congressional Medal of Honor, because I think his 20-hour estimate sounds generous:

The only anime-related thing that I ever made was my on-line compendium of all Evangelion home video releases put out in Japan and North America. I didn't really keep track of how many man-hours it took to create, but somewhere between 20-30 sounds about right. The reason I created it was because one of the forums I regularly frequent was having troubles figuring out which releases had certain content variations and so forth, and I figured that it was a good way to contribute to that community.

"Contribute to the community" indeed! So, good on you all, for all the hours and money you've spent supporting this odd little hobby of ours.

Next week's question time! And this time, it's a bit of a heartbreaking one, sad to say. But I'll be interested to hear some of the reactions to this:


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.

Alright folks, you've got your assignment, and so I am officially done here! Of course don't forget to ask away with any questions you might have as well as your Answerfans answers by letting me know through my email, which is answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! See you all later!


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