Hey, Answerman! Damnable Demagoguery
by Brian Hanson, Jun 1st 2012
Oh, hello! Let me put down my bubble pipe and upside down newspaper in order to welcome you all to another fun-filled informational exposition of the headier aspects of anime fandom with another installment of Hey, Answerman!
Ah, it feels good to finally sit down and start working on something familiar again. It has been a weird week. I went viral, dudes. Legit viral. Some of you might know what I'm talking about. Others - just do a quick search, I'm sure you'll find it. I won't bother bringing it up here, since it's not terribly relevant to anything I'm discussing this week.
So let's move along then!
Here's a situation that has me puzzled: A few years ago, "The Last Airbender" community along with a huge swath of the mainstream media and American public cried "FOWL!" when M. Night Shyamalan cast caucasian actors in the lead roles in the live action movie based on the animated series that were clearly Asian influenced. For the third week in a row, the live action adaptation of the manga "Thermae Romae", about a Roman who travels through time to Japan, topped the Japanese box office. In this case, you have Japanese actors playing Western characters. Is this a similar situation? From what I have seen, the movie has done very well with no real criticism of the casting.
I find this very interesting since Japan obviously does not have as wide a pool of caucasian actors (if any) to choose from unlike in America. I think it also has to do with a different history of racial relations in Japan compared to America. ("Kids on the Slope" offers a good example of this.) Are Americans being too sensitive with political correctness in our media? What are your thoughts on this? Considering the continuing discussions about Hollywood adaptations of anime and manga, this is a topic that won't be going away anytime soon.
Hoo boy! Racism! Now *there's* a topic that's sure not to be scrutinized to hell and back!
I heard some grousing last week that I was "cherrypicking" controversial topics in order to "drive traffic" to the forums and such. And that's absolutely not true. Just to make this clear, my main criteria when I choose questions for the column are usually two things: 1) Is the topic at hand in some way relevant to a large portion of anime fans? 2) Did the person writing the question take their time to somewhat articulately process *why* they wanted to ask this question? In this case, the question I'm being asked nails both of those. I'm not out to spark "debate" and set anyone's ire aflame. I do like starting discussions, but the two are vastly dissimilar.
So, back to typecasting, whitewashing, and racism! To be honest, if the rest of the movie is any indication, Mr. Shyamalan simply had no ****ing idea of what he was ****ing doing in regards to making a movie. His script was awful, his design was awful, his film was awful. What makes anyone think his "casting" wasn't quite just another drop of Bad Ideas in the M. Night Shyamalan Bad Idea Bucket?
There, now that I've got my Predetermined Shot At M. Night Shyamalan out of the way. No, I don't think that we as a "culture" are too, ugh, "politically correct." Which, random aside - I *hate* that word. (Er, words.) It's become so corrupted by right-wing hacks, pundits, and blowhards who use it as a bludgeon to stifle their critics for their "controversial" opinions. "HEY, GUYS, SORRY IF I'M NOT *POLITICALLY CORRECT.* IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE WHAT I'M SAYIN', STOP BEING SUCH WUSSIES AND GROW A PAIR! AND IF YOU'RE OFFENDED, SO BE IT! FIRST AMENDMENT AMERICA FREEDOM"
Me? I'm all about empathy. (I think I drew something recently about that, or something.) It's not my business or my calling to get "offended" over every single slight or injustice in the world against minority groups, but - on this subject, I just read a review of Snow White & The Huntsman from Roger Ebert. Here's what he wrote regarding the casting of the seven dwarves:
"[The seven dwarves] look strangely familiar, and no wonder: The magic of CGI has provided the faces of familiar British actors such as Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones. While this technique is effective, it nevertheless deprives eight working (real) dwarves with jobs, which isn't really fair."
That's certainly a fair point. I have sympathies with both sides, of course: the filmmakers, who wanted to make use of some of the best British talent available (BOB HOSKINS AND EDDIE MARSAN IN THE SAME MOVIE?!?!). Those are all fantastic actors, and with the Harry Potter movies all finished, the opportunity for these amazing talents to simply work in a big-budget four-quadrant Hollywood product has shrunk to the point where they need to have their faces CGI'd into a Snow White movie. But, surely, there's room in this mega-budget film with Big Moviestars to lend some screen-time to legitimate working dwarf actors, whose opportunity for roles are limited - unless you're Peter Dinklage, of course.
So, neither choice is really the "wrong" one - but I can certainly see which choice is the kinder, more progressive one.
And further mucking up this whole thing is the fact that these are products. These movies are produced and funded by companies that are run almost exclusively by older Caucasian males who live and die by marketing data - data that tells them that their "audience" is mostly comprised of young Caucasian males who don't seem to turn out in huge numbers to expensive movies starring minority actors that aren't Will Smith. Since they're the ones cutting the checks, they're also the ones who get to decide that if they're making a live-action version of Akira in America, they're making in American Akira. Where they're brothers and bartenders. Except they're not making that movie anymore. But you get the point.
They're risk-averse. Martin Scorcese's Hugo was supposedly set in France, but all of the characters speak English with British accents. That movie cost somewhere near 150 million dollars. The recent film adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed in English with mostly Chinese actors. Their logic - "much of the Chinese film stars are, in fact, bigger in Japan that most Japanese film stars." Well, sure. I'm certain that if the Japanese film industry could afford Tom Cruise's salary, he'd be showing up in a lot more Japanese films.
Much in the same way that anime and manga itself is geared mainly toward a specific audience in their country of origin, so are movies. So are TV shows. Even when they're adapted from various foreign sources, they're going to homogenize them to fit within whatever fake, demagogic demographic "data" that provides them the safest bet for a return on their pricey investment. It's a universal issue when it comes to crafting entertainment, really.
So, Japan may not have an overflowing pool of Caucasian actors to choose from, they *are* there. Likewise, Hollywood has no shortage of Asian actors who are dying to play parts that don't involve them having a ridiculous accent. Black actresses whose character description doesn't include the word "sassy." So on, so forth.
"Political correctness" my ass. Providing an accurate example of the human experience that doesn't exclude people isn't political whatsoever. The real "political" part comes from myopic marketers and puerile producers who spend more time staring at demographic research than remembering what it is that they're supposed to be doing in the first place - telling good stories to entertain people.
We're all just people, damn it.
I can't help but notice that A LOT of anime this season are only 12-13 episodes, not counting ongoing series like Naruto, of course. And sometimes we see a second season with another 12-13 episodes. I just wanted to know, are we ever going to see another series giant like Bleach or One Piece or Naruto whoes epsiodes easily reach the hundreds? Is it just too expensive to make them or, as in the case of Bleach, are anime production companies afraid that there isn't as much of an audience for long-running anime series?
Oh, I think the audience is there. The audience is always there to watch the recurring adventures of characters they love.
Plus, you're forgetting the shows that are still running - One Piece is still going, sure, but there's also Detective Conan, Sazae-san, Pokémon, and a few others I'm sure I'm forgetting. The new Hunter X Hunter could probably go on for longer than conceivably necessary. Ditto for Toriko. Who knows what else could keep going?
But those are by far the exceptions to the rule. Smaller seasons with tighter and more controlled episode orders are the go-to staple of any anime production. It isn't so much the cost, as it is the commitment. Every TV network and production studio wishes they could have their own mega-hit franchise that would air for a decade and make them a small fortune in merchandise, but lately, the *big* money to be made in merchandising an anime series comes from late-night shows. Shows that are attached to visual novels, moe figures, and so forth. Also a plus: it's much easier to sell 80-dollar Blu Rays for a 12-episode series than a 100-plus episode one, they've noticed.
Putting on my Speculation Hat for a moment, I'm going to posit the theory that the sudden cancellation of Beelzebub - a popular Weekly Shonen Jump fixture since 2009, airing on Yomiuri TV, which is a network with a much broader reach of viewers than TV Tokyo - had anime producers running scared. How could such a thing fail? The manga's popular, it's comprised of elements that've worked many times before, it's got fun colorful characters, and it couldn't succeed on a major network?!? Hit the panic button, guys! IT'S ALL OVER!!
But seriously, who knows? The long-term fertility of these titles relies on a lot of different factors aside from just "popularity." Popularity is one part of it, sure, but it also needs to make people a lot of money. And a lot of that money needs to come from certain kinds of merchandising. And if it's a long-running show that skews a younger audience, it also needs to maintain a healthy threshold of decent ratings numbers to maintain its timeslot. Pulling off all of those hat tricks is tough, and usually takes time.
And honestly, I don't think TV networks and production companies have the patience for it anymore. And why should they, when putting out a 12-episode season or two will guarantee them a few million dollars in the bank on DVD and Blu Ray sales alone? Personally, I'm loving this smaller-episode-count anime buffet of ours. I mean, when I finally caught up on Tiger & Bunny last year, I remember thinking, "Aw, man 25 episodes? That's so many!" When of course, that's nothing compared to the time when I (successfully) caught up on both InuYasha and Yū Yū Hakusho. I think between the two of them, it took me about three months.
My time is increasingly valuable to me as I get older. Am I lame now? Probably, but I like these smaller episode-counts. Because I can still devote the time to remain invested in a show I like, without the fleeting worry that I'm wasting so much of my life doing it.
I'll make it short and to the point: Why the lack of legally licensed man-on-man material?
For example: Why this new, fanservicey, boob-infested 12 episode series that nobody's really heard of, and why not this really popular shonen-ai show that could probably bring in a lot of extra dollars? Why Cat Planet Cuties and not Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi?
For God's sake, why more boobs? I think we've all had enough boobs for the moment. Well, I have. Sadly I don't think I can say the same for everyone.
Does sex really sell? Have we stooped so low as an industry that bringing in shows with scantily clad women without a single admirable personality trait is considered a "business tactic", but companies like Funimation won't touch anything with a "yaoi" tag on it with a ten foot pole?
Is this, dare I say, homophobia? *gasp* Or am I just drunk off my ass?
Because its really hard to stand up against fansubs as a yaoi fan. Sure, there's Crunchyroll, but I mean come on. It's CRUNCHYROLL. I want to BUY a DVD. I want to support Nakamura.
Or perhaps I'm just looking in all the wrong places? Perhaps yaoi is making its American mark elsewhere?
I dunno, Answerman, you tell me.
You may well be drunk off your ass. That is not for me to say, because I was most certainly *NOT* creepily leering over your shoulder and smelling your breath when you composed this email.
But homophobia? Oh, sure. I don't doubt that for a second.
The few brick-and-mortar stores that are still willing to prop up anime DVDs on their shelves - the Best Buys and Fry's of the world - most likely don't want to risk alienating their carefully cultivated audience of young hormonally-driven heterosexual males. (See the 1st question above RE: risk-averse demagogues.) And for those outlets, they sure CANNOT GET ENOUGH BREASTS!
Sex sure sells! (Try saying that three times fast. But not in public.) And no doubt you'll encounter people who will tell you, "but wait a minute! You're arguing against Cat Planet Cuties, but Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi offers sufficient amounts of flesh for people of a different sexual persuasion! Pot kettle black, dude!" Which certainly has a ring of truth to it, but even if that were one-hundred-percent true, the problem is that they cannot have that sex sold to them. If the manly-men can get all their sexy nude fun from Cat Planet Cuties on DVD at their local Best Buy, why can't they get their fix? Speaking of markets being underserved, I gotta agree, if you're a fan of shounen-ai and you wish to own a Region 1 DVD or GOD FORBID a Blu Ray, you're shit out of luck.
Getting shounen-ai and yaoi manga published is one thing - and one thing that certainly didn't happen without a boatload of baseless concern - but getting a DVD? Forget it. It's not that anime companies are completely oblivious to the numerous and vociferous yaoi and shounen-ai fans out there - trust me, they're not - *but* they're concerned that, uh, they're not terribly interested in buying physical media anymore. Couple that with the homophobia, and you've got a powerful equation that always equals NOT GONNA HAPPEN, REALLY.
At least, not in the "traditional" sense. I think this is one of those cases where Aniplex USA's model could really make sense. Since our nation's retailers are homophobic jackanapes, why not set a limited number of pre-orders for Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi, fill them up with neat goodies, and sell them for a relatively hefty but not-entirely-unreasonable price? Why not? What possible harm is there in doing that?
Whoops, there I go being crazy again. I should stop doing that.
Goodness! It's time for Answerfans already!
Last week I had a little required viewing for all of you:
First up is Dark Kendoka:
I was one of those kids in the late 90s that would feverishly run home from the bus stop to catch all the Toonami shows after school. To be honest, while I have some fond memories watching Toonami, the Midnight Run and all the cool events and speeches they had throughout the afternoon, I was more than willing to just let it die as a great memory and not as a corpse that's brought from the dead, but not quite the same thing, similar to how the Elric brother's mom turned out after they initially tried to bring her back to life. But now that it's here, I wish for its success and plan to give it a fair shot before I have any final thoughts on it.
I was visiting some family over the weekend with little ability to stay up so late at night so I had to resort to DVRing Deadman Wonderland and Casshern Sins for me to watch when I got back home a few days ago. There really isn't too much to say about the block since it was mainly just a rebranding of the anime block that Adult Swim has been airing for years, and my expectations were actually low for this one. One thing I can say is that, if they air more shows with edgier content and more adult (not pornographic) themes, then I can see myself continuing to tune in. I also think that airing the block after midnight is a bit on the late side for me, but I'll continue to DVR the interesting stuff as it comes along.
At the same time, I do realize that all of this is just a test, so I was really just expecting a block with shows that happened to have the Toonami bumpers included. It would be nice if they could give it the treatment that they gave the original block back in the day, but something like this needs time to mature to see if that's something that the masses want.
Matthew has the audacity of hope:
I personally thought this could be really something special so I did in fact tune in. And what I saw gave me hope for the future of the block.
The new shows honestly were pretty good. Deadman Wonderland in particular was interesting, a pretty breezy show that I really want to watch the next episode of next week. Casshern Sins was a bit more plodding and heady, but it was still stylish as hell and had me intrigued enough to come back for more. Bleach personally isn't my thing because I don't like super-long runners or Shonen series like that, but it was an inoffensive show and certain to get a lot of viewers. Fullmetal Alchemist is still a cool show, though I wouldn't be surprised if they traded it out for something else once it finishes this run. And GitS and Cowboy Bebop, no matter how much some people groaned about them, are great fun nostalgic shows and I'm glad they still get some airtime.
I think it's sort of telling that you used the word 'Nostalgia' to describe the block; not that that is inaccurate, most people interested in watching the block view it in that light. But the block really needs, and so far has, to take strides to make sure it isn't just a retread of fond memories for a certain group of people. Case and point, TEENick's block "The 90s Are All That". This midnight block, while not anime, was hailed by fans of the 90s as a nostalgic triumph. But by several months later, it's best airings couldn't even break 200k viewers ( http://sonofthebronx.blogspot.com/2011/09/tuesday-august-30-2011-broadcast-cable.html ). This isn't that much of a problem for them, since they own all the tapes and the Midnight block would most likely be deadair anyways, but for a channel like [Adult Swim], those numbers would be unacceptable.
That isn't to say that having nostalgic shows on the block wouldn't be fun, especially if they air towards the cheesy that even non-Anime fans could enjoy by sort of chuckling at it. Gundam Wing would be a great fit for the lineup and that regard, and the network has said that that is the old Toonami show they're most interested in airing. But they can't dominate the block as some have suggested it should. As DeMarco said, they want Toonami to move forward, not just be a retread of the past.
I really liked the tone of the block, even the more mature shows congealed well with the feel of this New Toonami. Even the older shows I was interested in seeing again. I think that's the key to Toonami going forward, being a destination package that you want to tune into every week; instead of being something that's just aired there and left for dead. [as]'s old Anime block, [as] Action (who's name you'd only know if you took the time to look it up on their site), had become just a dumping ground in the past few years, where their anime was aired with little fanfare and unpromoted. It kind of felt like a formality, an obligation, because it was obvious that this night was their least successful. With new programming and a spruced up packaging, I think [as] can turn their fortunes around and, while not creating some new anime boom, carve out a sizable niche in a demographic of 'Casual Anime Fans', and, as a long term hope, begin to counteract the tail chasing the American Anime Industry has spiraled into over the past several years.
No one will stop you, Ashleigh, least of all the Good Company Of This Here Website:
When I heard The Network of Cartoons (a title debatable nowadays) was resurrecting Toonami (a word ALWAYS read in Peter Cullen's voice), the sound I made was not human. I started watching it in 2003 and despite having not watched since 2007, I was very sad when it ended in 2008. I wouldn't be an anime fan without Toonami.
No, it's not the old block. The old block was great, fantastic, my first real dip to anime. But I own most of the shows they aired. I want the nostalgia associated with the old block.
Give me TOM and the Absolution, the intros and outros, the reviews, the thrill of new anime.
I sat down at midnight with a bag of chips, a jar of salsa, a jug of iced tea, and my computer. I hit up the Toonami tag on Tumblr, and saw the rest of the country eagerly waiting with me.
People were liveblogging as the night went on; it was fun to see people's reactions, especially the ones who didn't know about the resurrection. Adult Swim decided to continue the series that were already on, so it was episode 74382 of Bleach (not accurate) and somewhere in the middle of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Ghost in the Shell, and Cowboy Bebop. Why would you do this, no one knew WHAT WAS GOING ON. Of course, there were the new series of Deadman Wonderland and Casshern Sins. I think I might be too old for Deadman (I'm all set with “wimpy protagonist with odd powers and mysterious young girl”). Maybe I've been spoiled by fast-paced anime lately, but Casshern seemed to draaaag, and all I could think while watching was “this is soooo 80s, why is this so 80s, that hair, isn't this a newer show, all I can see is Seiya and maybe 009, BIG HAIR.”
SO, overall, I guess it wasn't the shows I was interested in (not yet, at least. I'm very interested to see the numbers [AS] pulled in so we can get some more good stuff). It was the people involved with the Revolution: Steve Blum, that awesome “nerdcore” rapper, my sister I was texting all night, fans from the old days, everyone with great memories of Toonami. The only thing I wish is that it could be on in the early evening. How else are we gonna indoctrinate new impressionable young minds? Trust me, it worked the first time around.
Regardless, I went to bed happy. Besides, I'm 24 years old. If I wanna stay up all night watching cartoons to relive my childhood, who's gonna stop me?
The only issue I'm going to publicly debate about MJP's entry is that I THINK CASSHERN SINS IS A PRETTY GOOD SHOW DAMN IT:
As much as I got my exposure to the original Toonami in college, and have fond memories watching Gundam Wing with a friend who later was a groomsman at my wedding, there's no way you'd catch me dead watching Toonami in its current time slot. The reason is simple, and it's probably one that casts a very hard, divisive line between younger fans and older ones. I've gotta get up at 6:30 AM and catch a train at 7:12 for a job that starts at 8 AM. I get home at 6:15 PM if I'm lucky, and then I'm usually in bed by 9:30 and asleep by 10.
I guess I'm part of the "irrelevant" fans who consume their anime offline (on a media player-enabled TV or on my laptop or tablet on the train) and can't rely on streaming to allow me to enjoy the hobby of anime, but I do feel kind of put off by a lot of my friends whose careers and commutes allow them to watch something that starts at 11 PM on a weeknight. Hell, even on weekends I usually am ready to go to bed by 11.
Maybe this makes me sound like some curmudgeonly or grumpy old man, but if I wanted to see anything that was on Toonami, I've already used the means at my disposal to watch it, buy it if I really wanted to support the title or genre, bought the merch from Japan if I kept the torrents (oh yeah, the other upside of a successful career? Real disposable income to do such things) or just didn't really care enough to watch.
I don't begrudge Toonami's choices - Deadman Wonderland is OK, but I wish they'd put on Eden of the East or - dare I say it - Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero and I'm still hoodwinked by the fact that anyone in an American TV programming department had even HEARD of Casshern Sins, let alone been interested in putting it on the air.
I also think there's a conspicuous absence of moe, which - like it or not - is what's among the hugely popular series in Japan, and strikes of Western cultural absolutism. There's so much of anime fandom that complains about moe, yearning for a return to 80s/90s sci-fi titles, and something like K-ON! is harmless enough to have put into the programming and give a more accurate portrayal of unique anime that might expose a whole new generation of viewers - those in high school and college who've got the ability to stay up that late.
And lastly, here's Brandon, making a point that I really kinda like, the more that I think about it (plus, it would mark a return for Kyle Pope's Edit List!)
I am probably not going to watch it consistently. I already own Deadman Wonderland and FMA: Brotherhood on disc and have already seen Casshern Sins which are the three most interesting shows in the "Toonami" Block. My biggest problem with the "Toonami" being presented now is that it is actually more like the original [Adult Swim] and not actually the Toonami I know and love from my childhood. To be the "Toonami" that I know and love from my childhood it would have to be on from 4-6pm Monday - Friday showing content PG-13 or lower. I understand that Cartoon Network is trying to cash in on the nostalgia of my childhood now that I am an adult in response to the all the fans from their April Fools day showing but I think we all know that Toonami isn't really Toonami unless kids can enjoy it. Perhaps the Toonami lineup should have looked a little more like this: (not necessarily in this order though) Friday 4pm-7pm Gundam 00, Fairy Tail, FMA: Brotherhood, Shugo Chara!, Eureka Seven, and School Rumble. Shows we can watch as adults but enjoy side by side with our kids and nephews/nieces.
Great, guys! So, some issues with the new content aside, it looks like we're all happy to have it back. If you're on the East Coast, chances are you'll see me on Twitter, live-Tweetin' like a madman whenever I'm around for Toonami-time.
Next week's question! It's another fun one, so 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.
Alright guys, I'm out! Remember as always to drop me a line whenever you can at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Have fun and stay out of trouble until next time! Or, get into all the trouble you want, I guess. Do what you will.
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