Hey, Answerman! DEEP HURTING
by Brian Hanson, Dec 21st 2012
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
Also: Congrats to all of us for surviving the Mayan apocalypse! And congrats to all of us for surviving an endless barrage of awful, awful jokes about the apocalypse! Most of which were so bad I yearned for the death of civilization!
But enough about me and my issues. This week, this magical holiday episode of Hey, Answerman!, we've got a splendid assortment of questions that dig a little bit "deeper" than the usual humdrum piracy whosit and whatsit. Let's dig in.
Now and then I see people on anime-related websites use Japanese words like "kawaii" or "baka" in their English sentences. Other people usually get mad at them for this and say that they are stupid, giving anime fans a bad name, etc. However, it is considered perfectly acceptable to say "bishounen" instead of "pretty boy". Why is this?
Wait, what? This is still a thing? I remember in my younger days - my foolish, cynical days of bitterness - I would hang my head in shame and judgment whenever some candy-addled teen at the anime club would insert some pidgin Japanese into their everyday conversation. I remember every "baka" or half-hearted "-chan" causing veins to pop out of my forehead and strangle me.
Now? It's weird. In yet another instance of the world being a circular dome where things come "full circle," people do it ironically for a laugh. I'll admit - I think it's funny. "Hentaiphd" is one of my favorite people on Twitter. Those same Japanese phrases are now turned into hilarious jokes. The script has been flipped.
In the case of what you're referring to, though, I think the difference is that when somebody says the word "bishounen," there's a specific context, *and* it's referring to a very specific thing in the context of anime and manga. I mean, sure, "pretty boy" works just as well I guess, but we all know what the word means and what it refers to. Seeing as how we're all fans here, why not use the proper parlance? Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII is the typical bishounen. Lelouch from Code Geass is so bishounen it hurts. We all get it, we all understand it - why not use it? Except for some weird reason that we hold some sort of childish grudge against people who abuse Japanese words. But that would be silly.
See guys? It all comes back around. We used to roll our eyes and sigh breathily whenever THOSE DAMN KIDS would have fun with each other and be silly with Japanese phrases. Now that we're all older and even MORE cynical, we use it in a lighthearted, mocking fashion! IT'S FUN AGAIN!
But more importantly, I think it's fine for people to use Japanese phrases to describe very specific tropes, characters, and ideas. We all know what someone's saying when they describe a character as "tsundere." Or "moe." Anybody who still deems anime to be worthy of their time after all these years knows what those words and phrases mean. I can't think of any reason not to use them in forums and the like. It's a good shorthand. It works. Ditto "kawaii." When someone says "kawaii," my initial instinct these days isn't to punch my own face - it's that they're obviously talking about something that is cute, but cute in a very specific way. "Kawaii" in the "here is a drawing of Pikachu and Bulbasaur cuddling" sort of way.
Still, though, I have to admit I don't see too many people calling each other "baka" anymore. I think that was uniformly decried as silly and pointless. If anyone said that around me it would probably cause the bile from my younger anime fan days to rise towards my throat once more, dormant from the past decade, thirsty for blood.
I hope you are doing well and are enjoying the holiday season.
I'm a 38 year old female and have been an anime and manga fan since I was a teenager. Most of my disposable income is spent on anime and manga related products.(I have got to send my collection in to Shelf Life one of these days.)
Every once in a while I wonder where I fit in the American "otaku" demographic. Whenever I poke around anime sites it seems like most of the posters are well below 30 and anyone older is more than likely a man. I was just wondering how many older female fans are out there and if we contribute much to the North American anime industry. I don't mind it if I'm a "lone wolf" (I lead a happy life and my family and friends love me despite my "strange" hobby), but I just wonder how much of a rarity I really am.
Please take care and thank you!
I wouldn't say that there's a dearth of anime fans that are women over the age of 30. There's plenty of them; not to mention luminaries like Helen McCarthy, who has published more books about anime than any man her age. You're in good company, is what I'm saying.
But I can certainly understand that odd feeling of "do I really belong here anymore?" In our Western world of fandom, it feels like the teenagers and kids from the glory days of the 'aughts - those same kids who abused pidgin Japanese with wanton recklessness above - essentially took over the fandom and ran with it, and they've pretty much been in charge since. All the licenses, merchandise, and everything else that gets brought over is basically meant to placate them, and not us. It can feel awfully alienating, especially if you're not exactly in sync with what those DAMN KIDS are into.
I mean, I'm pushing 30 myself. Even now, it can feel a little bit weird to tell people that I'm so invested in a form of media that is, largely, targeted towards teenagers and college kids. THE OUTSIDE WORLD is used to people getting into cartoons and nerdier things in their 20's, then "growing up" and abandoning them in favor of careers and families.
The cool thing, though is that it's starting to change! Superhero movies makes billions of dollars; a TV show about zombies has almost as many viewers as CSI. We're slowly starting to see people refuse to abandon those teenage obsessions as they lurch towards the depressing malaise of adulthood. And not out of stubbornness or that whole "postponed adolescence" that old people write about in the New York Times. It's because we genuinely think they are good. We recognize that, and we celebrate that. People bring their whole families to conventions.
I mean, I remember a decade ago, I would occasionally see a few parents trotting their kids around Anime Expo; now? It's a pretty common occurrence. You'll see families in group cosplay. Dads and kids picking through Dragon Ball Z toys in the dealers room. Mothers and daughters swapping manga in the library. This is common now, and I can only see it expanding - barring some huge seismic shift in the original Japanese content, which is unlikely.
And perhaps the bigger question is: even if I *do* feel older than the rest of the fans of this stuff... does it even matter? Because it doesn't! Anime and manga still contains some of the widest-reaching entertainment for virtually any demographic. That has not changed. Sure, as always, the biggest of the hits are meant for younger folk than you or I, but so what? Only the biggest of assholes will go out of their way to challenge me for liking Harry Potter "at my age," and so it shall be with anime and manga. Beyond that, anime and manga has a new level of prestige now - thanks to the acceptance of Studio Ghibli, and the tireless efforts of Vertical, to achieve a greater critical and social appreciation of manga by the comics intelligentsia. Not only can you still like anime, but you have these watershed titles to point towards as definitive examples of high art!
And the cool part is, you don't even need to point to anything! So long as we all like the things we like and make little to no apologies for them, nobody is going to care! They may not understand it, they may not welcome you with open arms, but they've all got better things to do with their time. (Usually.) And you're not a "lone wolf," there's plenty of women your age who've been around as long as you. Sure, until a decade ago it was mostly a man's game, but how cool is it that that's changed? Changed for the better, even! And like I said, you're in some good company - all the women I've met in this industry and fandom who've been at this for a while are lovely, great people.
Nevermind the demographics. Just keep on liking anime and manga for as long as it interests you.
I have a question about art and the use of the word "deep" that came about after watching Puella Magi Madoka Magica. No, don't delete this right away! Please, hear me out.
I (sadly) just finished watching Madoka after putting it off for ages. As an individual who has been watching anime for more than 15 years, I've found that my tastes don't often align with the larger, younger core audience for anime anymore, and it wasn't until I heard repeatedly from reliable sources that the show was worth checking out that I bothered to watch. And man, was it worth it. I loved the hell out of the show, and found that aside from its playful manipulation of mahou shoujo tropes, it had quite a bit of depth to it. It was, in my opinion, artful. Yeah, that's one quagmire of a statement, but after watching the show I decided to google around and see if I could find any essays analyzing the show. What I found, aside from straight-up reviews, were a number of essays asserting that the show was neither as deep or artful as many fans and I had felt. That's fine, since I don't need to see my own opinions parroted back at me, and they brought up a number of good points about the show's failings, namely the over-reliance on visual non-sequiturs and over-the-top melodrama. And, yes, there's a lot of crying going on. But the gist of their arguments seemed to be that since the show was flawed, it was neither deep nor art.
I won't go into my own personal thoughts on the show or all the issues that I have with that particular dissenting opinion. However, I have to wonder about the usefulness of the word "deep" in these kinds of discussions, and whether or not something has to be flawless in order to be deep or artful. To use a recent example, I saw Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master in theaters and found the experience to be... underwhelming. I have no interest in seeing the movie again since it failed to leave an impression upon me, but I would still consider the film to be art even though I didn't like it. To my own thinking, something can be deep and art and still not be engaging or thought-provoking. To me, it has to do with intent.
So, question time. As someone who surely has their own opinion on this subject, what makes something art? Do flaws in execution negate a work's intent? And should we just do away with the use of the word "deep" in these kinds of discussion? What in the blue hell does "deep" even mean to you?
Oooh, do not get me started on The Master. That there's a movie "un-stuck" in time - deliberately echoing a bygone era of 70's filmmakers, and completely absorbed in these impersonal, callous characters. I love it, and I think time will be very kind to that movie's reception.
Now then! This is just my personal rule of thumb, but - whenever somebody says "it's not very deep," I zone out. I read a lot of reviews - about music, movies, theater, you name it. The best critics - the best writers, not just the ones I agree with - don't use that word. Or at least not in that context. That's because they're good writers and they can communicate the failings or successes of a particular work with definitive examples and analysis. Assigning the word "deep" to something implies that there's a number of elements at work "beneath the surface" of something, but they're not going to bother explaining what those things are, which is worthless to me.
There's also the problem that a lot of what people describe as "deep" isn't actually deep at all. I mean, Madoka Magica isn't "deep." Not in the way you're talking about. Madoka Magica is pretty upfront about its symbolism. It's not very hard to discover what that show is "about." It's a clever deconstruction of the "Mahou Shoujo" mythos, and what that would mean in a very personal sense. It's also visually arresting and you could probably go through the show frame-by-frame and point out various allusions and references, but again, that's not "deep" in the way they're describing it. And more importantly, that is by no means any fault of the show. Madoka Magica was not intended to be "deep" in the way certain online cynics expected it to be, because it was incorrectly mislabeled as "deep" by intellectual sycophants who apply the term "deep" to anything that endeavors to be even remotely artistic.
Something I would consider "deep" would be... a good Zen Koan. You know, the age old "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Otherwise simple phrases and riddles that were meant to clear the mind and cleanse your impulses of simple, arbitrary definitions and "meanings." Something with many levels of interpretation, by anyone. Art in and of itself does not need to be "deep." A Matisse painting is not "deep." But it sure is art, and it absolutely is beautiful.
More importantly - and this is certainly the theme of this week's column - is why should we care if it's "deep" or "art" if we enjoy it? Why should some internet comments dictate the artfulness of something any of us like? There should always be a discussion of some sort, as it connects us closer to the works of art that we enjoy, and allows us the opportunity to share that experience with each other. But that discussion alone does not define what that particular piece of art means to us. That piece of art means what it meant to you at the time you experienced it, and potentially the other times you experience it again. There's no such thing as, "well, it was 'art' to me when I first saw it, but after talking with some people online, it is no longer 'art'."
And then of course we have the tricky problem of Madoka Magica being entertainment first and foremost. There was certainly "depth" in that it had a few more things going for it than colors and movement, but in no way does something have to be "deep" in the "I'm an internet cynic who demands my art to question my soul in the universe" to qualify as "artistic." Not only is that insane, it's also quite reductive to the term.
So, what makes something "art"? All of the things that connect you to it, and draw you into its world. THAT makes it art. "Do flaws in execution negate a work's intent"? Depends on what that "intent" is, and if we're really reading that "intent" correctly. To wit: the "intent" of a movie like The Master is nigh-impenetrable. There isn't a huge consensus on what that movie's "intent" is, which is why a lot of people found it maddening. Madoka Magica's "intent" was to be a phenomenally entertaining show with great characters you cared about, so I don't know which "flaws" would negate that. And, yes, a thousand times yes, we should do away with the word "deep" in these conversations because 90 percent of the time it doesn't mean anything.
Yes, "it's not that deep" is, itself, not that deep. Whoa. Deep.
Now then! I get to quiet down for a spell and sit by the fireplace, brandy-laced egg nog in hand, and listen to your end-of-the-year responses! Last week, I wanted to round out the year that was 2012 by allowing you guys to contribute to the internet's most useful contribution to humankind - LISTS!
We start with Philip, for whom I can forgive the wurst of it:
I'm not as well versed on all of the shows that aired as I'd like to be, so instead I'm going to list 2012's ten best, and some worse developments, for American anime fans according to my own preconceived notions of whatever they may be.
1: More Leiji Matsumoto content was licensed than in any previous year, chief among them, Galaxy Express 999. Here's to hoping for more in the future. Could Endless Road SSX follow on the heels of Discotek's Captain Harlock license?
4: Madoka Magicka got Movie distribution all across the U.S. I went to a very well attended showing in Atlanta.
5: We got a new anime licensor; S'mores!. Pass me another one of those marshmallows.
6: The Garden of Sinners got a newer, cheaper, American centric release. And in a move that surprised no one, anime fans came up with new and different complaints. Me? I want a Dubbed Bluray with the 3D version for free.
7: Fate/Zero Blu-ray released with Subtitles same day as Japan.
9: Fate/stay night Blu-rays were announced by Sentai. This being my favorite show and all, I had to harp on it at least once.
1: Bandai closed their American anime licensing division.
2: Fate/Zero got an incomplete subtitle localization that was catastrophically expensive.
3: Best Buy eliminated their anime section from many stores across the U.S.
6: Sorry answerman...fresh out of wursts.
All in all 2012 was one of the most exciting and frustrating times to be an anime fan.
insanebenis just a wacky funster:
Originally, this was going to be a list of highlights from the past year, but then, I thought to myself, "What about the stuff that didn't happen? The things that would've, should've and could've been awesome had they actually occurred in real life?" Thus, I came up with a compilation of headlines that never took place in 2012, but would've turned more than a few heads. So, in lieu of these stories seeing the light of day in reality, here's the runner-up prize: a place on this list.
10) New Puella Magi Madoka Magica TV Series Synopsis Revealed
Show to focus on magical boys; fujoshi rejoice, otaku riot in the streets.
9) Kuroko's Basketball Terrorist Apprehended
"I always thought I was pretty clever", says soon-to-be-ex-employee; Birdemic director James Nguyen named as possible replacement.
New, previously unpublished volumes to be released alongside older, re-issued volumes; color pages and original translators included. "These translations won't be like the current ones for Negima", promises unnamed Kadokawa representative.
Rights to revert to original creators; Hetalia To Be License-Rescued By Yen Press.
(Update 1: Stu Levy retires from entertainment industry; converts to Buddhism and vows to live in the mountains of Tibet.)
(Update 2: Levy retiring and moving to Tibet a hoax; currently in hiding in Sebastapol, California.)
4) Kadokawa Pictures Ends International Blu-Ray Embargo
President Shinichiro Inoue takes responsibility for implementing embargo; promises to be more respectful towards the international market.
3) Aniplex USA To Lower Prices Of All Regular-Edition Titles; Older Titles Re-Released
Consumer-friendly prices added "to be competitive with other distributors", says new President Andrew Huang; former President Henry Goto fired.
2) Toradora! To Receive English Dub On Blu-Ray Release
"Okay, but just this once", says NIS President Sohei Niikawa in regards to future English dub releases.
1) Vertical License-Rescues Aria
Series to be released as 4 3-in-1 omnibuses; two-volume Aqua prequel to get separate omnibus as well.
"WHAAAAAT?!?", proclaims Daryl Surat. (Fun Fact: The first part of the headline did actually occur in real life; not sure if Daryl Surat would've had a similar reaction.)
It was whatever you wanted it to be, Elliot:
Oh geez..top ten in 2012? Like released in 2012? Or I watched in 2012? Or just top 10 in general as of 2012? *gasp* I think I need an adult...(Pay no attention to the 29 year old man behind the computer...) Ummm, well I figure what the heck, I'll just list off all three and see where it takes me...
Top Ten shows released but not over here yet 2012 in descending order (#10 on down to #1)...
As far as new releases go, I'm a Type Moon Fanboy and I like the Fate Somethingorother setting and characters. I'm also a fan of Key's works, and Little Busters! sorta reminds me more of Kanon, which I liked a lot, so that's gravy. Obviously, I got some zingers on the list like Estetica and Campione!...but I'm not terrifically bothered by too much fanservice and honestly, for me they were a good watch, just turn the brain off and enjoy some flashy, work forgetting action. Though I do enjoy the Mythology brought on by Campione!. I think it's rather a neat show.
Watched in 2012 wise, I caught up on some older stuff here and here. Some titles go back a few years or more in one particular case, but this would be my top 10 watches of 2012, excluding my outright top 10...
Some big hitters there, especially with Clannad. It's sorta embarrassing I suppose to have not watched such a...well regarded series despite having owned it for as long as I have. I blame my Fiance though. She goes through spurts of wanting to watch these shows, then wanting to watch her...other shows (I shall ruin you some day CW...) I guess I can't say much though. I like some crappy things too. Same thing for Angel Beats! and Eden of the East, despite them being a few years old. Fate/Zero and Carnival Phantasm feed my inner fanboy, especially Carnival Phantasm cause I almost lost it throughout most the show. And Hyōka and Little Busters! are gonna be instant buys as soon as they hit the American Market.
Oh God, and finally my updated Top 10 list?! This thing is goin' down!
I guess to clarify myself, I love slice of life shows, and Azumanga has never failed to make me laugh no matter how many times I see the same old gag. Characters are also a big thing, and while Aria may fall a bit on the bland side for not being...action packed or dramatic, it's terrifically nostalgic and it makes me feel good. Angel Beats! and Clannad are both hysterical and emotional hammers, Fate/Zero is pretty and full of awesome characters. School Rumble will never quite meet the expectation set by the original Manga since it was never fully animated, but I still love it regardless. Last Exile is a great all around show (again, I love the characters), Spice and Wolf is a bit of a different concept and breaks a few gender roles as well as it's action is differentially paced, like a game of chess in a way. Eva is Eva and I shall always love it for that alone, and Shigofumi is a bit off beat, but I like the characters and setting, plus I think it possesses the rare ability to feature a show mostly built on one shots and yet still maintains a fairly dramatic story.
And I guess that does it for that. As usual I tend to ramble on and what not but oh well, I suppose I could do worse things...Anyways, enjoy the holidays!
I regret to inform you, Stephen, but there's plenty of "THIS SHOW SUCKS" comments on Kids on the Slope:
TOP 10 in no particular order:
Kids on the Slope - I can't see how anyone would think this is NOT good.
Space Brothers - A story not about being an astronaut, but about becoming one. What makes this succeed isn't the plot, it's the characters, especially Mutta. Mutta is a character that makes everyone want to root for. While the other characters can hold their own (even entire episodes), most of the entertainment from this show is derived from Mutta's quirks.
Hyōka - I've never been this "curious" about the most uneventful mysteries before. To be able to make the viewers so wrapped up in mysteries that really don't matter whether they are solved or not, is a very difficult feat.
Tari Tari - It's rare to find an anime that actually accurately portrays teen life: it's worries, successes, failures, aspirations. Most stuff overdoes the drama, trying to convince the viewers that this is what normal teens go through.
Kokoro Connect - I was cautious when I started watching this. I mean really "body swapping?" I could easily see this becoming some haremy fanservice bullshit show with a gimmick like that. I'm glad I was wrong. Kokoro Connect really delves deep into the minds of the characters as they go through each ordeal. If something like this were to happen in real life, the character reactions would be pretty similar.
Binbougamiga! - This show is very entertaining. It feels like all the jokes, punch lines, plot points were all done before. However, I still laughed at the jokes, I was still interested in the plot and characters, and if Russel Crowe were to ask me "Are you not entertained?" I would reply "No, I am not not entertained". This show is good because even through all the hijinks the characters go through, the plot still finds time to slowly peel away each layer of the characters, and reveal their heart's desires.
Humanity Has Declined - Dark satire, Flying, skinned, headless chickens, creepy looking fairies with empty eyes, synthetic bread that bleeds tomato juice. My God this show has everything. Before every episode I wonder "What aspect of modern life will they bash next?"
My Little Monster - This succeeds because of the main character. She's not some spineless nobody who just wants to have friends. Nope, she's got her priorities and she makes sure she follows them. She's straightforward, if she has a problem with you she'll tell it to ya straight. The world of anime and manga needs more protagonists like her.
Chuunibyou - This show is funny, cute, and has moe. It doesn't stop there though, it's not superficial. It's not finished yet but I think it's about to prove that you can have cute moe characters doing cute and funny things while also having a plot and deep character development.
Welp that's it! Right? Nothing else to see here move along...o wait
First two episodes of Sword Art Online - I'm reviewing only the first two, I won't say much about the rest. As an MMO player I felt obliged to watch this. I didn't know what to expect, and for some reason I didn't go in with high expectations. After the first two episodes I was thoroughly shocked as to how good it was. The dark atmosphere of the situation really fueled the character's reactions at the start. The boss battles were extremely intense and very reminiscent of how boss battles are actually played out in MMOs. Kirito was this guy who came out of nowhere and showed everyone up. That is the lifeblood of MMOs, being better than the people around you. The competitiveness drives people to play them for ridiculous hours. Guild rivalries, boss battles, developing boss strategies, grinding and leveling up, everything you do revolves around defeating the bosses, they are the main antagonists at this point: this is what I saw in the first two episodes and I was hooked. That was my expectation of the show.
Top 10 Worst: I really don't have a list of the worst anime, and I don't see how I can possibly come up with a list like that. My reasoning is this: if I start watching a show and don't like it, I will stop watching it. Maybe that's because the rest of it actually is bad, or maybe not. I can't say something is the worst anime of 2012 when I haven't even seen the whole thing.
So instead, I'll just put down a few shows that I attempted to watch but dropped (either by random interest, or because other people said it was good). It doesn't mean they were the worst of 2012, it just means I didn't have interest in it after watching the first few episodes.
Polar Bear Cafe - Rated very high on our beloved The Stream, decided to try it out. A lot of jokes just passed me right by. Couldn't imagine myself watching 20+ more episodes of it.
tsuritama - Was praised by a lot of preview reviewers so I watched 2-3 episodes. That alien guy was just really annoying, plus fishing is boring and as an anime I expect it to make it interesting. Chihayafuru was able to make Karuta interesting.
So, I Can't Play H! - Normally every season I try to follow at least one show of each genre. I picked this to see if it would fit the role of "guilty pleasure of the season" Unfortunately, there was so much blatent censoring I couldn't derive any "guilty pleasure" out of it. This one was bad because of the censoring. I wish I could have seen the real thing, If I expect boobies, I expect to see them. I don't like being teased or led on.
Medaka Box - I saw the cover art for this and was like "Wow I bet I know exactly what's going to happen in this anime". I really wanted to prove myself wrong. I saw the first two episodes and was not able to prove myself wrong.
That's it: also I realized I completely forgot to look at the winter 2012 anime I watched. So I'll just throw these in as honorable mentions (although some of them should actually be on my top 10)
Thanks for all the great lists, guys! Now that you've had your fun with lists, it's time to get SUPER-SPECIFIC:
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.
So get those lists to me over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Which is, oddly enough, that very same email address you can use to send me any sort of question that's on your mind! I'll see you all next time: Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and stay sane!
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