Hey, Answerman! Drop It Like It's Hot
by Brian Hanson, May 3rd 2013
Hey folks! How's it going? Welcome to Hey, Answerman! The thing where you send me questions, I send you questions, I answer your questions, and you answer my questions!
This is the first column written from my new digs in the middle of Hollyweird, California! Today I walked over to Target in torn jeans and flip flops. If I tried that in Baltimore, everybody would be looking at me funny. Here, they look at me funny too - but only because I'm walking instead of riding on a longboard.
I hear tell that you've got some questions for me, so let's take a break from slagging on a place I've only been living in for a day and focus on that instead:
Here's a good question for you; an eternal one that has eluded great minds for ages: Why is sports anime so seemingly hated in North America? Or, at least, why do you think so? I have seen all sorts of answers to that question, some of which make sense ("They tend to be long & drawn out"), others seems to only support stupid stereotypes (i.e. anime fans [a.k.a. "nerds"] aren't supposed to be interested in sports), and others still contradict each other (the aforementioned nerds reasoning is usually followed up later by the reasoning of "If I wanted to see a sports game, then I'll just watch a real game").
Personally, I'm an anomaly: I don't really care about actual sports (I'm neutral about them at best), yet I really enjoy sports anime. To me, sports anime tends to have some of the best intensity, drama, & most memorable characters, and if I never saw sports anime I would have never seen titles like Hajime no Ippo, Ring ni Kakero 1, Monkey Turn, & One Outs, titles that are all amazing & some of my absolute animes of all times. I find it interesting that there doesn't seem to be a single, uniting reason behind why sports anime is seemingly so hated by the North American anime fandom at large, especially since essentially the rest of the world is pretty accepting of them.
Normally I'd question the judgment of anyone who says that Monkey Turn was "amazing," but nevermind.
Here's the deal. I don't think anyone in North America and other parts of the West "hate" sports anime and manga. It's just not something we were really exposed to before, so the idea of reading a comic or watching a cartoon about people playing a specific sport is sort of strange. In the past 30-40 years, our comics and cartoons were about superheros or funny animals, and more recently, wacky families. Aside from weird forays like Pro Stars, which is less a "sports" cartoon than a crummy superhero cartoon show with sports stars in it, the concept never seemed to have much traction. It was just assumed, for whatever reason, that nobody - especially kids - wanted to watch or read them. In America, at least.
Elsewhere, though, that's definitely not true. In South America, Captain Tsubasa, just pulling out a random example, was a massive hit - pick any major South American pro soccer (SORRY, "FOOTBALL") player out of a lineup, and chances are they watched the show as a kid and loved it. Aim for the Ace! was a big hit in Europe, Slam Dunk was popular in the Middle East, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Chances are, some of those kids or adults in those other countries were not "jocks," but rather, "nerds." Or possibly somewhere in between?
Also, in case this needs to be pointed out - some of the biggest nerds I know, in real life, are also huge sports fans. My old buddy Mark in Tucson is, most likely, recompiling Linux kernels between games of Team Fortress 2, which he'll definitely bend your ear about, but never engage him in a conversation about baseball unless you've got 90 minutes to spare. I have friends who are rocket scientists and engineers who also share in our collective love of Japanese anime and manga, and somehow also find the energy to complain loudly on Twitter and Facebook about the NBA and the NFL. In fact, I'm sure in the forum for this column, you'll find absolutely no shortage of sports nuts or fans. This whole concept of NERDS V. JOCKS should've died out in the 80's, but unreliably persists for some reason. For me, the thought that ne'er the twain of nerds and jocks should meet died when, after the latest Olympics, an image of a bronze medal-winning Rower went viral on the internet, because boner jokes. When the actual guy, Henrik Rummel, posted on Reddit about it, if you went through his previous posts, the only thing he was ever talking about was... Game of Thrones.
And you cynical jerks can talk about how "GAME OF THRONES IS TOTALLY MAINSTREAM IT'S NOT NERDY, GUH" until you're blue in the face, but let's be honest here; an Olympic Rower talking on Reddit about Game of Goddamn Thrones throws a pretty mean wrench into the age-old stereotype of Jocks V. Nerds. There was never such a thing to begin with, just a series of stereotypes left over from crappy 80's movies and sitcoms. Therefore, because that concept is false, it stands to reason that the theory that anime and manga fans "hate" sports anime and manga is also false.
Why none of them have "succeeded" in they way they have overseas and in Japan is anybody's real guess, but the good part of it is - due to Shonen Jump's explosion in the early-to-mid 'aughts, North American comic readers were able to get their first real, uncompromised glimpse of sports anime and manga. We got Prince of Tennis, Slam Dunk, Eyeshield 21, and Whistle!. None of these were exactly barn-burners, sales-wise, but people read them. Crap, Prince of Tennis showed up on Toonami for a little while. The concept of watching or reading people doing a sport is no longer a foreign, bizarre concept. As it should be. None of them might be destined for the mainstream, but if it means that we'll occasionally get great stuff like Mitsuru Adachi's Cross Game, I'm okay with where sports manga and anime lies in our regular cultural diet.
My Dearest Answerman:
I recently learned that the Saber Marionette series was originally based on a radio drama. I was very surprised to learn this since I had never heard of any anime being based on a radio program before. So I have to ask: Does this happen often? Are radio dramas still popular? I realize that the Saber series is over 15 years old, so was this more common in the past? Or was this a unique case?
Oh yes, they're still popular, absolutely. Here's what blows my mind - there are still weekly radio drama programs on national Japanese radio stations. My fellow gamers will remember a time of great anticipation followed by confusion when Suda 51 announced he was teaming up with Hideo Kojima for a Snatcher revival project - which turned out to be a radio drama. Something that neither resonates nor excites us Westerners. I mean, the BBC still does some radio programs of both comedy and drama variety, but that's about it for the Western world.
I wouldn't say that there's a storied history of radio dramas creating anime series. Saber Marionette seems to be the odd man out in this case. Usually, radio dramas - as they apply to anime and manga and so forth - are often released as a CD on their own. Which is to say - it's another form of merchandising. Most of the radio dramas associated with anime and manga are side stories and kooky "parody" stories, wherein the main voice cast just records a few dumb jokes to fill up a CD. Back before the advent of home video, since it was rare to see any particular anime series in reruns, radio dramas that recapped episodes and story arcs were quite common, in order for people to revisit their favorite moments from their favorite show.
Since home video exists nowadays, radio dramas have lost a bit of their luster, but they're far from a product of a bygone era. Most majorly popular anime and manga franchises have a radio drama or two to go along with other merchandise - Code Geass, for one. And it's since crossed over into Western circles, where devoted fans of a particular series will put together a radio drama for other fans. Friend Of ANN Hope Chapman does one about Fruits Basket, for example (and I was in an episode!), and typing "radio drama" into YouTube brings up hundreds of others.
That's about the gist of it, really. Radio dramas used to be a more pressing part of an anime and manga series' merchandising push, and that's still true, but since people can simply re-watch episodes on DVD and Blu Ray now, they're mainly used as wacky side-stories with the characters. It's common practice to put out a "Drama CD" for a major franchise, but the way they're approached is markedly different from how it was 15 years ago, way back when Saber Marionette was just a glimmer of sci-fi harem hokum in Satoru Akahori's genitals.
You mention in your column every week how many anime viewers have behaviour you don't understand. While there is one worrisome trend that I hope you can shed some light on. The dreaded moment when they say they are “dropping” anime. I have never heard any one say they will never watch another live action show again. So why is it so easy to write anime off? How is it that a medium with so many wonderful talents working in it and so much wonderful stuff out there even if we may disagree with who or what they specifically are, that one I can confidently say nothing is being produced that appeals to them? It makes me sad really. I hope you can at least help me understand this behaviour if not approve of it.
I'll say this - most people I've met who have "dropped" their anime-loving past have never explicitly stated, upfront, that they were "dropping anime." Most of the time, like so many things, it merely fell away from their usual daily habit, until it became nonexistent, and their lives drifted apart from anime and its fandom.
I was out to dinner with a friend of mine some months ago, and she pulled out an old NERV wallet she had when she was in high school. "I really need to get rid of this thing," she said. I got all defensive and excited about it, shouting that she "SHOULDN'T FORGET WHAT YOU USED TO LOVE" or something, because I thought it was cool that after all these years, she still held on to her high school NERV wallet, for better or worse. It was still that one lingering bit of her former anime fan self, while the rest of her life has seemingly moved on in life. And, to be honest, for some people, that's inevitable. For my friend, that's definitely true. She's a different person now compared to her high school years, her tastes have evolved and changed, and now it's an odd thing for her to have a piece of Evangelion merchandise on her person at all times. That happens.
My opinion is - nobody who explicitly states that they're "dropping anime" is anyone worth paying attention to in the first place. It's an attention-grabbing, extremist opinion that's impossible to objectively defend, in the first place, and knee-jerk reactionary opinions are never worth being considered. These belong in the same category of people who look at a piece of promo artwork for an upcoming anime and manga, and without even knowing what the show is about or the basic plot, they roll their eyes and post some dismissive screed on a forum or image board in order to rile up the internet into a fracas. Anime has a bit of a bad rap these days, compared to the massive mainstream success of other, similar things - like superheros, video games, and the like. There's a tendency amongst the troll-ier elements of those other fandoms to incite rage and ire in anime fans and enjoy mocking their comment board dance of anger. One of them is to do exactly what you're talking about - mentioning how they're "never watching anime again" based upon some unpleasant, bizarre, or irrelevant thing in anime fandom or some unsavory anime itself. Which, I mean, whatever, haters gonna hate I guess. I like to abide by the guiding principle of jurisprudence throughout the internet, which is: Don't Feed The Trolls.
People are gonna say all kinds of things to rile us up and try to get our goat about watching this stuff. It's kind of up to us to not really let this stuff bother us in any major way, because nobody who says they're going to "drop" anime like a bad habit is either somebody who never really watched anime to begin with, or is just talking out of their butt-mouth to cause a furor. Not worth my, or your, attention.
But I know what IS worthy of your attention - Hey, Answerfans! Specifically, the question I asked y'all last week! This one, right here!
First up is Sam, for whom moderation is his mantra. Moderantra:
They should tell us info in moderation. Or at least enough to keep people interested. Show us something interesting & intriguing to keep our interest, but don't be so quiet about it about it we lose interest or even stop caring. Not enough buzz will mean less people will be interested when a new release comes out, but telling/showing too much too soon will give away too much. Like how so many blockbusters show so much in their trailers & commercials you'll have seen much of the movie--or at least the best parts--and not need to bother seeing it in theaters. I remember reading a review of a would-be blockbuster and the reviewer said "I wish I could tell you about the movie's cool action scenes, but if you've watched the trailers you've already seen 'em."
Information on upcoming shows/movies should be enough to make sure fans tune in large numbers on the premiere date. Don't give us too much & don't give us too little. Just give us enough to pique our curiosity and interest to make sure we want to see the project, but don't tell us so much we'll somehow be turned off.
Like I said, moderation.
Sakura Elric has his/her attention slaked for lithe, wet, swimming young men:
In terms of hype it depends on the series I find. Something that has a manga or novel already is going to be talke about more and more anticipated about than something that's original. For the most part at least. Being a fan of Free!(Swimming Anime that had a KyoAni Animation DO CM and was only believed to be a commercial,) its a warm welcome to see more fan hype now that there's an actual anime being released. I'm not one to usually watch things as they come out but i'm all for the hype! It gets people all excited to watch it! Although the downside however is the expectations that are created through that hype.But honestly as long as Free! has the boys swimming pool and there's character development i'm a very happy fangirl. I believe that hype is a good thing because in most cases it encourages more people to watch it because its getting out there more. I like hearing things about it but not a long way in advance. Like a few months is a good thing, but in North America we HAVE been treated to leaks and what not, so its a nice refresher for Japan to be tight lipped and keep the hype to a shorter period.
Lastly, here's Kaylee representing the Unification Chur- I MEAN SAILOR MOON:
I'm with you in regards to the idea that we don't need to be "drip-fed" as you said, information over a year in advance. At least, I don't need that for NEW titles. Because, hey, they're NEW, and I don't need to know everything about it beforehand. Part of the fun of experiencing a new thing for the first time is that you're experiencing it along with everybody else. You're watching a brand new show, same as everybody else, and you're all sharing in the fun of discovering where the story is going. I had no idea what Sword Art Online was before I saw it, for instance. I just knew that my friends were getting way hooked on it.
But, for something like Sailor Moon, I think it's actually cruel to keep everything hidden away. Mainly because, hey, this isn't a new show, technically. It's a reboot, but it's based on something that me, and millions of other Moonies, feel very passionately and strongly about. Keeping everything really guarded to the degree that Kodansha is feels like they're hiding something, for whatever reason. There's either two things that will happen once the Sailor Moon reboot is revealed to people for the first time: A) it'll be the exact same show we already watched in the 90's, but in HD and digitally animated and nicer-looking. The fans will be happy and everything will be fine. Or, B) the reboot is drastically different from everything that came before it, causing all us fans to lose our sh*t on Tumblr. Or maybe it's some combination of the two. In which case, they're not doing themselves any favors by keeping that a secret for so long. If we're gonna hate what they've changed, it's only gonna be worse the later they reveal it compared to the show's release. If it's the same as ever, they'll only HELP the show succeed by getting all of us excited about it, sharing and posting artwork or promo clips around the internet. This is a really great marketing chance that they're blowing by keeping things such a secret.
My preference, basically, is: if it's a new show, I'd like to just see a trailer close to release, because I still need to know SOMETHING about it before I watch. But I won't devour everything about it beforehand, no matter how much stuff is out there, because a trailer or a preview episode is all I need to make up my mind whether to watch it or not. For an established series, like Sailor Moon, I think we need a LOT more information to keep people like me excited and talking about it.
That's a pretty good coverage of opinions there, I think. Let's move on to next week's question, where I hope you all will chime in with some thoughts or two about a major upcoming HBO adaptation that set my imagination and heart aflutter!
Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.
For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.
Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.
That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I have so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.
Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!
Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.
We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.
Things To Do:
* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.
Things Not To Do:
* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.
That's enough of my wordsmithery - I'll be back next week, provided I'm not clotheslined by a stray skateboarder! Remember to email me your questions of import or answers of intent over at answerman(at!)animenewsnetwork.com! Have fun in the sun, everyone!
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