Hey, Answerman! Window Addressing
by Brian Hanson, May 10th 2013
Greetings, friends and relatives! This is Hey, Answerman! That thing I do every week or so, where I answer your questions of varying import with grace, gusto, and gravitas!
Okay, so maybe I just make stupid jokes and literary references in order to feel smart. It's a reasonable simulacrum. Let's get to it!
My question is pretty simple, but none the less I wonder about it. Do licensing companies only acquire the rights to anime within a certain window of time, or if an anime is unlicensed is there always a possibility that someone might pick it up, however slim? I ask this because I recently watched an anime called Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, and while it had some flaws and was campy, I still enjoyed it for mindless fun. It came out a few years ago, but I still think it's fun to watch and wondered why it was never picked up. Is it that the time for licensing it has expired, or some other reason?
Nope! Absolutely not; there's no such thing as a "window of time" where a title is available for licensing and after a certain amount of time, it's completely unavailable to anyone who might want it. There's no legal issue with anyone licensing a certain property within any measure of time after it's been released in Japan. Obviously, there are other issues that might rear their ugly souls that'll prevent certain titles from being released no matter how much time passes, be it a Harmony Gold litigious war of attrition, or going back even further than that, licensees that've long since gone bankrupt, and that sort of thing. And with Neuro specifically, that's been on Viz's streaming site sine shortly after the show was airing in Japan.
Here's the deal, folks; where there's a will, there's always a way. Money talks, bullsh** walks. Gum wraps, paper snaps. Barring some sort of scenario where the original creator has personally burned every last copy in order to prevent it from being released, any licensor worth their salt could theoretically release just about damn near anything they wanted. That is, if they had the time, the means, and most importantly, the money to do so. Ah, there's that word again! MONEY. It's a gas.
When it comes to releasing physical copies of anime on Blu Ray or DVD, there's a lot of marketing prep involved to make sure the title hits with maximum awareness for whatever demographic its targeting. There's no set metric for it, as far as I'm aware, but paying attention to the release lists of upcoming titles gives you an idea of what the general marker is. Typically, it's a good idea to get an anime series out on DVD as close to a year or so from its original airdate; something that's becoming ever-more important as simulcasting gains prominence as the primary method of anime-watching in Western countries. Just for benchmark's sake, Kids on the Slope started airing in April of last year - meanwhile, Sentai had the whole thing on DVD and Blu Ray earlier this week. Not bad, says I. The "hype" around the show as it aired has had time to cool off from its initial freshness, and Sentai has the good fortune to remind people who watched it streaming (like me!) that it's a great time to revisit it, and a greater time to start watching it fresh, with a fancy new dub and everything.
Some new releases come about several months after they've aired, some a year and change later, and others, like Discotek, prefer stuff that's plenty ripe and a little bit moldy. Now, the problem with Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro is that it is a Shonen Jump property, which abides by its own particular set of rules. Anything with Shonen Jump's name on it tends to abide by their own release rules, mainly because those shows tend to go on and on in perpetuity - Toriko was only released on DVD recently, but the show's still airing in Japan, so its not like it disappeared for a while or anything. Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro is, from all intents and purposes, a Viz property, considering it aired on Viz's specific channel, although its anyone's guess if it'lll ever wind up on DVD or not. My educated guess is: not, sadly, considering Viz had it streaming on their site some years back. They got the viewership numbers, and if they weren't great then, it's hard to fathom why they'd bother putting it on DVD now.
At this point, trying to figure out which title is gonna get licensed out of the dozens that come out every season is a real crapshoot - if it isn't licensed sometime leading up to a few months after it airs, the chances of it being licensed for DVD or Blu Ray drop a few ten percentage points, and that percentage keeps dropping the longer the show slips into the ether, being replaced in fandom's hearts, minds, and crotches by newer, prettier, or sometimes better things. Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro is in an especially weird place because of its Shonen Jump connection, which could either hurt it or help it, in about equal measures.
Of course, I throw out these estimates as though they mean something, but they don't. Generally speaking, the closer you can time your DVD release to the simulcasts, the better, because it usually means higher sales. Miss that mark, and the potential to return your investment on a particular title grows smaller and smaller, until it's probably not worth it anymore. Discotek gets away with releasing the titles they have through sheer dumb luck - or perhaps people like me, Mike Toole, and Daryl Surat end up buying 1,000 copies per person of stuff like Samurai Pizza Cats and Space Adventure Cobra. Who knows.
Alls I know is, the era of licensing oddball things as referenced in the latest Mike Toole Show are gone for good. No more Wild Cardz! A single tear, I shed.
Getting right to the point my question for you this week is why does it seem like yuri is the most starved genre in the anime fandom. Especially in comparison to yaoi which seem to have more than enough titles out.
Well, that's operating under the assumption that yaoi fans aren't themselves starved. If we're talking about anime exclusively, there isn't that much in the outright yaoi front to begin with. Shounen-ai? There's some of that, sure. Plus, Free! is coming soon. Fujoshi? You bet - there's a new Uta no Prince Sama to tide things over. But yaoi? Straight-up, no contest yaoi? Well... hm.
Of course, there's TONS of yaoi manga out there, and a plethora of publishers are still active in that area. But in eiither case, be it yaoi or yuri fans, there's not exactly a complete dearth of content to pick and choose from. Yuricon's ALC Publishing may have closed up shop, but Seven Seas Entertainment still has some Yuri titles out there in the world. Anime wise, there's jack crap on DVD out here for either of 'em, but, well - that's true for a lot of folks in the anime world whose tastes lie left-of-center. Wherever the center is. Don't have the foggiest idea myself these days.
Thing is, I think, is this misconception that fandom has, wherein amount of vocal, outspoken fans of a particular thing - in this case, yaoi - indicates in some correlated fashion how popular something is, or how omnipresent it is. This is, demonstrably, inexorably, false. If the amount of loud, angry Firefly fans on the internet were any real metric of true popularity, the movie Serenity would've made 200 million dollars. It didn't. But there are a lot of yaoi fans out there, it's true, and their outspoken nature leads a lot of people to think that yaoi in some way completely dwarfs yuri as though there were some competition between the two.
Which, by the way, is also false! There is no YAOI VERSUS YURI - WHO WILL WINS scenario going on here. This isn't some idiotic battle for gender-biased homoeroticism. Yaoi's been a bit of a "thing" in anime fandom since as long as I've been a part of it, going on nearly 15 years now, while yuri is posited as this neglected, abandoned stepchild, watching in the shadows as its male-centric counterpart shines in the spotlight. It's stupid, and also, childish; personally, I think it's in yuri's favor that I don't have cringe-worthy convention memories of sweaty teens screaming and brandishing "YURI" paddles like an overzealous hobo clutching their nourishing bindle. But that's not *all* yaoi fans, and its a mistake to make that assumption.
I'm not a fan of make-believe divisions in our already small fandom. I dislike people drawing lines in the nonexistent sand to separate themselves from entire groups of people whose entertainment choices are slightly different. The entire concept of "yaoi fans are comparatively better served" is silly. Comparatively, people who "just like movies" are better served than people who "like horror movies," but that's a silly argument as well. Releases are slow all around, as the collective belt-tightening in the Western anime world trims down on a lot of the specific markets that were already starving for content.
It's the same old story at the end of the day, really. Want more yaoi and yuri? Support the stuff that's out there. Publishers and licensors know you're clamoring for it, but their sales sheets tell a different story. So let's not get all defensive and bitter about other fans of mostly the same thing just because you think they get more toys than you.
Besides, there's quite a lot of overlap between the two "camps." If there even are "camps." Really, we're all just dumb people in the same big anime camp. Let's not get petty and jealous that some people have a bigger tent or nicer shoes. Be grateful for what we've got, support what we want, and work together to bring more of this stuff out here. Sounds nutty, I'm sure.
I hope you are doing well. I recently rewatched Samurai Champloo. Even though it's almost been a decade since I last saw it, I was surprised at how much of the story I remembered. It was still very enjoyable, but I couldn't help thinking about how cool it would be if I could somehow wipe my memory of a show and rewatch it again with a clean slate.
Assuming you would enjoy the show just as much, if not more, as you did the first time you watched it, and that, of course, there would be no damage to your brain and/or the fabric of the universe, which shows would you love to re-watch with a clean slate? I understand that some shows are better the second or third time around because you can pick up on a lot of details/hints/symbolism/etc. (Baccano!, Madoka, Ergo Proxy, Haibane Renmei, etc.), but others are a blind rollercoaster of WTF's going to happen next. Something that will never be quite as good as the first time. Which one of those would you love to rewatch with selective amnesia?
Y'know, I used to have that wish every single day back when I was in middle school and the only video game systems I had were my Sega Genesis and an N64. "If only I could rewind my brain back to when I first played Yoshi's Story, so I could play it again and again and not be upset that I don't have money to buy anymore N64 games, as though there are any more N64 games to buy! Because there weren't any."
As a grown-up adultman, though, that's a thought that's slipped from me in these years. Sure, it'd be cool, in a way, to experience all of my personal favorite things for the first time again - Memories, Akira, Wings of Honneamise. But, I've found a little trick around it, one that I think we all do, to a certain extent: namely, when I come across someone who hasn't yet seen some of my favorite things, I make sure I'm around to show it to them! I can vicariously re-live that experience of watching my favorite stuff again, for the first time! Again!
That's more than enough for me, honestly. Because, in reality, a lot of my favorite things ARE my favorite things because of where I was and how old I was when I saw them. Memories had a profound impact on me BECAUSE I was 15, and I'd never seen anything like it before. Who knows how I'd react now, 14 years later? Maybe I'd think it was just a cool few pieces of animation, and nothing more. That'd be a shame. I like thinking of Memories as my favorite thing ever. Ditto for Tenchi Muyo! - God only knows how I'd react to something like that at my age, having never seen it before. I doubt it'd be pretty.
For me, it's a fun thing to think about, and given the choice, I'd probably try it out, in the hopes that my early enthusiasm for a large number of things was based on something MORE than just youthful enthusiasm. But in the end, it doesn't even matter - I've tried so hard, and got so far, and - ahem. What I mean is, I'm happy with leaving those things be, and using other people's inexperience as an excuse to force unwitting people into reliving my initial viewing of a lot of these things.
Really, the experience I had when I first watched my favorite things is the *perfect* experience to watch them, and I'd never replace them for anything in the world. Cue the sappy music!
Turn the sappy music, and cue the Herb Alpert! It's time for me to introduce the work of my lovely readers, who took the time out of their (possibly) busy lives to answer some questions for me! Specifically, this one!
Ryan K. starts us off this week by ending with an intriguing equation, although I tried solving for X and it crashed my TI-86:
Being an animation fanboy in general, usually when I watch anything sci-fi or fantastical that's live action I find myself thinking how much better it would look animated, rather than vice versa. This seems to be the opposite setting of most people, including most otakus, comic and graphic novel aficionados, bibliophiles, etc. Therefore I found myself quite surprised that by the end of Eden of the East TV and movies) I was really buzzing on the thought that a good American producer could easily adapt the title into an American TV series or movie(s).
Now, when anime fans express a desire to see a title adapted to live action, they usually envision an absolute fidelity to the original material with a totally Japanese cast, the exact Japanese character names, and even with the same impossibly colored hair styles. Any “Americanized” localization is loathed and decried—and not without good justification considering the horrors we've endured in the past (Fox's Escaflowne, Nelvana's Cardcaptors, 4Kids' One Piece, Dragonball: Evolution, and so on). However, in this case I'd argue for a competent localization, like many British series receive when brought to the States, with Americanized character names, settings, politics, pop culture references, and social conventions. In the case of Eden, I don't think this would be sacrilege because what struck me most, especially after spending more than a decade diligently consuming anime, was how parallel the sensibilities in Eden of the East were to the current American sociopolitical dynamic. Usually, the implicit or explicit Japanese sociopolitical commentary of stagnation, decline, and national skepticism has had a relatively untranslatable quality to American sensibilities—that is, until the 2008 Financial Meltdown and the advent of the Great Recession. Eden of the East thus felt less Japanese than generally First World.
The central concept behind the story of Eden of the East is something virtually every American has felt since either 2001 or 2009: our country is in the midst of collapse and something needs to be done to save it. But everyone has a different notion of how to “save” the United States [née Japan]. Government, business, the media, basic morality: no institution has been immune from the contagion of corruption. Now let's introduce the plot: twelve Americans of widely different backgrounds are given [X] -illion dollars [née yen] to be used in any way they see fit to “save the United States” (or perhaps the world) via a superpowered smartphone connected to a mysterious operator. Our protagonist is thrown into this world when she meets one of the twelve suffering amnesia (of course, as always, to provide the rationale for unspooling the mysterious goings-on a la X-Files, or Lost, or Fringe, or Bourne, and any other TV series or movies ad infinitum).
But what really blew me away about adapting Eden was that when I watched Eden the Occupy Movement was at its height. Despite being planned and executed years before, in a nation as socially distinct from America as Japan, the series seemed to predict in some way the arrival of such a mindset by a marginalized but tech-savvy youth. Even though the U.S. doesn't have as distinct a social dilemma as NEETs or hikikomori, we now have a “boomerang generation” of highly educated young adults unable to reach the economic capability of moving away from home. Superpowered cell phones? In the last five years most Americans have upgraded to smartphones. (Remember, Juiz debuted well before Siri did.) A Facebook-like web application that utilizes facial recognition software with both exciting and terrifying implications. A patriotic bureaucrat who wants to use the fear of terror to push the country toward having a less selfish and consumerist mindset, perhaps not entirely wrongly. A young man made bitter by his family's inability to move up a rapidly diminishing ladder of social mobility. The sense of resentment between generations (Americanized to being between Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millenials) and their entitlements, both institutional and spiritual. So little of Eden has to be tweaked—either in its underlying messages or its overt plot points—to render it entirely relatable to American audiences, and that it would make a great title for adaptation, in my opinion.
Perhaps more simply: AMNESIA + CONSPIRACY + MEET CUTE ÷ TECHNOLOGY = modern American action-drama.
I think the Monster adaptation is a fluke rather than a trend, unlike the recent wave of '70s scifi anime remakes (Captain Harlock, Yamato 2199, and Gundam: The Origin). From what I understand (based on reading articles on ANN and listening to ANNCast), the biggest hurdle for getting these kinds of adaptations off the ground has always been getting all the Japanese rights-holders to agree on things. I'm not sure what effect Guillermo del Toro had on getting this greenlit, but he probably gave the whole enterprise a level of credibility that most other anime/manga adaptations have not had and will likely never have (see all the anime based movies in development hell, like Star Blazers, Evangelion, and Battle Angel Alita). It probably helps that there's plenty of manga to adapt, which means they can keep the show running for years if the ratings stay fairly stable. The subject matter doesn't require a lot of expensive special effects on a regular basis, so there's a bigger profit margin for the network since the show is so inexpensive.
There's only one network I can think of that would actually have a reason to consider adapting an anime/manga, and that's Syfy. They've been in a creative rut the last few years and their only positive move recently was pushing a bunch of original space opera shows into pre-production (where most will probably be cancelled). An adaptation would be a much lower risk project for them, especially if they got a well known property that could be done on a low budget. Ghost in the Shell could fit that need pretty well if they focused a bit more on the police procedural aspect and carefully managed the amount of complicated action scenes and CGI they'd need. With the right writers and actors, it could do pretty well and if Syfy bungles it, hopefully we'll be able to point and laugh at the train wreck.
Thanks for the welcome, Branko! The rain was actually nice, except when I went on California Screamin' and it pelted me in the eyes:
I'm excited they are making an adaptation of Monster though I hesitate to call it the start of a trend as much as I would like it to be. I want Hollywood producers to see it and say to themselves, "Hey, this is pretty awesome! It's based on a Japanese comic? I didn't expect that. Lets see what else they've got." Of course, it's not like after The Walking Dead became such a huge hit everyone scrambled to make stuff out of non-Superhero comics. I haven't heard anything about Sandman gaining traction. Do people even remember that Ghost World and A History of Violence were based on comics? What about Maus or Palestine? That would make a great double feature! "Get Harvey Weinstein on it right way!"
I am hopeful though. I think Guillermo del Toro can make something really amazing out of that series. Who knows? Manga isn't like other comics. Maybe HBO can think they got another Game of Thrones in Berserk. While I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Netflix to pick up The Dark Tower, I would love for them, or AMC, to tryout Space Brothers as long as they can avoid adding any cynicism or dark undertones.
That would be my only major hang up about the slue of unparalleled serial dramas. If you want to gage an all around trend in the best television from The Sopranos to The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, etc. they rely so much on exposing the absolute worst of humanity. (One of the better exceptions would be The West Wing.) I love Space Brothers and Chihayafuru so much not just because they are so well done, but also because they are so upbeat and hopeful. They make fleshed out characters without relying on anyone resorting to heinous behavior. (Probably the worst thing anyone did in either of those series was steel a pair of glasses, and then return it anyway, or give up too soon, or just having a bad attitude. Walter White these people ain't.)
So basically, if you want to make a renowned series on American television, make sure it's very dark and cynical. Of course, I doubt any American studio would want to touch Flowers of Evil. That show actually makes the cast of House of Cards look charming. (Even the people in Top of the Lake seem well adjusted by comparison.)
As much as I would fall over myself to see Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese's version of Chihayafuru, I would put my bet with Attack on Titan. If the momentum for that show keeps up through its initial run, and with any luck Funimation picks it up and they air it on Toonami, it has the chance to reach an audience an anime hasn't been able to get stateside in quite a while. Granted that it airs on American television around the same time Monster debuts on HBO with enough hype for both, it could create the right circumstances for a wide discussion about anime and manga. We'll see.
Also, welcome to Los Angeles! I hope you've enjoyed our week of hot weather, wildfires and rain.
I'm picturing it now, Susan: DAVID DUCHOVNY AS "RANMA"; DEBBY RYAN AS "RANMA":
I may be a hopeless optimist, but perhaps this is the beginning of a golden age of 'geek' media?
Hear me out: between The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, cable TV channels have discovered that, if it's done well, mainstream audiences will jump all over good stories. It only makes sense that the networks are looking long and hard at already-proven stories to adapt.
Our last comment comes from frequent contributor and coolguy invalidname!
Television hasn't been all that big on book or comic adaptations until recently (The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones), so it's hard to know what Monster will lead to. We do have the history of feature film adaptations of anime and manga for reference, which runs the gamut from terrible (Dragonball: Evolution) to disastrous (Speed Racer), so that doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence.
What's nice about HBO developing Monster is that it's not the best-known manga out there, not by a long shot. The "safe" Hollywood thing would be to look at sales figures and decide from that what to go license (which for manga would mean the usual bestsellers like Bleach, Naruto, Sailor Moon, et. al.), and the fact HBO didn't do that gives me some hope that they actually looked at the property itself, what its appeal was and how that would translate to series television. Manga or not, in an era of gutless and mindless reboots, that's really encouraging.
I'm sure everyone would like to nominate their favorite manga and anime for a weekly series, but it goes without saying that many are too deeply rooted in their genres and/or japanese culture to click with a mass audience. I mean, none of us think Comedy Central is going to do a live-action Sayonara Zetsubo-Senei while Jon Stewart's on his Daily Show hiatus, right?
Still, there are great series with universal themes that could survive the trip across the Pacific. Lots of us went off adventuring in the woods as kids, maybe even had a "secret base", so there's a common element that an adaptation of AnoHana could hang its hat on… you'd just need to make Menma's afterlife a little more Western-friendly (e.g., back off the Buddhist-style reincarnation talk in favor of Christian heaven if you want it to play in Peoria). Or, given the interest in the YA audience and the quality of stuff being written for them, adapting the sinister teen machinations of Natsume Ando's Arisa seems promising — the plot rockets along from one great twist to another, and its school setting could be easily transplanted to a private school for privileged kids here in the US.
Thanks as always for the fun responses, friends! Now then, let's all mentally prepare ourselves for NEXT TIME! Which is a clarion call for all you yaoi and yuri fans out there:
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.
Thanks again to all of my lovely and cool contributors, and as always, YOU TOO can be a recipient of my advice or praise by sending an email to answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Have a fun-filled 7 days! May the 10th Be With You! Maybe!
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