by Justin Sevakis, Jul 11th 2014
The theme of this week is "recovery." Recovery from a crazy 4th-of-July weekend, recovery from Anime Expo. Recovery of the files that were on a very important hard drive that I accidentally just deleted. (Luckily it looks like they're all fine.) You know how it goes.
Anyway, let's get to some questions.
I had a disappointing time at AX this year. Was the con actually bad this year, or am I just getting old and cranky? Is this sort of thing cyclical, where sometimes it's awesome and sometimes it's bad? Your advice on avoiding anime burnout rang really true for me. Do you have any advice for con burnout, especially if you're in your late 20s?
First and foremost, you are far, far, FAR from the only person who did not have a good time at Anime Expo this year. As far as conventions go, this one was not a great one. Computer problems at registration lead to over four hours' wait in the blazing Los Angeles sun -- and even the professionals, panelists and press were being turned away at one point. The crowd was insanely huge -- I've heard estimates of around 86,000 people in attendance. This is way more than the Los Angeles Convention Center can comfortably handle. The convention center didn't turn on the air conditioning early enough to cool the building, leading to a very hot and smelly Day 1. Difficulty in clearing the rooms and handling people waiting in line lead to many panels starting late and/or getting their run times significantly cut. There was a lot of frustration in the air. Events were poorly organized and line management was often a mess. I respect the insane difficulty in managing a show as big as Anime Expo, but at this point the show has been going for 22 years, and in the same venue for 7 of those. At a certain point, you expect the kinks to be ironed out and the problems to be overcome, but it never seems to happen. It's the same old, reliable problems, year after year after year.
That said, there were plenty of things that went right, and plenty of people who did have a good time. I think it's all about expectations. When I go to a convention, I go to see friends -- specific friends -- look for something specific in the dealer's room, and maybe see one or two specific panels. I pace myself, allow plenty of quiet time and time away from the convention. Because, well, I'm older now, and I can only take so much. I also don't go to trance shows that run 'till 3 AM anymore. Grandpa need his sleep, dammit.
Anime conventions are mostly big events where nerdy young people can go and hang out and act crazy together. If you are no longer one of said young people, either in body or spirit, chances are you will not have as good of a time. If you are not impressed by the guests, not interested in the panels, not buying stuff in the Dealer's Room, and not all that into the idea of cramming a bunch of your friends into a hotel and getting drunk off of rotgut liquor and cheap beer, then you're probably no longer someone who would enjoy an anime convention. There might be a social aspect you enjoy, or some other detail that you find worthwhile, but absent all of that, conventions might not be for you anymore. There's no need to force yourself to go.
But there's also a lot more to life than Anime Expo. There are a TON of smaller conventions that dot the country, which feature a far less intense, and friendlier experience. You might want to try out one of those. Sure, they don't get the big guests or the giant booths from Funimation and Sentai. But the lines are short, the people are friendlier, and the whole experience is a lot less taxing. If you don't go for the industry involvement, a smaller convention might be just your thing.
Or not. And if not, there is no shame in that. If you don't enjoy anime conventions anymore, don't go. I will go on the record in saying that I'm finding it harder and harder to enjoy the larger anime conventions these days because of the dense crowds. Being in a dense, sweaty sea of people makes me nervous and agitated, and that really ruins the experience for me. Now, I HAVE to go to Anime Expo for professional reasons, but something like San Diego Comic Con, which is orders of magnitude more crowded than AX? I would honestly consider committing a minor crime so that I could spend the weekend in jail rather than go back there.
I have been in love with Atsuko Ishizuka ever since she directed my favorite episodes of supernatural the anime. Ever since she I have looked into a lot of what she has done and loved it from Sakurasou, NANA, Chiyayafuru, and of course No Game, No Life. She really is able to in many cases produce work that is better if not just as good as the original. I was really wondering what directors you see as up and coming that people should keep their eyes on.
There are definitely a few younger and promising anime directors I'm keeping my eye on. One of them is Jun Shishido, director of several incredible anime such as Princess and the Pilot and Story of Saiunkoku. He also directed the second and third series of Hajime no Ippo, which I wasn't as hot on, but still, the dude is capable of some incredible work.
Shuhei Morita is another one to keep an eye on, especially since he's one of just a handful of anime directors to have been nominated for an Oscar, for his short film "Tsukumo," which was part of the Short Peace anthology film that was just released by Sentai Filmworks. His work has been predominantly cel-shaded short films, and his oeuvre includes Kakurenbo - Hide & Seek, Coicent, and the CG for Gatchaman Crowds. I'm not a huge fan of cel-chading, but his work has been some of the better anime examples of it out there. (I'll admit his series Freedom was a lowlight.) He's directing Tokyo Ghoul this season.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Yasuhiro Yoshiura, creator and director of the much-loved Time of Eve, as well as short films such as Harmonie, Kikumana, Kimi no Iru Machi and Pale Cocoon. I'm hearing great things about his brand new feature film Patema Inverted, which is getting released in the US by GKids. Aside from his great use of staging and intricate storytelling, Yoshiura is noteworthy for eschewing the traditional anime industry and producing most of his work independently. (Full disclosure: I was hired to author the forthcoming English Time of Eve Blu-ray.)
Lastly, I have my eye on Atsuya Uki, creator of the bizarro short film Cencoroll. Cencoroll wasn't quite as cool as the teaser trailer implied it would be, but it was well animated and very inventive, and I still like it a lot. (He also did the character designs for tsuritama last year.) A new feature film, Cencoroll2, will be released later this year. There's a trailer out there, but Aniplex has it blocked outside of Japan, so I can't see it.
All of these guys are immensely talented, and I get genuinely excited when a new work by any of them comes out. And since they're all producing new stuff right now, that means we're in for some real treats in the near future. Anyway, those are new directors I'm keeping my eye on. Any others I missed? Let us know about them in the talkback forum.
Living on the US Mexico border I was able to watch Over-the-Air anime that wasn't picked up until years later on US Cable. I'm curious I know producing a dub can be costly but would it be significant increase in cost to include existing dubs from Spanish-Latino (not from Spain) or French? I ask this because a lot of friends want the Spanish Dubs of Dragon Ball Z, Dr. Slump, Los Caballeros Del Zodiaco (Saint Seiya), Super Campeones (Captain Tsubasa), Escaflowne but with the video quality of the US/Japanese releases. These can be obtained through resellers however prices can go up significantly. Editing of the shows was almost nonexistent so they audio should match the video.
I don't blame you for wanting other releases of Spanish (and French) dubs of anime. I've seen first-hand just how janky some (legal!) Mexican-produced anime DVDs look... frankly, I've seen far better bootlegs. There have indeed been a few US anime releases with Spanish dubs included. ADV's initial DVD release of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Geneon's increasingly rare Fighting Spirit (Hajime no Ippo) come immediately to mind. I'm sure you're not alone in wanting Spanish dubs. After all, there are 37 million Spanish speakers in the United States, and certainly there has to be a nice chunk of them who are anime fans.
But Mexico and Latin America is an area that, much like Europe, anime has long been the domain of television networks. As a result, most of those old dubs are tied up with their own rights holders: the TV networks often own the dubs, and have often sub-contracted their own local DVD releases. They're often not that excited to offer them to an American company, because then they lose their exclusivity in producing Spanish language copies. It's only worth it to them if they pay up quite a bit of money.
Since that's a new layer of complications, a new company to license from, and a new complication to try and explain to the Japanese licensors, American publishers generally don't bother. Their contracts often specify that they can only release an English language version anyway, and all the hurdle-jumping to get a Spanish dub (especially of an old series like Saint Seiya) simply isn't worth the few additional sales they would make. And as for Captain Tsubasa... Well, nobody in their right mind would license that for American release anyway.
So recently Funimation's release of Shangri-La on their S.A.V.E edition had a big "Insert Title Here" along the spine of the cover, instead of the title of the show itself. While this goof was very humorous, it did get me thinking why so many DVD and Blu-ray covers have so many mistakes in them that could easily be caught if one person looked over it? Most DVDs put out by anime distributors and Hollywood movie companies have few, if any, mistakes in the scripts or subtitles. Yet it's rather common to see blatant mistakes in the front and back covers of the release itself. Sometimes it's not just a typo or two, it's giant glaring mistakes that make you think "Were they even paying attention when they were working on this?" Many of the back covers of my Aniplex releases have mangled English plot descriptions. They're not machine translated, but they we're certainly not written by someone who was fluent in English. Does no one at Aniplex US say "Maybe we should fix this wording before putting this out?" It just seems very strange to me that so much work and care could be put into one area of a release, yet another is so error filled to the point of having to assume utter incompetency.
Every company is different. Most major publishers print out a copy of a package, and before it goes out, two or three people take a look at it, proof-reading everything and making sure it's OK. Oftentimes, the licensor has to sign off on it too. I would be very surprised in Funimation doesn't have a system like that in place, which makes errors like the one you mentioned on Shangri-La somewhat baffling. Perhaps it was done in a hurry, and since it was a reworked "S.A.V.E. Edition" package, they got a little lax and didn't check every little thing. You can bet they know about it now. Retailers often count on those spines for stocking purposes, and there were likely a few uncomfortable phone calls made. You can bet it'll be fixed if they ever do another print run.
In other cases where mistakes crop up, you can usually chalk it up to a lack of manpower. Most of the anime publishers operate with a skeleton crew, and there simply aren't enough people or hours in the day to check over everything as thoroughly as it needs to be. Subtitles are especially problematic, since they're very hard to proof carefully, and mistakes slip by all the time. When you're churning out show after show after show after show, you can quite easily forget something really major. We've all done it.
As for back-of-box copy being sloppy and Engrish-y, you probably guessed correctly in that it was written by a non-native English speaker. Aniplex USA is almost entirely staffed by Japanese people, and the couple English speakers they have in the office clearly weren't around to fix their marketing text. Latter-day Bandai Entertainment was guilty of this as well. I remember looking at the back of one of their Eureka Seven repackagings and marveling at how it seemed like the synopsis was written by a 3rd grader.
There still isn't THAT much money in anime DVDs these days, despite the market having recovered. With a small staff working long hours, most anime publishers are simply going to have a couple of mistakes filter in. It's the nature of things, and honestly I'd be a little more patient about it. Those guys work hard.
And that's all for this week! Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!) animenewsnetwork.com.
Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap, and check out his bi-weekly column on obscure old stuff, Pile of Shame.
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