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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

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We sure managed to kick up a lot of dust last week! Let's get right to it, shall we?

I'm wondering, what factors affect when a manga is made into an anime? I know you always get a bunch of questions asking why there isn't more of one anime or another. (coughberserkcough) But I'm wondering why companies decide to make a manga into an anime when they do.  The anime almost always starts when the manga is still running, and will usually result in either an anime only telling the first part of the story (of particular irritation to me is Spiral), or the anime will have a large amount of "filler" episodes in order to wait for the manga to finish a story arc before starting on it (Naruto is currently doing this in Japan).  I'm just wondering why do the anime companies choose to make the series knowing that they will not be able to put the whole story into it, or that they will be forced to make filler episodes which are often considered to be inferior to the rest of the anime.  What determines the decision of timing an anime in relation to the manga?

Well, it varies from series to series. Generally (epsecially with Shonen Jump titles) they need to strike while the iron's hot; if they started Naruto after the manga finished, they wouldn't have half the moneymaking multimedia juggernaut they have now. Interest in the manga will have waned, which means interest in the TV series won't be as strong. This forces them to start anime production as quickly as possible to capitalize on the manga's success, while the property is still fresh. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, they catch up to the manga pretty quickly, and so they're stuck making filler episodes until they can continue with the regular story. Sometimes they never get back to the original story at all, as seen in Rurouni Kenshin. After all, anime is a commercial enterprise; the Japanese companies are a little more interested in maximizing their profit potential than they are in making sure the anime follows the manga to the letter. There isn't anything wrong with that, it's just the way things are.

Then again, sometimes you get something like Paradise Kiss, which was made into an anime long after the manga finished. Granted, there probably wouldn't even be a Paradise Kiss anime if the manga hadn't been such a big hit in America, but sometimes it does go the other way around.

Ok, here's the thing. I love the show Sailor Moon. It was my first ever anime! I used to make my parents get me up at five o' clock in the morning just so that I could watch it, WHEN I WAS THREE!! Anyway, I heard a rumor in a message board that Sailor Moon was coming back to TV. Is this true? Could my dreams finally be taking shape? Will the thing that I have been hoping for since I was, like, ten finally be happening? WILL YOU PLEASE ANSWER THIS LETTER?!?!

I'm not sure if you're asking about the possibility of a new Sailor Moon anime series or the old episodes simply being re-aired on American television, but since the latter isn't anything to get this excited about, I'm gonna go ahead and assume you're asking about the former.

There hasn't been any news regarding a new Sailor Moon anime series in a long while, although the popular live-action TV version recently wrapped up in Japan. Frankly, the property's getting pretty old; Sailor Moon has lost a lot of its former popularity simply for being out of the spotlight for so long. It's almost pure nostalgia these days to watch it. Sad, I know, but these things do happen. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a new anime, but you can start prodding American anime companies to consider licensing the live-action series, which was pure camp and a lot of fun.

Yea, yea, a question relating to One Piece.  Now before I am called an ignorant fanboy, I want to point out that I know that One Piece is a kids show, but don't you think 4kids has gone a little too far?  If you haven't noticed, 4kids has been messing with the number count of episodes do to merges of episodes.  I heard that it isn't doing too hot on the air, but I may be wrong (so sue me, I'm only human).  My question is, do you think that it will be dropped and picked up by another company?  Also, do you think that there might be just a little too many edits?  Basically what is your whole view on the situation of the One Piece dub and do you think fans have a right to complain?  I ask that last part because for some series such as Naruto, and Fullmetal Alchemist... there have been the stupidest complaints about those dubs, so as a huge One Piece fan, I may be no better (but I think some of the edits have been ridiculous.  So criticize me all you want, I am just curious on your view towards the dub.

As a fellow One Piece fan, you have my sympathy. A lot of people consider me to be a "dub apologist" because I don't harp on companies for making small and necesarry changes to anime that's shown on American TV. I like to consider my stance "realistic" rather than apologetic, but still, they're not incorrect; I'm just very forgiving when it comes to edits.

That said, the One Piece dub is tragic.

It - like Nelvana's ridiculous, insulting Cardcaptors - is a hack job. Rarely do I use the word "butchered" to describe a dubbed anime, but 4Kids took what was once a really cool, pretty edgy and exciting kids' show that had great characters and some really awesome battles and made it this terribly acted pile of garbage. My problem isn't that they edited it for TV; my problem is that they took a good show and screwed around with it so much, made so many bad mistakes and incompetent creative decisions that it became a bad show, something I wouldn't show my kids or watch myself. I mean, how could they have made that show worse? From the terrible rap song ("Gotta go! Gotta go UH OH, Set sail for ONE PIECE!") to the ridiculously amateur voice acting to the inexplicably changed music, there isn't really anything good about it. That they're hacking up the episodes and mashing them together just makes things worse.

Again, the problem isn't that they edited it for TV. The problem is that they made all these unnecessary changes and turned a good show into a bad one. That, I think, is pretty shameful and the opposite of what should be done when attempting to make a Japanese kids' show suitable for American kids. Editing out excessive violence and swearing and writing the script so an American kid can understand it is fine. Digitally editing everything you can get your hands on, changing all the music around for no reason whatsoever, and hacking so much of the story out you're forced to skip and combine episodes, that's not okay, it's totally unnecessary and uncalled for. For all the hyperbolic "4KIDS IS EVIL RRAAAGGGHH" talk that gunks up internet message boards, in the case of One Piece, I'd have to say the people screaming about the changes made to this show have a point this time. The show was badly mishandled. If they'd messed around with it and the show was still good, I'd have no problem with it. But it isn't good.

As for 4Kids dropping the show and someone else licensing it? It's possible, but I wouldn't bet on it. The most you can really hope for is for unedited DVDs to be released sometime in the future.

Now, last week I managed to generate a little controversy with my rant about the fans who justify not ever paying for anime. I got a lot of mail about this, as you can imagine. Rather than further clarifying my stance, I thought I'd use this space to print a few of the letters I got from both sides of the argument.

Mr. Traux here has some very good points, although one thing I need to say is that the original article was very clearly not attacking everyone who downloads fansubs:

During your most recent column you responded to a question regarding the debate over subtitles versus voice overs (or dub vs. sub).  The arguement, of course, has raged for years in the fan community.  Although I agree with your ultimate conclusion, that it's irrelevant due to most domestic release DVDs having both a dub and sub, your subsequent and unwarrented attack on the fansubbing community in this country was astounding.  I'd like to take a moment to discuss some of the points you made in your rhetoric and hopefully persuade you that not all fansubbers are godless communist heathens who seek to overthrow corporate America through their hobby.

 From your first paragraph
"Their general attitude is that anyone trying to make a buck off of anime is an evil capitalist pig-dog who disrespect and mutilate their untouchable sacred artwork."

This is so far from the actual ideology of most anime fansub fans that it should serve as a warning to anyone reading your article that you are grossly ignorant of the community at large.  As someone who has watched literally hundreds of fansubbed shows, I can assure you I do not view companies like ADV and Genon as "evil".  In fact, I own several box sets of anime (Abenobashi, Paranoia Agent, Super Milk-chan) released by both companies.  Why did I buy them?  I watched ALL of those shows in the form of fansubs before they were ever liscenced.  It was those fansubs that generated my interest in those series, and without them, I may never have purchased the DVDs.

 From your next paragraph
"Basically, what they're arguing is a fairly ridiculous set of ideals that justify the fact that they steal anime rather than pay for it."
"The whole "pure emotion and feeling" argument is just another excuse to not pay for anime."

Your assumption that every comment made by fans of a fansub distribution is somehow an excuse for the morally reprehensible act of watching downloaded fansubs is laughable.  I watch fansubs for a number of reasons.  Among them are the fact that there is very little anime on television here in America with the execption of Adult Swim and ADV's Anime Network.  Neither network (to my knowledge) airs subtitled anime, which I prefer, so my choice pretty much comes down to DVDs or fansubs.  In the abscence of the former, I have no choice but the latter.  I pay for anime when I can afford to do so and when I feel a series warrants my financial support because of its artistic merit.  I will assume that you have not purchased every TV show you've ever watched when it was released on DVD.  While I admit that there are differences in this analogy, the principal holds the same.  I enjoy and respect Battlestat Galactica which airs on the Sci Fi Channel, and as a result, I have purchased the season 1 DVDs.  I believe you will find most fansub fans operate in a similar fashion.

Your last paragraph is such a hate filled diatribe, I can't help but wonder if perhaps a fansubber ran over your grandmother or burned your house down.  Not only is it filled with enormous exagerrations, but it insults the real motive of anime fansubbers who pursue their hobby in an effort to help fellow fans get a look at series before companies liscence them and make informed decisions when it comes time to plop down their hard earned money for DVDs.  I have seen perhaps 1 or 2 fansub groups get excessive with their fonts and self promotion, and I immediately stopped watching their releases.  Most fansub groups introduce themselves along with the shows opening theme, a relatively painless process since most people can't read the kanji anyway.  Quality translations vary as group skill varies, some groups operate on par with professionals at ADV, others throw together a sub that tries to capture the jist of what's happening.  I have consistently enjoyed the font and color employed in fansubs more than the tradional urine-yellow block lettering of American liscencors for years.  While they appear to be rectifying the situation now, for a long time it appeared as if the fansub community had superior graphic designers than the pros did.

Your assault on the fansubbing community in this article paints a picture so drasticly one sided, I can't doubt for a second your bias.  You conveniently ignore ADV's decision to release GANTZ 2 episodes at a time on DVD with a price per episode breakdown far above industry standard in an attempt to fool customers into thinking they were paying less and getting more.  You ignore the unsettling censorship in the Tengo Tenje manga (an event whose significance has been widely reported on ANN).  You neglect to mention in your advice to an aspiring Newtype writer that unless his work is a puff piece for one of ADV's upcoming releases, it may get censored or cut (another news item ANN has reported).  While the legality of fansubs may be in question, it is naive to think that domestic liscensors are beyond recrimination, and for you to paint them as victims of malicious teenager is obsurd.  Animenation's John Opplinger of Ask John fame has noted that he believes domestic liscenscors actually benefit more from the hype fansubs generate than they lose.  Given John's extensive knowledge of anime, the anime industry, and credibility that extends even overseas, I am much more likely to agree with him.

I'd like to close with a quote from your flake of the week, in which you once again launch into a rather inexplicable rant against fansubbers:
"and then being fansubtitled by 13-year olds who think adding a bunch of unecessary swear words is totally awesome"

Sir, if you have met a 13 year old capable of subbing anime to a degree that fans would watch, I would very much like to meet the prodigy.  This statement is the last nail in the coffin of your credibility.  Even if it is hyperbole, your motives remain completely transparent.  I appreciate your position as someone who wants to see anime flourish in America, both as a business model and an art form.  Your commentary here does nothing to further that aim.  It serves only to insult a community that works passionately every day to help American fans enjoy shows and it ruins your own credibilty by making baseless and insulting claims.

Brant Truax
Anime fan, fansub view, domestic release DVD buyer.

Here's a letter from the other side of the camp:
I just wanted to say I completely agree with your stance on fansubbing. People who justify it as art and art should be free are full of crap. You have to pay to get into a museum. Even the crappy ones where they flush paint down the toilet and take pictures, but i digress. I think the main issue is people don't have money to pay for the "EXPENSIVE" DVDs. What a lark. I remember the first copy of an Anime I bought was a copy of Vampire Hunter D. I paid $30 for a VHS copy with no special features and a single language track. Heck the subtitled one was even more expensive. What people don't realize i guess is that by supporting (giving money too, not that emotional support BS) and buying the DVDs that DVDs will become cheaper. That's why people can find the latest copy of Recent Hollywood Blockbuster/Romance for $14 - $20. They sell more. I proudly support anime. I have a bookcase of the stuff and I'm running out of room. I plan on continuing to buy for as long as i can. I also watch the shows on TV when I can. This gets the companies revenue and makes people realize that this is a great form of entertainment. Well i hope you've read to this far. I understand you'll probably have too many emails to sort thru already from people going "OMFGSTFUBBQ I WANTZ MY FANSUBZORZ" but I know you're also getting letters like mine that are thanking you for your frank discussion and your honesty. Oh and for the record, I don't think the Naruto dub is that bad at all ;D

Joe Sharp

And another:
Hello... Your column is very interesting and I read it every week, but after reading your opinion about fansubs, I'd like to tell something...
I agree that anime DVDs are a thousand times better than fansubbed, BUT what do you do when you do not have enough economic resources for buying original DVDs, even if you want to? Or when you cannot buy original DVDs anywhere in your country? Because that's the reality of many anime fans in many countries. For example here where I live, you cannot buy any original DVDs, you must have someone bring it to you from the States, something that most of the times is too expensive. I have 1 or 2 original DVDs, which I could buy after a lot of hard job, once I get a good job I plan to buy all my favorite series on original DVDs (my friends say I'm a paranoid because all the time I look www.animeondvd.com to know about the new releases)...
I think DVDs and fansubbed anime are on different levels. After all, it's not the same a good TV caption than a DVD. Besides that, I kind of admire people who work doing fansubs (by the way, not all of them are 13 year-olds), because they sacrifice their time for making anime available for people who can't afford DVDs, either because they're very expensive OR because the series has not been yet released on DVD.
When you have enough money and don't want to buy the original DVDs, THAT people I think are like rats, fake fans, because even when they can, they don't want to support anime artists, but... is it fair that if you don't have money for buying DVDs you mustn't watch anime? I don't think so.
I don't make any comments about dub. I simply don't like them (I´m not saying they're bad) so I don't watch them.

As you can see, the general attitude about fansubs is pretty widely diversified and there are many sides to the issue. I always like to encourage rational discussion and debate, so it was refreshing to get so many well-reasoned arguments. Thanks to everyone for writing in!

It looks like I ran out of space in the regular column for a kitten photo, so instead of printing another flaky letter, I'll just make with the kittens.

So sleepy.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to invite my readers to send in photos of your kittens. If the photo's good enough, I'll post them in the column!

We got a metric ton of entries this week! You people are really prolific when it comes to funny captions.

That said, today's winning caption is courtesy of Elysse Hurtado:


And the runners-up:

"OK, who are you and what have you done with Ernie?"- Pamela Welsh

"Wake up with the King." - Nathan Robson

Funny stuff, folks. Keep it up! Here's this week's screenshot:

Didn't win this time? Need the sweet nectar of victory to wash the bitter taste of defeat from your mouth? Then it's your job to come up with the funniest caption possible. It could be dialogue, or a line or two explaining what's happening, or anything you like; it just has to make me laugh! A few words of warning:

1. Keep it clean. I won't tolerate any profanity beyond "damn" or "hell". Unless it's ridiculously funny and kinda subtle, refrain from potty humor or overt sexual references.
2. Humor that's only funny if you've seen the show the screencap is from is inherently not funny. The joke should be something anyone looking at the picture can understand.
3. The deadline for that week's contest is always Wednesday at midnight. Winners will be announced in this space every week, and they'll also be notified by email.
4. Winners will recieve their prizes anywhere from 2-4 weeks after they're announced.

5. Entrants outside the US and Canada are inelligible, unless you have a US or Canadian address I can mail the prize to.

This week's prize? Thar she blows:

That's right! It's the Full Metal Panic! Thinpak Collection! The entire groundbreaking series in one convenient box set, and it can be yours for FREE if you're funny enough. Email your captions to [email protected].

See you next week!