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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

Well, as usual, simply saying the word "fansubs" kicked up a whole lot of dust last week... but these are the issues, folks. These are the things people want to talk about. The content of this column is dictated largely by what people actually want to discuss, and it so happens people want to talk about today's hot-button issues, like fansubs and lolicon.

So yeah, it gets a little repetitive at times, but hey - this is what y'all want to discuss. So there it is.

What's the deal with the ending of .hack//SIGN? I got into watching the dub on YTV, despite its rather sketchy acting, so when I missed the last few episodes I went and rented them. Am I the only one who feels like the ending is, well, EVA'd? There's a giant monster, they abandon that section of the game, and then... everything's normal! Did I miss something?

First of all, congratulations on making it all the way through .hack//SIGN. I had to shut it off somewhere around episode 10 since I just couldn't take another slow pan across a fantasy landscape while the same Yuki Kajiura song plays for the 10,000th time. I mean, the show had its good points and all, but yeesh.

That said, .hack//SIGN is basically a really long prelude to the start of the first .hack video game, .hack//INFECTION, which is the first of a 4-part PS2 RPG that I believe isn't the easiest game in the world to find anymore. If you really want to understand the end of the anime series, then you should play the game. It isn't really nonsensical, just somewhat complicated and part of a much larger story, so that might explain your confusion.

That said, I pitched a sequel called ".zac//" to Bandai and they just laughed and escorted me out of the building. Jerks.

I'm sure that this has been all over the place, but let me be one of those to see if you are continually bugged by something you hear over and over:
Give me your definition of "anime" please.

You know, I simultaneously love and hate this question.

I'm not even sure why there is a debate about this issue anymore, to be honest; in America, the word "anime" means "Japanese animation". In Japan, the term refers to all animation. That's basically all there is to it; the word means something slightly different in America. If it has the visual earmarks of anime but is produced and written by Americans and animated in Korea or wherever, it's "anime-style". Avatar: The Last Airbender is "anime-style". Ghost in the Shell is anime. Simple.

People who argue that it "should" still mean "all animation" are ignoring a whole lot of logic and the rules of language. We don't live in Japan, so the word has a different meaning. End of discussion, really; what else is there to say?

How does Final Fantasy: Unlimited 2001(phase 1-7) fits around the movie "the Spirits Within" which also came out in 2001? I guess is there some sort of time line or an order to watch these movies?
At the risk of publishing a particularly negative column, my first response to this question is "do yourself a favor and don't watch either of those trainwrecks".

But that isn't really fair to you, so I'll explain.

Beyond the name and maybe some visual in-jokes that refer to the game series, there's basically no connection between the two. Every incarnation of Final Fantasy - the games, the films, etcetera - tells a different story within an established series of visual cues, character names, etcetera. One story doesn't lead to the other, the games aren't really sequels to one another (unless it is a direct sequel or a spinoff, a'la "The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII")

So watch them in whatever order you like; the stories aren't connected (beyond the fact that they're both aggressively mediocre).

My friend and I have been having an argument since the last few episodes of FMA ran on Adult Swim, and to be perfectly honest, I'm sick of it! Can you help me with this dilema.
My friend (let's call him Greed) says that two episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist were removed during translation; and that during these two episodes, it becomes apparent that Maes Hughes was brought back as a humunculus known as the "Ultimate Sin."
I think he's lost it. If someone did, in fact, remove two measly episodes from the series, they wouldn't have dropped a character out of the plot. Besides, this "Ultimate Sin" could easily be Envy as Hughes in the second to last episode, something from the manga, or a theory brought up before the last two episodes aired.

This is like the time my friend in 5th grade swore on his mother's grave that he saw an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where Shredder and April got married and had children.

Your friend is pulling your chain. That's a really stupid thing to lie about, so either he has a pretty warped sense of humor or he's one of these kids who lies for no reason at all. There is no "Ultimate Sin", it's just something lame your lame friend came up with, because he's lame.

Anyway, let's have a bunny rabbit, shall we?

What kind of terrible person would say something like this?

Please, no more bunnies!  They look evil and cats are much cuter (but pandas beat them all).

I'll have you know that bunny rabbits are sweet creatures with lots of personality and they make great (if very high-maintenance) pets. They are not evil in the least.

You have forever earned my scorn.

Alright, folks. I printed Matt's rant last week so I feel I should publish the "other side" of the issue, since obviously I got a lot of rants about this. Unless someone else has a drastically different view, this will be the last fansub-related rant for a while. So, without further ado, here's this week's rant, courtesy of Chris Gottschalk.

A reminder: the following is in no way representative of the opinions of Anime News Network, Zac Bertschy, or anyone else save the person who wrote it.

I have to admit, reading Matt's latest rant about fansubbers and their harmful effects on the anime industry bothered me.  As one of the old-school anime fans out there, I've seen anime proliferate beyond people discussing it those old BBS systems, to the point where the local Barnes and Noble or Borders Books have shelves and shelves devoted to manga, and the anime section can take up about half a wall at the local Suncoast.  I've also seen a lot of the fansubbing controversy erupt, die down, and simmer below the surface.  I'm firmly on the side of the fansubbers, for some very good reasons.

First, though, let's discuss that elephant in the room, okay?  Fansubbers cost anime companies money.  I've got to admit, that's fair.  There are a few series that I've seen that I did not buy due to fansubbing.  I will freely admit I passed up such series as Mouse, Hanyuko Maid Team and Najica Blitz Tactics because I saw the first episodes fansubbed.  On the other hand, watching fansubbed anime led me to pick up anime I would have never considered, such as His and Her Circumstances, Cowboy Bebop, and Excel Saga

So fansubbing has balanced out the score for me on those.  But what about the larger issue?  The rant stated that people who watch fansubbed series are less likely to purchase those series.  For some people, that is true.  The anime industry, though, has shown a marked trend towards buying the licenses to anime before the anime is finished in Japan.  From longer series such as One Piece and Naruto, to shorter series such as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Stage One and Paranoia Agent (I believe), American anime companies are becoming very talented at quickly licensing anime titles.  Given the tendency for fansubbers to stop translating a series when it gets licensed, the likelihood of watching a newer series in its entirety is low.  If you're going to take on fansubbers who continue putting a show out even after the license has been granted in the United States, you should group them in with their brethren who throw up the latest episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives, and CSI up for grabs on bittorrent.

As far as claiming that there are far more options available to generate buzz for an anime than fansubbers, that statement is also true.  However, there is only so much one can get from reading the copy on the back of the DVD case.  So this anime is really an “unprecedented wild ride, filled with humor, poignancy, and fanservice?”  Wow, I've gotta buy it right now!  Of course, for a more substantive interview, one can always track down and read the reviews in Anime Insider, Newtype, or Protoculture Addicts, or search out the reviews on the latest anime news site, which may or may not have anything useful to say.  The best way to determine if an anime is worth buying, though, is to actually watch an episode.  There are no substitutes to this.  I've done work in public relations, and part of the job is getting reviewers to say good things about your product, whether they are in print media or online.  Downloading a fansubbed show to watch is like flipping on the TV and seeing if any of the new shows they're offering this season are worth your time. 
(On a side note, I have to wonder what the reaction would have been if there had been no fansubs of Miyazaki's movies, just the announcement that Disney was releasing some anime movies that were supposedly by a master?  I would have been extremely skeptical, if only because of the library of non-anime releases Disney has put out.)

Fansubbing is not a business.  Unlike English-language movies and television shows available for download, more work is required than recording the original, converting it to a computer file and putting it up.  The people who download it, by and large, are not simply looking to get a show for free, but to find out if the show is good.  Fansubbing is about sharing an anime you saw and liked, making it more accessible to those of us who can't understand Japanese.  It is about testing the waters of an anime series, and liking the show enough that when it comes out professionally, you're not going to mind spending money to get the DVD. 

Whew. So what do you think? Does Chris have a point? Sound off on our forums and let the discussion begin!

If you have a rant of your own and would like to see your work in this space, just follow the rules below and you could be the next featured fan in RANT RANT RANT!:

Welcome to the newest segment in Hey, Answerman: RANT RANT RANT!

What I'm looking for are your best and brightest rants: no shorter than 300 words, on any topic you like related to anime. I'm expecting decent writing, and a modicum of sensibility. Send me a well-written and thoughtful rant that's a decent length, and I'll print it in this space, regardless of whether or not I agree with it, with no further commentary from me. The goal is to provide a more visible and public space for those of you with intelligent things to say about anime, the industry, anything you like related to the subject; discussion in our forums will surely follow.

The rules? Well, here they are:

1. No excessive swearing. "Damn" and "Hell" are fine, anything stronger than that needs to be excluded or censored.
2. Personal attacks will not be tolerated.
3. The word "Rant" must be in your email subject line.
4. Your rant must be at least 300 words, and use proper spelling and grammar. Internet speak, like 'lol' or 'u' instead of 'you' will not be tolerated.

Remember, your editorial doesn't have to be negative at all - feel free to write whatever you like, so long as it's on-topic. We're looking for solid, well-stated opinions, not simply excessive negativity.

Send your rants to [email protected], and watch this space next week for our next installment!

That's all for this week. See you next time!

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