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Hey, Santaman!

by Zac Bertschy,

I hope you've all finished your Christmas shopping.

Normally I do mine early, like mid-November, because I don't want to sweat it in December and the lines get increasingly ridiculous as the days trudge on. People get pretty nuts out there; yesterday, I saw a guy in a Target with a shopping cart full of Elmo dolls angrily arguing with some poor grandmother. They nearly came to blows.

Nothing says "holiday spirit" like a middle-aged guy cracking an old lady in the jaw, right?

Last week's question on Romeo X Juliet got me thinking about what books I'd like to see turned into an anime.  I'm thinking the Dune trilogy and maybe the Dark Tower series.  What books would you like to see as animes?  Also, what are the chances (nil to unlikely) of this actually happening?

It's hard for me to say what books I'd like to see turned into anime; most of the books I'd like to see adapted into film or television wouldn't really work well in the anime medium. For instance, I'd really like to see a proper miniseries or standard television adaptation of the Hitchhiker's Guide series (and yes, I've seen the BBC version and that dreadful movie); I'd also love it if they finally adapted Good Omens to film, but neither of these would work well as anime simply because I don't think the subtle, dry humor of either of them would come across.

As for the titles you suggested - Dune and the Dark Tower series - I think books like that would work a hell of a lot better as anime series. Long-running, serious sci-fi and fantasy series
seem the best fit for the medium. Do I think that's going to start happening? It all depends on how popular the books are in Japan. ADV announced a long, long, long time ago that they were working on an anime adaptation of Mutineer's Moon, which is a step in that direction, but for the time being I don't think we're going to see a lot of book adaptations, unless said book is really popular in Japan, or it's something like Romeo & Juliet.

A few questions for you;

In one of your earlier columns, you note that if you want to get into journalism, you should freelance. Now, my question is, how exactly do you freelance write if you don't have any experience, but still want to get into it? Any suggestions or possible places to look would be greatly appreciated.

Another thing I wanted to ask, since you seem to know quite a bit about the industry, is about how many people in the United States are Anime fans? I would imagine not very many, and no, I don't mean the kids who got hooked on Dragon Ball or Pokémon or any of the other crap that 4kids butchers (and to top it off, they canceled the BETTER Ninja Turtles show!) but the people who are at least legitimately interested in the hobby to a certain degree.

Finally, do you think that as manga/anime stories have continued that they have gotten better through the years? My personal belief is yes, as I don't really know of many mature anime stories that happened before the mid-nineties, Gundam and Macross aside. After that we had things like Escaflowne, Gundam Wing, Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, etc. Now we have stories like Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, Gilgamesh, etc. Or maybe that's just here in the states...

Yikes. Alright, I'll start from the top.

1. You're not going to start off doing freelance work; you're going to start off dilligently updating a blog or writing for free for a fan-run, non-profit website. Nobody gets paid work right out of the gate without a college degree and at least SOME experience. So you need to start off writing just for writing's sake, getting your work out there, building a portfolio and putting together writing samples.

You're probably going to be doing that for at least 6 months to a year - if you work pretty hard at it - before someone's going to pay you to write. Unless you have a wealth of natural talent, and you can simply put together some stellar writing samples without having anything published anywhere and still blow away whoever you're submitting your work to. What I'd recommend is starting a blog somewhere and writing about your chosen topic every day, without getting into your personal life; treat your blog like you're writing for a magazine. Check around for fan-run websites that are looking for writers who are willing to write for free. Start there, build that portfolio; if you're good enough, odds are someone who works for an anime magazine or a for-profit website (like yours truly) might notice you and offer you some freelance work. Barring that, it's important that you put together a resume and some of your best writing samples, along with a letter of intent, and send that to whatever magazines you'd like to freelance for. Most publications are always, always looking for new freelancers, given that they tend to flake out at an astronomical rate.

2. I have no idea how to calculate how many anime fans there are in the US and I'm not sure anyone else does either. Generally you can get an idea based on con attendance, but I'd like to think that for every one fan that attends a convention, there are at least 10 who don't.

Also, a lot of "real fans" who are "legitimately interested" in anime got hooked on stuff like Pokémon and Dragon Ball and that's what made them fans. So don't knock those shows; they're gateway drugs!

3. You're going to get a lot of flack for that one, man. Of course there were a lot of "mature" anime before the mid 90's, and they didn't all deal with giant robots. You may have heard of some of them: Akira, Bubblegum Crisis, the Dirty Pair movies, Ninja Scroll, Robot Carnival, Angel's Egg... need I go on? Hell, I'm not even sure I'd include Gundam in the list of 80's anime I'd consider "mature". In fact, you can check out our biweekly column Buried Treasure for some great examples of mature anime from before the mid-90's.

We get a lot more anime now, so we see much more of what's available, but there were plenty of "mature" anime even in the 80's. Not all of it crossed the Pacific (in fact, very little of it did) but it was there and it's recognized by many as some of the best anime ever made.

I've recently become one of the Haruists out there in the anime fandom.  If you don't know what that is, it's a massive fan of the Novels/Manga/Anime of "The Melencholy of Haruhi Suzimuya".  Is there any word on if any of the versions of the series will be licensed in the US anytime soon?  It's just something that I've really been wondering about.

What a timely question!

There was a huge dust-up this week when this website: www.asosbrigade.com was launched. It's pretty clear the show's been licensed, but they aren't announcing WHO licensed the show until...

Oh right, they're announcing that today. In fact, they may have already done it by the time this column is published!
If not, just keep checking that website for more information.

As for the novels and the manga, they can't be far behind. I'd imagine several publishers are looking into it, if they haven't already closed a deal. Just sit tight, there'll be plenty of Haruhi Suzumiya for all in 2007.

You've said a few times in the past that when your hobby becomes your job your attitude toward it changes. I'm interested in a career in the anime industry but I'm afradi I'll start hating anime becase I'm around it all the time. Do you find that over the years you like anime less and less?

This is a difficult question and I think everyone will answer it differently, with one notable exception: I think it's basically human nature that if your hobby becomes your job, your attitude toward it changes in some fundamental way, be it positive or negative, but you'll never see it the same way again.

Some people, I think, manage to walk the line between fan and professional really well; they still consider anime their hobby, and yet they still work with it day in and day out. I managed to do that for a while, but as the years wore on, I found myself retreating to other hobbies. I think that's a natural response; surely an insurance salesman doesn't spend all day selling insurance only to come home and read about selling insurance during his leisure time. He's going to want to do something else with his life. I, for instance, am passionate about film. So I spend a lot of time at the movie theater, or reading about film. I follow the Oscar race pretty closely too. It's something I find fascinating that I can dive in to and get away from the world of anime for a while after hours.

I don't watch anime in my spare time for fun anymore; I watch anime in order to review it, or to be familiar with the new shows that are out, or to sample a new dub. There's always a work-related reason for watching anime. Do I still enjoy watching it? Of course. That's the great thing about working with something you love; you genuinely enjoy what you're doing. But that doesn't mean you want to do it all the time. Whereas if I were working as, say, a doctor, I'd look forward to coming home and watching some anime to wind down. As it is now, I look forward to coming home and playing a video game or going to a movie.

What's difficult about that - and I'm sure it's difficult for a lot of other people who work with anime for a living - is that there's the expectation that if you work with anime, you must be a typical fan, meaning not only do I work with anime all day, I also watch it in my spare time and buy merchandise and go to conventions for fun and all that. I think this is a fairly unrealistic expectation, and I've encountered it a whole lot. People seem to expect the anime voice actor or the public relations guy or the brand manager to go home after a long work day or a convention and watch fansubs and make Gundam models and all that. And hey, some of them might do that - I can't speak for everyone. But the truth of the matter is, you have to draw a line between your work and your home life; if you don't, you'll go crazy and burn out in a few years.

You're not going to start hating anime - unless you burn out, in which case you're going to despise every frame of everything you see. Likely, your attitude toward it will change in some way, and in my experience, you will use your spare time on something other than anime.

In the interest of peace on earth and goodwill toward men, I'm not printing a flake this week.

Instead, here's a polar bear cub.


Here's this week's rant, courtesy of Eric Schwartz . 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.

A ranter had debated about fanservice in anime, and how it objectifies women. There is also another aspect to the portrayal of women in anime that I stopped caring for after a while; 90% of the time, the female characters are portrayed as emotionally vulnerable.

I first noticed this while watching 'Last Exile.' Halfway or three-quarters through the series, I forget, I couldn't help but notice after a while that every single woman in the series has either a moment where she breaks down and cries, or they simply look helpless and vulnerable while displaying some beauty. I thought to myself, 'Okay, I'm noticing a pattern here, and it's getting fairly annoying.'

Ever since then, I've noticed this same trend in several anime titles. Even when you have 'strong' women characters that act strong, there will always be a moment where things happen and they take a moment to break down and cry. From everything that I've been reading, the creators of these shows always have a tendency to ensure that their female characters have a vulnerable side, or are just vulnerable, period. BeeTrain, the studio that created 'Noir' and 'Madlax,'had admitted that they did stories of girls with gunsnot to show how tough and strong they are, but that the imagery of women with guns is nothing more than a mask to hide their vulnerability. In 'Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa,' I read in the booklet with the special edition that when they decided to make the main villain a woman, they made sure to portray her as weak. In other words, the message delivered by anime is that no matter how strong women can look or act, deep down they want to be held by someone.

I don't read anywhere of men being portrayed the same way at all, which leads me to conclude that they must not be portrayed as such. Any macho man that seems macho is macho, and that's that. Back to 'Last Exile,' the main boy hero, while all the women cry around him due to the drastic circumstances, seems to always keep his cool during everything. Men are there to offer a shoulder for crying women in anime.There are a few exceptions to this rule. The heroinesof anime that I've never seen break down and cry include Motoko Kusanagi from 'Ghost in the Shell' (avery prime example), Melissa Mao from 'Full MetalPanic!', and Integra from 'Hellsing' (Okay, so she shed a tear in the TV series, but that was while she was mentally reconnecting to her childhood, a time when she was more emotionally open, so I wouldn't count that). If there are any other animes where the heroines are not so emotionally vulnerable, not too much else comes to mind.

Most women that I've met in my life (I'm a guy, by the way) are never this emotionally vulnerable. They tend to keep their emotions in check the same way myself and other guys do. Maybe in Japan, the men and women view this issue in a different way, and maybe the women of Japan don't even see it as being sexist so much. It's a whole another cultural understanding of the world as they see it, after all. Personally speaking, I prefer a change in pace. Please anime creators, it really doesn't hurt to have tough women that are shown tough and keep their tough image to the very end. I personally believe that a woman can retain her emotions, but at the same time not be cold-hearted, and even be warm.

Whew. So what do you think? Do they 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.
5. If you send me something that's already been published on your blog or on another site, I'm just going to delete it. Likewise, requests that I link to your blog or another site if I print your rant will also result in your email being sent straight to the trash.

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!

And that's all the time we have this week, folks. Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

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