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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

Let's get to it; time's a-wastin'.

I am an amateur anime critic, I have my own anime reviews blog. I wanted your opinion on something: what's easier to write, a good review or a bad one?

Actually, those are both pretty easy to write.

The hardest reviews to write are for shows that are so mediocre, so mezzo-mezzo, so underwhelming that you don't have much of an opinion on them at all; those mid-range, "eh, it's OK, I guess" shows that make it nearly impossible for you to opine for more than 200 words or so. It's so much easier to write about something that you have a strong opinion about, and when you sit through 4 mid-season episodes on disc 38 of Inuyasha, there just isn't much more to say than "Welp, those sure were 4 mid-season episodes of Inuyasha!".

Personally, I must admit, it is a bit more fun and a little easier to write a bad review, especially if you really hated the show. But when something's really good, it's easy to gush for pages and pages, too.

hey answerman, how come individual volumes of anime have subtitles, like Evangelion vol. 1: Angel Attack? Why don't they just call them "volume one" or whatever? American TV shows don't do that, why does anime have to?

I gotta admit, I really don't like those subtitles they put on anime volumes. It's gotten much better, but back in the bad ol' days they would use really lame, uninspired titles for the volumes; it was always "Second Encounters!" or "Third Strike!" (the third volume of every single show on the market was subtitled "third strike" there for a while, I swear). They always sounded awkward and goofy.

But, to answer your question, I called up a friend of mine who works at a big anime company and he broke it down for me. Basically, anime is one of the only products released in a serial fashion; American TV shows are released in season sets, but anime is divided up into chunks, with the season being trickled out over time. In order to avoid the retail "stigma" of volume numbers (a practice that is slowly going away; at least now most major anime companies put the volume number on the spine of the DVD), they would use these subtitles to make each disc seem like a standalone item. So basically, volume 2's and 3's seem like legit standalone products rather than random numbered volumes orphaned from volume one.It's all just marketing stuff.

While we'd all be happy
if one day anime was released in the same format as American TV shows (and in the same affordable price range), I think for now we should just be happy that they're at least putting volume numbers on the DVD spines.

Alright lately I have been noticing that alot of (For lack of better word) "mainstreme" Anime have been ending in complete fillers. For instance, Naruto=fillers to end, Rurouni Kenshin=fillers to end, Bleach=Possibly fillers to end. Altough I have my supiscions why I would want to here an explination from someone like you're self. How come some "Mainstreme" Anime have been ending with fillers?

It's pretty simple, really; in order to effectively strike while the iron's hot, an anime needs to go into production when the manga it's based on is hot enough, and there's enough manga storyline to provide at least a season or two.

What that means is that the manga isn't finished yet, and as the author writes the story, the anime series slowly catches up - and then has to suddenly come up with a bunch of (usually crappy) original stories to stall for time until there's another few seasons worth of manga storyline to animate.

The fillers are usually a tricky thing to deal with. If they're bad enough, some fans will abandon the series completely, convinced it'll never return to the proper storyline. Some fans stick around, crossing their fingers and hoping the show they loved will return with non-retarded episodes. Naruto fans are pretty lucky; the show could've simply stopped, having gone so far downhill that the anime has lost most of its popularity with the fanbase. Instead of ending with fillers (like you said, which isn't true), they're relaunching the series with a new subtitle and picking up right where the original show diverted from the manga. Fans of other long-running shonen series should be so lucky (Rurouni Kenshin, I'm looking at you here).

The problem with fans abandoning the show during filler arcs is that the ratings start to stall, and they can't support the show any longer, so production shuts down before they can get back to the manga storyline. It's a shame, really, but in my opinion, they should simply take season breaks like American shows, for god's sake. I've never understood why it is that shows like Naruto and Bleach have to have brand-new episodes every week; give the people behind the scenes a few months off, let the manga storyline expand and then come back to it when you're ready to crank out another 26 episodes.
That way we could all avoid having to sit through some lame undercooked plot that doesn't advance the story or include any real character development.

But that isn't how things are; fillers are simply a reality of the genre, and they won't be going away anytime soon.

I'm a librarian who is an anime and manga fan, as well as a fan of American graphic novels. I have a wonderful job where I am able to pick the anime/manga/graphic novels our library carries. But I've noticed something as both a paraprofessional and a fan. Many people, when seeing that some manga style books are not actually Japanese reject them off hand as not being “Manga”. While I realize the term is used to describe Japanese material, why does there seem to be this prevalent attitude that if its not Japanese its no good? I've read many books put out from Korean, Russian, and American creators who work in a Japanese style and do fantastic work. (I especially like The Rising Stars of Manga books, as they encourage my teens to work on developing their own art and stories)
I am curious if there is a way I can more effectively nudge my patrons to give up this bias, and at least give these creators a chance. I understand if they actually read some of the material and dislike it, but to just reject it for its nationality seems to me to be narrow-minded to the point of prejudice.
Any thoughts on why this is, and what I might do to help them give some of this material a chance?

Well, there are two ways your readers could be coming to this conclusion; either they're ridiculous elitist otaku who believe everything from Japan is superior (which is common, especially among younger fans) or they've actually read a lot of Korean and American manga and legitimately came to the conclusion that most of it kinda sucks.

I'm in the latter category myself, to be frank.

Like you, I have to read a lot of manga for my job, and the American stuff - particularly a lot of The Rising Stars of Manga stuff - just doesn't hold up very well when you compare it to manga from Japan. It isn't simply that there's some issue with nationality, it has to do with the basic structure of the work; American manga is frequently extremely derivative, poorly drawn, and badly written. Some of the most hyped-up American manga titles on the shelves - stuff like Bizenghast - is flat-out awful.

Sure, there are a handful of good titles. It's required by law that I say "well there are some good American manga out there, like Dramacon!" lest I be hung from the rafters for forgetting that exception to the general rule. But by and large, most of what I've read - the aforementioned Bizenghast, A Midnight Opera (especially this one, ugh), even MBQ, which some people seem to enjoy - are really amateurish. The back cover for A Midnight Opera actually brags about how the author has no formal art training. Look inside and it's pretty damn obvious he doesn't.

There's an even more cynical side to American manga as well; Japanese manga licenses are expensive and there's a lot of bidding going on between the manga publishers to snap up the quality titles. American manga, however, looks roughly the same (at least on the cover), and can be produced en masse by budding young artists desperate for a publishing deal, who will work for pennies. So they contract all these kids to churn out stuff that kinda looks like manga but isn't made with any of the professionalism we've come to expect from experienced Japanese mangaka. The result? A whole shelf full of books that resemble the legit Japanese manga but once you crack the cover it's pretty clear this stuff is from the DeviantArt scrap heap.

There's also an inherent issue here that's unfortunate but true - these American and Korean manga (the Korean stuff is often much better, but it's still wildly derivative and routine) are, in essence, simply aping another style. No matter what the situation, if you're attempting to recreate something rather than make your own composition, your work is going to suffer. And that's very true for most of this stuff. It's not that there's something in the blood of the Japanese that enables them to create inherently superior manga, but the art form originated there, the artists have decades worth of material to draw from, and as a whole the art form is in a much more mature state. So Japanese artists are more likely to turn out better work. It's just how things are. Don't get me wrong - there's plenty of crappy, derivative, badly-drawn and poorly written Japanese manga out there, but it doesn't overwhelm the entire medium, as it does with American and Korean manga.

If you yourself are genuinely impressed with what you're reading, what I would do is go out of my way to screen the American and Korean stuff, pick out the titles you feel are the highest in quality - and I mean the highest, something you consider just as good if not better than some of the Japanese stuff you've read - and then present those and only those to your library visitors. Encourage them to read only the very top quality non-Japanese manga and maybe they'll open their minds to it a bit more.

Just, you know, don't let them anywhere near A Midnight Opera. Shudder.

This is truly the finest resume I've ever recieved!

i need a job as an anime reviewer, i have pretty good opinions, at least my friends say so, i would like to work for your site. i am saving for a playstation 3 so i would need 50 dollars per review.

You're hired, kid! Here's your first assignment: review this photo!

Your check for $50 is in the mail, I swear.

Here's this week's rant, courtesy of Pat Dangle, and it'll probably open up the whole fansubs can of worms again. But hey, it's been a while, right? 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'll begin by admitting I'm not an avid reader of yours or of Anime News Network really. I was searching a new show I learned about and came upon your site,and decided to write something about the activity I was currently engaged in.
I don't know if anyone's written to you about this yet or not, but I wanted to talk about YouTube. About 6 years ago, a friend of mine and I were coming off a stint of being devout Dragon Ball Z fans and our interests in anime were really beginning to blossom. I bought some Hellsing, he bought some Ah! My Goddess, and we both became really big fans of anime. Well, what my point is that in that time, buying anime DVD after anime DVD, learning about new shows and waiting until they were released, I really found a kind of joy I could only equate to collecting comic books or something of the like. It was unique and I was happy with it. But I can't seem to shake the feeling that YouTube is changing that aspect of anime fandom.
Honestly, I realize that fan subs of previously unreleased shows have been available for years, and that rather dedicated, often times rabid, fans would go out of their way to make shows curently only available in Japan available for those who were interested in the states. However, when I think about the fact that in the past month I've been able to sit down and watch not one, not two, but three complete anime series with English subtitles, and all by just making a few clicks here and there, I get the feeling that I'm cheating myself out of the full experience I used to enjoy so much. I still buy DVDs and take part in that whole aspect, but I can safely say I wont be buying the new Ah! My Goddess series (either season...) anytime soon, or Eureka Seven (though I was going to watch that on Adult Swim anyhow).
Maybe I'm kind of crazy for thinking so, but I feel bad about watching so much unreleased anime, and it's all my fault. Hell, it's the fault of anyone who needs to see a show that bad that they'd watch it all on YouTube before even considering spending a dime on it. I watched all of Bleach, and Eureka Seven, and even a new Gonzo show called Pumpkin Scissors (which is totally awesome by the way), and after some deep consideration, I've come to the conclusion that I need to stop streaming, and start buying again. There was a reason I used to be subscribed to Newtype, and I've really lost trackof that mentality. Waiting to buy and watch a show you think looks good somehow feels more rewarding in the end, even better than watching entire seasons of anime for free.
Hey, if I have to take a hit in the wallet to enjoy the anime I love so much the right way, I think I might really be ok with that. Although, YouTube did save me the pain of wasting some cash on the new Kujibiki Unbalance... amen to that one actually. As far as sampling goes, you really can't do any better. YouTube is useful for some things I suppose.

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!

We're still on hiatus, sipping Daquiris and watching the sunset atop a giant pile of anime DVDs we refuse to give away. See you next week!

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