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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

This is a quick one this week, folks. I'm low on time, so forgive me if I run through these a little faster than I normally do.

Thanks again to Matt for this week's particularly unorthodox banner.

Ok, our local television decided to air basilisk recently and I thought I'd give it a try. It was really cool, all those skills and Gonzo did a great job with the animation. Actually, I've only seen two episodes, but I decided it was good enough and i purchased the manga. To my shock and horror, nudity was like the 'norm' in that manga. Somehow we have this fat ass who is intelorably sick, always wanting to touch some boobs. Then well, the attempted rapes and dying naked(not really against that, but i decided to mention it anyway).

As I progressed, there was one character who had some kind of breathe of ecstasy that can kill.(I find it rather stupid) And some sex scenes. I was dissapointed, devasted since I'm no fan of Ecchi(actually, much more than that). Basilisk has a great plot, the ninjas, the love, the fighting scenes, and really nice artwork.What I really want to know, is whether Basilisk actually caters for mature audience(or sick people)? Are there any such manga out there(great plot, but with unnessecary sick scenes) that I should avoid, since I'm quite uncomfortable reading these?

The question is, Is ecchi some sort of fan service? I see it pratically Everywhere? Is it really That neccesary?

There's a very short answer to this question that you've probably heard a million times: sex sells, kid.

Fanservice is everywhere. It's almost inescapable, unless you're watching high-minded stuff, or shows aimed at young children (and even those sometimes have a bit of fanservice in them). It's part of what sells the anime - people see a sexy girl or a hot guy and they want more. It's a very basic tenet of marketing and so long as you're an anime fan, you will rarely escape it.

There are a hell of a lot of really great manga you won't be able to read because of your issues with fanservice. I can't even begin to list them all.

The best advice I can give you if you really feel the need to avoid a little fanservice (and I, for one, didn't find the nudity in Basilisk to be extreme or "disgusting" at all, but then, fanservice doesn't seem to inspire revulsion in me as it seems to in you) is to pay very close attention to the ratings you see on manga you're interested in, and always read up on a series before checking it out. You might be surprised sometimes, but there's a wealth of information out there that will tell you what kind of content to expect. Stay away from anything shrinkwrapped, and anything labeled "mature" (as Basilisk was). It's the only way you're going to keep yourself.. er.. "safe", I guess.

As an aside, I'd like to add that it completely baffles me how someone - and it appears that a vast, vast majority of Americans feel this way - will have absolutely no problem with gallons and gallons of blood and vicious violence in their entertainment, but a quick shot of some cartoon boobs is "disgusting" or "sick".

I'd rather see a half-naked girl than a hemorrhaging neck wound, but maybe that's just me. One of those is gross and one isn't.
But hey, to each their own.

I'm ashamed to be an otaku.
Yes, you heard correctly. Since I was fourteen years old, and in the following decade of me delving into this genre, watching anime, expanding my knowledge of Japanese culture, stumbling upon such gems as Serial Experiments Lain and Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko, and reading into phenomena such as super flat and Moe, I am nevertheless deeply embarrassed of my hobby.
I guiltily purchase figurines, sneak them into the house and find a quiet time to put them on my shelf in the knowledge that another addition will not be noticed. Having endured the polite yet pitying stares of those trying to work out what I see in these ‘cartoons’, I try to watch shows only when I am alone.
I like satire and obscure comedies, especially those titles that analyze, mock or make light of typical otaku behaviour. This is not because I hate otaku; it's merely that I find it easy to ridicule myself. I can see in the characters - extreme as some of them are - elements of my own conduct. And what can you do but laugh?
I find it difficult to associate with even the people interested in anime. I cannot develop the fervor which most seem to generate for it; I'm forced regularly to shield my eyes from the intense, phosphorous-like burning of their otaku souls.
Even so, I still enjoy it immensely. I wear my hobby on my sleeve: I display my manga and figurines openly, use anime wallpapers on my computer, and readily admit to liking it when anyone asks me if I'm interested in this sort of thing.
I don't do so proudly. Instead, I do it out of the belief that I should not be ashamed of it and that I'm a coward if I don't. So, Answerman, answer me this… am I weak-willed, for caring what others think of my hobby? Or do I have a legitimate reason to be embarrassed?

You're not weak-willed, you just care what other people think. There isn't anything wrong with that; you're trying to present yourself in what you feel is the best possible light. Most people do that anyway - you aren't alone.

That said you seem to be of two minds on the subject. On one hand, you sneak around so nobody ever catches you in the act, but on the other, you display all this stuff proudly and readily admit to it, and also say you feel you're not ashamed of it and only a coward would hide it.

Sounds like for the last bit there you've got your head screwed on right. Doing what you do in your own home is your business; if everyone around you is snickering, make new friends. It sounds to me like you're afraid of becoming the otaku stereotype, meaning fat, ugly, socially inept, and obsessed to the point of insanity.

I'd argue you're already self-aware enough to avoid becoming that. Those people are actually few and far between anyway; anime fans cover a gigantic cross-section of humanity, and come in all types. Yeah, OK, so the super-obsessed scary ones are the only ones anyone ever pays attention to, but that's because they're super-obsessed and scary. That isn't you, so don't worry about it.

You sound perfectly normal to me, but you should probably stop sneaking around and secretly watching shows or buying merchandise. If it's your hobby, do it when it suits you best. It's one thing to care about what others think and be suitably self-aware, but it's another to hide one aspect of your hobby while displaying the other.

Hey, Answerman. So I've been wondering... why is the Studio Ghibli movie Earthsea going to be released in the United Sates so late? I heard that it's going to be released in 2009 or something. Why can't they start dubbing it now and get it over with? I mean, I see absolutely no reason why they would do that. Have any ideas why?

The Sci Fi Channel still owns the right to the name "Earthsea" in America because of that terrible TV miniseries they did a few years back. It expires in 2009, so that's when Tales of Earthsea will be released here.

From what I've heard about the film, though, I'm in absolutely no rush to see it.

Could you please explain the catgirl phenomenon?  I find it nearly impossible to walk into an anime convention, or browse an anime art website, without finding one disgustingly cute (or occasionally disgustingly "sexy") girl with cat ears and a tail.  I simply don't understand what's so appealing about this.  Is there any symbolic significance to the cat appendages, or is it completely random?  Why don't we get more dog, bird, fish, bear, or platypus anthros?  Also, if the cat ears are supposed to make characters more appealing, it seems to be backfiring; at this point, the very sight of cat ears makes me want to buy a flamethrower.  The market is being saturated, and in my case the supply is far exceeding the demand.
Maybe I'm being dense, but I just don't understand it.  Any thoughts?

People think it's cute. Or sexy. It's also incredibly easy to say you're cosplaying by just putting on a pair of store-bought cat ears and maybe a tail.

There's also a little crossover there with the "furry" community. I won't comment on that further other than to shudder and continue answering your question.

It's been around for decades, and is incredibly common in anime and manga; oftentimes you'll see a character suddenly sprout ears and a tail, usually when they're excited, or causing mischief. It's not too different from a sweatdrop or an anger cross. Other than that there really is no symbolism to it.

We don't get bird or bear or dolphin girls because people probably wouldn't think that was as cute.

Your question, though, was "why do people like this", and again my answer is "because they think it's cute or sexy or both". I'm not into the whole catgirl thing myself but I know a lot of folks who are and their reasoning boils down to that.

Pretty simple, isn't it?

I'm printing this one just to print it.

Dear Answerman, would you sometimes think that in the far distant future, Anime will be what caused the fall of mankind before apes taking over the planet?

Yours truly, a douche

I'm only publishing this because the signature made me laugh so hard I spilled my water.

Here's a baby gazelle.

It could probably outrun you.

We have our first winner. The contest remains, however; I have more stuff to give out. This is the kind of well-written, thought-provoking stuff I'm looking for.

It comes courtesy of Daniel Thompson. 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 was reading the most recent “Shelf Life” article and its review of Princess Princess got me thinking about anime and its portrayal of cross dressing and transgenderism.  I don't know if I can claim expertise on the subject per se, but I've interacted within the trans-community for long enough to be comfortable numbering myself among them and have consequently paid particular attention to a number of series that contain trans-characters and a few that even address the topic directly.  I've not seen half as many series as most truly dedicated otaku have and yet I can cite a number of notable characters: Paradise Kiss’s Isabella, Fruits Baskets’ Ayame and Momiji, Strawberry Eggs’ Hibiki-sensei, Fushigi Yuugi’s Nuriko, You're Under Arrest’s Aoi Futaba, and Oscar, the protagonist of The Rose of Versailles, way back in the late 1970's!  This doesn't even begin to touch on the countless characters with androgynous features and ambiguous sexuality which pop into even the hardboiled action shows like Cowboy Bebop and Naruto or shows that examine gender more obliquely like Ranma ½ or Revolutionary Girl Utena.
With such a laundry list of names (some of them exceptionally well written), it makes me cringe a little when Ms. Dong, idly speculating on the attraction between the characters of Princess Princess, the boys of an all-male boarding school and those among them recruited to play the part of feminine “Princesses,” asks, “If they are aroused by these Princesses, would that technically make them ragingly gay?”  Now, I scarcely mean to single Ms. Dong out; in my experience, even some of those long part of the LGBT community often feel compelled to try and express sexuality in either-or terms.  Though I personally try to make a point when I can about the nuance of the spectrum of human sexuality, I understand the necessity for simplification at times and even the need to maintain communal identity through broad terminology.  That is, though I have not seen the show yet myself, I would offer that the characters, both male and transgender, in Princess Princess are probably (if they're written like real people) attracted to each other for several different reasons (emotionally, aesthetically, and physically) and perhaps to different degrees, all of which would go into defining their sexual relationship.  However, if they must be forcibly defined such relationships may prove to be either essentially “gay” or essentially “straight”.  Still, this may all be far too heady analysis for such a show.  From the mere premise it seems almost certain that Princess Princess will not be a vehicle for a serious look at transgender lifestyle.

This is the real heart of my rant and the chief reason that I am not surprised that so many remain confused about the motivations and the mentalities of the transgendered and their admirers despite the surprisingly frequent portrayal of trans-characters in anime like those enumerated above.  On the one hand, I'm disinclined to find fault with an industry which has not only acknowledged a segment of society too often simply denied by mainstream American media, but has even depicted its trans-characters in an overwhelmingly positive light (a welcome contrast to some portrayals in Hollywood as deviants and psychotic killers ala Dressed to Kill and Silence of the Lambs).  On the other hand, virtually all these characters are ascribed extraordinary circumstances to “excuse” their behavior.  They may be upholding strange school traditions, desperate to find employment, holding on to the memory of a deceased sibling, or trying to incarcerate perverts, but in anime the wardrobe change typically precedes and overshadows the emotional and mental transformation.  Consequently too, such characters often go back by series’ end to conforming to gender and sexual norms perhaps “rehabilitated” by the protagonist.  And I think it's important not to conflate the transitory gender bending experiences of such characters with what real-life transgenders who live permanently and by choice according to their predisposition go through and are about.

I should end by pointing out that I don't at all mind Princess Princess and its ilk individually.  I mean, they're not setting back the course of transgender rights or anything; the potential for situational comedy that comes with cross dressing was recognized as far back as Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.  I only lament that the most nuanced transgender portrayal I've seen among any of the anime in my collection came nearly thirty years ago in The Rose of Versailles!  That anime can boast so many transgendered characters and yet, in my estimation, leave most of its audience no better informed of their typical mindset than the mainstream is disappointing.  Thankfully though, I've seen a few secondary characters of some popular series (Paradise Kiss’s Isabella comes to mind especially) who perhaps pave the way for a well-written, nuanced transgender protagonist, that not only charms audiences nor only advances mainstream understanding of the transgendered, but does both while refusing to invent wild situations as an awkward pretext for defying sexual norms.

Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if such a show has already appeared, and simply snuck in under my radar.  After all, anime fandom contains more than its own share of social misfits and thus has always had and probably will always have a close relationship with the LGBT community.  You'll have to decide for yourself whether or not that relationship makes you “ragingly gay” though – I can't help you there…

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

That said, we've had a lot of complaints about the rant section lately - generally, we're getting rants over and over again based on the same few topics: fansubs, dubbing, lolicon, and "I hate anime fans who do [X]". I'm just as sick of those as you guys are, so as an incentive to write better rants, here's what we're doing.

What I want are rants - or essays - or whatever you'd like to write, really (please don't get hung up on the dictionary definition of "rant" while you're writing) - that are about subjects OTHER than one ones listed above. I want well-thought out, careful writing. I want subjects we haven't covered a million times.

Here's what I don't want:

* Responses to previous rants about lolicon/dubbing/fansubs/anime fans who suck a lot
* 200 words about how awesome Dragon Ball is
* New rants about lolicon/dubbing/fansubs/anime fans who suck a lot
* Anything that's really, really boring.

The next rant I publish will
either conform to these guidelines or we simply won't have one that week. Rather than always publishing a rant - which I've been doing in the past, even if the rant was awful - I'll simply skip the section. Sound good?

Well, there's more. The author of the next rant to be published - which will only happen if it's good enough and follows these guidelines - will receive a prize box chock full of anime and manga straight from my own collection. I won't announce exactly what the prize is, but suffice to say, it's an incentive to do your best.

The rules as they are won't change:

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 500 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.

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

I sat down to write the column last month and decided I was pretty sick and tired of staring at Howl. So I cracked open Photoshop to craft a new banner for Hey, Answerman!, but the inspiration just didn't come!

What's the obvious solution? Ask my readers to do it for me!

Here's the deal. You take this banner:

And, using those same dimensions, make something crazy or creative or funny and submit it. Each week I'll pick a new one and post it. You don't have to use any specific anime character (in fact, you don't HAVE to use an anime character at all); go wild! Animated banners are A-OK, too.

A few rules:

1. Don't use real people in the banner, no matter how famous they may be.
2. No profanity.
3. The banner must have the Hey, Answerman! logo in it featured prominently, although you may change the font to whatever you like.
4. Submissions must use the same dimensions as the current banner, in terms of pixel width and height.
A little bigger or smaller is OK, but don't go overboard.

Every week a new banner will be chosen and posted at the top of the column, along with a credit so the creator can bask in his or her amazing fame and glory. What's the prize for winning, you may ask? Well, every week a new banner will be chosen and posted at the top of the column, along with a credit so the creator can bask in his or her amazing fame and glory!

Email your submissions to answerman (at) animenewsnetwork.com. Good luck! Have fun!

See you all next week!

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