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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

Welp, by the time you're reading this nonsense, I'll be basking in the rain-soaked city of Baltimore, where tens of thousands of wet anime fans will gather to scream internet catchphrases and Harry Potter spoilers for 3 days in a convention center. I'm so convinced that some super-hilarious comedy king will walk around the Baltimore convention center screaming spoilers for the last Harry Potter book that I just went ahead and spoiled myself on it anyway so at least he (or she) won't have the satisfaction.

I figure other people are facing the same problem, so here, I'll end your misery and just ruin it for you now so you won't be spoiled this weekend: Ron kills Hermione, Harry marries Draco and Hagrid becomes Secretary of Agriculture during Voldemort's first presidential term. On the final page, Rowling announces that she's planning a 10-book cycle called "The Flying Dursleys", which follow Harry's former abusive family as they become unlikely Quiddich champions and learn about love, laughter and friendship along the way. There, see? That wasn't so bad, was it?

In all seriousness, Otakon is a good time and if you're in the area, come on down and check it out. Some of us from Anime News Network will be hosting a panel about the site at 1pm on Saturday in panel room 2; I'll be there, so feel free to show up and tell me what a tremendous ass I am.

Let's get this show on the road!

hey answerman, it's convention season so I wanted to ask something about conventions. Why are the staffers so rude to the attendees? I go to a couple of cons on the east coast every year and the staffers, like the people doing crowd conrol, are always rude. That plus they never seem to know what they are talking about and never have the right information and a lot of them seem like they are on some kind of power trip. why is that?

I'm not sure what cons you're referring to, but you are exaggerating... a lot, actually.

While I haven't attended a convention as a regular day-pass congoer in about 7 years, I can tell you that my experience with staff has generally been unremarkable. While yeah, tracking down the right information can be difficult (at this year's Anime Expo, 4 different staffers gave me incorrect information about where Live Programming 4 was), generally the staff just appear a little tired and overworked rather than straight-up rude. I don't know what your personal experience is, but these guys are volunteers; they work a hell of a lot during these shows, and they aren't paid to do it, so yeah, they're going to be a little bedraggled and not answer every single one of your questions with a big happy service-face smile.

That doesn't excuse them from being rude to you, but if you have a little sympathy for their situation, you'll probably find their half-lidded monotone responses to your questions a bit less offensive.

As for the whole power-trip thing, I can't deny that over the years I've encountered a few convention staffers - especially in mid-level management positions (this is also true in the corporate world) who will use any excuse to exercise their power over you. Generally you can tell the type; they never look like they're having a good time, their first response to anything is "no" and they raise their voice and get irate at the drop of a hat. They also seem to genuinely enjoy denying people things and showing off how much authority they have. It's an unavoidable archetype; obviously there are plenty of polite, responsible folks in management positions at conventions, but every now and then you'll get someone who's in love with throwing his weight around. The best way to get around these people? Go over their head. Talk to their boss; generally you'll get whatever it is you need.

Dear Answerman, I have noticed that anime is so so so so so so so much better than American TV in every way possible. Every time I watch american TV it seems like its all mindless trash, but anime gives me things to think about. Think about how deep and thoughtful shows like Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop and Wolfs Rain are. You just do not get that kind of depth in american TV, it's all stupid reality shows for idiots. So what is it about anime that makes it so much better? Do the Japanese just respect their audience more and their culture is just smarter or what?

This was very nearly a flake of the week but I've gotten this question three times in the last month and two rants on the same subject, all talking about how "terrible" American TV is and how superior anime is in every way.

This mentality - and it's very prevalent among younger fans and people who have recently become bigtime anime fans - is so misguided and flat-out wrong I don't really even know how to begin to respond to it. Is there a lot of bad, mindless garbage on American TV? You bet your ass there is.

Is there a lot of bad, mindless anime? Hell yes.

If you compare the best of any medium to the worst of any medium of course you're going to come to the conclusion that all of (X) is better than all of (Y), but that's an intellectually bankrupt and illogical way to think about it. Of course if you compare Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex to Fear Factor: Stuffing Bugs Up Your Nose Edition, one's going to be superior to the other. But you can't do that; it'd be like if I decided to compare something like The Sopranos to, say, Girls Bravo, the latter is going to seem like pointless puerile trash in comparison. If I extrapolate that the way you're doing, I could argue that all anime is just juvenile garbage. I'd be wrong, and my logic is totally off, but it's the same argument you're making.

There are a LOT of great shows on American TV. We've had a bit of a renaissance lately, with shows like Deadwood, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, Rome, Human Giant, The Whitest Kids U'Know, Flight of the Conchords, Venture Brothers, Lost (which got better by the end of the third season, I swear)... hell, even reality TV has gotten less trashy as a result of Bravo's upper-crust offerings like Top Chef and Project Runway. To say that all of these shows are "garbage" that pale in comparison to the blinding genius of anime is not only totally wrong, it means you must only be watching awful American TV.

The fact is, just like there's a lot of trash on American TV, there's a lot of garbage on Japanese TV as well. You're cherry-picking the best stuff and then saying that all anime is like that; I can guarantee you that all of the shows you mentioned (although I would seriously hesitate to call Cowboy Bebop "deep") are
really the cream of the crop. For every one masterpiece like Wolf's Rain (yeah, I thought it was a masterpiece) you get a hundred Shuffle!s or Beet the Vandel Busters. The signal-to-crap ratio is relatively the same. My answer to your question is to stop being so close-minded and elitist and open yourself up to the possibility that there's good stuff to be found on any country's cable listing.

 One of the questions you were asked a while back was about ero guro. Now I, watching anime since a good 5-6 years, thought I knew most of these genre (or sub-genre as Wiki states for Ero Guro) for anime/manga out there. Then, I was pretty much surprised reading that, since I never really heard of it at all. But then again, I was never really into things that dealt with grotesque things... So my question is, what are the most popular genre/sub-genre within anime/manga? It would be really nice to know

My second question, which has been really bugging me for sometime, is a question about hot springs (maybe you got this question before in the last couple years of this column). Why is it that so many anime, for example, have at least one episode dedicated to the characters of the show visiting a hot spring? Do people in Japan visit hot springs as a vacation as often as we visit the park?

Er, well, if you're talking "most popular genre" in anime or manga then the obvious answer is shonen and shojo, but that kinda goes without saying, so I'll say what I think the most popular "subgenres" are.

Right now the most popular subgenre has got to be moe; every season there are a bunch of new moe shows, and the elements of that genre creep into other series as well. While that whole phenomenon hasn't really hit America yet, the sheer volume of moe titles being released in Japan make it pretty clear how popular that genre is there.

As for your second question, there are so many hot springs episodes in anime because it's an easy excuse to get the female characters at least somewhat naked. Yes, hot springs are a very popular Japanese tourist destination, and people flock to them every year, but nine times out of ten if there's a hot springs episode, it's because the show has a sizable female cast and it's an easy shortcut to nudity and/or crazy hijinks involving said nudity.

Is any part of anime "underground" anymore? It seems like since shows like Naruto and DBZ and Bleach and Inuyasha and everything on Cartoon Network and in Suncoasts, anime is super mainstream and just a normal hobby like anything else. But is there any part of anime fandom that is still underground and hidden away, or has anime just become another mainstream fad?

There's an element of anime fandom that has become mainstream, and you're right that shows like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto are part of that; there's a mainstream element to anime now that didn't exist in the past. Titles like Bleach and Blood + have paved the way for a mainstream side of the hobby that, I think, works. It encourages new fans to find the hobby by offering them accessible shows and franchises, fine examples of the medium that help people find what they like. Folks who find themselves really enjoying shows like Bleach will start going to conventions and buying merchandise and cosplaying and all that stuff.

Of course there's an underground element to anime fandom; I personally believe that there always will be. Right now, it comes in a couple of different flavors; you have your militant fansub kids, who refuse to ever pay for anime and proselytize about how "all anime should be free". There's also the hardcore moe and lolicon side of it all, which I would say is certainly underground; if you're looking at certain forums it might seem like an overwhelming majority of anime fans are in to that sort of thing, but that isn't really the case. It's a vocal minority. The underground has a louder voice now, to be sure, but that element still exists, and in the future there'll be some other faction or cause that inhabits the underground.

I have to say, though, that the tone of your letter - that somehow it's a bad thing if anime has become a "mainstream fad" - is wrong-headed. I realize that you automatically become the coolest kid in school by hating on things that other people like, but
that anime has a presence in the mainstream isn't a terrible thing and it doesn't make you "less cool" to enjoy it just because someone else on the subway might also like Naruto and it's not just you being a special unique snowflake.

It's okay if other people like what you like.

This is easily the most awesome flake I've ever had, ever. I know this is a prank but I just couldn't not print it.

I want a Zac with a mind like a diamond
I want a Zac who knows what's best
I want a Zac with shoes that cut
And eyes that burn like cigarettes
I want a Zac with the right allocations
who is fast and thorough and sharp as a tack,
He's is playing with his jewelry, he is putting up his hair
He is touring the facility
and picking up slack
I want a Zac with a dumb shirt and
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo column

I want a Zac who gets up early
I want a Zac who stays up late
I want a Zac with uninterrupted prosperity
Who uses a machete to cut through red tape
With fingernails that shine like justice
And a voice that is dark like tinted glass
He's fast, thorough and sharp as a tack,
He is touring the facility and picking up slack
I want a Zac with a dumb shirt and Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo column


I want a Zac with smooth liquidation
I want a Zac with good dividends
At Citi Bank we will meet accidently
We will start to talk when he borrows my pen
He wants a car with a cup holder armrest
He wants a car that will get him there
He is changing his name from Douchebag to Douche
He is trading his MG for a white, Chrysler LeBaron
I want a Zac with a dumb shirt and
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo column

I have no response but this:

And now, I'm off to Baltimore.

No winner this week either, but here's a rant anyway.

It comes courtesy of Brendan Anderson. 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.

The internet is overflowing with pages detailing all aspects of anime, not too mention the countless books and magazines devoted exclusively to the topic.  With the wealth of commentary on anime it's surprising that one subject has received miniscule study:  artistic nudity.  Despite being a rare occurrence nudity that is truly artistic can be found in anime and is often extraordinarily executed.
It is important to draw a distinction between fan service and artistic nudity.  Fan service is unnecessary.  Sub-par animators use it as a cheap device to attract viewers.  Artistic nudity, on the other hand, serves a purpose.  It has the ability to set mood and develop character. 
Undoubtedly, many anime contain some artistic nudity, but two stand out for using it extensively.  Those two are Ghost in the Shell and Perfect Blue.  Analysis of these classics reveals that some of the world's most competent directors are making anime. 
The first thing most viewers note after seeing Ghost in the Shell is the amount of seemingly extraneous nudity.  On forums and in reviews it is often dismissed as fan service.  Others think that it is a purely aesthetic choice; which makes sense because the Major's light, soft, curvy body is in complete contrast with the dark, hard-edged city surrounding her.  However, with even further inspection one finds that director Mamoru Oshii has adeptly used nudity to explore the themes of his movie, and to develop one of anime's most recognizable characters. Oshii does not act coy, instead he boldly pans the camera over Motoko's entire body, not so the audience can ogle it, but so they can examine it. (Compare that to lesser anime like Burst Angel that tease us with flashes of girl's panties and cleavage.)   The effect is strangely the opposite of what we would expect; Motoko seems asexual in her nudity.  Like her partners, Batou and Togusa, we become so accustomed to her naked, mostly mechanical body that it no longer appears sexual.  In fact her body more closely resembles that of a mannequin or the female robot found near the side of the road later in the film. It's simply brilliant that with a bit of nudity, GitS is able to display its theme of technology's effect on humanity.
Perfect Blue has a different method altogether.  While the nudity in GitS subtly underlined Motoko's fear of losing her identity, Perfect Blue uses nudity to plunge us straight into the depraved dilemma of its hero.  When the protagonist, Mima, decides to do a nude photo shoot her life is already in tatters.  People connected to her have been gruesomely murdered, but like the best thrillers Perfect Blue is not about the murders as much as it is about the psychology of its characters.  Mima's fractured mental state is perfectly represented by the photos of her sprawled out and undressed.  She is vulnerable and exposed and willing to do anything to please others.  It is normal to wonder why someone would choose to expose themselves like this, until we realize that Mima can't expose herself more than she already has been.  An anonymously run website has been chronicling the most intimate details of her life.  Director Satoshi Kon is making a statement about the public's obsession with celebrity, and while the plot becomes muddled by its own excesses, the use of nudity remains intriguing. 
Admittedly the above two movies represent only a fraction of anime that uses artistic nudity.  Perhaps some day the subject will get the attention it deserves and more anime will be applauded for doing something Hollywood and many other artists still struggle with:  using nudity in a meaningful way.  Just remember that regardless of all the fan service, and blatant sexism pervading the anime world, intelligent, meaningful movies like GitS and Perfect Blue do exist, and be happy for that.

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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