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Hey, Answerman
Chick Habit

by Zac Bertschy,

Things I am officially sick of talking about right now:

* Fansubs
* The "collapse" of the R1 industry

So I'm changing things up and this week is entirely dedicated to questions about and relating to the fairer sex, which make up a pretty huge chunk of anime fandom and also a provide a wealth of topics that we haven't really been over a million times yet. I guarantee there'll be enough estrogen content in this column to where by the end, we'll all be having our periods at the same time.

Dear Answerman,

I am female and an anime fan and as I have gotten older and more mature, I have noticed something specific about anime that is starting to bother me. It feels like anime is not very liberal with positive portrayals of women characters. Even if the girl is supposed to be strong she is still shown as a sex object. If she is not strong then she is a wilting flower or a maid or some kind of subservient character. I have difficulty finding female characters I like, or can relate to or something I would want to show my daughter some day. Have you noticed this too? Why is that and are there anime with female characters who are not sex objects or weak feeble girls who need to be protected by big strong men?

You know, you're not wrong in your conclusion. I'd have to say I agree with a lot of what you're saying here, although I think there are exceptions out there.

By and large, yes, anime has a tendency toward objectification of women, occasionally bordering (if not totally wallowing in) outright misogyny. Take something like Witchblade - which, although it's based on an American comic, a medium long accused of objectifying female characters - falls right into this trap. The lead character is a single mother, which is something we don't see very often. Okay, there's a step in the right direction. How is she portrayed? Well, she has gargantuan novelty-sized breasts, and when she transforms into her ass-kicking evil-fighting super-powered alter ego, she's basically wearing a metal thong and pasties and oh, did I mention the whole gimmick is that her "suit of armor" (if you could call it that) makes her orgasm while she's fighting. Truly a progressive step forward for positive female characters everywhere. Some people operate under the false impression that simply putting a sword into the hand of a ridiculously objectified female character makes her a "strong, positive female character". Physical ability matched with the presentation of said character as a sex object is not congruous with modern, progressive American gender values.

The truth is, not even in comics aimed at girls are the female characters particularly strong or independent - if they're not "hyper-sexualized badass" then they're the "save me from danger" types, usually gluttonous, jealous, quick-tempered and often selfish. Hell, we have an entire genre now dedicated to cooing over weak little girls who need someone to protect them. Why is this? Well, it's complicated. A short, and probably only partially correct, answer would be that Japan is simply not as progressive a nation as America is when it comes to gender representations in mass media (or when it comes to women in general). There are tomes upon tomes of literature out there on Japanese sexuality, which has fascinated historians and sociologists for decades. There's no one absolute answer, but that's part of it; as a people, their attitude toward sexuality and gender is dissimilar from America's, and so you sometimes get these female characters that to us (or at least, those of us with progressive attitudes toward gender roles and representations) seem almost neolithic in thier leering sexism.

That's not to say all anime women are like that. Even though they're about as deep as a kiddie pool (and I stand by the notion that they're basically one personality split into five people), the Sailor Moon cast was seen as particularly progressive by many for a long while, even though the lead was a dumb, clumsy blonde in a short skirt. Still, the basic thrust of that series - that the women (who in the show were generally not presented as sex objects) are the ones doing the ass-kicking while the male lead's primary role was to show up, attempt to save the day and get captured immediately - was definitely a step forward for female characters in anime.

There are also all of Miyazaki's heroines, specifically Nausicaä and San (not to mention Lady Eboshi) from Princess Mononoke, all of whom were strong, capable, independent women in leadership roles.

These characters and others like them don't necessarily "make up" for the legion of female anime characters who are presented in an almost insultingly sexist light; it'll be nice when one day anime trends toward featuring realistic female characters who aren't the same old same old we've come to expect.

every time I go to a convention i notice that most of the costumed people are girls and not a lot of dudes dress up. costumes are pretty fun though, why is it all girls?? also why do i see so many fat girls wearing pink wigs at conventions, why is that so popular with the fat girls i dont get it.
Yeah OK, so this question (uh, at least the first part) is a little obvious, but hey, we're working with a theme this week.

Cosplay primarily appeals to girls because it's heavily focused on making clothes and wearing them in public, which is not traditionally considered a "masculine" pursuit. Also, outside of some iconic characters, costumes for male characters are usually a bit less exciting to make than the outlandish clothing female characters tend to wear.

Making frilly dresses and strutting around in them publically seems like a pretty feminine thing to me. Then again, I'm not sure I really agree with your statement completely either - I see plenty of dudes wearing costumes at conventions. Surely there are more ladies doing it, but not to the exclusion of male cosplaying fans.

As for the second part there, all I can say about that is it's an observation many of us have made; truly, one of life's great mysteries. The world may never know.

Answerman I have a question. I like mostly anime that is considered "shojo" or "cute". I don't care for most anime aimed at men my age, which is 22. But I am confused about something. I know a lot of other guys who like these shows too. I like stuff like Honey and Clover, Kanon, and Nana and do not like things like Naruto. And a lot of my male friends feel the same way. But these shows are usually seen as being "for girls". I don't think there is anything wrong with me liking "girls shows" and i think the label is stupid anyway, who's to say whos going to like a show or not? Why do these labels even get used when people like me are around.

You know, one of the things I think anime fans tend to get right is the complete shrugging off of the notion of "intended demographic".

Now, this isn't always a good thing - witness the countless people who champion shows aimed at (and written for and marketed to) very young children as being "dark and adult" - but the erasing of the gender lines in terms of "intended demographics" among anime fans has always astounded me.

Basically, those demographics mean absolutely nothing to the final consumer, nor should they, really - and yet, typically, people act like it's a big deal if you're a dude watching a show about romance. Anime fans, by and large, don't appear to give a crap about any of that - they like what they like, who cares who the "intended market" is? Demographics really only mean anything to the broadcaster. They produce shows with certain qualities - for instance, "girls like ponies so make sure this show has ponies in it" - so they can attract advertisers who sell products that appeal to to girls, which is a lot of people.
Otherwise, if you're just a guy who also happens to like ponies, what the hell should you care if the station broadcasting the show is trying to reel in girls? If you dig it, you dig it. That's an attitude that is embraced by what I've seen as a wide majority of anime fans.

In fact, I've seen kind of a strange trend over the last decade or so - female anime fans tend to gravitate toward typical shonen fare (although that genre has widened to include elements every demographic would enjoy) like Naruto, Bleach and Kenshin, while shojo series a'la the aforementioned Honey and Clover seem to attract primarily male fans. I don't know what that means, but it's another sign that these "intended audience" labels really do mean nothing.

Also, just a reminder: Kanon is not a shojo series. It's aimed squarely at men. Although I have noticed an increasing number of female fans getting into the moe genre, primarily for the "cute" characters. I have to wonder if we're going to see more of that as the genre grows in popularity and proliferates.

You know, at this point, I don't think it matters anymore what they do with televised anime. Funimation could have aired the fansubs and we'd still get responses like this from people.

WHY DID THEY RUIN ONE PEICE AGAIN funi dub suuuuuuuxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I think I just print these out of spite. They may be coming from a generator somewhere.

Even this dog is tired of the all-caps bad spelling "DUBS SUX" thing.

Our question last week was "What do you think of Bandai Visual USA's approach to the US anime market? "

From reader Ben Jonas:

There have been lots of complaints regarding Bandai Visual's approach to the anime market here in the U.S. with price being the number one gripe. And yet, as I look back, I can't help but compare them to a video game company best known for selling niche titles at stratospherically-high prices. I'm talking about SNK and their system, the Neo-Geo. Sure, the system was quite pricey, but the cartridges cost way more (ranging from a week's rent to a month's rent). And yet, they somehow continued to crank out home cartridges despite having long since gone way out of date (up until mid-2004, I kid you not).

So what was the point of all of that? That Bandai Visual's pricing strategy reminds me of what SNK started (but has since stopped) doing 16 years ago- releasing highly-expensive merchandise for a select audience. However, in America, anime DVDs themselves are a niche product (much as I hate to admit it). As such, Bandai Visual's strategy has isolated them from reaching potential customers (and sales), which could very well cost them greatly in the long run, no matter how much money they throw at it. In fact, in memory serves me correctly, I remember reading an interview on ICv2 with the president of Bandai Visual USA (Tatsunori Konno) stating that lower prices "is not our policy". Well, after the imminent demise of Geneon, they might want to reconsider. Should they continue to remain stubborn regarding their strategy (making things look pretty without looking towards the fans for guidance), I know where my money's going… right toward that Metal Slug 3 cart that's currently up on eBay! (It's at $100 right now? Man, that's cheap! I better lock in my bid post haste!)

Another, from Christopher Walker:

I feel rather mixed about Bandai Visual USA's approach. Going back to the first Honneamise releases, the first two Patlabor movies, I have to say they did an outstanding job. Not only did you have the option of getting them in the standard editions for $30, but you also could pay more and get a couple of the best special edition DVD releases I have ever seen. They followed these up with the wonderful release of Gunbuster, with only a special edition, but a series worthy of nothing less.

Lately, however, they have become a little too demanding of their customers. Don't get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem paying top dollar for top-shelf anime, but why so much more than anyone else? I haven't seen a bad release come out of them yet, but the extras seem to have gone away and left nothing in their place to explain paying ten to twenty dollars more than other companies charge for their DVDs, and the competition typically has a higher episode count. If you have to charge more for a series, please give us something in exchange for the price increase.

And, I know this isn't a big problem for everyone, but please, cut down on the disc count! I only have so much shelf space, and three DVDs for six episodes eats valuable space. In an industry of price reductions and slim-line box sets, it seems Bandai Visual is coming into the market with the wrong vision of how the fans want their products delivered. Hopefully they'll catch on and change their views to the benefit of the community.

From Geoffrey Kelley:
I have one thing to say to a lot of fans, get over yourselves.  I have noticed with the new price system of BV the internet has been deluged by "outraged" fans, who are quite honestly rude about their disagreement with the pricing.  I can understand where the disagreement comes from, and people have a perfect right to voice it, however I can never understand those who are outrightly rude in forcing their opinion.  Though I geuss it should be expected of course due to the nature of the internet.
Looking at my own view of BV's pricing though, I can see what they [talking here about BV not fans] were aiming at (and for a large part agree with what they have done).  All of their properties so far have been admittedly fairly niche titles, sure some could of enjoyed modest sales at a more usual price-point.  But I cannot really see any of the releases so far, ever being run-away hits.  The titles released have their fans, and by-and-large I think most of the fans would of purchased the BV's releases (which was of course what BV wanted).  They are not aiming at a mass-market take-over type release, and wouldn't achieve it even at a lower price point in my opinion.  I seriously wonder how many of the supposed "fans" creating such a stink on many web-boards would of actually ever bothered purchasing the releases at a lower price if they were available?  Now there are those of course who simply can't afford the higher price, and I can understand that, you have my sympathy. 
But seriously for most people who actually purchase anime dvds, I think if you are a fan of the show its not that much of an extra cost, and it must be said that of my experience so far (namely both Gunbusters, each vol cost me less then $30 shopping around - which is perfectly reasonable in my opinion) their releases have been of a much better quality other companies have been in the last couple of years.  Sure high profile titles get good treatment by companies, however a lot of less main stream titles seem to be somewhat half-assed production lately, and increasingly weak on the extras front.
However despite my support so far I have to now switch to a different tune.  Really I think RRP of 39-49 should really be the limit.  Their recent releases of movies going for 80-100 RRP is frankly going simply way too high.  Sure there will still be sales, but titles like Honneamise I think could of done a lot better at a more $50 limit, sure I can find it discounted around for $55 but it makes one seriously consider whether its worth it.
And despite the doomsday threads I have seen around of BV being evil and how they are never going to last in the market, I wonder what the basis is?  The fact of the matter as I see it is that BV is not coming on to the market completely in the dark as many people seem to think.  And importantly they are not overextending themselves it seems, like some failures have before them.  They are coming on to the market with a working business model, which only caters for those with real interest in their properties.  And they are keeping production costs low by keeping the same releases as those in Japan.  Why many people seem to think because they aren't going to be raking in a ton of dough, makes them a failure I don't know!  They don't appear to be about the profit - otherwise why the pricepoint - they are about providing a very nice release for the fan.  (You just won't see me buying a movie from them anytime soon =)

Finally, from Michael Possingham:

I have yet to actually buy any Bandai Visual USA releases, although I plan to get the two Patlabor movies and Gunbuster at some point.

Their lack of dubs does not bother me, as I'm not really a dub person. Their video quality is supposedly very good, which makes a change from some other R1 companies. And their inclusion of booklets is a nice plus, since most companies don't bother these days. I'm generally happy with the quality of their releases. The lack of dubs seems to bother some people, but I'd better keep my mouth shut as apparently we're not allowed to burn dub fans at the stake any more these days.

The prices, however, are simply ridiculous. It seems that whatever research they did into the US market did not entail actually looking at what releases were out there and how they were selling. With the average anime going for $30 for 4 or 5 episodes, how they thought $40 for one or two episodes was acceptable is beyond me. Considering these days we have releases like FUNimation's DBZ boxsets, with a low price and terrible quality, selling like hotcakes, it would seem that Bandai Visual USA's strategy is the exact opposite of what generally works in the R1 market.

The fact that some releases are only available bundled with an HD version simply pisses me off, as I have no interest in HD, and will not buy any such releases until this stupid format war finishes. I imagine I am not the only one who feels this way.

Maybe for those people who would otherwise be buying the R2s, Bandai Visual USA's releases are a good thing, but I can't imagine many people are in this situation.

Here's our topic for this week:

Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.

Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I hve so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers
. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.

We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.

Things To Do:

* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.

Things Not To Do:

* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.

So check this space next week for your answers to my questions!

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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