Hey, Santaman!by Zac Bertschy, Dec 21st 2007
Writer's block is pretty much the worst thing in the world for someone who has to do it for a living. You'll spend all day thinking about what you could possibly say, how exactly to say it and ponder whether or not anyone will even care to read it in the first place. It tends to happen more during this time of year - what with seasonal depression setting in - but man, does it suck.
Eventually, though, after you've had enough Southern Comfort and cold pizza, a light breaks through the darkness and the words start to pour out. Thankfully this last part still occasionally happens to me, so here's a new column for this week.
Next week is basically a clip show since I'll be on vacation, but we'll return the following week with a standard column, fresh like newly-fallen snow.
Why are anime fans so obsessed with Final Fantasy? It is not anime!! I was at a convention and half the people were in final fantasy cosplay. why is it so popular with anime fans, it is not anime.
Well, while the franchise itself is not an "anime franchise", there have been plenty of (terrible) animated versions of Final Fantasy, like that awful old OVA series Legend of the Crystals and that awful recent TV series Final Fantasy: Unlimited, which was so awful it got canceled for being awful. The Japanese rose up and said "ugh", and so Square Enix, normally not one to respond to a mob of otaku saying "ugh" in regards to one of their products (otherwise I'm assuming they would've taken the "Mana" game series out back and shot it in the head years ago), this time they listened and shitcanned it out of mercy for the franchise. I should mention that it's available in a thinpak box set from ADV Films!
Then there's Final Fantasy: Advent Children, the success of which was so great that Sony commanded a big chunk of the American anime market in 2006 based on the sales of that one title alone. It's no less an anime than, say, those Appleseed movies. In fact, it's written just like your average murky anime sci-fi action movie, complete with mostly-nonsensical plot that basically serves as an excuse to string stylish fight sequences together (and in this particular case, give Final Fantasy fangirls even more Sephiroth imagery to think about shortly before falling asleep). Hell, if the CG is what's getting you all tied up in pedantic knots, then it comes packaged with a traditionally-animated Final Fantasy OAV, Last Order.
Not to mention the games are swarming with ludicrously dressed and impossibly pretty men in angsty situations, girls with frequently planet-sized breasts and adorable mascot characters. In short, there really isn't anything about the franchise that won't appeal to anime fans, and I would argue that Final Fantasy is as much a part of anime fandom as any other anime series, given how tremendously popular and ubiquitous it is. Kingdom Hearts is the same way, I'd wager. While not originally anime, they're part of the culture and there isn't anything at all you can do about it.
Personally, I used to be really into the game series but as I've become old and crotchety I don't have the time and patience to actually finish any of the new games (I think the last one I finished was Final Fantasy X, which was fun but at this point I can remember little about it aside from some of the obnoxious boss fights). My favorite game in that series remains Final Fantasy IX, though, probably for the introduction of some bizarre and kinda awesome characters that looked more like Precious Moments figurines than angst-ridden supermodels wearing a lot of belts.
Because it's old.
Seriously, though, "classic" anime (which refers to anything made before 2000 or so these days and is not actually a suggestion of quality) doesn't really move because the market for it is small. The primary audience for anime is composed mostly of kids, teenagers and early college students, and these folks are generally looking for the next Bleach or Naruto, not 45 DVDs of slow-moving, old-looking space operas. It's not that classic anime isn't good, but anime sells itself most commonly on the visuals, and classic anime looks... well, old. Compare how Aura Battler Dunbine looks with how something like Death Note looks and then ask yourself, "which of these titles will more likely appeal to your average anime fan in 2007?". The answer is obvious, isn't it?
Most of the classic anime releases we've had have been passion projects and I never really got the vibe from any of the people I know working at R1 anime companies that they expected them to be cash cows. I'm pretty sure nobody at ADV was expecting their sub-only release of The Five Star Stories movie to blast 50,000 units out the door. In general, expectations for classic titles across the board were reasonable, but the sales figures were (and this is a blanket statement that doesn't apply to every single classic title released, mind you) not quite enough to justify the investment.
It's pretty obvious at this point that the market for classic anime is confined to hardcore, old-school collectors, who make up a small fraction of the anime buying public and likely aren't a large enough group to warrant a full-scale DVD release for every series they might request in their signatures on the Anime on DVD forums. The most recent attempt at getting some classic shows out came courtesy of our own Justin Sevakis, who spearheaded the Anime Classics line over at ImaginAsian TV. According to him, they did OK, but his plan didn't involve some of the massive expenditures endured by the other companies releasing classic shows - no dubs, a single 8-disc case for each series, online distribution only and a unique replication process that cut out a lot of the ground-level cost. Maybe other companies will follow his lead.
How do you think the Dragonball movie is shaping up?
I think it's way too early to tell, with a few caveats.
Generally, I try to maintain an optimistic tone when someone announces a film adaptation these days. I think people are way, way too quick to jump on the hate train the minute so much as a press release is sent out, announcing "THIS WILL SUCK I KNOW IT HOLLYWOOD RARRRGGGHH" on every forum they can find. It's irritating, and often those people are proven wrong when the film does finally come out. Additionally, if you spend 10 months going on and on about how Spider-Man 8 will be terrible, what are the odds you're going to give it a remotely fair chance when you do finally plunk down $12.50 to see it? It's tiresome how negative people are about movies, and often it doesn't even feel genuine; it's like they're just repeating what they think the "smart, wisely cynical" thing to say is without thinking it through, and usually without having a single frame of film, a plot synopsis or even a Style A teaser poster to base their opinion on.
That said, I have to be honest in that I'm not personally interested in a live-action Dragonball film, having never been a fan of the series, but I just don't think Akira Toriyama's kinda-silly-looking visual style will translate at all to live-action. The end result may very well be something that pleases neither anime fans nor action fans; it seems an impossible balance to strike. Surely they won't have people wearing big styrofoam wigs and orange jumpsuits, powering up for 20 minutes at a time, but what in the world are they going to do otherwise? I don't know yet. I'll reserve judgment until I actually see the film, but of all the live-action anime projects in the fire right now - Speed Racer I think looks incredible - this is the one I have to admit to not having a lot of early faith in.
Who gets zealous and angry about shows like Ragnarök? This guy, apparently.
Ragnarök is the best anime I have ever seen, anyone who says it is not is a dumb ass.
I'm not going to disagree with you that it's the best anime you've ever seen, but I will add that if Ragnarök is the best anime you've ever seen then it is without a doubt the only anime you've ever seen.
We're still having technical difficulties with this section. Look for it to return in 2 weeks. Until then, pretend you're being interviewed.
See you next week for another clip show! Happy Holidays!
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