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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

Welp, it's 2008 and we're back. Full steam ahead on a fresh year of Q&A, I say.

Unfortunately my PC problems are persisting, so Hey Answerfans has been rebooted with an all-new question this week. Anything sent in response to the last one has been lost. Apologies, but the computer gods have not smiled upon me lately.

At any rate, let's get things off to a positive start, shall we?

I noticed that when anime fans talk about what shows will get licensed they say stuff like "this feels like an ADV show" or "this show feels like a bandai show". Where do they get these feelings from, I like to try and guess what company will license what show but I do not get a feeling from the shows.

The whole "Super Moe Harem Underage Panty Celebration sure does seem like a Geneon show! I expect them to announce this license at the next convention!" thing is as old as the hills; people started looking for patterns in terms of what shows certain companies would license and then attempt to predict what shows they'd announce based on those past decisions. While it isn't a completely bunk way of looking at things - certainly recognizing that one company obviously does well with comedies and is more likely to license comedy shows isn't a stupid assumption to make - but fans sometimes take it overboard and insist that because Geneon has picked up harem shows in the past that means they are absolutely going to license whatever the next one is, and that just isn't true.

Furthermore any honest evaluation of a company's given output would likely yield that there really isn't any such thing as a show that "Feels like an ADV show" or "feels like a Funimation show". The catalogs of these companies are really diverse, so while yes, ADV handled Super Milk Chan and Excel Saga, that doesn't mean Oh! Edo Rocket "feels like an ADV show" or that they're more likely to license it, it just means it's a comedy. It's not completely impossible or stupid to try and predict what shows companies will license - certainly ADV's experience with the company that created Air led them to license Kanon and possibly Clanaad, based on the sales numbers of those titles and their relationship with that company. But even that's just speculation, although it's built on something more solid than a gut feeling based on shallow genre traits.

Fandom has changed a lot though over the years and the rampant, ferverent speculation that greeted any new fansub with regards to which company would license it has died down a lot, so I see a lot less "oh well this show has robots in it, that means Bandai's going to license it!". That coupled with the general downturn in the number of licenses announced every year means it's a lot more difficult for people to find patterns in the licensing habits of these companies (patterns that were rarely what they appeared to be in the first place, even when ADV and Geneon were licensing every pile of nonsense to come from a Japanese production house). So while you still get the occasional "feels like" argument, it's just not as common as it used to be. And no, the people proclaiming that don't have some kind of special power that you don'
t, they're just speculating based on no information and have to back it up with something.

After watching Azumanga Daioh and now a couple episodes of Ichigo Mashimaro, I'm intruged by the portrayal of English and English-speaking foreigners in Japan.  So I have two questions:  First, what are some other anime that portray these things, and second, how exactly do they get around this in the dub where everybody's speaking English anyway?

Huh, that's kind of a tough one - I'm having trouble recalling anime that deal with that in any meaningful way aside from having random "English-speaking" characters whose Japanese voice actors would absolutely slaughter their lines. "My engurish isa so guuuuud!" and so on.

Off the top of my head, the one I can recall most recently would be the first volume or two of Beck I've seen, which had a handful of (I guess mostly unimportant) English-speaking characters, but they did the usual "horrible choppy English" thing in the Japanese version; the stellar dub Funimation did cleaned all that up and wrote completely around it so it became a non-issue. That, I guess, is the difference - there's a "right way" to handle English-speaking characters in American dubs and a "wrong way", and unfortunately most of them employ the "wrong way". Aside from Beck and a handful of other dubs that just work around it rather than attempt to include it, which really doesn't ever work.

The worst example I can think of is from Geneon's old dub of Sakura Wars: The Movie, where someone asks the Sakura character about her English-speaking abilities - mind you, not in the context that she actually speaks it, rather assuming that she's speaking Japanese otherwise, and Sakura actually does the whole "I'm not good at English, here's my attempt at Engrish!" dialogue, while having spoken completely perfect English throughout the rest of the film. It's a straight dub translation that doesn't work at all, and it actually happens a lot more often than it should.
Also that Sakura Wars movie sucks a lot. In fact that entire franchise has apparently sunk to the bottom of the ocean and I have to admit I'm a happier person for it.

That was many years ago, though, and lately it seems they just write around awkward English-speaking characters or situations in anime so they don't sound horribly awkward. This is a step forward.

Hey Answerman, you talk a lot more about anime than manga but I like manga better and I was wondering if you thought anime was better or what? You don't answer a lot of manga questions.

I don't answer a lot of manga questions because I don't get a lot of manga questions. That fandom is much more active in the mainstream retail sector and a lot less likely to send in questions to someone like me.

Honestly, I prefer manga.

Most of my favorite series - with the exception of things like Escaflowne or Fullmetal Alchemist (and on that one I'm pleading ignorance because I haven't read most of the FMA comics) - I've vastly preferred the manga and found a wealth of solid, gripping storytelling there, told at a much better pace than their anime counterparts.

Take Hellsing for example - my all-time favorite series. Even the new rejiggered anime OVA, as good as it is, doesn't really capture the insane, borderline-psychedelic illustrations in the manga. It still doesn't really have the ridiculously raw sense of bombastic humor or the insane B-movie violence that's there on the page; somehow it feels neutered. Tenjo Tenge is another one. Not a single anime adaptation of Oh! great's work has managed to remotely live up to the artwork in the series, and since the guy writes basic and often exploitative throwaway shonen pulp, it's not like the magnificent storytelling is going to carry it without the amazing, highly detailed artwork.

I have to mention Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind here. Hands down the best comic book I've ever read - aside from Watchmen, of course - and while I totally love the movie, the comic has so much more to it, and so much more of Miyazaki's soul is spilled onto the page. That's his ink you're reading, his illustration you're admiring, his complete story you're losing yourself in. Yeah, he helmed the adaptation, and it's a great movie, but man those comics are something special. They feel totally uncompromising, like you're standing in front of an original Max Ernst or a Van Gogh canvas and are personally faced with a physical manifestation their vision for the first time. Not to compare Miyazaki with those artists - I would never attempt such a thing - but I think the experience is similar in the sense that you're witnessing genius at its most personal and profound level.

It's not that anime isn't or can't be good, but when you read something like the incredibly disturbing and shlocky magnum opus that is Berserk, you wonder to yourself - could this ever really be given the proper treatment as an anime? The comic version seems unfettered, unrestrained by any kind of standard - it is what it wants to be, and the true expression is there on the page, threatening you or challenging you or calming you or offering you insight, whatever those pages do. It's a powerful artistic medium and I think I get a lot more out of it than I do anime, which often does feel compromised.

I actually don't have a flake this week. Nobody sent me any crazy rantings. Instead I'll just post a photo and move on.

Cat and Raccoon. How can I top that?

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!

See you all next week!

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