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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

Wow, it's been a rough week around here. Perhaps writing this column will soothe my battered soul.

I had the opportunity to attend the American Anime Awards at last year's New York Comic-Con convention. I thought it was a wonderful and entertaining show they put on, and a good chance to honor some of America's best in anime (Even if there was some controversy over the nominations). From everything I had seen it had looked like they were going to make it an annual event. But with this year's NY Comic-Con coming up, there has been absolutely no word anywhere about an awards show for 2008. Has it been moved to the NY Anime Festival later in the year, or has another really good idea from the industry become a scrapped project?

Good question. I attended the first one, which to be frank most people expected to be kind of a trainwreck, and it was actually a tight, well-produced, entertaining show that made everyone (at least in the room) feel good about what they did for a living. It was nice to see these hard-working people get some kind of accolade, even if it was just an awards show (although the Recliner of Rage guy from Conan O'Brien was completely wasted). Given all the issues ADV has had lately, I assumed there wouldn't be another one - they're obviously focused on getting their DVD releases back on track and fixing some of the problems they've had. Turns out my assumption was wrong.

I gave ADV a call and was told that they haven't ruled out doing another American Anime Awards show this year, and are focusing on making the show a bit more cost-effective and finding the perfect venue for it. There's nothing scheduled yet but the show isn't down for the count.

This is a silly question but what do you think is the best anime opening theme ever?!

Wow, that's an easy one. The original Pokemon theme, of course.

While I'm joking about this, I still get this damn song stuck in my head every time someone even mentions it.

Seriously though, I think there are four... wait, make that five "best" anime opening themes. I can't choose just one. The first one, of course, is from The Vision of Escaflowne:

The second being from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The CG animation here sucks but man, that song is so good.

The third would be the opening from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Second Gig. I think I like this one a little more than the one from the first season.

And of course, Tank!.

And also this one.

There are a lot of really good ones out there but these are my favorites.

Hey Answerman, Why do anime fans seem to hate each other so much? On message forums they just seem to kill eachother.

At this point - after what I've observed over the last 10 years and even in the past week - I firmly believe anime fandom is slowly eating itself alive.

The problem is that there's no unified front; look at any other fan collective that exists right now. Star Trek fans might fight over whether or not Kirk or Picard was the better Enterprise captain (It was Kirk, by the way) but they don't go on and on and on and on and on about Paramount Pictures' business practices or argue over exactly how Star Trek should be distributed to the consumer.

It appears to me that right now we have, to speak in generalities, two different sorts of people participating in the fan community. This is not a comprehensive look at every single last person who posts on message forums or likes anime (so please spare me your "Uh excuse me I do this and I'm different!!" letters, I realize there's a tremendous amount of diversity among fan attitudes), but we seem to have two vocal factions here.

The first would be the old guard; people who maybe download some fansubs and keep up with the community but still maintain a healthy, active interest in new anime and still buy DVDs and merchandise. They support the R1 companies and the Japanese content providers and, in general, tend to look down on the other folks who pop up in community message forums.

The other is a new breed of fan - generally much younger than the first, and is quite used to getting anime for free. They were "raised", in a sense, on fansubs; anime is a disposable medium, something they watch because they can do it for free, and also something that a thriving chat community surrounds. They're not only caught up in the show itself - which can be had for free with no ads and zero consequences - they're also mired in the social circles that surround it. They're not "traditional" anime fans - they're new blood, people who want to watch this stuff but have no personal investment in it.
Some of them have become bizarrely militant about it and have taken up "the cause" of providing the product for free to everyone, regardless of the legality or (even less so) the morality of it, be it through YouTube or whatever. But that's how it is, and times have changed.

I submit that the divisivness and anger and backbiting will eventually pretty much kill off anime fandom as it exists today. As the argument persists, there is no middle ground between these two; the old guard believes it is morally right and is doing its best to support what it percieves as a special medium, something that requires their personal involvement to continue, and the newer fans see it as a disposable product that can be consumed and thrown out as easily as a can of Coke, and it doesn't matter where it comes from or how it's produced, what matters is that they get it and consume it and that's it. It's an entirely new dynamic, one much closer to how American television product is consumed. The "anime is special" meme is dead.

Given how intensely argumentative and hateful and occasionally brutish anime fans have become over the years, I think in the coming months we're going to see some radical changes in fan attitudes. It feels to me like we're on the brink of some massive changes in how business is done, how the fans contribute to the process and how anime is distributed.

We're on the precipice.

God I love it when people complain about my adorable animal photos.

stop posting photos of rabbbits and cats dammit!!!!!


That cat doesn't know that the bunny has the drop on him.

Here's last week's question:

First, from Rae Seddon:

These days, I really don't know what to think about the state of fandom. I'm not old, but I got into the fandom when I saw it as a distinct, thriving 'sub culture' that spoke to my creativeneeds far more readily than the mass pop culture that was available then, and even moreso now.

Now I'm lucky if I watch three new series out of the billion plus it seems are available legally or illegally--and a lot of that has to do with the fans. It seems that all a lot of them are interested in are the fandom, and not the series itself. Message boards are cluttered with comments of "I watch (insert series here) for the crack!" when most of the time it's not even a series that lends itself to fandom crack.

There seems to be a vein of selfishness running along the base of fandom that says, "Screw what the creator/artist/producer thinks, they made the anime/manga for YOU and they exist to appease YOU!" Which is why the yaoi fandoms are so huge these days. There's no real appreciation of the story and character for what they are.It's all about what the fans *want* the stories and characters to be even if there's nothing in reality to support that vision.  And because of that, I'm loathe to consider the fandom a sub-culture. It's more cult than culture really.

From Michelle Cantwell:

My take on the state of American anime fandom, is that it is definitly different than it was 10 years ago. To me, American anime fans, seem a bit, okay, maybe completely obsessive and alittle more than demanding. I love anime as much as the next person, but with downloading and youtube, it seems that anime fans want their anime NOW. Me, I save my own money, and buy the DVDs. I don't expect to complete many of my collections anytime soon, and I know that it will take time-and money. But hey, the wait makes it thrilling in my opinion. Others want the whole series right then and there.
I have talked to people on anime forums, and someone will ask something like "Where can I find more Bleach? I totally love that series, and youtube (or something like that) won't have another episode until next week. What do I do?" I'll usually answer back by saying something like "Bleach is available on DVD by Viz Media. You can find them at Borders, F.Y.E., or you can order them online from amazon.com or The Right Stuf." Here, someone else will answer back by saying, "What?! Why should they pay $20 for 4 episodes, when you can see every single one on watchanime4free.com?"
As far back as even 2003, DVD was the way for anime, and people looked forward to new releases. Now, they just go to youtube and look up the anime. I'm sorry, but that's so anti-climactic. What happened to the thrill of waiting for a new anime to come out? (After reading the manga, I was thrilled to hear that Bleach would be available on DVD ) Or for a classic series to be released, giving you a chance to buy it, because you didn't when it was available?(I'm so glad I'll finally be able to get Slayers!) What about the thrill of looking forward to watching an anime DVD or two or three on weekends, after a long hard week at school? Today it's "I want to see this anime NOW!" or "I'm not waiting for Viz to release that episode I wanna see so badly, I'm gonna go to youtube or downlaod it."
My point is, American anime fans are way too impatient. They need to understand, that if they don't get to see their favorite anime today, they will see it soon. I think everyone needs to chill out. You'll get your anime.

From Aaron Greufe.:

I am excited about the current state of American anime fandom, especially since I have been into anime for a while now, and it's great to finally have some people to talk to about it. It's great to be able to see anime carried in the local stores, magazines being sold in the local  book stores, and j-pop music being sold in the U.S. (even if I can only get it online). An especially exciting aspect of anime fandom is that now movies are being produced that contain some of the classic anime out there.  With Speedracer just on the horizon, and buzz about Dragonball and Akira, and being able to see One Piece the Movie in a local theatre (so awesome), I am happy to state that American anime fandom is at an all-time high. The only problem I see with it is that anime is still considered by many to be an eccentric taste, meant for only those "nerds "that are into "big boobs" and "giant robots". Hopefully with time, and with Hollywood getting behind some movies based on anime, this will pass, and I am excited and anxious to see where this fandom will lead.

From "drrobotnik2001":

Right now, it seems, the state of American anime fandom is pretty split between the casuals and the hardcore. Those terms are completely arbitrary, however, so I'll define mine right here: The hardcore are the ones who attend conventions and expos, buy the DVDs after reading up about them, know a great deal about their favorite series, and/or discuss them among other hardcore fans. (I'm not trying to connote the hardcore fans negatively or positively.) I'm sure Anime News Network is full of this segment, so I'll say what I want to say about the casual fans. Those are the ones who would probably catch an episode of Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, maybe Fullmetal Alchemist and Bleach right before South Park or whatever will show on HBO that night. In other words, what you'd see parodied in Robot Chicken reflects a typical casual viewer's interests. They are passive television watchers, getting their half hour of entertainment and pretty much forgetting about it until the next time it airs. Their hobbies are most likely nothing media-related, but rather parties, sports, and/or just hanging out. It's these people who matter more to the anime industry, if you ask me, and it's these people who are intensely neglected by the American distributors. They are important out of the sheer numbers of them, yet they are largely treated as if they don't exist. Worse still, the casual fans are completely oblivious to this.

One word summarizes the casual American anime fan: Unaware. Based on my experiences at my high school and this university I'm at, Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon are the only anime that exist, as far as they're concerned. They have no interest in any other anime series, regardless of their content. There is still this notion that animation, when for adults, must be raunchy, silly, and full of American nostalgic pop culture references. (Again, regarding Robot Chicken, note the lack of references to TV shows and cartoons made after 1997.) Turn to people old enough, perhaps before The Simpsons became icons, and you'll find multitudes of people who believe that anything that's two-dimensionally animated is children's entertainment, nevermind the fact that animation was never invented with children in mind. This mindset is a distinctly North American thing. It's the reason why Osamu Tezuka's works cannot be taken seriously by the American mainstream, yet he seems to be a household name in Japan and Europe; the idea of animation being non-comedic and aimed at teenagers and adults confounds the Americans. Dragon Ball Z caught on because it was the first shounen to air on a widely viewed channel (Cartoon Network, though it wasn't the first to show DBZ), and the novelty of it brought the public eye to it. Once the story ended, people felt that they had their fill of anime, believe they know how they're all like, and went back to their sitcoms and talk shows.

I say "unaware" and not "reluctant" because, it seems, the normal TV-watching American can be interested in an anime show. Most simply know nobody who is interested before them to tell them about it. Most think that it's all punching and kicking, shooting energy beams, and catching cute little monsters in spherical containers. However, this is not the case. My roommate's girlfriend last year, who is usually not interested in TV at all, got fascinated by Blood+ when I was watching it on Adult Swim. My film club had a screening of Grave of the Fireflies a few months ago by its otaku, and much of the conversation immediately afterward was people's asonishment that anime could be emotional and not be about fighting, even though these are seasoned film students saying it. Last week, I've been told that my English teacher at my high school, an AP-teaching doctor who must be at least 50 years old, has taken an interest in Death Note and is currently reading it from the beginning to catch up. That I'm seeing isolated cases of anime catching the attention of people from seemingly random places means the potential is there and that the people are indeed willing to give anime a try. The problem is that the industry cannot find a way to get most of them to turn their heads long enough to listen.

What needs to be done is a serious rethinking of how to market anime to the American population. The anime distribution studios are in financial trouble right now because there aren't enough people watching, and it is in part their fault for ignoring the mainstream. It's the mainstream that brings the money in, as the mainstream is numerous enough that even a small investment from each of them will mean large revenues. However, people are unwilling to pay $25 or more for DVDs for a series they've never seen. Television is the ticket to getting out of the slump the North American market is in, and even a single show on a broadcast network could open the floodgates, as whereas Adult Swim gets hundreds of thousands of viewers at any given time, the broadcast networks get tens of millions. NBC, CBS, ABC, the CW, and Fox are the best ways for an anime show to get public exposure. All are highly competitive, meaning whichever is doing the worst in the ratings will take huge risks to find something to get back to the top.

Even though there are series that can work with the Americans, the means to show anime to a lot of people in America exists, and people are becoming increasingly open-minded toward alternative animation, anime in North America continues to be neglected and tossed aside in conversation and pop cultural presence because it's still marketed to two particular groups--children and the hardcore--and not the largest demographic, the famous 18-35 age bracket. Many of these people call themselves fans for having stuck around to see Goku beat up Frieza, and they can call themselves whatever they want. However, with nothing whose advertisement is aimed directly at them, many believe anime to have long since died or are just a once-in-a-while production, as the short-sighted marketing to these two groups has convinced everybody else that anime is occasional and generic.

So basically, through the fault of how awareness of anime is spread, your typical casual anime fan in America is someone who watched DBZ in the past and talks fondly of it in conversation with other people who watched DBZ in the past, and the state of casual American anime fandom has been reduced to these conversations. It's an abomination. And personally, someone needs to yank their ears a bit in another direction.

From Kari Itenogi:

Well, anime is getting a lot more popular thanks to the success of Naruto and the anime on Adult Swim... I mean, even Grandma Betsy or Farmer Brown at least know what Naruto is. But, this has also brought the tards. I know i have no right to say who is or who is not an anime fan, but I'm serious. I don't mean to offend any new anime fans,
but a lot of the newbies only watch Toonami and Adult Swim, call themselves anime fans, but won't even try and watch more anime. I'm serious... There are people that call themselves hardcore anime fans, yet when someone talks about something as well known among anime fans as Haruhi Suzumiya, they say "Never Heard of It". They even flame people for not liking Naruto or Bleach or whatever. I probably sound stupid or something, or perhaps I'm answering the question in the wrong way, seeing as how I'm talking about newer fans and not the current state of the fandom, but still... A lot of the current anime fandom is made up of these people. I went to a convention, and there were Naruto cosplayers, far as the eye could see, but not one of them recognized my costume (It was from Azumanga Daioh). The strange thing is, I was actually quite a few years younger than these people. I'm probably sounding like an elitist, but I'm just saying that on most other anime forums besides the ones here on Anime News Network (*cough* Gaia *cough*) threads about lesser known anime quickly get bumped off the page by "WHO WIL WIN NARUTO OR ICHIGO?!!" or "What's the best anime?" [insert poll with all anime that's currently on Cartoon Network with no "none of the above option"] You have to admit, if the majority of fans are like this, it does say a lot about the current state of anime fans. I have no problem with these people, I just hate when they flame people for not liking Naruto or Bleach or something, or if they call themselves extremely hardcore fans yet they haven't seen a single anime that isn't on Cartoon Network). Yeah, I probably seem elitist right now, but the current anime fandom consists mostly of these guys...

Finally, from "Rednal":

This is entirely dependent on how deeply you choose to look at the issue, and sadly, the deeper you look the worse it gets. Or was that just the industry? Hmm, tough call. Granted, any sort of true "general view" can only be achieved by an outsider, if it's possible to get one at all when you think about how complex the anime fandom really is. I'd say that the state of fandom actually isn't very good right now. Let me explain.

I'm only seeing major series being focused on, especially for what's aired on television. What's that you say? Stations like Cartoon Network want to make money, so of course they'll only put on the best stuff? I have to admit, that's a valid argument. Money is the driving root of everything, followed shortly by Pocky, and you can't fault a company for wanting to show stuff that's good. However, the issue is slightly more complex than that. Take a look at CN's Toonami slot. It's half-length, and has been replaced by Goosebumps, of all things. A timeslot that usually shows anime and anime-type shows has been cut in half, on a network whose very name argues for showing just animated stuff, to make way for a live-action series. There is obviously something wrong when the anime fandom is in such a state that a major broadcaster like Toonami can't hold onto a slot its had for years.

There used to be this show that was on at a very odd hour. It wasn't advertised all that much, but the people who watched it did so regularly, and enough of them watched that the show was eventually moved to a major slot, where it proceeded to become even more popular. That show's name is Dragonball Z. The fandom used to be smaller, but highly dedicated. What's bad about staying up until two in the morning when it means you can see the latest episode of a series whose fight sequences are longer than some other shows in their entirety?

The root of the problem is fairly obvious, really, when you think about it. The anime industry isn't doing very well right now, and the companies need to be making profits. Again, money comes into play. Not every series will make a great deal of cash for a company, so lately it seems they've been slimming down to just what people are really going to buy, shows like Death Note and Naruto. The problem here is that the fandom suffers; we have less official variety, so we turn to the Internet more and more. This won't help attract new fans, though, and while many dedicated people may be found online, my experiences with "fans" who only watch Bleach because they think Ichigo is hot when he's covered in blood have been... less then spectacular. The ultimate result? Fans who are addicted to anime get it all online, since buying is often too expensive. The rabid fans some of us love to hate might go out and buy, but it'll only be the series they love. This won't prompt any companies to release anything with real diversity. So the fansub-watchers watch more fansubs, the rabid fans watch more of their completely mainstream shows, and we all suffer as a result.

Not fun. The best solution I can think of has been discussed before; more anime at a time, released at a lower price. Shows have to be accessible, and fans can't think the price is too high, or things may well get worse. So here's a question for everyone to think about: What can you do to help? Who knows; maybe your input will be the advice that saves the fandom.

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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