Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy, Mar 28th 2008


Sometimes it's tough being a political junkie. Just when I think there's only so much MSNBC I can watch, I find myself lost in Keith Olbermann's dreamy eyes for another 3 hours.

Time to get my mind off the horse race and answer some questions about Japanese cartoons from complete strangers.

Dear Answerman,
Last week I got my first issue of piq magazine the replacement for Newtype. It was OK but it covered too many non-anime things for my taste. One thing I noticed was that now that Newtype is gone and Animerica is gone and Newtype has been replaced by a mostly nonanime mag are anime mags going extinct?

I too received my copy of PiQ in the middle of last week and enjoyed it overall. I didn't initially understand why anime fans were so outraged that it wasn't a completely dedicated anime magazine (not to mention the bizaarely intense hatred that rang out when people thought they might cover Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! as though doing so would be giving Satan himself a soothing backrub while simultaneously donating money to a company that murders puppies). Then I realized that replacing Newtype, which was probably the magazine most tailored to the taste of the hardcore superfan (excluding the fans so hardcore they insist you're not really an otaku unless you devotedly import Megami every month) with something that - gasp! - covered things nerds also care about, like movies and DVDs and technology, in an attempt to actually sell copies to someone other than the mega-otaku, probably wasn't the best way to appease Newtype's existing subscriber base.

The problem was obviously money. Newtype was a tremendously expensive magazine to produce and while I know it did well enough as could be expected for an oversize anime magazine with a $49.99 cover price, it probably wasn't doing well enough. Add to that that it's not only anime magazines that are slowly going extinct, it's all magazines, and it makes sense. So they broadend the scope of the magazine to include a larger (and at this point completely overserved by both traditional print magazines and especially the internet) demographic, hoping to pick up sales. Makes sense. Sucks for hardcore Newtype devotees, but something's gotta put food on the table.
I hope it works out for them - although the two guys I knew personally have left the publication, I'm sure the team they have there deserves success. I personally found it to be a well-written, well-designed and very competent publication that, although the content feels redundant as a result of being covered by approximately 99 percent of all blogs and entertainment news sites and magazines, showed real effort and talent on behalf of the staff.

We still have three anime magazines left. Insofar as I know, Anime Insider isn't going anywhere. I'm not sure what the situation is with Otaku USA, but I keep seeing new issues on the shelves, and they have some pretty decent money backing them up, so unless sell-through and circulation are totally dismal they'll probably be around a while too. Of course, there's also Protoculture Addicts, on which I serve as the managing editor, clearly the greatest anime magazine... nay, greatest publication to ever have existed and also comes with a free sack of million dollar bills with every subscription*. So you've got options and things aren't looking particularly grim for any of them so far as I know, but that could change with the gradual descent of print media.

*sack of million dollar bills to be delivered January 31st, 2098.



Why are anime fans so hostile toward American animation? some of it is good.

I'll have to start out by amending your bit at the end there to the first part of your question; some anime fans are hostile toward American animation, yes. Very much so. Sometimes vehemently so.

I've discussed this briefly in this column before; I chalk it up to youthful elitism. Back in the day, anime fans were typically also fans of American animation - you'd likely find VHS tapes of Animaniacs, Freakazoid and The Tick (and probably a copy of Heavy Metal) sitting on the same shelf as their Dirty Pair collection or Ghibli fansubs. People were animation fans "in general" rather than specifically only enjoying anime. I think that general interest in animation lead to a fascination with anime.

As the years wore on and anime fandom grew and grew, it no longer really required a broad definition of the art form as a whole to spark an interest in anime. And, as the fanbase grew younger and younger, the notion that being in to anime was cool because it's "edgy" or "more adult than American cartoons" proliferated among new fans, particularly the younger ones. I started noticing anime fan elitism toward American animation in my college anime club during the early 2000s, when some older friends and I would ask if anyone wanted to check out the latest Pixar movie with us and we'd get sneers from the 15-year olds telling us it was "baby stuff". Then they'd turn around and continue watching Yū Yū Hakusho or some other tournament series aimed at children under 10 in Japan.

When you're young it's nice to feel like you belong to an exclusive underground community of cool kids. They use the "American animation is for kids only, anime is all about edgy adult content" meme to deflect the notion that their underground community of cool kids is little more than a bunch of teenagers who really dig Japanese cartoons, many of which are aimed at children. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, I suppose, although the older and crankier I get the more irritating I find it to reject every single American production based solely on the fact that you want to feel special.

That said, it's not as though there's absolutely no truth to the whole thing in the first place. Anime does tend to have more typically "adult" themes and content; they are less afraid to produce a piece of animation aimed only at adults or late-high-school, early-college kids. At the same time, dismissing American animation simply because the visible and popular majority of it is designed to be consumed by children is a total waste, and you're missing out on some amazing stuff. While I don't think I've seen an anime that was as well-written, touching or thoughtful as Ratatouille in a long time, I also haven't seen anything as challenging and adult as Paprika come out of the American animation scene in equal time. It goes both ways; dismissing one or the other is just denying you the ability to appreciate some wonderful art. I think this is a realization that likely comes with age.



Okay, last week someone asked about anime openings, what about anime endings?!

I like these, even if they do prompt endless "best" lists in the forums as a result. Gets us talking about something other than FANSUBS FANSUBS FANSUBS.

I remember fewer favorite endings, but I'll do my best. I'm sure people will remind me of all the ones I've forgotten.

I always loved the first Naruto ending.


This one is cheesy mid-90's pop
trash but I still dig it.


The first ending to Fullmetal Alchemist gets stuck in my head really easily.


This one has a mega old-school charm to it that I dig. Plus I like the 80's synth.


Oh god I can't believe I'm going to admit to this one


Okay that's enough embarassing admissions of my horrifying taste in ending themes. And now to go drink whiskey and reaffirm my manliness by drunkenly reciting every line of Commando.





This is probably fake but oh god how I hope it's real.

a hot girl in english clazz likes animes i do 2 how do i get her 2 tuch my pen0r

Step one: tell her you like animes
Step two: ask her 2 tuch said pen0r
Step three: success


That is a puppy.




Here's last week's question:




First, from Nick Nickerson:

Ah, now this one takes me back to better days, the days of old school Toonami on the Cartoon Network. Toonami, in its original (as far as I know) incarnation, was a after school block of animation programming that had no fixed schedule. I would come home from school, turn on the TV and hope for something good. Shows such as Robotech, The New Adventures of Johnny Quest, DBZ, and god only know what else they found to fill up time on that day. The grab bag style of Toonami left you with little continuity, but allowed you to taste all sorts of bottom of the bag anime (which of course I ate up like candy). The addiction quickly progressed to the late night anime on Sci-Fi, at about 2 am most Friday or Saturday nights Sci-Fi would run anime movies. They ran some good stuff like IRIA and Galaxy Express 999 and of course some exceedingly bad stuff like Demon City Shinjuki. As the avid fan, with absolutely no money or even access to fan subs, I ate up even the worst of it. These two outlets, the increasing anime presence on Cartoon Network, and eventually DVDs kept me busy until late highschool.

Anime News Network has been one of the big forces enabling me to stay interested and informed on the world of anime. I was actually introduced to this website and its plethora of knowledge by Justin Sevakis' sister and the creator of a lot of the images on the website over the years during high school. The lists, reviews, and encyclopedia let me find ever more good anime to watch and sometimes purchase. This site has kept me flush with lists of good anime to watch until this day.

In college, our anime club introduced me to a variety of different types of anime I had never been aware of, and probably wouldn't have chose to watch on my own. This first foray into an anime club didn't last long as I could see how different I was from the other anime watchers. The anime club met on Friday nights from 8-midnight, so anyone with a social life outside of the club was effectively banned from getting their dose of new anime. Instead, I found out that there were tons of normal people who had the same exposure I did and loved anime as just one of many hobbies.

Finally, out in the real world I have now eschewed free-loading due to the state of the industry. I am buying up all the series I truly enjoy and have had fansubs of for years and the rest I watch on Netflix. Netflix can be the saving grace of the industry, you can try any anime you like as a part of your normal queue and they have EVERYTHING.

Looking back, its odd how a little experiment by Cartoon Network and then by Sci-Fi has turned into an almost mainstream phenomenon and a large part of my life.


From Ronan Wills:

Say it with me now: Pokémon!

Like many other people, my first anime was Pokémon. Well actually, my first anime was a series called The Little Prince that my Mom got me when I was a kid, but I didn't know it was anime at the time. My cousin told me about the series after seeing the first episode on TV and suggested I check it out. I was part of the big anime boom that erupted when Pokémon came out, but because of this recomendation I got in on the act a few weeks ahead of most people my age.My knowledge of anime before seeing Pokémon consisted of "it's Japanese and it's wierd" and that impression didn't change, especially not after adding Dragon Ball Z to my viewing list (stop me if you've heard this before).

I was introduced to anime on TV, but it wasn't enough to hold my interest in the medium for long. The situation is a bit better now, but at the time the only anime series you could watch on TV in Ireland were kid's shows, and I was rapidly out-growing those. Obviously, I'd have to see what could be bought in stores.This was easier said than done, though. For starters, anime was fanstastically expensive at the time (not that much has changed in that regard). Also, I was saddled with a VHS player at a time when they were rapidly going out of fashion. There was a store in Dublin, not too far away, that had shelves full of shiny new anime series, but they were all on DVD. For a few years I consisted on whatever I could find on tape, most notably Akira, the first "adult" anime I encountered (and to this day one of the only feature-length anime movies I've ever enjoyed). Then my cousin gave me a DVD player for Christmas and the flood-gates opened.

More than anything, my continuing interest in anime owes itself to hanging around with people who had similar interests. My afore-mentioned cousin (who, now that I think about it, I owe a lot to in regards to anime viewing) was a regular Newtype reader and he always loaned me the sample DVD's, which directly introduced me to several of my favourite shows, many of which I probably wouldn't have risked spending money on otherwise. I also fell in with a group of anime fans in secondary school. Hanging around with people who appreciate something as much as you do is a great way to keep your interest in it up.

That's pretty much it. I'm still a huge anime fan, and I don't think I'll ever stop being one, no more than I'd stop reading books or watching films. My interest has waned slightly over the years, though, firstly because everything is more exciting when it's new but also because as I grew up I started to realise that quite a lot of anime isn't that great. It's still worth it for the rare gems, though.



From Mike Buono:

I started watching anime twelve years ago. I was thirteen, and I bought a VHS of Billy Madison. After watching it a few times, I loaned it to a friend. In exchange, he handed me Ninja Scroll. Billy Madison is important to this story, because I considered it a great movie. Then I slid Ninja Scroll into VCR. The experience that followed was intense. On one hand, the epic story and detailed characters brought me back to when I'd sit entranced in front of the TV. Transformers, Voltron and Ninja Turtles were the only things that could keep me quiet. On the other hand, Jubei redefined cool. There was blood and violence. In quick succession, he loaned me Ghost in the Shell, Akira and Tenchi Muyo!.

 Twelve years ago, I watched Ninja Scroll.  From the moment I put the tape in, I knew I was going to see something different. Yet the shows featured carried an air of familiarity to them. Once the actual movie started, I was unmovable. I sat at the edge of my bed transfixed by the imagery, the violence and the action. Then the oddest thing happened, I started thinking about the story. Its not that I was dumb, but I had not experienced a movie that was actually thought provoking in a long time. It brought back memories of Voltron, Ninja Turtles and Transformers. My friend loaned me Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Tenchi Muyo! in quick succession. I was totally hooked. Access was a bit of a problem though. My friend was able to get some tapes from time to time, but most of the stores around us had a small library of porn and DBZ to choose from. I was starved for the stuff for about a year, and then two things happened quickly. I discovered late night Anime on USA Network and my local blockbuster started carrying some Anime titles. Dirty Pair, Gunsmith Cats, Wicked City and Demon City Shinjuku got me through another year.

 Then I met my dealer. I've known this girl half my life, but one day I got bored and we started talking. We became good friends, and I started to regularly go over her place to watch Anime. She and I watched many series together, too many to list. The most influential for me was YU YU HAKUSHO. That year, I also attended my first convention. It was far from being all about Anime, but they had screenings of series I had never seen before. I was exposed to the glory of Slayers and Trigun. I also had the opportunity to buy actual anime for the first time.  I have continued to buy Anime since.

In the end, I stayed interested for two separate reasons. The quality of the Anime is one. I still find shows that manage to surprise, have carefully planned plot, great character development and music. The second is the community. Even if an Anime turns out to be horrible, it can still be fun to watch with friends. It turns into Mystery Science Theater 3000.  I think it is what caused Anime clubs to stay alive in colleges, and why conventions are more then just dealer's rooms.  

Two years ago, I almost stopped buying Anime. ADV released Gantz on DVD, and I bought the first 3 when I found them on sale. When I found out that there were only two episodes a disc, I was livid. I know that I never bought another ADV release again.   If that had been my first experience buying Anime, then I probably would be one of the people who only DL the stuff for free.




From John Wine:

I was ten when I saw my first anime.  While at the movie rental store I was browsing for a movie in the new releases section, and I saw Princess Mononoke.  What really caught me about the movie was "The Star Wars of animation" written on the back. I watched it and thoroughly enjoyed it, but anime was set to the back burner of my mind for another four years until a friend showed me Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040.  This really caught my interest, a dystopian future where AI robots serve as the underclass, but occasionally go rouge and threaten the populace. 
It was the dark, gritty, not so happy world; and the heroes that lost so much, still fought on their own to save the world.  It was the change from the happy go lucky sitcom, the untouchable action hero, and the utopian space westerns I had grown up with. 

I immediately started latching onto all the anime I could find, renting whatever was available, and buying what wasn't.  Living in the mid-west away from most conventions and hotspots of fandom, my anime selection was limited, so I started torrenting whatever show caught my eye. Before long I accumulated over 300 gigs of movies and TV shows.  I had a library of everything from Abenobashi to Zatch Bell. Many of them I never watched, because I became burnt out and bored with the predictable stories and bland characters, until I started watching Ghost in the Shell on Adult Swim.  It reminded me of why I first fell in love with anime, strong characters that act human, a plot that isn't always what it seems, a world that has shades of gray instead of just black and white, and a bittersweet ending that leaves you wanting more. 
Now what keeps me watching isn't the quick laughs and cheap thrills that are the staples of shonen anime, but the occasional outstanding work that makes you feel like you have seen something deeper and gained something beyond simply 30 minutes of entertainment.

From Abby:

I would actully have to thank my parents for exposing me to my very first anime. While most people from my age bracket(I am 20) will say 'Sailor Moon' was the first anime related thing they watched, I can say that The first anime I ever saw was 'The Little Memaid' directed by Tomoharu Katsumata. This was a present given to me when I was four by my parents.
 
About a year later my parents got me another video which was a volume of 'The Little Prince'. Throughout my childhood I adored these videos and when I was asked why I loved them so much I would always reply "Because they look pretty."
 
Little did I know that this would be the start of my anime fandom, I also have to thank New Zealand public t.v because we only had 3 free channels when I was younger and all the afternoon kids shows seemed to be anime shows like Pokémon, Digimon, Cardcaptors, DBZ, Shinzo(I miss this show so much), Flint The Time Detective etc etc. So because of afternoon t.v I ws exposed to nothing but anime from the hours of 3:30-5:30. It was also at this time that I worked out what anime was and began to seek out shows that I couldn't watch on t.v.
 
What kept me interested in anime was when I started watching the hard to find shows on VHS, unfortunatly this was very hard to do as there was only one place I knew of that sold anime VHS's and that was an hours drive plus a four hour boat ride away (and I only went about once every two years). Yet these trips were worth it as they alowed me to watch shoes like Cowboy Bebop, Slayers, Orphen and X and it was these shows that hooked me to anime. I just loved the storylines, the characters, the animation quality, heck everything about them. 
 
Ever since then I have always loved my anime and it was made even better by the fact that some of my closest friends loved it too (which was strange because I went to an all girls school in the middle of nowhere) so I never got the whole 'You are a weird freak' speech.
 
So to Sum it all up I have my parents to thank for first exposing me, T.v to thank for keeping me exposed and interested and my friends to thank for helping me stay interested and making everything more fun.



Finally, from J Keilson:

My first experience with anime was when I was a wee lad of 13 or so, and a friend of mine loaned me the first volume of Evangelion on VHS and several volumes of the Ranma 1/2 manga.  I enjoyed these all too quickly, but with only broadcast TV, dial-up internet and virtually zero income, I forgot about it quickly.  Fast forward about five years and I'm in high school, have cable TV and internet and enough income to support a hobby.  Friends and I gather periodically to go out to the infrequently screened anime movies including Blue Sky, Cowboy Bebop and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.  A few DVD purchases here and there, always on sale, gave me a little more variety than just the few cable selections.  Finally, in college I found a broader fan base and fansubs.  I could watch with more people, anytime I wanted at almost zero cost.  America, birthplace of instant gratification.  I would watch an entire series in a day or two, sometimes by myself,
 but often with others, excited for the next installment.  When friends and I would chat, it would build the anticipation for next week's episode of whatever the show du jour was.  I didn't get involved in the online communities, as I largely found them obnoxious and insular.
Now that I'm out of school, I've become a more discerning and concerned anime fan.  Fansubs are off the menu, and I pick and choose the shows I will buy carefully.  I look for previews or free episodes from the official websites, and with good reviews here and elsewhere (reviews from friends of mine are always highly prized!), I will pick up the occasional box set.  Noein and Mushishi both got the nod, while the second season of GITS:SAC did not.
With the history out of the way, I can finally answer your question.  All I expect out of anime is escapist entertainment.  Yes, there is serious adult anime, and I do appreciate it, I find that what I look for most is something that will transport me and involve me in a setting I've never quite imagined before.  It's science fiction from a different cultural perspective.  Sometimes it can be thought-provoking, funny or touching, but there's nothing quite like watching giant robots fight.




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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