Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy, Apr 4th 2008



I'll start this week on a positive note: Speed Racer is probably going to be awesome. Probably not as awesome as Iron Man will be, but pretty awesome.


I keep hearing anime fans on the internet say that dvds are dead and people will stop buying them b/c of digital downloads, ones made by the companies, and that files will replace dvds totally. do you think that is true??

No. At least not in the forseeable future.

Everyone's all excited over the notion of legal digital downloads
and streaming video being the future of anime distribution and proliferation, and we're certainly seeing some very exciting steps toward that future coming from both the Japanese and American companies right now. It's a pretty thrilling time; we're witnessing the slow change of an entire industry, all centered around the demand fans themselves have created for digitial distribution of their beloved shows. I think what companies like Gonzo are doing is smart, forward-thinking and a good sign that the ship is finally moving in the right direction. Even if it isn't a smashing success with hundreds of thousands of dollars rolling in for shows like Blassreiter, they're at least trying something new, which has been basically out of the question when it comes to Japanese companies for the last few decades.

That said, DVDs are not going to go away anytime soon, nor should they. There are a number of practical realities to back this up. One, there's a small - but not tiny - base of anime fans who collect. They buy the artboxes, they buy the single volume releases, they get excited about new anime licenses in the US. They're going to keep buying DVDs and Bluray discs and whatever other packaged media might exist. It's their thing, they're collectors, it's what they do. They are not a particularly vocal group of people (outside of Anime on DVD's community), but they're going to keep buying.

Two, broadband isn't everywhere. Not everyone has a speedy connection, nor do they have access to one. Broadband might seem like something "everyone has", but that isn't the case.

Three - and this is a big one for a lot of people - not everyone likes watching streams or digital files on their computer. They want to watch their content in crystal-clear HD resolution on their giant expensive TVs. They didn't drop 2 grand on a 1080p widescreen 50" HDTV so they can watch a Post-It sized grainy stream of a Naruto episode on thier computer, hoping the connection holds out to finish the stream with no hitches. This is probably more true for older fans who simply didn't become anime fanatics by watching it on their computer monitor, but I'm sure plenty of younger fans also prefer watching things on TV.

There are other reasons, of course. You can't give someone a digital stream for Christmas. If you're having a gathering of friends over to watch anime, it's easier if you have it on some form of packaged media. If you're trying to introduce someone to anime, handing them a DVD and watching it with them is probably more effective than pasting them URLs to streams or download locations for files. Eventually all of these reasons may very well become archaic, but that's how it is now, and the media market simply doesn't change that quickly. Yes, we have a lot of fans on the cutting edge who watch everything on thier PC and consider the DVD medium to be obsolete, but that isn't everyone, not by a longshot, no matter what chatter you read online.

I do keep hearing from a certain segment of fandom that the entire packaged media industry will completely collapse within a year or so because of digital downloads and video streaming. To me, that's delusional - you know, like 9/11 truthers, Area 51 conspiracy theorists, and Hillary Clinton supporters.



What is it about anime (and manga) as a genre that makes its fans think they're so creative? It's not like every person who reads a book thinks they could be the next J.K Rowling, or everyone who watches movies think they could write/direct/act. But it seems like every second anime fan thinks they could write a great script or draw a fantastic manga, producing masses of fanfics and fanart. Am I just noticing the overly vocal fans amongst us, or is there something there?

It's youth, and the internet. A disproportionate number of vocal teenagers spend time on internet forums talking about their "awesome" ideas for anime series that will never, ever get made or even really be thought about after they actually have to decide on a career rather than doodling in their notebooks during 3rd period.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not some cranky old coot who yells at the kids on his lawn (okay, maybe that one time) but the internet has made it so the stupid crap you come up with when you're a kid can suddenly become a "viable idea how do I get this made??" because there are a bunch of other kids with equally stupid ideas on the internet ready and waiting to validate your terrible ideas because they have their own terrible ideas and want validation. It plays into this fantasy that everyone has a shot at becoming a "famous anime director". There's nobody around to say "pretty much all of you will grow up, go to college, get a degree in business or engineering or something, maintain a middle-class job, raise a family and then die peacefully". Instead they all hold out hope that one day they'll be the next Miyazaki with their brilliant series about mechs piloted by twelve angsty teens with elemental magic powers and also three of them are gay.

I think the chief difference is that when I was a talentless child drawing terrible comics and coming up with stupid ideas for stories, I didn't have a massive community of other talentless children sitting around telling me how awesome my stupid ideas were. Now we have an instantly-accessible global online community dedicated to telling people that their godawful script ideas are surefire hits. Reality will eventually knock these kids in the head and they'll wake up and realize that they actually wanted to be investment bankers or
pizza franchise owners or customer service representatives or hobos or bitter, hard-drinking editors. Until then they'll have a legion of 15-year olds with bad ideas telling them how great their bad ideas are.

As with everything in this world, blame the internet.


Self-indulgent nonsense question time:

Most questions I have asked to myself have been answered countless times before, or are too insignificant to be part of the column. After many ideas, I thought of the perfect question:

What is it you like about anime?
How were you drawn to it?
How do you think anime has progressed/fell behind over the years?

I'll answer these in order:

1.
I appreciate it as a medium. There's a tremendously diverse catalog of material available. It's as perfect, flawed, awesome and terrible as any other entertainment medium.

2. Someone handed me a battered copy of the first Lum graphic novel Viz published. That was in 1997. After that my interest grew.

3. I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that it was ever some kind of non-commercial, all-about-the-art movement that was solely concerned with artistic integrity and quality storytelling, so I won't sit here and offer platitudes about how anime in the 90's was better than it is now, because I firmly believe that the garbage-to-gold ratio is the same now as it was then. You get one or two shows per season that don't suck and the rest are terrible. Difference is that back then all we got were the good shows. Now we get everything, by legit or non-legit means. So there's a sense that we now know the "truth" about anime - it's TV product. Some of it is incredible, some of it is entertaining, and a lot of it is trash. Just like American TV. And British TV. And Canadian TV. And Korean TV. And Chinese TV. And Australian TV. And so on and so on, ad infinity.





PRIMETIME GOLD

here is my idea, what do you think, A reality show that has anime fans in a house and they all watch shows and then talk about the shows.

That would get cancelled 5 minutes into the pilot broadcast. Nobody cares what nerds think about cartoons. I'm a living example of that.


This bunny is probably smarter than I am, and it has a brain the size of a peanut.




Here's last week's question:




First, from Andrew Wong:

Yes--albeit indirectly, because I kept my anime fandom to myself after the discussion started.  The ridicule came from classmates in college who are the same major as I am.  Believe it or not, I go to an art school where I major in animation.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, really.  In actual 2D animation classes, we learn all about the principles of what actually comprises good animation: squash, stretch, "slow-in, slow-out" (acceleration), smearing, etc... and then you look at a typical anime TV series, and these traits are largely absent, except for some run cycles or action shots.  Higher-profile studios fare better because they command bigger budgets (Kyo-Ani, I.G., and to some extent Gonzo), but Japanese studios still seem to favor shooting at lower frame rates (on average) than their Western counterparts, and are not averse to using outright limited animation (Hanna-Barbera-style) to cut costs.  Compare that to Disney's theatrical releases (an unfair comparison, to be sure, but these bright-eyed students don't know--or don't seem to care, because they've always dreamed of working for Disney/Pixar), and it's a seemingly justifiable prejudice.

I heard these classmates go so far as to say that "anime isn't animated."  That they could watch something like Akira, but find anime in general to be unwatchable and/or too choppy.  Since it wasn't a serious discussion and I didn't want to get into an argument, I didn't bother to ask how they could possibly prefer the soulless, expository train wreck that is Akira over something that is actually well-told, like Evangelion or BECK.  It's puzzling that purported enthusiasts of this wonderful visual storytelling medium tout their zeal for fluid, pretty pictures, but couldn't give a mouse's tail about basic storytelling.

To be fair, I chalk up most of the bias simply to lack of exposure.  Most of what the anti-anime crowd knows of anime comes from adult swim or Studio Ghibli, so I wouldn't expect them to have the slightest clue that there are anime gems out there--like Mushi-Shi, for instance--that are both produced on a TV budget and successful works of animation in their own right.  This doesn't even take into account Satoshi Kon's incredibly polished works, which lack the mainstream name recognition that Ghibli's films enjoy, but are more than a match in terms of inventiveness, if not universal appeal.  On the other hand, there are adamant anime fans in my major who are, quite frankly, deluded.  These are the student's who whip up a pastiche of every anime cliché in existence in Storyboarding for Animation and expect a coherent story to write itself, or submit female character model sheets for a harem anime to Character and Object Design.  Eventually they'll learn that substituting the novelty of a (foreign) visual style for genuine emotional engagement with audiences doesn't work--as the industry has demonstrated with garbage like Advent Children and The Spirits Within before it.  In the mean time, I'll just muster all the calm and grace I can when they feel the need to ask for pointers on their Lucky Star fanart, and I remind them that drawing real people actually makes drawing anime characters easier.

In retrospect, I may have overreacted by concealing my enthusiasm for anime--the "ridicule" was pretty far removed from real hate crimes that people face every day--these people just had differing opinions, no matter how misinformed they might have been.  I missed an opportunity to clear up some misconceptions and to generate dialog.  I'm fairly certain the extremes I've mentioned are in the minority, so there isn't anything to worry about.  Besides, Paprika, Ratatouille, and Justice League all share the same shelf space in my collection, so I'm not the one who's missing out on any good stories.  As a starving student at a private art college, I can't afford not to have an open mind.


From Jack Higgins:

People ridicule others for the dumbest things, the primary stupid thing being their differences, and in America, anime is sadly still viewed by the general public as quite different (though I'll be one of the first to admit I'd be kinda disappointed if it ever goes truly mainstream).  Thus, I imagine you would have quite a hard time finding an anime fan who hasn't been ridiculed at least once.  You'd probably end up finding some closet otakus, but I wouldn't count them as their "fanhood" (as ESPN puts it) is unknown to everyone but themselves.  I'm far from being in the closet about my anime fandom, and I never have been, thus I have felt the brunt of many a ridicule, but most of my experiences have been pretty benign.  In fact, I'm trying to remember an instance when I was even a little offended by such a remark, but I'm completely failing.  Then again, I'm a pretty laid back guy, so it's already pretty tough to anger me.

Most of the ridicule I've experienced is from people I know who are just jabbing at me for having an obscure (to them, at least) hobby.  The more often I watch, the more often they jab, the less I care about their jabs.  I have meet a couple people who thought all anime was porn, but that's easily set straight; there have been many times when I was watching anime on my laptop and someone (usually someone I knew) stopped to watch over my shoulder for a little while, only to ridicule something they thought was weird, but I've never really cared, unless a single person did it several times without ever giving it a chance, which brings me to the only reason I ever get really annoyed (not angry, just annoyed) concerning the ridicule of my favorite hobby.  That is, when I encounter a narrow mind.

Of course, we don't need to be talking about anime for me to get annoyed with narrow-minded people, but I get particularly annoyed when anime is the topic.  I couldn't care less if you think less of me because you think anime is stupid.  You can prance around up on your imaginary pedestal for as long as you want.  My only beef is with your narrow mind.  Your ignorance.  Why, no, how can you refuse to accept the fact that you're wrong about something?  That I just cannot understand.  At times when I'm not near such people, I just pity them, but when I am near them, listening and/or talking to them, I sometimes find myself suppressing an urge to shout at them for being so naively ignorant.  If that makes me a bad person, I apologize, but all I want is to help them open their mind, even if after doing so they still don't find anime appealing.  To the people who refuse, why won't you let me, or anyone else who wants to, help you?  At times like this, having gone in mental circles for awhile, especially now, having just finished watching 5 Centimeters Per Second, I sit back and think to myself, "Ah, who cares.  That was simply amazing....."



From Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe:

When it comes to others ridiculing me about being a 30 year old anime fan, I have it both very good and very hard.

I work as a librarian, and I'm very open about being an anime fan. I staff several anime conventions a year, and attend several more as a general fan. I run our libraries anime club for teens and I run a two day free anime event through the library every year. I teach classes on anime in libraries, and how teachers and librarians can choose and use good anime to educate. I order anime for our library (and I'm just as open and passionate about graphic novels)

So on one hand, I am very supported by many of my co-workers and peers in my anime fandom. Many don't share it, but they recognize the interest as no different than a sports fan.

Still, because I am so open about it, and I use it openly in my work, I do get many an adult that comes in and can't believe a librarian, (who is supposed to get kids to read books) would be promoting watching anime. I have other librarians who think I am encouraging kids and teens to become ignorant, TV Zombies by watching this stuff. They also think I'm some sort of immature Girl-Woman who never grew out of comics and cartoons, and can't deal with real adult ideas.

 They don't understand the storytelling aspects, the ability to link educational themes like mythology and history to anime, the way people tap into to the art form as inspiration to create their own work. They don't get that anime is an art form with as many different kinds of stories as American cinema.  I always come across folks that are disgusted and angry at the fact that I'm a fan and I promote anime in schools and libraries. I actually had an angry father tell my boss last year that I ought to be fired for being irresponsible, that I was a bad librarian.

That's why I teach these classes to try and show those who think I'm somehow less of a librarian for my love of the art form that they need to have a broader idea of what “Good” material is. \

I had a co-worker once ask me if I felt that watching cartoons made me less able to pick good material for our collection. I asked her if watching American Idol made her less qualified. We walked away with an understanding.




From Nathaniel Hsu:

Here's a little background on me before I get into the story.  I'm not a super hardcore anime fan, but I'm not a completely casual fan either.  I'm married and pretty much a workaholic, but whatever little free time I do have, I devote it to anime (and some video games).  If someone were to ask me what I like to do, I wouldn't say things like sports, movies, gardening, clubbing....I'd have to say anime.  I mean, seriously, I'm replying to a column in an online anime publication -- anime is obviously something I'm quite interested in.

Anyway, my wife, who has "regular" interests and hobbies (and lets me play with my anime "things" on my own time...and not HER time) is attending medical school and she meets another female married medical student.  They hit it off, because they find they have something in common: their husbands are shy nerds who tend to keep to themselves by primarily being devoted to their respective geeky hobbies.  They think it would be great to introduce us to each together in some sort of arranged "play-date."

Now, we fine gentlemen were none the wiser to their schemes.  I had simply thought I was coming over to another married couples' house for dinner and pleasant company.  After dinner, however, my wife's friend suggests we boys retire to her husband's play room, while the girls did their chit-chat thing.  Entering the attic, he nervously showcased his obsession: video games.

I'm sure you've seen pictures of something similar on the internet, but there was pretty much every video game console since the old 8-Bit NES, as well as shelves upon shelves of video games.  All in all, it was something like 10 consoles and a library of over 500 games.  What really blew me away (because it was new to me at the time) was a controller for Steel Battalion.  If you don't know what it is, google it, but suffice it to say, this guy was hardcore about video games (consoles only -- not PC). 

Now, again, I'm not a super hardcore anime fan.  While I do own about 20 full-length anime series on DVD, as well as some OVAs and movies, my anime collection takes up a single bookshelf comprised of 4 shelves.  My manga collection also takes up a single bookshelf.  This guy had at least 7 full bookshelves of video games!

Anyway, we picked up a random game and started playing with each other (like the good little boys our wives imagined us to be like on our play-date), but we also chatted about our common interests.  Since I have a secondary interest in video games, it was easy to talk about things he liked, but when I mentioned that my main interest was anime, he replied,

"Wow.  At least I'm not THAT geeky."

I was taken aback.  Actually, I felt insulted.  Here was a guy who needed his own room in the attic to have enough space for his hobby, and he called my interest more geeky?

Now understandably, he didn't know how hardcore (or how not hardcore) I was about anime - maybe he assumed I had 7 bookshelves of anime and manga.  Still, what makes being interested in anime anymore (or less) geeky than being interested in video games?  A sports jock would still call us nerds and try to give both of us wedgies....

We then had a somewhat heated but mostly pleasant discussion on the hierarchy of nerdom.  You may have seen those charts on the internet before - who is more nerdy: D&D players, Trekkies, or Furries?  Regardless, this was the first time I felt I was ridiculed unfairly for liking anime.  Arguably, all ridicule is unfair, but when the average person walks into a room plastered with posters, figurines, and bookshelves upon bookshelves of anime, they're allowed to snicker (or at least let their jaw drop).  After all, some of those "Flake of the Week" spots are meant to illicit laughter at the anime fandom gone too far.

Frankly, when I tell the average person that I like anime, I'm more often met with looks of confusion as opposed to ridicule.  After explaining, I might get a slightly patronizing "oh, well, good for you" vibe but nothing like what I experienced in that attic surrounded by a mountain of video games.

As we left, driving home, my wife revealed what they had planned (which didn't irk me so much as it made me laugh internally at the irony).  She asked me how did things go and if we were going to be friends.

"He said I was more of a geek than he was," I replied.

The rest of the drive home was quiet.

And I never met that guy again.

From Zerreth Kim:

Question: Have you ever faced ridicule for being an anime fan?

I've been a fan of anime since I was in second grade. I believe I started off with Sailor Moon and moved to Samurai Pizza Cats and other shows aimed for me. I moved to Yū Yū Hakusho and Inuyasha later on. The thing is however, ever since I was a child, I wasn't an "anime fan" rather I was a fan of anything that moved me. What was important to me was a good story, good development, and good execution.

My passion for a good story has always made me a kind of outcast in my school. I got along with my classmates and other members of my grade, but I always felt they thought I was on a different mindset whether good or bad. I can't say if it was ridicule or not, but there have been moments where I was looked down upon for watching cartoons. Instead of being interested in their dramas and music, I was looked upon as weird for liking different things. It sounds stupid, but that's what people in my grade felt.

What I always found unusual was that the people around me ridiculed me because I saw things that "weren't normal." Think of it this way. Try explaining the plot of Read or Die. It's about a girl named Yomiko Reedman who has the ability to control paper-- and cut. You see it immediately in their eyes. They lose interest. It sounds supernatural and thus "childish." It's not like it ever bothered me though. I had friends who liked me for being myself.

From Megan Hawkes:

The most ridicule I ever faced for being an anime fan was during my time in Japan. Gasp in disbelief all you like, it's true.

One day I was exiting an Animate store, much poorer yet happy with my purchase, when I walked past three young Japanese men. One turned towards me, placed his hands together and dramatically shouted, "Kame Hame Ha!" They all laughed. I laughed too before realizing they were blatantly making fun. I slunk away as they continued to insult me, feeling incredibly embarrassed. This wasn't the first and certainly wouldn't be the last time I felt out of place for my "otaku" tendencies.

In Japan, just like anywhere else, anime fans occupy a very specific niche. Certainly anime is more pervasive in Japan, but it's still very much a subculture. At first I expected to readily connect with the students I taught over topics of anime and manga, yet most of the middle schoolers couldn't care less about which Code Geass character was my favorite or, more often, hadn't even heard of it.

The average Japanese anime fans I met were either young kids orteenage boys. Not all of them of course, but most of them. (I'm sure living in Podunk Village instead of Akihabara had something to do with this.) Being a girl in my mid-twenties, I simply didn't fit the profile. At best I was a curiosity – a foreigner with a surprising pursuit for all things manga. At worst, I was a poser not acting my age. After repeatedly failing to find peers with similar anime interests, I was excited when my hairdresser entertained a conversation about Evangelion. He even shopped at the same Animate store! When he was in middle school. In fact, most people my age only talked about anime with nostalgia.

Not only was I too old for anime, I was too female for the anime I liked. A group of 8th grade boys discovered my preference for Bleach, Naruto, Prince of Tennis, etc. and took to calling me "Mr. Meg." Sometimes good natured, usually not. I was confused because they obviously liked the same series, yet they teased me for it. One student always managed to get his hands on a Weekly Shounen Jump before I did and would spoil important plot points. Also, he constantly called me an otaku, definitely in a negative manner.

While I wasn't horribly traumatized or persecuted, I was definitely surprised by how difficult it was to find fans and friends like me. After a while I stopped advertising my fangirl side and  was simply content with having access to the latest and greatest merchandise. Besides, I could still draw Pikachu on the elementary school's chalkboard and become an instant hero, so it wasn't all bad.

Finally, from Jason Reding:

Let me put this bluntly. Where I live, there are 4 definite groups, I'm placing them in descending order of coolness:
 
The Cool Kids(Usually Rich)
The Average kids(Middle class)
The Nerds.
The Anime Watchers.
 
Yes. Where I live, Animefans are worse than Trekkies. I've been in 200 fights just because I mentioned anime in the presence of someone who is not an anime fan. Ridicule is nothing. It was a school-wide lockout for us. The meager 20 or so per school banded together for protection. We knew of some that belonged to the other groups, but hid the fact that they watched it. It was HELL ON EARTH for 10 years.





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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