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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

Man, am I glad that "confessions" thing is over. My inbox was weeping.

As you well know, next week is Anime Expo and I'll be working the show so the column will be on hiatus next week. 12-hour days! Crowds of sweaty anime fans! Screaming fangirls! HUZZAH!

Hey Answerman,

the anime conventions are starting and I was thinking that it might be bad this year because of all the bad stuff happening to american anime companies. Do you think the conventions will be as exciting.

I have to be honest here - on the industry side, I think it's going to be challenging this year. Generally at conventions the mood among the people working the show is pretty upbeat, if exhausted; most of the companies are excited to be pimping out their latest wares and announcing their new titles.

I'm going to cautiously predict that the only people who might announce anything at AX this year will be Funimation. Viz will probably hold everything
until San Diego Comiccon, which would fit in line with their strategy of doing everything at Comiccon instead of AX or Otakon, even though the audience that might actually care about any of their merchandise outside of Naruto will be attending AX and Otakon en masse. The mood among the people I talk to on a regular basis is definitely downbeat and I think the focus will really be on the usual fan stuff people do at cons rather than industry moving and shaking, which is the opposite of the usual atmosphere at AX.

It's tough to be optimistic when you're working in a grim environment like this. I don't know if it'll really impact fan enthusiasm; cons are, after all, party weekends for attendees, and they'll be drinking and singing in spite of it all. That's not to say everything is in a horrible dark place, but this is certainly the most depressed I've ever seen it. Hopefully I'm wrong and this convention season will be just as heartening as previous years, but right now I'm not holding out a whole lot of hope for that.

I'm glad to hear that Ookiku Furikabutte has been licensed as it's one of my favourite shows but I keep reading that sports anime doesn't do well state-side; why is that?

A number of reasons, really; they're pretty far outside of what most fans expect from an anime, even though they're largely totally traditional shonen-style tournament shows that happen to be about baseball and basketball and football rather than magic ninjas and angry robots. There's also the fact that few of them have been licensed for American release and the ones that do show up get lackluster marketing, prove themselves to have limited commercial appeal right out of the gate and rarely muster fan enthusiasm.

Personally, I believe there's also an odd social element to why sports anime rarely (if ever) see success in America; part of the stereotypical image many self-identified nerds cling to is the notion that they are not interested in sports and instead prefer video games or roleplaying or, you know, anime to a rousing game of football or soccer. They're the nerds, and the jocks play sports, so an anime about jocks playing sports might be a turn-off; I don't know how subconscious this is or how big a factor it really is in terms of the popularity of sports anime, but it seems obvious to me.

I don't really care at all about fly fishing so I probably wouldn't watch an anime about the competitive world of fly fishing. Pretty simple.

That said, I always hear anecdotes about fans who watch long-running anime series about one particular profession or event that they otherwise wouldn't be interested - like football or cooking - and as a result they grew a real appreciation for it. I know personally I watched a giant load of Slam Dunk in college and to this day casually follow NCAA basketball (although it helps that my alma mater was a basketball-obsessed campus, though I didn't take much of an interest until I marathoned Slam Dunk).

To counter that, though, I loved the Eyeshield 21 manga and am looking forward to the anime series, but American football still bores the hell out of me. To each their own, I guess.

I was talking about those grossout figures Takashu Murakami made that went for 15 million dollars and he said he thought they were funny. I was in shock! Those arent funny their gross! why would anyone find that funny am I missing something?!?

First: It's Takashi Murakami, not Takashu.

Second: Yes, those statues are gross, and yes, you're missing the point because they're also pretty hilarious.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about (and I'd be surprised by that), I can't directly link to adult material in this column so do a Google image search for "My Lonesome Cowboy" and "Hiropon" (I don't have to remind everyone that doing so is EXTREMELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK).

They're a lot more than "gross", they're a pretty obvious and hilariously unsubtle jab at the oversexualization so prevalent in anime and a mockery of modern otakuism. In fact, according to The City Review, which I'll quote directly, in the catalog used to describe the items in the auction these were sold at, Murakami had this to say:

The catalogue notes that the artist has written that the inspiration for the work came from "a large-breasted girl game that was on a software fan magazine that I picked up at the 1992 summer Comike," adding that "With these abnormal swollen nipples and breasts, I could illustrate the depth of Japan's subculture, and the excesses of its art, the psycho-sexual complexes of he Japanese, and the increasingly malformed otaku culture!" "Much of Murakami's work," the catalogue noted, "derives from the Japanese otaku or 'geek' culture, typified by males obsessed with the world of comic books, video games and animation, a Japanese pop cultural phenomenon. The artist works out of what he calls the Hiropon Factory, which is in the spirit of Andy Warhol's Factory of the 1960s. 'Hiropon' is slang for heroin, a possible allusion to Warhol's involvement in 60's drug culture. In this factory, Murakami was challenged by the idea of converting a two dimensional anime figure into a three dimensional figure. The result of that challenge is Hiropon. Hiropon is a deliciously scandalous sculpture."

So yes, you kinda missed the point on that one. Art is a tricky thing; people take different things away from every piece they encounter, and I could see how someone would find these statues so shocking as to miss the obvious satirical commentary.

Personally, I find them funny as hell.

Yeah yeah, let's get on with it. This is an excerpt from a longer email accusing me of eating babies or something like that. It's pretty boring so I'll skip to the part where he calls me a Nazi.

You are a censorship Nazi, "Answerman", and one day you will pay for your crimes.

OK I don't really have anything to say about this retarded crap I just wanted to post this photo:

Reader 'belisarius' posted this in our subscriber-only Community forums and it is so god damn adorable my head nearly exploded from exposure to its radioactive level of cute.

But then I might be biased because it so strongly resembles a little baby version of my beloved pet bunny, pictured below:

Here's last week's question:

First, from Jeff Rector:

    In response to your question, I do think 'Melancholy' is a masterpiece, it just hits SO many levels at the same time. However, I also think for people to considerate a masterpiece they need to be an anime fan, and know about anime show stereotypes....just so you can see those stereotypes flipped upside down. I have been showing it to people, but I tell them they HAVE to watch episode 00 (Adevntures of Mikuru), first, so they can 'get' the rest of the series.

    However, that's only one point. The other point is of course the whole philosophical underminings if the series. Where Haruhi Suzumiya is thought to be the creator of the world...or a god....and can bend the will of her world as she sees fit.......but she can never find out, or it may destroy the world. And somehow there are all these different factions overseeing her power to see what happens. There's also a thick sense of mystery behind the show, that makes you want to come back to the next episode/volume to see if all will be revealed.

    Then there's the 'main character' of the story Kyon. Who feels as though he has stumbled into something he was never meant to be a part of, but others keep telling him he is a BIG part of what's going. All the relationships in the series, the events, and even small seemingly miniscule things from episodes have a great impact in the over arching storyline (which isn't done at the end of 14 episodes as a 2nd season is in the works). In fact after watching it several times, the only part I don't get is the cat....and what he does in episode 00, hoping it will still be explained.

    Not only does it give you a nice comedy, and philosophical ideals, and a nice mysteriously story line, and good dubbing, and great animation, but it wraps it all together in a nice package, that's easy to take in.

From "Kano":



Okay sorry back to Answerfans now:

Haruhiism was all over the Internet by the time I finally got around to watching the (brace yourself) fansubs. There was something about that girl with the yellow ribbons that I really felt I could ignore. But then Haruhi was everywhere. Hare Hare Yukai in the prisons! Kyon has a myspace! Peer pressure is what finally drove me to watch it. And not only was I late to the party, I was one of those fools who watched in broadcast order, and valiantly stuck it out until I realized that I could, in fact, watch it chronologically, so that it would make sense.

Confession: I'm not a fan of groping as comedy gold, or bunny girl costumes; so I was pretty sure I was not the target audience. At first glance, Haruhi seemed to be no more than a typical 'weird' girl: cute, but with weird, perverted interests. But I waited to see where the series got good. I figured it was short enough that I could afford to keep watching without feeling like I'd totally wasted my time.

It's been about a year since I watched HS, but it did make an impact on me. Yuki's fight with Ryoko had me on the edge of my chair, breathless. I giggled over Haruhi's "OBJECTION!" poses in the island mystery episodes and was completely engrossed in the murder. The battleship game was hilarious. Kyon's character - totally deadpan, the running inner narration, his brief moments of passion - was one of the best parts. He was oddly real, especially for a character whose name is never revealed, and I liked him from Episode 00, when his puzzlement at this strange home movie seemed to echo my own confusion at just what was I watching, anyway?? And the plot never deviated for a second from its original premise - Haruhi was bored, and bored she stayed throughout the series, leading her crew into peril and crazy hijinx to try and entertain herself.  

The animation gets its own special mention. It was one of the best I'd seen for a while, I thought. When Haruhi sang and played guitar, it looked as if she was really performing with all her might, under the hot stage lights -- I'd never before seen a concert sequence like that in anime. Kyon and Haruhi in closed space was beautifully done. And the brief flashes of realism in the island episodes were very originally done, I thought, and made it that much more awesome. There were countless other examples of gorgeous animation, but these are the ones that come to mind.

So, after all that, is it a masterpiece? Probably not. I'd say The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is not The Best Ever. It made a splash, and it's still rippling. It had its moments. It had lots of moments. But after the philosophy and the kyaakyaa moments and the cosplaying, and that underlying sense of urgency to keep Haruhi from being bored no matter what, there wasn't much else to it.

I think Haruhi said it best: she realized that she was just one little person in a country with millions of people. No matter how interesting she thought her world was, ultimately, it was probably just like everyone else's.

From Stan Love:

None of the above.  A hundred years from now Haruhi will probably have been forgotten, so it's not right to call her show a masterpiece.  But it's funny, clever, and pretty to look at, which clearly separates it from the vast ocean of tiresome, stupid, and unappealing junk that's out there.  I don't think Haruhi is overrated, either.  The series really is very well done.  In addition to being engaging and attractive, it does a great job of showing us both who we are and who we wish we were.

From Jon D.:

Thank you Answerman! I've been waiting for this for some time as venting and debating with my friends isn't enough for me.

I'm gonna be honest right off the bat - I've only seen about a handful of episodes of Haruhi, albeit multiple times. I've tried my earnest to watch the whole thing but it always ends up with me turning it off in frustration.

Right, now that that's out;

Harui is overrated. 100% overrated. It's hard to watch the show when it tries to remind the watcher every few minutes that it's going to do something weird, instead of flat-out just DOING IT. That's what divides the FLCLs and the BLAME!s and the Kinos from the rest of the shows, they don't try to TELL you that it's weird and look at you funny, they instead crash the door down with a box of plungers and proceed to try to dry-hump your television with a strap-on even though they already have their own natural equipment. I'm sure that Haruhi would have had a good few less episodes if it didn't waste it's time trying to dance around the "weird pool" instead of diving head-first and swimming in it for hours.

Maybe instead of overrated it could go into the "pretentious" area. I suppose that could be the best way to put it, it's grabbing attention that I don't think it really deserves. I swear the only people I see that are huge fans of it are either pompous "indie" kids or college freshman who pin their personality problems on psychological disorders. When instead we all know they're really just genuinely dull and boring people who can't talk to girls.

From Aila L.:

I most think fans who judge the Haruhi Suzumiya series, whether in a positive or negative way, only discuss the anime series. The light novels, which are the original source material, have been read only by hardcore fans. The first anime series only covered about 25% of all that's happened in the novels so far (and if I may add, a lot of the better stuff still has yet to appear in the anime). Therefore, saying whether the series itself is a masterpiece or junk based on the anime alone is rather insufficient. Since I've watched the anime and have also read translations of all nine volumes of the light novels, I will judge the series based on these two mediums together, but mostly the novels since that's where the majority of the material is.

Personally I think the series (again, the novels more than the anime) is deserving of being called a masterpiece, though maybe the anime is slightly overrated. First of all, one of its best qualities is Nagaru Tanigawa's unique writing style as he portrays Kyon's point of view throughout the series. The sometimes sarcastic, sometimes intuitive, and sometimes completely random thoughts, feelings, and metaphors that Kyon comes up with as he describes the situations and characters around him is extremely clever and refreshing. Kyon's views can shift from humorous to philosophical quite naturally, making him a very appealing and entertaining character to follow. Being "light" novels, the series isn't extremely deep or difficult to read, but at the same time, since it is literature and Tanigawa is a good writer, it has the unique attribute of being amusing and also being thought-provoking. Throughout the novels, Tanigawa also uses a number of cultural, mathematical, scientific, philosophical, and historical references, again emphasizing that the series can be fun but also demands a level of knowledge from its audience. It may annoy some fans that the episodes are out of order (in the novels and in the original airing of the anime) but this again assumes a certain amount of commitment and intelligent reasoning on the part of the audience to interpret the story. Luckily a lot of the original dialogue is carried over into the anime. This is another good point of the anime; it's not often that one of the main characters is constantly narrating throughout the episodes, especially not with Kyon's clever and amusing dialogue.

From Chi Lihn D:

I think to be fair, a mix of both 'overrated' and 'masterpiece'. I'll explain why:

Having watched the the whole first season, I followed a couple of forums' suggestions and watched it both in chronological order and then in broadcast order.  Then, in fairness' sake, I also watched the dubs in both orders.  Both orders were interesting, but hardly the groundbreaking artistry some fans are exclaiming- they played it in non-chronological order, big deal.

The anime itself was high quality animation, the characters were fun, and the premise was good- but again, there are plenty of other anime out there that have much more amazing characters and plot than Haruhi Suzumiya.

Still, I believe that KyoAni knew their target demographic so well and played into it so well that they managed to ensnare their fanbase into liking it.  I mean, you name it, there was the tsundere, the moe girl, the silent rei-type girl, the disgruntled middleman, the cosplay, etc etc.  There was the fun light effects.  There was the premise of the 'many layers of plot devices to unravel'.

And since things are pretty global with the internet these days, news travelled fast- so that almost instantly, anime fans on the western side started to wonder what exactly the commotion was about on the other side of the ocean, and picked it up via subs.

Sometimes, with the Haruhi Suzumiya crowd, I honestly wonder if it would have been quite so popular here if it wasn't popular in Japan.  Take it however you like, but I do wonder about it.  It does seem like the herd mentality at times.

However, whatever opinion I have about the actual anime, my opinion on the 'Haruhist' culture is different.  Some people may think its annoying, but me, I think its fun.  I like going to cons and seeing groups of people dance to the Hare Hare Yukai.  I like going on YouTube and seeing the dance being performed all over the world.  It brings a sense of community- something that I think alot of anime fans bring up to start up a conversation.  Plus, it is sorta fun to see how far a cultural phenomenon has spread around the world.  I've personally seen shy people go to a con and upon urging, do the Hare Hare Yukai.  They make new friends in the process. 

So, essentially what I'm saying is this: the anime may not be groundbreaking, but the sense of community that was fostered from the anime was.  There is hardly another anime, besides anything Eva or Miyazaki, that has the cultural influence of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Finally, from Kevin T. Rodriguez :

Overtly simple, unbearingly cute, and instantly forgettable.

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!

Howl's Moving Castle © Nibariki * GNDDDT

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