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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

Good lord, I feel terrible. Forgive me if my answers are incoherent this week - I'm on enough headache-killing drugs to make Rush Limbaugh blush.

So I recently went to an anime convention about last week and of coarse, I attended a lot of panels.  One of them happened to be about producing anime.  It was more of a discussion based panel upon anything with one panelist being from Funimation and the other panelist being a well-respected director (I'll just keep their names out for privacy reasons).  Then, just like every other panel in the whole con, it became a discussion about fansubs.  Then, someone asked the question that, they heard at another con from a dub anime producer that the anime industry would be dead in 2-5 years.  The director in our panel then shock his head and said "Yes.  I'm not sugar coating this at all.  The anime industry WILL be dead in 2-5 years if something does not change about fansubs."  So, I guess the question is: Will the doom of the anime industry really come that fast?  I knew the whole scales of anime fandom rising and DVD sales dropping, but the whole industry dead in 2-5 years?

These people appeared on a public panel in a public event and you're keeping their names secret for "privacy's sake"? Hey, that makes no sense at all.

At any rate that's a very reactionary answer and people who still claim the industry is DOOMED, DOOMED I SAY are clinging to the almost overwhelming negative atmosphere the industry experienced in 2007 and 2008 that I feel was offset somewhat
by Funimation rescuing all those lost titles and posting generally upbeat sales information. True, things are still bad - ADV is quiet as a mouse, Geneon is alive but not doing their own sales or distribution anymore, etcetera etcetera. And I could certainly see where a dub producer would feel the pinch more than others working in the industry - dubs are definitely taking the hit from the market shrinking more than anyone else, since they're expensive to produce and it's become very clear that it's impossible to make any sort of profitable return when the series you're working with is a niche title that doesn't attract enough DVD sales to cover the cost of the dub. So we're seeing a lot more sub-only releases (take Right Stuf's effort, for example), which mean less work for everyone involved in dub production. But 2-5 years? Ridiculous. Not going to happen. Yes, something - something smart and reasonable - needs to be done about fansub distribution and proliferation. But thanks to moves by Funimation and the endless success of Viz Media, the sky isn't falling right now.

Predicting that if fansubs don't stop or change radically that the entire industry would be completely kaput inside 2-5 years is, to me, excessive and sounds like an overreaction. If the writing on the wall were really that stark, things would be in much worse condition now than they are.

I am hoping you will be able to shed some light on a subject which has troubled me for quite some time now.  My question is fairly straightforward, I was wondering about how long after a movie's release in Japan did it reach DVDs and about how long after that was it made available in the United States.  Now, I know that this is a failry difficult question to answer considering some anime does not reach the states for years after it is released in Japan, so I will be a tad more specific.  This question mostly pertains to new movies which already have some stake in the States, such as Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea and Eva 1.0.  Both of these movies are destined to make it over seas, and I was just wondering about how long I would have to wait.   I do hope that this message finds you, I had some trouble finding contact information, and dug this up in an old post I found on ANN.com.  Thanks in advance.

How long a show takes to come over to America is different for every title out there and varies wildly from release to release. Sometimes there's licensing issues or contract problems or difficulties obtaining the material, or any one (or 40) of a billion different factors that can come in to play. So to say "it takes [X] time to release an anime series or movie in America" would be incorrect no matter how you filled that statement out. One thing's for sure; it has sped up a lot in recent years, although it still isn't fast enough.

As for EVA and Ponyo, both of them will likely arrive in relatively short order. As I mentioned in a previous column, there are very solid rumors going around that Evangelion 1.0 has been licensed and I can't imagine the company that picked it up sitting on it too long. As for Ponyo on a Cliff, Disney will release it whenever they feel like it; it is screening at the Venice Film Festival this year so a translation exists, and Disney will probably do what they usually do - a limited theatrical release followed by a 2-disc special edition DVD (and a Bluray version oh god please) loaded up with extra features starring Pixar honcho and chief Miyazaki ass-kisser, John Lasseter. I'd honestly expect to see both of these titles released at some point in 2009.

You often enlighten us about the popularity and stances of Japanese animation within America, but what can you tell us about the reverse?  How well does American (or Western in general) animation and comics fare in Japan? Do they have stores dedicated to those items? Conventions?

I know that the Powerpuff Girls got a local treatment in the form of "Powerpuff Girls Z".  Batman had a similar anime makeover for Gotham Knight, though it was made more for American audiences. The Harry Potter films seemed to do very well in Japanese box offices, as did many popular American movies along that trend (including such things as superhero movies).

Even so, I'd imagine that there wouldn't be as much interest in American animation as the majority of American animation is still aimed at the 6-13 crowd.  The introduction of things like Adult Swim along with Fox's animation line up offer more diversity, but that's about it.  I often hear about Japan's "xenophobia", which might also hinder a large following.

NOTE: since I'm feeling so crappy this week, I asked our beloved Director of New Media, Justin Sevakis, to pinch-hit for me on a question. Naturally he knocked it out of the park, in stark contrast to my usual terse half-assedness. Here's Justin's response:

The answer to this is pretty much exactly what happens to Japanese animation in America: some of it is so popular that it gets absorbed into their pop culture; the middle-of-the-road stuff is the dominion of animation nerds, and then there's a ton of stuff that just doesn't click with the Japanese taste on any level. Japan has never had anti-American xenophobia when it comes to devouring American TV and movies.

The top-of-the-heap animated features from the likes of Disney and Pixar are easily as mainstream in Japan as they are in the United States. There are plenty of hardcore Disney otaku over there; Toy Story toys can be found in Gatchapon machines. Mickey Mouse decals adorn backpacks and strollers. Smarmy, self-referential pop culture cartoons from DreamWorks Animation and its ilk just don't translate very well, but even their better films (the Shrek series, for example) still gets released over there and do decent business.

As for television cartoons, most of the time allotted to animation is already taken up by domestic product (or Disney), but occasionally a hit American show will get a Japanese company backing it, sometimes to the point where the series will get Japanese-produced spin-offs. The most obvious recent example of this is Powerpuff Girls, but Transformers had several Japan-only TV series, and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had an OAV. The Simpsons plays in dubbed form on Japanese TV, though it's somewhat adapted for local tastes. All of these are far more likely to get domestic sponsorship if there's some sort of merchandise angle, which is key to keeping long series on the air.

Less popular or edgier American shows might get a direct-to-video release or shown on Cable/Satellite channels, but by and large those get ignored. South Park airs on satellite channel WOWOW (though they, as well as the DVD release, omitted the infamous Chinpokomon episode), and has a small but devoted fan base. (I own a South Park doujinshi, actually. No, it's not dirty.) But ultimately, there are only so many cartoons even the most ardent fan can watch in a week, and there's SO much product out there that it's easy for even the domestic stuff to get lost.

American animation production is generally a LOT more expensive than in Japan, as American studios tend to value smoothness, lip sync and design uniformity over the freedom given to Japanese staff. Therefore the budget for a show like Powerpuff Girls will still rival that of a high end Japanese show like Fullmetal Alchemist. The end result is that it might make more financial sense for a sponsor to help craft a new show that suits their purposes than licensing one that already exists. I remember once we asked Utena director Kunihiko Ikuhara if he'd seen Powerpuff Girls, and his reaction to the show. His answer: "This cost... HOW much? And it looks like THAT?!"

No flake this week, just 5 glorious minutes of a baby bunny drinking formula.

That's better.

Here's last week's question:

From Aura Ichadora.:

I would have to say Jing: King of Bandits. Although the manga covers more story than the anime does with two series (the original 7 volumes, plus Twilight Tales), the 13-episode anime series and the OVA Seventh Heaven just had a more entertaining way of telling the story that the manga didn't. The anime has beautiful animation, wonderful music (Scudelia Electro did a great job), and there was still plenty of the comedy and action that the manga had but brought into a better light by the anime. And yes, the dub was excellent too (I actually find the dub to be a bit better than the Japanese track; am I crazy? Probably).
So I guess less is more (the anime is only 13 episodes and didn't even cover part of the first part of the manga or any of Twilight Tales), but still, the anime whoops some major butt over its manga counterpart, from the character aspect to the animation aspect.

From Alex Martin:

An anime that is better than the manga it is based on is a very rare thing for one main reason, the original author is the one who know's the story material the best.  however, every once in a while, you get a decent manga where it seems that the author didn't really have a clue where the story was gonna go for a while in, which can result in some of the same problems anime's have with fillers.

The anime i think is better than it's manga is a favorate of mine, Keroro Gunsō (Sgt. Frog) by yoshizake mine.  It's a story about a group of 5 frog like aliens who come to earth to invade it, but do a horrible, yet hilarious, job of it.  spread throughout is more than enough fanservice, and enough weird characters to make BLEACH almost seem to have a small cast.  But the thing is, like i said up above, the author didn't seem to know how the story was gonna go for a while.  Just introducing all 5 aliens took 7 volumes; many strange powers were used once, never explained, and never seen again; the titular character went through some fairly major design changes in the first volume or so.

Thankfully, the anime had the advantage of the story being around for a few years before it went into production, and many of the problems were fixed.  All the major characters were introduced in the first 15 or so episodes, any unnecessary powers were removed and a sort of explanation was given for all the important ones, and all the characters looked right from the beginning.  Much of the fanservice was also toned down, making the anime much more appropreate for a younger audience, and when the story is about cute bumbling aliens having adventures with some middle school age children, what age group do you think you should shoot for. 

Long story short, while manga's are usually better due to the original author's being diretly involved in them, anime's have the advantage of starting later, allowing them prior knowledge of what parts of the story are popular, what need's to be emphasized, and how the story is gonna go from day one.

From Anton Surgei:

An anime series better than the manga would definitely have to be D.Gray-man. Definitely D.Gray-man. But not only am I claiming that the anime was better, the FILLERS were actually almost better than the main plot's story too! All those good extra scenes - unlike most Naruto fillers - that the series can produce that the writer might have forgotten and wanted to add in. SPOILER WARNING
First of all, the anti-hero Kanda, despite being portrayed as a main character only showed in Volume 2 and much much later in Volume 10. BUT, the anime fixed this, adding fillers where we see into Kanda's personality and story, making him a much less flat though still largely stereotypical anti-hero.
Another filler actually lasted roughly 10 episodes, enough for the anime to devote a whole ending to it (ed4), showing the three main characters that surround the plot, two of which are filler-exclusive. This gave another opportunity to flesh out another flat character in the manga, Lulu Bell (who showed up originally in the manga for one battle), and even introduce some tear-jerking moments about the sad background of the series' main enemies, the Akuma, and the people that suffered from being hurt or turning into them.
My favorite parts of the anime is the addition of background stories for the useless characters, specifically three (Suman, Barry, General Yeegar) that died almost instantly after they showed up. Adding these scenes added tremendous connections of the viewer to the character, making the whole thing more intense and dramatic overall - even making you wish the characters didn't die despite the fact that you initially knew nothing about them if you read the manga first.
Probably the most important part is the addition of more action for the main character, because for anyone who's followed this series, Allen sucks and loses - a lot. With the addition of all these new cannon fodder in the anime, we get to see Allen kick a little more bad guy bootie... before he starts losing again.

From Skaly:

To answer a question like this, it helps when the show and the manga end up going their separate ways. This has happened with quite a few CLAMP stories. X is unfinished in manga form, but had a definite ending in the anime. Chobits had different endings as well. And Tsubasa diverged so far from the source material that most of the second season ended up being retconned (or simply negated) by the OVA. Only one of the shows I watched really stood out as being not just a departure from the source material, but an improvement: Angelic Layer.

The only thing the two had in common were the characters and the battles (and even the outcome of a certain pivotal battle was changed). It's almost as if they took the basic concepts and characters and just… did their own thing with it. And they added a bit of drama too. Basically, I cared about the characters in the anime more than I cared about them in the manga. The manga was fluff in comparison. (Well, yeah, it's all fluff, but we can't help what we like.)

I'm not saying Angelic Layer is the best anime ever, or even in my top 20, but I have no doubt in my mind that it's better than the manga.

From Joseph Costigan:

For almost every manga-based anime title, I'd say the original trumps the animation hands-down. But that was before I got my hands on Black Lagoon. I'd already been reading the manga scans for awhile (I was hooked) and when the reviews for the US DVD release came back positive I decided to crack open my wallet and give it a chance. The results greatly exceeded my expectations. It was so good and caught me so completely off guard, that when the second season's DVD release was in question, I found myself unable to watch the first season again until it had been confirmed. It was an aggravating reminder that I might not get my hands on the rest of the series.

To be fair, the advantage Black Lagoon's anime series has over the original manga is slight. Anyone who has enjoyed both versions knows the anime follows the manga almost perfectly. There's no loss of the manga's great art, well-written dialogue and individual concept. What gives the anime that extra little oomph is its visual medium, the fact that it is a television show. Black Lagoon is, at its core, a gritty, over-the-top, guns-blazing shooter romp with some deeper, dramatic elements adding juicy flavor. The anime, with the fluid action sequences (as opposed to static manga panels) creates a deeper atmosphere, with the sounds and moving colors adding to the feeling. That variety of seamless action works best when its unknowingly punched at you through a television, rather than picked up at your own pace through a book. An easy comparison would be a John Woo flick, where the constant, violent movement makes it hard to push pause until a scene is over, because the breather can break the flow of what's going on. As much as I love Black Lagoon's original manga version, I've never quite felt the same sense of, “I can't get up for a soda until after Revy pumps another round of lead into this neo-nazi's gut”, that I do with the anime.

Someone might take it that, based on my reasoning, I'd find any well-done, manga-based anime better than its original. But that's not the case. Genshiken, one of my favorite manga series, also has a good anime version. But because of its calmer subject matter and slower plot style, I'd say the manga version has the definite advantage. As a more dialogue and plot-focused story, it allows the reader time to think before moving on.

From Sno:

If there is one series that has a better anime than manga I would have to say it would be Gintama' Despite being a comedy with jokes that only really apply to the residents of Japan, Gintama' is much easier to understand than other random Japanese comedies such as FLCL (but there is the posibility that my friends and I don't understand the references). The voice actors for the whole series match their respective characters and Gintama' doesn't seem like Gintama' without the comedic commentary of Gintoki and the opening themes. Gintama's anime seems to make more references to material outside of the Shuiesha material and it isn't strained down due to twenty page releases. One of the largest complaints I hear about the Gintama manga, that the art can sometimes be hard to follow, has been solved with a crisp and clear adaption. Both have their highlights sure but I think one of the anime's greatest strengths is its ability to use more recent material from the manga and translate it to the anime and even expand on it. I admit I am no fan of filler material, but in Gintama' and most comedies, the filler expands on the story and makes it much more tolerable to withstand some of the less interesting episodes. It is sad that the Viz Media release of Gintama' has somewhat americanized down a few of the references and has still not released the anime due to the risk of it not withstanding among many of the popular series similar to their previous release of Hikaru no Go. Despite great material from both mediums, even my anti-otaku friends still get a kick out of the Gintama' anime.

From Zorpheus:

For me, it amazed me how much better the Trigun anime was in comparison to the manga it was based on.  The main reason for this, I think, is the characterization.  Vash the Stampede's pacifist nature is better defined and given more instances where it is put to the test, and I also like how his feelings towards Knives was portrayed in the Anime:  He still seemed to like Knives as a person but hated his behavior, while the Manga seems to give him an almost uncharacteristic hatred towards the man.  Also, Meryl comes off as much more mature and level-headed in the anime, while her behavior in the the manga often is just short of... wacky.  Milly also gets more character development in being less second-banana and more childlike and unexpectedly insightful.

There are other reasons, too, of course.  The animation adds a lot to the show, especially to showcase Vash's stunts during his gunfights, and the musical score adds incredibly to the atmosphere of the scenes.  I suppose a lot of the Anime's strengths also have to do with the fact that the show just plain has more time to lay everything out for the viewer to digest in away that the original manga's short run (not counting the Maximum series, which goes beyond the Anime) just plain didn't get a chance to.

To this day, the Trigun anime remains my favorite anime of all time.  The manga its based on is... packed away in a box somewhere, I think...

Finally, from Sunny:

Inuyasha the anime is better than Inuyasha the manga, because it ended years ago.

So here's the question for this week, and yes it's intentionally stupid as hell:

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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