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Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

Well, what a week it's been! I'm about to hit level 8 in Fallout 3 though so I'm going to have to make this quick, because those Super Mutants ain't gonna blow their own heads off.

While I'm not alien (or opposed) to the use of mythology or folklore in the media, I can't help but wonder why so many anime tend to be based off of 'Journey to the West'. (Examples: 'Saiyuki', 'DragonBall', 'Houshin Engi'--a.k.a., 'Soul Hunter', et cetera). Wasn't that a Chinese story, to begin with? And...weren't China and Japan...uh...enemies, at one point...?

Well, it was a hugely popular work of fantasy and remains so to this day. The story permeated Japanese pop culture and obviously resonated there; hell, the story is popular here too, and the Monkey King character has popped up in a number of places (according to one source, he was even on Sesame Street at one point, and in this "Complete Making of Indiana Jones" book I have, it says that originally Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was going to be Indiana Jones and the Monkey King, which would feature Jones meeting the simian himself, who had magical powers or something - and yes, this was all George Lucas' idea). Some works of fiction and art defy what we consider traditional culture boundaries; Mickey Mouse and Superman aren't exclusively popular in America.

To address your last point, I don't see why Japan and China's former international rivalry has anything to do with anything. It's like asking why the Walt Disney Company has so many movies based on German fairy tales because... uh... weren't we like... enemies at some point?

Hey, Answerman? Have you ever felt, well, like the anime fandom's one big pile of 'insider information'? Best way I could put it, sorry.

Thing is, when I see discussions on boards (like the ANN forums, haha), or in real life, like in manga/anime stores and what not, people are always discussing and talking about the 9001 shows I apparently missed over the last week alone. Forgive me if I sound confrontational, but by God, where do they find the time and/or money to watch all this? It's not just the schoolkids either; college students, 9-5 workers like me; they all seem to be experts on anime, while here I am needing three weeks to get through Eureka 7 thanks to my workload. I'm seriosuly weided out and, sad though it may seem, somewhat lonely, as there isn't really anyone in my real-life social circles who I can talk about anime with.

I think it's a mindset, honestly; I think some of us (and I count myself among this group) tend to overplay how much time is actually needed to get through these series. If you skip the opening and closing credits, the average anime episode is around 17 minutes long. You can get through 3 of those in an hour. Let's say you have 5 hours of downtime after you get home from work. If you wanted to, you could power through a 12-episode series and still have time left over to pay the bills, download some porn and have a shot of brandy before bed. If you were watching a longer series over the weekend, you could get through big chunks, and then run through the rest during the week. It's about rate of consumption and how you manage your time. Further, not every episode is treated as a big deal, to be mulled over and blogged about for an hour after viewing. They just shoot their way through these series, and then talk about them the next day.

It's also powered by the community itself. If you want to feel truly "involved" in anime fandom, especially on the internet, then you kind of have to keep up with the newest shows and watch them when they come out, when everyone else is paying attention and talking about the latest episode. Otherwise it's no fun, really, because you're not part of the big dominating discussion of the moment. It helps if you don't really have much of a social life or a lot of other interests - which, I mean, chastise me for saying so but I think it's safe to say is a fairly common trait for anime fans who manage to keep up with 10 shows per season. Hell, even if they do have a social life and other interests, you could still keep up with plenty of new shows during the week. Again, if you skip the credits, the average episode is around 17 minutes. That's a smoke break or a trip to the gas station for most people. You can cram it in anywhere in your schedule and be no worse for the wear.

Not that I'm suggesting that everyone who claims to follow 10 different ongoing shows per week is an expert at time management, but it's not some impossible task to keep up with a show or two during the week.

Is it just me, or is the entire anime world in PERIL?? Geneon's dead, and other companies are dropping or delaying series left and right, and sales are tanking all over! I recently witnessed the collapse of the sacred Saturday night anime block on Adultswim, and Cartoon Network is cancelling most of its anime programming as well. What is going on here??? It seeems like the American anime industy is having a rapid meltdown. Are we doomed to live in an America without anime, or am I just being paranoid? Is there anything we can do to prevent the anime apocolypse? 

Greetings from the future, Panicky Chicken Little Anime Fan from 2007. I am speaking to you from 2008, and your prediction that the anime apocalypse is upon us... turned out to be a wise prediction indeed.

Armageddon happened on July 3rd, 2008; ground zero was in Los Angeles, California, at the site of Anime Expo 2008. At first we thought it was an earthquake. I was in the Funimation panel, and the ground began shaking violently; some in the audience started screaming, others ducking beneath their chairs. Suddenly, and without warning, we heard the first crack. The ground began tearing itself open, swallowing Funimation PR representative Lance Heiskell whole (his last words echo in my ear to this day: "Don't forget, Darker than Black volume one releases on November Twenty-fiiiiiiiiiifffftthhhhhhhh"), a mountain of DVDs meant to be given to eager fans in attendance began spilling into the vile canyon, which glowed red with bubbling lava, an ocean of wretched limbs protruding its rocky walls, grabbing wildly for prey. I ran from its jagged edge, which grew by the second, watching in horror as fans trapped in the middle of the room fell to their burning deaths, some clawing at the ground to clutch the scattered promotional copies of Ouran High School Host Club Volume One before plummeting to their fiery demise. I knew I had to flee, and find shelter - but the worst was yet to come.

As I exited to the convention center lobby, leaping over the fainted bodies of fans overwhelmed by the chaos, a panorama worthy of Hieronymus Bosch awaited me. The wailing and screaming of countless fans filled the expansive space, the stench of death and the burning smell of plastic filling the air as stacks of DVDs, capsule figures and moe girl statues with squishable breasts melted before my very eyes, seemingly by supernatural force. The lobby floor began to collapse inward, swallowing all who dared tread its rupturing surface. It was then the locusts came, bubbling out of the great chasm; hideous beasts they were, with eyes of pure obsidian black, wings of corrupted gossamer and slashing talons to rend asunder the unworthy. As I ran for the exit, a portly young lady bravely attempted to send one savage insect back into the abyss, brandishing a wooden paddle bearing the word "YAOI" in bold letters. It would be her final stand; in the flash of an eye and the swipe of a serrated pincher, all that remained of the girl was her severed head, cushioned softly by her fluorescent pink wig.

Goodnight, proud warrior. Perhaps only in eternity will your dreams of Naruto lovingly penetrating Sasuke's tender anus be realized.

It was just after I'd scrambled out the blood-stained glass entrance doors to the Los Angeles Convention Center when the Heavens erupted. A piercing, head-shattering trumpet sounded, and the clouds parted, a blinding holy light shining down, overwhelming the senses. Fires began to erupt, the convention center set aflame by the heavenly might of the Messiah. Truly, we were being cleansed, and the savior had returned.

I dropped to my knees and dared open my eyes to gaze upon the visage of the one who would judge me. He stood what seemed a mile high, arms crossed in righteous judgment. His hair appeared to be aflame, a brilliant shock of yellow that burned the eyes. A lavish orange jumpsuit he wore, tied about the waist with a brilliant blue sash. Gazing directly upon the Messiah for only a moment, my field of vision turned a blistering white, and I could see no more. It was then I heard our savior speak - deep and commanding, not speaking to me but inside me, penetrating my very soul to communicate His judgment.

the voice boomed. My day had come.

"Spare us, O Lord! We know not what we do!" I pleaded. "Otaku may be a wretched folk, bathed in sin, but we throw ourselves at the feet of your divine mercy!"




"No, Lord! I beg thee!" but judgment had come. Our fate was decided.

Some were admitted into the holy kingdom, spirited away from the earth alongside their healthy DVD collections, their bedrooms and basements empty, having left this life for the next. Sinners were cast down, sent screaming into an eternity of punishment, chained to computers equipped only with a 56k modem, with CPUs too slow to run H.264 videos. Then there were the survivors - we who drifted in between sin and saintliness, left to wander an Earth devoid of anime, an eternal purgatory. All in all, there were only slightly over 9,000 of us left.

I am one of few survivors, living in this ruined land. I type this from a small studio apartment in Encino, my only reminder of the days before the apocalypse a singed DVD copy of Steel Angel Kurumi volume 2, a relic some would consider of serious value in these end days. Some wander from town to town, their eyes dead, hands outstretched. Weathered, beaten Fruits Basket hats adorn their unwashed heads; "Pocky?" they ask, knowing full well the futility of it all. They scour through Best Buy DVD racks, their fingernails chipped and bleeding, searching for something, anything with at least 5 episodes and a decent subtitle track. It is a painful life, one of eternal longing and defeat.

So heed my warning well. You gaze into your very future this day. Warn your fellow fans; I would suggest fashioning a sandwich board sign with a potent message of impending doom, and standing in front of your local Suncoast so as to maximize the number of fans who will hear your important message.

It does pay to read the news sometimes.

i have sent to newtype for a new subscription, but i have no reply.  i would like to get the new one coming out all you have to do is contact me:

You're going to be waiting a loooooooong time for that next issue, buddy.

And yes, before you ask, the address he listed was "Under A Rock".

Let's keep this thing rolling.

One new rule before we get started: your answer to this week's question MUST HAVE "Answerfans" in the email subject header somewhere. Otherwise it will be ignored. Here's last week's question:

From Max Engel:

As far as American film adaptions of anime go, I think a Gunbuster movie has potential. It could have the guy who played Two-Face from the Dark Knight (his name escapes me at the moment) as Coach Ota, and would have at least one Van Halen song in the soundtrack. They might change Jung Freud from being Soviet to something else, since the USSR collasped after Gunbuster was released. Near the end, they could have Jung building Nono to greet Noriko and Kazumi. I don't know if the "Welcome Back" on the Earth should be before or after the credits, like how they had Nick Fury in Iron Man or Professor X's new body in X-Men 3. I don't know how it would do, but I'd see it for sure.

From Corey Long:

Delusional as it sounds, I think "Urusei Yatsura" would make a great crazy and randy teen comedy. The premise of an earthling demi-nerd and an alien princess who meet, get engaged, then fall in love (sorta) works well reversioned into an 80's style PG-13 high school comedy. The setting would be moved to the U.S., perhaps some suburban area in California. The names of the Earth characters would change-- but not necessarily their personalities or situations-- while the aliens would keep their names-- is it any stranger for a character from another planet to be named Lum as opposed to Obi-Wan? True, some of flavor from Takahashi's manga, and the TV series and movies based on it, would be lost: the references to mythology and folklore, the play on language. As an adaptation, this would be more in the spirit of movies like CLUELESS or 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU.

The story would be mostly episodic, combining plots from the manga/anime with new incidents into a "boy-meets-girl/boy-and-girl-fight/girl-leaves-boy/boy-gets-girl-back/repeat" narrative. As outlined, I'd be able to keep most of the main characters from the series, and there's a lot of characters in "Urusei Yatsura." Even though the location would be different, I'd keep the eighties period setting since it just feels right, both for the tone and flavor of the material, and the resonance it would share with movies of the genre (like John Hughes' various classics.)

I haven't given much thought to casting. I've heard that casting directors like teen movies because they're free to seek out exciting new talent instead of relying on the same pool of names on the "A" or "B" lists. I do think that effects capabilities are up to the job. My only concern is how to render the character of Ten, a precocious, foul-mouthed alien toddler who literally floats about most of the time, in a way that isn't fake or creepy-looking. I guess the talking baby in those E*Trade commercials means it could be done.

Unfortunately, even if you had one hundred million dollars for production, I seriously doubt Ms. Takahashi would agree to the issue of rights. However, I still really like the idea, so I'll go ahead and write a screenplay draft, then try and use it as one of the projects for my masters.

From Victoria Peridot:

I think Ai Yazawa's Nana is the best anime candidate for production as an American film.  And no, I'm not just biased because it's my favorite series.  There are no campy special effects or imaginary settings that challenge the suspension of belief.  The characters are believable.  Their problems and conflicts are real.  Plus, it addresses a topic that is often thrown in the backseat of American film-- friendship.

Oh, gag me!  Friendship?  How Disney can you get?  Yeah, yeah, I know.  But if you're saying that, you haven't seen the series.  It makes you want to call up all of your friends to tell them how much you love them and to invite them over for a giant Kumbaya-meeting.  I don't cry at movies often, but at the end of the Japanese live-action adaptation, I was bawling like a baby in the arms of my best friend.

Of course, there's still the problem of the culture gap, even though Nana is set in the modern-day world.  It's set in Japan and includes many cultural references and celebrations that would be lost on an American audience.  The wonderful thing about this series is that it has its own culture-bridging device built in: a character named Shin.  Having grown up more or less as an orphan, he's as clueless as the typical American viewer when it comes to all things cultural, and the other characters patiently (albeit incredulously) explain traditions, holidays, and even certain foods to him.

Some ideas for the leading ladies, picked from mainstream actresses:

Oosaki Nana- Ellen Page

Komatsu Nana (Hachi)- Hayden Panettiere

But I think it might be better for the Nanas to be portrayed by less-recognizable faces, to avoid any preconceptions about their characters.  Whatever the cast, if Nana were made into an American film, you can bet your bottom dollar I'd be first in line for the first screening.

From Jin H Kim:

Black Lagoon is the obvious choice for anime turned into an American film.  Black Lagoon is set in a pseudo-realistic setting that could really exist in the modern world.  It doesn't resort to crazy magic or technobabble, which allows a movie translation to play it very gritty and dramatic, allowing it to appeal to a broader market than, say, a live action Dragonball Z which I'm sure most people probably can't see being successful. 

Movies like Harry Potter can still be popular without being more reality-grounded, but Black Lagoon doesn't have the enormous fan-base that will automatically make a movie adaptation a big hit.  That means that an anime based movie would need to be able to be separated from the oh-so-common stigma that anime is for dorks or fanboys.

While some of the elements of the show stretch credibility somewhat (Revy's unreal two handed pistolcraft), it's no worse than other titles of a similar vein like Tomb Raider or the upcoming Punisher.  It really would have a great chance of bridging the gap between anime fans and non-fans without requiring a lot of arm twisting on the part of the fans.  Heck, it may even act as a “gateway drug” that might bring around some people to be more accepting of a form of media many of us enjoy.

From Garrett Schneider:

The problem with adapting one medium to another is that ultimately you run into things that just don't translate. Anime, for me, is a perfect example of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk (or "integrated artwork" that synthesizes poetry, music, theater, and the visual arts) because everything must be designed from the ground up and is given a certain amount of stylizing. Sudden camera cuts or shots are actually passible and exaggeration and distortion of the characters (sweatdrop, anger tick, face fault) is almost a necessity sometimes. There are plenty of series (Dragonball and Dragonball Z, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, One Piece, ect.) and genres (harem comedies, magical girls) that don't translate well because they are so dependent on having beautiful character designs and the atmosphere of a fairy tale.

That being said, I think the best anime to adapt to live-action are those that make a point of being realistic. I would like to see either Neon Genesis Evangelion or Cowboy Bebop adapted (and judging from the way things are going, I think it will happen). I'd like to see a more independent/arthouse director like Christopher Nolan take helm of these projects, since these two film series (yeah, I said series) would need to be designed with the worn feel, a darker tone, and a more character-driven story to really be faithful adaptations rather than just a Hollywood moneymaker (*cough* Dragonball the Movie *cough*). In terms of actors, I wouldn't say anything until I could get some actors on a casting call and have them try and read for characters, because just shouting some now-popular names does not promise a really great performance (if we had let Batman fans cast 'The Dark Knight,' there's no way Heath Ledger's name would have even come up), though I could see Keanu Reeves playing Spike Spiegel, just because he has the same cool and carefree attitude. From "BCD Masamune":

From Justin Davis:

Off the top of my head the one anime I feel would translate well to an American film is the classic OVA Gunsmith Cats.  I would have the direction and production handled by Matt Greenfield and David Williams, yes that Matt Greenfield and David Williams.  Seeing as how this is one of ADV's oldest properties I would like to see them handle it.  For one they know the source material very well and two it could be potentially very cheap to make.  If not those two then someone who is good at directing crime dramas.  Maybe someone who has worked on episodes of CSI or one of the Law and Orders.  But my dream director would have to be Quentin Tarantino. As far As cast, I'm a bit sketchy, I would probably like to see some TV stars or relative unknowns to star in it.  But for the stars I'd say Jorja Fox (CSI) as Rally Vincent and Hayden Panettiere as May Hopkins.

Finally, a novel by Matt Wolfrom:

The obvious answer to me would have to be Cowboy Bebop more than any other anime I've seen (and there have been quite a few) because I honestly believe that it would succeed if directed, cast, and advertised right.

Let me start with the easier, but often neglected, task of advertising for this film. The idea is rather simple, but could be quite powerful if done correctly. The way to market this film , odd as it may sound, is to advertise it as something that it isn't. Now, before fans of this classic anime start trying to find out where I live so that they can hunt me down, let me explain what I mean. When I say that it should be advertised as something it isn't, I mean it should be advertised as a high-budget (which hopefully it would be), summer, action blockbuster, much in the way that The Dark Knight was. Would it be action-packed like The Dark Knight? Certainly, but also like The Dark Knight, it would (again, hopefully) have much more substance to it. Bebop is more than the shootouts and the spaceship dogfights. It is a character study that focuses in on the lives of 4 (5, if you count Ein) very different characters and really allows us, as the audience, to take a deeper look into their pasts, as well as their present-day lives and really allow us to get to know these characters while they are trying to make a living many years into the future. However, movies that are brilliant character studies are usually not released until the fall and winter months in order to recieve attention for Oscar season and usually tend to make very little money unless they are awarded Best Picture, which isn't exactly the kind of response that movie producers would like to recieve from a high-budget film. So, in order to make bank off this one, they have to pull out all the stops on advertising while still maintaining secrecy about how the movie actually plays out, much like The Dark Knight, which was advertised as a action-packed summer blockbuster of good vs evil, but actually delivered a much more complex and darker storyline than many people, myself included, were expecting. That being said however, they can not afford to over-simplify. If they hinge the whole film's advertisements on the concept of "bounty-hunters in space", this movie will flop worse than Speed Racer.

Onward to the director. I'll sum it up because the last paragraph was a little long. If Christopher Nolan or David Fincher make this movie, it will be golden. Nolan's fantastic and complex character studies in The Dark Knight have proven to me, and hopefully the rest of the world, that he knows how to build and develop great characters into what they should be while balancing between maintaining the accuracy to the source material and making the characters realistic and believable. Fincher is fantastic at this as well, but also brings some brilliantly technical aspects to his films. Remember the Brad Pitt blips in the early scenes of Fight Club at Edward Norton's workplace and doctor's office? What if Spike had flashes of his past pop in and out on him (and the audience) like that, only to be revealed in depth later in the movie? I, for one, think that would be tremendous. Yes, Zack Snyder is also a name I pondered about for this movie, but until I see Watchmen, I'm not committing to that idea.

Finally, the cast.

Now, many people I've talked to have said that Spike Spiegel's character is impossible to cast correctly. I disagree, but you do have to look past the fro in order to find someone suitable. My ideal candidate is Brad Pitt, and I'll tell you why. You may or may not think he's lame for being so frequently sighted in the media as the masculine half of Brangelina, but beyond that public persona is the persona he brings with him to the screen. In my mind, he is the slickest and coolest guy in films today, excluding the obvious Samuel L. Jackson. His character in Fight Club was the perfect smooth-operating bad-ass that everyone, including Edward Norton's character, wanted to be. However, it is his ability to make these characters' underlying brilliance shine that makes him the perfect candidate for Spike, with or without the fro.

Who would play his counterpart and occasionally more level-headed partner, Jet Black, come alive? That's a complicated one to be sure. If people would forgive me for adjusting Jet's race a little, I would have to go with Samuel L. Jackson. Spike and Jet are the two coolest cats (if you'll forgive the outdated expression) in the Solar System. Why not have the two coolest actors in Hollywood playing them? Plus, if you tone down the exuberance of his ninja in Afro Samurai just a tad to the level of his character in Snakes On A Plane, Jackson's Jet could be the level-headed, but still cool foil to Pitt's trouble-making Spike.

As for Faye Valentine and Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivruski IV, i.e. Ed, you will probably have to look outside of Hollywood to find the actor's suitable to play these roles. I haven't stumbled across a woman in Hollywood since Lucy Liu ten years ago who I think could portray the cunning and quick-talking, yet inwardly vulnerable Faye Valentine and I sure as hell haven't seen a child-actor who could play a girl who looks like a boy with ADHD up the wall like Ed does, but then again, you don't see characters like that everyday, so maybe there is somebody, we just haven't seen that from them yet.

Ein? Simple. Breed a corgi and train it to use its nose to type. Easy enough.

Now for the bad news. Now that Heath Ledger has passed away, I don't know of a single actor in Hollywood who could pull off the sinister brutality of Vicious unless we can bring a young Malcom McDowell, fresh off A Clockwork Orange back from the 70s to play the role, but more on him in a second. Javier Bardem might be able to pull it off, but I also had him in mind to play Mad Pierrot if he ever showed up in the movie.

Finally, a quick note on a small role done right, in order to fill the roles of the Red Dragon Clan's Council of Elders, who, as there names indicate, are really old with an air of sinister about them, Malcolm McDowell would fit perfectly if, instead of doing the twin effect they've done in The Parent Trap, you instead make it into a triplet effect, with McDowell playing all three of the council's members. In order to distinguish the characters, you would have to dub over two of his on-screen clones, but that's a small price to pay to have his sinister combo of presence and voice sitting in the thrones of the most powerful crime syndicate in the solar system.

So to all you fans of the series out there, this isn't blasphemy. Bebop can be made and be successful. It just has to be done right. Oh, and also be limited to no more than 3 movies total if sequels are going to be made.

So here's the question for this week. It's a repeat, but we haven't done it in a while and people love it, soooooooooo:

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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