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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Wow, it almost seems surreal, but... welcome to Hey, Answerman! Surreal in the sense that I had the sneaking feeling of dread that I was going to completely destroy this column and enrage all you diehard fans and readers, thereby leading to the collapse of Anime News Network as we have heretofore known it. Or perhaps I was just a little bit nervous and over-dramatic.

Without further ado and worry, let's begin! Also, obviously next week is Christmas so the column will be on hiatus, but I will return the following week to power on through New Year's! HUZZAH!

Hey, Answerman! (that was weirdly satisfying....) At what point do you think the line should be drawn when it comes to loving anime? Hmm.... The wording for that was a bit off.... What I mean is, when do you think a person has taken their fandom too far? I've heard dozens of opinions, but most people draw a line where they think fandom goes too far. In my opinion, liking anime crosses that line when a person ignores their family and friends in favor of anime, or damages their health by watching too much (i.e. not sleeping or eating because they wouldn't be able to stand not watching anime for that long or damaging their eyesight by watching all the time). What do you think?

There certainly is a line, and it is long, dark, and troubled. It's a line that showers irregularly, has consistent Dorito-stained lips, and carries an immense knowledge of pornography in the same manner that people have PhD's in Microbiology.

Really, though, I'm a pretty laid back guy; I have a laissez-faire attitude about things that don't cause any harm to yourself or others. And being a basement-dwelling supernerd is mostly that. To my knowledge, there has been no record of any injuries or deaths by way of a faded Sailor Moon T-shirt, Gundam model kit, or yaoi paddle. I imagine that if I didn't have an active social and professional life, the life of a supernerd would be an enviably simple one. O, the stress-free life of sponging off of my parents' income while watching fansubs and playing Korean MMO's all day!

Of course, as though it needs to be said, that isn't much of a life. In fact, it is the distinct opposite of one. It's a pitiable existence, and one needs only to look at the sad, callow faces of these individuals when they leave their hovels for conventions, their one social excursion every year, to know that their capacity to love and live have withered and blackened, replaced only with the addictive desire to consume more and more of their time-sucking hobbies to placate them.

But that's old hat, really. The life of the pale-skinned basement shut-in has been mocked and ridiculed since the days of Star Trek: The Next Generation. By and large, people who aren't yet completely dead inside seem to know when too much is too much. If you haven't left your house for days because of an intense World of Warcraft / Bleach-watching marathon, and you DON'T take a good long look in the mirror and say to yourself, “that kinda sucked,” then all is lost. Like everything else in life, it's about finding the right balance between staying healthy and motivated and socially engaged, and spending some quality time with yourself and the things that bring you comfort and joy.

(The hypocrisy of the above statements being published on a website that represents an empire that would crumble should everyone who read it suddenly get real lives and abandon their geek hobbies is not one that is lost on me. I just thought I should point that out.)

For about two years now I have pretty much stopped my spending in regard to anime. Even before they released any players I have been holding out for Blu Ray Discs. Still waiting on a Brave Story date after they put out the full novel, video game and horrible manga, but as of yet, nothing. To add insult to injury the Japanese BDs are region-free but never have English subtitles. Are things so bad that companies haven't even begun to test the waters? I remember hearing about ADV rolling out a whole line of BDs but ever since all I've heard are horror stories on the ADV front. Ban Dai America are offering a few at their usual insane prices. I see Funimation are putting out a few slowly and steadily which is cool and of course Sony's on board with stuff like Paprika and Tekkon Kinkreet. I think anime and animation in general are one of the mediums that would benefit the most from HD encoding with all the jaggy lines and jittery pan shots that are all too apparent on dvd, but even if they're using them for capacity purposes it would be a welcome option.

So I guess what I'm asking is when we'll see a bit more activity on the Blu Ray front and as an insider do you know of any particular campaigns from anime companies now that players are under $200? Thanks and Welcome to the Column.

As a recent Blu-Ray adopter, allow me to say that Blu-Ray totally rules and is awesome. I, too, am now stricken with fear of buying anything on DVD should a superior Blu-Ray edition come along in the future. That said, I wouldn't count on seeing too many anime releases on it anytime soon.

Once again, I call upon the wisdom of our resident Director of New Media, Justin Sevakis:

“There are a lot of reasons you won't see many anime on Blu-Ray, and it's the same reasons you don't see many independent movies on Blu-Ray either, and it's all about cost.

First and foremost, the technology licensing fees that companies have to pay to even be ALLOWED to publish something on Blu-Ray are completely insane. The costs of licensing alone are what most anime companies spend on dubbing. And those fees don't count the cost of production and replication. AND the higher cost of authoring the video for the discs themselves, since there are only a few authoring studios in the country that have the technical infrastructure prepared, in addition to being capable of handling the intense workload required for a Blu-Ray release. As a result, the only studios you see even toying with the format are Funimation and Sony, and even then they probably see it as more of an investment than anything else, since they probably aren't breaking even.

Another big issue is the worry that Japanese companies have about reverse-importing, since Japan and the US share the same Blu-Ray region code. Japanese fans would be more likely to import the US release since we sell them a lot cheaper here than in Japan.”

If that all sounds dour, and it is, just remember that Blu-Ray is still an early format. Hell, HDTV's are still only in little over a quarter of US homes. When adoption rates increase and the sheer cost of production comes down, I'm sure we'll see more and more anime in delectable, sumptuous high definition.

Until then, you can totally import quite a number of quality titles from Japan – I'm quite tempted myself to blow 180 dollars alone on owning both Akira and Memories. Tempted, I'll repeat, but not quite willing.

The anime industry has been doing poorly for the last couple years. Is the recession we're heading into going to break the camel's back?

That's a deceptively simple-sounding yet incredibly dense question. It's also kinda impossible to answer – I think of all the lessons to be learned about the recent catastrophic collapse of our entire economic mindset is that, really, nothing is certain. Especially in regards to what is, at its core, disposable entertainment.

Now if you ask me what I think: since obviously all of our wallets are getting a little tighter, we're going to buy even fewer DVDs, which is kind of a problem since that's really where anime companies make all of their money. That'll have the usual consequences; companies will be too scared to take a risk on an unknown property and as such, we'll see fewer new shows or movies or whatever getting licensed. Those same companies will scrounge for new ways to repackage and re-sell their top titles, exploring and investing in new methods of distribution. I feel like we're about to hit a renaissance here in regards to digital distribution, via download or internet streaming, but if you read last week's column you'll know that that comes with its own particular hurdles. In short, it won't be very pretty.

Nonetheless, I sincerely doubt that the entire anime industry will crumble into a nuclear-holocaust situation. The “core” anime market, which is to say, YOU guys, has existed pretty much in its present state for nearly ten years. Just by those numbers alone, so long as these companies please and provide for their dedicated fans, it's rather impossible for the entire US anime industry to explode in a massive cloud of bankruptcy and fiscal shame. Everyone likes to entertain these nightmarish stories of annihilation, but anime itself has ingrained itself just firmly enough in our pop-culture to be a continuing force, even during these trying times of The Great Depression 2: The Depressing-er.

Last week we didn't have a flake - and it looks like we won't have one for a while, so it's a good thing we launched "Hey, Answerpets!", because you guys obliterated my inbox with photos of your furry friends. While we're all waiting around for someone to send in a frothingly angry letter about how Goku could kick Lyndon B. Johnson's ass, I'll just run a few reader pet photos. Sounds great!!

First up, from friend of the site Sara Pocock:

"My Siamese-mix Maya, the most beautiful cat in the entire world."

Next, from Emma Limperis-Soward:

"Persephone. She's half a year old."

Finally, from 'topleka':

"His name is Mika and he likes sleeping, food, and stepping on people. In his spare time he invites strangers to visit our house when we are out."

Don't feel bad if your pet didn't make it this time; we got hundreds of responses and obviously can't post 'em all, so keep an eye on this spot.

Here's the question from last week:

From Shalomet Winters:

Embarrassing convention experiences, like...

... the time I accidently gored Vic Mignogna with my Ulquiorra mask in the Dealer's room at I-Con?

... the time a five year old chased me down because he wanted my autograph (I was dressed as Edward Elric) at the NY Comic-Con?

Well, the two of those don't even stack up to what happened to me at Otakon a few years ago. Here is a little backstory. I am now in my 20s, so I was still nineteen at the time, but I have always been very short, muscular, and rectangular. I'm also an albino, so I don't see very well, especially in daylight (photophobia). In addition I have strabismus (cross-eyes, so no peripheral vision), and, since most anime characters don't wear glasses, I usually leave mine in my case in my camera bag, and have someone walk with me at conventions.

I thought it would be fun to do Hitsugaya Toushirou at Otakon, and it was my first time using the costume. He's short, white hair, and a similar voice pitch to mine, and pretty easy to make. I had a 6 1/2 Kenpachi with me as my pair of eyes.

Neither of us were prepared for the onslaught of fangirls. Especially the Matsumotos.

One particularly energetic one blindsided me and proceeded to pull off the "Matsumoto trick", ie, when Mtaumoto, who is much taller than Hitsugaya, runs up to him straight on and his head is at the height of her... bosom. And pushes his head between her... melons. It was all to quick for anyone else around us to react.

And that's when she realized something very important.

I'm female. And the 6 1/2 tall Kenpachi behind me... was my boyfriend.

From Allison Walker:

My most unpleasant convention experience did not come from the strangers around me, but from the very group I went with. A friend of mine (and her friends) convinced me to go to middle-sized affair near home. It was a proud, mother-like moment for me - my little babies were going to the first convention. Most of them either purchased their costumes online while the others assembled outfits from bits of clothing found in stores. I'm okay with that.

The unpleasant part was on the way home, during the unforgivably long car ride. They started to insult other cosplayers costumes. Someone's outfit didn't make sense or she needed to spend more time on hers or oh my god his outfit looked horrible - those kind of things. Some of the costumes didn't look good, I won't dispute that. BUT, all of those costumes were made with the same heart-felt care and pure desire to cosplay. Not everyone has "1337 sewing skills" or the money/time to invest, like the glamourous cosplayers do. My friends have even less room to speak, since they purchased their costume. I really wanted to explain to them that they needed to try their hand at making a complicated costume before offering 'insight' on proper cosplay. But, I kept my mouth shut, and I hope it was just the high from their first convention.

From Max Engel:

I've been to a con only once, and it was this year at the New York Anime Festival. It was good as a whole, yes, but if this counts as a bad experience, there was a single moment where I saw a bunch of yaoi fangirls crowding around two chubby guys making out. The girls were cheering like it was WWE or something. Kind of a laughable publicity stunt, to be honest.

From Sheila Antonio:

My worst - and last - anime convention experience would have to be last year's Anime Vegas. I spent 2 months working on a Fan Art book to get the English voice actor's autographs. I was almost done with the signatures so my boyfriend and I went to the Naruto Cast Panel to kill some time before they do their scheduled autograph session afterwards. Due to the staff's lack of communication and organization, the panel turned into an Otaku Q&A session.Young "fans" with their eBay-bought Akatsuki costumes and fairy wings and UKE paddles asked the cast the dumbest questions, like "Why doesn't Naruto ever age?", "Will Sasuke ever be nice to Naruto?", and, of course, "What's going to happen with those Naruto fillers?" The cast almost never had a chance to talk more about their work or themselves. Poor Yuri Lowenthal had to talk as Sasuke just so he can say "Naruto" and make the fangirls squeal. We got so fed up having to hear them ask more stupid questions that we left immediately. I was so disappointed because I spent so much time working on this personal project and it was ruined so quickly. I haven't gone back since then.

From Taisa:

Animethon XIII. After spending half my money in the dealer's room, I went to meet up with my friends in Artist's Alley. When I stopped to take a picture of some cosplayers, I put my bag of newly purchased merchandise on the floor. When I went to pick my bag back up, it was gone.  Someone at the convention stole everything I had bought that day, including a limited edition boxset of Wolf's Rain and some art I bought in Artist's Alley.

From Lumicite:

Over the last few years I have attended all of the manga, anime, and comic conventions in the NYC area.  I am a teacher so I can attend a few hours before the convention begins and avoid the crowds. Since I buy about fifteen manga titles a month to stock my student's manga library, I appreciate it when a convention rolls around because I can save a big chunk of change with the deep discounts that many vendors offer.

Lately, however, I haven't been able to take advantage of the early hours so I have had to go on my buying spree between 4 and 5 pm on opening day. Now only the hard core fans are there at this time but my beef is with the Cosplay girls who are trolling for guys while I am trolling for the most titles for the least amount of money.  Ladies, believe me, I remember what it was like to have to plant myself in a well lit area and display my stuff in order to get some much anticipated male attention for the evening. But can you try not to do it right between the A section and the W section of the manga tables. Yeah, I know this is a high traffic area, and yes, you do look really cute in that outfit, and sure your high pitched yammering about your favorite title is scintillating conversation that will surely attract the attention of the gorgeous manga vendor; but ladies I am trying to get some bang for my buck here! I need to quickly thumb through those titles that you and your girlfriend are blocking in order to be sure that I have number whatever of whatever manga my students are currently screaming for; but you are in my way. Move when I politely ask you to excuse me.  Go stand over by the plushies and the key chains and let a working mom get home with her pile of goodies before the trains get crowded and it starts to rain. It's a long haul from the Javitts Center to the Path trains girls, so keep on rolling and happy hunting.

Finally, from Amy:

A-kon 16
If I could teach any teen girl one rule about who to invite to go on a convention with you, I would teach "Avoid the ass-hole/spoiled child/wet blanket/irresponsible person at all costs, no matter what benefit they may bring." Those types of people will make your experience horrible.  
I was in a group of four girls who went to A-kon. While we could tolerate each other at school and on the weekends, spending an entire week together at a relative's house proved to be too much. One girl refused to compromise on any activities that the group wanted to do, another girl never talked, no matter how nice or friendly you were to her, and the third girl only wanted to do the gamer room. We ended up having to split up at the convention because we couldn't agree to do anything. And then two of my friends got into a HUGE fight at the beginning and refused to have anything to do with anyone. It made the entire convention lonely for me, since I wanted to do the group activities with my friends and not some random fat guy dressed up as sailor mercury.
Speaking of Mr. Sailor Mercury, He refused to leave me alone until I manged to convince a guy friend of mine to pretend to be my boyfriend. 
The cosplay experience made me never want to try cosplay again. I dressed up as Kiki, from Kiki's Delivery Service, and soon regretted it. My short, child-like stature must have attracted the gaze of every single loli perv in that convention because random creeps kept trying to talk to me about personal issues, rather than my cosplay. The next day, I dressed in business attire and not a single person addressed me unless I spoke with them first.
At the end of the weekend, to top off my drama-llama convention, I saw someone cosplay as Man-Faye (yes, Faye from Cowboy Bebop), and his ginormous hair butt popped out of its hot pants. 

And now here's this week's question:

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.

And that wraps things up for my inaugural Answerman! Please be gentle if my audacity of hope in this transitionary period is little rough, but please comment back in the forums and discuss amongst yourselves what potentially great or potentially terrible things my innate perspective brings to the monolith that is Hey Answerman! I will be back next week, probably a little more used to the flow of everything. Have a good week, everyone!

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