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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Happy 2009 everyone! Hopefully my weeks-long winter break has given my particular brand of anime-question-answering-style enough time to gestate, and now in this glorious new year we can all look forward to a more confident and strident Answerman! Until the weight of my own failings pulls me down into a spiraling web of self-doubt and substance abuse of Mickey Rourke proportions. But I'm not planning on any of that happening until 3rd Quarter 2010.

But enough self-deprecating self-congratulation! On to the questions that vex you so, and my attempts to un-vex them...

Hi! About a year ago, I think, I saw a trailer for a second season of Kiddy Grade. I've heard nothing since. Has anything been announced since the trailer released?

According to the official Kiddy Grade website, Kiddy Grade 2 is... something, at least, this 25th of May. There was a DVD released of a five-minute pilot that's been floating about the internet, but there's no other info available it seems. I made a few calls around to people who might be in the know and nobody knew nothin'.

Basically: I dunno, nobody seems to know, so. Maybe, with a little hope, and a little song in your heart, Kiddy Grade 2 will magically appear, for you to enjoy.

In recent years there's been such a huge slew of anime and manga that are getting adapted into American Hollywood movies that it's really difficult to keep track of them at all. What ARE all of the series whose rights have been bought or are in talks for an adaptation? Also, how many of these are actually in production or have even assigned directors or are being screenwritten? It feels like a lot of them (like Monster) have been picked up but no one has any news about them whatsoever (which leads to stupid rumors like that Zac Efron is going to play Light Yagami in Death Note). Are there any that were announced more than, like, 10 years ago or something?

Just off the top of my head, here's all the "upcoming" anime or manga-based movies under Hollywood's auspices:

-Dragon Ball
-Astro Boy
-Ghost in the Shell
-Cowboy Bebop
-Battle Angel
-Star Blazers
-Kiki's Delivery Service (well, they're both based on a book, I suppose, but it kinda counts.)

I'm sure there's more - MUCH more - not to mention dozens of other titles or properties that are currently being "looked at" by various bigwigs in the motion picture business. Of those, Dragon Ball and Astro Boy are finished and are coming up later this year, while the rest are either in heavy pre-production, or mired in development hell.

Usually a good indicator of the likelihood of any of these projects happening is the caliber of the names involved, and the assumed cost of filming. "Oldboy" for example is something that'll definitely get made, since both Will Smith and Steven Spielberg have their collective stamps of approval on it, plus it's a contemporary thriller that doesn't require millions of dollars worth of CGI and whatnot. "Ghost in the Shell" is also being produced by Spielberg, and "Akira" belongs to Leonardo DiCaprio's production company (who hired a really interesting choice as the director, actually - check out his award-winning CGI short film, "Fifty Percent Grey" on YouTube), so those are a long ways away from happening but work is definitely progressing on them, albeit slowly. Ditto with "Cowboy Bebop," now that Keanu Reeves is involved in it. Sadly.

Still, the golden rule in the movie industry is that no one really knows anything. Also, the complete collapse of the credit market means that studios are being much more cautious about which upcoming films are being greenlit into production, and at a time when even something bankable like The Chronicles of Narnia are getting passed over by Hollywood, something not family-friendly like "Ghost in the Shell" is just as likely to get scuttled away into DreamWorks' back pocket.

And really, I haven't even mentioned the 800-pound gorilla in the room here, which is "Speed Racer"'s dismal box-office failure. "Dragon Ball" will likely suck ten pounds of crap through a tube, and "Astro Boy" will most likely end up being a disposable, unmemorable kiddie cartoon, so that's three unfortunate and troubled Hollywood anime adaptations in a row. Much as I loved the Wachowski's "Speed Racer," it was an expensive disaster that the Hollywood bigwigs aren't likely to soon forget.

As for stuff that's ten years or so in the making, "Akira" definitely fits that bill - both Sony and Warner Bros. had the rights to it at certain points since the early 90's, and even had a director attached. Luckily the movie ended up not getting made, since an "Akira" movie directed by Pitof (director of "Catwoman," one of the worst movies EVER) would have caused me to die a horrible death of dehydration, as my tears would've been ever-flowing. "Battle Angel" was supposed to be James Cameron's Next Big Movie after Titanic, but he's working on his super-secretive sci-fi movie "Avatar" at the moment and nobody knows when he'll be jonesin' to start work on it again.

So, again, it's all speculation, it's all about money, it's all about who's in charge. "Speed Racer" was supposed to be the movie that would change the way Hollywood perceived anime and manga in regards to film adaptations, but let's hope it won't forever brand them as Box Office Poison.

In the spirit of the upcoming awards season for American films, I want to ask, are there any award ceremonies for Anime similar to the Academy Awards?

In the interest of full disclosure, I get *really into* the Academy Awards every year. EVERY YEAR. And because I am currently writing something immediately after seeing the words "Academy Awards" I will now force upon you the notion that I think and hope that Slumdog Millionaire, The Dark Knight, WALL-e, Milk, and The Wrestler are the Best Picture nominees. But since the Academy members are foolish and eager to sop up a forced sense of importance and elegance, at least two of my above choices will be shoved aside to make room for Frost/Nixon and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Moving along: Yes, much like any other medium of entertainment, the anime world is more than obliging when it comes to self-congratulatory statuettes. At least, in Japan. Every year at the Tokyo International Anime Fair, there's a ceremony for the "Tokyo Anime Awards" that hands out trinkets and such to members of the industry, much in the same fashion as the Annie Awards congratulate animators and the like here in the US. It's a relatively recent institution, which started only in 2002, but it's the closest analog to the Academy Awards in that it has a large voting bloc of judges and members in all aspects of the industry that sit around and pick their favorites in this-and-that category; Best Feature Film, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, et al. Having obviously never attended the awards themselves, I can't speak of the processions or the speeches, but since this is anime we're talking about it obviously doesn't come close to the glamor and saleability of an Academy Award; nonetheless, I agree with practically all of their nominees and winners, and especially like the numerous categories devoted to independent projects, most notably the "Open Entry Grand Prize," which honors independently-produced short films.

On this side of the Pacific, however, things are rather bleak. Personally, the less said about the American Anime Awards, the better; it's rather impossible to dole out awards to things that are spanning the better course of a decade, determined solely by internet votes, which is rather evident when Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is deemed "Best Film" over something like Akira. A well-intentioned mess, I know, but a mess nonetheless. I mentioned the Annies before, and every once in a while an anime film or series slips by the predominantly Cartoon Network/DreamWorks/Pixar/Nickelodeon/Disney Channel nominees, such as Yoko Kanno's nomination in 2005 for "Outstanding Music in a Television Production." (Which was for her amazing Wolf's Rain score. Which lost to "Duck Dodgers". Yeah.). At the very least, whenever Hayao Miyazaki pops his grumpy head out into the open and releases a new film, he's guaranteed an Oscar and Annie nomination or two.

On the subject of all these awards, thank God for the Tokyo Anime Awards for being the only award-giving group savvy enough to dole out a statue for the superbly excellent The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. A million shames on Bandai's completely bungled release of that film and their financial inability to set up screenings and hand out screeners for awards consideration!

Still no flakes, so here's more pets!

First up, from Joanna Slawik:

"I own an actual purebred Pembroke Welsh Corgi and I named him Einstein. Just like from Cowboy Bebop. Yes, I am a dork. He's two years old (three in January)."

And, from Lauren Martin:

"This is my rabbit, Tanner. He hates carrots. He is getting kind of fat from eating too many artificially coloured pretzels instead of  vegetables."

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 Leba Chajet:

When I think of the "best" anime soundtracks, some of the most quality musical offerings come to mind. I love creative lyrics in all languages, so Yoko Kanno's work on "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex," particularly her work on the haunting and beautiful (not to mention multilingual) openers "Inner Universe" and "Rise" really stand out. Another great contender for best soundtrack would have to go to series that actually focus on music, like the well-crafted "BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad," which is chock-full of awesome songs inspired by the greatest rock bands of the last century.

But then a song starts rolling in my head...and won't get out-"If you wanna see some action, gotta be the center of ATTRACTION..." Yes, the incredibly addictive "Number One" by HAZEL FERNANDEZ from Bleach may not get much respect, but to me, it represents how a shonen anime can be fun musically. I get excited whenever I hear the beginning strains of the song coming up in an episode, knowing that the coming scenes are gonna showcase some majorly fun action sequences, and I don't even generally like shonen fight scenes. The songs just brings you into it, gets you excited, makes you root for the hero-in short, does everything its supposed to do.

Of course, no mention of Bleach's tunes would be any good without pointing out that the openers and closers of the show really rock. I don't think I've heard an opener that I didn't like, with *~Asterisk by Orange Range and Ichirin no Hana by High and Mighty Color being my particular favorites. The ending themes seem to give every musical style a chance, from soft rock to jazz to ska, coupled with animation that brings out the soul of the series. Humorous images and happy songs sometimes follow the most dramatic episodes ("Happy People," anyone?) to leave viewers with a smile on their faces, or at least a reminder that comedic relief was a main part of Tite Kubo's story, even when things get rough. Other closers have a more dramatic affect, playing with fans-especially shippers-emotions by seeming to dig deep into the characters' psyches. Who can hear Rie Fu's "Life is Like a Boat" and not think of Rukia on the execution bl! ock?

However, great openers and closers are expected of long running series, especially popular shonen titles. What makes Bleach's soundtrack stand out are the fun songs and, I'll admit, appropriate (if somewhat boring and repetitive) shonen-battle instrumentals, that enhance the mood, and makes you "wanna see some action" right in the middle of the show!

From Stig Hogset:

I'd like to dedicate my selection for favorite soundtrack to the Aria soundtrack CDs. Not only is there a soundtrack CD for each of the three seasons as well as singles with the OP and ED themes, but there's also piano collection CDs with versions of the music from Aria played solely on piano as well as a CD with the various insert songs you'll hear in the show. Aria is, simply speaking, a musical treat in so many ways if you like the style of music they offer.

Most of the soundtrack is composed and played by Choro Club, a trio who plays acoustic guitar music. For the Aria soundtracks, they've also gotten the help of Senoo to play the piano. What you basically get is a collection of incredibly nice instrumental music for a wide range of emotive styles -- from the energetic and cheerful, the somber and sad, the mysterious and the mellow. It's music with a hell of a lot of heart.

Not that the soundtrack is all about the instrumentals, though. The late Eri Kawai is responsible for a lot of the opening themes as well as a few of the inserts songs, most of which is sung by Yui Makino. Her mellow and light voice suits the themes and the show to a tee. (I'm especially fond of Euforia, Spirale and the insert Amefuribana. She also sung the ending theme for Sketchbook ~full color'S~, another one of my favorite ending themes.)

And that's my favorite anime soundtrack.

From Vince Lugel:

Long time reader, first time writer. What's the best anime soundtrack? It's a tie: One Piece and Cowboy Bebop. One Piece's brass-heavy score wins for overall mood setting and atmosphericness (is that even a word?), plus any one of the theme songs will stick in your head for days. Cowboy Bebop wins for being the most diverse. It's got jazz, blues, funk, rock, heavy metal, pop, country, even opera! How many other shows can you say that about?

I listen to a lot of anime music, but those are the two that really crank my dial to eleven.

From Puff:

To my ears, nothing even comes close to the music of Tenchi Muyo!. It's one of the biggest reasons why I am so in love with the anime. Everything about the soundtrack just floods back memories -- Whether it be about where I was in life when I ran marathons of the show or that warm feeling of "old school" anime back in the day. Some pieces were so powerful to me that they have, and still do, bring tears to my eyes.

One unique quality about the songs they used during the show was that they produced English versions of the vocal songs. And better yet, they were just beautiful! The vocalists actually sounded good and the lyrics were true to the original. What was so startling to me (even today) was the theme for the TV series; The group duo SONIA, produced and sang both the Japanese and English version of the opening theme!

What I loved about all of the original (Japanese) Tenchi Muyo! themes though, was that the seiyuu of the show sang all of the songs.. Now I know that this is done more frequently and almost every character out there has an image song -- But to that 11 year old girl ten years ago, it was the most amazing thing. The fact that Tenchi, Ryoko, Ayeka and the rest of the characters could come together and sing a song that was so harmonious, still astounds me today.

It made such an impact on me, in fact, that I had made a goal of collecting every single and CD out there that was released. It's one of my most treasured collections because of the sentimental imprint it made on my life...

Music has always shaped, moved and supported me throughout my life. And the music of Tenchi Muyo! is definitely one of the biggest impacts.

From Andy Lee:

The best anime soundtrack, in my personal opinion, is the soundtrack of the show that got me to watch anime in the first place.  The soundtrack to Cowboy Bebop is still undoubtedly one of the best soundtracks of any work, anime or otherwise.  So rarely does a soundtrack fit so perfectly with the themes and style and mood of a show, but Yoko Kanno's music accomplished all that and then some.  One of the things that makes Cowboy Bebop so compelling is the fact that, while set in the future, it doesn't seem unrealistic.  The universe created in that show gels perfectly with itself, and makes you feel like maybe some day that really is what the future will be like.  The music underlines this; the jazz and blues (and of course, bebop) of The Seatbelts is so instantly accessable and is something not limited to any countries borders.  This isnt like 90% of the animes you turn on where an episode is bookended by your standard J-Pop/J-Rock opening theme and a low-tempo closer (although it's not lost on me how that's kind of what The Real Folk Blues is).  The first episode I saw of Cowboy Bebop however many years ago was a revelation that there is much more to anime than catching 150+ bugs or screaming for 5 episodes straight until your hair turned blonde, and the music was a big part of that.

I certainly haven't bought a 4 disc soundtrack for any other show.

Finally, from Anime News Network Superstar Reviewer Theron Martin in his First Guest Appearance in Hey Answerfans:

    For anime movies, nothing can beat the soundtrack for Akira as you're watching the movie. (Curiously, it is not as good a listen separate from the movie.) Its unique sound not only perfectly complements and supports the movie, but it makes you sit up and take notice. No other anime movie soundtrack - not even Princess Mononoke's great score - even comes close.
    For anime series, many will probably opt for Cowboy Bebop, and it is certainly worthy of consideration, but there are at least two titles I would put ahead of even it. Princess Tutu has an unfair advantage in that much of its soundtrack is composed of famous and already-established classical music pieces, but it blends its themes to beautifully into its storytelling that, at times, the music actually becomes the storytelling. That is a feat I have not seen in any other anime series.
    My other top series choice is the soundtrack for .hack//SIGN, which may be the best independent listen of any anime soundtrack. It features Yuki Kajiura's signature sound at is very best (although Le Portrait de Petite Cossette is also very, very good) as it spins songs of poignant beauty, aching loneliness, and desperation mixed amongst folksy and adventure themes, songs often highlighted by English lyrics. Even the nearly incomprehensible Engrish of its opener "obsession" does not hinder its electronica-styled dance-beat enthusiasm. Few anime soundtracks are its equal at setting mood and tone.

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.

I will now bestow upon myself the Most Outstanding-est Columnist of This Week, and my award will be a nice, generous good night's sleep for once. I bid you all adieu, so good night, good luck, good times. See you next week!

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