Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Alriiiight! I'm back and (ostensibly) better than ever! My play is now over and done. Finished. Which means back to life as per usual, in all its... splendor.

Naw, you guys are alright. Let's get started!

Hey, Answerman!
I've been seeing all these [insert show here] has been green lit for production or will be coming out in so and so season/date/etc. I was wondering: how do the anime production studios (J.C. Staff, Production I.G, etc) choose what they will make into a show? Popularity is probably one factor, but are there others.

This question totally threw me for a loop - it's terrific, for one thing, and also I had no idea exactly how to answer it. I'm sort of a connoisseur for behind-the-scenes shenanigans, but the notoriously secretive production arms that fund and produce the vast majority of anime are notoriously tight-lipped about the actual pitch process. So I hit up our resident expert Justin Sevakis:

A show getting green-lit depends entirely on the show's ability to find a sponsor. The pitch might originate at an anime studio (like the ones named in the question). These tend to be the shows that are original stories, but the vast majority are pitched by the sponsors, which could be the manga publisher, who's out to use the anime to promote merchandise or the original manga, or a media company like Media Factory or Geneon Japan or Bandai Visual, who are interested in using the TV broadcast to promote the eventual DVD release. (The vast majority of late-night anime are controlled by these media companies. If you watch them on TV in Japan, every commercial is for their own product. The broadcasts themselves are paid for; the entire airing is basically an infomercial for the DVD.) The studios that actually produce the anime itself are usually just doing the work for hire.

How it works is this: a company with an idea (which might come from a staff artist, or a director that works with the studio) brainstorms how that idea could be monetized, and who might be interested in investing in that possibility. For example, if Madhouse comes up with an idea for a show they might go to VAP or Klock Worx to see if they want to pay up-front for the DVD rights, to an advertiser like Pizza Hut for product placement, and then to Tomy or Bandai for toy rights. For a very mainstream show, the TV network might find the show valuable enough to throw in some money for the broadcast rights as well. Together these companies form a "production committee," or "seisaku iinkai". Everyone who put in money gets a say in the show itself, but there's a hierarchy determined by who put in what amount, and other politics. The "original creator" (be it the person whose idea it was, or the manga artist) gets a lot of say as well.

The "seisaku iinkai" method has made it possible to continue coming up with enough money to produce anime since the burst of the bubble economy in the 90s. Unfortunately, it also bogs down the shows in a nightmare-inducing amount of red tape. Since every sponsor gets sign-off rights, everyone has to be consulted and agree to things like international rights sales, and sometimes details as minuscule as packaging and dub casting. It's one of the major problems that has to be overcome as the industry tries to adapt to the realities of the internet age.

As Japan, along with the rest of the world, slips deeper into the current economic crisis, these sponsors are becoming more and more frugal with the shows they're able to sponsor (bad Japanese "reality" TV is sure a lot cheaper to make). So there are fewer and fewer shows originating from the creative minds at the anime studios themselves, and more that will be produced based on the decisions made by manga publishers and corporate sponsors looking to push the rights across multiple platforms of potential monetization.

Fascinating, innit?

Dear Answerman,

I just wondered, do you find all of those girls who are hyper-obsessed yaoi and boys-love annoying?

I mean, I can kinda understand why they like it (emotional connection, the whole "forbidden love" thing, etc,) but I find myself slightly annoyed with them. I think it's because they trivialize it, or maybe because some of them have this actually desire to BE a gay male in a homosexual relationship. I don't know, am I being unrealistic here?

Personally speaking, I think when people are "hyper-obsessed" with anything to be kind of irritating. There's a very definite and clear line that separates actual, honest passion for something, and creepy obsession.

I'll tell you one thing about over-excitable, glomp-hungry yaoi fans though - they'll bother you less and less as you get older. Because, miraculously, so do they! Specifically, I remember a trio of obnoxiously yaoi-obsessed fangirls that cavorted about in a coven of squeals and chortles and loud, often disgusting discussion of the finer points of animated gay sex.

I know for a fact, though, that two of them have developed into really interesting people who are doing truly great things with their lives, one of which is on her way to Japan for the JET program, and the other is currently enrolled in Graduate school, well on her way to becoming a professor. They both still enjoy yaoi very much, reportedly, but enjoying their livelihoods these days takes precedence over squealing and squawking and parading yaoi paddles about.

The third girl, however, has fully sunk into the dank, murky depths of decadence that a refusal to grow out of teenage yaoi fandom yields, and currently lives in a grody mobile home while drawing crude, obscene Final Fantasy fanart and can frequently be seen in public with her diminutive douchebag boyfriend literally on a leash. It'd be a depressing existence, if I didn't feel it was justified.

So whenever I see giggly fangirls salivating over yaoi manga at Borders, I know that there's a 2/3rds chance that they'll grow up and become successful adults. Them's good odds.

Dear Grandmaster Answerman, Keeper of Secrets, Holder of Knowledge, Imparter of Clarification, and all around nice dood,

I'm an aspiring artist who's looking to break into the business. I'd like to be able to make a profit off of what I love to do, which is drawing.

Specifically, I'm looking for a job in character designing and drawing. (It's actually been my dream job to create the characters of RPGs, ever since I started gaming). I'm not too knowledgeable in this regard, so I was curious. How should I get started? What would the employers be looking for? Is my young age and lack of experience too large of a setback? Is this the sort of job that would require further education at an art institute or otherwise obstruct my University plans?

My apologies for the many naïve questions, but I'm rather uneducated in this field. Thanks for your time!

I know that Zac got awfully tired awfully quick in answering "HOW DO I WORK IN ANIMES" questions, but I'm still relatively new at this, and she called me a "nice dood" so I'll take it!

From the top. How should you get started? Draw as much as you can, all the time. Draw because you enjoy doing it, for one thing, but also because you're going to need all the experience you can get. Put 'em on a blog, put 'em on a DeviantArt page, or don't even put 'em online at all - just draw, damnit!

"Employers" are always on the lookout for talented but - and this is crucial - diverse artists. Someone who won't bat an eye when asked to tackle different styles and mediums at a moments notice. Yes, your young age and lack of experience is a setback, in the sense that you're in one of the most competitive and lucrative career fields, and you're up against a bevy of older, wiser artists desperate for that same opportunity.

Art education? Hell yes. You'll need it, because in the art industry, unless you're Pablo Picasso, "Self-Trained Artist" is synonymous with "Drinks the Blood of Orphans."

I'm sure this all sounds dour, but the real key to victory here is to draw and draw and take lots of art classes in every feasible field, anatomy and sculpture and life drawing and abstract art and whatever else, and to come out of it so incredibly talented and with a portfolio bursting with awesome drawings, so that you'll feel like the most awesome, virile, bulletproof artist alive.

That probably sounds like a bit much if all you really wanna do is just "design characters for RPGs," but trust me; everybody designing RPG characters did that exact same thing. Pretty much.

As I'm sure you're aware, over the past two weeks, Zac and I have been featuring the emails of one Akemi Mokoto, leader of the United States Department of Lolicon, as the Flakes of the Week. He sent in another response, of course, but I'm not gonna bother.

And not just because he's threatening to sue all of ANN for "defamation of character" and other insane things that are impossible. No, it's because focusing on Akemi and his... proclivities is kind of depressing. I dunno, maybe in this 4chan-soaked internet culture of asshole-manship, I'm too soft or something, but I prefer my Flakes to be only flippantly moronic, instead of genuinely sad and pitiful. I will say that that man is dedicated. To what end, who knows. But dedicated.

Also, people always say that they miss the bunnies, so here are some bunnies to put this issue to rest.

By the way, that black smudge at the bottom of that last picture there was GIMP giving me grief that I didn't realize until it was too late to fix without a considerable amount of effort for such a lazy person.

Hey, Answerfans! took a little break last week, but now it's back in all it's splendorous, odiferous joy! So here's next 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.

Alright! That wraps it up, with everything back into its neat little Tetris-like space, clearing the lines of anime answers or something else that will make my terrible analogies work. See you next week, everyone!

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