Hey, Answerman!by Brian Hanson, May 15th 2009
Ah, summer. That sweltering, sweaty period of the year that people in the desert, such as myself, can look forward to 100-plus degree days until late September, dreading the time spent between air-condition spaces and devising new ways to avoid the sun. I can look forward to my patented Farmers' Tan reappearing, the smell of chlorine-covered children wandering like refugees from swimming pool to swimming pool, and the weeks spent trying desperately to repair my friggin' motorcycle because the heat causes it to break down every frickin' week until I finally give up on it - bliss!
And so, as I gaze upon the falling sunlight in the comfort of my air-conditioned apartment, I write this week's Hey, Answerman!
I've found myself falling in love with more and more anime even though the one time I watch it is during CN's Adult Swim saturday night Block.
I was wondering what you thought about the treatment of Anime on Cartoon Network? It seems like Cartoon Network just isn't that good anymore and I feel that Cartoon Network is digging themselves a deeper grave by slowly leaving Anime in the Dust. I missed the Good old days of Sailor Moon on Toonami!
So what do you think? Will Anime ever show on Cartoon Network again? (Not like Pokémon) Or is it a foregone conclusion that Anime will never be shown on Cartoon Network ever again?
Cartoon Network actually has a few good shows - Chowder and Flapjack are pretty great, and they're making a series out of Pendleton Ward's terrific Adventure Time. And Adult Swim usually pulls out at least one or two entertaining new shows every season. Their live-action stuff bothers me, actually it kind of infuriates me, but whatever. When Hannah Montana and High School Musical and Jonas Brothers are the only things that kids watch on TV, executives are eager to mimic that success.
As the former author of The Click, I can assure you that nothing saddens me more than the complete, unjustified absence of anime on television. Cartoon Network, specifically - they were the first and, thus far, ONLY network to take anime and package it as quality, enjoyable programming - not as some strange cultural import marketed solely to curious nerds. And it worked, which is the shocking thing. If you package a cool show like Cowboy Bebop and make it seem like a cool show to watch, and put it at a time that people can conceivably watch it, people WILL watch it and think it's cool. I know, it's crazy.
But, yeah, no. You're not gonna see anime on TV again anytime soon, if ever. The demographics have shifted, anime is back to its status as a curious novelty rather than a viable entertainment option, and, most importantly, network TV is dying. YouTube and its streaming-video progenitors have slowly made TV networks question their traditional business models, which have stood unchallenged for the past three decades or so. People suddenly have the option of watching whatever they want while they're at home, rather than judging on good faith that the networks will have something that will entertain them. They are running scared, like headless chickens in expensive suits, trying desperately to keep their fossilized ad-revenue-based networks afloat as places like Hulu thrive and grow.
And that's it, really. Streaming video is the place where anime currently thrives, or at the very least, manages to stave off irrelevance. Companies that used to have long-standing relationships with Cartoon Network and other broadcasters - Funimation, Bandai, et cetera - are far less concerned about pitching shows to the networks when they know they have a dedicated slot and a built-in audience if they simply stream it online, rather than have Adult Swim buy it, sit on it for months and months, and finally dump it in a terrible timeslot with no promotion or marketing.
Toonami is dead, and it won't ever come back. And that's, sadly, all there really is to say about it.
It's recently come to my attention that manga-ka (especially for magazines like Weekly Shonen Jump) seem to be pretty much on a tightrope of what they can and cannot do; usually, the paths their story takes seems to be a little forced by what the fans want, and what their editors want. For example, it was because 'the fans asked for it' (and the editors saw it bankable) that the fight between Goku and Freiza took so long in Dragon Ball...as well as why there were additional arcs after Freiza and even Cell. It seems that mangaka have a 'make-it-up-as-I-go-along' attitude with their work, which is something I find lamentable, to a point.
Are there any cases of manga-ka having their entire story plotted out, with characters properly defined and developed, right from the beginning (as in, before publishing)? If so, just how much control do their editors have over what gets printed and what doesn't? Do you consider this a flaw for manga?
Actually, EVERY manga-ka has a very detailed plan for their stories and how they think that they'll play out. They have to in order to impress their editor/publisher to run with their series. What usually happens early on with most of the longer-running series is that their sudden profound popularity, well, surprises them. And when their editors find out that they might have a massive, eternal hit on their hands, well, that's when they step in and start throwing their weight around. Bleach, I think, is the perfect example - the first volume is a quirky and amiable tale of Ichigo hunting ghosts and such, with only a handful of supporting characters. Suddenly, over the next few chapters, the cast grows exponentially, devotes much of its pages to fights between these new characters, and it all snowballs from there.
My point is that the artists and writers do try to set their world and their characters firmly in stone - and yet, nothing is really set in stone. Manga-ka always, ALWAYS have a treatment of how to end their run of the series, which they will of course follow if it's not one of the flagship, super-popular entries of their respective publication. Which is to say nothing of manga artists that specifically work on smaller stories, like Rumiko Takahashi when she's free from the burden of her longer works.
And yes, editors have TREMENDOUS input over their artists. I like to think of them akin to, say, a major music producer - they'll seek out and foster young but undeveloped talent, give them an audience, and instruct them in mostly subtle but sometimes blatant ways in order to make their output resonate with a larger audience. Usually, it does work, and the popularity and quality of the manga speaks for itself, yet of course there are times - like the Freiza/Goku fight you mentioned - where it just reeks of desperate pandering. It's a balancing act, and usually it works so well that people don't notice it.
I think the key thing to remember is that most manga-ka working in the larger publications really, really want their series to be huge, breakout hits. They are people, and last time I checked, people love the idea of making a lot of money and becoming famous. If you're drawing a manga for an editor whose input helped turn One Piece into a mega-hit, you're going to take notice.
There's no place on the internet that I can ask this question without bring out all the piracy defenders and anti-piracy saints and starting a huge flame war, so I thought I'd ask the all knowing Answerman.
I haven't been really into anime for that long so I don't really know much about it's history and so this is where you come in. I am curious to know if anime piracy, and pirates in general, has always been as bad as it is now? I know fansubs date back to the VHS days, but were the pirates of then as anti-industry as they are now? I mean, weren't fansubs originally made to let people outside of Japan view anime, not turn them against the entire industry (which it seems half of people who watch anime are)?
I'm more curious how you came to this viewpoint if you are, as you say, a relatively new anime fan. What you're saying is precisely the argument that most of the old-timer VHS fansub traders rely on, while the newer fans weaned on Bittorrent have no such concept of the matter.
Fansubs, in the olden days, occupied a much lighter shade of gray than they do now. Fansubs existed when most US anime companies were literally run out of garages, or malnourished office buildings in San Francisco owned by the Japanese companies themselves. Licensing anything anime-related that wasn't some ultraviolent one-shot OAV or movie was an considered an event. It was then that the argument that fansubbers still make to this day - that they exist to "prove" to the companies which shows are popular and well-liked enough to succeed - held any sort of truth to it. Rurouni Kenshin was initially shopped around to kid networks by Sony themselves as a heavily-edited, kid-friendly romp called "Samurai X" (which is part of the reason that ADV's release of the OAV series goes under this title), until Media Blasters noticed the fervent and authentic love the show was getting, as the most-traded and fansubbed series of its day. Which of course emboldened them to release the show uncensored directly to the fans, became a pretty big hit, and everyone walked away happy.
The notion of "piracy" was never really explored by fans of the day because there wasn't enough anime product for it to even be an issue. In part because of the tremendous effort it took to make fansubs; the dedicated fansubbing groups (a big hearty shout-out to the remnants of Kodocha, whose purple tape of Memories still lurks in my closet, worn-out and well-loved) literally had to run big, clunky, and then-expensive AV equipment all day. They had to go out and BUY import laserdiscs and VHS tapes, first of all, rather than simply wait for some intrepid nerd to upload an .avi file hours after the show airs. Then of course was the translation, and then they ran their precious laserdiscs through a makeshift subtitling studio comprised of an Amiga computer and several VHS decks, to which the intrepid fansubbers would wait days, weeks, or even months to get their fansubbed anime through the mail. Yes, the mail. As in, the post office. Actual, physical media, folks.
It all seems so quaint now, which it is compared to the efficient and speedy efforts of modern fansubbers. I'll still argue that they remain an intense labor of nerd love - translating and encoding video isn't easy - but its more nefarious aspects are far harder to ignore. Old fans of Rurouni Kenshin weren't going to hang on to their old, fuzzy VHS fansubs when Media Blasters started releasing the DVDs. They were going to buy the show and have it look as pristine and shiny as possible. That's a far harder thing to impress upon anime, especially today, when high-definition, crystal-clear episodes appear online hours after they air in Japan, for free, and all it takes is fifteen minutes or so on BIttorrent to get them. It's a pretty hard sell to get those kids to buy the DVDs, even for shows they really love, if they feel like their fansubs are of comparable quality. It's difficult, because modern fansubbers still believe that they're doing their favorite shows a valuable service, presenting them to an audience as quickly as possible and in the best possible quality, without thinking of the potential negative ramifications that could have. And that's why it is a tricky subject to argue about, because the defenders on both sides have such completely different interpretations of what fansubs provide and accomplish.
While we're on the subject, I'm just going to mention that I don't watch digital fansubs very often, when I do, these things really bug me:
1) That's great that you guys know how to use After Effects, but seriously, cut it out with the crazy, over-animated, multicolored "karaoke" fonts over the opening animation. I just wanna watch the opening of the show, which is usually the best-animated portion. I wanna watch animated characters, not text.
2) Again, that's great that you match the font used in the opening to credit the translator and encoder that worked on the episode I'm watching, but I would much, much rather, y'know, know who worked on the actual show, rather than the video file.
3) And finally: I know that *you* think that the word "nakama" has such rich, deep meaning that it doesn't translate into English, but I know that you are wrong. There are dozens of words in the rich, wonderful world of the English language that are comparable. Consult any dictionary or writer for such advice should you ever desire to simply transcribe a word of Japanese into the subtitle script that isn't a proper noun of some sort.
Flake of the Week is back! Hooray...?
I normally get a lot of emails - usually from overseas - from people who think that I or ANN or whatever actually have some sort of hand in creating a specific anime. I normally ignore these, since they're mostly harmless, but this one is just bizarre.
Why would you end a movie like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in such a misogynistic sexist manner? I am completely offended! Are you people going to be generous enough to write a sequel to this movie? Will you grace us with the knowledge of what happens next?!?!? I, being a woman, would very much appreciate it if you would express the manner in which this would properly end in a woman's world!!!
First of all, I am not Mamoru Hosoda nor am I Satoku Okudera, the respective director and screenwriter of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, one of my absolute favorite anime films. If I were, I would be blessed with considerable talent above and beyond anime column-ing.
Second, I am at a complete loss over how this wonderful film that presents such an authentic slice of honesty and emotion from its teenaged heroine could ever be considered "sexist" or "misogynistic." Especially the ending. But what do I know?
And now to break open the pinata that is Answerfans, and share your answers with the rest of the world. To refresh your memory, here is last week's question:
Cristiano takes a potato chip, and eats it:
I hope pig flu or random explosions didn't get the best of you yet. Now, coming to the question of the week, I have recently forced myself to sit through a manga series I willingly ignored for ages: Death Note. Not sure exactly why, but the hype itself around it alwasy kind of turned me off - snobbish attitude on my part or fear the actual product wouldn't stand up to the massive reputation? Well, as I had similar experiences with other anime / manga in the past (Haruhi Suzumiya, I''s, Kanon (!)) I simply walked down to the store and just went for it: I bought all twelve volumes of Death Note all at once. I also read them all at once, in one sitting; I simply couldn't take my head off the damn thing so good the plot and art was. Manga, I guess, sometimes can be just like girls: you just got to man it up and give it a shot.
I am stealing Anton's line about "dancing like ninnies" for some unspecified future project:
This was quite a while ago so forgive me if I can't remember the year, but I'm sure everyone has been down this road before - and with this anime, no less!
Everyone's heard of Suzumiya Haruhi. If you haven't watched the anime, you've probably read the novel, or read the manga, or watched a hundred people dance it in the middle of the street, or seen prisoners dance it, or seen someone cosplay it, or at least heard someone talking about it. Either way, it existed - and there was no way out of it.
Obviously, I was out of some loop - as if some golden age of anime had appeared and everyone who watched it became completely mesmerized by whatever it was that was so amazing. I hardly watched anime at the time, and even less of Japanese-dubbed English-subtitled ones. But it drove me nuts wanting to know exactly what it was that I was missing out on (and hearing people talk about it drove me pretty nuts too).
Initially, I had two thoughts: "A series that made hundreds of people dance like ninnies has to be awesome to be THAT influencial" or "It's just another one of those things fans get into".
And thus, it was watched. I chose the order of episodes, knowing full well how the order is mixed up... for some reason I never really got. So now, what do I feel? Honestly, I'd have regretted not watching it.
There was something about Haruhi's characters, plot, and overall wackiness that was really captivating. Sure, there was still a lot of anime cliches, needless fanservice, and filler, but it was a great experience overall. It was funny, the characters - especially K-ON!'s narrative style - were really likeable (except Mikuru), the main plot was creative, amazingly technical and thought-provoking, and the ending for it was just a great 'wtf' moment.
Still, I never thought it was so great that I'd have to go out and find other people to dance the ending song with. It was really good, but not THAT good. It does make for interesting YouTube videos, and no one has ever regretted that.
No really, I really hate Mikuru.
I am foisting Ashley's response on unsuspecting readers:
As the primary manga selector for my library, I've had to select a lot of things that I think are uninteresting and really, you couldn't pay me to read more than the little synopsis on the back on the book for some series (i.e.: Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo). But I do check out and (try to) read the series that don't appeal to me so I can make recommendations to the children (and assure the parents that [insert series here] isn't the mecca of all evil). That being said, I randomly picked up Pumpkin Scissors. I think, first off, the series has the title against it. I mean, really, what are "Pumpkin Scissors"? Then something about "Imperial Section blah de blah III" and war and yeah, all keywords that "Hey, me, you're probably not going to like this". So, it sat at the bottom of my "to be read pile" until I couldn't renew it anymore. After a lot of procrastination, I finally got around to reading it and now I'm foisting it off on unsuspecting children as a really awesome series! Didn't think I'd like it so much, but I like the plot and it's got it's funny moments and just enough mystery behind the Invisible 9 to keep you hooked.
Anubis got gut-punched:
The anime I forced myself to sit through was Negima. Basically I began watching it because it was free on the Colours network and it was anime. At first I thought the idea of a ten year old teaching a class full of teenage girls was "interesting" but a little silly. But darn-it if the show did not grow on me. It was always so cheerful and upbeat, even when it was supposed to be dramatic with fight scenes and other action. I watched it every night so as to go to sleep with a bit of a smile on my face, but then it happened. The death of a major character; surely this was some sort of a dream or bad joke. Why did the story turn so suddenly, and why did I feel like someone punched me in the stomach? Yes, I know it is a bit silly to become that emotional over an anime character, but dang, it really came out of right field for me! Of course everything was resolved a few episodes later, but the trust had been broken and I will never again look at a "fluff" anime without preparing myself for the worst.
SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT so skip past Veronica's response about 5cm per Second if you haven't seen it:
Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.
I'd have to say 5 Centimeters Per Second. I had already seen Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days and thought they were OK; more visually appealing than great storytelling, but I felt I had to watch 5 C. because everyone was making an amv of it and people were just raving about how great it was. My expectations weren't quite that high. I thought I should watch it to complete the “trilogy” so to speak.
Once I finally watched it, it was all I could do not to shout at the main character to not be such a wimp and really track her down and find a way to be with her if he loves her so much. So she moved away. They met up again after that, right? Ever heard of a long distance relationship? What's the problem? It's like he was just in love with the idea of being in love.
And why the hell didn't the girl wait for the train to pass when she caught a glimpse of him? Wouldn't a normal person do that even if they thought it was just someone they knew? Where is this great romance? Also, they were just little kids at the start of it so it's hard for me to picture any kind of “You are my soul mate!” kind of love.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of romance and I understand that it was trying to portray the nostalgia of young love or something but to me it only portrayed needless suffering. It's like they were star-crossed lovers but without any reason. OHHHH..it just drove me crazy!
Final verdict: great animation, story sucked.
Martha has the straight dope on Code Geass:
I twice tried to watch Code Geass. I twice failed. The first time I had just finished Innocent Venus, a series which felt obliged to tell us the entire back story via narration – and then never mention the back story again. When Code Geass started to do the same, I threw up my hands after the first two minutes. “Do they think we're idiots?” I thought. “We can figure this out for ourselves!”
The second time I gave up after two episodes after enduring an episode that was 90% mecha-battle. I am not much of a mecha fan to begin with, and the ones in this series really rubbed me the wrong way – probably because the mecha in this make no sense at all. We're never told why they somehow gave Britannia the decisive advantage in the invasion of Japan. My guess is it had something to do with how they can violate the laws of physics, especially the ones that would make the G-forces on these machines kill their pilots - and the director should know better, he did Infinite Ryvius, and that was the reason they gave why their mecha was remote-controlled.
And there are other problems, too. The character designs are wonky. It's a big cast, and CLAMP, whose character designs often look alike, must have decided to make sure everyone looked different by making some of these designs just... bizarre. Diethard's mutant forelock makes Ruka's from Revolutionary Girl Utena look normal. Code Geass also has quite possibly the worst opening and ending themes of any series I have ever seen. Not only is the music unpleasant, the video accompanying it is decided uninspired. What's worse, the first two episodes don't have anything in the way of character development, basically just having "people doing stuff," and hoping that you'll be interested enough to keep watching.
So I gave up again, and decided that was that. Only, over time, it became clear to me that I was going to have to watch this series in order to stay otaku-literate. When Bandai posted the entire series subtitled online, I decided this was my chance and I'd just have to grit my teeth and bear it. Sure, I hated it the first two times, but it was better than being stuck outside the loop. I struggled through the first two episodes again, and my opinion on them was exactly the same: the mecha was stupid, the designs were bad, the OP/ED was unbearable, and there was no character development.
And if you've been sensing a "but" clause coming, congratulations on your insight! Which one should I use? How about: "But in episode 3, it slows down and starts developing the characters." Or maybe: "But by episode 4, it's dispensed with the mecha battles and has turned into a battle of wits."
Ah hell, let's go with my favorite: But after watching past episode 2, I FREAKING LOVED THIS SERIES!!! Sure, I still stand behind my analysis of its flaws - but who the hell cares when everything else is so awesome? I don't know what it was that made me suddenly change my mind. Maybe it was the scene where Lelouch nearly pukes when he remembers killing someone, or seeing how he dotes on his sister, or watching him begin his machinations to topple the Empire, or the increasingly Shakespearean feel as everyone hides there identity from everyone else. Or maybe it was just...everything.
Not to mention that it poses intelligent moral quandaries well above your average series. People compare Lelouch to Light in Death Note, but to me, while they're both arrogant bastards do awful things in the name of their own brand of justice, that's where the similarity ends. Unlike Light, Lelouch doubts, feels guilt, questions his own decisions, and thus lets the audience question along with him. Can the ends ever justify the means? Is terrorist activity justifiable, or should you work within the system? How do you deal with actions that hurt the ones you love, even if you didn't intend them to? It all adds to the drama of the series.
Now, I've yet to see the second season, so it may very well disappoint me. But if there was ever a series that I was glad I forced myself to watch, it's Code Geass.
Emily talks about the bursting bravado of Gurren Lagann:
On the flip side an anime I initially FORCED myself to watch and ended up loving was Gurren Lagann, which I was roped into watching with a friend after she bought the first part of the series on a shopping trip earlier that day. When I asked her to describe the series and she mentioned there were Mechs I was instantly turned off the idea of watching it. Since I have never been a fan of anime where giant robots play a large role, which in my mind at that point was synonymous with the series Gundam. But I ended up loving it! I'm glad my friend forced me to watch it, the stunning music, voice acting and visuals as well as the amazing characters were a major reason for my love of the series but I must say the scenes where the Gun Men battle were just as wonderful as everything else!
I have to say it's become one of my favourite anime and played a large part in re-kindling my love of anime and I eventually like my friend before me forced all my other Mech hating friends to watch it, all of whom turned out loving it also.
Matt has tepid thoughts about Shuffle!:
your question this week is a really interesting one to say the least. Honestly, yeah, i've forced my self to watch/read an anime/manga once or twice, but usually i tune out a few episodes or chapters or minutes in. There's only one instance where i forced myself to sit through the whole thing. that series was Shuffle! at first i thought it was just the regular harem anime drivel, good for nothing more than an occasional laugh, or a few good bits of fan service. in the end... i was pretty much right, the series failed to make me laugh consistently and even the fan service wasnt worth writing home about. when everything was said and done I had this feeling of, "well, that's a few hours of my life i'll never get back." So i guess what I'm saying is that, if an anime/manga/film starts off bad, give it at least 5 minutes/chapters and see if it doesnt sway your mind. If it doesnt, then it wasn't meant to be.
Rounding it out tonight, Kenisama shares his thoughts of School Days during deployment. Way to go, dude!
Over a year and a half ago, I received 15 month deployment orders to head out to Iraq. So being the anime fan that I am, my first instinct, was to grab a hard drive and start collecting any anime I either hadn't seen, or thought I would be remotely interested in. I figured 15 months in Iraq would be plenty of time sort out anything I didn't like. Almost a year into my deployment, I stumbled across the anime, "School Days." I usually give a series two to three episodes before I give my final judgment on whether or not to continue the series. Well after the first episode, I figured this was just going to be a run of the mill, boy meets girl, other girl secretly like boy. But after enduring what I feared... IT WAS THAT TYPE OF ANIME! Only with a lot more girls than I had anticipated. So I stuck with it (keep in mind, not knowing anything about this anime at the time) and by the end of it, I was completely blown away with the ending. I was so engrossed by the ending, something I never expected. Not very often you feel satisfied with an anime ending since they're usually left so wide open to appeal to a wider audience. A must see in my opinion.
And now, next week's question! With convention season coming up soon, I figured I'd send a query to all you cosplayers:
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.
At the sound of the bell, it will be exactly... time for me to leave. It's been fun, as always, and I'll be back next time with that strange yet alluring new Hey, Answerman scent!
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