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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Hey people! Welcome to another Hey Answerman. It's a swell summer day to be huddled over our monitors, checking our daily websites; and I'm pleased as punch that all of you make the effort to check out ours.

So let's get this computer-internet thing started:

At the risk of sounding ignorant, I have a question about a difference I've seen between shonen- and shoujo-oriented manga.

Most shonen-romances that I know of (save for I''s or To-Luv-Ru) really do skimp out as far as sexual content, implied or otherwise, is concerned; save for the nudity occasionally shown in the two aforementioned serials, the worst I've seen in a shonen romance would be accidental groping. Shojo romances don't seem to be afraid to cross the line, though; case in point, we have NANA, in which both Nanas have healthy sexual lives (well, at least one does--the other's a skank). In another example, a character in The Gentleman's Alliance also gets around (although, to my knowledge, the scenes are only implied). I also notice that shoujo romances are more willing to play around with the ages of those involved: we've got Card Captor Sakura, whose mother married her junior high teacher; Full Moon wo Sagashite had Mitsuki in with a guy that could have been no less than five years older than she was, and finally, a one-shot by the same creator where a seventeen-year-old girl and a twelve-year-old boy fall in love.

Adorable, but kinda...weird.

On the shonen side, the weirdest thing I could think of was either Negi Springfield and his harem of shotacon students (though that's played more for laughs than anything else); the college-guy-and-his-little-sister pairings seem to stay in dating-sim territory.

I'm not crying injustice, however, I am curious: why do shoujo-manga get more leeway as far as how relations are made/shown, as opposed to shonen?

Well, simply put: in shoujo stories, the romantic entanglements of the protagonists are complex and, often, "weird" because... that's what the audience wants. The shoujo audience is looking, hungrily, like a rabid fox, for drama. And anyone with any real experience in relationships can attest that they are, and will continue to be, very dramatic and often weird.

What I find fascinating is, as you said, the sheer notion of sex is conveniently danced around in shonen stuff. The guy falls into breasts or accidentally sees a girl's panties and gets a nosebleed while the sub-human man-child audience laughs and masturbates uproariously, but that's only the most puerile display of a sexual relationship. Shoujo, while not particularly intelligent or, honestly, realistic about sexual relationships, for Christ's sakes at least the characters have them.

It's not so much an issue of "leeway," in the sense that Japan's puritanical society permits sex in shoujo manga while it condemns shonen manga to the juvenile realm of T&A jokes. It's more that they're tuned in to the audience's particular tastes and attitudes. The shoujo audience wants to see Love Conquers All stories, tales of forbidden love that transcend cultural and societal boundaries; I mean, look no further than the popularity of yaoi to understand why sexual relationships in shoujo manga are presented the way they are.

Shounen manga, meanwhile, remains as subtle about the issue of sex like a sledgehammer being used to kill a gnat. But then, they aren't pretending to be anything other than pure fantasy, so it's not like I can work myself into an indignant huff over the fact that the teenaged cast of Naruto isn't awash in a complicated web of sexual relationships rivaling a Fellini film. It's a taste thing, and the manga-ka are just out to do their best to please their pubescent fans as much as possible.

my question is this, why do so many animes conform to 26 or 13 episode series. is this simply a precedent set forth by the industry or is there some other underlying factors involved?

Ah, I love easy questions.

It's a matter of mathematics that TV networks have been using since the dawn of television. Namely, if you're producing a weekly TV series, how many episodes do you order? There are 52 weeks in a year; 52 divided in half is 26, 26 divided in half is 13. 26 episodes will last through two whole seasons; 13 episodes will last you through only one. As far as how the length of a series is decided, well, that's a complicated thing involving money and the host of Japanese business partners that all have a hand in financing anime's costly nature. 13 episodes obviously represents the least amount of cost and risk, and don't forget there's always the possibility of being renewed for another season if the show performs well. A few times, and Paranoia Agent is a great example, is that the show is planned so well in advance that the creative staff already have a concrete plan for telling a single story in a set amount of episodes.

Of course, this is to say nothing of the uber-popular, long-running shows that premiere new episodes once a week every week, with no set specific episode number. Doraemon, Sazae-san, Detective Conan, and One Piece are shows that are meant to extend as far as necessary, until the staff either gets bored or the show becomes unprofitable.

It's the same story in America, too. The average "season" of a prime-time series is either 13 episodes, or some number hovering around 22 to 26. Oh, and also, the malign influence of the Illuminati has a say in how many episodes constitute a "season," and also the drifting spirit of Satan himself. Many, many people are killed each year to ensure that these rules regarding episode counts are enforced.

Like I said, easy question.

Hey Brian, so obviously anime and manga are considered nerdy here in the states (shocker!!) but in Japan is it considered geeky or maybe even cool to watch and become obsessed with or is it just kinda not really either?

Is it cool to watch anime in Japan? That depends on the anime. If you're in a Japanese office and you mention to your colleagues that you enjoy Gundam and Miyazaki, you'll definitely have a spirited conversation with your fellow Japanese employees. But if you mention that you really, really like Bleach and K-ON! Then... be prepared for a few awkward stares. Anime is viewed, much like it is in America, as mainly for kids and sexually frustrated teenagers - and, worst of all, socially inept shut-ins.

Think of it like... fantasy novels. If you mention to any random stranger that you enjoy Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, people aren't going to think much of it because they're pretty mainstream-accepted titles that a diverse range of people enjoy. But if you then go on and on and talk about your favorite Forgotten Realms novel featuring a Drow, your average Shmoe is most likely going to keep their distance. Unless the average Shmoe you meet wears a T-shirt with airbrushed wolves on it.

Manga, though, is different. Every few months whenever some major news outlet discovers that it's a slow news day and they throw together some puff piece about Japanese anime or manga, they always mention something to the effect of "MANGA aren't just COMIC BOOKS for KIDS because GROWN MEN will READ THEM on the TRAIN TO WORK!!!! ISN'T THAT JUST KOOKY?!" Which is, honestly, amazing and true. Reading manga is as Japanese as tempura pie; everybody reads manga, because there is a sub-genre of manga for literally everybody. I don't think there's a Japanese demographic that hasn't yet been inundated with manga targeted towards it.

So, manga aside... being an anime fan in Japan is just about as nerdy as it is here in the US. Remember, that we only hear stories of the crazy Otaku that carry full-body pillows of dating-sim characters to the park for a picnic; those guys are actually walking around in Japan. You can see why they'd think the way they do.

On to lighter matters! Here was last week's Answerfans assignment:

Our first answer comes from Mr. Stearns:

The out right best series this season I feel is likely Canaan. Obviously only being 5 episodes into the series, its very likely that it will eventually fall into the routine bee train produced anime fall into, with a strong start that ends in a lackluster conclusion well before the climax even hits, however I still have hopes that this series will turn out well. However it has merits now. Likable characters in the form of the chinese taxi driver, action, and beautiful cinematography(is this the correct word to use for animation?). It seems to be paced reasonably well, and the villains as well as primary protagonist seem to fall into a potential gray area where it might end up hard to root for the protagonist beating the bad guy, at least if the last few episodes give a good depiction as to what the villains have undergone.

The art is not exactly stellar all the time, in fact its about average, maybe a little above at the times where it is not CGI enhanced awesome. It certainly feels a lot better currently than the also airing bee train production of phantom, which while decent, seems to have started going down a less realistic path.

Since it is likely to end up lackluster, the shaft produced Bakemonogatari is decent. But I am a fan of Shinbou and Shaft's style of production. It certainly lacks in action, but makes up for it in its use of camera angles, and beautiful imagery. It can go, however, from being very intricately drawn, to somewhat bad art from moment to moment, but that is a staple of Shaft productions. It adds an element to it that makes it hard to criticize as far as animation goes.

Another runner up has to be princess lover, despite being a typical harem anime. It is cliche, but entertaining, and has rather good art considering the poor run the harem genre seems to have with animation.

Dominator1000 has an answer of immense magnitude:

Personally, I have to say that Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is far and away, not only the best but most unique, the what if scenario covering the center of the plot is something refreshing to see compared to the never ending creations of moe comedy that seem to be hitting an all time high as of late. Not only is it original but it is a much more enjoyable way for me to get informed about the topic. I don't know about other people but I don't have a sense or fear of ever experiencing an earthquake in Pennsylvania. This show is a good way for me to understand a little better because just like the very first scene of episode one kindly informs us, earthquakes happen frequently in Japan. While getting a little education in anime is always fun, having it told from the point of view of the kids Mirai and Yuki enables a great pacing to the series and makes it all the better. It becomes understandable instead of ending up a crazy wreck like the earthquake itself. So! far the series is keeping my interest and i'm sure it will stay great all the way through. It's also very well animated, so everyone who enjoys the eye candy aspect of anime should check this out if your tired of the summer comedy and/or magical powers.

Kelvin denies existences:

Well, that's definitely Bakemonogatari. Sure, the title's a handful, but the stellar writing and quality animation make it number one in my book. Canaan comes in a close second, but the story's just a bit too confusing for my taste. (Apparently, it has a prequel on the Wii. Only in Japan, though) Needless has some horrid writing, but I can't exactly remember after the ED imploded my brain. Let's just say it involves every fetish from Inner Tubes to Foot-Touching. The FMA reboot is pretty good, but it's nothing I haven't seen before.

And the second season of Haruhi Suzumiya? I don't want to talk about it. In fact, I'll probably deny its existence.

James throws another vote for CANAAN, who likes it so much he capitalizes it in full:

The answer to est New Anime Show Of The Summer is CANAAN. For a show that is based off a video game it has some great character relationships, a compelling story involving assasins, terrorists and corporate greed and some excellent animation.

I mean as much as I love the new season Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei and the return of Space Adventure Cobra, it is CANAAN that has kept on the edge of my seat every episode. Mystery, action and really good, intersting characters make CANAAN the best NEW anime of the summer, if not the year.

Mark goes gaga for the big new sports anime:

Good question this week (not implying the quality of previous questions were lacking (or am I???)).

The best anime that I've been watching this summer has to be Cross Game. Nothing else that I've seen recently has managed to convey such an interesting, touching story as the Wakaba Tsukishima/Aoba Tsukishima/ Ko Kitamura triangle. Throw in the baseball, the excellent supporting cast, the comedy and the drama and it's easily one of the best series that has come out in a while.

That said, there are two other shows that deserve mention. Although there have only been a few episodes released, Sora no ManiMani so far has been funny and it's got astronomy! Funny astronomy!

The other show that I'm really enjoying is Saki. In all my years, I have never seen as good a ecchi/yuri/mahjong show as this one. It just blows the rest of the ecchi/yuri/mahjong shows out of the water! Well worth watching!

Abrecan took that risk, oh yes:

At the risk of having my otaku-dom showing up, I will admit that whenever a new anime season rolls out, I tend to watch at least one episode of most new anime (excluding anything by Toei and ecchi shows) just to try to get an idea of whats what and make mental notes of things to watch out for...

That said, I think it's pretty safe to say I think "Bakemonogatari" takes the cake for this season.For starters it's by Studio SHAFT so that alone should take mention of it's visual qualities. The only graphical failure that they've had in recent memory was Natsu no Arashi, but going through the rest of what they've done, yeah, definitely one of the best companies out there. And it shows in Bakemonogatari (Wow, that's gonna get really annoying to continue typing out) with crisp, clean, detailed animation that were one of the very first things that sucked me in.

The subject is also something that although not terribly unique, you do have trouble finding it among the sea of bad ecchis and shows that run rampant with little girls being annoying and whatnot. The first episode introduces the series in a haruhi-esque way, sending you straight into the plot with little immediate introduction. Where apparently the male protagonist of the series used to be a vampire, and with the help of some drop-out priest, rids himself of the curse. The female protagonist has no mass, litterally. Weighing at 5kg, when her secret is found by the male protagonist, she threatens him in a... unique way (Box Cutter and Stapler inside the mouth... I was expecting something of a joker 2.0 first). The female protagonist, despite being hostile doesn't fall under the Tsundere category which is so popular as of late, for she seems to be a genuine bitch, which is fun to watch (Revy from Black lagoon being the best example)

The whole series has a dark overtone throughout, which is broken up by some equally dark -yet hilarious- and sarcastic inpromptu conversations between the two. Dark Comedy, some what actiony (At least, the well animated OP would have you believe there will be some violence), an entertaining base with an execution that just seems to naturally flow in a style reminicisent of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei; All makes for what, in my opinion, is the best out not just in summer, but this year out so far.

Adam Bruck has similar sentiments:

While, in my humble opinion, there are no new shows this season that match the brilliance of last season's Eden of the East, there are a surprising number of good new shows. Quite a few in the current crop give me hope for anime as a whole, as they are actually doing something different and telling different stories in different ways. There are still cookie-cutter shows mired in genre tropes, but the selection of unique shows is surprisingly good this season.

My favorites of the season, Bakemonogatari and Zan Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei, are in completely different genres, but I feel that I need to pair them up because of their common element - SHAFT. SHAFT has taken very solid source material and given its own artistic spin on each, without screwing up what made the source material good in the first place. While critics of SHAFT complain that their artistic style - odd camera angles, rapid perspective changes, split-second blocks of text, bits of live-action and such - is gimmicky, I believe that it adds an extra layer to the shows that keeps them fresh and entertaining. While Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei is still amazingly funny like the manga, and Bakemonogatari keeps its rapid-fire, clever dialogue and mythology, the animation provides a unique experience that keeps things fresh for fans of the original material. And there's something about these offbeat, highly stylized series that makes SHAFT's controlled-chaos animation style just work. Sometimes I wish I could give my pause and next-frame buttons a rest, though!

I feel like I have to mention the whole Haruhi Suzumiya fiasco as well. While the 7-week and counting repetition of Endless Eight is not good in any sense of the word, the fact that Kadokawa and/or Kyoani went this direction at all and the overwhelmingly negative public response make the situation very interesting. Haruhi, of course, was a mega-hit that reached sales numbers and fandom seen only by shonen and giant robot anime. The fanbase was full of very obsessed people who helped the series sell a million CDs and DVDs and tons of character goods. It's incredible that a company would willingly destroy such a franchise. From a business standpoint, Endless Eight seems like exactly the wrong thing to do; from a fan's standpoint, it's depressing to see the continuation of an amazing first season turn out like this. However, the fan reaction provides an interesting social experiment - what happens when you severely piss off a group of obsessed, introverted, hardcore otaku who basically live for this stuff? (I know most Haruhi fans aren't like that, but the most vocal ones are.)

Demien raises his lone voice for Umineko:

I've been trying to get back into anime and with all these new released this summer, it's a great opportunity to start following a series right from the get go. Unfortunately, this summer's selection of anime, for a lack of a better word, sucks.

I'm very disappointed in the anime industry's choice in series. Everything is fanservice. It disgusts me. It's not even funny fanservice. It's predictable crap that's been in rotation for the last few years. Why can't I find a series like Escaflowne, Mushishi, Air? Series that don't rely on petty fanservice?

tl;dr this summer's pick for me is Umineko no naku koro ni. Higurashi is my favourite series of ALL time. Thus, Umineko is an obvious choice for me. And as expected, it has that mystery murder messwithyourmind plot that would keep anyone interested. I'm fairly impressed with the first arc, and will definitely watch it until the end. Even on episode 5, I have no idea where the series is going, but I know it's going to be good. Anyone looking for something to watch, Umineko is THE series to watch this summer.

I can't actually hear what J. Douglas is on about, so we'll go ahead and close on this last letter:

Season 2 of Haruhi Suzumiya

Season 2 of Haruhi Suzumiya

Season 2 of Haruhi Suzumiya

Season 2 of Haruhi Suzumiya

Season 2 of Haruhi Suzumiya

Season 2 of Haruhi Suzumiya

Season 2 of Haruhi Suzumiya

Season 2 of Haruhi Suzumiya……why am I being forced to write this over and over and over…….?

I hope you can hear the sarcasm.

I know what sound I *can* hear, though. And that sound is... 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.

And now that most solemn of times has come at last - time for me to saunter away slowly from my internet soapbox and assume my normal, dawdling life in the real world. Goodbye, folks!

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