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Hey, Answerman!
Z Edition

by Brian Hanson,

I stopped by my mailbox today to find the most curious object lying inside of a Netflix envelope - a Blu Ray Disc containing the 2009 feature film, "Dragonball Evolution." I've been playing it in the background while writing this column for the past five minutes now, and already I've suffered through one inexplicably goofy fight scene and about thirty pages worth of exposition crammed into a few minutes of screen time, not to mention Justin Chatwin's excrutiatingly irritating face.

Silly movies aside, below lyeth your questionings:

For years, I've noticed that the quality of animation in the west is seriously lacking in comparison to in Japan. I mean this as a whole; the quality of the art, animation, story, writing - everything is all trumped by something in Japan. Shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender would have you believe that this isn't true, but it is but one in a sea of slap-stick mediocrity. What's stopping western animators from producing the next Seirei no Moribito, Shangri-La, or Darker than Black? I believe it is due to the perception in the west that cartoons are for children, so to carry that demographic, don't require the depth of any of the aforementioned characteristics to be "acceptable". According to your August 7th post, it does seem as though the bar is a bit higher (children and teenagers), but is that the only thing necessary to raise the level of quality over here? Why do I have to rely on Japan to get quality art, story and characters in the only medium that can handle the extravagance that Sci-Fi and Fantasy are capable of on a budget?

"Just because my name is ChiChi doesn't make me a complete idiot." What.

Anyway! I've answered various permutations of this question a few times in the past, but again allow me to elaborate. Western animation isn't any more "for kids" than anime is - anime is considered children's fodder just as much as it is here. And much like we have our few exceptions like South Park and Family Guy, so Japan has their Ghost in the Shell's and such.

But aside from that, the thing that's stopping western animators from making shows of similar quality to Moribito is that there's... not really much of an audience for it. Like I mentioned last week, making long-form animated shows in America is not a cheap proposition, and the executives that bankroll new shows are already reticent enough to fund something if it's not entirely evident that it'll become a surefire hit. Given the chance, and especially the money, western animators would make some truly remarkable, mind-blowing shows of every genre imaginable. Animators from around the world are intensely creative people, but the monetary constraints they're given when producing "popular entertainment" are beyond restrictive.

Given that, western animators hone their craft producing quality "cartoon" shows, because they're the one realatively safe bet that executives are willing to gamble on. The talent working in the US animation industry is so diverse and capable, they could produce a series unlike anything ever seen before. Ditto for Japan. But the suits that cut the checks aren't so interested in things like that, so enjoy things like Avatar: The Last Airbender when you get them.

This movie deserves some credit for making an exceptionally attractive woman like Emmy Rossum look as completely ridiculous as humanly possible.

Hey Answerman!

I was wondering what sells more as a commodity in the US, manga or anime? And what are the typical sales for either of these (I understand it's different between series)?

Additionally, do manga sales suffer because of libraries?

Oh, manga, definitely. By far.

It's cheaper - much cheaper - than DVDs. Plus, digital piracy has had much less of a percieved effect in general on the printed medium. Shocking though it sounds, people generally don't enjoy straining their eyes over a computer moniter to read their favorite books, comics, and manga than to simply walk into a bookstore and read it. Obviously there's still a die-hard contingent of people that swear by scanlations and never buy a single manga volume in their entire lives, but that's a much smaller minority than the absurd percentage of anime "fans" that download anime without ever dropping a single cent on a legitimate purchase.

Now, as far as sales numbers, that varies, as you said, between series. Something like Naruto can sell upwards of several hundred-thousand copies; for your average garden variety manga series not tied to a uber-popular franchise, most publishers are looking to sell, at the very least, ten-thousand copies or so. By comparison, most anime DVDs need to sell around that amount - 10,000 or so - just to be profitable, so you can see why the piracy issue is a major problem.

Libraries? If they had any impact on manga sales, it'd be a negligible one at best, I'd imagine. Manga has a much stronger collector's component than anime, due mainly to its inexpensive nature.

Why do they call their energy "ki" at first, and then later call it "airbending"? And some of the CGI is beyond silly-looking.

I'm sure you've gotten this question (or ones similar to it) many times, but I just have to ask: why does everyone think anime fans are perverts, pedophiles, or both?

I'm not saying that anime isn't at times perverted. I've seen my share of titanic breasts and panty shots. But, it's not like all anime have that much fan service. I mean, look at Naruto or Bleach; besides the few big-breasted women and nosebleeding episodes, most of the time it's pretty harmless. And it's not like it plays a major part in the series.

Plus, it's not like American cartoons are all innocent. I can watch Elfen Lied before I can even look at South Park. True, their character drawings aren't as important as in anime, but the dialogue and actions are infinitely raunchier then what I see in typical anime. I mean, the TV-14 shows that air on CBS show more sex then in the anime that is rated TV-14 in the US.

So it is just some harsh stereotype or what? I'm hoping you can clear this up for me.

Just as an aside, nothing rankles me more, as an anime fan, than people who don't watch anime trying to make tentacle rape jokes. First, there's nary a tentacle rape joke you can make that I haven't heard dozens of times that wasn't very good to begin with. Second, has there been any tentacle porn of note since 1994? No? Let's move on to the next absurd, disgusting hentai thing to make jokes about. Thanks.

Now, I'm not going to mention how bizarre I think it is that you can stomach Elfen Lied over South Park. Well, actually I guess I just did, but nevermind. I think the key difference is that South Park plays all of its sexual content for laughs. Whereas Elfen Lied, by and large, does intend to titillate its audience a bit with its frequent portrayal of nudity and girls in skimpy undergarments. And that's the part that US audiences are uncomfortable with - sex is fine and dandy, so long as nobody's getting off on it and we can all laugh about it. Look at the movie Bruno - that movie actually contains hardcore sex, but it's fine as an R-rated comedy because it's all played for a joke.

Even the fanservice bits in Bleach are meant to titillate their teenage audience a bit, innocuous though that may be. We're just not used to that in our cartoons. I'm not saying that it's right, but that is the common perception, and it's unlikely to change anytime soon. Neither am I saying that everyone should feel comfortable as being labeled a perverted degenerate for enjoying anime, as that's patently untrue, but hopefully that's something that'll slowly fade away as people forget that things like Urotsukidoji ever existed.

You know, this CGI ki-blast fight actually looks pretty cool. It's like they had the budget to make at least one fight scene look good and forgot about the rest.

I have a feeling this was a well-inteded question, but it's still pretty weird.

Dear Answerman,

I went to this last Anime Expo. I drove there with friends for days 2, 3, and 4. It was a fun time for sure. However, after AX, I have heard from one of my friends I went with that there was some sort of epidemic that broke out on the last day of AX. Morning Musume was not at the closing ceremonies, they instead showed a video of the group bidding good bye to everybody who attended. My friend noticed that some of them were wearing the cough masks worn by Japanese people. He says that he ended up having a cold after he got back, and one of his brothers caught as well. He also says that there were a bunch of users talking about it on the AX forums, how some of them caught this cold or whatever it may have been. And lastly, there is supposedly a report that a con goer died after returning home to Washington (the state). Were you or any of the ANN staff affected by this epidemic, or is there something about this you can elaborate on?

Since returning from Anime Expo, I have been in a coma, slowly blinking out each and every Hey, Answerman column one letter at a time, like in that movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Both Carlo Santos and Bamboo Dong were killed by this disease, and hyper-intelligent A.I. protocols have been writing their articles in their stead.

Do not think that you were spared. The disease is still inside you. And it is inside everyone you know and love. You cannot stop it. We cannot stop it. None will be spared. Our fate is cruel.

Good golly, welcome to another Hey, Answerfans! Here was my question from last time:

Man, you guys totally went to town with this one. Although the big title it seems everyone wants to see released is Legend of Galactic Heroes. Lianna sums up her LoGH love nicely:

*dramatic mode on*

Lasers slice through space. Starships burst into flame, their crews of millions perishing instantly. The fate of whole planets hangs on the outcome of single skirmishes. There are no aliens in this saga of the stars, simply human drama, and villains and heroes and those in-between each have their parts to play in the pages of history. I speak, oh Answerman, of the epic 1988-1997 OVA space opera, “Legend of the Galactic Heroes.”

LOGH is like no other anime I've ever watched. The scale and complexity of the storyline, with its cast of thousands, draws you in and lets you feel the weight behind each move of its two warring nations. Neither the autocratic Galactic Empire (no, not *that* Galactic Empire) nor the democratic Free Planets Alliance can fully claim moral right at the culmination of their hundred-year war, and their leaders and citizens dwell in an equally gray area . This is what makes this show so great—like true history, right and wrong are simply matters of perspective. Most viewers of the series will find themselves rooting for one side, then a few episodes later, rooting for the other.

Despite the well-developed main characters, complex, fantastically-written plot, Wagnerian score, and spectacular battles, I doubt that LOGH will ever be licensed outside Japan. The series' animation and character designs have aged horribly over the years, and of course there is the show's epic length to consider. A licensor would have to be very confident in sales, indeed, to agree to distribute a 110-episode series (not counting the spin-offs and movies!). LOGH's pacing is a problem as well, as the space battles are separated by long stretches of talking heads. To a fan like myself, the military maneuvers and intricate political machinations that occur during these segments are as equally exciting as exploding spaceships, but they're probably well outside the attention span of any casual viewer.

Thank goodness for fansubs. That's all I can say.

Doug makes his case for a pretty obscure show:

Perrine Monogatari (aka: The Story of Perrine), this one is really old and dated but has a heartwarming story which alas, is not available! This is a story that holds my interest more than 98% of what I consider good anime - it would be nice to see some of the older gems available at least for streaming.

Alan wants to see totally bodacious babes shooting guns in shiny disco shorts:

Oh, that's easy...DIRTY PAIR!

Yes, I know the OVAs, the movies (Project Eden et al), and even the DP Flash revamp have been released here in North America. But I'm still waiting for the 26-episode TV series to finally get a long-overdue release here.

I pose the question of its release at the ADV panel at every convention (I ask them because they've released all the other DP stuff). I usually get a "can neither confirm nor deny", "the market is shaky", "it's risky to invest in an older title (understandable; it first aired about 1985)", ad nauseum.

So it continues to be stuck in limbo. And here I sit patiently waiting. Hey, I wouldn't be disappointed if there was no English dub; I'd be happy with a sub-only release.

If nothing else, it could finally be released as part of a complete box set with movies, OVAs, and even the Flash series similar to the recent Nuku Nuku box set.

Someday, perhaps...

Jean loves kitties:

OK, I'm not sure why I should be "furious" that other people haven't been introduced to a show (shows) I particularly want to see, because mine is more "dying of curiosity" because I can't figure out exactly what's going on without English subtitles, so I want the series to come out in America subtitled simply for my own personal convenience. This would be the time when being rich enough to start up my own company would be useful.

The first one is Shurato. Saw a few episodes of it fansubbed, back in the day, and never got to see the rest, so I have no idea what happened in the end. It's got a perfectly good Japanese cast, so a small sub-only release would work fine for me and the undoubtedly niche market it would attract. Every so often when the OP comes up on the ipod, I think about Shurato and it's been 10+ years and I still haven't gotten around to actually doing any research. Procrastination. So the only way I'm going to find out is if someone else translates the series.

The second is Dagwon. I've seen bits of it in raw Japanese, and I can't make head or tail of what's going on. (Even just an explanation of what "don't say four or five" is supposed to mean would help.) Possibly because I wasn't watching it in order, which probably didn't help. But every so often I wonder what exactly was happening and how it ended and what the OAV has to do with anything.

There's some others even less likely to get released, like What's Michael, but I just think a show full of cats would be nice to bring over, not in any particularly must-see TV sort of way. I mean, if Taruto came over, someone must think there's a market for cat shows.

Max pines for Cobra:

This is probably the first question I actually have a strong opinion on and a simple one at that. SPACE. ADVENTURE. COBRA.

Space Adventure Cobra may well be the greatest sci-fi tale ever told (already I feel the burning hate-stares of the trek and star wars fans) and has nothing like it in the world of anime or manga. It got a very small manga release of the first few chapters when viz was starting and things were flipped and awful and even has the film version of it on dvd in some places.

Despite all this no company has gone back and handled with the full original manga, the classic anime series or the sequel series that we still see nowadays. Some would blame it on it being old sure but SCREW THAT this stuff holds up to the test of time like many a classic ghibli title or heck, that bloated over-released gospel that is Dragon Ball Z. In fact I think I'm onto something here; if the people rereleasing Dragon Ball constantly in different qualities and formats put that effort into licensing old classics like Space Adventure Cobra the world would be a better place and the poor foolish Dragon Ball Z fans can finally stop spending money on the 5th version of the Saiyan saga.

Sure it wouldn't sell as much but I'm not a businessman and the anime industry is apparently in a horrific decline if you listen to the frightened masses so what would it matter?

Cherie is here with our only response for more Sailor Moon! Really? I thought my inbox would be cluttered to the gills with cries of Sailor Moon:

Answerman, my thoughts came quickly on this question - - - the issue of partial releases! I'm royally ticked that Sailormoon has been put in the vault for a "minimum" of 15 years (that was a few years ago). This especially irks me since Season 5, Sailor Stars, was never a commercial region 1 DVD release... Also, there is an implication that Sailormoon could be unavailable outside of Japan for longer than the proposed 15 years!

It's possible that the studio thought some themes (and nude scenes of Sailormoon) were not appropriate for viewing on US and Canadian TV, *BUT* there were transformation scenes in other seasons of the show that were blurred/air brushed so that they could air in those countries... Plus, the ending was actually pretty philosophical and emphasized a world based on love and brotherhood... a great message for all of us.

I found it ludicrous that Sailor Stars was not even allowed to be licensed and released as a region 1 DVD set with a sticker advising it was for the 18+ audience.... Fans faithfully collected releases, and for their devotion were rudely cut off from owning the entire series....Studios have to consider the feelings of their fan base - - - without the fans' support, they don't exist....

Mary has a thing for old-school shoujo:

I have to say that this week's Hey Answerfans question really struck a chord with me. The issue of older titles going unlicensed has bugged me for some time, and all because of one little 70s shojo title that you may have heard of called Rose of Versailles.

Me being a history fanatic, I was fascinated by the synopses of Rose of Versailles that I found find while messing around on the internet in my early years of anime fandom. It was so widely talked about back then that I was shocked when I learned that there was no way I could buy it and watch it without an R2 DVD player and fluency in Japanese. Shock quickly turned to fury; the more I heard other fans talk about how amazing it was, the more I yearned to see it.

I only just recently got a good enough computer setup to torrent and watch Rose of Versailles. I'm still not finished, but I'm already in love. This both helps heal the wound of going so long itching to see it, and makes it sting once more. This anime is amazing and everyone should be able to see it and do so legally. The creators of this anime masterpiece deserve more revenue for it, and it deserves the most widespread accessibility possible. There's a reason the manga creator, Ryoko Ikada, won a French cultural awareness award for this series. Now to get modern anime fans to quit whining about a series "looking old"...

Daryl Surat wrote in! Go listen to his podcast at Anime World Order.

Macross: Do You Remember Love?

Rather than restate everything I said about it two and a half years ago, suffice it to say that it is simply one of the single most celebrated anime films of all time. When you hear "old-timers" (in anime fan circles, that's apparently "people in their 20s and up") talk about how "they don't make 'em like they used to" or refer to the 1980s as "the Golden Age of anime," don't take that to mean that new anime isn't good. That said, there is a definite "feel" to them that, for a variety of reasons, is no longer really present.

Even more so than the original Gunbuster, DYRL embodies all that "anime in the 1980s" was. Despite its somewhat jarring and catastrophic levels of violence, it's imbued with a bright-eyed optimism that has faded from the eyes of us all ever since we realized we weren't going to have our flying cars, interstellar travel, and all the promises of tomorrow that were made by the last century's worth of SF. The Macross movie pre-dates all that. Created during the "bubble economy" when Japan was at the top of the world, it pre-dates their massive recession and the cynical "created by committee" approach which arose from it. It's that approach which marks the difference in "feel" between Macross/DYRL and Macross Frontier (which I have mixed feelings towards). DYRL captured the spirit of the times, and those times are over and gone.

Yet there's never been a US DVD or Blu-Ray release. Or laserdisc, for that matter. And there probably never will be, thanks to endless legal disputes and bizarre contracts both in Japan and in the United States. I know, "never say never," but it's been 25 years. Even Penelope didn't have to wait that long for Odysseus.

At the last anime convention I went to, there was an Anime Name That Tune event which packed the room to capacity. But not a single person was able to identify what anime "Ai Oboeteimasu ka" was from. After about a minute, one person guessed it might have been a remix from "that song from Macross Frontier." That is the reality of the situation on the ground, people. We're at the point where most anime fans don't even know that Macross: Do You Remember Love? ever existed in the first place.

I, for one, am furious.

Kate loves Macross: Do You Remember Ridiculous Subtitles as well:

Simple answer: Macross Do You Remember Love. Aside from the fact that it's an epic movie in scope, with awesome music (I defy anyone to listen to "Ai Oboete Imasuka" without feeling something) and a great storyline, it would be nice to be able to introduce people to the Macross universe with something shorter than just the whole original series. You can extend this to Macross titles in general - I liked Zero and I love Frontier and I'd really, really like to own them.

Silly answer: Sailor Moon Stars. But it's probably just as well that never happened. "Star Gentle Uterus" is the worst attack name ever.

Capping off our nerd rage for the evening, Tyshunn educates you damn kids out there on what mecha anime used to be:

Space Runaway Ideon.

This series pretty much set the standard for the mecha series of today. this is the series that proved mecha can be handled on a deeper level than just Gundam. It is considered by many to be Yoshiyuki Tomino's Masterpiece, and is credited for being the anime that would eventually inspire Neon Genesis Evangelion. Despite all of this, the series has been completely lost to the pages of time.

And now it's time to race over to your favorite email client and mentally prepare yourself for next week's question. WHICH IS:

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 have 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.

You know what? I'm disappointed by Dragonball Evolution. It was a silly kid's movie. As opposed to G.I. Joe, which was a silly, annoying kids movie. Here I was expecting a monumentally bad, terrible movie; color my face red on that one. See you all next week!

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