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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Hi everyone! Welcome to Hey, Answerman!

This week I've got some questions, followed by some answers, and then some answers to some questions that I myself had asked. And somewhere in there I make fun of someone for sending me a dumb question. It's all pretty simple.

On that inauspicious note, let us begin!

Hey Answerman, I have a question about sound formatting on Region 1 DVD's. I recently installed a surround sound system in my apartment so I have been paying closer attention to the sound settings on my DVD's. I have noticed that for a lot of the dual language TV series I have purchased (Welcome to the NHK, Baccano!, etc) there is an English 5.1 track but only a stereo option for the Japanese language track. However for Japanese only releases such as Sentai Filmworks recent release of Legends of the Dark King, there was 5.1 available. For recent movies (Sword of the Stranger, Vexille, etc.) There is a 5.1 option for both. Long story short, my question is why leave out a Japanese 5.1 for TV series when it seems that it is available?

There's a pretty simple explanation for the supposed disparity, actually. It's because, more often than not, a Japanese 5.1 surround soundtrack just doesn't exist.

Welcome to the NHK and Baccano! are TV shows, first and foremost. They were produced in Japan to air on Japanese TV. The current Japanese broadcast standard doesn't support 5.1 audio, so they don't bother mixing one, and... that about settles it. This may change, though, as more and more broadcasters switch to the newer ISDB-T High Definition broadcast standard, which does, in fact, support 5.1 audio.

Movies and OAVs, though, tend to have 5.1 audio because those are being produced with the DVD market already in mind. So it's not so much an issue of the Japanese 5.1 audio track being "left out" so much as one... not really existing in the first place. Now, granted, there has been the rare occasion where a Japanese 5.1 audio track has been withheld by the Japanese license-holder for random reasons, as well as the even rarer occasion where the Japanese 5.1 track has been cut out of a Region 1 disc to save disc space. On the whole, though, whenever a US company has the chance to include a Japanese 5.1 audio mix, they will.

Hey Answerman,

Here's an enigmatic question for you: there's a new Sega card game/video game for kids ala Dinosaur King set in the samurai period called Get Tenka. It's spawning a stinkin' manga in Coro Coro Comic, also home to manga based on franchises such as Mario, Pokemon and Duel Masters. There could even be an anime from TMS who made the Dinosaur King anime. Could this be the next big thing from Japan? If so, could 4Kids bring the possible anime here like they did with Dinosaur King and Sonic X?

Woah, woah, wait.

This is starting to sound like some sort of Euclidean theorem. So, because this rather odd and goofy-looking arcade game has a manga in Coro Coro Comic, it's therefore probably maybe gonna have an anime, and will 4kids probably maybe release the probable anime that probably will maybe exist.

Yeah, I'm, uh, lost. Now, far be it from me to judge what the potential allure that "Get Tenka" has over you, even though it frightens me that it might be sexual in nature; it's just completely illogical to assume that because this new thing has a manga coming out in Coro Coro Comic, it'll follow the exact same path of a few other children's anime properties before it. It might, it might not, but it is complete folly to try and predict the popularity of future anime properties aimed at kids. The biggest companies in the world waste millions of dollars on market research trying to figure out what kids like and why, and even they don't have the slightest clue.

And what is with those dumb card-based arcade games, anyway? I can't stop myself from playing with them whenever I'm inside of a Gameworks, because they're tiny machines that look like the unholy coupling of a Fischer-Price and Duplo TV set, and there's never anybody using them. They all have terrible graphics and the entire conceit of the "gameplay" consists of mashing one of three buttons in some lame mashup of pattern recognition and Rock-Paper-Scissors-style of dumb luck. And then it spits out a card so that you can "do better next time."

My favorite one of those games is the one with the wrestling rhinoceros beetles.

Recently,I read an article on another anime website called "The Top 10 Reasons Why Anime is Superior to Western Animation." It contained what I thought is wrong with a few anime fans. That anime and manga are superior to anything Americans can create. That attitude to me is stupid, idiotic, and more than a little snobbish. Are there great anime? Yes. But not all of them are good.

There are a number of manga that I like but there are also comic books I like as well. To me, there's nothing wrong with liking both American and Japanese animation. I was wondering what do you think?

First of all, dude, my first piece of advice: don't get worked up over Top 10 lists on some loser asshole's anime blog. There are other, far more salient issues currently plaguing our world that deserve your ire than what a dumb baby with a blogspot account and a brain STD has to say about cartoons.

And, yeah, that is a snobbish and stupid view to have. I, as an adult, have a reasoned and exacted opinion on all animation and cartoons in general, and I understand that there are shining diamonds and shallow garbage produced from virtually every nook and cranny of the globe. My general theory is that people who write things like "The Top 10 Reasons Why Anime is Superior to Western Animation" are the same sort of people who get really worked up over how much better their Xbox 360 is to the Playstation 3, and the same kind of kids that complain that the subtitle track on an anime DVD isn't "accurate" because it doesn't match the grammatically-incorrect speed-subs they downloaded from the internet.

And by that I mean that these "people" are just kids. Just stupid, misinformed children. One of two things tends to happen to these children: One, they grow up, discover that it's better to have friends and fun than to spend their days and nights writing snippy, disparaging things about cartoons nobody really cares about on the internet. Two, they become such insecure and emotionally fragile shut-ins that they never leave their house, discover some kind of hilarious yet disturbing erotic internet subculture, and videotape themselves on YouTube saying and doing exceptionally weird things.

Either one of these options, you see, is fine with me.

Now, it's a pretty frequent thing I've noticed that people assume that I have some kind of dark, sordid connection to Japanese artists, animators, musicians, and, here's a new one, video game producers. They are all horribly wrong. I do not know any of these people and I have no control over what they do.

Dear Masahiro Yoshimoto

There is a game called Shenmue 3 made by Sega and it has not been made and it has been 7 years. Is It possible if you can make a movie or write a book and make an audio book or draw a comic cant they make one of these things that have the rest of the story of Shenmue 3 after all we just want to know the rest of the story.

Thanks Jonathan

And now... a nerd on YouTube tells it like it is.


It's the Answerfans section! It's your turn to do all the talking! So I'm going to sit in the corner and nurse my headache and sip on a mojito and make snide comments to myself. Here was the question I posed to my posse last week:

Chris begins the festivities with his cool mysticism:

As far as anime on U.S TV, I believe the whole "cool, mystical Japanese cartoon" explosion has died off for the most part. I honestly can't see a "comeback" equivalent to it's initial mainstream acceptance(or attempt at exploitation) in the mid-late 90's well into the 2000s. With the advent of legal streaming - illegal, as well-, combined with the almost nonexistant promotion of anime and insanely late nite schedule of what anime there is on TV, it pretty much makes irrelevant. While I would love to see [adult swim] become the prime time anime block of U.S. TV once again, like the good ol' days, I honestly don't see that happening, or on any other network that plays around with anime. However, who knows what the future brings, near or distant?

Wayne R paints a rather gloomy portrait:

There is no reason for anime to make a comeback right now. As a whole, the cartoon market in USA is not what it used to be. There was a time when network TV had cartoon blocks before school, after school, and on weekend mornings. Now however, that is not the case and the only way to really see cartoons is on the 24hr cartoon channels. I used to watch Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, and Pokemon every morning before school. Then I would come home from school and watch Dragonball Z, Gundam, and other random anime like Ronin Warriors. On weekends I could enjoy Yugioh, Pokemon, One Piece, Shaman King, and yes, even Ultimate Muscle. Keep in mind that most of these anime were accompanied by other popular American cartoons.

The scale of cartoons on TV today is much different. Morning and afternoon cartoon blocks no longer exist, and even though Saturday blocks still exist, it is difficult to say to what extent they will remain. Disney has the money to keep its ABC block alive, but 4Kids doesn't seem to have the momentum for another year. They've lost Pokemon, halted new Yugioh episodes, and only play reruns of Sonic X. Just recently they lost Ninja Turtles to Nickelodeon, a 24hr cartoon channel, and began the process of moving their other cartoons to Cartoon Network. 4Kids was the last bastion of anime on network TV, but I don't think Dinosaur King will manage to keep that going.

Anime is doing slightly better on cable TV. Disney picked up Naruto Shippuden for Wednesday afternoons, for example. This is a good thing, but at the same time, the people who are most interested in Naruto are either watching the fansubs, the online streams, or reading the manga. The same goes for Bleach which is basically a midnight courtesy given by Adult Swim which has all but abandoned its anime programming. Cartoon Network also manages to keep Pokemon and Bakugan going on Saturday mornings.

What I am trying to get at is that like other fads, Anime has had its boom and bust. Even though anime started airing on American TV decades ago, it wasn't until the 90's that kids easily identified them as "Japanese" cartoons that were different from other cartoons. Now that the fad is over, anime in America should remain a niche market. By no means is anime irrelevant, but I do believe the mass market appeal is gone. The market for anime has shrank by a large amount the past few years and the motivation for anime dubbing companies to get their product onto TV channels is not there anymore. Now is not the time for a comeback. Online streams, manga, and DVD are the best option. Let me put it this way: In 1999 "Pokemon: The First Movie" made $85.7 million in the US. The last Pokemon movie that made it to US theaters in 2003, "Pokemon: Heroes", made less than $1 million in the US. That one statistic is a summary of the whole story.

I hope Jennifer finished her homework after writing this:

I was talking to my boss about this anime convention I was going to, and I jokingly asked her to come along. She said,"I totally would, except I don't know anything about it." I was taken aback. How could she not know about anime? She's seen Sailor Moon, and caught a glimpse of Pokemon and YuGiOh, what does she mean she doesn't know? Is there really that much to know about anime?

And then I took a look around. I took a step back, and looked through the eyes of an average American citizen, and flipped through the shows. I could understand why she thought she had to know about anime to enjoy it. It is extremely under-exposed in America. One or two shows on cable networks, and not much else. And you know what? It shocks me that network television hasn't caught on to the HUGE fan base already built up around anime. It'd seem to me you'd want to make money without having to generate interest?

That's not to say that there aren't any shows that are on television. Its just not any good ones. I hesitate to say this, because I myself am addicted to the show, but Naruto is not the best show in the world. It just isn't. The animation is incosistent, the story is filled with fillers, and the characters sometimes seem one-note. The jokes aren't funny, and tend to be strangely worded. It's a shame to me that this is what people see when they think of anime. No wonder my boss was confused.

There are so many good titles, so many that can make you cry, laugh, and scream all in the space of ten minutes, and so many that haven't seen the light of day because stations are afraid their ratings will drop, or they have to make way for shows, oh I don't know, about a fourty year old woman getting pregnant after a one night stand with a twenty year old, and is forced to live with him, and "wackyness ensues." I can think of plenty of shows that would fill that thirty minute void, and many that will do it fifteen times better, that will make you weep with happiness, not cringe at the jokes that try way to hard. I think it's time for a comeback for anime, for sure. But with well-chosen shows. Shows that have a deeper meaning, shows that make you think, shows that show viewers how rich this medium for expression can be. Shows that make people forget they are watching a "cartoon," because they are shows with good artwork, and intriguing characters, and a story that gets you from the moment you start to watch.

I think, more than that, anime needs a comeback. Or the entire genre will be condemned as a niche, pushing away any people who might turn into avid fans if they could only see the potential we long-time fans have seen for a while.

I think that the frozen mochi would be quite a bit cheaper to procure than the spare PC, Swirling Vortex:

I always felt that anime's success in the US was not guaranteed. It was rather a factor of American animation dropping the ball in such dramatic style in the 1990s. When TV animation here turned heavily from series like Gargoyles to edutainment fare which insulted the intelligence of anyone over 3, the people who wanted decent animation started glomming onto whatever they could find, which typically consisted of subbed Dragonball Z on UHF.

Anime therefore got a foothold on the market, but the technical landscape changed. Cheap DVDs (which can be rented virtually forever without loss of quality), and streaming video make it very practical to program your own anime viewing. You don't need Channel 83 showing anime to have it a part of your life anymore.

However, what Channel 83 offered was the financial backing for premier-grade production. Fansubs show that you can produce a decent sub job for the cost of some frozen mochi and a spare PC, but a quality dub-- which, shame of shames, I actually prefer-- is still expensive and labor consuming.

TV also provided a good "pre-selection" aspect. There was no decision concerns, no "do I commit to One Piece or Naruto, Hellsing or Black Blood Brothers..." which made it easy to enter-- will new fans be skimming Hulu at random?

Nathan declares the issue moribund:

Yes, Anime on TV in America is pretty much dead. This is really only a big deal in my opinion with getting Anime into the mainstream public- without it being out there for people to see and accept, then it will continue to remain a niche market. Honestly (and unfortunately) it will probably always continue to be a niche market in America. As far as access to Anime however, I don't think it makes much of a difference to hardcore fans- I and most people I know just watch anime online and stream/download it. It's a big legal gray area to be sure, but most fans just wont wait a year or more for the English translation to get out. And really, why would you want to wait a year or more for it to appear on Cartoon Network when you could just watch it online for free, the moment it comes out with subtitles online? If Japanese companies really wanted to make Anime viable to American television again, they MUST do 2 things. First, English dubs must be available from day one- at the same time as when the show is launched in Japan. Second, that show must be put on television in America immediately. Essentially, they need a worldwide launch of the Anime so that there is less reason to pirate it. I would *prefer* to watch it on television, but since I would have to wait a year or more for my shows and they wouldn't be in English immediately there is no reason to wait around for it. In the modern globalized age, I can get what I want, when I want it, online. If Anime companies want their shows to be important to American audiences, they need to modernize and update their launches for a worldwide approach. I and millions of others are just not going to wait forever for shows like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood to come slowly to American televisions when we can watch it immediatly online. And that there is reason number 1 with why Anime is dying on television in America.

Hansen, forsooth:

My thoughts on this are two fold. First, I think there's a good reason why there's so little anime on American tv right now: the vast majority of the shows that have been shown in the past either sucked to begin with, or were given piss-poor dubs that rendered them virtually unwatchable, so people didn't watch them, so tv executives stopped programing them. I know that it took me until my junior year of high-school to start watching anime for that very reason, from the exposure I'd had to it I figured anime was generally done by and for brain-dead people. Today, while I always hope, and occasionally I'll find something on Adult-Swim or elsewhere that's worth watching, I rarely find any quality material on the airwaves. I don't think that most people are as lucky as me in having a friend that sat them down and forced them to watch a good anime (for me it was "Spirited Away") to show them that it's not all mindless drivel with painfully bad acting. Without that intervention they've long since stopped giving it a chance the way that I still do. I mean really, even the Anime Network has a glut of dross with only the rarest of jewels, and if they can't get it right what hope does any network not devoted to the medium have?

The reality is that most of the good shows never see air time here because the distribution rights get snapped up so quickly anymore for dvd release, not television. Plus there's the fact that most Americans just don't want to sit through a show reading subtitles, so all of the shows here get dubs, which are (or were for a while) getting better, but still aren't on par with the other stuff that gets shown on the same networks. Plus there's the tendency that Americans have to consider anything animated as "kids stuff," beneath their notice. I can't tell you how many times I've had people tell me they didn't want to watch any "stupid cartoons" when I suggested an anime. Of course, as I already indicated, this bias has only been so far confirmed by the majority of the anime people may have taken the time to sample in the past.

Secondly, as you alluded to in your question, I think that for most fans it's a moot point. I don't know anyone that relies on television for their anime fix. They all use some combination of DVDs (both rented and purchased), downloads, and streaming online. In that way the amount of anime on American television is irrelevant at this point: people who already like anime don't need it to be on tv, they'll find it anyway. On the other hand, it would be nice if more people could discover anime as easily as watching their favorite tv channel. As it is, you need either the direct intervention of other people or the extreme, lottery-wining-blind-luck of stumbling across something on tv (usually on a relatively obscure, nich network on cable) that's actually decent enough to watch.

Aw, Daekiljen, I liked your short answer better:

Short answer: no, it is not due for a comeback. Yes, it is irrelevant. Blame the audience.

Long answer:

I can speak for myself, but it is very possible that I am speaking for others. I very much adore anime as a medium, and like all things someone grows interest in, I did a little research; experimented a bit. A few things I found out along the way are: primarily, the anime that I enjoy watching, that appeals to me, and maybe me alone, is not marketable nor merchandisable to the audience that watch more popular syndicated shows on cable television. Secondly, I can access the shows that I enjoy, and even shows that may be broadcast, easier and a lot sooner via the internet.

Even with the advent of specially targeted programming such as Adult Swim available regularly to cable subscribers, the pool of suitable anime to pick from that is prepared for network television is moderately shallow and often outdated. In fact, I took the initiative (and it seems to be becoming a trend) of completely doing away with cable television altogether, and implementing a home theater pc to store everything I want to watch; including what is on the major networks. Through this I can download the anime I want to watch, both current and past seasons, and watch it at my leisure; free of commercial interruptions.

To the majority of America, anime is still a niche market. The companies that are picking up shows and dubbing them are starting to understand how to rewrite/tweak the scripts to appeal to an American audience and culture; but I find more appeal in learning the nuances and references to Japanese culture in these shows, because they are fundamentally Japanese. When I meet someone who watching a show that has been dubbed and broadcast on television, most (if not all) preferred an unedited, true-to-its-roots subtitled version of the show, with the original Japanese dialog and screenplay.

It boils down to the basic shift in viewing habits of the target audience for an anime. The majority of us are technically savvy and inquisitive. Of my friends that do watch anime, we all retrieve it from the internet, and we all watch it subtitled. Even the children who grew up with the Pokémon series, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc., have grown up with access to the internet and are capable of dislocating their proverbial shoulder and writhing free of the straight jacket that is network television programming. Not only are they starting to realize this, but so are various entrepreneurial companies. You can see the evidence on this very site!

Anime is a polarizing medium, because it is radically different from traditional American animation. There are people who, for whatever reason, see it as overtly cartoonish and find the similarity in character design obnoxious. It's debatable if their correct, but the opinion is there and the possibility that others share it is feasible. If you think in a corporate sense, how promotable is a product like anime? A product that, while often engrossing on many levels, does have these flaws? The niche will always exist, but those of us with any sense have shifted away from waiting until 11pm to watch the anime we might enjoy on television, or paying additional fees on top of cable fees to have access to a 24-hour anime channel to which we have no control over the programming, to downloading the show and watching it on our own time.

In this brave new world of entertainment, we are all our own television stations.

Lance wants us out of this recession:

I think anime should make a comeback on TV. But some things must change for it to happen. The Internet has a clearly distinct advantage over TV, because you don't have to deal with crappy timeslots and editing. Fans can watch anime in it's purest form, without any "rules" as to how it should be shown,at anytime they want. Plus, there aren't really any commercials, so no more waiting an agonizing 5-8 minutes watching commercials. The videos rarely have commercials, and if they do they're not longer than 20 seconds. A minute would be far too long.

Not to mention there is a great sea of anime on the Internet being watched or waiting to be watched, and sometimes the anime is even uploaded a few hours after the initial broadcast in Japan. I think the question is not "What anime do I want to watch," it should be "What anime can't I watch?" As opposed to "Hmm, what's on saturday/monday night? Bleach? Ok. Morbito? Nah. Noein? ...Maybe later."

I think that if more anime was shown on TV, it would attract a wider audience, possibly encouraging sales(DVD, figures and whatnot), therefore getting us out of this anime "recession." Notice I said recession and not doomsday. In short, anime must be handled more carefully on TV. Otherwise, things will continue to be the way they are today.

B.J. takes offense to irrelevance:

Let me first state that it is most certainly NOT irrelevant. Any anime on TV is success on some level. It may not be the next DBZ or Pokemon, but it's something.

"Due for a comeback?", though. I'm not quite sure if I can agree with that, like anime has some karmic retribution that it needs to dole out to keep the balance of the universe or something. Anime will become popular the same way anything else becomes popular: a delicate and unstable recipe of resources, timing, and luck. Let's face it: Anime isn't for everyone. I'm sure that there are tons of Japanese people who don't watch anime where it's far more prevalent and successful. Anime is a niche, and easily gains success when it plays to the audience, which is us, the nerds.

I think anime has reached a point where it can sustain itself (in Japan, at least) without having to try and pull in a new demographic. The people who like anime will watch and buy anime. The people who don't will go do something else. We had a heyday in America at the beginning of this decade and it lead to some pretty great things, but I think we should consider it the miracle that it was and move on. Perhaps another miracle is around the corner, perhaps anime will be doomed to cult status forever. I think it's best to accept things as they are and enjoy what is available to us right now.

RoswellFan13 proudly boasts of her East Coast:

I'm sorry, but I disagree with you - I don't think anime is phasing out of American TV. I live on the East Coast, and can find anime on more channels than ever before in this area...

I can watch anime on Cartoon Network on weekends, on the SyFy channel on Monday evenings (they are currently showing episodes of the Viz dub of the brand new release,"Monster"), and then there is Chiller (a cable channel off-shoot of SyFy), which repeats the episodes of "Monster". Other cable channels, such as Encore Action, often run anime movies ("Paprika" and "Appleseed" were two of them recently). Also, I can pay a small monthly fee and watch Anime Network on Demand, or I can order the Funimation Channel, which runs 24/7.

I could only watch anime on Cartoon Network a few years ago, so I think anime is being shown on a lot more channels on the East Coast now.

Rounding it out for the night: Denis? What do you think?

I think American TV itself is irrelevant at this point - watching something as it's broadcast is not much easier than watching a downloaded file or a streaming video, and online is where viewership of all kinds is moving. Worrying about whether anime will be popularized on TV is like trying to get the best room on the Titanic. ANN just reported that Boxee is adding Crunchyroll to its lineup. That's more important than whether Cartoon Network shows a single anime show.

I've already got next week's question all lined up, and here it is, below what I am typing currently:

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.

That is all I've got prepared for this edition, so I'll return next week with my usual bag of tricks! Or not, just to psyche everyone out.

Bye everyone!

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