Hey, Answerman!by Brian Hanson, Dec 4th 2009
Hi guys! I'm running low on time this week and I don't have any sort of interesting anecdote or humorous jibe to throw in the beginning so we're just going to start this thing.
What's preventing American anime companies from releasing Macross Frontier?
There's two particularly nasty hurdles preventing Macross Frontier from showing up stateside.
The first is the inarguable 800-pound gorilla in the room whenever anyone attempts to license anything Macross-related: Harmony Gold.
Harmony Gold is pretty vicious when it comes to protecting their legal rights regarding Macross and Robotech in the United States - consider, for example, the kerfluffle that erupted over the announcement of Mechwarrior 5 a couple of months ago. They maintain a pretty tight grip over their copyright of the Macross name, and the word underground is that they're notoriously difficult to work with.
All that aside, I'm sure most companies wouldn't mind putting up with Harmony Gold and all their nonsense if they were sure that Macross Frontier would be a hit. And that's the big reason why I don't think Macross Frontier is likely to get licensed; it wouldn't be a hit.
To begin with, it's a very, very expensive show to license. Mainly because of the excess of catchy J-Pop tunes that are littered throughout each episode. The rights to license the music alone would be more expensive than your average, run-of-the-mill moe-fest anime series. Not to mention that the last Macross series that achieved any sort of success in the US was, what Macross Plus? And that was over a decade ago. ADV apparently didn't do so well with their big re-mastered, re-dub of the original series. Basically, there are a ton of reasons why we're unlikely to see Macross Frontier in the US any time soon. Or Macross 7. Or Macross Zero. Or even the terrific Macross: Do You Remember Love? movie. The fans want all this Macross stuff, but it's exorbitantly expensive and dealing with Harmony Gold is a bitch and the sales at the end of the day are rather mediocre.
So I recently bought some new manga, Tsubasa 23 and 24. In Japan, the series is finished, with 28 volumes. Now, I have the choice between waiting about eleven more months to buy the tankoban in English, or just reading it online (which I have an aversion to doing, because when I then buy the volumes, I'm not particularly excited about them). My question is, why do manga companies in the US wait so long to release volumes in english? I feel like they're saying, "If you want to read the manga sooner...too bad, because we are certainly not going to give it to you." I remember when Viz released three volumes of Naruto each month, for a few consecutive months, in order to catch the English publication up to the Japanese one; this shows me that US manga companies DO have the capacity to translate manga quickly; yet, I have to wait three, four, or even six months to get one volume of it. To be honest, this makes me really just want to read it online...manga companies must realize that most people won't buy it after they've read it online; whereas, if the manga companies released their stuff, say, one month after it was released in Japan, fans would be more likely to wait until it came out in English to read it. I really think that manga companies would make more money if they released their stuff faster...so why don't they?
Basically, the way that companies establish the time-frames between when volumes get released and how long apart they are all boils down to extensive market research these companies do for their target audience. To be honest, they all know full well that they could flood the shelves with intermittent volumes of their popular series in order to "catch up" to the Japanese release, and that the fans would be happy and properly satiated. But, they're all hoping, perhaps foolishly, that you aren't *just* reading Tsubasa, and that perhaps in the intervening months between Tsubasa volumes, you might be curious to check out Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei? Or maybe pick up Fairy Tail?
Manga companies tend to try their best not to rely too heavily on one singular title to carry their sales, especially companies like Del Rey, who don't have quite the marketing muscle and breadth like a publisher such as Viz. Viz was able to throw around Naruto volumes like confetti because, well, they're Viz, and because Naruto is such a popular series that is still ongoing, so it wasn't like they were simply burning through everything they had left just to give the story to the fans sooner.
So, no, if you were thinking that these volumes take so long to come out in English because it seriously takes that long to translate them, no that is clearly not the case. But, these same companies aren't *just* translating and releasing one specific series. They have several, and they're all just trying to give each one a chance to gain a following between their flagship titles.
Besides, I don't know if I could withstand more than two volumes of Tsubasa at a time. All the melodrama, confusing exposition, random background characters dying and falling in love, and weirdo CLAMP psychedelic crap crammed in each volume of that thing would probably detonate my brain.
So, I have always had this burning question bottled inside of me: what constitutes a well animated...anime? I have not gone to film school, so in that aspect I guess I am missing a huge chunk of knowledge regarding this matter... but is there information and other stuff (for a lack of a better word) that a novice like me can/should know in order to identify a well animated series?
I have read some reviews on Anime News Network, and I see a lot of contradiction; for example, in one person's review he/she said that the animation in Fairy Tail is/was "great." But I look at the other reviews, and they basically say it sucks. Is the question of whether this show is animated better than that show a matter of personal taste... or is it more objective?
REQUIRED RESPONSE ON THE OBJECTIVITY OF "ART":
Yes, just like everything else, criticism on the basis of artistic merit should be met with skepticism, both on the writer as well as the reader. "Good animation" and "bad animation" are nebulously-defined things, and it's rare when there's an actual consensus on what constitutes either or. Musashi Gundoh is obviously very, very bad animation, because it's riddled with mistakes, the movement is jerky, unnatural, and inconsistent, and the individual drawings on the characters themselves are awful. Miyazaki's films are obviously good animation, because each character's movements feel natural, their expressions and their poses are well defined, and the construction and expression of each character is solid... to the point that you are slowly absorbed into the reality of these characters and the story instead of trying to nitpick all the drawings that make up the movin' picture-film.
Now, to my own personal motives: Fairy Tail's animation is pure garbage. I get the feeling that people like to say the animation in that show is "great" because it has a truly great sense of color design, and occasionally some of the fight scenes are well-choreographed. By and large, though, the animation is chunky, dull, flat, and unbelievably inconsistent. I mean it doesn't hurt that the show itself is an uninspired mash of shonen cliches and one-note characters, but the sub-par animation really kills it.
Still, though, the differing opinions on animation "quality" aren't a contradiction at all; merely a dissenting opinion from someone trying to justify their lousy taste so they can enjoy a mediocre shonen-series, free of guilt and shame, by arguing that the animation is "good."
Somebody seriously sent this in as an Answerfans response.
RE: QotW Response
Welcome back to Hey, Answerfans! I gave you folks another week to write in over Thanksgiving, so let's see if that actually made for some better responses. YOU BE THE JUDGE. Here was the question from last time:
Starting things off this week, Alex has already made up his mind:
It might be a bit self-serving, but I tend to judge reviews based on how they reflect the views that I already hold. When I see old or throwback reviews harshly critiquing some of my favorite titles, putting them down for all the reasons I enjoy them or blasting the genres to which they belong while completely ignoring the positive attributes of those genres, I find it hard to take those reviews seriously. In that same vein, if I see a new review examining a title I haven't yet seen and counting all the points that I would personally find compelling as weaknesses or detriments, I tend to take even more of an interest in that title the more it's disparaged. Though I do enjoy reading anime reviews and making up my own mind based on the information I glean from them, I feel that too many professional reviews take the same tone and profess a common viewpoint with which I can't abide.
Jess will hunt you down and find you:
To be honest, I love hunting down and reading anime reviews written by anyone, not just professionals. I consider myself reletively inexperienced when it comes to anime, so reviews are the one way I can find good-quality anime and manga recommended by people who have seen the stuff for themselves. However, although I do get most of my "To-Watch" list from reviews, I don't put my absolute faith behind them. I know my opinion is different from other people's, so if I'm interested in an anime that received horrendous reviews, I'll still go ahead and check it out.
So, basically: yes, I'll take your recommendations, but if I'm enjoying an anime that I've found on my own -then, well, I don't care for your opinion on the matter.
Ian, stop being nitpicky:
I'm not sure if you mean a "professional" critic? Like Roger Ebert or just a person that is an expert in anime such that they might have bestowed upon her (being academic here) some imaginary honorary doctorate in anime and therefore be deemed a professional?
Either way, the relevance is in the critic's ability to justify her claims and also to coherently analyze the work. I'm honestly not that concerned with somebodies ability to compare a work with other works as if that is the best metric for greatness. Rather all anime should have to stand on its own and so the relevance lies solely with the critic to convey an interpretation of the work and if she feels it is effective.
Naturally, if the person has demonstrated this coherence on many occasions this is what gets repeat readers/listeners (they do podcasts too I hear (get it?)) to come back to that person for suggestions about what shows are worth checking out.
It should also be noted that reasonable people can disagree. There is no accounting for taste, sometimes it takes people awhile to understand that and reach a peace of mind. In the end a critic is really just a suggestor not an absolute authority because the task is not entirely empirical and it never should be.
This heading is titled "Matthew's Indifference":
In response to your question, personally I don't use professional reviews to decide whether or not I want to watch an anime. I would be much more likely to watch/avoid something on a friend's recommendation or that of a family member mainly because they're the people who know what kind of shows I would enjoy. I don't need them to go in depth about it (even though they usually do), all I need is an “It's good, you should watch it” or a “Don't watch it, you won't enjoy it” and I know I'll be able to trust their judgments. Another reason I don't often read reviews is because I don't watch many dubs (I don't have any channels that air them regularly and I don't buy DVDs unless they have the original Japanese audio with subtitles and I prefer to watch that) and the majority of anime reviews are based on the dub of the show being reviewed. Seeing as my friends are also like this, I'll know that when they tell me to watch something it will be based on the subtitled Japanese audio version and not the English language version. However when I DO find a review based on the original Japanese version of a show that I may be interested in (and I'll decide on that before I read the review), I will read it and take what they said to heart when I decide to watch it. I make a note of ones that get high scores and ones that get really low scores and ones that will seem interesting regardless, also I will always without fail watch an anime if it's based on a manga I enjoy eventually. Despite that however, after I make those notes it will always come down to whether my friends think I will enjoy it and this has rarely failed me. Sometimes I go against their better judgment and sometimes I even find that I disagree with them completely but in the end, the reviews I see don't really make a bit of difference to me.
Matt will not be judged:
In all honesty I gave up on "professional" reviews a long time ago.
Most "professional" reviews tend to fall into several basic categories. There are "its great, you should try it" Or "I hate
Reviewers try to be objective, but rarely are. I suppose if I had to write 500 words after each DVD I watched I would get bitter as well. Yes, I have read reviews I agree with, but more often then not I shake my head. I wonder if most reviewers "get the joke" sometimes. Just because a series may be more cotton candy then steak and potatoes doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the cotton candy for what it is, instead of complaining that its not steak and potatoes.
I once read in a book that people tend to judge another persons intelligence by how much they agree with their opinions.
According to the reviews I like a LOT of "bad" or "stupid" anime. Who is correct the reviewers or me? I have often described a series I like as "stupid" or "silly" but does that make it unwatchable? I don't know if reading a bad review would have stopped me from watcthing a series I hated, or a good reveiw make me change my mind about a series I didn't care for. Reading a good review of a series I like does not vindicate my opinion; nor does reading a bad review about a series I didn't like.
Psst. Daryl Surat. Todd likes you. Pass it on:
If by "professional" you mean to include podcasters, then I have to say that I give stock to what reviewers say about a series/movie/OAV.
Without a review by the Anime World Order, I would have never learned of one of the worst anime ever made, Odin. After being explicitly told not to ever watch it by the reviewers, I knew that I must see this monstrosity myself. And, wow, was it bad. (Speaking of bad anime reviewed by the Anime World Order, I still need to find a copy of Gonad the Barbarian). But I've also been steered towards great anime by reviews. For example, I first heard of Twelve Kingdoms, Haruhi, Baccano, and Azumanga Daioh through reviews.
Actually, without reviews, I would have no clue what is going on in the world of anime because I don't have as much free time anymore (work+school take a lot of time). If it's great, then I need to see it. If it's horrible for the right reasons, then I need to see it. But if it is middle-of-the-road or horrible-for-the-wrong-reasons, then I don't want to waste my time. Without reviews (both professional and otherwise), my free time would be spent much worse.
Otaking09! Take the stand and pronounceth:
For a very long time, I believed that "professionals", as you call them, knew what they were doing when it came to offering a well-rounded review, covering all the pros and cons, as well as, stating "why this works" and the "who will appreciate this the most".
But very recently, I've come across multiple reviews of anime (and yes, some of them are from this site.), that just focus on the bad. Speed Grapher had some of the wrost criticism I've ever seen! Shuffle! and Gun X Sword also rank pretty high too on the "the bad elements are SOOO bad, that we'll just state those aspects and hope you won't buy them because we didn't like them!" act.
Really, Shuffle! was not that bad! For a harem anime, it did something special and made the main character actually love someone, and show his love too! Speed Grapher is one of my favorite Gonzo anime! Sure, it lacked cleanliness and CG, but the story meshed together pretty well, the villains motives were very solid, and the romance was surprisngly enjoyable. Gun X Sword surprised me with it's change in storytelling mid-way, not to mention the ending wrapped up everything quite smoothly for such an experimental series.
But there are a couple of reviews I've read that only focus on the good and nothing else, and this is, admittedly, much rarer. RahXephon, to me wasn't as good as the "pros" gave it credit for. One review give it an A+ in all categories, either because he was blown away by it entirely, he liked it too much, or he just went with the hype and said: "Yes". When I read that review, I, at the time, was expecting perfection! After all, A+ means pefection right? And all I got was a decent beginning, a lousy ending, a very underachieved romance, and an overall disappointing experience. Eureka Seven, to me, was significantly better in art/animation, mecha designs/fights, romance (especially), story, and ending. So why didn't it get an A+?
Still, I find "professional" reviews to be more influential than irrelevalent for several reasons. One is that specific series piqued his/her interest enough to write. So it just being there, interests me already. Another is how they look on both sides of the coin and don't only describe or side with heads or tails, no matter how dirty or shiny those sides may be. The last reason is how they credit both the staff and the talents of seiryu/VA. I have my favorite studio/VA/director/composer/writer/etc. and seeing how "professionals" round off their efforts too, helps raise my curiosity.
I know now, that "professionals" are only one person. And I also know that they are human. No matter how well reputed they are, they can't help it if something clicked or didn't. But they could think a bit more openly, and see how someone still might think the exact opposite, and write about those good things. All in all, reviews written by professionals aren't 100% and they aren't the Ten Commandments. If anything, they're there to just offer you a little push or a little pull. Definitely influential to the right people, but if someone sees a review that doesn't agree with what they thought and it also happens to them more than once, irrelevant will be the first thing on their mind when they think of "professional". And yes, there are some reviews that I wholeheartedly agree with, like Gankutsuou, Tower of Druaga, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, Welcome to the NHK, and Now and Then, Here and There.
Closing us out for the night, Kelvin is frank with me and you and everyone:
I'll be frank with you Answerman. I'm not gonna hide it.
I only trust reviews when I agree with them. The only reason I read reviews is to see my own opinion validated on a more "expert" scale. Thus, when someone just happens to not agree with me, I rage internally. But hey, at least I don't go posting about it on some random forums.
Okay, great. Here's next week's question-thing! I'm still intrigued by the variety of responses I'm getting about anime reviews, so I'm going with a similar topic:
Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'. Time to stumble through my lines at dress rehearsal! Have a great weekend, everyone!
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.
Time to stumble through my lines at dress rehearsal! Have a great weekend, everyone!
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