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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Greetings, guys! It's another Answerman. Hi! I'm Brian. I'm the guy that does this thing. Among other things. I haven't, uh, written a good, solid introduction in a little while so I kinda wanted to start fresh this week.

... It's... anime.


I recently saw "The Princess and the Frog," the latest Disney movie. My hope is that both Walt Disney Studios and Studio Ghibli make a movie together. What do you think about that?

Oh, wow. Not only do I think that's a terrific idea, I think it's positively essential if Studio Ghibli wants to truly thrive globally, instead of making movies that are (usually) beloved in their home country but are released as animated curios elsewhere in the world. Let's face it, Ghibli's films tend to land in theaters with a wet thud here in North America, buoyed solely on the Disney name in an attempt to fight off the complete disinterest on behalf of the vast majority of film-goers.

Now, I know that people have a vision of Disney as a highly sanitized corporate beast that would like nothing more than to censor and dumb down Ghibli's art for the sake of a commercial product. And to be fair there's precedent for that. But consider, though, that John Lasseter is in charge of every major decision made in regards to Disney's animated features, including the release of the Ghibli films. Every night I imagine John Lasster lovingly tucking his children to bed, then crawling onto the massive pile of money he sleeps on next to his wife, and passionately kissing a framed, signed photograph of Miyazaki, whispering to it softly.

And by that disturbing analogy I mean that Lasseter has a real emotional interest in making sure that the Ghibli films succeed, and for their future projects to truly "succeed" they're going to need Disney's help beyond simply marketing and distribution. I have a hunch that if PIxar's amazing story crew teamed up with some of Ghibli's talented artists, the resulting film would be legendary.

Then again, TMS' Little Nemo film was supposed to do just that; teaming up Western luminaries like Ray Bradbury and Jean "Moebius" Giraud with their stable of amazing animators, and that film is a complete and utter mess. Somehow, though, I think the guys at Disney, Pixar, and Ghibli have a better sense of what makes a film work beyond prestige names to benefit a bloated ego.

I'm excited for Ghibli's new film based (loosely, as I understand it) on "The Borrowers," especially as they've attached a new director to the project, but it's a film I can't imagine faring any better overseas than Ponyo. I'd like to see Ghibli take a step away from their usual, secluded operations and try something collaborative for a change. I don't think they'd have too hard of a time convincing people from Disney and Pixar to help, and there's a pretty good chance they could concoct something with truly universal appeal.

Besides, if it sucks, it couldn't be any worse than Tales of Earthsea.

From reading wikis and other internet sources, I have seen these four titles pop up regularly for many TV series and also some OVAs: Chief Director, Series Director, (regular) Director, Episode Director. My question is this: how are these roles different from one another, and how does each influence the final product that ends up on TV?

A good deal of those "Directors" are completely synonymous: Chief Director, Series Director, and simply Director mean largely the same thing. Which is, "the guy in charge of the creative stuff." It's when you see any of those different kinds of "Directors" credited on the same show that things can get confusing.

Let's look at Cowboy Bebop for a specific example. Shinichiro Watanabe is credited as the "Series Director." He's the guy in charge of the whole thing, he assigns the tasks to everyone else, he makes sure that everything holds together, episode-to-episode. It's his baby, essentially. Then you've got individual "Episode Directors." Those are the guys that construct the individual, 22-minute episodes much like it's own movie; they pore over every shot, storyboard, and layout to make sure the episode looks and feels right, and they then report back to Watanabe every step of the way to make sure they're in line with the rest of the show.

And then you've got "Directors" that are in charge of very specific aspects within the entirety of the production: Art Directors, Animation Directors, et al. Each of these Directors are all working to make sure that their specific role in the production aligns as neatly as possible with that of the (regular) Director. Or the Chief Director. Or the Series Director. Or whatever.

What do you think the anime industry needs to do to save itself, and do you think the companies today are doing enough?

Seriously? My take? Anime needs to expand their audience. And to do that, I think they simply need to make better anime.

Even the most "mainstream" of anime shows right now - Naruto, Bleach, whatnot - are very aggressively targeted at tweens to teens. They're fine shows, most of the time anyway, but they're so steeped in the lore of their own manga that they're kind of impenetrable to a new audience that hasn't been watching since day 1. Plus they're long, long shows. Trying to convince a new audience that this 300-plus episode show is a worthy investment of their time is a daunting endeavor.

Basically, there needs to be a huge glut of new shows that are less like Fairy Tail and K-On! and more like Fullmetal Alchemist. Shows with strong characters, interesting stories, and dynamic, stylish animation. Shows that are about 52 episodes long - long enough to be really involving, just short enough to not feel like you need to make a significant sacrifice on your time. And once we have all those shows ready and able, the companies in charge of releasing these shows need to find new ways to release them to a wider audience.

This is why Funimation's recent foray into co-productions intrigues me. My hope is that they understand that the future of anime in North America isn't fighting over who gets to release stuff like Shuffle! to a very tiny audience in thinpak DVD box sets; the future of anime instead lies in dynamic, interesting, solid entertainment, just like always. My fear, though, is that all of these co-productions are simply going to be anime adaptations of existing Western licenses - more stuff like Witchblade and that ridiculous-looking Dante's Inferno anime - that are nonetheless the same fundamentally dull, mediocre anime shows.

Much like what I said about Studio Ghibli above, there's always the definite risk of these things going wrong. Nobody wants another Little Nemo, and nobody ever wants another SiN: The Motion Picture. Okay, actually, so now that I think about it, nearly every co-production I can think of has turned out to be either kinda forgettable or completely terrible. But! Funimation is staffed by very savvy, creative, and smart dudes, so hopefully they can be the ones to reverse that trend.

Unless Disney and Ghibli beats them to it.

Somebody sent this in as a Hey Answerfans response. For last week.

In reponse to your Answerfans question, the first thing I would do when creating an anime/manga review website is make sure NOT to hire somebody like the guy on your site with the pissed poor attitude who is not even trying to do his job.

When attempting to "burn" somebody, especially somebody who is "not even trying to do his job," it usually helps to name the individual explicitly. Otherwise you just look like a sad and angry man.

Time for another insane jaunt into the mad minds of our readers! Colloquially known as Hey, Answerfans! Here was last week's question in the below .jpeg box:

Alan starts us off with an old-school relic:

This is easy. The first one that popped into my mind is Maxine O., who did the English voice for Yohko Shimorenjaku from 801st TTS Airbats (yes, this is going back over a decade). In case you or your readers don't recall, she's the red-headed girl with the pet bat. Upon hearing her voice, you will cover your ears until you see her mouth stop flapping. Loud, whiny, and with a really bad Southern drawl to boot. But those at ADV who cast her must have learned their lesson because, according to the Internet Movie Database, this role was Maxine's first, last, and only credit. It's possible she may have done more work under a different name but highly unlikely. If you enjoy Airbats otherwise, it's best to stick with the Japanese track. Save the dub for when you want to torture your enemies.

Everybody is out to get Dave's wick:

Good question. I haven't run across a seiyuu whose voice has consistently driven me mad yet, although Momoi Halko constantly talking/singing through her nose can get annoying. The only Japanese voices I've encountered that make my teeth hurt were for particular roles, and, well, they were directed that way because of how the character is. Maria Yamamoto's work as Nanako in Amazing Nurse Nanako grated something awful, but her work as Cyberdoll May in Hand Maid May is much easier to take, and her singing is great (the ED theme to NieA_7 is a particular favourite of mine). Hikaru from Kimagure Orange Road's voice is the main reason I didn't get into the series (hell, the AnimEigo website admitted that having to listen to it was driving their translator around the bend), but when you look at Eriko Hara's other roles, you might remember other voices she did not being so harsh. Last example: Eiko "A-ko" Magami from Project A-ko. Need I say more? Now look at Miki Itou's roles. There's a lot I haven't seen there, but, based on what I have, it might be possible that that's the only time she was told to do a voice which was deliberately meant to get on your wick.

Since I'm not a dubbie, I won't comment on any particular actors in that field, but what drives me insane in certain dubs are when they have to deliver horribly-adapted/obviously rewritten lines that the ADR writer/director laid down with their non-writing hand stroking their ego at the same time. Note to Steven Foster, Trish Ledoux and Lowell Bartholomee: This is why a lot of people hate you. Take the damn hint already. No amount of good acting will make that crap sound good. Stop it.

Ilaughat Gravity has a skin condition that flares up when women voice younger boys:

As much as people are going to hate me for this one, Romi Paku is one of the most annoying voices to listen to for 51 episodes straight. I love Edward Elric (who doesn't?) and Toshiro Hitsugaya will always have a special place of one of my favorite captains in Bleach, but seriously, a middle aged woman playing prepubescent boys is something that always grates my nerves. Who was it that said that a woman is the best person to play a teenage boy? Where in the great bible of anime does it say that? This is not saying that I do not like her work, Madame Red anyone? I'm just saying that well, her interpretation of a teenage boy is… off. Rie Kugimiya can get away with her portrayal of Alphonse because she is a speaking suit of armor but Paku doesn't have that get out of jail free card. Perhaps if she didn't try so hard to sound like a prepubescent boy her portrayal would be much better but for now I will still cringe every time I have to listen to her for more than two or three episodes straight.

Marcelo is cold-blooded:

Boy, that's a subjective question. I mean, the voice actors who make my ears bleed are usually those who are part of a generally crappy cast; so it would be wrong to blame one, specifically. If that was the case, I could just bash Mary Long, Molly's voice actress in Sailor Moon; or maybe Wayne Doster, with his ridiculously unnefective portrayal of Zero in the game MegaMan X4. Or maybe - dare I? - Garzey's Wing's Rick Nagel. But no. For me, a voice actor who truly tortures you is a bad actor in the middle of an otherwise good cast.

And that, for me, is Bryce Papenbrook.

My first contact with the actor was by watching .hack//Legend of the Twilight; I'm a .hack fan, and even I admit not liking the anime. So, whatever, I thought, it's a bad anime, so it's only appropriate that bad voice actors go with it. No biggie.

But things started to change as soon as I got into video gaming a few years later; then I had to hear him again and again. Radiata Stories, Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Dynasty Warriors... one way or another I bumbed with a character voiced by this guy. And every time it got on my nerves - his voice is just not good. When he tries to voice little boys he sounds forced and emotionless; and when he tries to voice adults, he sounds... forced and emotionless. The first case is particularly bad for how old and unnatural he sounds for the clearly young characters (Shugo is a good example, but Radiata Stories' Jack Russel is not far behind). And don't get me started on his acting - I mean, I guess the responsible for his utter lack of emotion should be a bad director, but in every single part? That doesn't seem right.

So, I guess I don't want to sound completely mean to the guy (he could be reading this!), but... yeah, his voice is just bad.

Mari rails against the Man, the Myth, the Mognagna:

I'll get right to the point: The one voice actor in anime I cannot stand to listen to is Vic Mignogna. I honestly cannot see what it is about him that makes so many fans squeal with delight at conventions; why they feel so compelled to tell him all about how "kawaii" or "sugoi" his voice is. For starters, almost all of his major roles sound exactly the same. Many of the voice actors I consider good have varied their voices for their major roles, based, of course, on the type of character they're playing. With Vic, however, this seems to be a rare occurrence. Fai? Tamaki Suoh? Dark? Edward Elric? I cannot hear any difference between them whatsoever, which really grates on my nerves.

Secondly, I simply don't think he makes a very good voice actor. Sure, I enjoyed some of his roles. But overall? I usually find myself watching shows that he plays a major part in in Japanese, even though I adore most English dubs. I won't mention my opinions of him as a person or of his fans, as that's not what this question is about. My point, simply, is this: I cringe every time Vic is horribly miscast in a show I'm interested in. I sigh whenever a fangirl talks about how very amazing he is, or sings his praises when I go to a convention. In all, the more I hear his voice, the more I fear for the safety of my brain cells.

Laurel best not be Rickrollin' me:

I don't know about any of the Japanese voice actors, because when I watch sub-only anime, I'm too busy reading the bottom of the screen and trying to keep up. It's like the characters don't even have voices. As for English, there are two voice actors that are just as awful as each other. Like Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal. There's no winner here.

Number “one” is Greg Ayres. Never liked his voice. At all. All I hear is this squeaky-pseudo-masculine-cheese-grater-dog-thing that just gets right under my skin with all of its awful.

And number “two” is Omar Gallaga, the original ADV-dub actor of Shido in GetBackers. He has this… lisp-thing that just serves to make the character sound like a complete moron. It's like, yeah, thanks, Daffy Duck—I'll keep that in mind for later.

On a side note, the entire English cast of Mirage of Blaze annoys the ever-loving hell out of me. They're otherwise fine voice actors, and I've heard them in other series', but for some reason, Media Blasters cast the way wrong people to do those characters. It's like listening to Barry White and Rick Astley trying to voice-over Hamtaro.

David's slaughtering some sacred cows:

The one voice actor who really rubs me the wrong way? I hate to speak ill of the dead, but it's Yasuo Yamada, the original voice of Arsene Lupin the Third. I don't know what it is about the guy, but while I dearly love the Lupin III franchise, until the lead role passed to Kanichi Kurita I couldn't stand to listen to the Japanese voices. I can't even point to one thing about his voice that grates on me; it just does. I'm glad Geneon and Funimation did so well with the dubs of the TV series and specials, or I'd have missed out on one of the great series of the last 30 years.

Alex has two non-favorites from both sides of the Pacific:

I generally like most voice actors and seiyuu I hear. Sometimes certain voice choices don't sync up with my expectations of what their characters should sound like, but it's very rare that any particular voice gets on my nerves. In fact, I greatly enjoy following certain voice actors as they improve over time. But I know that many people get annoyed by some of the voices they hear (I'll be expecting some knocks at Johnny Yong Bosch in this column, as I hear a ton of complaints about him despite the fact that he's one my absolute favorites) and I, too, have to confess to hating on particular actors. In Japanese, it's really only in the past two years that I've even become capable of differentiating certain seiyuu from the masses of type-cast, similar-sounding voices, but there is one that strikes a bit of an "off" chord when hear it. Chiaki Omigawa's rendition of Maka Albarn in Soul Eater was pretty good, for the most part, but reached a rather grating sort of "whiny" pitch whenever the character became angry, prompting me to dislike her a bit more each time she got excited or upset. Thankfully, Laura Bailey does a much better job in the FUNimation dub. In English voice acting circles, the name that pops out from the recesses of my memory is Hillary Haag. After seeing the first few episodes of Chrono Crusade subtitled and reading the first few volumes of the manga, I had come to expect protagonist Rosette Christopher to have a voice like Kari Wahlgren's - ditzy and excitable with a decent bit of "cute" mixed in to keep the character likable. But when my sister and I sat eagerly down in one of the viewing rooms at the Anime Central convention to check out the dub a few years ago, what followed the beautiful and calming opening theme "Tsubasa wa Pleasure Line" was an absolute onslaught of screeching cacophony issuing from the mouth of one of our favorite characters. We couldn't sit through the auditory agony and left the theater at the episode's halfway mark. That's the only time I can remember Ms. Haag's voice actively repulsing me, but in looking over her history, I can't find any title in which I was not at least a little put off by the character she played - well, save for Milk-chan, but I think I was the only one who liked that show to begin with.

Finally, the terrific David Xiong drew something cool for us:

Being a first time answerfan question respondent, i'm not quite confident with my words. Thus, i would like to address your question of "which voice actor or seiyuu drives you bonkers" in a more visual manner. Here is a cheap amateur-made comic which hopefully conveys the points i'd like to convey about Rie Kugimiya:

Great stuff, David! (Disclaimer: I am not actually Handsome.) Great stuff everybody, I mean. But especially David. Because he drew something. And I like drawings.

What's the question for next week, I ask coyly? Why, this artifact-y image below knows:

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.

Now then! Keep sending in your questions and comments and all of that, because I will have a column ready for Christmas this year! I mean I sincerely hope that you all have better things to do over the holidays than read whatever stupid, inaccurate thing I have to say, but... still. Just in case.

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