Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Hey guys! Welcome back! Time for me to write another one of these Answerman columns, in between my full-time job, the three scripts I'm attempting (badly) to finish, several drawings I owe to another website, and the looming feeling of hopelessness that all of those above things entail!

Luckily, writing Answerman is sort of like achieving Zen transcendence in comparison. So let's get started.

Hey Answerman, why do some anime fans want anime to be mainstream? Please hear me out. I actually like anime being niche because if anime were to become mainstream, then it starts becoming a "anybody who's anybody likes it" and a popularity contest and all this rubbish, and no longer that special interest that one holds. I just don't get why people are all like "if such happens then anime will become popular/mainstream!" Please understand that I don't mind being interested in something that is niche. I hope I explained everything okay.

Perfectly understandable, I guess. Everyone likes to hold on to their little "thing" in the world that they personally enjoy that the rest of the world knows nothing about. It makes it more defining, and more personable.

On the flip side of that, though, are the people who want anime to be "mainstream" so there's no longer any social stigma attached to it. I'm pretty sure everybody has their own stories about attempting to relate to family members, co-workers, et al., that they enjoy watching anime and reading manga, and combating the various stereotypes that come along with that.

And then, of course, is the simple, egotistical response: if we think that anime is awesome, shouldn't everyone?

My view is that anime itself, at large, should be mainstream. Just like all forms of animated entertainment should be mainstream, ideally. If you're enjoying something that is engaging and interesting, who cares if it's a recording of live actors or moving drawings or computer renderings? People should judge works of art and entertainment on their own merits, not on any preconceived notions about the sort of people who are avid fans of the stuff. You shouldn't dismiss a fantasy novel outright because of the smelly overweight guy you work with who reads them and goes to the Ren Faire every year; you shouldn't dismiss the new Vampire Weekend CD outright because you hate kids who wear porkpie hats and skinny jeans; et cetera. In my own wonderful idyllic universe, anime and manga will just be another "thing" that many people enjoy and others don't. No more, no less.

Or at least, that's this fan's perspective. Anime companies, especially in the US, are dying to have anime in the "mainstream." I know most fans are okay with the concept of anime remaining a niche market, but Funimation would really appreciate it if it wasn't. They're a business, and running a business on a niche market can only go so far. Being somewhat in the "mainstream" would certainly help their balance sheets.

I wasn't able to discover a definite answer to this through an internet search, so...have any anime based on Haruki Murakami's novels or short stories ever been produced? With a live action movie of "Norwegian Wood" apparently in the works, might one be forthcoming? If not, which one of his works would you most like to see made into an anime?

Nope, no anime has dared to adapt any of Murakami's stories. I can't say that I blame them, though - Murakami's novels are long, intricate, dense affairs. His stories are about complicated, withdrawn characters, and his dialog is sparse and metaphorical. His work has been translated more for the stage than the screen, and I wish the guys in charge of the film version of "Norwegian Wood" the best of luck, because I can't imagine the difficulty of translating that kind of a slow, intimate, sprawling personal story into a two-hour movie.

Now, if I had to choose which of his works would translate the best into an animated show or movie, I'd have to pitch my vote for "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle." Mainly because the nonlinear story and the interconnected nature of the plot would really lend itself to, say, a 13-episode series. Plus there's a lot of strange dream sequences that would be difficult to portray in live-action. Not that any Japanese anime producer would even bother with such a project, since there's no moe or tsundere-types for otaku to obsess over.

Yes, that's right. I chose this question because I wanted people to think I'm smart because I read books.

Hey, Answerman!

Being an anime fan for the past 5 or 6 years, I would sometimes met across some hot debated questions in various anime forums when I have the time. One thing that has been bothering me for quite a long time now is about Computer Generated Images (CGI) used together with 2D anime.

Now, this is where the problem lies. I don't know how to differentiate between 'good' CGI and 'bad' CGI, though I heard more of the latter most of the time. So, what makes a 'good' CGI, and can you recommend some anime that has some good CGI with it? An anime may have a good story but then the CGI sucked altogether when it comes to animation presentation, bring the value of that anime down and worse, panned and heavily criticized by various anime fans. Then I'll be able to sleep in peace without having to worry about this anymore...

Very simple! This is good CGI:

And this is bad CGI:

Anyway. As CGI relates to anime? It all depends on how well the CGI "melds" with the 2D animation. To date, I haven't seen 2D hand-drawn animation mix with CGI as well as it did on The Iron Giant, but I can think of a few examples in the anime world that come close. As far as early experiments with CGI are concerned, I still think that Macross Plus and Blue Submarine No. 6 did an admirable job of melding the two styles, especially considering how early and unrefined the technology was at the time. More recently, I think Oshii really perfected it with Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Good CGI in anime, just like good CGI in a Hollywood movie, shouldn't "stand out." It should be a seamless integration, and it should never be distracting. For example, I hate it when I feel like the CGI sequences were just edited in to an anime from a different show, like in Lost Universe. I love Escaflowne, but I feel a little repulsed inside when the clean, gorgeous animation randomly shifts to a garish, oversaturated CGI shot of an un-detailed background pan. It's like when you can obviously tell when Orlando Bloom magically transforms into a CGI ragdoll when fighting the giant elephants in Return of the King; it momentarily takes you out of the action and out of the story, and all you can think of is "...that looks like bad CGI."

I disagree, though, that a few random, minor instances of "bad" CGI should be considered criteria to slam the overall animation quality. Lost Universe is badly animated all around, not just in the shameless CGI space sequences. Escaflowne, meanwhile, is beautiful and lush, even though a few stray shots of shoddy CGI can ruin the mood. And luckily, there's very few of those in Escaflowne. So I hope that helps, I guess; CGI that you can instantly tell is CGI and looks like it was from an entirely different show? Bad CGI. CGI that either looks cool and feels like an organic part of the animation? Good CGI.

A very angry gentleman sent this in regarding my answer to the question about big conventions last week:

I know where I think this is going to end up, being banned from basically every anime message board not named USENET (including ANN), and AX to boot...

(Great! I love it when people introduce themselves by proudly announcing that they've been banned from everything on the internet ever! It totally makes me want to read their letter and take them seriously!)

But after I read your answer about the SPJA debacle, I had to respond, and not really care...

(You responded, but you didn't care about it, either. This is also great! Either you have a keen sense of irony, or you are a living symbol of self-hatred. Either one works!)

The lack of "growth" in AX can be tied to several things:

1) The SPJA is largely seen as incompetent to run a convention the size of Anime Los Angeles, much less Anime Expo.

2) The anime fanbase is Internet-driven, and stolen product on the Internet to boot. When I started as an anime fan five or six years ago, there were literally countless events of one type or another in which to go and watch anime and fake being social (I'll get to that last part in a bit...)

3) The venue. Yeah, you might finally have room to maneuver, but many people have made good on their threats to no longer attend the show. After telling them that I thought they were handling it stupidly, and what they could do if they didn't like what I said after suspending me from the message boards, I have no regrets about being banned. The LACC is in a garbage area of town that they've tried to revamp, and how the "element" of the area hasn't turned the con into chaos is beyond any sense of my comprehension.

(I like how you totally torpedo your own argument, there. "The con hasn't descended into chaos somehow, which is baffling to me because I totally think it sucks. Unless I'm wrong. Which I'm not. Even though the evidence proves otherwise.")

4) What is, really, the point of Anime Expo anymore? If the point of a convention is to be social with the other fans, ban me from said convention, especially vis-a-vis the anime fandom. With only a few exceptions, I don't tend to have much regard for a fandom which basically has been built on the deliberate destruction of the industry which it should support through "piracy" (read: Thievery) -- and, since it doesn't support said industry, has forced such industry to basically put out abject garbage I have no interest in, some of which appears to be (at least borderline) child porn.

I don't go for the masquerade (Hell, the last one I saw (ALA 2010), some female thought it smart to make her skirt so short that she was giving panty shots to anyone watching the masquerade, without needing to do anything more than _walk_...), I barely go for the AMV's (if the compilations which have ceased being made are any indication, the creativity of AMV's went out the door 2-3 years ago -- about the same time most creativity went out of anime itself!), and, other than the voice talents (who will soon be rendered all but obsolete), there was little point in me attending any convention but one thing:

But the thing is, the point to me attending AX the years I did so was to get the industry news. It was to see what ADV and Funimation and the like were up to.

(Until now, I was wondering what was up with the people who would attend those industry panels who would just sit quietly and applaud after the companies would simply rattle off a list of their new licenses. I thought they were robots, or that I was hallucinating. Now I know it was just a small sample of angry people from the internet.)

AX, in that regard, is OBSOLETE. There is no meaningful US anime industry anymore that Crunchyroll hasn't basically overran. If Funimation's sales are up 10% YoY, then the anime industry has shrunk an additional 30% or more over the same time span. Buying the DVD material has become an irrelevancy, and we have a piracy-driven fanbase to thank for that. AX is no longer AX. I don't want the "orgy of fandom", and, frankly, you don't want me in same.

And that, I think, is something we can all agree upon.

Good gravy! You guys were all over this question. "This question," of course, referring to the assignment from last week:

Starting us out for the week is Grant, who, for the record, is not an employee of AwesomeAnime Studios:

In its current state of affairs, no, I do not think anime would benefit from “going 3D”. Despite the fact that almost all animated shows these days are technically CGI, they still appeal to the cell animation consumer and so employ techniques such as cell shading that give them an intentionally 2D layered look. Of course there are movies like The Spirits Within, Advent Children, or more recently, Vexille, that pushed the boundaries of photo realistic 3D CGI. But even for those titles a 3D (hence forth referred to as stereoscopic) presentation would be daunting.

Let's take a moment to examine the technical aspects of stereoscopic digital cinema. RealD3D arguably the most widely used stereoscopic projection standard is a 144fps format. That's 24fps for the left eye, another 24 for the right eye, and each frame is shown three times to reduce flicker (24x2x3=144). James Cameron even protested that 24fps wasn't fast enough for a stereoscopic presentation but the studio wouldn't pay for a higher frame rate. This 144fps digital film is then projected with a 2K or 4K projector and shown through an alternating circularly polarized shutter which matches the glasses you wear. This is simply not an experience that is available though current consumer technology, nor is there any means of distributing this type of product. In the past, anime was typically animated at 12fps, doubled to 24and finally telecined to 25fps (PAL) or 29.97fps (NTSC) for broadcast and VHS/DVD distribution. If this is still the case, the frame rate would be far too slow to present in stereoscopic 3D.

Now let's say for the moment that AwesomeAnime Studios has decided to produce their next title in stereoscopic 3D. They could produce a show like most others using cell shading to produce the classic cell animated look, but that would just end up looking like a magic eye picture that is nothing but 2D layers floating around in 3D space. So they decide to go with a more daring photorealistic 3D CGI production, but now they have to upgrade their rendering platform so they can render two different eye frames for each linear frame, they likely need to render at a much higher frame rate than 24fps, say 60 or better, an finally find a way to distribute it. This has resulted in astronomically higher production costs, drastically increased production time, and AwsomeAnime scraps the project.

For the time being, I believe that producing stereoscopic 3D media will remain in the hands of those who have hundreds of millions of dollars to throw at film. The current artistic styles of your everyday anime simply do not lend themselves to stereoscopic presentation formats, and the cost is still very high. But I have high hopes for the stereoscopic industry, I anxiously await the day that TV and film media is released in a stereoscopic format. Great advances in the technology are being made, and like everything else will become more common, and cheaper.

Sam's views on 3D breast technology intrigue me:

My answer: Maybe. Seeing awesome, kick ass action scenes and gorgeous scenery (and some lovely big boobs) coming at us DOES sound pretty neat. However, I'm not sure how well it would really work when put to the test. The lulls between action scenes might do more harm than good, even if we are put in the middle of a nice looking locale. But I just can't see an anime movie/show in 3D being much better than if it wasn't. The Nightmare Before Christmas, Robert Zemekis animated movies, and Pixar films have greatly benefitted from being in 3D (Watching the Toy Story duo in 3D was just neat!), but would I get as much enjoyment from watching the likes of Poke'mon, DBZ, Bleach, or a shojo show with things coming off the screen and into my living room (though One Piece and Gurren Laggon in 3D does sound cool)? I'm not really sure. So it could go either way.

"flowworldend" is a passive viewer:

The idea behind 3D movie technology is to make the movie more realistic. Apply that theory, then, to anime, where metal-limbed teenagers run amok, blasting their amorphous enemies with giant slabs of granite as helpless villagers are torn to shreds by maniacal axe-wielding empty suits of armor. This isn't to say the idea of 3D anime isn't totally amazing. It's just that, frankly, I don't want to feel like I'm in a Death Note-style mass-murder sequence, or there when Xanxus blasts the screen to shreds with firey bullets. I'm happy watching anime from a distance.

Kel looks at the business side:

Just looking at this question from a purely economic standpoint, and keeping in mind the trends following other "breakout hits" in cinema and publishing, I think it's somewhat possible that anime could benefit from 3D.

This question reminds me of the light novels situation Brian talked about. For better or worse, anime is still a niche market in the U.S. While 3D film or DVD releases might generate some additional hype and initially bring in a few new viewers, the content will still be anime. 3D or not, I have a feeling anime will remain a commodity of its devoted, but limited, fan base, and depending on the additional costs necessary for creating and producing 3D anime, it may or may not be worth the effort.

Thomas inadvertently ties his answer with one of my own questions from earlier! Good show:

If the third dimension also brings with it a bevvy of original plots, stories, and god-forbid a break from overused tropes: yes, the 3D aspect would be a god send.

3D by itself would, a la overused or poorly done CG, most likely just be a new 'it' thing.

Susan is down with the flatness:

There's a reason I went to go see The Princess and the Frog 3 times...I really, really like flat 2D animation. There's just something about it that I find incredibly appealing...maybe it's because it doesn't look like real life. Anime being one of the last strongholds for good ol' flat animation is one of the reasons I'm still such a fan.

That said though, as I'm assuming this question is referring to the kind of 3D where you wear glasses...meh. There's a big difference between, say, when you to a theme park and they have some sort of 3D ride or movie and when you see a regular movie in 3D. At a theme park, it's designed to never NOT be in 3D, so it can use effects to a full extent and be mind blowingly awesome. Movies though have to be able to be viewed with or without, and so the 3D effects have to be integrated but not integral to the experience...and I have doubts that any anime company would want to create something that could ONLY be viewed in 3D. Thus far I haven't gone to a 3D movie where I REALLY thought it was worth the extra 3 bucks. And the couple times I've watched a dvd that came with 3D glasses I really wasn't that blown away with the effect on a small tv screen...and felt sort of silly sitting there with 3D glasses on in my living room. As it is, I kind of feel like 3D is generally just sort of a cheap trick and a fad likely to die off sooner then later. A 3D anime might work initially as a novelty, and a title or two may even sell well at first, but I couldn't see it having any kind of staying power.

Seon wants no 3D moe:

While I think the re-introduction of 3D in a more affordable and accessible media to consumers will certainly cause a movement to demand more movies, shows, OVAs, or whatever else available in that format, I can't help but think this is some new way to serve the same old gimmick. If anime is going to use 3D I would hope that it would be how Avatar did, where it was not an invasive use, but subtle and part of the experience. When I was a child and didn't know much about why as a director or artist you frame a scene in a particular manner it was indeed cool to have stuff flying in my face and seeming to be only inches away. Now, I'm older, and a little wiser, and my hope would be that the minds behind Anime do not simply use 3D visuals as a cheap way to thrill us, but expand a series to give us a better experience. The possibility to make huge waves in the industry is there, but hopefully it won't become some overused gimmick like moe.

Mamma Mia Mamma Mia Mamma Mia Let Robert Go:

To quote my favorite Queen song: "No, no, no, no, no, no, no!"

But seriously, just no. The reason why I watch good anime is because each shot is like a painting, and I don't think anyone wants each shot to look like a page from a pop-up book. We're losing traditional animation fast enough here in the West, the last thing we need is for the East to tie in a useless technological gimmick to theirs, especially not one as absurdly expensive as 3D. Anime companies shouldn't be burning their money on 3D when the economic situation is this bad. If anything, they should be putting their money into increasing the average number of cels, which might actually help revenue.

If there's anything we should be learning from Mamoru Hosoda, it's that the key to making high quality traditional animation is fluidity and good storytelling. Spending too much on distracting side-shows that look terrible is not how that is achieved.

Behold Kitty-chan, the only person who played the Avatar video game:

3-D Anime? Dear Lord I hope not. True 3-D has come a long way from the horrible films in the 80's but it is still more of a theater commodity. It doesn't, nor should it, have any bearing on the home market. It's just not needed. As seen with the Avatar video game, it doesn't add anything and it can't fit something that is, at its core, crap. (Talking about the Avatar game, the movie was ok)

Also if you look at it from a money stand point 3-D is still a novelty type technology. To start putting anime and even TV shows with live people in it companies will have to change all of their equipment over to a more costly production, there by upping the cost in a market that is already struggling to move product. It's like Blu-ray use to be, but unlike Blu-ray I don't see this becoming the in home entertainment.

Jacob closes it out tonight by reminding us of the simple things:

Anime could definitely benefit from 3D technology. Anything that gives animators more tools to fulfill creative visions can't be seen as a negative. However, what anime needs more than another visual layer is new and exciting stories. Without good characters and good stories any animation is nothing more than pretty pictures. My fear is that animators will see 3D technology as an excuse to cop out on providing good characters and plots. 3D can look amazing... but that doesn't mean anyone will enjoy the experience without the basics of good storytelling.

Well said. And now, on a wholly unrelated note and without a proper segway, here is next week's question!

Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.

Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I 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's all for now! I'll be back next time for more stuff and fun and things. Keep sending me questions and answers and I'll see you all in a week!

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