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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Welcome everyone! While Zac and the others are enjoying the fine festival of fun that is Tokyo Anime Fair, I'm still here in Arizona, minding the temperamental temperance of the changing weather.

I'm also packing up all my stuff and getting ready to move. This is my last Answerman column in this unimpressive apartment I've been living in for the past two years. Sniff. So pardon the dust, and let's move on to the questions:

I live in a circle that believes naruto, dbz, bakugan and other similar shows to be juvenile and not worth watching. I've never seen them, as I tend to keep to more obscure shows and books. My friends like anime to an extent, but I'm the only one they label 'fangirl'. I don't deny it - my world revolves around anime, manga, and the like - but sometimes I wonder if naruto and all of those other shows are things I *should* watch, if only for their popularity (I feel like i'm the only otaku on the planet who hasn't). What do you think?

I think you should just watch what you like and be done with it. We're watching Japanese animated shows here, so already we're all on the low end of the Geek Acceptability Scale. Nobody within the anime fan community should feel like they "should" or "shouldn't" enjoy something for fear of being ostracized. People often get too hung up over what their tastes reflect upon them - when in reality, they matter so very little. Personally, I watch anime, I listen to hip-hop, and I like reading snooty contemporary novels that win Pulitzers. What does that say about me? Absolutely nothing; all it says is that I'm a guy that enjoys those three things.

However, there shouldn't be any reason for you NOT to simply try those shows out. Just watch an episode or two of Naruto and see if it works for you. If not, then don't bother with it, and move on to the stuff you know you like. If you like it, then great! Your open-mindedness has paid off. Another problem people seem to have - especially the more cynically-trained - is an outright revulsion to whatever is deemed "popular." And, again, this is ANIME we're talking about, people; complaining about how much of a OMG TOTALLY UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL you are because you HATE THAT NARUTO CRAP EVERYONE LOVES is beyond pathetic. Because, well, not everyone does love it; Naruto is a popular anime, which is a lot like saying that Radiant Silvergun is a popular import Sega Saturn game. If you know a little bit about anime, you probably know what Naruto is; outside of that, nobody knows or cares.

Whatever happened to people forming their opinions on their own? When did it become so complicated to like and dislike something without comparing it to some sort of barometer for perceived public taste? This sort of thing drives me absolutely bats*** crazy. It's a pointless middle-school mentality, where people mistake baseless cynicism and a rejection for popular taste as a substitute for a definable personality. It's not. You define what you like; what you like doesn't define you.

What might be some of the reasons an anime company would dub or redub a show or movie and then not release it on DVD? Exclude perceived lack of consumer interest please. For my curiosity specifically I am referring to the redub done of 5 Centimeters Per Second.

Specifically, that dub of 5cm Per Second was done by Bang Zoom for Crunchyroll, and that dub was only made because Crunchyroll, when licensing the film for streaming, did not have access to the original dub made by ADV films. If I had to speculate on why they bothered to re-dub it, I'd say that it was probably cheaper and/or less complicated for them to send it to Bang Zoom than to try and acquire the ADV dub.

Multiple dubs aren't usually too much of a thing any more, considering the shrinking anime market and the cost of dubbing and all, but look back a few years ago and you'd find alternate dubs of everything. Rurouni Kenshin has two complete dubs of the entire series (in fact, the terribly awful "Samurai X" dub by Sony is streaming now on Hulu! Watch and feel the pain!). There are no fewer than three separate dubs for the Lupin films Mystery of Mamo and Castle of Cagliostro, and there's dozens of others that have faded into obscurity and lost forever. My personal Holy Grail on the Forgotten Dub front is to finally track down and watch "Star Quest," a Go East-produced dub of the legendary Wings of Honneamise that was reportedly so crappy it was hidden from the public after its initial premiere.

Now, as to why that seems to happen - it's all a tricky matter of licensing rights. Like I mentioned above, Crunchyroll licensed 5cm Per Second, but they didn't have the license for the original dub, so they had to make a new one. Ditto with all the Lupin DVD releases - every few years or so a new company would acquire the home video rights to those films, but wouldn't have access to the original dub, so they'd have to make a new one. And then there's circumstances like Geneon's release of Akira, where they dubbed it again simply because the old one wasn't up to par. There's a myriad of reasons, and there's a literal treasure trove of old, forgotten anime dubs that are wasting away in licensing limbo or VHS clearance racks.

For a good sample of some of this stuff, always make sure to clear your schedule for any of Mike Toole's terrific Dubs That Time Forgot panels at Otakon!

So, we all have things we hate in a broad sense, whether it's genres of music or whatever else. But most of us have things within the genres or media we hate that we like, even if they're the exception. So what about you, Mr. Answerman? Which AMVs have you found enjoyable? Which moe-centric shows do you consider a guilty pleasure? What is your favourite shota guro hentai game where all the characters are anthropomorphic foodstuffs? Enlighten us as to the cream of the crap!

AMVs? That's hard to say, because I've been so out of the AMV loop over the past few years that I'm sure there's been a few dozen excellent ones that I could hold up as superior. The only one that immediately pops into my mind is probably Woolongs for Nothing, which is that rare AMV that captures the spirit of both the original song AND the anime clips they're using. I know the AMV Hell series has it's ardent fans, but I'm not one of them; somewhere in the hour-long AMV Hell compilations, there's maybe ten to fifteen minutes of funny material, spread out over an hour's worth of painfully obvious attempts at comedy. REMEMBER THAT BIT FROM THE AUSTEN POWERS MOVIE, WHERE WILL FERREL WAS OFFSCREEN BURNING TO DEATH? WELL WOULDN'T IT BE FUNNY TO HEAR THAT WHILE A CLIP FROM END OF EVANGELION PLAYS OVER IT! WACKY!! Ugh.

Moe-centric shows? I'm hard-pressed to come up with a "favorite," because by and large, moe shows put me to sleep. It's not that I have an aversion to melodrama; it's just that melodrama where all the characters are cardboard stereotypes taken from dating sim games makes me allergic. Of the ones that I've seen, I think Rumbling Hearts is the one show that I enjoyed. Not to the point of wanting to purchase the DVDs and collect all the sexy PVC figurines and import the bishoujo games, but the characters were engaging and colorful and I "got" why people liked it.

I mean, if I genuinely had to say that I had a guilty pleasure in the anime sense, I would probably point to Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. Except that I don't feel guilty about my unadulterated love for that show in the least; Bo-bobo is the product of a deranged mind, translated from an alien language and turned into a violent, frenetic, insane cartoon for mentally defective Japanese children. The show is abrasive, obnoxious, and annoying. The jokes aren't "random" so much as they seem literally assembled from another universe. I love it, love it, love it. Even the often misguided English dub, which often made the mistake of trying too hard to make sense out of the show's nonsense. I can't get enough of it. That the show at least had every episode aired on the Cartoon Network in its entirety sounds like a miracle to me.

In other news of things that I'm sort of ashamed to know too much about: my knowledge of Prince's biography and discography has frightened many people.

Good gravy! Since I didn't have very much in the way of actual Flakes this week, I'm diving straight into the cornucopia of content that is Answerfans! Last week I sent you all on a fact finding mission to answer this question:

Starting us out, Rednal discusses the relaxing atmosphere of moe:>

Hmm... Personally, I'd say it's because they can be relaxing. I enjoy a good fight scene as much as anybody, not to mention the enticing storylines of things like When They Cry, but there are also times when it's fun to just sit down and relax by watching "cute girls doing cute things". Life is pretty hectic sometimes, and the ultimate goal of entertainment (from the consumer's standpoint) is typically to go with the definition and be entertained. Sure, it's basically mindless most of the time, but that's what people sometimes want when they've had to go through a tough day.

Either that or we're just watching it for the fanservice, of course.

TMH schools all the haters:

I am continually under the impression that a huge number of western anime fans don't actually understand what 'moe' refers to. I am continually hearing it referred to in a negative way, with people calling 'moe anime' a 'cancer' to anime, and whining about some kind of anime apocalypse where everything is moe and moe only because there were only two giant robot shows in a new anime season instead of three. Moe is something hard to define, but such a blanket definition like 'moe anime' can often come across as incredibly ignorant.

Moe is a feeling, and to say one dislikes 'moe' is disliking quite a large number of anime that contain this feeling. I personally think the best way to describe what 'moe' is, is if it induces the feeling of not only 'the desire to protect', but the desire to be with. This doesn't have to mean something lonely or perverted; my case in point is K-On; I enjoy watching K-On because when I watch it I feel as though I'm visiting the girls. There is no huge plot in K-On; and many other slice of life anime (which may or may not contain moe elements), and they give you the feeling of 'hanging out' with these characters. It's a very relaxing feeling. And for many westerners it doesn't make sense. Why are these cutesy manga and anime aimed at older men? One needs to stop and consider the stressful lives many japanese men (and women, there is no gender restriction for seinen manga magazines) lead, and how necessary the concept of 'iyashi-kei', or 'healing', is to them. Thus for me moe is therapeutic.

The hatred I encounter for 'moe' baffles me in some cases because it is present in so many anime; the haters likely just don't recognize this as 'moe'. Tony Tony Chopper in One Piece can be called moe; particularly for female viewers, something about his presence is calming. People want to 'own' him, even - there's a reason why 90% of One Piece's merchandise is Chopper-related. The manga and anime Hetalia is very 'moe', yet most of its characters are male. Moe doesn't have to mean a group of blushing young schoolgirls that sit around and talk about food, or skeezy fanservice of underage girls, or someone who is physically incapable of doing anything themselves.

Whilst 'True moe' is the celebration of innocence, albeit to an exaggerated extent; it has become far too broad for it to be the butt of such blanket statements anymore.

Lately it seems that people either like 'moe' or they don't. People can like what they like, I just wish so many haters of moe had a more informed opinion on what they were talking about.

Ben, the protector, speaketh:

Moe is...actually, rather difficult to talk about. It's a foreign concept without any remotely appropriate translation to English, which, given that it can describe anything from the awesomeness of trains to bizarre combinations of nonthreatening fetishes, doesn't even seem to have a particularly stable meaning. But if I am to, perhaps presumptively, take the type of moe which relates to Japanese notions of 'protection', which invokes something almost but not quite akin to parental instincts, the feeling which gets inside you and stays, as 'true moe', or at least the most interesting type...

I don't know how to describe that feeling in words. I don't even know how to describe it with poetry. And that's what makes it perfect for television.

Television, (along with cinema), is an awesomely powerful format. Above and beyond any narrative, you can communicate with choice of word and phrase, body language and tone of voice, sound, colour, symbolism, motion or stillness, space, cuts, design, or flashing great words up on screen, all at the same time. For most purposes, it's probably too powerful, making it too easy to get lazy and rely on overstimulation, or simply lose control and let these multiple threads of communication lose synchronization, which I think is why the format generally sees even more rubbish than most media.

But this power means it can communicate things which can't be communicated with words, or poetry. Things which may have even been impossible for humans to communicate a century ago. Give television something suitably stretching, suitably difficult, and you have something new, something which forces all this power to be channeled productively.

Yes, doing moe properly is actually difficult. Very difficult. I've been watching some of the finest examples of the art for many years now, and I've only experienced what I call moe once.* (That was in Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase, where Hazuki, our cute but vampiric protagonist, poses, perfectly still, for a long-exposure photograph at night, resulting in an 'impossible' photo with the stars trailing behind her.) But this hardly means my viewing of all those other shows was wasted. Because pursuing such an elusive goal forces the good studios, (as opposed, of course, to the inevitable folks just looking for a lazy way to make money), to raise their games.

And this is the real point. Pursuit of moe has forced a few trailblazing creators and studios to try to squeeze everything possible out of the medium of television, resulting in shows where all the aspects of audio, video and narrative are combined with more care and attention to detail, in order to communicate, to achieve a particular effect, (as opposed to the traditional, 'natural' goal of accurately depicting reality), more than anywhere else I know of. Even if that effect isn't strictly moe, it's still often something very worthwhile, said more strongly than ever before.

If it wasn't for moe, I doubt AIR TV would take such care conveying the few seconds in which Haruko realizes Misuzu is coming back to her, obscuring the sound of the struggle with the noise of waves until a single cry cuts through them all. If it wasn't for moe, I doubt Tsukuyomi would use its credits to present two differing perspectives on Hazuki, (with the first being completely different when she's Luna), providing the context for everything that happens in the show. If it wasn't for moe, Gunslinger Girl would be less careful aesthetic balancing and more girls shooting people. If it wasn't for moe, ef would probably...be more normal. We might, dare I say it, not even have Haibane Renmei as we know it. (It's difficult to know where the boundaries lie.) Over the past decade, the best of moe anime has taken the art of using the disparate channels of information that TV has to convey the fragile and the elusive to levels never seen before.

So put away your cynicism and politics, forget about the real world, ignore the usual rules of drama, and watch one of the seven or eight leading examples of the type, whilst trying to feel what you see on-screen. Trying to open youself to something you may not be able to describe. Trying to allow its symbols to seem real. You may be able to find a new way of watching television, a new thing which television can do, which it never did before. And you might just find an entirely new feeling. You might find your own personal moe...

*That is, unless Serial Experiments Lain is the greatest moe anime ever made. As I said, it's difficult to know where the boundaries lie.

Melissa, too, is relaxed:

While I can't say I'm a die hard fan of anything and everything moe, I think I enjoy the genre enough to shed a little light onto the situation. I hope my thoughts connect coherently enough, as it's hard to put everything I'm thinking into words.

Although most moe shows fit into the category of "cute girls doing cute things and little else," I believe it is the connection made between the viewers and the characters that makes the genre so popular. It becomes less about plot, and more about how the characters interact to shape their personalities. Usually their personalities are not very complex, and can fit into one of the categories of moe characters.

Moe can easily be compared to idols in Japan, or boy bands in western side of the world. The "characters" are all non-threatening (or "endearingly threatening," as with tsundere or bad boys), provide the individual with an outlet for their fantasies, and basically give a bit of false attention to make up for a lack of attention they receive in the real world. Moe characters rarely end up getting "taken" by anyone in their worlds, to keep the appeal to the fans that the character is theirs alone to be with. It's a bit much to say it's just a girlfriend replacement, but... I can't think of any better way of putting it. The fans can shower their characters with affection that would have no other outlet, without fear that there would be backlash from that person. The popularity of moe in Japan is kind of a sign of the times... Women are getting more aggressive and "man-like," while the males are getting softer and more feminine, and relying less on women for their emotional needs.

Moe as a genre also places a lot of emphasis on art, which is naturally appealing to anime fans the world over. I remember when I was younger, I'd get all giddy and excited when I'd see something drawn in anime-style, especially if it was as gorgeous as something like Clannad, so maybe that applies here as well.

From my (female) perspective, I just like the relaxing atmosphere of moe. Typical shojo and shonen are all drama and action, so it takes less of a commitment to watch something with little substance. Moe is not praiseworthy, but to condemn its existence as something that's ruining anime is going a bit too far. These are not the shows that will be remembered in 20 years for being revolutionary.

Jedi Master is making me hungry:

Moe is like the cotton candy of anime. It is probably impossible for a grown man to look dignified while eating fluffy pink cotton candy. But some can't help but indulge in the brief but sweet innocence of their lost youth.

Moe was Rex's first love:

I guess Moe deep down is like the reason I got into anime in the first place, to experience new animation. I take Moe with a large spoonful of salt becasue I know it comes from another country and culture. I love animation and grew up with all the cartoons the USA could offer, but after a while stuff like looney tunes and the simpson's gets stale. So when I got older I sought out different animation. As a DVD collector I can choose anything I want when I get off from work or relaxing on a weekend. Sometimes I just get in the mood for something Moe, something silly, cute, funny, and amusing. Other times I may want to see blood and cursing stuff like a Black Lagoon, or maybe I want to see a mecha show. I do agree that the Moe genre is oversaturated right now, but It's Japanese and that's what sells right now. Moe is just one little part of my colection that occasionally I get in the mood for. I think the most important thing to remember when speaking about specific genre's of anime (and maybe this will avert a flame war), "To each his own".

No, Lianna does not want your phone numbers and probably will not marry you, Smelly Otaku:

Moe is aimed at Japanese otaku with no social lives. Being American, female and actually having friends places me about as far away from that demographic as you can get inside the anime fandom, but I still love moe. Why? Well, for the most part it comes down to one simple reason: Moe contains female characters that aren't overly sexed up.

Okay, so this isn't always true, but for the majority of moe series it is. The basic idea behind moe, after all, is to leave the audience with a sense of wanting to protect the female protagonist; it's difficult to achieve that with a character who is all bust and not much else. How cute the character is is generally more important than how sexy the character is. And as a female fan, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's tired of watching female characters run around in fetish-tastic outfits while their D-cups bounce in a way that looks unrealistic and incredibly painful, or would rather drink rancid milk than be subject to another panty flash. I'll admit that moe isn't entirely guilt-free in this area, but the best moe shows (i.e. the ones that treat their girls as actual characters instead of objects to be ogled) do well in this respect. This, I think, is where moe series like Clannad and Air differ from your typical Love Hina or Shuffle! style harem.

To sum it up: I like (mostly) innocent love stories with female characters that are treated as characters instead of sex toys and don't fall in the sparkly realm of shoujo – in fact, it doesn't even have to be a love story at all, Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star and K-ON! being a few good examples of moe done right. Basically, so long as you stay away from the trashier series, you'll be fine.

This actually does look interesting and I will read this, Otaku Dan:


there you go.

Peter pierces the moe veil:

'Moe' is far too big of an umbrella term. Not all series refered to as 'moe' are the same, save for the commonality that they feature cute girls, so suggesting why you should watch isn't so simple.

First to address why they are talked about, in my experience they only get talked about so much because of people who consider moe to be 'the cancer killing anime.' Some one will come around and say "This show sucks! It's all moe-pedo garbage!" and then the people who watch and enjoy the show will speak up to defend it. The resulting argument thus brings the show to people's attention. This happens for many shows and they eventually all get clumped together under the term 'moe show.' I don't think I need to say how flawed such a generalization is.

Attractive characters who all fit into some sort of archetype is hardly anything new. It's been around since Tezuka, and even before him in many classic literary works. Yet this one factor automatically making something bad seems to have only happened in recent years. I believe this started with the boom of animes based off dating sims a few years back where the focus was some inept male lead being lusted after by a variety of girls.

But one should not just write off a series as trash just because of a basic set up. I cannot suggest why you should check them out without knowing your personal tastes in shows. There are usually much more to 'moe' shows than just cute girls and you have to look at the genre they fall under: action, comedy, drama, romance, etc. Having a cast of cute girls doesn't not detract from the merits in these categories. Despite being hentai games, anything by Type Moon are great plot driven action titles. Anything by Key are humourous romances with a nice touch of supernatural drama sprinkled about. Ef - a tale of memories/melodies is the greatest dramatic romance title I have ever seen. Asura Cryin' turned out to be an epic mecha show. When They Cry is a gruesome and compelling mystery show. Lucky Star and Azumanga Daioh are charming and funny slice of life shows. I could go on and name many more series, but hopefully you get the point. Your mileage may vary of course, especially with what you find funny, but such hit or miss status applies to all animes, cute girls or no.

So I say don't judge a show by how cute the girls are. The next time you look at Strike Witches, ask yourself "Would I be interested in seeing a war against aliens in an alternate World War II if these girls were of average looks and wore pants?" If the answer is yes, don't let the character designs stop you!

Capping it all off, Ruthie beckons for me to be dazzled:

Let's see...

I'm dazzled by their innocence (the eyes... how can you not be enticed with the eyes!) and their overall cuteness (their facial expressions would make you go awww... in dramatic moments). Those are just some of the noteworthy moe descriptions that we can all discuss.

How can you NOT check Moe out, Brian, when Clannad After Story is still sitting at #1 in ANN's Ranking (Bayesian Estimate and Weighted Average)? Of course, that's not the only Moe anime around but hey, people like you should experience it for yourself.

It's time for you to get lost and be dazzled by the Moe cuteness!

You know what? The next time I'm feeling kind of stressed out, and I'm about to hit the remote for an episode of my usual de-stress show, Law and Order, I'm going to take a second, think for a moment, and go... "Oh yeah, apparently Moe shows are pretty relaxing." I'm going to try that. Clannad, you bored me to sleep before, but I'll give you another shot.

Anyway. Here's 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.

Now, keep sending me all those questions and answers I need to keep this column going, and I'll be back next week! See you all later!

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