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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Hey everyone! Welcome to another fun-fest of question and answer-y that is Hey, Answerman! While the rest of my ANN cohorts sweat blood and tears putting the Spring Preview online, I'm just chillin' out here, answerin' some questions.

Well, that and rehearsing like mad for a new sketch comedy show I helped write and will be performing in. We go live next week! I'll post the necessary information next week just in case any of my local Tucson readers feel like spending a night downtown and watching some comedy. Fair warning, though; it is incredibly offensive. And I will be singing and wearing a diaper. At the same time. I'm not kidding about this.

But for now: Questions!

Hello Answerman,

I have a two part question. One that came up with reading last week's question about Air Gear.

I buy Air Gear through Del Rey in the US, and I noticed that with the next volume they are releasing they are putting Volumes 15-17 in one single trade, instead of splitting them up. Not all their series are doing that, like Negima, but I do remember seeing others are going to be released 3 to a set as well. Is this a new trend that US manga companies are starting in an effort to reduce costs on less popular series? I'm personally disappointed because I now have to wait even longer for releases.

This leads to the second part of my question. I read Air Gear online in scanlations as they are released in Japan (mainly because I'm impatient and can't wait). I've noticed that the series is about 3 years behind in the US compared to Japan. They have kept pretty current with that trend, but are slowly falling more behind. With Negima it's only a year behind, which isn't that bad of a time lag, and they keep pace as well. My question is, do US manga companies try to catch up, at all? Air Gear started 3 years behind in the US and continues to stay that way, but shouldn't these companies be shelling out these manga faster to catch up, so they don't lose customers to scanlations, or is almost impossible for them to do so without amassing huge costs?

Unfortunately I'm not quite as knowledgeable on the manga industry compared to the anime side of things, but let's not forget that I spend my days managing a busy chain bookstore, so I've got a little bit of inside dirt on the publishing industry in general.

Basically, it's simply much more expensive to maintain a concurrent release schedule between the English translations of the Japanese books than it is to simply wait it out. Official manga releases by major publishing labels like Del Rey have tons of Quality Assurance checks that need to be done before anything is finalized; all the editors and translators need to pour over every frame to make sure it all looks nice, and the Japanese licensors more often than not like to have a look at the finished product to give their final OK. And then of course the books have to be printed and shipped, which is hardly a quick procedure in the least. Scanlations obviously have little to no QA (which shows, of course) and there's no printing to be done whatsoever. Viz can justify the expenditure of maintaining a quick turnaround with a property like Naruto because, hey, it's Naruto, and it'll sell by the bucketloads no matter what.

But honestly I think a bigger impediment towards making the case for a faster turnaround is the fact that the sales, aside from Naruto, don't quite seem to be there. Viz is also releasing day and date translations of Rumiko Takahashi's Rin-ne on their website, which definitely solves the problem of spending outrageous amounts of money on a printing press. But maybe it's just a lack of enthusiasm for the property in general, but most people I've seen who've read the samples on Viz's website haven't been too keen on going out and buying the books afterward.

And another crucial point I need to bring up is that Del Rey is hoping that, once you're done with your bi-monthly or tri-monthly Air Gear volume, you'll maybe browse along the manga aisle and buy a different Del Rey manga to ease the wait. Publishers don't just come up with release schedules on a whim; they are very calculated decisions with the intent to maximize the potential sales of all their products, not just one. Maybe perhaps when you're jonesin' for more Air Gear that you might be inclined to start reading Negima, for example?

So, to your point, manga companies are definitely scared sh*tless about scanlations, but they're still counting on the tried-and-true manga collector's market to make their daily bread. The piracy issue is a complicated one that no-one in the manga industry has quite figured out how to conquer yet, so failing that, they might as well rely on what's worked for them so far, and staggered release schedules are doing just enough to keep everything afloat on the business end.

Hey Answerman,

I checked out the january podcast posted on itunes for anime news network and i heard a lot of talk about blu ray. My question is, what exactly is it about blu ray that's making it so preferred among anime fans? I personally don't own a blu ray player so i wouldn't be able to tell the difference between blu ray and regular dvd. My guess would be high def anime is just cool to look at.

Correct! Utterly, astoundingly correct. Blu Ray is prettier.

Er, well, usually. Right now the anime Blu Ray market is a bit of a crapshoot - you can guarantee that anything put out by Bandai Visual will look utterly damn amazing (Wings of Honneamise, Akira) and will make your HDTV shudder with paroxysms of videographical delight. Every once in a while, you'll get a Blu Ray by Funimation that will rock your world (Evangelion 1.11), but then they have a stable of rather wonky and often unnecessary "upscales" that are simply standard-definition video run through a filter to attempt to replicate true high definition. And then there's outright visual disasters like the really terrible transfer of the original Ghost in the Shell movie on the bluray of Manga's recent Ghost in the Shell 2.0.

So, the anime companies are still kind of getting their footing when it comes to producing solid Blu Ray titles, and there's still plenty of kinks to be worked out, but as a staunch Blu Ray advocate myself I will simply say that if there's something I want, and it's out on Blu Ray, I'll get the Blu Ray, almost on principle. You don't have to be an enormous nerdy videophile to notice the giant leap in quality between watching Ponyo on DVD versus the amazing Blu Ray version. It really all comes down to this; if you like something enough to buy it, you want it to look as good as humanly possible.

Hopefully the prevalence of Playstation 3's amongst gamers and the lower cost of Blu Ray players and HDTVs in general will spike a bit more interest in the format, especially for anime feature films. Unfortunately the costs of authoring and manufacturing Blu Ray discs are still rather exorbitant compared to standard DVD, so I don't expect anything to change overnight, but give it another two years and I think the question of "is anime on Blu Ray even worth it?" will be nonexistent.

Hey, Answerman.

When Adult Swim announced that they had gotten the rights to air the fantasy anime Kekkaishi, there were mixed feelings. Some people, like myself, were happy that AS had gotten another fresh shonen anime. Others were pleased to have something new to watch. Yet others were mad, claiming that Kekkaishi is too "Kiddish" for Adult Swim, yet Kekkaishi is serialized in the same magazine where Case Closed and Inuyasha had the grace of being serialized in. In your opinion, isn't it a good thing that Adult Swim has decided to air a quality anime, even if it falls towards a younger demographic?

I absolutely agree - Kekkaishi is a quality show all around. It's an all-ages show with terrific characters, that sort of reminded me like a sort of laid-back Rumiko Takahashi thing, but less repetitive and with a stronger story.

If anything, I'd take the position that Kekkaishi is sort of "wasted" on Adult Swim - Kekkaishi is good enough to survive on Cartoon Network proper, and it's a shame that as a part of Adult Swim the younger audiences that might really be drawn to it won't have access to watch it. Unfortunately, Cartoon Network proper isn't really in the business of promoting anime that isn't based on a toy line or isn't called Pokemon. The only merchandise tied to Kekkaishi is the manga, which is hardly a best-seller here in the US.

But whatever. A TV slot for Kekkaishi, late at night after an hour and a half of fart-related animated comedies is still better than no TV slot at all. Remember that people had exactly the same reaction to Inuyasha being a part of Adult Swim back in 2003 - in fact, Inuyasha was originally pitched to Toonami, back when that was still around, and the only reason the show wound up on Adult Swim was because the Toonami censors objected to the early scenes where Inuyasha was stuck to a tree by an arrow. And then Inuyasha went on to become Adult Swim's number-1 rated show across the entirety of the network for several years. Funny how, even late at night, a fun and entertaining show can still find it's intended audience.

Now, if only Adult Swim sacks up and actually promotes the show so that people will watch it... Nah.

Um. Bonus points if anybody in the forums can figure out what this means.

I am looking for the name of an anime Its about some girls that fight in space and are to sve the human race but these girls are left behind because they are going the speed of light .
It starts out that the main charcter is really clumsy and her father or someone in her family is famous and witnesses them die , she's in school to train for this mission. And that is all that i can remeber

And now it's time for the sultry, dulcet tones of Hey, Answerfans! I didn't get too many responses to this question all around, but I definitely got some good ones. Which is about what I expected I guess. For the uninitiated, here's what I posed last time:

Starting us off, Maeve feels the vibe of acceptance:

I recently got back from a week-long trip in Japan, one day of which I decided to spend feeding my geeky side and looking for anime stuff. First off, anime is everywhere. People of all ages were reading manga books all over the place on the metro and on the trains. The Eva girls made appearances in ads at the edges of Ginza and around Shinjuku and Shibuya, and of course Goku was right there alongside them. Considering how anime is so readily dismissed in the US as a childish or nerdy hobby, I was really surprised to see it in so many places! I especially found it nice that I could just walk into a convenience store and see an entire shelf dedicated to manga at the front of the store.

The Tokyo Anime Fair was amazing, too: 130,000+ people showed up, all excited about anime! It's more of a commercial thing than a fan convention, I gathered, but it was great all the same to see so many people all interested in the same thing.

But that's where my excitement trailed off: I made a stop by Akihabara to check out the otaku scene. The district is pretty much the embodiment of fanboy paradise, with moe girls on huge posters stuck up on buildings everywhere, cute girls in cheap-looking maid cosplay handing out ads for a maid cafe, yaoi and yuri manga displayed right alongside the popular stuff like Bleach and One Piece, and pervy big-boobed bishoujo all over the insides of the shops. Being a teenage American girl, I felt very out of place. Now, I don't know if this was the entirety of Akihabara (besides that massive electronics store a few blocks down), but I had more than enough of it by the time I'd found the few manga I had been looking for. I really hope that's not all there is of the "otaku district". But then again, my guide did say that Akihabara was only where the "old men and anime maniacs" go.

I guess what really struck me on my visit was how accepted manga and anime are in Japan. There's a manga museum in Kyoto, and the entire yard out front was filled with kids and adults alike all reading the manga kept in there (it's a pretty extensive collection!). I didn't feel as weird as when I'm in the US looking through the shelves of manga in the bookstore. Though being an otaku is definitely frowned upon there, casually reading a manga book or watching a show or two is normal. Enjoying something like Dragonball isn't as strange there as here. I was expecting that, but actually seeing it and experiencing it was a welcome culture shock. The trip really left an impression on me, and I can see my favorite pastime in a different perspective than before I traveled to Japan.

Ben makes a fatal mistake: He thinks I'm into hockey. Bamboo is the big hockey fanatic 'round here:

For those of you planning on going to Japan and expecting to witness giant robot battles, apocalyptic scenarios and/or bishonen (or bishojo) fall at your feet, stop reading this. RIGHT NOW.

For those of you still with me, I went to Japan way back in late 2004. Back then, I was really into anime and manga, yet I didn't visit many of those stores. In fact, the only anime-related places I visited were in Akihabara (where I got my first glimpse at a maid cafe and a Japanese arcade) and Shinjuku (where I went into a doujinshi store for the first time). The highlights of my trip included riding up to the 45th floor of the TMGO building in Shinjuku, seeing the wall of sake jugs at the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Shibuya, riding the Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, visiting a number of shrines and sites in Kyoto (including Nijo Castle and the Kinkakuji Palace), and wandering around both old and modern-day Gion at night.

So, in summary, my initial plan for my trip to Japan started off as a way for me to indulge my taste in anime, and ended up being a cultural experience of a lifetime.

If you do go to Japan and expect anime and manga creators to buy your “glorious” idea for a manga or anime, or think you're somehow going to end up being invited to the Imperial Palace as a guest of honor (like my traveling companion once did), you're going to be very disappointed. On the other hand, if you sweep those expectations aside and go simply to witness the sites, sounds and tastes of a culture unlike your own, pack your bags (just make sure you've got plenty of yen on you, as visiting Japan is anything but cheap).

P.S.- Good luck to the Phoenix Coyotes in the NHL playoffs, Brian. As for me, I'll be rooting for the Washington Capitals.

Lisa is hooked on a Japanese feelin':

Hi Answerman,

I have visited Japan twice over the past 3 years with my family and we are so hooked on Japan that we're going back next year :) We started exploring anime and manga because we've been learning to speak Japanese for nearly 5 years and hoped it would enhance our language learning, and it sure has!

On our first trip to Japan (June 2007) I was intent on finding the first release of Watase Yuu's "Sakura Gaari", and also wanted to pick up a Shonen Jump so I could see Bleach in the original format. I succeeded with both, although "Sakura Gaari" was more difficult to find, but a Japanese friend there helped me out. The Jump we found at the local combini :) While in a regular bookstore I also found Watase's "Appare Jipangu", which hasn't been released in English yet, so I was really happy about that. My then 11-year-old son was most intent on collecting as much Kamen Rider Den-Oh books and paraphenalia as he could find (and seeing Den-Oh on TV), so he wasn't as tuned-into the manga thing, but he enjoyed catching some Pokemon episodes there (Diamond and Pearl wasn't out in English yet) and we also visited the Pokemon Center in Tokyo and bought some nuigurimi, japanese decks of cards, and an umbrella with Pikachu and Pochama on it.

On our second trip to Japan, just a year ago, our language skills were much better and we were a lot more excited about collecting manga and seeing lots of anime shows on tv. While staying in Kyoto we caught the Bleach movie "Diamond Dust Rebelion" on tv and that was a lot of fun. My focus was on collecting the original manga for some of my favourite titles, so I looked for issues of LALA (for Ouran KoKo Hosutobu) and, of course Jump. I also found the most recent (sadly, still the most recent ) tankobon of "Tactics", and of Bleach (of course). Plus I found Kamen Rider Kiva and Decado fabric at a craft store, which I have since used to make a quilt for my son's bed. But our biggest anime geek-out was visiting the Gibli no Mori in Tokyo. The Totoro-themed movie that they showed was so wonderful and the whole place was a Miyazaki wonderland. And- we had our picture taken with the big robot from "Laputa" (that was our Christmas card picture last year :).

Something I enjoy here at home is to go back into the big issues of manga I've bought on my trips and find chapters of manga that I've since discovered and read regularly in them. I've also found a really great online source (Sasuga in Boston) for tankobon so I don't have to load up on them when I go to Japan (they're heavy!). One thing that I regret is missing the Tezuka exhibition back in 2007. I saw all sorts of signs there advertising it, but had no idea who Tezuka was at the time. Now that I know, I'm kicking myself for not going to see it!!

Roxybudgy is all grown up, now:

I went to Japan (Kansai region) in 2002 for 3 weeks as an exchange student, and it was during that time I was in my embarassing "fangirl" stage of anime fandom where I would obsess over my favourite series (which at the time, was Evangelion, Maison Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2) and keep my eye out for anything anime or manga related (man am I glad to have outgrown that stage). So back then, it was a surprise to me to find that Japan isn't quite the "land of anime" that I thought it was. And for the record, my interest in Japan/Asia came many years before I even knew what anime was.

Of all the people I met and spoke to, only three had what you would call an "interest" in manga, and only one out of the two was familiar with the series I was into. Going out sight-seeing and shopping, the only signs of anime I saw was a poster advertising a Doraemon movie. I didn't watch much TV while I was in Japan, but the few times I did, only saw anime aired once around 6pm. As an obsessive fangirl, I could easily navigate my way through shopping centres to find where they sell anime DVDs and manga, but I got the impression that anime/manga wasn't as "significant" in Japan as my fangirl self thought.

I feel that I wasted a lot of time back then trying to find all things anime and manga in Japan. Nevertheless, I enjoyed visiting Japan because there is much more to Japan than just anime and manga. Having buried the fangirl inside of me, I would like to visit Japan again someday, not as an anime fan, but as someone who's interested in Asia.

And finally, as a guy living in Arizona, you'll get no pity from me if you can't handle 95-degree heat, TsukasaElkKite:

I went to Japan in the summer of 2006 (specifically Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshima) for a week with my dad after we had taught English in Taiwan for a month together. I was ecstatic about being able to go, as I'd been interested in Japanese culture (and by extension, anime and manga) since I was 9. My dad was happy that I was being able to fulfill my dream of going to Japan, but he was less happy about me dragging him all over Tokyo and Akihabara in the 95 degree heat. The experience for me as an anime and manga fan was eye opening. I used my copy of Genshiken to find the Comic Toranoana store in Akihabara, and I got to purchase and see things I would never find here in the U.S, such as soundtracks and rare plushies and doujinshi, and actually got to watch some raw anime at my dad's friend's house in Osaka, which was one of the highlights of the trip. I already had a small collection of manga and anime at home, but this trip solidified my quest to be a manga and anime collector and connoisseur. Now, four years later, I have almost 100 DVDs and 463 volumes of manga and light novels, and the collection is still growing. Sure shows what a small trip can do to boost interest!

Okay! Next week's question is a LOT more open, so hopefully I'll get a much bigger crop of responses for it. Here it is, so read onward!

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.

And that's that! I'll be around next week to shill for my horrendously tasteless comedy show and also possibly answer all the questions that are sent to answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Bye for now!

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