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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

I'm back! Again! WHO COULD'VE IMAGINED IT?!?

I got some really, super-solid questions this week that I'm pretty excited about, so let's just roll on and get this show started!

I read your most recent Answerman column where you answered the question about Funimation deciding to make their own original content and how this would effect licensing. I know I had asked previously about people in this country making their own anime or manga-influenced stories here, and I'm wondering if the move of anime licensors going to original content could mean opportunities for would-be content-creators here?

If you're thinking, perhaps, of sending Funimation your screenplay in the hopes of selling it to become an anime adaptation... forget it, I'm afraid.

Funimation's big M.O. with their co-productions is to take existing, US-friendly intellectual properties and work with Japanese studios to create one-off direct-to-DVD features with the possibility of future sequels and other media outlets. Sadly, this is more of a business venture than it is a creative one. Funimation wants to improve anime's lagging sales and mainstream disinterest by trying to tie it in to the kinds of properties that your average Joe in the 18-34 male nerd demographic might find interesting. That pretty much narrows down the potential licenses for these things in the future to video games and American comic books, basically.

And I think that the property they chose as the flagship entry in this big experiment, Bioware's Dragon Age games, to be rather telling about what we can expect from these co-productions in the future. To be fair, I haven't played around with Dragon Age as much as I probably should, but from what I've seen it's a pretty standard blood-drenched fantasy story. Dragon Age is certainly a popular, best-selling game, but the "franchise" as it were, hasn't been around for more than a year. Funimation is going after Western properties that are very much of the present.

So, I suppose the only way that this specific uptick in original, Western-focused anime adaptations could apply to any "would-be content creators" is if they already HAD created some kind of content - namely, an edgy video game or an independent comic book or a Dostoevsky novel with zombies in it for some stupid reason. These co-productions are anything but a way for eager young upstarts to break into the industry; this is inside baseball at its most sterile and calculated.

Not that I'm so bitter and elitist that I've written the Dragon Age anime off or anything; I mean, I'll see it with an open mind. I mean, I even thought there was a slight possibility that Halo Legends might be entertaining! Then I was proven wrong and I was sad.

I have heard stories about manga-ka forced by their editors to change things in their manga (for example, the length of the series, plot elements, etc.). From what I've heard, a lot of these manga-ka didn't want to make the changes, and whenever I talk to fans about specific situations, they seem to want the story the manga-ka originally planned. So what's the deal here? If the manga-ka refused to make the changes, would the editor have stopped printing the series, or what (or is the idea of always following superiors so ingrained in Japanese society that no one even considered what would happen if the manga-ka refused)?

Well, yeah, of course manga-ka are "forced" to change things for their editors. That's the purpose of having an editor, in any format. Editors are there to act as that final little tollbooth before the content spills out of the author's brain and onto the page for the adoring masses. Tell me if the last four Harry Potter books would've been much tighter and more focused if J.K. Rowling actually perhaps listened to an editor instead of throwing money at them until they went away.

It's easy to think that we all want the original author's undiluted vision. But you know what? I work with editors all the time - both on this here website (Hello Zac!) and on magazines and other blogs, and even with some of the plays I've written. And let me tell you that, in all honesty, editors have talked me out of OH SO MANY ridiculous and stupid ideas that I thought were brilliant, until their focused reasoning and intelligence told me that what I was trying to do was a bad idea. I might've been resistant to change at first, but I do strongly believe that my work is all the better for it. It's nice to think that, I dunno, Dragon Ball Z would've been like twelve times more awesome if Toriyama had stuck to his guns and had Goku stay dead for the rest of the story or whatever, but there's a very high likelihood that his ideas without the finesse of an editor would've been completely Godawful. Or, it might've been great. You can't really know for certain, but I'm telling you that a good editor only exists to make things better, not to make them worse.

Now, as for what would happen if there were any sort of big disagreement with an editor about something? Well, I can't really say, because such "disagreements" between manga authors and editors obviously isn't the sort of thing that leaks out to the public. That sort of drama usually stays behind closed doors. And when it does leak out, it usually only comes from one source - namely, the manga-ka. Who's more likely to be asked such direct questions by fans, the original author? Or the busy editor whom nobody knows? And I'm sure the Japanese stereotype of refusing to stand up to authority comes into play with this a little bit, but really I think this issue is largely overblown.

Of course there are probably scummy, nasty editors who demand brazen, illogical changes to be made in somebody else's work to make it more profitable for them, or editors who simply have no idea what they're doing. That's unavoidable, sure. But you don't get to be an editor at a big company like Shogakukan or Shueisha out of greed or idiocy; you need to have a ton of experience in guiding successful, talented manga artists before they let you strap on the Big Boy suspenders for that job.

Hey, Answerman!

So, all the big scanlation aggregators look like they're getting put down by big companies and their lawyers. That's all well and good, but that does nothing to stop scanlations from being made and distributed in any way. There's still Bittorrent, IRC, Rapidshare, etc. Why did they shut down only this one small part of the scanlation network instead of trying to stop them at their source?

My guess is because they can't. Er, well, they probably could try, but good luck to them with the long, pointless, expensive court battle that would turn out to be.

I mean, the aggregator sites went down because they were the easiest to use and certainly the most visible. For God's sakes you could just type "One Piece latest scan" into your Google search bar and find it in about a half a minute. These companies don't necessarily want to trounce all scanlations entirely, because to be fair about this there's an awful lot of scanlations that are purely a labor of love, legal dubiousness be damned. Those same groups will, of course, still be pumping out reams upon reams of scanned manga copies and floating them out there the same ways they always have; but it'll take just a slight amount of greater effort for the leechers to find them now, instead of just two clicks on Google. So, in that sense, I think you're wrong when you say that aggregator sites are only a "small" part of the scanlation scene. They were a big, BIG part of it, because they were so easy to use and so prevalent. Those sites had nothing to do with the scanlations themselves, either; they were just leeching off of the latest Bleach chapters that somebody else had translated in order to sell banner ad space. Good riddance to 'em. Here's hoping something legitimate and comparable is able to take their place for those kids who've gotten used to the convenience, lest they be forced to, gulp, WAIT PATIENTLY FOR THE LEGITIMATE RELEASE.

I know, right? How TERRIBLE it will be for them to have to WAIT A FEW ****ING MONTHS to find out that Luffy beats the bad guy with his awesome new power! My heart goes out to those poor, leeching souls who might be asked to, perhaps, NO LONGER ACT LIKE SPOILED, IMPETUOUS CHILDREN! Goodness!

This is hardly as gross or mean-spirited or odd as my last few Flakes, but I read it and it made me crack a snarky smile.

I was wondering if you could tell me if someone is taking over ADVision and NewType. Any help would be appreciated.

"Today, men, we take over NewType USA! And then afterwards we... CONQUER ADVISION!! Soon, the collapsed, scattered remnants of anime companies that have fallen under the heel of a dwindling market and a stagnant economy will be ALL OURS!!! To victory, men!!"

Yep, it's that Answerfans thing again! Last week I asked the lot of you to answer me this little puzzle:

Look alive, Lyrinoir, you're up first:

This is rough one. I'm personally very disappointed in the industry these past few years. The number of memorable new series has dropped and I've been routinely disappointed by recent entries, both in terms of stories told, and general quality of the animation. Still, there are some bright spots. The Noitamina television block programs are reliably good and tend to break away just enough from the mainstream to be interesting.

Studio Bones is one of my standby studios and I try to watch everything they produce. Their work is also solid, and while Heroman isn't exactly what I would call a good show, it is pretty…

The only really exciting developments in the industry are coming out of the US distributors. Episodes on Netflix and Hulu are great alternatives to expensive DVD collections and legally problematic fansubs. With both of these options becoming more mainstream and the continued work done by Crunchyroll, anime is more accessible than it's ever been. People can argue the quality of these services, but no one can dispute the speed and volume of new material entering the greater media stream. If that's not praiseworthy and exciting, then I don't know what is.

Susan groans no more:

Funimaton used to be one of those companies people groaned about when they found out had gotten a title. To many they were only a step above 4 Kids. Despite almost being a HUGE player right now, to many (mostly long time) fans, they've never shaken their bad rep.

But man, I have been impressed by them. What impressed me was this... for YEARS at every con I went to, there they were. And they weren't just there to have a panel... through the whole weekend they'd go and talk to fans, sometimes at their dealer room booth, sometimes just people with clipboards and surveys. They seemed genuinely interested in the fans and what they wanted, with one question that kept popping up ,"what can we do to be better." They actually listened to what fans had to say and it's showed. Being in tune with the fans is important to me. With other companies it always seemed to me like they tended to have a "stop your whining, you'll buy this and you'll LIKE it this way" policy. I like feeling like my opinion actually matters. They've made a loyal fan out of me for that.

I also greatly appreciate the introduction of the thin pack much cheaper box set...since for me anime was always a hard thing to justify buying since it was so outrageously expensive compared to other media.

Vashfanatic throws another buck into the "noitamina" tip jar:

What is the anime industry doing right? One word: noitaminA.

Actually, make that two words: expanding noitaminA.

For those of you not in the know, noitaminA (“Animation” backwards) began in 2005 as a time slot on Fuji Television that runs from 24:24-25:15 on Thursday nights (that's 12:45-1:15 AM Friday). Its mission? To get anime out of the nerd niche it was starting to fall into by featuring solid series that would appeal to a broader audience, show creative, or both. And starting with Honey and Clover, it's proven to be very successful at it, featuring shows that have broken ratings records. Heck, they've been so successful that when The House of Five Leaves didn't do earth-shatteringly well in its premiere, the director felt obliged to apologize profusely.

Just go to the Wikipedia page for noitaminA and take a look at the series that have been there. While not all of them have been masterpieces, they are most decidedly not the usual otaku fare that fills up the late hours. Some are targeted at a mainstream audience – not the otaku mainstream, but the mainstream for the rest of us – and some are wildly experimental. Nor are these series for children; all of them are targeted at adults. Some of them have been licensed, while others I only wish were (give me Mononoke, please!).

And starting this spring, Fuji TV expanded the slot to a full hour, with two series. One was the aforementioned House of Five Leaves, which is actually in the latter half of the slot at 1:15 AM. Personally, I'd consider it small wonder that the later show wouldn't do as well (it also airs at the same time as Durarara!!, which has been a bestseller). The earlier show is Tatami Galaxy which, if you can get used to the subtitle speed, is utterly hilarious.

Even more awesome, thanks to a deal with Funimation, at least some places will be getting this time slot simulcasted. That's right, they didn't just get the rights to stream a show, they're streaming a time slot. All noitaminA shows from now on will be available to watch online within hours of their airing in Japan (assuming people take advantage of this and watch them). The only shame is that this pact doesn't apply worldwide (the internet has rendered regions obsolete, but the industry doesn't know how to deal with that yet).

A few duds aside, noitaminA is practically a guarantee that each season there will be something worth watching, and with two shows going the chances are doubled. Investing in this kind of programming is what the anime industry desperately needs if it wants to break out of the corner it's worked itself into. These shows may not sell as much merchandise, but they win the art form credibility as a universal medium. That's a change that's desperately needed.

Mike likes streaming:

I love how the anime industry is starting to embrace streaming shows through online services like Hulu, Crunchyroll, Youtube, and Funimation's website. As I get older I find that I don't have as much disposable income like I did when I was younger and I have to be more frugal about what I buy. But thanks to streaming services I've been able to watch shows like Gurren Lagann, Haruhi, Code Geass, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and see if I like them before shelling out any cash.

Shoxxy likes streaming too:

The thing I am really interested in is companies like Funimation releasing specific episodes of anime series online for free, ad-supported viewing. I believe that this will slightly help ease the problem the industry is having with the "Fansubz-rulez" crowd and also benefit those of us who like supporting the legitimate releases (and also like free things!). Heck, Even ANN is doing that now, and while I still prefer to watch my anime on DVD (and VHS, ah the memories), I will occasionally browse Crunchyroll and VIZ for any treats. We as a community still have a long way to go in terms of easing the stress of piracy, but I think that ad-supported streaming is a giant step in the right direction.

B.J. goes for the streaming. Three in a row!

To be honest, I've been pretty psyched by the fact that there is so much anime available online. While torrenting and illegal streaming have been around much longer, when Crunchyroll went legit and FUNimation decided they needed their own hub, anime online exploded and now I feel like I'm drowning in anime and it's becoming a chore to decide which ones are worth my time, a challenge I didn't have three years ago. Back then, I was GRATEFUL to my library for having as much anime as they did back then.

Another thing that I like about streaming anime is the opportunity for the few of us who WANT to watch older titles. While catching Shikabane Hime a few weeks after it hit Japanese television was pretty cool, I hadn't watched Slayers until a little over a year ago when FUNimation put it on their YouTube Channel. I'm currently in the middle of Fist of the North Star and Slam Dunk, and I'm looking forward to digging into the Leijiverse sometime in the future, all because it's available. Now all we need is the rest of Gundam and my world will be complete.

The internet has proven itself to be a viable source for entertainment. The popularity of Hulu is steadily growing (even my non-anime-watching parents go there for "Castle") and I can imagine all of those kids who grew up addicted to Bakugan finding themselves moving online for the glut of anime that's available there. Will this turn into DVD sales or some other kind of profit for anime companies? I . . . have no idea, but the hope is there.

And finally, Angelo probably likes streaming too, but to him it's all about the simple numbers, baby:

24. Twenty four episodes. 8 solid hours of love, hubris, hate, joy, friendship, despair and the will to overcome it. The number one thing I have forever appreciated about the industry is its unwritten rule to let the really good ones rest in peace. Aside from a select few titles being milked for all their worth, I can truly appreciate studios' and publishers' approach to production lengths. Stories unfold, characters develop at a pace we can relate to and it moves us. I'll admit, it's hard to beat the feeling of opening up ANN in the morning and seeing a sequel or continued production of one of your favorite shows, but it is beaten. When it really comes down to it, I can honestly say I invest myself more in the shorter productions, I watch more in those eight hours, experience the story they are telling to a greater degree. Some people might love those longer shows, and that's great. But when I can sit down with a pizza, 6-pack and a dvd of Toradora! only to wake up from fascination eight hours later with the food untouched... I can respect that.

Now then! I have a question for next week as well, so hopefully us old-timers can really dig into this one:

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.

As always, thanks for stopping by my little nook of ANN, and keep on sending those question-y goods to answerman (at!) animenewsnetwork.com! So long!

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