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Hey, Answerman! Indecent Expo-sure

by Brian Hanson,

Alright, it's official - I need to get a new computer.

You've served me well these past eight years, Desktop-PC-I-Built-Myself-Back-In-2002. You've weathered many a storm, pulled through several arduous moves, and lasted far longer than your tiny, exhausted processor probably should have. Alas, today, you nearly killed this week's Hey, Answerman columns with your frequent crashings, video card failures, and strange hard drive behavior. It is time, old friend, to be put to rest.

Onward to the questions!

It occurs to me that with all the anime expos, cons, confabs and whatnot that are rampant across the land during the summer that there would be several, if not many, occasions to show the Haruhi Suzumiya movie at commercial or non-commercial venues in major markets as was done in San Francisco. It would seem like a no brainer to run it during the weekend of the event. I know that almost any movie theater can be rented out for a one time showing and it would seem fairly certain even if the showing were at 11 am or midnight that it would at least break even. Of course, as always, I could be wrong. Your thoughts?

I'm absolutely with you on this - it's sort of baffling to me that they chose to have a screening in LA for the Haruhi movie ONE WEEK before Anime Expo. Bizarre! Especially since the LA Convention Center has oodles of video rooms and big theaters and even a rented 35mm film projector with which to show the movie.

Which then, of course, incites my inner conspiracy theorist to surmise that there must be some kind of ulterior motive for the absence of Haruhi from Anime Expo and, seemingly, from any anime conventions in the near future. I don't know why they've missed out on such an obvious win-win situation, considering they have a captive audience that would form a flash mob around the opportunity to see the new Haruhi film before it hits the internet and the hard drives and streaming sites of every anime fan in the West. My best guess? There's some marketing reason behind it all that's talked about sotto voce behind the closed doors of Bandai Entertainment. It probably all makes sense to them in ways that us simple fans cannot ever hope to understand.

Well, and also the thing is that a Haruhi movie is the sort of bona-fide anime hit that doesn't really need much in the way of advance promotion and convention buzz to become a best-seller. Gundam Unicorn sure needs it, and the new Trigun movie probably needs it, but Haruhi's is a pre-sold success, so Bandai can safely navigate away from screenings at conventions and never really feel the blowback from it. It'll sell regardless.

To your knowledge, has an anime ever won an Oscar, Emmy, or Academy Award in the U.S. (and not just for best animated film)? Has America ever recognized truly quality anime when it came to the U.S.?

Nope! Spirited Away is the only one.

Okay, well, I guess it's not "anime" in the traditional sense, but Kunio Kato's hand-animated, experimental short film "La Maison en Petits Cubes" won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short last year.

The important thing to note, however, is that, sadly, most anime that arrives on US shores, be it a film or a TV series, is usually ineligible for these sorts of awards in the first place. The Emmys, for example, have very strict rules and regulations on what is considered eligible for a nomination in its myriad categories - and sadly, because most anime arrives in the US a year or so after it was originally produced, that alone usually disqualifies it outright. That's why you probably won't ever see an anime nominated for a Best Animated Series Emmy, for example. Kekkaishi is a great show, but it was originally produced in Japan in 2006. And to be eligible for an Academy Award, there's a very specific set of rules regarding screenings and bookings that need to be kept for the film to be considered eligible. And booking a theatrical run, even a short one simply for awards consideration, is a rather expensive thing, considering how little it often works to guarantee a nomination.

I wish I could find it, but that reminds me - there was a terrific article written on Akadot before it was little more than a storefront for Digital Manga, that was very thorough and informative about how and why anime usually gets shut out of the yearly Annie Awards, the big awards show sponsored by and celebrating the supposed "global" animation industry, that nonetheless heaps its biggest plaudits on shows produced in the local, Hollywood-based cartoon industry, who comprise the majority of voting members. But, hey, way back in 2005, Yoko Kanno was nominated for Best Music for the soundtrack for Wolf's Rain! Awesome! It was nominated alongside the mordant Duck Dodgers TV series and, no joke, "Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends." An easy choice, right? Hah. Duck Dodgers won. Boo, hiss, et al.

It's a real struggle for anime that doesn't contain the name "Miyazaki" to find critical acclaim and awards that they deserve worldwide. Anybody who has seen The Girl Who Leapt Through Time cannot, in good conscience, tell me with a straight face that it is in fact an inferior animated film than "Happy Feet," that same year's Oscar winner for animated feature. Like I mentioned before, a good portion of that is simply a set of stringent rules that unfortunately preclude the vast majority of anime released here in the US. The other is, well, the same reason nobody else takes anime "seriously" in the first place. It's all boobs and robots and tentacles and chirpy Nintendo monsters.

I just bought DVD copies of the recent re-release of the Mobile Suit Gundam Trilogy and the first North American release of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation movies. I knew that Zeta gundam was most likely going to be subtitled, but I also knew that the original Gundam films had an english dubbing track. But when I bought them and looked at the information on the back, there was no english dubbing for any of them! Why would you not include an english dubbing audio track when there already was one?

If you really want that dub, and I mean really want that dub of the Gundam movie trilogy, the only way you'll find it is by tracking down the long-out-of-print VHS copies of the three individual movies that were released to little fanfare way back when.

Now, why isn't that dub track on the DVD? Probably for the same reason that all kinds of weird things have happened to the original Gundam series over the years; Episode 15 being inextricably removed from the English release for no released reason, a horrifically "remastered" soundtrack that has replaced the charmingly authentic low-budgetness of the original mono track in every DVD release, the decision to release the show in America dub-only... I could go on and on. The reason, of course, is Yoshiyuki Tomino.

The man is insane. And I don't mean in a Kazuo Koike, deranged criminal mind sort of insane. I mean insane in the George Lucas sense; he made This Thing that was very popular and defined a generation of kids and nerds sort of by accident, and now he can't stop tinkering with it and trying to make it "better" in ways that only make it worse and worse and worse. And because he made This Thing, nobody in any position of power seems to be able to stop him and say, "Hey, actually, this is kind of stupid and weird, what you're doing with all this." Regarding the Gundam movie trilogy dubs specifically, I can't say for certain what happened, but there was a persistent rumor at the time of their release that they were left off the DVD because certain individuals were "upset" with the way the dub handled certain things. And I mean very specific certain things - the way names were pronounced, stuff like that. I remember Neil Nadelman posting off-handed comments about being exhausted by the amount of oversight and critical feedback from the Japanese side.

So, yes, it's all Tomino's fault. That, and he made Garzey's Wing.

Hey look! It's the ONE PERSON WHO CAN'T FIND PORN ON THE INTERNET. I wonder who they'll ask for advice, hmmm

on the akiba girls page u say u have the videos i was wondering where u got them on the site if avabile for streaming if not can u tell me weather or not i can stream them
i was asking because i looked on the forums and faq and on Google but could not find out weater or not bout on the like that says we have 3 it says not a down load site i was wondering if u stream them

And now, as a hushed silence gathers over us all, that means one thing... it's time for Hey, Answerfans! Last week I asked you HDTV owners to sound off in unison:

Mike starts us off by bringing it back to a question I had only two weeks prior:

There are two major things that need to happen if the anime industry wants to expand the Blu-Ray market. The first thing is to do true HD masters and stop SD upscales altogether. If one is expected to buy a anime series or movie on Blu-Ray, the picture quality had better be quite substantial. I realize picture quality can vary depending on source material, but there's no point in paying a premium for Blu-Ray if it's going to look the same as an upscaled dvd, especially if it's something you already own. The second thing the anime industry needs to do in regards to Blu-Ray is to not price themselves out of the market. While one can be expected to pay a little more for a Blu-Ray compared to a regular dvd, it shouldn't be too outrageous. For example, I was recently thinking about getting the Blu-Ray of Wings of Honneamise. It goes for about 70 dollars on Amazon. If it was in the 30 dollar range it would be an instant buy, but I can't justify spending 70 dollars on one movie, even if it's Blu-Ray.

Myra describes a hellish future of stacks of Blu Rays soaking up the Sun, killing us all:

It is said that with age comes wisdom. However, I have come to find that if you are not a lifelong learner and keeping yourself current and informed, with age comes being old and stupid. So, let me share a little life story of my own long road to wisdom.

When I was young and tech savvy I had a tex instrument pocket calculator that would only fit in the center pocket of a 3x pair of farmer's overalls and my first IBM portable (at least they had the good sense not to say laptop) computer that had 512 and amber screen and weighed 17.8lbs-- for which I paid nearly 2 grand. I was cutting edge. Then came the Beta Machine, and my movies and tv shows whenever I want....Wow, what could be better? What, we're switching to VHS? Well okay then....but suddenly... ooh, ooh look a laserdisc player and all the discs. Hey, wait a minute, now the discs are little and you don't have to flip them over in the middle.... Wow. So now my house (which at some point I had to buy a bigger one) is full of Beta tapes, VHS tapes, laserdiscs, DVDs.....Gosh it took a long time for me to notice a trend here.

So those of you who have continued down the primrose path of latest technology, embracing blu-ray as the final ultimate format, guess again. Besides, as you get older and your eyesight starts to fail, you will find that a 30 yr old beta recording of space 1999 looks pretty much the same as the ultimate hi-def, super pixelated, 12000 htz, diamond encrusted, liquid plasma, blah,blah,blah.... So while you are reveling in your newly acquired flux capacitor with dreams of soaring into the future, don't forget to look back and hopefully learn a little from history.

Tim gonna buy all of the Blu Rays, ever:

All I want to see is more Japanese Blu-ray releases including English subtitles. I am an otaku and I think R2 prices are perfectly natural. I would gladly buy all the Japanese Soranowoto BDs for 490,00 yen if they had English subtitles. The show was streamed via CrunchyRoll and has an existing official English translation, so I don't think it could have been that expensive or difficult to simply include it on the Japanese Bluray release. As much as a fanboy I am, I still want to be catered to specifically as an English-speaking fan and would only buy something if I could read/understand it. It's a wonderful thing that the US and Japan share the same Bluray region code, but releases just don't live up to the potential.

This is basically what Bandai is doing with the Gundam Unicorn OVA's, and I am very grateful for it. This release strategy just needs to be expanded to more series: not just the mainstream Gundam stuff, but niche series. Strike Witches, Kanon, and Clannad also had English subtitles on the Japanese BDs, but this isn't quite as vital since those shows were already available in R1. Once again, they were simply included because the official translations already existed from the ADV/Funimation releases. If only CrunchyRoll translations were treated the same way.

Even if they include English subtitles, the various extras (commentary tracks, audio dramas) will probably remain in Japanese. But pretty much any R1 company would just drop most extras entirely. If Funimation released Soranowoto, we wouldn't get a single glimpse at the beautiful setting booklets, character song albums, audio dramas, and reversible covers the Japanese Bluray release came with (just look at their Strike Witches release). It's better to have those things, but untranslated, than simply never have them at all.

The reasoning might exist that doing this will eat into or discourage the sales of a later R1 release. But still, with R1 prices, even if I'd already bought the show on a Japanese Bluray, I'd just spend the $60 or whatever paltry amount and get the R1 too, just to show my support to the local industry. And when the heck are we going to get an R1 release of Saki?

Ray is nonplussed:

What would I like to see done differently in Hi-Def... Skip it entirely (in most cases).

The industry is already having problems convincing people to pay 29.99-49.99 for a DVD set; jacking those prices up by 20-30 dollars will not really help them move more product. Admittedly, there are a few series that do benefit from a HD transfer, but too few to mention. Rather than having companies investing in pricey HD upgrades for essentially SD shows, and then scratching around in an attempt to find something decent as extras to fill out the disks; I would really prefer to see them continue to diversify their catalogs and maybe invest some in VA training programs. That way they improve the product that they already offer, and only go HD on the rare title that actually deserves it.

Oooh, Edward totally sold me on that last line, there:

I propose a two-pronged attack on Blu-ray:

Firstly, including subtitles in the JP releases is a must, especially when subtitles are available for the DVDs. I purchase the JP release whenever available, even in preference to licensed releases. They're simply much nicer in general, from clean packaging devoid of "This show is awesome, buy it!" labels (I just did, why are you telling me this now?) and numerous obnoxiously large company logos, hilariously inaccurate blurbs filed with exclamation! marks! and spoilers, dodgy replacement artwork of poorly rendered giant robots with cheesy taglines, and cheapest-of-the-cheap plastic cases that are liable to shatter the disc before releasing it from their cloudy injection-moulded clutches. The Honneamise Patlabor BDs (even the shrinkwrap had folded corners!) sit proudly on my shelf, making my other licensed BDs look small and ashamed in their cheap blandness. Same goes for the Ghost in the Shell BD: the US and UK releases has a horrible upscaled version of the original film from an old Laserdisc master, managing to look worse than even the infamously bad Mangle Ent DVD version. Which leads onto prong two:

Enough with the awful filtered upscales! This is mainly a bugbear with Funimation not only failing to label their upscales as upscales, but slapping horrible layers of DVNR and edge-enhancement onto them to try and imitate the 'clean' look of digipaint. In the process, filtering out so much detail that they look worse than the R2 DVDs (e.g. Samurai Champloo, Gunslinger Girls). They appeared to have cleaned up their act somewhat with the Ouran BD box, but then went and labeled the (studio upscaled) FMA BDs as 'Full HD 1080p'. It's not as if doing it properly is more expensive: it's be both cheaper and faster to skip any fancy filtering. Then there's the problem of whether to bother upscaling at all. Yes, a properly done upscale with minimal filtering will look better than a well-mastered DVD due to the bump up in bitrate and superior codec. Especially when well-mastered licensed DVDs have become few and far between in the 7-episodes-per-disc box set years. People buying BDs are more likely to do some cursory research before splashing out, and more likely to spot a lemon and return it if it is unsatisfactory. Someone who has splashed out hundreds or thousands of pounds on a HDTV isn't going to be satisfied with 'acceptable' or 'good enough' to save a few quid. Pumping out an 'acceptable' BD because your 'acceptable' DVDs sold in the past isn't going to work.

I want to buy a BD because the BD looks better. I do not want to buy a BD because the DVD looks worse.

And finally, let's take a moment to root for poor Will, living in Australia, the ignored kid sibling of the Western anime market:

Simple. Release Blu Ray and DVD simultaneously. It isn't going to happen because the industry here in Australia is hoping for two sales. Well, sorry guys, you're not getting them from me. It means I buy the DVD and ignore the Blu Ray when it's released 6 or 12 months later. I'd prefer to buy the higher quality version at the higher price. I don't even mind if there's a higher margin. But, as it stands, I'll buy whichever comes out first and that's the one that will take pride of place in my collection.

So! For next week, given that Anime Expo is in full force and everybody is either going to a big convention this summer or is going to be reading about other people going to a big convention this summer, this week's question is:

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 I'm out! I'll see all you crazy kids next week, but make sure to send me all those delicious nuggets of question-related joy at Answerman (At) AnimeNewsNetwork.com! Bye!

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