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Hey, Answerman! - For Anime's Sake

by Brian Hanson,

Welcome once again! Sorry about the abrupt disappearance last week.

Oftentimes I will mistakenly assume that I can handle any amount of work-related stress and still be able to hold down my regular obligations as per this column's requirements. Oftentimes, I will be so haggard and ragged after weeks and weeks of grueling 40-hour work weeks combined with late-night theater rehearsals and a stringent deadline for yet another play I'll be directing and things just, kind of, unravel. So, consider yourselves lucky, really, that you didn't get a column last week. Unless you really, really wanted an Answerman column where every other word is "PISS" and "GULUGHLGHAHGH."

Some of you might think you do, but you don't.

Enough about mental problems! You had some awesome questions this week, so here they are:

People are squawking that One Piece is getting a low rank in Weekly Shonen Jump.

If a series is ranked in the bottom 5, it will get canceled. Could One Piece get this rank and get canceled by Shueisha?

I suppose, in the grand machinations of this unruly universe, anything could theoretically happen. In some alternate string-theory dimension, perhaps One Piece is already canceled. And also people walk on their tongues and wear hats on their bottoms.

You said it accurately yourself: people are "squawking" over an unscientific poll in Shonen Jump that means next to nothing. Or, at least, it means nothing to something as ubiquitous and evergreen as One Piece. Let's look at it rationally: One Piece has been running strong for over a decade now. The individual manga volumes are still best-sellers in Japan. The TV anime is still one of the highest-rated programs on Japanese television. The individual feature films that come out every year wind up being one of Japan's highest-grossing films of the year. And, perhaps most importantly, the property is a merchandising behemoth. One Piece merchandise and character goods still generate hundreds of millions of Yen. Polls be damned, the One Piece moniker is still a license to print money.

Add to that equation the fact that One Piece is one of the select few Shonen Jump titles that is a bona-fide worldwide success. Certainly not the Dragon Ball-sized success everyone hoped it would become, but the manga volumes sell very well here in the US and in Europe and elsewhere, the TV anime has been dubbed into virtually every language, and the like.

One Piece isn't going anywhere. Not until Eichiro Oda decides to end it, anyway. Now, will the publishers at Shueisha perhaps use those solemn poll numbers to goad Oda into ending the series? That could certainly happen. But the editors at Shonen Jump are savvy enough to know that One Piece is far too well-known and well-loved a property to simply can outright. So don't worry; One Piece isn't ending until Oda wants it to. Like all things in the entertainment industry, so long as it turns a profit, it'll stick around.

Answerman, I was hoping you might be able to help me out with an issue I've been pondering for a while now. The issue is this: Cartoon Network seems to have severely reduced the amount of anime it is broadcasting in favor of releasing its own shows. As a person who has worked for a large company, I can understand their reasoning behind this. When they broadcast anime, they're only making money off of advertising, not to mention the fact that they still have to pony up to American distributors in order to do so. If they release their own content, they earn not only the ad revenue, but also merchandising revenue (shirts, games, DVDs, ect.). So for Cartoon Network, it might make more sense to air their own content, which might receive lower ratings than some anime, but could also result in larger profits.

Here's the problem: Cartoon Network still pays for broadcasting rights for anime like Fullmetal Alchemist and Kekkaishi. However, the company seems unwilling to juggle time slots in order to put their anime on air at a decent hour to maximize ratings, so these shows get the crap timeslots where they will languish, mostly unwatched. So, why does Cartoon Network even bother picking up these shows? If they're just setting them up for mediocre performances, if they're lucky, or simply to outright fail, why waste the money to pick these shows up at all?

Speaking as a guy who used to write The Click every week, m'lad, you've come to the right Answerman for this question.

To start with, let me clarify a few things: Cartoon Network's and Adult Swim's original programming rarely, if ever, receives "lower ratings" than anime. With the exception of InuYasha during its peak and the original Fullmetal Alchemist for a brief period, just about every piece of original programming performs either on par or better, ratings-wise, than anime. Even when anime is given a prime timeslot. Remember when Adult Swim aired the second season of Big O at 11pm on Sunday nights? No? That's right - because nobody freakin' watched it. (The "quality" of Big O II notwithstanding.)

Also, it's not always true that Cartoon Network or Adult Swim has to pay the license holder to acquire broadcast rights for a show. Bandai paid Adult Swim to air every episode of Code Geass, and I think for Eureka Seven as well. Neither of those shows were ratings hits, but Bandai was obviously more on the prowl for increased DVD sales. Not to mention that, even in the cases where Cartoon Network has to pony up the broadcast licensing fees, it's still much cheaper to acquire the broadcast license for a show like Kekkaishi than to produce their own programming.

To the meat of this whole deal, though - Cartoon Network still acquires anime because, honestly, they do like it. It helps to diversify their lineup, sure, and there's still the hope that perhaps one of their anime acquisitions could reach the stratospheric ratings highs of InuYasha or Naruto or whatever. But really when it comes to it, they're fans of animation themselves, and while they've certainly cut back significantly on the amount of anime programming across the board, it's never something they're eager to completely obliterate. The professional relationships between Cartoon Network and companies like Viz and Funimation are still friendly ones, for the most part, and of course US anime companies are more than eager to send whatever they have Cartoon Network's way, if they're at all interested.

It's a bit of a legacy thing that they want to keep running, it's a bit of a low-margin risk, and it's more than a bit of love.

I am getting tired of all the discussion about piracy, the economy, and the international anime market, so I would like to raise a question about anime for anime's sake.

Recently, I wrote a literary analysis of Kio Shimoku's Genshiken manga for my major. Though my professors were open minded about the project, it was clear that most of the department was rather skeptical about the idea that manga, and by extension, anime, should be considered seriously in an academic setting. One one hand, some have raised the point that anime and manga often throw in fanservice, flat type characters, and ill-conceived religious imagery in the name of adding 'appeal' and 'depth' to a series. On the other hand, anime also employs the characterization, symbolism and storytelling techniques that are usually associated with prose. What is your opinion on anime and manga as a form of creative expression or as literature? Do you think anime and manga should be thoughtfully considered and analyzed, or is its purpose primarily to entertain?

Hear hear! Let me put my Smart Person hat on and ruminate on this topic.

I hesitate to call manga and anime "literature" but that's mainly my own personal feelings on the subject more than anything. I'm the sort of guy who hates, and I mean hates, when people get hung up on labels, and whether or not this thing can be considered this other thing, and why people are dumb who consider it such, and whatever. IS ANIME ART??? IS VIDO GAME ART???? IS MAGNA LITERTUR???? Who the **** cares, exactly? Each Thing is its own Thing, and succeeds at being that Thing on its own merits, not on some broad, vaguely-defined metric so nerds can appear to look smart in the eyes of art critics and academics.

Anime and manga's purpose is primarily to entertain. It is a product being sold to consumers. The expectation by the consumers for this product is that it will entertain them in some fashion. There is, however, definite artistry to how well it can be entertaining, and I wouldn't be writing on Anime News Network if I didn't firmly believe that. The best anime succeeds not only in telling a story, but in doing so with grace, style, and cunning. Akira is great because of the scope and scale of its story, and of the awe-inspiring animation that has yet to find an equal. Miyazaki's films will stand the test of time because of their ethereal beauty and charm, and the mastery of his characterization. Cowboy Bebop will be remembered for decades because of its energy and style, with its homogenization of popular culture. Evangelion will still be talked about for many more years to come, for its sly commentary and radical interpretation of familiar anime genre tropes.

Each one of the above examples I mentioned could be stretched into academic dissertations a mile long. There is so much to those shows and movies and manga that they will inspire people to dig into them intellectually until the time that anime is wiped away from the face of the Earth. And it's not because they are or are not "art" or "literature," it is because they use elements of art and facets of literature to create something wholly original and yet comfortingly familiar. Of course they should be considered and analyzed. They invite it. It's impossible for any rational human being to look at those and simply walk away with little more to say than either "it's good" or "it sucked."

The vast majority of anime and manga, however, don't deserve such treatment. And that's not necessarily the fault of those products failing to meet up to my LOFTY ACADEMIC ASPIRATIONS. They are simply existing as products, and they are happy with it, and any intellectual discourse is merely icing on the cake. I love the hell out of One Piece, and I can give you very definitive reasons why - the art is spry and bulges with wonderful energy, the characters are imbued with more depth and care than any big, dumb action comic aimed at young boys would usually try - but there's little else to it than that. It's a story, with characters and villains, that is sold at an audience that enjoys that sort of thing. It succeeds in being entertaining on it's own. It doesn't need reams of academic research to prove its inherent worth.

I'm sure if I wanted to be a complete douche about it, I could write a lengthy article comparing Luffy's indomitable spirit to the characters of Mark Twain, but that would merely be putting apples and oranges together to come to the conclusion that They Are Both Things You Can Eat. I'd be interested to read your dissertation on Genshiken - by all means, send it along! - because the fact that these things inspire us to go to such mental lengths is proof enough that it co-exists on the same plane as film and literature, which are also sold mainly as products to entertain.



I am writing to you, to ask for permission to post a video on YouTube of the Akatsuki sealing away Killer Bee.

YouTube ask's for a proof of that we have asked for the permission to post videos.

there is your answer, son (the answer is shrouded in MYSTERY)

Wa-hey! Answerfans is go!

A fortnight ago, I had movies on the brain and decided to toss this question in the mix:

Amsterdammed begins this week with an equation of sorts:

Hello Answerman,

To make my point, lets start with some math:

1 x 0 = 0
10 x 0 = 0

So far, the summer anime season has been very disappointing. Only a handful of shows is slightly better then average (in my not-so-humble opinion); I've dropped all other shows after only 1 or 2 episodes. This year I started organizing an event at home to watch all available first episodes of the new season with some friends. The summer season event was the most disappointing to date.

It's been a while since I was looking forward to a movie (summer season or otherwise). This summer hasn't been any different. There's not a single movie I'm looking forward to see in the cinema (or be tempted to download).

I can't be disappointed with the summer movie season, because I had no expectations at all to start with. I did have some hopes for the summer anime season. That's where the disappointment came in. I'm really looking forward to each new episode of Highschool of the Dead, Shiki and Sengoku Basara Two (not even a new show). But I can't be bothered by most of the other shows. I'll be giving Densetsu no Yūsha no Densetsu, Mitsudomoe and Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin the benefit of the doubt for the time being.

Like Johan Cruijff - the best dutch soccer player of all time - once said: There is an advantage to each disadvantage. Crap in the cinema and a crappy summer anime season does give me some extra free time so I can finally catch up with One Piece a lot faster :-))

Matt and Armond White share martinis, bonded by their dislike for Toy Story 3:

For me the summer movie season has been by far more disappointing than the summer anime season. As someone who digests quite a bit of both I can say this is by far, for me at least, one of the worst stretches ever for movies. I would say that this outweighs the fact that I didn't have that high of expectations for the summer movie season to being with. I was never going to see movies like Twilight and Toy Story 3 in the first place. Usually there are some good random movies at the box office but let's take a look at the top of the box office right now, keeping in mind that I don't like kids movies.

1. Despicable Me - Just plain awful.
2. Twilight - It's twilight...
3. Predators - Horrible poorly done action film.
4. Toy Story 3 - I'm too old for this.
5. The Last Air Bender - I can't stand M. Night as a director.
6. Grown Ups - Old comedians that have lost their shine just mailing it in for a paycheck.
7. Knight and Day - Can't stand Tom Cruise's new movies.
8. The Karate Kid - Another case of Hollywood not being able to leave something alone.
9. The A-Team - See above.

With movies like the Sorcerer's Apprentice coming out the future isn't bright right now. I'm hoping Inception will be good, but I'm not getting my hopes up too much.

And now let's get into why it isn't as bad as the summer anime season.

As low as my expectations for the movie season were, they were even lower for the anime season, especially after some nice surprises in the spring season (stuff like Angel Beats! and Ichiban were great unexpected pick-ups for me). The only thing I planned on watching from the start was Highschool of the Dead, which I am quite enjoying so far. Anyway, I like to try as much anime as possible, either just randomly downloading the first episode of a show or judging off of recommendations of people online or my friends. I've picked up Occult Academy and Asobi ni Iku yo! and I am liking both so far. This brings the total for summer anime I like to 3, and movies at zero. So in summation, both are poor, but the movie season is just that much worse for me, as nothing in the theater is watchable for me.

Kyoko's vote currently ties the score for Anime vs. Movies:

UGH. This is a close call, but I gotta go with the summer movie season. "Airbender" was a complete waste of budget money, could ruin future acting projects for the adorable Noah kid who played Aang, and Shayamalan just needs to get as far away from this franchise as he can. Despicable Me looked like it was going to be an awesome experience, but it turns out that the most entertaining parts of the film were in the trailers! I had never been so disappointed after leaving the theater. Knight and Day is essentially the Tom Cruise version of The Killers, Grown Ups is your typical silly comedy bordering on stupid, I'm not a fan of the Predators franchise, and Inception could be alright.... I'm not sure if I wanna spend the money though.

Don't get me started on Twilight. Toy Story 3 and The Karate Kid have been the only really good movies to come out lately. It's really quite sad.

As for the summer anime season, I didn't really go into it with high hopes like I did with the movie season. Legend of Legendary Heroes looks like it's actually gonna be an interesting and entertaining show based off its second episode (Anyone who stopped watching after the first episode really should check out the second one. The first episode seems to have hardly anything to do with the plot. It just introduced the characters.)

Highschool of the Dead seems to be a very good Zombie fest to everyone who enjoys the zombie experience. The friends of mine I've introduced to it are hooked. I'm also excited for Kuroshitsuji as a fangirl of the franchise, and other than that, everything else is meh.

So to sum up: Movies this summer have a couple promises among some heavy disappointments, and the anime is a bland of 'meh' with a couple of shows that could prove interesting. It's really just not an entertaining summer all around. Let's get a second season of DRRR!! up in here, I enjoyed that show, and there are some parts from the novels I'm dying to see animated.

Man! That's all? I thought I was totally going to get everybody's vote on this question. Too few of you responded, so that means Anime ties with Movies for SUMMER OF DISAPPOINTMENT 2010. Shame. Well, maybe this next question for next week will inspire you a tad bit more:

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.

So, get to it, everyone! My mind is a much more stable creature now, so don't worry about me randomly disappearing into the fog of night, clutching a jar of half-eaten mustard and wearing only a pillowcase, shouting about the "vibrating elements around us." Get those questions and Answerfans responses to answerman (at!!!) animenewsnetwork.com! Bye!

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