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Hey, Answerman! - Personality Disorder

by Brian Hanson,

Hello everyone! It's another rip-roaringly rollicking jaunt through the Elysian fields of Answerfan-dom! If such a thing exists, that is. I kind of doubt that it does.


Hey Answerman,

Here's something I don't quite understand. Why do voice actors in anime dubs have such a devoted following in and of themselves? They're even more popular than some of the shows they simply come in and dub. I've seen people at conventions throw DVDs and even toys of the shows they worked on, begging for signatures. That seems a little strange, considering that often they have some of the actual writers, directors, and artists for those same shows at those same conventions. What's the big attraction to voice actors?

Voice actors? Well, they're personalities, first and foremost. They are big, boisterous, energetic personalities. People sort of naturally gravitate to that, especially younger fans, who are filled with energy and boisterousity themselves.

It's also quite a big cultural difference in marketing, really. The Japanese guests are used to going around to cons and fairs and such in their home country and simply being revered, admired, and quietly appreciated. That's not what con-goers in the US do. They're here to tear things up and start fires and have fun. Anime companies know this, and they exploit it by using the biggest personalities they have access to - their voice actors.

The voice actors, in turn, have fun with what they've been given, build a solid rapport with their fans, and all in all I'd say it's a good thing. The sort of slavish, rockstar-like devotion of the kind you're probably thinking about - kids running up to Vic Mignogna and literally pelting him with a Fullmetal Alchemist DVD and screaming PLEASE SIGN THIS FOR MEEEEEE - that doesn't at all suit the usual behavior of the Japanese guests, and I'd be willing to wager that nearly all of them would prefer it that way.

Yo Answerman,

I'm thinking of buying an E-Reader specifically for manga. Which one is the best?

Er, for manga? Really?

I'm going to say that, for now, I wouldn't really bother. And by that I don't mean to say that e-Readers suck for reading manga - truth be told I've seen samples on both the Kindle DX and the iPad and they look great - but that the infrastructure as far as actual manga content to read on any of the devices is slim pickings at best.

e-Readers are starting to take off, though, and manga publishers are eager to start jumping on the collective e-book bandwagon - I know Yen Press has made it a big initiative to start getting most of their titles on ebook stores - but that's going to be a rather painful process, most likely. It's one that's going to involve lots of proprietary formats specific to certain e-reader devices that will be incompatible with others, where top-selling content (your Bleaches, Fruits Baskets, et al) will be either seriously compromised or conspicuously absent from a digital marketplace, that sort of stuff. The stuff that always happens when a digital alternative starts to erode a long-standing business model. You know.

I mean, if I had to put on my robe and wizard hat and stare blankly into the future, my best guess is that the iPad will probably be the big tablet/reader device to beat when it comes to manga. If only because of the massive number of iPads out there compared to the other devices. But that certainly won't be the only option. It's all just a matter of time, sadly.

Dear Answerman,

It's become a pretty common thing nowadays to hear that anime fansubs and manga scanlations are what's killing the anime/manga industry, and that people watching/reading these unofficial versions of the product need to stop now and buy things to support the industry, e.t.c.

But my question is, is it JUST the job of the fans to keep the industry going? Or do we need to see more on the part of the big companies to persuade people to buy the official releases?

Obviously, subs and scans will pretty much always have the advantage of price over the official releases (most people would pick the free option rather than shell out thier own cash) and the subs and scans are generally released at a faster rate (though, that isn't to say that some companies couldn't stand to release faster, especially for finished series.), but surely there must be things that the companies can do to make people actually prefer the official releases?

Things like incentives that make people spring for a bought volume of manga (e.g. there was a promotional Trading Card with a recent volume of Naruto, or the One Piece speed up stickers in some of the volumes), or more special features on an Anime DVD than just trailers and a clean opening.

Or even without the gimmicks, being reliable for providing a good quality product rather than dropping a series halfway through (many of ADV's manga releases) or releasing things of substandard quality (more than a few of my own Funimation DVD's have pretty bad sound quality).

So what do you think? Should the big companies play an equal part in keeping themselves afloat, or do they do enough and it's up to us?

Look, here's my take on this: the only job the fans have, the ONLY one, is to support the things that they like. You like something? Hey, great, support it. Buy the DVDs, buy the manga, go to conventions with your cosplay and show people how much you like This Thing and be happy and dance and whatever. If you don't like something, well then, don't pay for it.

Okay, well, to drag this out a little bit: I love movies. I pay for all the movies I watch. I do not always like the movies I pay for. Case in point: The Expendables. What a confusing, hastily-assembled creature that movie was. A half stone-serious homage to 80's cheese and explosions, and the other half, a constant, annoying, winking-nod to the audience that hey this 80's cheese and explosion stuff is kind of silly! I bought a ticket for me and a friend. It cost me about fourteen dollars. I wasn't sure I was going to like The Expendables - in fact I was pretty convinced I wouldn't, considering the dire reviews - but I paid my money and supported the movie industry. I love movies, I am a fan of movies, so I show my support. That simple.

And for a lot of people, that's a problem. They hide behind layers of bullcrap rationale - THE INDUSTRY DOESN'T DESERVE MY MONEY BECAUSE THEY DON'T MEET MY OWN STRATOSPHERIC NEEDS HURRDURR - but all it really comes down to is that they just don't care. They don't care enough to support it.

But anyway, you are absolutely right, and I don't think anyone's arguing that it's ONLY the fans that need to keep this industry afloat. As far as I've seen, nobody's ever really argued that point. The reason that fansubs and scanlations get such a bad rap and are the subject of constant discussion is because... well, nobody's figured it out yet.

Everybody has ideas about how anime companies can do a better job at running their business - you yourself just listed a few things in your own e-mail. That's a simple process, really. If anime companies do something lame and dumb and people have a problem with it, they're prone to hear about it and from there things usually move upwards. But how the hell do you get people who seem to have no problem at all with outright thieving the stuff that they claim to love? The US anime companies have had a few solutions to that problem that seem to have worked, what with simulcasting streaming episodes and such, but that's not the entirety of it.

Anime companies can always do more, and they should do more, to keep themselves afloat in the murky waters of this industry. Nobody's arguing against this, at all. Not the least of which are the anime companies themselves, as they've said and proven to their fans time and time again. (At least, the ones that are still around.) That still doesn't quite address the bigger problem - that we have a core component of so-called "fans" that would rather find the latest OneManga replacement that has lurched forth from the dark corners of the internet than simply bother to spend roughly ten US dollars on a volume of Bleach.

I thought you would enjoy something like this... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PZwI-3xFtk

Having viewed your video, I have to say that I did NOT enjoy that. I very emphatically did not enjoy that at all.

Alright, internet. Yes, you. The internet at large.


I know... I know that it's usually safe to assume that because I like looking at stupid dumb things on YouTube - and that I also have a certain taste for odd Japanese things - that I would like a video of emaciated Japanese men in masks and loincloths dancing to chirpy moe music. That is not a correct assumption, however.

I require my wastes of time on YouTube to require a certain amount of authenticity - gravitas, if you will - in its execution. Something that incredibly creepy video did not contain. Something that this video, for example, has.

We clear on that? Cool.

And now onward, onward! To Answerfans! Last week I dug out an old question, but a GOOD question, damn it:

To begin, Ben S. has a short fuse:

So, how many episodes/volumes of a series will I read if it doesn't immediately hook me? Maybe it marks me as impatient, but frankly, the answer is usually one.

Now, that's not to say that I give up on every show that doesn't manage what Turn-A Gundam does in its first episode: which ends by juxtaposing the main character's joyful optimism for the future against a beautiful, somber Yoko Kanno song with a militaristic drumbeat, giving an incredible sense of impending tragedy. I don't require a show to blow me away with its first episode. However, what I want out of a show in its first episode, is a clear delivery on its promise, or at least its premise.

Case in point, Senko no Night Raid. Now, I was kinda excited for this show when I first heard of it—a spy drama set in Shanghai in the early 1900s? That's a pretty unique premise for an anime, and could be really awesome. And then I watched the first episode, and it turned out that the main cast were basically the X-men. Now, I have nothing against superpowered main characters, but frankly, it really ruins your supposed historical setting when one of your characters has the ability to deflect bullets. What's worse, they're really game-breaking powers for spies to have: the ability to teleport, the ability to read minds, combat skills on a scale where you can run into an entire platoon of armed guards and come out the other side not-dead (which pretty much flies in the face of all spy-logic). Now, maybe the series found a way to realistically limit those powers so it still feels like a spy drama—I'll admit that dropping the show wasn't an especially informed decision—but that was my reaction to that first episode, the feeling that there was no way this show was going to be what I hoped it would be, and would instead turn into a historically-flavored generic action show. It didn't help that there was really no characterization in the first episode and the history wasn't particularly explained, but really, it was the fact that the superpowers render most of the traditional challenges of the spy genre (i.e. stealth, information gathering, etc) negligible that made me not want to continue with the show.

Contrast something else I've only watched a little bit of, but do intend to continue with: Beast Player Erin. Really all I knew about the show going in was that it was about a little girl in a fantasy world where taming/domesticating various monsters is important, that there's a war going on, and that over the course of the series, the main character grows from a child into a young woman. Most of what caught my attention was the last point, because really, how often do shows develop their characters through several life phases? Okay, shoujo/josei shows do with some regularity, but this show also has GIANT LIZARDS!

Anyway, first episode: battle scene where the giant lizards completely decimate enemy horse-cavalry, cut to quiet village, introduce cute little girl (Erin), show that she has a loving relationship with her mother who's a specialist in taking care of the giant lizards, something weird happens with the giant lizards, Erin helps sort it out so everyone's happy, though ultimately her mom has to save her when she gets into trouble. By no means is this sequence of events, in and of itself, particularly unique or interesting, but what it does is clearly establish the world in which the series operates, clearly establish the important characters and their relationships to each other, and hint at a few of the series' big conflicts (the opening theme pretty well implies that Erin's mom is destined for the axe, or at least being separated from her daughter in some way). And really, that's all a first episode -has- to do: show you clearly what a show is going to be like.

So if you don't like that first episode, you're left with two possibilities: 1) the show is going to be similar to its first episode, and you won't like the show, and 2) the show is going to be different from the first episode, and the first episode is just poorly executed/does not set up the show. Sometimes it's worth sticking with a series, assuming the latter case, but I tend to think if a show can't do its first episode properly, what are the odds the rest will be handled well?

Obviously there are exceptions. "In medias res" openings complicate things, though one could argue that if you start your story anywhere but the chronological beginning, there should be even less excuse for not picking a moment that's representative of what your show is going to be (Gurren Lagann's first scene is a prime example). Sometimes things happen in the first episode that mean that future episodes are going to be very different—the first episode of His and Her Circumstances portrays the main character differently from how she acts in the rest of the show, and it was the second episode that sold me that I was watching something truly extraordinary. And sometimes pedigree or a recommendation means that a show is worth sticking around past the first episode—Turn-A might be the only of Tomino's Gundam shows that really excites you in the first episode, while Zeta, my favorite Gundam show, opens with slow episode where the main character acts completely irrationally until you find out his reasons for it some 18 episodes later.

On the other hand though, I think a lot of good storytellers know that you need to put your best foot forward for your beginning: Rose of Versailles' first episode is probably one of its strongest, diving right in to the question of Oscar's gender identity, and still finding time for a round of character introductions, two sword duels, and a fist fight. Even Naruto, a series that I have absolutely no interest in, uses its first chapter/episode to explain the psychology of its main character (and part of my problem with it is that said psychology is then ignored, but...).

In short, directors, writers, artists, unless you're the creator of one of my favorite franchises, or have a lot of people clamoring about how great you are, give me a first episode I can sink my teeth into—at the very least, show me a world and people I can learn to like—or I walk.

Michelle's fallen on hard times, hard times:

There's no exact hard and fast rule for me, but I'd say for anime, I give them 3 episodes and manga, ~10 chapters or a tankobon's worth. It varies on things like genre, series creator and my expectations of a series going into it but that's ballpark for me.

However, as I make the transition from the teenage 'I have so much @$#%^ time to kill' to Senior 'Holy cow, I've gotta study/work HOW many hours a week?!' year in college, I find myself having less of a tolerance for slow/uninteresting anime and manga. Even worse is when I try out a long series (which in my definition is ~52 episodes or 10+ volumes of manga) that is so incredible that I'm absolutely hooked and then *BAM* it starts become a snooze-fest (I'm looking at you, D.Gray-man manga...). For this exact reason, I've become even more risk averse in my old(er) age and try to stick with anime that's about a season long, or even better 12 episodes or less. I find that often the shorter the series, the more satisfying it can be. It won't drag on forever like One Piece or Naruto, which I loved until about the time they both exploded with popularity and the fandom was too much a cash cow, leading the series to march on into infinity. The other benefit of a short series is that even if you didn't love it, you don't invest too much time or energy into it so you didn't lose much.

The thing that I really hate is starting an anime or manga, liking a character here or there, and not finishing it because after two volumes of manga or 4 episodes it just doesn't grab me enough to merit finishing it. Inevitably, I'll go to Wikipedia or some fan site to read the spoilers just to see what happened so I won't have to sit through the rest of the series. An example of this would be Ai Yazawa's Nana -- I loved her manga Paradise Kiss (which is 5 volumes) and I genuinely wanted to love Nana too, but after 4 anime episodes and roughly 10 volumes of tankobon, it just fizzled for me. I'm kind of glad I dropped that, since Yazawa has put the series on hold indefinitely due to illness but right there is a great example of the shorter series winning out over the longer one. The only reason I pushed on so long with the manga was that I was trying to force myself to love it as I do ParaKiss.

Something I also find a bit strange is my tolerance for mediocre anime based on how cheap they were or how painfully generic they are. Take for example I, My, Me! Strawberry Eggs! A few years ago when it was new in the US, I loved it and bought every DVD religiously as it came out. Maybe it wasn't the cheapest thing ever, but it was easy to watch and had a lot of the entertaining Japanese cultural bits that Americans can't get enough of. I watched a few episodes more recently and figure if I had picked it up now instead of back then I probably wouldn't have made it through even just the 13 episodes it has. I managed to get Green Green on DVD for like $15 one day at Best Buy like 3 years ago and it had the same effect as Strawberry Eggs - just zany enough to merit a full watch with the added 'Super affordable' bonus.

Needless to say, I've fallen way behind the anime/manga times (I'm circa Sailor Moon and Fushigi Yuugi) but with so many options out there these days between licensed and fan sub stuff, I feel that there's no reason to suffer through something horrible. Just read the spoilers if you have questions :)

Ricardo is forgiving, and kind:

Well, it sorta depends on HOW I'm watching or reading the said series.

Suppose I downloaded it from a fansubs group, or that I'm watching it online (Crunchy etc.). In that case unless the series is completely crappy (like KissXSis for instance), I'll most likely watch it whole. That has given me quite a few surprises, one of the biggest being Casshern Sins, a series I quite disliked at first, but now is one of my favorite ones of it's genre. The same can be said about Kekkaishi (both the manga and the anime).

Now, on another scenario; suppose I'm watching it on TV. Since I quite like most variety channels (like Nat Geo or Discovery) I'll not watch ANY anime, only the good ones. And 'how do I know they are good or not'? Well, if I have already watched it and liked it, then it's good. If I haven't yet, but I have read some pretty good reviews about it, then I'll watch it. On all other cases I'll not watch it. As I said, this sometimes proves to be a mistake (as happened to Tsukihime and SaiKano).

The last case is when I buy a new manga or a new DVD release of a series. Since I love reading, I'll most likely finish off the manga, regardless of me liking it or not. On the other hand, with the DVD anime series, I will, surely, finish the said DVD (afterall, it'd be wasted money to just watch one ep., label it as crap and never watch it again), but I'll only buy the following DVD releases of the said series if I liked the first DVD.

I think it's pretty much 'common sense', but, hey!, you said you like to know what we think, so there, enjoy it!

Cat isn't much for the numbers game:

Giving a manga or anime the 'proper' amount of time to become interesting is a bit more complex than it seems. Some people might immediately answer with a number, but I think it depends on what manga or anime and how much free time one has.

When preparing to read or to see a manga or anime, I first look at how popular it is. Yes, I probably should find my own manga or anime to enjoy, but where would I start? If someone else likes it, I might too. I read reviews of the manga or anime, because I don't particularly want to waste my valuable time with an awful manga or anime. Then, I will usually read 2-3 volumes or watch 4-5 episodes. That's about the standard for manga, but for anime it depends on how long the season is. If it is only 13 episodes long, I will only watch about 3 episodes whereas if it is 26 or more I'll shoot for 5 episodes. If by then I haven't become interested, then I don't want to waste anymore of my time. Being a high school student and an otaku with an attempt at a social life is hard, I want something that is going to entertain me.

I feel that giving a manga or anime a certain amount of time to 'get good' is a bit unfair, but that is the job of the creator, right? To make something immediately appealing to catch the readers or watchers. It's hard to enjoy something when you don't find it vaguely stimulating. Hopefully, there will come a time when there is all the time in the world, to indulge in all the manga and anime until one's heart is content. One day.

Not to break your bubble or anything, Lise, but wasn't five the magic number? No, wait, I have cross-referenced my iTunes catalog of Schoolhouse Rock songs, and it is indeed 3:

To me, 3 is the perfect number for getting the feel of an anime series. Timewise, it's about the first hour of the show, so you get the initial set up, meet a few of the characters, and sample the plot. I've followed this method for every show that I've ever seen, and it works pretty well for me. I'm less flexible with manga, because when you first start reading a manga series, you have no idea if it's going to be a short series (between 3-13 books), or a long series (13+ books), so it has to have a strong start or I'm just not interested in sinking any more time or money into following it. There is just so much amazing stuff, both old and new, out there now that I'm not interested in sticking with something that cannot grab my attention right away. And if the show is a real stand out from the crowd and takes a little more time to get going, I hear about it from friends, or from other anime news websites. As exciting as it is to feel like you've been in on the ground level of a show before it gets popular, it gets a little overwhelming to keep current on everything out there, and it's difficult to give every anime or manga series the same amount of attention, particularly when some are just rehashings of other, better stuff.

Yes, vashfanatic, I italicized your text, you are welcome:

Well, first, how many volumes of manga would I read before giving it up if it didn't immediately grab my attention? It depends on how much I have available. If my library has multiple volumes available, I check out most of them and then keep reading. Usually if I'm still not feeling it by volume three I drop a series. I pick volume 3 because that was the first volume of Berserk that I actually thought was good; the first was pretty bad, the second only average, but then the Godhand showed up and damn. So I want to give any lengthy series at least that long before I decide whether to drop it. That's why I waited that long on D.Gray-man even though I was really unimpressed with it at the start. After the third volume I still found the story derivative and the lead character flat, and dropped it.

If a book is one where I have to wait between volumes, either because it is ongoing or because my I have to order a volume by interlibrary loan, I find myself much more prone to drop something quickly. Ease of access wins my patience; the more effort I have to put into finding and reading material, the more I consider whether it's really worth it. Alive: The Final Evolution wasn't bad, but it also wasn't worth using up my ILL slots that I could be using for Vagabond.

And if you've noticed me talking about libraries here, that's because libraries are how I do most of my manga reading. I won't deny that I've done some downloading in the past (I may be buying it now, but I read all of 20th Century Boys in scanlation in less than a week about a year before the first volume came out) or used online readers (stopped once I learned about how sites profited running them), but you know what? They are “easy access,” which can lead to reading a bunch of stuff that in retrospect wasn't worth your time.

The same is true with anime and fansubs: I watched a lot more back in my bad ol' college days when all it took was downloading something to get an entire series. I was in the habit of finishing something “for completeness' sake” and wound up watching a lot of crap. The more I've weaned myself off fansubs, the fewer series I actually finish and the pickier I become about the shows I watch. So for the sake of your spare time, I recommend giving them up as much as possible.

At this point, I generally give an anime series only one episode to intrigue me. I have a pretty wide definition of “intrigue,” though; it doesn't have to be phenomenal, it just has to show good promise. If a series looks like it has potential, I'll give it another episode even if the first didn't impress me much. I call a series like this “on probation.” If it doesn't show signs of improvement by about the fourth episode, it goes bye-bye. Of course, series that have been improving or doing very well for a long time can wind up slipping into probation and getting dropped. I'm very unforgiving of dips in quality at this point in my viewing career.

Not that my judgment on things from early episodes hasn't been wrong in the past. I was certain after two episodes of Code Geass that I wanted nothing to do with the show, but after much prompting I finally forced myself to watch it beyond episode 3 and it turned out to be great fun (if not exactly high art). I can be persuaded to give something another try… but it helps to tell me why I should give it another try. Don't just say “it gets better.” Tell me why it gets better, and then I'll judge whether I want to bother with it. I may be underemployed, but I do have a life.

I dunno, Angelo, 19th century California had a lot of gold:

In the sad case that the show is simply uninteresting, I tend to be rather forgiving, at least watching till a definitive story arch is complete; which in the case of rather shallow story lines, tends to be within the first six or seven episodes. However this tends to be a rare case, as I have a habit to deliberately search for shows that will interest me.

That's not to say I don't always check the Random Fun section of ANN every time I visit the page, that little box of html has yielded more gold than 19th century California.

Hans makes a mental note:

Generalizing--just one volume or one episode. But in reality, when I'm watching or reading something new, a mental "Pros and Cons" list starts to form. If it doesn't immediately grab me then obviously I don't see anything I like, but its not a problem... Unless of course I start to see things I don't like. Cliche characters, bad writing, too much fanservice, or typical anime tropes grate on me real quickly so when the "total score" of the anime or manga starts becoming too negative predictably I stop. On the flip side--if I don't see anything bad or good in the first episode or volume (which really SHOULD raise some flags--the first episode is supposed to be the one that baits people!) I might try another episode or volume.

And now, the last response. Tyler, here, picks things up and lets them go, in succession:

I have a short attention span, so I usually don't watch much of a series if my attention isn't caught, or rather, I usually don't watch much at a time. Curiosity kills this cat, because I watch a little to see if it's good, and if it's bad, I'll stop, sometimes mid-episode, but I'll keep coming back for a while periodically. Eventually, if it keeps sucking, I'll just skim through it, before giving up on it completely, wondering why I waste my time so. If it can grab my attention, however, I'll probably watch a few episodes. Although this is the usual, I believe I'm slowly breaking away from it, and trying different systems for watching series.

Are we... are we good? We good? Alright. Next 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 for now, I bid you all good night, adieu, a happy weekend, and much merriment and song! Remember to send questions and answers and tales of strength and wonder to answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! See you all later!

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