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Hey, Answerman! - Visual Audio Sensory Answerman

by Brian Hanson,

Greetings again, onlookers and valued fans! It's Answerman, and once again, there are some questions that I will answer with something akin to an acerbic wit and self-centered prose. So let's just get to the good stuff:

Since Dragonball: Evolution failed at the box office, dooming almost all chances of a sequel/reboot, I've been looking for fan movies, hoping that a film made by loving fans who understand the story and characters would fill the void left by DBE. Alas, I can find nothing except 5 minute videos of guys showing off how to use CGI to make the kame-hame-ha, or reenacting scenes from the anime, or fan trailers. I cannot find a single full-length fan movie. I don't understand why? Why do you think this is? There's a huge void out there that needs to be filled and no one is doing it.

Oh, yeah. Very simple reason for that. It is very hard to do and would take a lot of time and potentially a lot of money.

Fan films are done purely out of geeky love and nothing more. Which is a polite way to say that they have no budget. And that's fine, that's totally fine. But, let's just dissect it a little here. "Fan films" are a sort of cross between an amateur film and fan-fiction. There are certain things needed to make them work:

1) A script. Of some sort, at least. Somebody needs to write some things down that dictates the action and the dialog. Depending on the quality of production you're hoping for, writing the script can either be the easiest, quickest part of the process or the longest and most complicated.

2) A camera. You can either buy one specifically for your fan film, which is expensive, or you can rent one, which is also expensive. Or you can beg people you know who have a camera to let you borrow it. And I dunno about you, but everyone I know with a halfway-decent video camera treats their equipment like a Special Child that will be tarnished and ruined by the world if it ever leaves their hands. (People always ask me, "Hey Brian, how come you never record any of your plays and shows?" This is the reason why.)

3) Actors! Just the simple act of getting a decent amount of people to help you with ANYTHING is tricky, because chances are you won't be paying them and thus you need to accommodate their schedules and work around that.

4) Editing, effects, and post-production. Even if you're not editing your fan film on an Avid suite, slaving away over dozens of hours of footage is a painfully, arduously long process.

Have I crushed your spirits yet? That's not entirely my intent, mind you, but hopefully you get the point. Creating even the crappiest fan-film requires the sort of commitment and time and investment that's rather daunting for most reasonable individuals.

But! But! There's a very simple way for you to solve this problem of there being no DBZ fan-films. It's so deceptively simple it might just take you by surprise.

... you ready for it?

Okay! So... Why don't you just... make one yourself?

Just a thought.

Hey Answerman,

Why so many recaps? For as long as I've been watching anime, I've come to expect that episode 13 of just about any show is going to be a recap. It wasn't until I got Wolf's Rain vol. 4 from Netflix that it truly irritated me. If you haven't guessed it yet, volume 4 has not one, but four recap episodes. That is a whole disc of nothing but recaps of the previous 14 episodes. Why? If I was collecting the individual discs as the came out, and I paid $25-$30 for this one, I would have been very angry. Another show that is over-saturated with recaps is Hitman Reborn, some episodes having 5-10 minutes per episode. I always assumed that in Reborn's case it was due to it's younger audience. Is that the case, or do Japanese people have horrible memory?

Recap episodes, or frequent recaps within episodes, is strictly a phenomenon of the budget. More specifically, the lack thereof.

Well, usually. Wolf's Rain had sort of a different situation, but I'll get to that later. For a show like Hitman Reborn, all you need to realize is that it's an adaptation of a Shonen manga that airs every week, no breaks. There's no "seasons" per se, the show runs once a week, every week, save for the rare occasion where it might get preempted by some cataclysmic event or something. The animation studio needs to churn out a 24-minute episode of animation every week in perpetuity, until the show either becomes a ratings disaster or all the animators run screaming out of the office en masse. A good shortcut to keep their animators from becoming insane is to, simply, eat up a good chunk of that 24-minute run time with a recap or two of the previous episode. Or four. Or six.

It's a cheap and obvious shortcut, but Reborn is hardly the first show to use it. Naruto is especially egregious in this respect, as is Bleach. Even look back to something like the original Dragon Ball, and you'll notice certain episodes that have nearly half their running time devoted to running clips of past episodes. It's just the simple, harsh reality that studios have to face when they're tasked with creating a show that runs every week for the foreseeable future; it's simply impossible to have a full 24-minute episode of original material every week without amassing an insane budget, so they cut a few corners and spare some animation carpal-tunnel syndrome by splicing in some old footage.

Wolf's Rain, though? That was simply caused by production delays. Keep in mind that circa 2003, BONES was a pretty new studio, fresh off of working on the Cowboy Bebop movie, and Wolf's Rain was one of their first big original productions. The show took frequent unplanned hiatuses from airing (specifically due to the SARS epidemic - everyone remember SARS?), and eventually Fuji TV had to throw their weight around and demand that BONES give them something to air. But, at least they were able to make those four OAV episodes! You know, the ones that end the story just as strange and confusingly as the original broadcast version, just in a slightly different manner.

So, you guys do columns and reviews on manga, light novels, even anime related video games. Why don't you guys do reviews of visual novels? The front news page has some reporting on them, but it would be nice to get a more professional reviewers taste of them. Now, obviously, the rebuttal "we don't do porn" can be said, but I think most everyone who has played a good one like Kanon or Tsukihime knows the sex is not the point, it merely supplements the story, and having 20 minutes of sex in a 20 hour game doesn't really make it porn. Also, its become very common these days for visual novels to be adapted into anime. With the fact that there are lots of fans of them in the English anime community, enough for there to be a visual novel database, vndb.org, and the fact that more and more official English releases are coming out (and plenty more unofficial English patches, Peter Payne is selling Japanese versions of visual novels for fans who have them), it seems like they are a part of the anime culture that is worthy of more attention.

Well, this question should obviously be directed towards the sort of person who... I dunno, manages all the editorial content on this here webzone. I'll let Zac field this one:

While I'm totally open to reviewing visual novels that don't end in hardcore porn, the "we don't review porn" thing applies. If there's a 15-hour hentai where only the last half an hour is hardcore porn, we won't review it. I think Queen's Blade is as close as we get to reviewing softcore anime, actually.

At the same time, you have a point about the place of visual novels in anime culture and they probably should be represented here more than they presently are, but finding a way to cover them that doesn't mean a whole bunch of reviews about which girl they banged at the end of the game is tricky. In my estimation, the anime adaptations of these games are already providing us a way to review the stories of these games while avoiding the porn at the end of the game version, but I've heard plenty of people say the stories in the games are more fleshed-out (whoops, that's a pun, a-hyuk!). So it's up to me, I suppose, to find a way to cover these games more often in a way that doesn't mean I'm publishing porn reviews. I'll get right on that!

Does this mean my dream of writing off my debilitating pornography addiction as a business expense is nearing fruition? Stay tuned.

Hi, if you guys are the ones who made beserk anime, I would like to say it is great anime and I am a huge fan. Please please continue you the beserk series, it has a huge fan base, and if it was to be re- released it would be a big hit. It is probably the best anime I have ever seen. Unlike the new anime's there are too much talking. However beserk is action packed and that same time has emotional scenes. Please please can you continue beserk. If there are any beserk goodies please let me

Many thanks


You really should finnish the "Kaibutsu Oujo" Series. The ending wasn't even a real ending.

You Bet!! I'll get on both of those. AT THE SAME TIME.

Here ya go!

You're welcome, by the way.

Good grief! It's Answerfans! Get out your burnable effigies and ideological pitchforks, ladies and gentlemen, 'cuz it's time to get negative!!

Bryan begins Gripe-Fest 2010 with his complaints on characterization:

The weakest element in anime and manga today is character writing. No matter what genre I go into (of the ones I'm actually interested in), characters always seem to have only a few overused (dare I say, cliché) traits. But that isn't even the worst part. Even after a character has been designed (for good or for bad), the writers often seem to forget their own character's personality after a few episodes... or even a few minutes.

Does this sound familiar? Military elite 14 year old boy (lol) sent on a secret mission... somehow, despite being raised since a baby to be the best of the best... immediately gives him or herself away by his or her inability to observe and react according to the situation in a timely manner. Pretty poor training, apparently. Oh... let me wait for you, in the middle of this gunfight, for you to pretty yourself up before I rescue you. Oh, sorry I've fallen on you. Rather than remove my hand from your breast I'll just point at it and draw more attention to it.

When the character doesn't fit his or her backstory... bad character writing.
When the character doesn't fit the universe they're in... bad character writing.
When the character's traits keep changing... that's just lazy writing (i.e. smart one minute, profoundly stupid the next)

Good plot writing makes even unbelievable circumstances seem believable (willing suspension of disbelief).
Good character writing makes characters behave believably even in unbelievable circumstances.

It seems to me that too many anime/manga these days make characters without any thought to the plot they're being put into. Maybe they just have a big pool of characters that they pick from at random? I don't know, seems like it sometimes. If you're just going to re-use characters... pick ones that make sense. And if your characters don't make sense... then they have to REALLY not make sense, like Haré + Guu.

Better yet, write original characters that fit the story! SHOCK!

If I were a jerk I would rip on Sam for describing something as "more bigger" but his points are otherwise salient so I will lie fallow:

To me, the weakest element hurting anime is actually two things. The first off is that it's gotten to where too many anime shows are similar. It's gotten to where to many anime shows of a certain kind play alike that it's hard to tell them apart. If you've one shonen show you've see all of them, ditto magical girl shows. And how many Poke'mon imitators have there been now? When your industry is so filled with clichés and archetypes there's a subgenre to make fun of them, that's when you need to stop and think of how to mix things up and make them interesting, which the better more recent shows have been doing. Another, more bigger problem is that a lot of anime are TOO Japanese for their own good, with plot elements steeped in Japanese culture, history and even wordplay that most American viewers/readers won't get or don't translate very well. The fact that some the more popular shows take place in take place in culturally neutral fantasy lands and/or use universal themes certainly hasn't escaped me.

If they anime industry is to bounce back, they need to make more original shows & characters and make them more accessible to us gaijin.

A. H. tells directors that their directing is bad and they should feel bad:

I think it is incredibly obvious what the weakest elements really are. It's the directing. I would say it's the writing but in the end the director is in charge of the project so the writing can only be responsible for so much. The best example I can tell of is Glass Fleet. That show had a promising premise: a cross dressing woman leads a revolution against an evil empire and the show includes neat animated space battles. I can't really sum up all the fail that the series goes through but suffice to say the ending makes me actually angry that they could make such garbage. From the episodes, to the characters, to the story, to the animation, the show is so incredible bad that I'm convinced a 3 year old could have done a better job. Look at the line-up of anime shows and you can see what I'm talking about, most of them are simply bad. Why are the people that can make stuff like Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Bacano, Tatami Galaxy, generic GOOD anime, in such short supply? Why can't they just fire all the losers? I realize it can't be solely their fault and not every project can be a masterpiece but damn it, can't they at least TRY to make their generic anime #157 not such a pile? The sad part? No, they are NOT gonna try.

Russell is obviously a closed-minded prude and an elitist prick and a terrible human being because he doesn't like fanservice:

I think the biggest problem is the fan service. I feel it is a big draw from the time that should be spent instead developing the characters and the interacts between them. This has become more and more prevalent in the recent anime as the writers seem to be pushing more and more to get ideas for their anime. I think that the writers are having a hard time coming up with combinations of characters and scenarios that are unique and enthralling and they are instead resorting to this time wasting tactic to fill time. This is really a shame because a number of story ideas have come out recently and grabbed my attention until I watch the first episode and was bombarded with all the fan service.

This is not to say that it is impossible to deliver a more mature anime, this is to say that if you want to do so, anything of the sort needs to be warranted and realistic. What the artist should be trying to do is build worlds, and I say artist in the lightest of senses, because in my books only those who succeed are true artists.

"Thewizardninja" should just pick one, it's not fair taking both:

Both anime and manga are pretty diverse mediums and each particular area (shounen, shoujou, seinen, josei etc.) has it's own "weakest link" but if I had to pick the one thing that's bringing all of them down it would have to be this - too many people are not willing to take risks that might cost them some money. Too much emphasis is being put on whether an anime will sell DVDs rather than if it's actually any good nowadays and manga are being canceled left and right just because they aren't pulling in ratings. I think the biggest indicator of this comes from the director of the upcoming adaption of TWGOK where he pretty much stated outright that they aren't going to do more than 13 episodes unless people buy the DVDs. I mean I understand where he's coming from but really? Is he THAT worried about whether or not an adaption of one of Shounen Sunday's more popular manga is going to sell well? It's not like it's an original project or an adaption of something nobody's heard of before. It's just plain ridiculous.

I told you all to just pick one but Grace just got so fired up she went ahead and picked several:

What is plaguing the anime community? What, indeed. As a younger fan, I often find myself inclined to the newer generation of both anime and manga because of graphics, references, and just because I like the novelty of “new” anime as much as I do of older manga. So, I can say, without a doubt where the anime community is messing up the most; absurd, idiotic fanservice and weak, unappealing plots. (If “tact” is my middle name, then “less” is my last name.)

Let us begin with fanservice. Gone are the days when fanservice was measured, even, and timely. (I regret to say that was not even alive to witness those days, but to only watch reruns.) I've seen anime from the 80's right up to 2000's and I've got one thing to say, what happened?! Admit it guys! Who watched Highschool of the Dead? I did, I watched every episode! Every panty shot and bouncing breast! Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike fanservice, I'm actually a bit of a fan, but even animes aimed for a female audience are receiving shameless fanservice shoved in at random and pointless moments! (Kuroshitsuji 2, anyone? Thanks Hanna, for proving my point.) Fanservice has become tasteless, uninteresting, and flat out stupid at this point. Come on people! I'm all for a little sexual appeal, but not in every scene! I know many men out there beg to differ, but most of them are more concerned about getting the panty shots then about getting the plot, if there is even a plot.

Which brings me to my next point! The most terrible example I can give you is the Zombie Loan anime. Central plot, terrible. Characterization, terrible. Execution, terrible. It pained me to watch such a travesty! I don't even have the words to describe this anime! The industry seems to be having a terrible time building good plots based off manga nowadays. They just can't translate it or they simply pick mangas that didn't have a strong plot to begin with. Then, they proceed to rip up what little semblance of plot was found there, leaving the anime bare a shaky. Next, they throw it in some sure fire ways to get fans (fanservice, good voice actors, great animation graphics, etc). Now that the anime is good looking crap, they toss it into today's decaying anime market. And later, someone will stream it online for all of seven people to watch. Thus, I have adapted this rule: Never judge a manga based off its anime.

But, that's not the only kind of bad anime! Perhaps what I consider to be the worst, is the long animes. Naruto, Bleach what happened to you? Have you ever seen more watered down a show then these two? They throw arc after arc into these money making machines until it doesn't even matter what they throw in or how long the series will run! I can appreciate such manga as Fullmetal Alchemist. When it had its run, Hiromu brought the series to a close. Several hundred episodes, it's just too much. I'm not sure if it come down to greed or just supply and demand, I think it's wrong either way. Of all the older anime I've watched (and I've watched way too much), I have never seen a series run so horribly long of the shows of today. Yes, I know, some shows were sequeled to death, but each sequel brought a new story, not this repetitive garbage!

Now that I have effectively said that most new anime is crap, I suppose I should say that there are still a few good ones out there. Better yet, there some amazing mangas out there. So maybe with a bit more hit-and-miss the anime industry will be able to pull out some new truly amazing anime.

In our last response, I don't think anybody will dispute Cherie's claim that we need more CLAMPs and Miyazakis in this business:

I think all of the mentioned elements can weaken manga or anime. Often, what I experience is a reliance on "formula" productions, or manga/anime which clone storylines, character personalities, and other qualities of previously successful works. If fresh ideas were presented in the storylines and side stories, if the character design and artwork always strove for excellence (even in minor scenes), and if a soundtrack always complimented/enhanced the anime series, then I believe that the popularity of both manga and anime would increase - - - and, continue to do so.

A lot of fans I know have gotten to a point whereas they felt their collections were "enough" - - - until a new manga or anime series emerged with largely original concepts and artwork - and, often with a memorable soundtrack. Refreshingly new work tends to grab a large audience, and inevitably becomes part of personal collections.

It's clear as to why Miyazaki and CLAMP works are considered classics - - - they can take the "proven" elements and transform them into something new, bold, and brilliant! The industry needs more of this type of striving for excellence.

Are we all bitched out? Good, good. But keep those neurons firin' because I've got another question that requires your input for next week:

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.

That's all I have for this week, but make sure to keep sending me questions and other things to answerman (at) animenewsnetwork.com! That's kind of how I keep doing this every week. Be back next week!

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