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Hey, Answerman! - Pilloried Talk

by Brian Hanson,

Well goddang! It's another Answerman column!

I am as always the curator of all this madness, now let us jauntily dive into the murky depths of Answerman-ery that lay before us, dear readers:

Hey Answerman,

Being a longtime reader of the manga Bakuman (and manga in general) I've come to have a good understanding of how the Japanese manga industry works. I've learned all about the different magazines, how mangaka get their work published, how they STAY published, and more.

But I realize I know absolutely nothing about how American industries go about publishing graphic novels. Is it similar to how the Japanese industry works? Is it as cut throat and challenging to get/stay published? Is it much easier to get into the American comic book industry or is it just as hard?

I suppose I'm curious because it seems everyone wants to be a manga artist in Japan (even last week, someone asked about it!), but no one gives a thought to creating comics in their outside of Japan. So I was hoping you could give some insight on the American industry. Also would you think getting your work published in America would grant any success (it doesn't seem like any new American comics are popular)?

Well, the thing is, Bakuman presents a very romanticized, very clean-cut, idyllic perspective on the "manga industry." And it works in that sense - it's goal, as a manga itself, is to make you care about the dreams of these young Shonen archetypes and hope that they will achieve all their hopes and wishes through hard work and many tough battles - but it is far from a realistic portrayal.

I mean, does Bakuman have a later chapter where the eager mangaka duo get rejected by every manga publisher in the business? Where they resort to drawing pornographic doujinshi to make ends meet? Where the two struggling artists have to abandon their dream projects in order to work long hours as an underpaid assistant to a rich, arrogant hack, cranking out panel after panel of dreck like Hitman Reborn? I'll admit that Bakuman gets a lot of the specifics right, and it succeeds at presenting an otherwise dry, self-referential premise in an entertaining way, but it is far from realistic.

And, the other thing is, I dunno how many conventions you've been to recently, but take a good, honest gander anywhere around Artist Alley and you're likely to find several eager young artists proudly hawking their most recent Graphic Novel. Granted you won't see as much of this stuff at anime-focused cons like Otakon or whatever, but if you're ever in the vicinity of any all-purpose Nerd Convention near your home town, you'll be able to walk by dozens of booths rented by local artists promoting their self-published work. Essentially, there are a lot of people out there who are dying to sell their own graphic novels, outside of the manga realm. And that's putting it mildly. Just because so very few of these projects boil to the surface of cultural awareness, there's thousands of them. As well as people trying to get you to buy their band's CD, or watch a burned DVD of their independent film, or read their unpublished fantasy novel. Et al.

And yes, yes it is as cutthroat to get published by a major US comics publisher. Specifically because there are only two that have any real clout and market penetration anymore are, obviously, Marvel and DC. And they don't accept any submissions. At all. And all of the independently-run comic book publishers that sprouted in the 90's from the success of Spawn, like Wildstorm and Top Cow, have pretty much disappeared. And then there are the publishers who specialize in artsy fare, like Top Shelf. There's a whole lot less options available. I mean, don't get me wrong, if you want to get your graphic novel published, you can get it published - it's just, don't get your hopes up over being the next Todd Macfarland or Neil Gaiman. Those days are pretty much past.

I guess the one benefit of the manga business as opposed to the US graphic novel business is that there's a much broader swath of publishers looking for material. As opposed to two major ones who don't take submissions, a few well-respected but picky ones like Dark Horse and such, and a bunch of enthusiastic but cash-strapped publishers operating solely on love and duct tape. Not to reiterate something I went over a bunch last week, but I say go for broke if you have a creative idea and the skill and the dedication to make a truly unique graphic novel, but for the sake of your own sanity it's important to temper your expectations towards the market you're trying to capture.

Hey, Answerman.

I was wondering if you could help explain to me why, every season it seems, most of the new anime that Crunchyroll simulcasts generally seems to be the bottom-of-the-barrel shows of the season.

Don't get me wrong, I love Crunchyroll and everything they've done for anime, but it just gets annoying seeing their new catalog each season consist of mostly poor quality shows that suck. You can practically tell just by looking at the posters, which ones are gonna suck bad, and those tend to be the ones that end up on Crunchyroll. Meanwhile, the rest of the good shows are either on Funimation, or are only available though fansubs, which I hate using.

Now to be fair, Crunchyroll does occasionally get good shows like Occult Academy, or Durarara!!. But my question is this: Why can't Crunchyroll go after the more good quality shows each season like the ones I just mentioned and not the poor quality ones?

This might sound damning, but "Quality" isn't exactly Crunchyroll's Modus Operandi. "Quantity" sure is. Their attitude is just to present everything to the fans - emphasis on everything - and let the fans decide what they want to see, and let the fans dictate what the "quality" of each show is. It's a very free-market, open-enterprise thing. Their goal is to serve up a smorgasbord of content, more content than you could ever know what to do with, and watch with rapt attention to see what the fans like and dislike each season. And to be honest, I'm sure quite a few of those "bottom of the barrel" shows that you and I decry each year because they exist and suck and everything... I'm sure a few of those shows do quite well for them.

I think it's an interesting experiment, really. I lament the garbage that gets produced every year by Japan's animation factories, and I and Zac and others pillory them each year in the hopes that they stop. But, I can't bemoan the fans for wanting to see them for themselves, which is something that Crunchyroll allows them to do, legitimately and easily. And that's brilliant. I'm in favor of everything that's aired in Japan being localised in some fashion or another, be it simulcasting or DVDs, so the rabid, hardcore fans can sink their teeth into them and be satiated. Because I mean, hell, I'm not writing for the Preview Guides right now - I can happily skip over all the crap and the sturm and the drang and skip to The World God Only Knows and sleep happily.

And it's not as though Crunchyroll is specifically avoiding these "quality" shows either. They're trying to show everything they can logistically get their hands on. It's just that, unfortunately, those higher-caliber productions usually elude them. Either a different company like Funimation gets a hold of them, or the licensing agreements are so cost-prohibitive that it simply doesn't make strict business sense to license it.

So basically, it's not Crunchyroll's fault. At all, really. They are merely trying to be the arbiter of the majority of new content produced by the anime industry as it exists in Japan - and sadly that industry produces a lot of mediocre pablum for sad nerds.

I was wondering at what point do you personally not a buy a "professional" release due to low quality of the release (subbed only, edited dub, or even both the subs and dub are really bad), or if you think that owning a version a "professionally" released version of your favorite shows even matters at all?

My personal take on this issue is that a quality product is a quality product, no matter the presentation. I've bought Castle of Cagliostro and Wings of Honneamise twice, each. And neither time has the presentation been ideal.

In the case of Cagliostro, the DVDs released by Manga Entertainment were terrible. The first disc they released was a non-anamorphic 4x3 nightmare of muddy colors and muted sound. The second disc they released had a full 16x9 animorphic transfer and vibrant sound, but had a truly terrible sin of omission - the original animation that appeared beneath the opening credits was frozen into still-frames so that English text and logos could be easily superimposed. It was a total one step forward, two steps back phenomenon.

With Honneamise, the first DVD was, again, a victim of one of the worst DVD transfers I've ever seen; washed-out colors, ill-defined lines, rainbows and artifacting and ghosting popping up in nearly every scene. It was a disaster. Then! Along came Bandai Visual with a far superior transfer several years later. The only problem being the lack of special features (which the original Manga release contained in spades) and the exorbitant price (over $80!).

My reasoning is that, even with less-than-ideal presentation, I'm still of the opinion that Honneamise and Cagliostro are two films that stand above any technical difficulties that plage them. They are both terrific, interesting stories about real characters approaching fantastical but well-realized situations that feel real. They are both worth owning. Even if the US companies in charge of releasing them to the general public completely crap the bed.

I mean, I get mad and upset over substandard presentation - as I think all good nerds should and must get upset about - but I make sure to levee that criticism to the US companies involved, and not hold it against the original work itself. If you are a fan of something, it is your duty to support it and buy it and enjoy it.

And believe it or not, you can often still enjoy something even if it isn't being streamed to your massive flat-screen television in 1080p with surround sound and assorted whiz-bang technofoolery. The shows and the movies themselves are worth owning, on their own terms, and I buy them or do NOT buy them according to that simple metric. My ire is about the presentation, and not the work itself. It's like if you're seeing a movie, and the volume is down too low, or the projector bulb is so dim it's impossible to notice anything. That's not the fault of the movie or anyone that made it; that's the fault of the theater that is supposed to be showing it in its optimal environment.

Essentially, I'm completely fine with paying for the product that I want, not necessarily the product that I get. Thankfully, there's this little thing called "The Internet" that exists, and if I'm at all unsatisfied with what I paid for, there's this big, open forum for me to vent my frustration and disappointment directly to the person(s) responsible.

I'm still not entirely sure if this email is completely, one-hundred percent real, or just some sick joke, or... well, just read it. Or don't. Whatever.

Dear Answerman,

I have a double-whammy question about making anime and scanlation sites.

Ok first of all I just want to say it's so refreshing to finally go a few weeks without yet another stupid sanctimonious lecture about scanlation sites and oh how we anime fans have to support the industry and while I agree that anime fans should buy all their stuff as opposed to stealing it where the heck did you get the big idea that people actually have the obligation to go out and spend all their money as opposed to you know not buying anything and saving their money to I dunno buy blu-rays of Avatar (the James Cameron one) instead (in 3D!) If the anime market is too small then the anime market is too small and I don't need you to tell me to throw my money at the anime market just to keep it afloat it's called free market economics Bryan now I know you're a liberal communist so that stuff doesn't fly with you but welcome to the real world first lesson you're gonna get beat up against the wall like the whiney little twiggy-limb nerd you are.

Ok second thing about making anime yeah why do you have to be such a sanctimonious moron about that too yeah I know the people asking them are stupid but if you haven't gotten it yet throwing them into the flake of the week file isn't exactly working now isn't it so yeah glad to see your inbox is still getting full of that tripe too.

So yeah I guess I'm an immediate candidate for flake of the week too but that's only because you're a spineless gutless basement-dweller of a loser who's slightly better than that other spineless gutless basement-dweller loser Zach or whoever who had the audacity to actually associate himself with Howl, who as a FICTIONAL CHARACTER is ten times the person you two ever would be COMBINED.

My favorite part of this question is that it contains no actual questions and has nothing to do with "making anime" or "scanlation sites" whatsoever.

It's that time again - time for me to shut my prodigious yap and let the rest of the internet do the talkin'. It's time for Answerfans! Last week, distraught and perhaps a little bitter about the lackluster response to my last installment, I asked the lot of you to respond to this little question:

And boy howdy, did you all respond! First up is Eric, who echoes a common sentiment:

It's an interesting question, and I can certainly see why people may outgrow the hobby of reading manga and watching anime. Much of the material is aimed at the middle and high school students age groups after all, featuring characters of that age range. For me personally though? I don't think it will happen. I certainly have less time than I have had in the past, preparing to become a teacher will do that to a person. However, this does not mean I will ever outgrow anime and manga, simply that I have to be more picky about which shows I take the time to watch and which manga I chose to buy and read. Simply put, my sheer and utter enjoyment when I watch and read a really good series is still some of the best fun I have at 24 years old. Heck, that means I've been a fan for over half my life already, and if I haven't outgrown it yet I don't see it happening anytime soon. At least not so long as I can still watch my Spice and wolf, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Summer Wars, Genshiken, and whatever Miyazaki film you can bring to mind. The bottom line being that so long as manga and anime makers produce products that entertain me, I'll not be "outgrowing" it.

Vashfanatic is proud to admit that anime is one of our shared entertainment experiences:

Will I ever grow out of anime and manga? No more than I will ever grow out movies, TV, or book. They're mediums. So long as there is strong content, past or present, then “outgrowing” them isn't an issue.

That said, some of “this stuff” I already have grown out of. I am twenty-six years old. I recently looked over my reading and viewing history and realized the only shounen series I still read is Fullmetal Alchemist, and I have maybe a handful of shoujo series I still follow. Which makes sense, since I'm about ten years too old to be reading them. I'm not saying that these series are bad or unworthy of interest, but I've started to understand that some of frustration with them is not their own inadequacies, but my changing taste as a reader and a viewer. I want more moral complexity and maturity of character than they generally provide. If I mostly read seinen and josei series by now, that's as it should be. I'm their target age. I no longer care as much about high schoolers and their angst-filled romances, or teenagers with super powers saving the world (Blue Beetle is awesome, though, and you should all go read it). Even with Fullmetal Alchemist, my favorite characters are the ones my age, in their twenties and beyond.

Now, there's totally a place for escapism in lighthearted, more innocent fare, and heavens knows most teenagers in anime and manga seem to act and look as if they're older. But by and large I personally have outgrown series aimed at teenagers.

Fortunately anime and manga are, as I said, mediums, ones aimed at multiple demographics. As I outgrow one, there is another I can enter. Maybe I'll outgrow them when I'm forty or fifty and nothing for my demographic has been licensed, but not any time soon.

Ian K, meanwhile, is looking to diversify his leisure time:

I have to admit, I do feel like I'm starting to lose interest in anime. This isn't because I've matured and anime is too silly for me to appreciate, though. Rather, I feel like I've found most of the things (released over here anyways) that I really like, and I'm scrape deeper and deeper down into the barrel. In addition, I've seen enough anime that I've become familiar with most of the common tropes, and so many shows that years ago would've seemed fresh and new are now anything but. Combine that with this year's rather uninteresting crop of new shows (to me, anyways, I'm sure some are good, but the last thing I was able to get really excited about was the Tatami Galaxy), and I'm running out of things to watch. Meanwhile, I'm gaining a new appreciation for classic movies and seeing reams of new books that I'd love to read, anime is having a hard time keeping up.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Anime isn't going to go away, I'm not going to stop liking Cowboy Bebop or Haibane Renmei, I'll just be spending more time on other things - which is probably healthier anyways. And if I ever do run out of legally available anime, I'll start exploring more fansubs of shows that haven't made it over here yet. I mean I STILL haven't seen all of Dennou Coil.

For Em, it has been a somewhat bittersweet union, with ups and downs:

I was a huge anime fan. I collected hundreds of dvds and manga volumes, I put up posters and wallpapers on my computer--I even ran the anime club for my college. I never thought I'd "outgrow" anime, but in the end, I did. Or rather, I outgrew the reasons I fell in love with anime in the first place. I think maybe it's because so many anime characters are teenagers. I'm not seventeen anymore, and I have trouble relating with a world where a 19 year-old kid is a decorated war vet and retired general or a pubescent girl runs an international organization. Even the old-looking people are all early twenties, at best. Isn't there anyone over the age of 25 in some role other than "grizzled advisor" or "villain"?

And honestly, I have trouble with anime personalities. None of them are really relatable to me. I lived in a dorm with community bathrooms for two years in college, and I never once saw a girl freak out if a guy accidentally saw her in her underwear. I've never heard a guy say "I do what I WANT!" in any kind of seriousness. I have never met a girl who beat up her boyfriend and still got anywhere with men, and I've never met anyone ever who wanted to be "the BEST THERE EVER WAS" at something. Once I started getting tired of the archetype personalities, I realized that they're in almost every show--same crappy song, different arrangement. There are exceptions, but life's too busy to spend that much time looking for them. So anime slowly phased out of my media time.

I loved the creativity of the medium when I first discovered it, and I'm still fascinated by the variety in styles. There's a fair amount of anime music floating around between all the rock and bluegrass on my iPod, and there are still a couple of shows that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to friends. Clearly, I keep up with this site. When push came to shove, though, and my car needed new brakes, I sold off my collection for repair money. There are still a few gems out there, but for the most part, moe and bishonen and shoujo have become just mildly embarrassing words I used to know.

Chris examines this issue with the cold logic of an anthropologist:

No matter how old we are, our bodies and minds are always developing as we advance in age and engage in new experiences. Just about anyone can list many things that they did in their earlier years--like martial arts, music and sports--that they just simply "outgrow" over time. Anime and manga, as wide of genres it spans, are no different.

Sometimes, it's the concept of diminishing returns that sets in. You get a certain enjoyment out of watching anime and reading manga, whatever form that enjoyment may be. If that stimulus remains the same, then you'll eventually get bored with it and move on to something else. Then there is the issue that we always have new options available to us as we achieve new stages in our lives. Going from grade school to college to the workforce to getting married and living in new places can introduce new interests that one might partake in. As more things come in, others might get pushed out if those new activities are good enough to hold your time for extended periods. Keep in mind that, in either of these cases, it's not like you all the sudden "hate" anime. It's just that other things just come in, but you'll probably retain the fond memories of enjoying that specific medium earlier in life.

I have been interested in anime since I started watching Saturday Anime in the mid-90s. Since then, my interest in anime has ebbed and flowed through time depending on what was going on in my life and what was available. My interest has increased in high school when I joined the anime club and has subsequently disappeared when I went to college until I was able to get new stimuli (watch new anime) and attend a convention or two. The conventions, podcasts and various anime available seems to provide me with what I need to enjoy myself, but who knows what life might throw at me. As I age, I could outgrow it like some of my friends have, but I could also be just as involved in various capacities depending on my life situation.

Zen Migawa says that this is all part of the ebb and flow of the universe, man:

"Outgrowing" anime and manga? I have a personal issue with using the word "outgrowing" when "losing interest" would more accurately describe the phenomenon here. "Outgrowing" implies that anime and manga is a Hobby for Kids, something that you buy at the corner comics shop each weekend with your weekly allowance. It's a hobby, alright; I don't exactly see it as a childish thing, though.

Why do I say this? This may show off my bias, but... well, Brian, I'm actually in Tokyo right now on a student visa, and I'm attending one of many "creator's schools" peppered throughout the Tokyo Met region, with my specific focus of study being creating manga. Pulp manga magazines thicker than 500 pages are a common sight at convenience stores and newsstands all over the Metropolis, as well as senior salarymen nosing through the week's Kodansha Evening on the train ride home. A good number of live-action dramas on the boob tube can trace their source material back to manga geared at the white-collar/housewife crowd (a daytime drama series based on the autobiography of GeGeGe no Kitaro mangaka Shigeru Mizuki's wife just finished its run a few weeks ago on NHK, in fact). Reading manga is probably as common in Japan as reading the newspaper, really. (The same only seems to apply to certain types of feature-length anime films, not TV series.) Whether said reader becomes a dedicated consumer or not is entirely up to the individual, though.

As for me "outgrowing" anime and manga? I don't see myself outgrowing it, per se; it's more accurate to say my interests will wax and wane with time, and certain genres of manga and anime will fall out in lieu of other genres that fit my tastes at the time. (Also, as a result, my consumption rate of anime and manga will be affected accordingly.) For example, I used to follow Rumiko Takahashi's works pretty closely back in the States up until the Inuyasha manga was in full swing with its 10th volume in Japan; I hardly bat an eye at her works today, since she hasn't changed her style at all. Conversely, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl reintroduced me to the franchise's charms ever since I dropped it in the Red and Blue days. And as far as anime is concerned, I whittled down my 200 R1 anime DVDs down to maybe 30 must-keeps before moving here, and left 'em all in the States; the newest addition these past 18 months has only been the Gundam Unicorn ep.01 Blu-ray.

I also can't stand weekly shonen manga anymore. Monthly shonen and seinen manga's gotten pretty interesting, though, old and new - from Makoto Raiku's "Doubutsu no Kuni" to Felipe Smith's "Peepo Choo," from Kazuhiko Shimamoto's "Hoero Pen" to Sayori Ochiai's "Gingitsune."

So yeah, tastes and interests change. I guess it depends on where you're searching, what's accessible to you, and what matters to you as a consumer at the moment.

Emma will be regaling her grandchildren with epic tales of a young ninja named "Naruto" and his wacky antics:

Although it would quite surprise me if my grandfather started to ask me what happened in the latest Naruto chapter, I don't think outgrowing anime is strictly a matter of age. College finals, the asphyxiating tasks of the work field or perhaps even a wife and kids could all lead to simply having less time and energy for anime and manga. In Japan, where reading manga in the subway and browsing the latest installment of Business Jump in a bookshop is more normal, everyone is socially allowed to spend time on their comic fix, if they got it. Since it's fun, why not? Still, as I don't expect my grandfather to like Naruto, I neither expect old men in Japan to do so.

There are series, especially manga series, made for about every gender, work field and age. Many of them don't get past the oceanic borders, who but office ladies would like to read a story about a struggling office lady in her day to day life? It all sounds like the material for the adult and mature manga and anime fan overseas is just not plenty available, but if you look slightly past every title with a moe blob on the front cover, you would see beauties like Monster, which wouldn't look bad in the collection of any comic book fan. Throw out your Cardcaptor Sakura and start reading Genshiken or Osamu Tezuka! Even for the western fan, there's still plenty of material that even the bitter, the mature and the anti-free-hugger would enjoy. What you only need, is some spare time.

As for me, I can't wait to have children on my own and show them mommy's old Pokemon dvd's, the first movie is mandatory – I still think it's beautiful. But what happens between then? I can't see myself living a life that isn't truly fun, so in a year of five or so, I'll probably sill be making time for those silly Japanese cartoons.

Mike is of the opinion that we don't "outgrow," but that we simply "mature":

Let me start off by saying that I don't think I will ever outgrow anime, but rather my love of the medium has changed, as has my viewing habits as I got older. Although my enthusiasm has certainly waivered over the years, but I can't ever imagine totally closing the book on that part of my life. I've been an anime fan since 1995 when I first watched Macross 2 on VHS from the local video store here in Australia. That led to watching Macross Plus and then to Akira and on to longer TV series. Soon I was watching absolutely anything I could get my hands on which at the time meant mostly going to anime clubs and ‘acquiring’ titles through trading VHS fansubs from like minded people on the internet. I would watch anime everyday for hours on end, shows like Tenchi Muyo, Kimagure Orange Road, Maison Ikkoku, Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion were big highlights from that era but it didn't really matter what the show/movie was I would watch it.

Strangely while living in Japan for a year in 2001 I pretty much stopped watching anything new. I watched some stuff here and there but largely I didn't bother keeping up with it. I don't think it was that I was outgrowing it, I just didn't have the time to watch anything. When I was in high school college and even to some degree university I could sit down and plow my way through hundreds of episodes without any trouble at all, but having less time meant that I suddenly became very choosy about what anime I would give my attention to. When I returned home, I no longer had patience for shows that didn't grab me right away or for drawn out storylines and as such I started becoming more interested in creator names I could rely on for quality. Studio Ghibli films for example or Satoshi Kon was someone I followed from the day I first saw Perfect Blue.

Today I would say that I only watch anime a couple of times a month so there is simply no chance I will sit down and try to get through all of Naruto, Bleach, One Piece etc, that's not a judgment call on those series, I'm just not able to invest myself in them. I base my purchase decisions on the creative talent involved and from reading reviews from places I trust (like ANN) and I also really enjoy watching anime on blu-ray. The new fullmetal alchemist series is something both myself and my wife watch, and while she's not a fan I have started checking out Dragon Ball Kai and definitely appreciate the more direct less filler approach to the series. Seeing Summer Wars, King of Thorn and the two current Evangelion films at a special two week run in cinemas in Australia was a fantastic experience and one I hope continues to happen. So while I can't ever see myself going back to the days of watching anime every day, I will continue to keep an eye on what's happening and dip the toe in once in a while.

Dr. Stanlove lays out some wisdom regarding his Anime Life:

I've been an anime fan my whole life. That's a strong statement. As child I eagerly watched Speed Racer and Star Blazers on cable television, which was brand new in those days. In 1978, the year our family lived in Germany, my sister and I followed Maya the Bee on one of the three TV stations available there. I was blown away by Castle in the Sky when a subtitled print showed for one night only in a Seattle art-house theater in 1988. In the mid-90s I gate-crashed the Caltech Anime Society's weekend showings to see great shows like Dragon Half, Record of Lodoss War, Shamanic Princess, and Tenchi Muyo.

So now it's 2010. I'm in my mid-40s. I've managed to accumulate a Ph.D., an attractive and accomplished wife, two children now in middle and high school, and a cool and interesting job. And I'm still watching anime. But I'm increasingly troubled by the feeling that it ain't what it used to be.

Over the last few years I've been trolling through the vast ocean of anime that's now available on Netflix and the Internet. It's cheap, it's easy to find, and much of it is new. Unfortunately most of it is drivel. The characters are weak. The artwork is unattractive. The storylines are worn out. The attempts to compensate for those shortcomings with fanservice are a failure.

The poor quality of the product is important, but it's not the whole story. I'm not the same customer that I used to be. I've lost interest in many common anime themes. Desperately trying to get a date, while important during most of my high school and college days, is not such a compelling issue for a married father of two. And you can only do the family's laundry for so many years before a glimpse of female underwear loses its thrill.

Besides thematic relevance, there's the social aspect of anime fandom. It's fun to share your interests with like-minded people. Sadly, I know few people with whom I can discuss my hobby. None of my friends are anime fans. My workplace employs thousands of people; I'm aware of only one other anime fan there and she's half my age. My first and only visit to an anime convention a few years ago made me feel out of place, self-conscious, and above all...old.

Other factors may also contribute. Maybe there's so much anime available now that it's less special and therefore less interesting. Maybe I'm just harder to impress these days. Maybe I've been mortified one too many times when my phone suddenly rings out with a hyperactive Beethoven's Ninth and a girlish voice singing "pappara-funi-funi, pappara-hoe-hoe" in the middle of a meeting full of senior engineers and managers. (OK, that only happened once.) Maybe, as with the green Converse high-tops, I am simply getting too old for this stuff.

And yet... And yet...

I never get tired of Miyazaki's movies. I own DVDs of all of them. My children started watching them before they could walk. Now that the kids are old enough I can share with them better shows like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Mushi-shi, and Planetes. I still value the things that drew me to anime in the first place: the artwork, the character development, the voice-acting, the fascinating foreign culture and language, the imaginative worlds and plot lines, the quirky sense of humor. And although much anime of the last five years is crap, high-quality stuff is still being made. (My thanks to Anime News Network for identifying it for me!) I liked Paprika for its creativity, Gurren Lagann for its visual effects, Ponyo for its characters and artwork, and The Tatami Galaxy for its style and weirdness.

Taking the long view, I am certainly outgrowing *unexceptional* anime. But I'm not outgrowing *all* anime. The flip side of "older" is "wiser." When I'm seventy years old, I won't still be watching Iria: Zeiram and Mahoromatic. But I'll still think Spirited Away is a wonderful movie, and I'll be showing Whisper of the Heart to my grandkids.

And finally, M.L. puts it as succinctly as it needs to be:

I don't necessarily think i've "outgrown" anime persay. I've just stopped bothering with most of the crappy ones. I love art. And i feel that, when its done creatively (Originally) and thoughtfully then that's great. And i just feel that that's not the case when it comes to some (if not most) of the anime i come across these days. I mean, it just baffles me how some of these artists and writers are allowed to publish and release such (due to lack of a better term) garbage to the majority of anime fans at large. Honestly. If some of these studios and production companies don't get their act together soon, then they're gonna end up losin' a huge chunk of their anime fan base.

That's more like it! Loads of responses based upon personal experience! I dig it! And the answers to this question got me to thinking of something in a similar vein. So, next week, your assignment 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.

That, as usual, signals the end of my weekly foray into Answerman-ification. Remember to send any burning questions of unkempt desire and Answerfans responses to answerman (at) animenewsnetwork.com, and of course I'll be back next week with more of this stuff! See you later!

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