Hey, Answerman! - The Bleeding Edgeby Brian Hanson,
Hey guys! And girls, I assume. Welcome to Hey, Answerman!
Today is something of a momentous day. Today, you'll notice, there are no questions about working in the anime industry, be it as a translator or animator or manga artist or author or anything. NOTHING. Unfortunately that meant I had to skip two rather well-written and well-meaning questions on graphic design and screenwriting in the process.
Because, you see, I'm just tired of it. Absolutely tired. Every time, it's always the same answer. So, here we go, real quick before I get to the questions at hand: Do you want to turn your love of anime into a career? A career in anime as a writer or an artist or a translator or a web designer or a mid-level marketing executive? Sure. You bet.
It will take a lot of work and you will need to prove to (anime/manga company) that your work stands outside the anime fandom and can succeed on its own terms. You will need to get noticed. So just hunker down and do the best damn work you've ever done. And then your dreams will come true! It's just like Luffy wanting to be King of the Pirates! Only instead of beating up people, you'll be working your fingers to the bone on your desired field and craft.
So there. Onward to the questions that AREN'T about lucrative job offers:
It seems to me that anime aired late night in Japan is becoming increasingly fan-service oriented. It seems like each season two or three anime compete to see how much T&A and nudity they can cram into their show; the "Edge" that makes a show "Edgy" is constantly being pushed to more and more extreme levels. I know that in tough economic times studios need to make money, and that sex sells, so in order to recession proof their shows they crank up the sex to ensure sales, but it is still a disturbing trend. For one, the promise of "uncensored on DVD" is such a lazy way to boost sales, and two, what happens if fan-service shows becomes the norm, the industry staple, and shows won't attract an audience or sell well without the blatant erotic component? Now, in no way does fan-service ruin a good show, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex had blatant fan-service in parts but is still one of the most intelligent anime made. However, there has to be a balance, and right now it seems the balance is being thrown out of whack. How do you feel about this trend?
Well, yeah, of course late-night anime shows are filled with fanservice. That's why they are late night shows. Anime that's aired late at night is very blatantly aimed at pleasing hardcore Japanese Otaku. That's why they are all based on dating sims or Hentai games and other mainstays of the hardcore. These late-night fanservice fests shouldn't color your perception on the entirety of anime any moreso than what's being aired on Adult Swim should color your perception of American animation.
Fanservice shows aren't necessarily the industry "norm" so much as they are a constant, sure-fire hit. That's why there are four or five of them every season, because each major network needs them. And no, they won't attract a "wider" audience, because they don't need to. All they need to do is stay on the air for ten to thirteen weeks and sell a bunch of dakimakura pillows to their target market. That's it. They are products, and they exist in the same spectrum as, let's say, Bakugan Battle Brawlers. They both exist for the sole purpose of selling merchandise to their target demographic, and nothing more.
I hate fanservice-and-fanservice-only shows with a passion, don't get me wrong. It's hard for me to watch any of them without being turned off from the ungainly stench of cynicism that emanates from the screen; knowing that the entire creative staff putting this show together is so coldly and calculatedly aiming at otaku wallets. It's porn, but without any of the fun stuff. Porn without the actual pornography. What's left is simply depressing.
The one point I will give you, though, is that the days of intelligent, well-crafted productions using blatant, obvious fanservice as an extra little "bonus" are pretty much gone. I honestly lament that as well. Something like Ghost in the Shell would absolutely not exist in this scary new era - it would either have its core philosophical content scooted off to the side to make room for another 20 minutes of boob-touching and panty-ogling, or the seamier aspects would be so watered down for general broadcast as to be completely inert.
Christ, the only thing I can think of recently that manages to balance such obvious fanservice with a decent, intelligent story are the new Evangelion movies - and those don't really count since they're basically remakes. Hm.
(Of course, it's at this point when I'm probably going to be proven wrong in the forums as readers alert me to a few dozen shows in recent history that I've either stopped watching or ignored that manage that balance just fine. This is one of those rare instances in which I'll be glad to be proven wrong!)
Okay, so this doesn't have anything to do with Answerfans, and it's not a question either. It's just something I have to get off my chest, and I hope I'm not the only one who thinks this.
I want everyone involved with HorribleSubs, Crunchier, CrunchySubs, WhyNot?, FUNiGuys and every other group out there who's ripping simulcasts from Crunchyroll and FUNimation and "resubbing" them to spontaneously combust. If possible, I'd like for it happen when they're buying a cola from a vending machine. I'm not sure why.
Seriously, though, while I believe there's a niche out there for fansub groups to do projects that nobody's broadcasting (or have been completely forgotten by time), I find absolutely no reason for these groups to exist; groups whose entire catalog is based on shows that are being licensed legally and broadcast either cheaply or for free. I mean, what's the freakin' point? How blatantly do you need to rip off the industry? THE COMPANIES ARE DOING THEIR BEST TO GET THEIR PRODUCT TO YOU AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, FOR GOD'S SAKE! Why do you want to sabotage your own hobby? Why are you taking pleasure in blatant plagiarism and theft?
Go find something else to do. I get angrier and angrier when I see these groups' numbers swelling as every season passes. Congrats for mastering the art of using stream-ripping software and Aegisub to restyle the subtitles. I'm sure it'll serve you well in the future.
And now, a response.
Hey, look, I'm with you that I don't really understand the reasoning behind HorribleSubs and their copycats. But, they do have their own weird, twisted logic that they live by.
Chief among them, their logic is that they are subverting unfair region locks inherent with simulcasts; their aim, I guess, is to allow these shows to be viewed by people in Europe, in South America, in the Middle East, and everywhere else across the globe who normally can't, due to the unfortunate legal complications involved. People in the UK and Australia can only hope for HorribleSubs if they want to catch up on the latest episode of their favorite series du jour, or else simply spend their time clenching their teeth in anger and fury as North America is allowed access to this Very Awesome Thing Completely For Free.
Is that reason enough to violate web security protocols and blatantly ignore copyright infringement? Of course not. I'm a firm believer in the old adage of two wrongs never making a right. Call me old fashioned, I guess.
Still, until the day and age when everyone across the globe gets instant access to their preferred show of choice for free day-and-date with the Japanese release, simulcast-rippers will continue to exist, awash in their haze of self-righteousness. The positive side of my personality persists that a good portion of these simulcast rips being uploaded onto Bittorrent and elsewhere is going to be pivotal in showing Japanese publishers and global licensors that the simulcasting model would work in other countries as well, and that the market is already there. And Hell, I'd say that already things are slowly starting to work towards that end - look at the number of big shows that are also simulcasting in the UK this season, compared to last year.
Again, call me old fashioned, but I'm a fan of attacking the root of this problem, rather than just blaming the simulcast stealers for everything. Even though they have this weird Digital Noble Outlaw delusion going on.
As I've been on the prowl for anime on Amazon, I've noticed the decrease in the value of Funimation's anime line. What I've noticed is that older box sets (the ones that take up more shelf space) are becoming cheaper in price, whether it be a new or used set. So I guess my question is, do you think Funimation's re-re-releasing of sets is the cause of this? And why is FUNi the company standing strong, when its products are getting cheaper, and when you know the price will drop from a year it was released?
I know Bandai hasn't done this, and their anime boxsets all sit around the $30 benchmark. I personally like buying the old sets, mainly cause they were packaged better and take up more space in my collection. (I refuse to buy anything from their S.A.V.E. line mainly because i don't wanna see the nasty green edging on my sets. I've also always been very hesitant on buying anything Viridian Collection cause of the mark in the upper left corner.
Am I the last of the collector out there that cares how his collections look?
Uh, no. No, you are absolutely not the only collector out there who cares how his collection looks. No way, sir.
Here's the thing about the S.A.V.E. and Viridian Collections: those aren't for you. Those sets aren't aimed at the hardcore, must-buy-everything-day-one collector. That's why they still crank out half-season sets with fancy packaging that cost 59.99 MSRP, slathered with doodads and goodies. Those hit the hardcore fans like a tactical strike. Fast, powerful, and efficient.
The S.A.V.E. and Viridian Collection sets? Those are like a cluster bomb, littered across the marketplace in droves, in the off chance that they might haphazardly claim a few victims in the ensuing chaos. The cheaper, re-re-repackaged sets are for that elusive, hard-to-nail-down-exactly "casual" consumer. The sort of guy or gal who maybe, maybe saw Fullmetal Alchemist on Adult Swim a few years ago, considered buying the show on DVD, but didn't feel the need to spend 60 dollars for 13 episodes. But ~30 dollars for 25 episodes? Enticing.
Funimation and Bandai are attempting to please two masters with this little model. They're trying to get the die-hards who buy everything day one, and to please the die-hards they really have to bend over backwards and offer lots of incentives like quality packaging and merchandise and other stuff. Their intention isn't to make you feel like a fool for buying something early, only to tease you with a cheaper, uglier option down the road. It's all just part of the marketing game, man.
I would say that it's not necessarily an ideal situation - aside from the nicer packaging, I think they need to do a bit more to make those initial half-sets a more enticing initial purchase. Because I'm also one of those folks who'll just wait a year or so to buy something, because I know I can get it cheaper down the line.
So, again, it's a situation that isn't entirely ideal, but nobody's deliberately trying to screw you. Deliberately, mind you.
HEY WHAT DID I JUST SAY EARLIER
To Whom It May Concern,
I am an aspiring author. I create Anime stories. I have been working extremely hard to create an extraordinary Anime series. Currently, I am working on an Anime series that has several chapteres. I would really like to pursue a career in the creation of Anime and I found this website. I would like to know if you can assist me in this goal. Thank you very much.
Time once again to let my burgeoning carpal tunnel syndrome take a rest and allow you, the readers, a chance to opine. And today, you will be opining on this subject:
Manteiga starts things off by advocating an all-digital future, the robot heathen:
I personally think that manga has enough of an audience, it's just that this audience often lacks legal access to the product. Where I come from, big houses only publish big Shonen titles, while indie houses, quite predictably, concentrate on beautifully edited artsy graphic novels. Don't get me wrong, I love those, but what I miss the middle ground. The saturday-morning-coffee entertainment. The good-read-on-the-subway.
This is why I'm really waiting for the day someone realizes what great a potential the Internet has. It has no boundaries - and neither does money. I would gladly pay for my favourite comics if they were, just like mp3 files, made available in digital format through international retailers. I really don't mind reading off a screen/ebook reader/smartphone, plus digital comic books would spare me the trouble of explaining myself - and manga - to every person who visits my study/office and spots it there.
And wouldn't it be cool to shop for newly released chapters of favourite ongoing series and have them arrive in your e-mail legally, only days after their release in Japan? If scanlation groups can do it, so can the editors. I think exploiting this niche could be profitable to the market, but from some previous discussions I've gathered that this is not exactly what the corporate guys think. Not that I blame them - mind, I can imagine how complex the process would be, just think copyprotection, licensing etc. - but someone will eventually have to face the challenge.
David has ad dollars in mind:
I have been thoroughly impressed in the last few months by the volume and variety of what I've found available online - manga distributors with whole chapters of content online, anime distributors with loads of episodes either on their site, ANN, Hulu, or YouTube - but I don't know how many people watch them there.
I think possibly some more visible advertising would help. They should make some press releases about their streaming content! Get the word out! Instead of advertising their disc releases, highlight the shows or episodes they have online for free! They're on-demand and have practically no commercials. The commercials get the companies some money that they need, and the fans get the content they want.
I'd also recommend that the companies broaden their social media presence. I've recently started following a couple of them on facebook, and I like being that connected to what's going on and coming out week by week. There have been contests and some bonus content as well, so maybe they need to encourage their followers to share a post inviting their friends to join the page to make the community larger. And possibly, on their info pages, keep an up-to-date list of what content those companies have online.
The Internet is a wonderful tool, and even though the market is stagnant, American anime distributors have been setting themselves up to succeed. They just need to get the word out more.
Manny says No Retreat, No Surrender:
I think one of the best ways right now to expand anime is to aggressively attack the market. It's great that websites like Hulu, Funimation and Cruncyroll all supply legitimate avenues to watch anime, but if I was CEO or whatever at a company, I would find a way to work this out in-house. Possibly see what companies would be interested in trying to establish anime channels in foreign markets, possibly reach agreements with already establish networks, SciFy, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and see what we could do to get more anime on afternoon schedules.
Companies like Square Enix have Shounen Gangan, how can they not aggressively try to put something similar in America. The hardest time I have purchasing manga is that sometimes I don't know where to start. Reviews and forum boards are great starters, but it really helps to read it for myself. I buy Shonen Jump, but a lot of what they offer is already available. There should be a company right now releasing some sort of manga magazine with 40 pages of Biomega which is getting its American release now, not Dragon Ball Z or Bleach or Naruto which regular sell well. If companies are to scared to take that venture themselves, I would find a way to collaborate with another company to publish work like that overseas.
I'm not one of those naysayers who say anime and manga will be dead in a decade, but the market will continue to shrink if companies continue to champion their legends down the street like Akira and Cowboy Bebop but do little to promote new up and coming talent.
Brad hopes for a future of sensible pricing:
To me, one of the problems plaguing the distribution of anime is the price of the anime. I mean, $30 for volume 1 of 10? That's $300 for a series! And even then if you're buying your anime from Wal-Mart or Best Buy, you're never guaranteed that those stores will even stock the next volumes. So there you are with your volume 1, wondering what will happen to the characters you watched in those 3, 4, or 5 episodes. And that's even if you LIKE the series. Sure you can rent anime on Netflix or watch it online sometimes but not every series is available like that.
Granted, a lot of series have been foregoing the volume approach and have started selling full season or series boxsets. That's a step in the right direction. You only have to make one purchase and you have the whole series right there. But even then, prices tend to be on the steep side.
A US series like House or The Office typically costs $40-$50 when it comes out on DVD. Anime on the other hand, tends to cost more. Granted, those US series didn't have to be translated and dubbed for their release, which is what adds on the price. Now, if the different anime production companies released a series of sampler DVDs at different stores (or via a cheap subscription) that would help spread the word about different series.
I know some people will just say "you can look online and find first episodes on the websites of these shows" to which I say, yeah, but no one can know all of a company's offerings and not everyone likes sitting at their computer all day. If 3-4 times a year Funimation released a DVD that contained an episode or two of each of their new and upcoming series, and maybe trailers of a lot of their older titles, it would definitely help the market.
There's another problem with buying stand alone volumes of a series, and that problem is: No one knows how long the company will decide to publish a series, or if the company will be around long enough to finish the series.
Ergo Proxy was one of the last anime series I followed and bought each volume of as they were released. But, shortly after volume 6 came out, Geneon went under. No one had copies of volume 6 after that. A short time later, copies appeared on eBay for upwards of a hundred dollars or more.
I'm not independently wealthy, there's no way I could spend that much on one disc, so I waited. Eventually prices came down when another company released a boxset of all the Ergo DVDs. Eventually I managed to find a used copy of Ergo Proxy volume 6 for $10.
Here goes Matthew with his crazy "casual fans" talk again:
From what I've seen, I think one of the biggest things needed is to expand the fanbase of anime/manga. Yes, it is a niche market, but that doesn't mean there aren't more people out there who would like it, they just need to be exposed to it. That's why, although I hate to admit it, I'm glad for series like Naruto and Bleach. It at least gets people to the bookstore, where there eyes might wander down a bit to other series like Nabari no Ou or Black God, two of my favorites.
Increasing the number of "casual" fans would help the market in the short-run, and then using the extra cash to get more (smaller) titles once the fanbase is built up more would help in the long-run.
Mazz is going to put TRASH IN ITS PLACE:
I think the answer (solution) to this is pretty simple. "If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck (and looks like a duck) - It probably Is a Duck." Now let's put it this way: "If the Art looks crappy, the writing looks sub-par and the whole thing looks like trash, It probably Is Trash." And we all know where trash belongs.
I'm pretty sure most of these production companies & studios would rather not spend tons of money funding and promoting trash. (I know what i just said might seem a little harsh, but it's the only way). I also think on the distribution side of things, a little more advertisement/promotion oversees would help. Like, for example, Over here in the U.K, there're literally no Television networks that are actually dedicated to showing (and promoting) any Anime programmes and as such not many people here (compared to America for example) actually watch Anime or even know what it is. There's barely any promotion or advertising from some of the major production companies (and studios). And I think it would definitely help a lot if some of these companies (and studios) promoted and advertised Anime more over here.
Ahmad's logic is closely tied to booty shorts, so do not question his methods:
I think I can sum it up in a single (hyphenated) word, dearest Brian.
How many times have you said to yourself "Gee, X would sure love Y cuz he's so into Z" But don't just go promoting everything just willy-nilly! If you promote a high quality product like say... Eden of the East. The costumers are in for a treat , which in turn will peak their interest to explore your catalog.
Here, I'll give you an example because I'm just that kinda guy.
Black Lagoon -> Guns and Ammo
For those of you who don't know, Black Lagoon is an anime featuring hot women with guns. Guns and Ammo is a magazine for awful human beings, featuring hot women with guns.
THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, PEOPLE!
Honestly, the real reason sports anime fail here is because of poor marketing. Is it really so hard to put a picture of the main character from Sam Dunk! ... slam dunking with the title, a decent pull quote, a tag line like "One of theMost Beloved Comics All Time" and slap it on any sports magazine?
Hell, you don't even have to go mainstream. Cross promote with something already nerdy! Like a video game magazine/website. You know, go for the already vulnerable target! I used to remember ADV putting those little ads for Full Metal Panic! in Game Informer and the like, and guess who bought FMP? (Hint, it's me!)
And don't go telling me "the money isn't there" ! If Funimation has the time and money to make dragonaut booty shorts, they can scrape together 30 grand for a 2-page spread!
Finally, Rednal brings us to a close with a thoroughly well-planned strategy that just needs some Venn Diagrams and some clip art of happy white families to be mashed together into a Powerpoint:
Advertisement of select products alongside quick-and-easy access to at least the first part of as many series as possible combined with a further link to a retailer. That is, the distributor's end. Any question of economics ultimately boils down to the law of supply and demand. For the first, it's important to make people aware that there is a supply; an individual who thinks that anime is just Pokémon-esque shows probably won't be interested enough to note that shows like Higurashi: When They Cry actually exist. However, advertising as many series as possible isn't necessarily the smartest thing to do, either; it's more important to select shows that can exhibit appeal to a broader audience, and quickly enough to be condensed into a smaller advertisement. To this end, I actually think a retailer like Right Stuf may be the best option for enlarging the anime market; they aren't necessarily limited by the products of any one company for their advertisements, so they can pick and choose the best shows available and use those as a hook to draw people in. An advertisement before an action-oriented film for action-based series might help, for example, but just showing clips from a few shows isn't enough. Who wants to buy a show they haven't seen? I mean, hardcore fans usually at least know about a series before they pick it up, but a casual customer who has almost no knowledge of anime? Better to provide them with a simple, easy option to check out some shows... and to that end, the use of a website like YouTube to air at least two episodes for the series advertised. It's not expensive for the potential customer... basically a no-commitment ability to check something out. And if they find themselves wanting to view more, the first episodes can include relatively prominent links to the main website of the store. And this, finally, is where things really come into play. Anime, on the store shelves, is still pretty expensive, especially in a recession. But now, however, the customer can see that many of the goods are discounted nicely, and they don't even have to get up and go to the store to buy it. Through a conscious use of supply, mainly showing off the best products, one can create a demand. And those who find themselves drawn into anime will probably start looking for more on their own, and in this way, the market gets bigger. All of this hinges, however, on displaying the best face we can. The R1 area in general doesn't need to be bombarded by TV and Movie advertisements for Queen's Blade and Kanokon. In terms of quality, we can do a lot better than that, and I believe that supplying a product that more than a small (if dedicated) fanbase can enjoy is going to be the key to success.
Oh, and whatever you've going to really advertise, dub it well. Fans may not care too much about the language barrier most of the time, but subtitles probably aren't going to be the best way to draw new people in, and a poor presentation to newcomers is exactly the wrong way to go.
Now. Next week. Give your typing fingers a little bit of a workout as you respond to this query:
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.
Okay, I'm off! Good day and farewell until next week, and remember to keep my inbox a-flowin' with all kinds of stuff, so give me what you got at answerman (at) animenewsnetwork.com!
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