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Hey, Answerman! - Hentai Schmentai

by Brian Hanson,

Great Guggenheim! It's Answerman! I'm back again, everyone. Just in case you missed the big icon on the front page, I'm on ANNCast this week, where Zac and I talk about Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt and how much I think it sucks, Oscar nerdery, and other things! So check it out people. Let my sultry, dulcet tones enlighten your aural receptors.

I'm sorry, that was creepy. Questions!

Now we know that the anime industry isn't exactly in its prime anymore with lack of sales being the main issue. Including uncensored content in DVDs seems to be helping boosting sales and has worked out well for shows like Strike Witches, which not only got two seasons but is getting a movie as well. My first question is why do you think companies don't go all the way with this and just release hentai based on their works? I don't mean including sex in the shows themselves (though maybe that'll work out for Yosuga no Sora), but releasing non-canon doujinshi or artwork featuring the characters drawn by the official artists at Comiket or something. A lot of mangaka started out drawing hentai doujinshi anyways, so it's not like it would be much of a stretch for them. Comiket is always packed with otaku so they could net a pretty good profit. It's been done before, what with Godannar's second season being in part funded by an officially sanctioned hentai doujinshi as an example. There's also the mangaka of Jinki:Extend, who released hentai of his characters including an upcoming Jinki hentai game. Seems that manga is always coming back no matter how many magazines it gets kicked out of.

We all know sex sells, so why only stop half way with panty and breast shots?

Yup, sex sells. That's for sure. But, why isn't there a torrent of "officially sanctioned" hentai projects based around popular series? Personally, the easiest answer for that is the Doujinshi market.

I mean, it's not really like they even need to bother making any "official" hentai out of any of their properties or characters. The rabid and self-contained doujinshi circles in and around Japan do a good enough job on their own as far as cranking out volumes upon volumes of pornography centered on the newest Fanservice Show Du Jour. Not to mention, that same doujinshi market is also representative of their best customers. They are loyal and devoted, insulated, and obsessed. They buy "character goods" by the truckloads. They buy the DVDs and the Blu Rays. In addition to that, they create their own little cottage industry around them with their doujinshi.

For the companies that produce things like Strike Witches, doujinshi is pretty much seen as free publicity. If a big and well-respected doujinshi circle is producing some smut involving your show and your characters that's going to get all the Otaku in a tizzy, you roll with it. It keeps the characters and the brand alive and well in the hearts and boners of the most devoted and hardcore fans. It builds equity.

So basically, why bother competing with that market? That market that already supports you in everything you do? There's a sort of coda amongst most anime and manga creators to simply turn the other way and let the doujin market do it's thing, because even if you think what they're doing is sullying your creation, it doesn't behoove you to piss off your most ardent fans. I can think of only one recent show that dared to release an official hentai sequel, and that was Princess Lover!; but in a way, that sort of seems like a given, since that show was already based on a hentai game to begin with.

I'm not saying that they either should or shouldn't contract an artist from Comiket to pornify their characters, all I'm saying is that they don't really need to. Fans can and will make H-doujinshi on their own, official license or no. You know what the fans at Comiket can't make? They can't make character goods. Er, most of them. At least not in large quantities. And they certainly can't produce a 12-episode anime series that airs on late-night television.

I think by and large, it serves both markets best to let each of them do what they're both good at.

Long time reader, first time post person. So I currently find myself in the position of wanting to learn some Korean, and thought one good way to help (and entertain myself at the same time) was to find some Korean animation and watch it with English subs.

However, a few google searches lead me only to forums where others were asking the same question. What, if any, information do you have on the status of Korean anime, if in fact, there is any?

Oh, there is. There's quite a bit of it, actually. The sad part is, though, that most of it tends to stay far, far away from US shores.

The two examples I can think of off the top of my head are Sky Blue and Aachi & Ssipak. Mainly because they're the only two relatively "high-profile" animated productions to come out of Korea lately. Not that Korea doesn't produce tons of animation mind you - virtually every animated film, TV series, and everything in between is sent off to animation studios in Korea for help.

The thing with those two movies, though... I honestly can't say that they're really all that "entertaining." They're both visually stunning, and they're bursting with creativity and clever designs and unique visual motifs that are rarely seen in animation. Sky Blue uses an interesting technique where the 2D animated characters exist in a 3D world, where the backgrounds are a clever mix of real, physical models and advanced CGI. Aachi & Ssipak is a crazy, gross, manic world populated by bizarre, squat creatures that literally seemed to jump from the brains of someone like Masaaki Yuasa.

Unfortunately, the visuals and animation are sort of the end of them. Sky Blue is a dull and dreary mess of plot contrivances and boring characters and reams of exposition. Aachi & Ssipak attempts to be something of a clever satire of government control, but ends up being a parade of gross-out jokes (the running gag is that it's a future society that is powered by human feces - because nothing's more hilarious than an entire feature-length plot centered around a turd joke!).

So, yeah, there's Korean stuff out there. It just tends to be buried and ignored. And I honestly wouldn't really call it "anime" - those two titles I mentioned above definitely have some anime roots to them (especially Sky Blue, with its shots lifted directly from Akira in some scenes), but they are very much their own thing. Which is good - nothing depresses me more than animation that tries so hard to soullessly ape the style and timing of anime without anything else going for it. Korean animation right now is in a state of flux; they have tons of animators who are all highly skilled and motivated, but there simply hasn't been an original, successful showcase for their work, outside of the usual outsourced productions. I know the South Korean government has been trying to make strides in changing this, from sponsoring animation festivals to bringing in foreign animators from the US and Europe and beyond to discuss stories and such, so I think in the next decade we'll probably be seeing a lot of quality productions from them. It's all a matter of time.

But for now, there simply isn't much that's readily available.

Mr. Answerman,

With the current popularity of Mixed Martial Arts in North America exploding in the last couple of years, why would we not see licensing in North America of MMA Manga such as TOUGH, Baki the Grappler / Baki: Son Of Ogre and Garouden? I have been told VIZ holds the rights to TOUGH, and has released a handful of issues 4 or 5 years ago. Why would they not try to capitalize on MMA's current popularity by releasing it?

Oh, simple. MMA is a sport. And sports anime and manga? It hasn't really worked so far.

Think back to Hajime no Ippo. Think back to Big Windup!. Both wonderful shows with buckets of critical acclaim. Boxing is a popular sport here in America, baseball is the most popular sport in America. Both were released on DVD and bombed. Same sort of thing with sports manga. (Although I hope and pray that a similar fate doesn't befall Viz's recent release of Cross Game, because it is excellent.)

MMA stuff is super-popular right now, sure. But that's not exactly the sort of success that tends to transfer over to anime and manga. By and large, wrong or right, any anime or manga that's explicitly based upon any kind of sport tends to fail.

Still, though, I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of something like TOUGH showing up again. MMA is a sport, sure, but it's a relatively new sport, as far as mainstream public consciousness is concerned. Maybe an MMA based manga might finally be the one to break the curse? It would still be quite the gamble, but it's one that an adventurous publisher might try to take. In fact, I'd say the main reason that TOUGH and the Baki manga haven't appeared stateside yet has more to do with the fact that they're kind of, well, old by now than anything. If there's a big MMA manga being released in the near future, you might see that eventually picked up and published and stocked in bookstores.

So, yeah - those titles you mentioned were all produced shortly before MMA started to really take off here in America. The timing is right for something new to make its way stateside, but it has an uphill battle to climb against the standing stereotype that anime and manga fans don't seem to care about sports-related titles.

Oh dear. OH DEAR.

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THank you very much Mr. Asnwerman it is greatly appreciated


What time is it? Why it's Answerfans time. That's what time it is.

So put on your conversation hat and thinkin' shoes and get ready for a little bit of discussionary talk about this here question:

Shawn begins this week by hating repetition and bizarre elements that come out of left field:

If there is one this that brings me out of a anime (I must say this mostly occurs with the longer series) it would have to be repetition. Whether it be in the music, like when Bleach decided it was a good idea to use the same song to climax every battle in the beginning of the series (okay I know it's not every but still, anyone that's seen the anime knows the song). Then repetition of plot, lets just have the main character fight some people, then leave, and fight some more people as he ever so slowly gets stronger after only losing last time, but spared, again Bleach loves this, but completely makes no sense, he beats the captains, but now he's stronger, and the captains are suddenly beefing up too, even though it took them hundreds of years (or something) to get to where they are now, they can catch up to some guy who's just jumping in levels of power (is this a spoiler? Should I have said something..) Either way I've ranted about Bleach enough, my point of repetition is there, make things a little different, or just stop (Air Gear anime did this, but manga still great, I mean that guy can draw.)

For manga it's some what harder for repetition to get to me, but there's one thing. Now yes I know it's all fantasy, but when a character changes and does the impossible as a side job and you didn't even set me up for it, I'm out and I'm not referring to what you see most of the time (people getting their head beat in and then suddenly okay). Don't spoon feed me a story with pretty pictures (I hate that I love Air Gear for this) and then suddenly give me this crazy story that I'm supposed to some how understand and accept (Thank you ominbus). I completely fall out of the story if you're giving me a world and I've accepted it, then you decide, you know what I need something else in this world, that I guess literally supernatural? I don't know (I was okay with tiny motors and people being super strong, thats just how things can be right?) You need to ease into new things, not just toss me a ton of information and a whole new plot and be all “enjoy”. It's a different story, I didn't sign up for.

Mandy, a GIRL, hates FANSERVICE?!?! Color me surprised:

I have a few things that really grate on my nerves (terrible plotline, unlikable characters, etc.) but the one thing that always, ALWAYS gets me is gratuitous fanservice.

When I read manga, I read it for a story I can be immersed in and enjoy from beginning to end. I do not read it to get oversized boobs or scantily-clad butts shoved in my face every five panels. This is the one thing that will always turn me off from a series. I can put up with a terrible plotline if the characters are amazing, I can put up with ugly art if the story is unique and interesting, but I cannot force myself to skim through clevage shots in order to read a great story. This is the reason why I haven't read so many series that my friends recommend to me, even though they're things I would otherwise enjoy.

I wish more companies would understand that they can have girls in their material without exposing them to the world, because this issue really narrows down the niche of manga I can read.

God help tuxedocat if she ever sees anything drawn by Masami Obari:

The very first thing that popped into my mind last week when I saw your question was: Character Designs.

Certain studios (one in particular - name omitted) have this bad habit of designing the female characters so differently from the male characters that they look like completely different species. To me, the female characters look like aliens, the kind with overly large foreheads and HUUUGE wide set eyes.

It wouldn't be so difficult for me if ALL the characters were drawn this way, but when a male character (designed in a fairly standard anime style) is sharing the screen with one of these alien women, the difference between the two is distracting and disturbing. The faces are so "cartoon-like" (wish I had a better word) that the female faces are completely out of proportion. Thing is, they are supposed to be humans. Why do the male characters look like humans and the female characters don't? Why didn't they design the male characters the same way as the females so that they can look like they are from the same planet?

I always find myself thinking:
"uuuuuh weird.... her eyes are where her cheekbones should be....."
"its creepy the way her tiny little needle nose completely disappears when she turns her head..."
"Why is she drawn like a bug if she's supposed to be a human?"
"Is she a human?"
"Is this actually supposed to be a yokai show?"
"heh. Men are from earth. Women are from ...... some other planet. The bug-face planet. --Nice hair, though..."

By this time, my thoughts have intruded on any dialog or action that has been buzzing along on the screen, and I am completely disconnected from the show.

Granted, many shows like this have fairly engrossing plots, so I DO want to know what I missed. If it weren't for those weird character designs, I wouldn't be re-winding so much. Also, if it weren't for those designs, I might even buy a few of these shows. Unfortunately, I find them so weird and distracting that I can't see myself watching more than once.

Ben hates bad endings. He hates them so much he's willing to spoil the endings for I My Me! Strawberry Eggs, Area 88, R.O.D -The TV-, and Claymore, so read no further to maintain your spoiler free life:

I've seen my fair share of lackluster anime with below-average qualities over the years. Whether it's bad art ("Haunted Junction"), bad music ("Lupin the 3rd: The Fuma Conspiracy"*), or bad plot (Zegapain's first five episodes), each series/movie I've mentioned has had some sort of redeeming aspect keeping it one step short of the eBay pile.

However, there's one thing that really grinds my gears: bad endings. I've seen far too many anime series that started off with a ton of potential, only to finish poorly with an ending that either didn't sit well with me, fell short of my expectations, or felt like it contradicted everything leading up to the grand finale. In last week's "Hey Answerfans", you asked what three series gave me an honest, emotional reaction. I thought about submitting an answer, but the trio I saw gave me a very negative one. "SaiKano" (sorry, Bamboo), "Paranoia Agent" (sorry, Satoshi Kon) and "Gilgamesh" (no relation to the band) all had endings that made me so angry, I immediately tossed them into the "Sell" box and asked myself why the creators chose to go down the wrong path when a better ending could've saved the series from being branded as "wasted potential". (I mean, who died and made a wimpy teenage girl or goth woman's broken heart the Goddess of Death?! Doesn't humanity have the right to object to such a ridiculous fate?!)

A variation of the "Bad Ending Syndrome" would be the "Fate Left Up In The Air" ending.

One example would be the conclusion to "I My Me! Strawberry Eggs", a series that had a lot of charm and good humor, but fell just short of the end zone with its ending. After being outed as a cross-dresser, Hibiki Amawa is forced to resign in shame and after giving a farewell speech (albeit from a distance and with his voice disguised), he takes the next train out of town, leaving the fates of his dog, his students and the school up in the air. (Wouldn't it have been better if he simply sucked it up like a man, reconciled with the students after they chose to stand against Reiko's plans to convert the school, and been accepted as the school's first male teacher in ages? Clearly, the producers thought otherwise.) Another example would be Area 88 (the TV series). I was hoping that, unlike the OVA series (which was quite good, but just as guilty of committing this sin), it would tell Shin's complete story, start to finish, without the angst-filled ending. They could've gone for 26 or even 20 episodes, but alas, the story fell short due to an incomplete ending. Sure, they repeatedly said that the photographer Makoto Shinjō was the central focus of the story, but given how one-dimensional he was, I was unconvinced. They left Shin's fate up in the air, and without having a translated version of the manga to work off of, I was left with an inconclusive finale and yet another "wasted potential" series.

Another variation would be the "Villain Got Away" ending.

An outstanding example would be "Claymore" and Clare's fight against Priscilla. Just as Clare's about to land the final blow and bring an end to years of torment stemming from her mentor's murderer, Isley swoops in, blocks the attack, and takes Priscilla away, thereby denying the viewers a (potentially) cathartic ending. Instead, we get a "to be continued... never" ending. Granted, volume 12 of the manga picks up where the anime's story ends (not factoring in the last two episodes), but judging from what I've heard elsewhere, it doesn't sound good (any sentence that uses the words "slog" and "side-story" usually don't sound very promising).

Another example would be the end of "R.O.D. the TV". The Paper Sisters, Yomiko and Nancy are all triumphant, having defeated Joker and Wendy and put an end to the British Library's plans for global domination. So what happens next? Through the magic of a plot hole, Joker and Wendy somehow escape and end up in the countryside, thereby evading their comeuppance. Huh? Say what? Granted, time was running a little short on the episode, but would it have behooved the fine folks at J.C. Staff to animate a scene where they are lead away in chains, thereby allowing the series to close out on a proper note?

There are plenty more promising series with disappointing endings I could rattle off (like AIR TV's "rewind, repeat" ending, Martian Successor Nadesico's "That's it?" ending, and plenty of Gonzo's "rushing to conclusions" endings), but I think I've cited enough examples to prove my point. Someone once said that it's the not the destination, but the journey that counts. After having slogged though numerous series with little-to-no payoff, I couldn't disagree more. A note (and semi-plea) to all anime directors: Finish what you started. Even the most disjointed series can be redeemed by a solid ending (for proof, look no further than the recently-wrapped "Occult Academy").

Monica hates the series Major with a burning, perhaps illicit passion. Again with the spoilers though:

First of all, characterization is alpha and omega for me. If I don't like the characters, I'm probably not even going to bother reading past a few pages (or watching more than a few minutes, as the case may be). But if I've first got into a story, very few things take me out of it; I'm pretty good at the whole suspension of disbelief-thing. However, there are some things...

I think the best example is from Major. Oh, years later, this still gets me in a rage. Spoilers ahead! Goro - the main character - has a father who's a professional baseball player. Pretty early on, he gets hit so hard on the head during a game that in the real world, it's a miracle he's even alive. Strike one.

Now, most people would get him to a doctor immediately, cause head injuries are tricky business, and with a hit like that, you'd suspect a concussion. Concussions can be bad. What does he - and his club/team - do? Nothing. Strike two.

So, of course the guy goes home after a long day's work, goes to bed, and - he... well, doesn't really wake up again. I can't even begin to express my annoyance at this SERIOUS neglect from his employer's side, and how ridiculous it is that a professional sports club/team wouldn't at least do a rudimentory medical examination when one of their players is injured. And everybody acts like this is oh, such a tradegy and really, the only tragedy I can see is that someone hired that many idiots to work for them. Oh, and that there were seemingly no consequences for the club for this entire incident. It can only really be summed up with the (not so eloquent) words "wtf, srsly?". Or to continue my nice little baseball analogy: strike three; you're out.

And this is supposed to be a major plot point that the story kinda hinges on? Really? If your story relies on everybody being morons, you should probably rethink it. So I guess that's the main thing that will make me want to commit acts of violence and shriek in frustration: Everybody being morons. It's really surprising, how often that happens...

To round things out for the night, Matt slips in his take on dubs and their sometimes poisonous effects:

I almost always prefer to watch anime dubbed, but sometimes the dub itself just kills the show for me. The most obvious problem is an obnoxious voice, the kind that just doesn't sound natural. You know that the voice actor is trying really hard to sound that annoying, that the human body doesn't lend itself to such horrible sounds.

Perhaps worse is realizing that one voice actor has multiple roles. As Hope Chapman noted, Steven Blum voices a police officer talking with Onizuka. Sean Schemmel voices every third character in Berserk. When you hear the same voices over and over in the same show, it makes it immediately obvious that you're being entertained instead of being part of a story.

We get all that bitterness out? Good. 'Cause next week's question is a little lighter, a little more positive:

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.

Is that all? Yup, that's all. See you next time, and remember to plug the leaky holes in my inbox with questions and answers and things over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com!

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