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Hey, Answerman!
Of Openings and Endings

by Brian Hanson,

Well hello again, internet. It's been a week. Time to relax in that nice new office chair I got for Christmas, put down that Shake Weight I also got for Christmas (I am not kidding about this at all, people), and begin this whole Answerman thing anew.

Of course I'm still battling a cold I received around New Year's Eve, due to the sudden and inexplicable drop in temperature down here in Tucson (it was literally 28 degrees outside that night!!! That's so cold it's stupid!!!), so my apologies if my answers seem tinged with a certain apoplexy.

Hey Answerman,

I really love some of the music I hear in anime and I'd love to get my hands on the OSTs for my favorite shows, but it seems like hardly any American anime companies sell OSTs (even my local anime store doesn't sell anime soundtracks). Why don't they sell anime OSTs in America?

The reason they don't sell anime OSTs in America? Well, about ten years ago, they did. Curiously enough, they stopped.

The bubble burst, that's what happened. It's the same reason why you don't see much in the way of anime merchandise of any real sort in store shelves anymore. Back in The Golden Years of Milk and Honey and anime was the "cool hip thing that all the kids like," it was assumed that any anime would sell, and conversely, anything from an anime would sell.

This proved to be incorrect. Because they did not. Gundam models disappeared from store shelves en masse, dozens of .hack Grunty plushies were returned to warehouses, unloved and uncared for, and anime OSTs were quickly tossed into the bargain bin. It should be said that the biggest investor in anime OSTs at the time was Geneon. And, well, look at that company's sad fall from grace in general.

The sad thing is, the market for anime merchandise at all is pretty slim. Aside from perhaps some Fruits Basket and Inuyasha bookmarks at Barnes & Noble and Borders, not much of it is ever officially produced and licensed for the American market. If you want to purchase a piece of ephemera based upon your favorite show, you either import it online and pay a crazy markup with insane shipping, or you stock up at the dealer's room at Anime Expo or Otakon. And that's the same thing with soundtracks.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Why don't they just do it as an iTunes download!!! That's cheaper right???" Justin Sevakis has expounded on that topic before and why it's nigh-impossible, so here's the gist of it: as explained before, the sales on soundtracks aren't that great, and the licensing issues regarding royalty fees and such with popular music artists in Japan (who are mostly unknown in the US) turn it into a nightmare of complicated rights management, meaning that the profits from such an endeavor would be slim, if at all. So most companies don't even bother.

So! American companies wash their hands of this OST business. Sorry to say, but that means you get to pay outrageous, stupidly high prices for imported sountracks (thirty to forty dollars per disc! Whee!!). Otherwise, the best you've got are a few scattered collections of anime theme songs on iTunes and some lousy techno/house music that tries to pass itself off as "anime inspired." Yes, because all anime music sounds like bad rave music from a Paul Van Dyk wannabe. Sure.

Hey Answerman,

A lot of anime and manga lately has advertisements within the shows for companies that sell products in both Japan and America. When these shows are licensed and brought over the product placement is usually not removed. Do anime licensing companies (like say Funimation) get any money from the American sides of these companies when shows with product placement are brought over?

Oh no. In fact, whenever those shows are "brought over," typically they have to be scrubbed clean of all corporate logos and stuff. Look at the Beck anime, for instance: the characters in that show are all big fans of "The Pixis" and "Rodiohead."

Of course, that's a pretty extreme example though. Beck is a show that is literally steeped in the culture of music and wears its influences right on its sleeves. Influences which, while cool, would be exorbitantly expensive to clear for legal use. I can't name any specifics but I can probably name a few stray Coke bottles that've slipped through the anime cracks of our otherwise incredibly litigious society, completely unnoticed. By and large, though, Japanese animators and manga artists are usually pretty smart about working around these crazy copyright laws; the iconography of corporate branding is pretty helpful in establishing a milieu, but nobody wants to get sued. So that's why you'll see a lot of billboards advertising for "Coka Cola" or "WacDonalds."

As far as *actual* product placement goes, I've seen plenty of it. There are a few shows produced by Aniplex, where the characters might be playing a Sony PSP while texting on their Sony Ericsson phones, and later they watch a Blu Ray on their Sony Bravia. Then there's all that Pepsico-branded stuff from the last 5 years or so. Sometimes it gets scrubbed out - depending on what the original contract was - and sometimes it's left in. All of this stuff happens on a case-by-case basis, but to my knowledge there's never been an R1 distributor that benefited from an R2 product placement deal. When a German company distributes an American-made film in Germany that had promotional consideration from Taco Bell factored in to the production budget, they don't get a slice of that pie.

Of course their are anime that by themselves are "product placement" in a sense - namely video game adaptations, like Sengoku Basara and whathaveyou, but that's a different matter entirely.

Hey Answerman! Happy New Year! So my question pertains to pretty much Naruto, One Piece… and any other title that falls under my question. Frankly, the only time I've watched Naruto and One Piece were when they still aired on Cartoon Network's Toonami. I don't watch subs of it, I only have a few volumes of the Naruto manga (none for One Piece) and I don't read the scanlations online. However, I do check up on what's happening in Naruto every few millennium just to see if it's near the end yet. Even though I don't watch or read Naruto anymore I still want to know what happens at the end, but now Naruto is past it's 10 year anniversary and I'm seriously tired of waiting for the end. To satisfy my inner fangirl needs I search online to read some of the good, realistic (and others ridiculous) theories on how and what should happen at the end. I read other's opinions on what they think about Naruto these days and I secretly befriend anyone who thinks it should have ended by now.

I guess I can't be compared to those who actually read scanlations/manga/shonen jump every week. Maybe I have less tolerance for Naruto lasting so long because I haven't enjoyed it as much as others over the past 10 years. But even if I did follow these series all the time I'd still be pretty sick of the story never ending. Will they have a happy ending or not? WHY can't you just tell me!?

What I want to know is when do you think a series should end? Should a series never go any longer than 10 years or does it really depend on the series? At what time frame does the length of the series just get ridiculous?

An ending? For Naruto? You're searching for an ending for something that really never needed an ending. Because if they can keep that show running another ten years, they will.

Naruto and its Shonen Jump brethren? They're cut from the same cloth, in a sense, as the comics in the Sunday newspaper. They're a collection of characters and ideas that have adventures each week, running until the people who make them get tired of them, or until nobody cares and stops reading them and they get canceled. You think Naruto's gone on for too long? Try Kochikame. Detective Conan. Christ, Doraemon.

I know, I know, Naruto's different from those other examples because it has a "story" with clearly defined "goals" for each of its main characters, where those other examples are just formulaic sitcoms or mysteries. Still, they're cut from the same cloth, they run in the same weekly manga magazines, and they appeal to a lot of the same readers. The kids and the folks in Japan who flip open Shonen Jump every week aren't biting their thumbs in eager anticipation of the Hallowed End of Naruto; each week they're just excited to see Naruto get in another fight with another big ninja guy for something that happened in last week's chapter. Just like how we all used to flip to Calvin & Hobbes every weekend.

When do I think these shows "should" end? It's immaterial. Naruto is a big, rich world brimming with colorful and fun characters. It's not supposed to end. It's supposed to keep going and going and going until people have had their fill of it and they move on. And they haven't moved on yet. I expect that, when I pay to see a movie, that at some point the movie will stop and there will be credits. When I pick up a novel that's not about dragons or vampires, I expect that when I reach the last page in that book there will be an ending of some sort. A denouement, if you like to be pretentious about it. Which I do.

Naruto will keep running until something about it dies. It could be its creator, it could be the interest of its fans, whatever. It's a long-form serial, and those aren't really meant to have endings. And besides, long-running manga tend to have absolutely dreadful endings anyway.

For better or for worse (not to keep invoking that Sunday Comics metaphor for one last go), I am Flakeless this week. So far in 2011, I'm batting a zero average for crazy and/or hateful emails. Interesting.

But I do of course have some of your fine, fine responses from last week's Answerfans handy. In keeping with the spirit of the then-encroaching New Year, I asked all of you this question:

Joshquinn begins the fray by hoping for the simple, happy things. Like Pokemon:

I'm looking forward to a couple of things this year.

First with anime, I'm looking forward to watching the second season of Reaching You (Kimi ni Todoke). With the first season ending on a half note I should say and with no word of a second season for a while, I was thinking the studio making the anime was just going to leave the story there without finishing what they started. I was happy when I heard they were going to continue the story. I'm also looking forward to Fractale because I enjoy fantasy, as well as Gosick. Wondering Son (Hōrō Musuko) also looks good and I'm going to check out the first Pokémon: Best Wishes! movie to see if it would become my next favorite Pokémon movie since Temple of the Sea. Oh, and then there's Yu-Gi-Oh Zaxel if that's being broadcast this year. For anime releases, I'm looking forward to getting the entire collection of the sequel to Clannad with the English dub, as well as the movie, which was great. Not good enough to be excellent but good enough for me to want to buy it. Then there's the Hetalia movie. I like both the manga and show so I'm going to see if I like the movie as well. Lastly for anime, I'm looking forward to seeing what the anime shows I have been watching so far with take themselves. This is especially true with Pokémon: Best Wishes!. I don't have high hopes for the show even though it's doing good so far. I am just curious as to what the people behind the anime are going to take the story, as well as what opening and closing themes they would have since one of the good things about the Pokémon Anime Series was always the music.

Now with manga releases, I'm happy that Viz is publishing The Legend of Princess Sakura by Arina Tanumura. I have read the manga online for a little while and I really like the story. I would like to add this series to my manga collection. There's also a manga by Hidekaz Himaruya called Chibisan Date. It seems like it would be a good, heartwarming story. Then there are the rest of the releases of Cross Game by Mitsuru Adachi. I just finish reading the first volume and I want to read more to see what happens.

The light novel I'm most looking forward to is The Sacred Blacksmith. The anime adaptation ended in a cliff hanger, which disappointed me. I wanted to know what would happen in the series and it looks like the only way I'm going to do that is if I read the novels, and I hope whatever company is publishing the books here will release all the volumes of the series.

Mary Mary, not quite contrary:

The second season of Angel Beats all the way. The first season of Angel Beats had me laughing every episode. And then crying at the end when it got serious. They just released a special not to long ago and I realized just how much I missed this anime. If the series ever gets released on DVD here I am buying a copy and maybe a few others to hand to my friends.

See, Guy Who Complained A Few Weeks Ago About Garden of Sinners Being Too Expensive? Some people, namely Masashi, have no compulsory objections:

What am I looking forward to in 2011? Well, before last month I had never pre-ordered anime or spent more than $50 for an anime-related purchase, and I don't own a BluRay DVD player. However, I've already placed my order for the "Garden of Sinners" Complete BluRay Box set. I came to learn about Type-Moon after watching Tsukihime, which is exactly the type of anime I enjoy the most - dark, bloody, and female leads who are beautiful without excessive boobage and fan service (sorry horndogs, although I admit to liking Witchblade and Mnemosyne, but not for the nice racks I swear!) Fate/Stay Night wasn't quite as good, but still had very attractive female leads with Rin and Saber, and I'm definitely looking forward to watching the Canaan series.

The Kara no Kyoukai (aka Garden of Sinners) movie series came to my attention soon after Fate, and I thought it would never be released in the US, so I downloaded a fansub of the first movie and was completely blown away. Great story, great lead characters, excellent animation, and THE MUSIC is the best part of all!! I've had the seven movie soundtracks in heavy rotation on my car stereo for months, and the singles collection from Kalafina is one of the best ever (ranks right up there with some of Yoko Kanno's best work). Sprinter, and in particular the karaoke version, gives me a rush every time I hear it.

If you enjoy high qualtiy anime, targeted for adults (and not in the Skinemax sense) and excellent JPop, give the series a try. Don't be satisfied with the fansubs etiher. I know I'll watch these repeatedly so I'm willing to make the investment!

Kenzichi, your eagerly anticipated 2011 things, GO:

Hm… What I'm looking forward to is the new season of Kimi Ni Todoke! Granted I haven't finished watching the first season yet, but I still love this series regardless so maybe I'll catch up. Also Deadman's Wonderland is supposed to be getting an anime series this year which I also can't wait for! And some more good news! I just found out that my favorite character is FINALLY going to show up on the Hetalia World Series anime! That's right Seychelles; I can't wait to see you on my computer screen <3

Lastly, this isn't really something I'm looking forward to, but more that I'm wishing for is when they start releasing the rest of the volumes of Alive: The Final Evolution here in America. I finished reading the series, loved it, collected all the available volumes so far so just please bring me the rest. And also if Gonzo (I think it was them) would reconsider making the Alive anime. Probably will never happen, but just a New Year's wish from a supportive fan.

Ronan is infected with Shinkai Fever, and the only prescription, is more... well you know:

My most wanted anime-related release of 2011: Makoto Shinkai's Hoshi o Ou Kodomo. Specifically because I think it has the potential to be his best movie yet.

Like a lot of anime fans, I watched and loved Voices of A Distant Star. It looked fantastic (sloppy character designs aside), it had a fast paced and immediately engaging story with fleshed out characters and the action was some of the most dynamic I'd seen in years. Then The Place Promised in Our Early Days came along and as it turns out, Shinkai isn't good at evaluating his own strengths. The nostalgic piano music playing over scenes of characters wistfully staring into gorgeous sunsets were the icing on the cake of Voices, not the movie's main appeal. Shinkai seems not to have realized this since he filled the first half of The Place Promised in Our Early Days with nothing but wistful piano staring, followed by an abrupt left turn into Mamoru Oshii style geopolitical intrigue.

By all accounts 5 cm Per Second was a good romance, but I still feel that Shinkai was missing his own point. Fast-paced action balanced with nostalgic character drama in a gorgeous fantastic-realism environment is what I want in a Shinkai movie, and going from the trailer Hoshi o Ou Kodomo seems to be aiming for all three with much more lively Ghibli-esque characters and a more family-oriented tone.

I'm hoping this latest effort represents Shinkai finding his niche as a creator and recapturing the essence of what made Voices of A Distant Star so good.

Oh and Shinkai: shorten your goddamn titles.

And finally, The King of Harts looks forward to a 2011 that looks more like 2003:

As a big time collector, I cannot help but be looking forward to Funimation's new Limited Edition expedition. The idea of once again having thick, chipboard art boxes without having to import from Japan or Taiwan causes me to drool every time I think about it. But, to top it off, they're including shiny toys in the form of premium items, with the one I'm anticipating most being The Sacred Blacksmith's art book. I missed my chance to feel the thrill of collecting art boxes as they were released years ago since I'm still a fairly new fan, but I now have a chance to have my collector's blood rush like a raging river. I can now feel the overwhelming joy my collector brethren have been feeling for nearly decade. I can now feel like a part of the club and boast years from now when these are long out of print when some newbie needs assistance finding a copy. I can now feel like a real collector.

Thusly, muchly, we do hope that 2011 turns out to be as exceptional as advertised. Speaking of the future, next week I have another question!

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.

Alright friends and potential enemies, that's all from me this time! Don't forget, as always, to cram my inbox full of queries and comments and Answerfans answers and bizarre rants, handily located at Answerman(At!)Animenewsnetwork.com! See you 'round the bend in seven days hence!

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