Hey, Answerman! - Deadline Hollywood

by Brian Hanson,

Hello and greetings and other assorted salutations, readers! It's Answer-time for Answerman!

And, man oh man, am I really glad I have this. Not to derail this week's column into the grim realm of recent politics, but I should probably say that I am super, super happy to have a column like this to help keep my mind sane and grounded.

I live in Tucson. I've lived here in this city since I was five years old. Over the past six days, I've been alternately angry, hurt, depressed, and hopeless. I've witnessed my fair share of tragedies over the news and the resultant media frenzy they stir, but this was the first time, and hopefully the only time, where I've sincerely felt the sting of tragedy, first hand. Despite no shortage of evidence to the contrary, I sincerely love this city. And I love the people in it.

I'm not going to expound on the tragedy simply for the sake of being maudlin. This isn't the place for that. But I will say, that I'm glad I'm a part of a fandom that, despite the internet arguments and the fingerpointing over issues I don't understand or don't particularly care about... is calm, accepting, and inclusive. I'm so very glad that I have the chance to escape from the grim circus that has enveloped the city I live in, and plunge into the passionate questions and responses from fans and readers around the world. It is both humbling and laudatory.

That's all. Onto the questions, and lighter-hearted fare!

So, I got two questions this week about this, which I guess means that anime fans have finally started to check out Black Swan en masse:

I was recently in a movie theater watching Black Swan. As the story played out I started to feel that certain elements were all too familiar, and not really in a bad way. The movie borrows a lot from Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue. Later I remembered that Darren Aronofsky, the director of Black Swan, had purchased the rights to Perfect Blue a while back in order to recreate one of the scenes for Requiem for a Dream. I couldn't really think of a question for all this other than... What of that do you think? Have you seen Black Swan and/or noticed the resemblance?

I have seen Black Swan. I love it. It was my favorite film of 2010. (Not to turn this into Brian's Film-y Film Discussion of Film, but the "best" film of last year is still The Social Network, because simply objectively, that's such a taut and finely-hewn piece of filmmaking that it's difficult for me to imagine anything "better.") Do I think that Black Swan "borrows" any elements from Satoshi Kon's "Perfect Blue"? Not really. At least, not deliberately.

"Black Swan" is an amped-up, grand guignol mindf*** meant to evoke shades of Roman Polanski's Repulsion or Michael Powell's The Red Shoes. Hey, guess which movie also evokes the same sense of mind-altering confusion and mystery and stars an emotionally fragile female lead! That's right, Perfect Blue! With Requiem For a Dream, the homage was obvious and deliberate. Aronofsky is a director equally in love with long handheld tracking shots as well as meticulously-constructed indelible images, such as the scene from Perfect Blue in question, where Mina sulks face-down in her bathtub, literally drowning in self-pity and frustration. That scene obviously left an impression on the then-young hotshot Aronofsky, fresh from the Sundance accolades afforded him from Pi, and so he was eager to incorporate it.

Other than that, though, Perfect Blue and Black Swan are rather different films. Perfect Blue voyeuristically follows the peril of a pop star trying to break out of the prison of mediocrity forced upon her by a cruel regime of producers and managers, clinging to their own failed dreams of stardom; Black Swan aloofly chronicles the emotional unraveling of a dancer nearsightedly clinging to the concept of "perfection" even against her own physical and mental health. Perfect Blue, spoiler alert, had a definite antagonist. Black Swan does not, at least not in a conventional sense. In their execution, though, both of them owe a debt to Polanski and William Friedkin and Hitchcock and other directors before them.

I don't doubt that Perfect Blue had an influence on Black Swan, but I think it's a much more subtle influence than the premise might suggest. While they're both films that devote their time to the madness and obsession of a fragile woman, the two films couldn't be more thematically different.

I was attending the area con back in the summer and one of the panels I watched discussed a brief history of American artists working in the manga style. At one point, the discussion turned to Felipe Smith and how he has to deal with 'dem Japanese deadlines. Many fans have heard that it can be a struggle for manga artists to crank out 20+ pages of art a week with little or no rest, but since attending the panel, I've been wondering about the alternative schedule. Some manga titles are produced at a monthly rate, similar to the American mode of publishing comics. Is there any specific reason to the difference? Do publishers make the decision on the time-frame and do artists have a choice on what type of schedule they get? Are the monthly schedules not as hectic as the weeklies or is there just as much pressure to make the deadline?

Well, the "schedule" is determined specifically by what magazine they choose to publish their work. If you want to be published in Shonen Jump, the manga magazine with the largest (and thereby most profitable) circulation in the manga world, you're going to be under the duress of a weekly schedule. If you want to perhaps take your time and make something a little more subtle and measured, and you wind up in V Jump, you're on a monthly schedule.

Different magazines and publications have different print schedules. Shonen Jump runs weekly, because of its popularity and all-ages appeal. Ditto Shonen Sunday and others. For the most part, weekly publications are meant for the broadest audience possible in Japan. It's where you find the biggest, longest-running stories with the biggest characters, usually targeting a younger audience while attempting to connect with older readers who have simply grown up with the publication. (That's a big reason why Shonen Jump can occasionally experiment with something sinister like Death Note; the magazine has a large following of older readers who have kept up with the publication since they themselves were kids, weaned on the weekly exploits of manga like Kochikame and Dr. Slump.) The monthly publications, meanwhile, tend to target very specific, older demographics. Most of the Seinen and Josei manga that arrives in US shores comes from these monthly publications like Boy Comic Original and Afternoon and Young You and the like.

The difference in the workflow between a big, hefty gig at a weekly manga magazine and a monthly publication all boils down to degrees. If you're, say, Masashi Kishimoto, you're in charge of a big and popular weekly series and so you have an army of assistants, be they artists or writers or both. If you're Naoki Urusawa and you're in charge of a monthly serial, it's assumed that you're incredibly protective of your own work and prefer to painstakingly slave over every single panel yourself. Both are equally as intensive and backbreaking, as far as personal labor are concerned. The difference being that Kishimoto has a small army of hired hands to pitch in and lighten the load. Most mangaka in charge of monthly serials don't have that luxury, and have to turn in their twenty-plus pages of manga every month with minimal to no help.

The allure of doing a weekly serial is... that's where the money and the fame lies. Once you're in Shonen Jump or Shonen Sunday, you can - to an extent - bet on your manga traveling around the world, you can - also to an extent - bet on an anime adaptation, perhaps even feature films, merchandise, et cetera. Not that I'm suggesting everybody involved in a weekly manga is a sellout or even finds immense success in that format, but... hey, we're all human, and fame and wealth are powerful forces. The monthly and bimonthly periodicals tend to be more accommodating to material that's a little more avant-garde, and allow for a more diverse assortment of subject matter, and a greater deal of time and care. The trade-off is that the readership is but a small fraction of the audience.

The "difference" in these schedules is more than superficial. It's integral. Mangaka pitch their stories to the publications where they feel they'll be the best fit. If they're pitching a weekly supernatural tournament fighting manga starring a motley crew of likable teens, obviously a weekly magazine is the best fit. A supernatural gothic horror manga with overt Western overtones? That'll get pitched to a monthly seinen magazine. And so on, so forth.

Hey, Answerman.

The other day, I began thinking about a topic I read online about how anime is often treated as a genre rather than a medium. This made me begin to wonder. Why? Not why is it treated that way by retailers, but why is it treated that way by fans? When I watch anime, I can watch any genre and find at least something I like. If I watch a movie, I'm far less likely to enjoy it unless it's horror, action, or comedy. If I watch a romantic movie, I'm bored to the point of falling asleep, but if I watch a romantic anime, I'm just as interested as if I was watching an action anime or a horror anime or a comedy anime. Why is it that our tastes suddenly diversify when a work is animated in Japan? It's not the genre that changes, only the medium. I'm not complaining, since I love anime and have no desire to stop loving it, I'm just trying to understand this apparent abnormality.

Y'know, that's a great question. I've often had the same thought. What makes most anime fans willing, eagerly willing at that, to sit through something like Kanon or The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and yet they bristle at the idea of sitting through something as equally (if not moreso) edifying on a personal level as a Mike Leigh film?

Of course now we start treading into the dangerous, murky waters of stereotyping here. But let's just face some simple facts: We are all, at our very core, nerds. And that's totally fine. We are all very much into a very niche, very unappreciated form of pop culture that the rest of the populace either ignores or sneers at. From there, you can, by and large, check off the usual aspects of "nerd culture" and you'll notice a lot of overlap amongst anime fans: Star Wars, Halo, Batman, big summer blockbuster movies, RPGs, Joss Whedon, Penny Arcade, Heavy Metal (the magazine), heavy metal (the music), and so forth.

Of course, some anime fans might like Star Wars and Batman but don't care so much for RPGs, other anime fans might like Joss Whedon and Halo and dislike Star Wars and would rather listen to Kanye West instead of Dragonforce, and so on down the line. We're all people, and we're all individuals here. Nobody is ever able to neatly fit entirely into one geek stereotype all the way down to the molecular level. We've all got our individual quirks and tastes that make us interesting. And really, there are a multitude of genres within anime itself that most anime fans avoid. Some people hate Moe, some people think Shonen titles are mindless, some people think space operas are boring, others get offended by fanservice shows.

The thing with anime fans, that I've noticed, is that we are, for the most part, accepting of the things about anime we don't like. We give them a fair shake. We will at least give a title a fair shot, even if it's part of a sub-genre that isn't usually our cup of tea. Because it's still anime, and we like anime. And how many times have we heard the phrase, "it's okay, for what it is" to describe a title? I think harem shows are dumb, but Love Hina is okay, for what it is. I gave it a shot, I watched most of it, I set aside my preconceived biases and enjoyed it for what it was attempting to create.

That attitude is wonderful. It means that anime fans are willing to be a bit more adventurous and less discriminatory with their supposed "taste." Unfortunately, that same sense of adventure rarely seems to translate outside of anime. Can I give some anime fan who loves J-pop a copy of A.C. Newman's brilliant solo album Get Guilty and expect anything less than boredom followed by derision? Maybe, but probably not. Can I seriously suggest to somebody over the internet that they should stay home and watch Bergman's The Virgin Spring on Netflix, instead of seeing Tron Legacy? Nah. And don't get me started on books; people nowadays are so afraid to read anything that's not part of a "series," a "series" about Dragons and Space Marines and Lycanthropes (In Space). It's bizarre to me.

I apologize if it sounds like I'm both sermonizing and trying to brandish my snooty better-than-thou taste, because honestly, it doesn't really matter, at the end of the day. What I like doesn't define me, and what you like doesn't define you. A lot of people like to pretend that it does, and will go to great pains to tell how how interesting and intelligent they are because of all the obscure things they've seen, but that's only because they have no actual personality. Anyway, getting back on topic here.

So, all I'm saying is, use that same sense of openness that we reserve for anime, and apply that to other things. For Christ's sake, all of us go balls-out nuts when somebody on the outside of our little fandom peeks in from the outside and asks to know more about it, what to watch, what to avoid, and all of that. We are evangelists for our treasured little medium, and we relish in the opportunity to expose it to people. So all I'm saying is, that perhaps everyone needs to open themselves up a little bit more to the wealth of culture around them. Read a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Listen to an album by TV on the Radio or Neko Case. Watch a stuffy foreign film about the human condition. Who knows, you might like it.

I mean, you were open-minded enough to give anime a shot, and you liked that.

Editor's Note: This column is being published on January 14th, 2011, exactly 10 years to the day of the very first Answerman column's publication. You can read that first column here and laugh at how silly and 10-years-old it is. My sincerest thanks to Brian, Rebecca Bundy (also known as "Ms. Answerman" for a number of years) and to everyone who's read this column for the last decade.

I probably could've had a Flake prepared for this week, but... I'm not really in the mood to highlight any specific brand of unprovoked hostility. For another day.

For now, though! It's Answerfans! Last week, I wanted all of you to scratch your collective heads in befuddlement and wonder just why in the name of all that is Holy they decided to license that damn thing:

Yves gave a poor unwanted manga a good home:

I am going to have to vote for the manga '888' as the strangest license. I picked up the first volume as I was heading out a convention's dealer room where I saw one of the vendors throwing it out. I asked why and he told me he'd had it five years and even at a $1 price tag no one wanted it. Not very promising, but a free book is a free book. I looked it over and found that not only had I never heard of the manga, I had never heard of the author/artist or even the publisher, DrMaster. A story about a detective agency run by some very odd people, I actually quite enjoyed it, especially the chief who fawned over his tiny dog. It struck me as an odd choice to license, so I thought maybe the artist had a hit work I was unaware of? But no, not only was it the only licensed work by that mangaka, no one had even scanlated anything by her so there is not really an English fanbase at all. Sales were so poor that the English publisher stopped after the first volume and has even removed the series from its online listings, though you can buy a copy for $1 in their store. 888 volume 1 is doomed to sit sadly on the corner of my shelf next to other dropped English licenses like Bow Wow Wata that I will occasionally flip through and be forever wondering not only how they end, but why out of the thousands of manga titles some one thought to invest in these? Apparently a greater mystery than 888's detectives could solve.

The bigger mystery, Kari, would be why ADV dubbed the thing and even filmed bonus features for the DVDs:

I was pretty stunned when ADV licensed the Legend of the Mystical Ninja/Ganbare Goemon anime back in 2004. The game series, while a hit in Japan, was never that popular in the US -- in fact we only got three of the games compared to Japan's tons. Also, the anime was first aired in 1997, so by the time the US got it, it was VERY dated looking. I suppose we got it since that year was in the middle of the bubble, or because it was part of some package deal for some other anime ADV did, but it's always stumped me.

Of course I'm a fan of the series and I bought it and even have my first DVD autographed by some voice actors...

Do not be sorry for Doggy Poo, Kenzichi:

I'm sure there are a lot of absurd anime and manga titles I've seen (and can't name right now), but the one that struck me instantly after reading this answerfans is "Doggy Poo". Actually, I don't think it's absurd, just... something no one would be interested in. It's an animated film about a Doggy Poo that just wanted a friend or a purpose in the world. He (it?) was even willing to become a chicken's baby's breakfast so that he could be useful to somebody.

Now back when I had Comcast and saw this listed in the anime section on On Demand I was like, “Doggy... Poo... Do they mean-?” And when I read the description I laughed at how ridiculous this was. Why in the WORLD would they dub something like this and release it in America!?

I watched it though, but I was laughing too much to take the movie seriously. So what I don't understand is why did it come here? I saw the DVD at Suncoast once in the anime section. I'm sure no one has heard of Doggy Poo unless they saw the title on Comcast and even if someone did pick up it up I don't think they'd buy a DVD with a Doggy Poo on it rather than, say, Bleach or Death Note. Plus it seems like it's for kids anyway (it was based on a children's book actually) so maybe they should have put it in the children's section. Either way, I don't think a lot of people would by a DVD about a Doggy Poo (sorry Doggy Poo).

Damn you Daniel, the retinal scars caused by the torpedo breasts, they still hurt, even a decade later:

I think my best example of "what were they thinking when they licensed this" would be an anime named "Amazing Nurse Nakano". That was the only time I rented an anime and actually had to *force* myself to watch it in order to "get my money's worth."

From the horrible animation (for a fanservice show, Nanako wasn't terribly attractive) to the nonsensical plot. I mean I still to this day cannot understand how they thought a plot that mixed the American military, the Catholic Church and sci-fi was ever going to work. Add to that horrible voice acting in either language and yeah that was a pickup by Geneon with a high "What Were They Thinking?" factor indeed.

Don't worry M.T., I actually liked that show too:

Anyone who has been "tuning in" to ANNCast should know where this is going: Rumiko Takahashi Anthology, anyone? The explanation is self-implicit; it needs no extrapolation.

But really, I'm actually more-or-less a fan of Rumiko and enjoy most things she puts out on some level. I suppose the "general public" (i.e. niche manga readers) isn't as much of a fan of her short stories as I...guess...I am! Or its just super-obscure and not many people in that small market would actually bother with a collection of Rumiko Takahashi one-shots, which are in total contrast to her usual epic-length works like Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2 and what have you. In essence, a super-obscure title for a super-obscure market from a super-obscure foreign author. Power combination!

To conclude that confused and ill-informed attempt at backing an inside joke, I guess this license has already been proven a to be a complete failure and needs little more examination.

Ooh, Alexie has a great "WTF is this I don't even" title that tops ALL OTHERS in terms of mediocrity, obscurity, and pointlessness. Take it away!

Want to know an anime that, realistically speaking, should not exist over here? Princess Rouge: The Legend of the Last Labyrinth.

Some of us remember it as "that trailer on my Magic Knight Rayearth VHS with that one guy with the bike and that chick in the rain, the one that walked through the entire plot and had a catchy theme song." Princess Rouge was a 2-episode OVA released by Media Blasters (or Anime Works, or whatever) back in 2000. The story, as the trailer completely gave away, follows a princess from a magical fairyland who is sent to Earth after her throne is usurped by rampaging beasties and her royal family murdered- only she doesn't remember any of it and is found wandering about by a bland but wholesome Japanese high school student who takes her home and they fall in wuv, until aforementioned rampaging beasties come to Earth to finish what they started and kidnap the princess! Oh no! What will happen? (If you watched the trailer, you know that they escape and everyone lives happily ever after. Thanks, trailer!) Also note: no where in this anime are there any labyrinths, or mentions thereof. The title seems a little confused.

If this sounds just like Sailor Moon, Oh My Goddess! and Don Bluth's Anastasia thrown into a blender to you, then you would be right. In its short two-episode time span, Princess Rouge manages to accomplish nothing unique or even very entertaining, whether in the visuals or the narrative. It's short, it's bland, it's forgettable. The animation is deeply unimpressive as characters stand around moving their mouths, all the while fluctuating between degrees of off-modelness. This cartoon is just not very memorable. So who thought it would be a good idea to make it? Who thought it would be a good idea to release it here? Who were they expecting to buy it!?

Princess Rouge's origins are shrouded in mystery. It was never a popular show; in fact, while Media Blasters gave it a DVD release after its initial VHS run, it never progressed past VHS in Japan. The credits name it as a joint project between Cosmic Ray (a record label) and Japan Narration and Acting School. The OVA, from what I can tell from blinking at Japanese used goods sites, is based on a series of drama CDs made by the Japan Narration and Acting School. The CDs presumably go beyond the OVA's semi-cliffhanger ending and tie up all the loose ends, not that the ending was particularly suspenseful. There is also a character song CD, since 1997 was before we could all just go to YouTube if we really wanted to hear amateur actors try to cover pop songs.

So basically, this two-part OVA is an attempt by some student actors to call attention to their radio show series, which explains why it fails to deliver at all as a cartoon or even a story. But how do we explain the fact that an American licensor picked it up? That I do not know. My guess is that Media Blasters got it as a package deal while licensing Voogie's Angel, another show from the same distributor that nobody cares about. Not that Media Blasters was putting a lot of effort into licensing only the most relevant and accessible of titles back in 2000. (May I point you to Metal Fighter Miku, the Marriage OAV, or Jewel BEM Hunter Lime?)

It's a little astonishing to think about, isn't it? These days Media Blaster is struggling to release even modern classics like Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei and nostalgic icons like Record of Lodoss Wars. Ten years ago, they were picking up no-name OVAs that weren't even produced by anime companies proper! It really gives you an idea of how the industry has changed, doesn't it?

Next time you hear someone complain about how their favorite show isn't licensed yet, why don't you recommend them Princess Rouge? Then be sure to whisper, "THIS got licensed and Rose of Versailles/Bakemonogatari/Creamy Mami/most of Kodocha didn't."

So, those are some of the crummy (generally speaking of course) things that we did get, here in the West. And now, for next week's question, I want to hear about the stuff you so very desperately want:

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 is just about everything I have in store for this week, so don't forget to take a moment or two (or three, even) and whisk some of your questions and concerns and pointed remarks over to my e-mail haven of Answertude, known as answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! See you around!

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