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Hey, Answerman! - Futile Devices

by Brian Hanson,

Salutations internet! It's been about a week, so you know what that means: time to dig through the massive trough of spam and email to dig up the nuggets of question-y joy that I, as the resident Answerman, specialize in.

It seems to me Funimation's mass lawsuit amounts to a terrorist attack on fansubs. But if Funimation really wanted to stop fansubs why don't they just come out and ask people to stop downloading fansubs? I don't recall any campaign like that. It would treat people with the intelligence and respect they deserve. Only a few years ago, before streaming became common, it was generally acceptable (although not necessarily legal) to download fansubs. They need to simply and clearly ask people to stop. Granted it wouldn't stop the problem but it would have a much greater effect than trying to pull a massive scare campaign. It's public perception and attitudes that need to change and coming across as a villain isn't going to do that.

Uh, haven't they been doing that? Hasn't Funimation been very forthright and genial up until now about this issue? It's not as though they haven't been grinning and bearing it for the past year or so as they watched their lucrative and legally complicated simulcasting deal get undermined by streamrippers on a weekly basis. Notice how much it accomplished: Nothing. You can play on people's sympathy and urge them to do the right thing until you're blue in the mouth; this is the internet, where strings of zeros and ones seem to have no intrinsic value to the people who claim to love these things, and so they see no real issue with circumventing the law. These "fansubs" are hurting them, and they are hurting their relationship with Toei. So, instead of trying to just be nice, they pulled a Dick Move.

That being said, this is still a Dick Move. Collectively singling out a few thousand people out of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who illegally download One Piece every week isn't exactly the most positive action to take, strictly from a PR perspective. I can't exactly laud Funimation for doing what amounts to an action the RIAA would've taken circa 2005, but I certainly can't exactly blame them for going that far either. Following both the letter and the spirit of the law, Funimation is protecting their copyrighted material, and they are absolutely allowed to do that.

And as far as I know, the only time when fansubs were ever considered "acceptable" by the anime industry would probably be in the 90's - when fansubs came on VHS tapes and anime companies were able to turn a blind eye to them because they were either A) titles that would never turn a profit in the US anyway and B) tended to serve as a litmus test to see which titles might one day become successful, since high-speed internet hadn't made anime available around the world on day one. For the past decade, fansubs have been seen as a hindrence at best, and outright piracy at worst - something that the industry had no choice but to attempt to ignore, since nobody could come up with a profitable alternative.

Now, though? We have Crunchyroll, simulcasting, iTunes, Blu Rays, tons of legal options, many of which are either free or cost a pittance, that people here in the US can use instead of torrenting a video file that requires a bunch of lousy video codecs. And this is freakin' ONE PIECE. This isn't some obscure title that'll never be released anywhere outside of Japan. This is one of the biggest anime titles in the entire world, that has been licensed by Funimation for years, who have been doing their best with it, all things considered. And before you shout OTHER REGIONS OTHER REGIONS, explain why it is we have 5 or 6 different groups all fansubbing the same show that's being simulcast legally with English subs in English. One streamrip would "provide" that totally illegal "service" for the poor masses who don't live in a place where the show is available legally and apparently have a God-given right to animated entertainment product that must not be impeded by any law. But that's a sham - this isn't merely about providing for those who speak English but don't live in America, it's a ridiculous e-penis war born from an internet culture that has become absolutely toxic for content creators and distributors. It's become a sport to see who can be the fastest to completely undermine the potential profitability of entertainment product from Japan.

Now, that little rant aside, I, personally, am not vehemently anti-fansub. I think the culture has gotten totally out of hand and it's impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, but I was an anime fan in the late 90's; I am not a fundamentalist on the issue and recognize the role they've played in the growth of anime in America. And even today, there is so much anime that gets released in Japan that could never be released in English or other languages. It's impossible. But One Piece? Naruto? Bleach? Seriously? I don't care that Funimation or Viz doesn't translate the attack names the "correct" way that you "like," and you feel like you need to resort to fansubs for that. You get no sympathy from me. Deal with it.

This is a Dick Move, though. At the end of the day, I doubt it will accomplish much, other than getting fansub kids all riled up and thinking that the 2011 Police State will round them into prison camps and harvest their organs for fun and profit. Instead of trying to be "nice," Funimation decided to do something about it. Whatever. Hopefully Funimation themselves will eventually be able to issue an official statement on the matter with some actual details about why they went about this the way that we did, but until then, it's all just wild speculation and over-exaggerated pogrom.

Ahoy Answerman!

Somebody I know recently wrote a piece of fan mail via blog to a Tokusatsu actor that they admire. It has been a week since they sent they sent the message, and they are getting discouraged about ever getting a response. I tried to reassure them that the actor is likely busy and has not been able to write back. It then occurred to me that this was the first time I had heard of an American fan attempting to correspond (in English no less) with a Japanese actor. I understand that typically American actors will give you at least a form letter response to a message, but am unsure if the same happens from Japanese actors.

TL;DR How often do Japanese actors respond to foreign fan mail or messages on blogs? Is there a cultural divide in that tendency, or should I continue to assure my friend their response is coming?

Japanese actors respond to foreign fanmail about as often as I'm sure Brad Pitt responds to his French internet fan club: not often, I'd wager.

You're absolutely right - it's because they're busy. It's one thing to take maybe 15 minutes out of your day to shoot an email to somebody who speaks your own language; but to get somebody fluent in both languages to translate both the original message and your response? I'm a busy guy, and I do my best to respond to personal messages as often as possible. But if somebody wrote to me in Portuguese? Yikes. Don't know if I'll have the time for that. (Not that I'm equating my limited internet popularity to even the tiniest of Japanese TV stars. Trust me, I know my place in the Totem Pole of Popularity. It works for me.)

Even though it might be unlikely, I wouldn't be so quick to crush your friend's dream of corresponding with his favorite Tokusatsu superstar. As unlikely as it is, who's to say the actor in question might not find the time in his busy schedule to show his thanks? I mean, if Shigeru Miyamoto can find the time to sign some guy's US copy of Star Fox, you never know.

Why there are so few CGI anime films (or series), opposed to American animated films which are nowadays mainly CGI?

That's pretty simple. Traditional hand-drawn animation, in the US, stopped making money. Home on the Range was Disney's last hand-drawn animated film for years, only earning about half of its large production budget domestically. The Incredibles, released that same year, made over 250 million dollars in the US alone. The studios that bankroll animated features simply followed the trail of money, deciding (incorrectly) that audiences were "bored" with hand-drawn animation, and CG films were it.

That didn't happen in Japan. Studio Ghibli's movies make money year after year. There's a new hand-drawn Detective Conan movie or Shin-Chan movie or One Piece movie that all end up in the list of highest-grossing films released domestically in Japan. The audiences never got "tired" of them, and so they kept making them. Since there was never that perceived shift in public taste, studios never felt the urge to make the expenditure to create and train a studio to create CG animation in Japan en masse. They can just keep cranking out hand-drawn Detective Conan movies until the end of time.

That's not to say there aren't any CG animation studios in Japan. There are lots, actually. Most of which don't do TV series or films, which is why they aren't necessarily talked about or well-known. They do things like TV commercials, video game cutscenes, or special effects for live-action films. Occassionally those studios will get ambitious and attempt something grander - which is how we end up with stuff like Cat Shit One or Appleseed or, God help us, Vexille - but the majority of Japan's animation output still sticks to the time-honored tradition of hand-drawn art.

So, today I don't exactly have a "flake" per se, but... one of the more time-consuming aspects of writing this thing every week, I've come to realize, is wading through the MASSIVE amounts of spam that comes from having an email proudly displayed on a public, high-traffic website, spam that manages to slip through even the mightiest of spam filters. It lead to circumstances not entirely like this:

Alright, alright! It's that weekly ritual that I have of shutting up for a damn minute and allowing you, my fine readers, to sound off on subjects that I pose to crowd. Last week, despite an obvious CMS snafu that I shamefully admit to, the question didn't appear for a little while. But! I still had a few good responses. Last week's question was:

Brenden kicks off this week's festivities thusly:

Thinking about this week's question has made me realize how difficult to tell who, if anyone, actually does have the license to a show these days - I almost wrote in naming Haibane Renmei before a friend reminded me that Funimation picked it up last summer (the market could use a few more copies of discs 3 and 4, though the limited release of Japan's Blu-Ray box is not a particularly promising development for stateside fans). While it would be nice to see a company show some love to NieA_7, Dai-Guard, or Kino's Journey, those shows and most of the other good leftovers that haven't been rescued do seem to still be readily available (in fact, some others that I enjoy, like Wild Cardz, Alien 9, or Munto 2, can be had rather inexpensively). I do think I see one show that's still hanging in the cracks, though, and one of my absolute favorites at that, so I'll come out and say that (if they in fact haven't done it yet) Funimation needs to get it together and pick up Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, because, DANG. I don't understand why they didn't pick it up with the first one - as a direct sequel that manages to step up all of the action and drama that made the original great, and is now conspicuously rare, it seems like a no-brainer. I'm in the market for a copy of both shows myself, and Funi could take a vacuum to my wallet if they managed to bring back "Raging Heart" (I file "Raising Heart" under Nice Tries along with with "Arucard").

Jennifer has been reading Justin Sevakis' mind:

I'm not sure if this counts as a "rescue" when it's been OOP as long as this has, but #1 on my re-license wishlist is Video Girl Ai.

It's a title that's right up there with Ah! My Goddess and Tenchi Muyo in the pantheon of classic 1990's OVA's, yet the only DVD release I've seen seems to be from fairly early in the format's lifespan, before the industry really got into gear with concepts like technical quality and worthwhile dubs. I think the series has aged well, despite the whole "VCR" thing. It still has a lot of charm, and Ai's 'tsundere' tendencies seem like a good match with current trends. It's definitely a title that deserves another go-round on the U.S. market.

Katy goes right for an obvious choice and then throws in a curveball:

I would actually like to see two titles rescued, only one of which is just so embarrassing and unlikely that it will never happen.

Fushigi Yuugi was my "gateway anime". Despite being a fan of the series for a good eight years now, I never purchased the box sets. They were too expensive and I never had access to a credit card until Genon went out of business and they were sold out everywhere. It was painful, tragically painful. Yet, I still have hope for this elusive series. Maybe Viz will be adventurous and pick it up; they released the viz big editions of the series recently. Or maybe funimation will step up to the plate and package it into a slim, inexpensive, fragile box. Whichever the case, I can wait another eight years to see it in a new box or cave in and buy the whole series for +$200 on ebay.

But for my all time guilty pleasure, I have a greater chance of seeing a Micheal Jackson concert live than seeing this be re-released.

Saint Seiya. I have no idea why I like this show, let alone lust after it like an animal in heat. I was crushed when ADV didn't even release the full sanctuary arc and then I was devastated when I found out Toei cancelled their license. Oh sure, they released it again in a different box, but it flopped (both in sales and ADV itself) and it still ended at episode 60. I know if I ever want to see this show from start to finish I have to learn French, Spanish, or Japanese. Saint Seiya was never successful in North America and never will be. I know that, the six other fans know that, and sadly, the industry knows that. They're not going to release (or even finish) a series they know will just be a waste of their money. It's a miracle that Viz bothered to release all 28 volumes, but I know the anime will never be continued on this side of the world. On the flip side, I'll learn how to say "Pegasus Meteor Fist" in French.

I actually had a few yelps of support for this particular title, so take it away, Catherine:

I'm a younger fan, so Tokyo Mew Mew (or Mew Mew Power, as they called it) was my "gateway" anime, and it holds a very special place in my heart. While I thought anime was pretty cool, and I drew crappy pictures in the style, I didn't actually collect any volumes or DVDs or anything until my friend introduced me to both the manga and the butchered 4kids version of the show. As a 15-year-old, I look back on the dub with contempt, but the 9-or-10-year-old me thought, "Wooow! This is the coolest thing I have ever seen!" So I bought every volume of the manga. By the time I finished collecting it, I was old enough to realize how awful the dub was, so I watched the Japanese version online (back then, I didn't really understand why piracy was so bad). It's nowhere close to being a masterpiece, but I still have this deep love for it, and an unexplainable desire to have uncut Mew Mew DVDs sitting proudly on my shelf. If it ever got rescued, I think I'd cry sparkling shoujo tears of joy and pre-order it the moment I was able.

And to cap things off, Alex pulls out the answer that everyone else was thinking:

I'll cut right to the chase - shoujo anime masterpieces Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura had received some pretty decent DVD rereleases courtesy of Geneon back in the day, with multiple seasons of Sailor Moon including an uncensored subtitle track as well as the original Japanese audio option along with the nasally, off-kilter-yet-nostalgic Toonami-era English dub while the beautiful full-series release of CCS abandoned the horrendous English "Cardcaptors" dub altogether. You couldn't find them everywhere, but if you walked into an F.Y.E. or a particularly generous Best Buy, you were likely to come across some collection-worthy pieces of either series sitting on the shelf. Then, of course, Geneon had its infamous crash and the DVDs went terribly scarce, skyrocketing in price on those few internet shops that still held them. With FUNimation picking up handfuls of Geneon and ADV properties, I felt like it was only a matter of time before Sailor Moon and/or CCS (which, incidentally, definitely both seem like series that fit incredibly well with FUNimation's style of programming) would see a shiny new issue - maybe even stellar new dubs - but, alas and alack, there's only been silence periodically punctuated by rumors that lead nowhere. This, more than anything, do I want: new FUNimation licenses (and hopefully new dubs à la Dragon Ball Z) for both series so that having Sakura's adventures all to oneself will no longer require either $300 or eighteen separate shipping charges and that Sailor Moon boxsets will again be at all available to the hordes of adoring, impatient fans - and give us the Sailor Stars arc, while you're at it.

And so! Next week's question is below. As you can tell, I was a little bit hungry when I wrote it. Please bear that in mind.

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's all, that's all! Thanks again to everyone who wrote in, either questionizing or answerfyin', and remember that YOU TOO can be part of the fun if you send in something that fits either descriptor to Answerman(at!!!)Animenewsnetwork.com! Have an impactful week, everyone!

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