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Hey, Answerman!
A Life in Lists

by Brian Hanson,

Brr! But damn is it freezing out here. Just in case any of you have forgotten, I live in Tucson. Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert, which Wikipedia describes as "one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America." At this moment, a devastating winter storm is spreading its icy tendrils across the midwest and through the western desert; as I type this, it is 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside. I'm sure my northern and midwestern (and Nordic, and Alaskan, and Antarctic) readers are probably rolling their eyes dismissively; let me point out that, much like a sunny day in Seattle or a warm day in Minneapolis, everyone here is freaking out. This flat-out does not happen here. The cold is only mildly more irritating than the confusion such weather causes to the desert populace. We are all staring at the sky like turkeys in a rainstorm; our faith in nature shattered irreparably. It's madness.

Well whatever. It's cold. I have some answers to impart.

Hey Answerman, a question for ya.

I'd like to think that I'm very supportive of this industry, but I don't really buy all that many DVDs. I bought Code Geass, Gurren Lagann, and the like, but that's about it. A handful when compared to the legion of anime I have seen through the years. However I have always been a keen collector for everything cute and awesome. And so I have collected quite a lot of those pricey figurines. Fate/Stay Night, Sora no Otoshimono, Black Rock Shooter, Hyaka Ryuran, et cetera. From the shows I like, I got every single one. (except Distant Avalon... T.T) My question is: does the figurine market help the anime studios/mangaka/and all, and if it does, how much of an impact does it have when compared to DVD sales?

Uh, how much of an "impact"? A huge one.

All those figurines and stuff that you're buying, those are practically the sole reason any of those shows are produced in the first place. It's short of outright impossible to produce an anime series in Japan these days without having a slate of PVC figurines and other collectibles to place on Japanese hobby stores alongside the TV broadcast and DVD sales. That's where the actual, factual profit is to be made on a TV anime series. TV broadcasts are suffering from dwindling ratings and declining ad sales. The margin to be made on a DVD release is constantly threatened by piracy and other digital alternatives. But, if you can produce a limited run of 12,000 figures that cost - and this is just a ballpark generalization - maybe fifteen dollars to produce and sell them exclusively to hardcore fans at an eighty-dollar markup, you're looking at a healthy bottom line at the end of the day.

Not that I'm suggesting you're being ripped off - I'm merely looking at it from a strictly business sense. Nor am I suggesting that shows like Fate/Stay Night are made ENTIRELY to sell figures and other merchandise - that's just silly. It's simply that when any of these properties are pitched out and planned as an animated TV series, you bet your bottom dollar that merchandising is one of the absolute key factors that determines a green light.

You, sir, are the poster child of someone I would like to highlight to the rest of the anime fan community at large: the guy who supports the industry in their own way. Someone who maybe doesn't feel like they need to buy every single thing on DVD, but has found a product produced by this industry that they enjoy and connect with, and then support it with their hard-earned dollars. That's super rad. People get so furiously embroiled in the "fansub debate" that the word "support" seems to lose all meaning. At its core, it simply means paying money for something that you feel is worth it.

This is all provided, of course, that you're not buying shoddy bootlegs instead of legit merchandise. But you seem like a sharp cat, so I'll just take it for granted that you're on the up and up.

At some point in my life, I realized that there exist many anime/video games/movies in the world. Probably too many to go through in a single lifetime. To solve this problem, I assembled a list of all of the games/anime I definitely knew I wanted to play/watch in my lifetime. I then edited this list several times, taking out things here and there, and the list, as it stands, is about 180 hours of anime and 22 games. While I realize that I have the next 80-105 somewhat years of my life to watch/play, it still feels like its too much when I consider the cost of anime (to give an idea, I'm currently a job-less highschool student). I realize that I'll eventually get a job and a house, that eventually FMA will not cost 80 dollars, and that 80 dollars won't seem as high an amount as it is. I don't really have a question, but do you have any advice for anyone else who is thinking of writing a list of priorities that are anime/film/game/whatever related?

I like lists. Lists are fun! That's why I wrote a few Daily Lists for Topless Robot back in the day, why I read whatever silly list the AV Club posts every day, why I comment and "like" lists that my friends post on Facebook. We love arranging and categorizing things. That's why we have Ten Best lists, Ten Worst lists, Ten Best Worst lists, Ten Best Mediocre lists, everything. I myself love to hop on eBay when I'm bored and make a list of rare LPs and obscure/worthless video game systems I will one day own (someday, someday, the 1,200 dollars I will pay to own a Pioneer LaserActive will seem wise and important) and proudly display on the shelves in the home I will own in my list of cities I would enjoy living in.

My "advice," such as it is, is that... well, for one thing, as a high-school student, you're too damn young to worry about something like a Bucket List. Keep an open mind, man. If something cool or unique pops up on the horizon that isn't on your pre-defined list, don't think that you have to add it to the list and check it out later. Just trust your own judgment and let it flow naturally. This is just entertainment, for crying out loud. There are dozens of other things to place on life's Achievement List - visiting another country, earning a college degree, getting into a fistfight with a Nobel Prize-winning chemist - ahead of what anime to watch or video games to play.

Lists are cool and fun and all, but they're not the roadmap to life. Everyone loves making lists and talking about lists, but that's hardly the point of it all. You're young, put that list aside and just watch and play whatever it is that strikes your fancy at the moment. Feel free to return to your list whenever you feel as though you've wasted a significant chunk of your life and need to chart out a course to catch up with the rest of the world. So until you're 27 years old, basically.

Here's a niche problem for ya: you see I live in Japan, and while I'm consequently able to score as much new release anime as I might like, I find that much (and by much I mean *all*) of it is in Japanese! And while my language skills are up to visiting the post office or specifying completely dead squid in restaurants I'm having some trouble with those post-credits parts of Excel Saga. I'd really like to sit back with a dub or sub sometime, but I'm finding it tough (and by tough I mean impossible) to find a streaming service that'll take my yen from inside Japan! I'd be hitting up on-line retailers for DVDs if I had the space to keep them in my shoebox/1LDK apartment (And if my wife let me). I cope currently by renting DVDs and using digital alchemy to merge downloaded sub files, but the methodology is hit and miss, both in terms of quality (it's grievous watching subs where people use "theirs" and "there's" interchangeably) and in terms of the virus exposure. Any suggestions (even if it's 'study Japanese harder') gratefully received. My wife also wishes to be spared from having to explain any more Osaka-ben based jokes.

Uh, yeah. You realize how many people are sitting here in North America and Europe who are staring at their computer screen in anger, seething, yelling at you to "YEAH NO DUH, STUDY JAPANESE HARDER, THIS IS SO NOT A PROBLEM."

So yes. Study Japanese harder. Mainly because the likelihood of Funimation or Crunchyroll allowing their subtitle streams to be viewed in Japan is likely akin to those of the Washington Wizards winning the World Cup. Outside from yourself and perhaps a few others, I doubt that Native English-Speakers Living in Japan Who Aren't Quite as Fluent in Japanese is that large of an untapped market for subtitled anime in Japan.

At the very least, consider this: there could be more Japanese anime on Blu Ray now that contain English subtitles than there may have ever been on DVD with English subs. That has to count for something, right? Right?

No? Okay. You should seriously learn Japanese though, dude. I mean you live there. Come on.

That's right, no Flake this week; this godawful cold weather sucked out what little ounce of hatred I had and froze it instantly. Also, it's too cold for me to draw. Basically I am saying that it is cold and it is difficult to do the things I might normally consider doing. Just in case that wasn't clear already.

Ergo, let's skip effervescently towards this week's cornucopia of Answerfans! Last week's question posed to my readers was this one:

Yes, I was hungry when I wrote that. Anyway. Ahren, take it away!

Lets see as far as fan made stuff goes. I don't know much about manga scanlations as I generally stay away from them, but I have seen a lot of fansubs. From what I've seen with fansubs there are some things that are done better and some that aren't. The fans are able to prepare a fansub episode in as early as 24 hours but the translation isn't always accurate. + speed - Translation quality.

There is one thing I've noticed about fansubs. They rarely forget to provide subtitles for the opening and ending songs. I have seen many anime series released by professional companies where they seem to have completely forgot these subtitles or just didn't bother with it ( Yes I'm talking about you Viz Media ). I always feel that the company is not putting enough effort into its product if they don't provide subtitles for at least the opening and ending. After all if a fansubber can translate an entire episode in only 24 hours then how hard can it be to translate 2 songs. I don't ask for a perfect translation with the lyrics matched to the music, but a basic idea of what the song is about. After all the songs only need to be translated once. Then the subtitles can just be copied. Remember Revolutionary Girl Utena? That series had a new song in practically every episode and Central Park Media still provided subtitles for every single song. That must have been a real headache for the translators. But seriously only 2 songs and not bothering with translating them? Even Inuyasha which was one of viz's popular titles had no subtitles for the songs( at least not in the first dvd release and I usually don't buy rereleases of series I already own official copies of ...unless I plan on giving it out as a prize at my annual Halloween party ). Honestly, if there was some kind of proof that a series had subtitles for the opening and ending on the dvd case then I'd be more likely to buy it. This concern is something that is making me put off on buying the anime Bleach.

Is there some kind of bizzare copyright law that allows a song to be included in an American release of a show, but won't allow for subtitles to translate it? Then again in this world of strict copyright laws you can get in trouble for singing Happy Birthday to someone on tv( at least that's what I heard ).

Some fans add notes that describe certain things in Japanese culture or certain Japanese jokes that don't translate well in english in their fansubs as well. Some of these notes really help me to understand and enjoy the series better. Several Professional companies sometimes have these notes as well. But it was because a fansub had these notes that I was able to understand exactly what was going on in the summer arc of the anime Air. I also own the official American release of Air( and bought it again for a Halloween prize ), but I don't think ADV had notes for their release.

So as far as anime translations made by fans go. They are better for speed at completing the episodes ( though not legally )but professional companies are better for translations. Fans are willing to give that extra bit of effort in translating the songs and adding some notes of cultural trivia, but professional companies don't always feel the need to. However, this is only an issue that seems to bug me and not everybody and it won't stop me from buying dvds.

(JUST SO YOU KNOW AHREN: Most of the time when you don't see a song translated on a DVD, it's because they couldn't, not simply because they were too lazy. Like, they are contractually forbidden from translating them. Yup.)

As for my favorite cake...

Well I have too many favorites (I like sweets almost as much as L from Death Note) so I'll just list one of them. At my Halloween party every year I make a cake I like to call "God's Chocolate Cake". It consists of 2 layers of devil's food cake (bit of a contradictory joke with the cake's name). I fill each layer one at a time with chocolate pudding using a pastry bag. Then I cover the whole thing in a mixture of melted Hershey's Symphony bars (the ones with toffee and almonds) and cream. It may look lumpy but its always a favorite every year.

For Akiko, honorifics are kind of a thing:

First, I think that anime fans are a lot more sensitive to voice quality than most of the big companies. Most anime companies throw in voices because they NEED voices or it won't sell, and they're not thinking about quality. People who are actually attached to the characters from watching all the time take more time in thinking about which voice would be good for what character. For example: In Dynasty Warriors (the game), you can tell that neither the directors nor the actors care about the characters. It's just work. What comes out of this is horrible voice work that you remember forever (“YUAN SHU, YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME!”). In ADV and Funimation works (for the most part), you can tell that the directors have a connection with the characters. Just to note, I can see voices in an image in my head. That's why I'm such a stickler when it comes to matching the voice. I recently watched Soul Eater Vol. 1, and was worried. Although Maka and Death the Kid were on my not-matching list (although close), characters like Liz, Soul and Tsubaki (except for her yelling) hit the mark. In the DVD commentary, you could tell that BOTH the voice actors and director were attached to the show and the characters, giving them the ability to really put themselves in their shoes.

Second, I think fans take translation to the severe. This is speaking for me, at least. Sometimes I watch dubs of anime and turn on the subtitles to see how they did. And then I get mad. Sometimes they just add in dialogue to fill up space (“Sometimes we use the goat! And that's not a euphemism.”) when they could just add a few adjectives or change wording. People who adapt songs from Japanese to English know to do that so the song doesn't go off beat, so you'd think professionals could do the same.

Third (and this is a quick one), the use of honorifics. While many companies remove it altogether (kudos to Del Rey and Yen Press for keeping it), it is an important part of Japanese culture, not to mention to understanding the relationship between characters. Fans understand this, and most all of them include them in their translations.

My favorite kind of cake? …Vanilla cake with a green tea frosting. *DROOL*. Either that, or ice cream King Cake (for Mardi Gras). What kind? ANY KIND, DAMMIT! Perhaps with a side of vengeance.

Almond Torte? That sounds delicious, Forrest:

Oh boy. This one's gonna get someone in trouble.

There was a really fun phase a few years back where the judgment of the quality of a fansub was based almost entirely on the OP/ED karaoke effects. Grammatical errors? No problem. Inconsistent translations? Hilarious bonus. All that really mattered was the karaoke. Things have definitely calmed down in that regard, but I still wax nostalgic for the concept. I really enjoyed being able to follow the somewhat jumpy nature of Japanese lyrics on the first go round. After the initial effort of making the effects, its not it took additional work to do a second time. I guess having a separate guy or even team working on those effects wasn't a great use of fansubber resources… or something… Now, most of the big fansubbers eschew karaoke entirely, opting for stationary transliterations or nothing at all.

Everything else is just taste. I'm a pretty loyal fansub person, in that I tend to find groups that I like and stick with them religiously. They do shows that I'm usually interested in, and they trend toward the minimalistic schools of translation, where a lot of terminology gets left in transliteration or is sometimes explained in footnotes/website comments. One of my favorite things to do is right before the DVD release of a show I watched in fansub format, re-watch the fansub and then compare it to the company translation. The fansubs from my favorite groups tend to ‘sound’ better in my head. I suspect that because they are fans and they like the same things I like, they do a better job of getting those things into a shape that other fans will enjoy.

Some companies do a damned good job too; particularly with complex or hard to access content. Back when ADV released Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, you could turn on translation notes that went a long way to explaining the puns and inside jokes that don't survive literal translation efforts. It was a great DVD feature for reference-heavy shows like Abenobashi and Excel Saga. Del Rey's notes in manga like Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle do the same thing for the manga industry.

On a completely unrelated note, I am very fond of almond torte.

"flowworldend" has a less specific, more esoteric response that I quite enjoy:

It might sound a little weird, but I think fans who work on fansubbing shows do a better job of capturing the comfortable feeling of those shows. When I watch a fan-subbed show, I feel a lot more like I'm seeing something the way it was meant to be shown when it was first created. For example, I watched Katekyo Hitman Reborn! in fansubs for a very, very long time. All the way through its run, in fact. And making the transition to the official Viz-licensed English manga made me realize that it just doesn't feel like what Akira Amano first produced. "Shinuki," which is translated in the fansubs as "dying will," is changed to "deathperation" in the English manga. While "deathperation" may sound a lot more like something an American writer would produce, and something that an American reader would prefer, that's exactly what the problem is. Licensed works tend to cater more to the American audience. But a fansubbed series doesn't do that. They know that their target audience wants to see the show as Japan-y as possible, and as authentically as they can make it.

And it's not just manga. The gap between Japanese and American voice actors is one of the most commonly-cited reasons why someone will prefer the subbed version of a show to its dubbed counterpart. Simply put, the Japanese voice actors make the show feel authentic. They make it feel comfortable. Regardless of how good the English dub is, it's never going to capture the way it felt to hear the characters speak in their native tongue. To emphasize this point even further, just the thought alone that the dub I payed a subscription to watch is helping to fund a corporation feels a lot dirtier than thinking that some loyal fan's hard work and effort (albeit an illegal one) is finally paying off. A dub can be great, and a licensed translation can be loyal. But no matter how close to the source material it gets, it can never be the source material, something that fans seem to get a lot closer to accomplishing.

Also, my favorite cake is pineapple shortcake. Strawberry is way overrated.

Donovan didn't write in with his favorite cake but I'll post his other response anyway, ALBEIT GRIEVOUSLY:

To start things off, I think just about everything that fans do is better than the way that the professional companies go about their business. My foremost thought on this matter is the quality of the subtitles. Although they aren't bad enough to make me want to gouge my eyes out, there are moments when the translation in the subs of an official release make me want to storm into the office of the company who translated it with a half cooked grenade. Fan translations in my opinion are a lot more creative, clean, and accurate while the industry has just been getting lazier and lazier when it comes to quality. I will however say that once upon a time there was a company who did a more than awesome job translating anime. If you have even a small DVD collection of anime then the name ADV Films might not be all that foreign to you. That company, however, was unfortunately shut down in 2009. So until SOMEBODY decides to fill that gaping hole of skilled official translators, my opinion will continue to be set in stone that fan translations these days are definitely better than what the professional companies distribute.

For the grand finale, fansubber seabiscuit has some nits to pick with timing and signs and other ephemera:

I am a fan subber and NOTHING gets under my skin more then half-assed subs. This includes not translating any semi-important Japanese text. this happens A LOT in official releases. For example in Funimation's release of Suzuka, in the bridge scene a bunch of kanji pops up on the screen with the characters' thoughts. If you watch their dub, you will have no clue what those words mean because THEY ARE NOT TRANSLATED. And this happens again in the first episode of Animax's very good (surprisingly) dub of Nodame Cantabile, where in the first scene the narration is done, for the most part, by kanji on the screen. Which is once again NOT TRANSLATED. The point of 95% of English releases is to provide English speakers the same experience that the original audience did.

Crunchyroll is one of the better companies when it comes to this, except for one problem.... They hardly ever get their timing right for their typesetting. I wish I was joking because honestly sometimes I wish I could correct their timing for them. If I had a quarter for every time I saw one of these problems (check out Beast Player Erin for a bit of what I'm talking about) or a poorly timed episode (like Letter Bee 12) then I would have enough for at least a 3 month subscription. The said thing is that this is not that much of an exaggeration. The other major problem I hear from people about them is that they can't encode decently. And this is kinda true, if you compare one of their releases of something and a decent fan sub of that same episode and point in the show you will notice a major difference. If you compare the Crunchyroll release and one of the groups that DIDN'T just steal the Crunchyroll stream, you'll notice the colors are FAR brighter and POP a lot more. Now it should be noted that Crunchy's releases should be only be streamed and therefore they go for different qualities then a downloadable release; however, this does not excuse poor encoding and filters being used. Which brings me to my next point, which was the complete and utter debacle which was the trailers for Gosick and Wandering Son. First the Gosick trailer had NO subtitles, which was rectified a short time latter. However they somehow managed to make the video go 1.5 times faster then it should have. Which required me to send them yet another error report. Then the Wandering Son trailer came out... it cut off half way though the video, there where no subs. So once again I reported it, and the subbed version of the video gets released, the video still cut off half way through... and the video was LIGHT BLUE. And to make the situation even worse it took them DAYS to figure out they needed to re-do the encode, even after they said we know the video is blue and we apologize.

The worst thing is that all of this could have been solved by the simple act of Quality Checking after the encode LIKE UALITY FAN SUB GROUPS DO. In fact that would catch stupid editing problems like the one that appeared in episode 3 of Level E. this does NOT MEAN we shouldn't support Crunchyroll or other official releases, however we do need to tell them when they screw up. One other major problem with Crunchyroll I have is the lack of translations for songs (which due to music rights is understandable) HOWEVER you should ALWAYS have an English translation of a song on the screen (and for non official releases the japanese as well). Most new companies (NIS, Aniplex) do not have a problem with this, however Funimation (who I love) has a major problem with this, since every other episode the Japanese is displayed for the openings and endings. I can understand people wanting the Japanese translation (that is part of the reason fan subs show the romaji for the songs in the opening) however this should NEVER come at the expense of the English subs, which happens far too often. I personally do like karaoke in the opening, however that can be a two sided coin and not everyone does like it. Plus the japanese are not fans of it, so it's best just to call it a place to agree to disagree. However stylized font choices for a series can be a really good thing, rather then the cold, utilitarian, and sometimes ugly font choice chosen by some professionals (stares at S23 and their yellow font). Manga publishers already do it for manga, there is no reason for anime not to do it as well. Speaking of S23 their editing on multiple titles (such as Glass Mask and others) is worse then some speed subs, sometimes. I am not good at grammar, however when I notice multiple problems per episode you need to fire your "professional" editor, because you can get someone to do it for free for and a heck of a lot better. There is one thing that professional companies will always do better then other releases though, that is DVD releases and dubs (which are sadly waning). I bitch and moan, but many times the simulcasts are better than fansubs except in the case of Zakuro and others where either editing or timing or some other factor is really bad. Also they directly support the industry. I hope everyone has a simulcast they love this season, I really wanted to work on Gosick this season, but Crunchyroll has been doing a great job with it, so no need to fan sub it for me at least.

Whew, that was a lot of... airing of grievances, there. But there we are. I am hungry for cake. You want to know my favorite type of cake? The cupcake. The cupcake is perfectly proportioned to have the appropriate level of frosting-to-cake, and comes in handy little paper cups that allow one to hold it with only a minimal amount of cake mess on the hands and shirt. I approve.

And so, next week! I have yet another question beggin' to be brought to your attention, and here it is:

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.

I have little else to say, other than how cold it is and how I'm going to crawl underneath my covers and read a book and drink some hot tea. I should be finished approximately sometime before next week, so make sure you assault my inbox at animenewsnetwork[at]animenewsnetwork.com with all the questions and answerfans answers you can potentially think of! Be back next week!

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