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Hey, Answerman!
Insurmountable Chaos

by Brian Hanson,

Well hello. This is Answerman. It is a thing.

So, last week I got a question from a guy in Japan who was struggling with the language barrier and region locks when it came to his enjoyment of anime. Turns out, as things often do, that Mr. Gaijin was not alone in his plight, and I got this nice little response from Kenisama:

Hey Answerman,

This isn't so much a question as it is a response to a previous questioner about watching anime in Japan. I currently live in Okinawa, Japan myself and was running into the same issue (though I am taking Japanese classes). I understand the licensing issues and such with the streaming sites and although Funimation does block all viewing to countries outside the US and Canada, I found that Crunchyroll and even a few titles here on ANN do stream to Japan. This could be due to the fact that I'm on a US military installation, but either way, my IP address still list me as being in Japan. I hope this can help out one of your readers (potentially more), seeing that I had the same issue here in the "Land of the Rising Sun."

Plus, I've found the subtitles have help me in adding to my vocabulary ^__^

See? Your problem, as it turns out, is NOT so unique. And now, onto the actual questions!

Hey Answerman, I have a question about US manga prices. Why are they increasing while the size of manga volumes is staying the same or even going down? In particular it seems that Yen Press is the most noticeable of the publishers, K-ON! cost over $10 per volume and is very thin compared to Viz or Tokyopop releases. Is manga not selling well anymore? Is it because of the recession? Is manga becoming more expensive to license? With most consumers of manga being adolescents and early twenty year-olds, and most of the buyers being 20-somethings with not a lot of money (me included) the little increases add up over time. I ask this also knowing that US comic book companies have kept the price of their products low and have color on higher quality paper. It just is weird to me that manga is only affected and not everything else.

Ah, well. US comic prices are "low"? I'd like to know which comics you're reading, because most (if not all) of US graphic novels and trades will run you anywhere from 15 to 20 dollars for a softcover, 25 to 30 for a hardcover. All of which contain about a whopping 100 or so pages.

As to the why of this seemingly "sudden" increase: yes, manga isn't selling as well as it once did anymore. Because of the recession? Sure, I guess. Nearly everything isn't selling as well anymore, and that's certainly the most obvious culprit. Is manga more expensive to license these days? Not really. On a case-by-case basis, most manga costs about the same to license today in 2011 as it did in years past. There's been some fluctuation in that though as big Japanese publishers like Kodansha have launched their own US imprints, but it's nothing terribly exciting.

You hit on something though that's a pretty definitive reason why manga sales have slowed somewhat: manga consumers are adolescents and 20-somethings. Now, dissect that demographic information with the fact that manga publishers have gone on record stating that scanlations and piracy have severely hurt their overall sales. See what I'm getting at?

The prime demographics for manga buyers (teenagers, 20-somethings) just so happens to fall neatly within the prime demographics for piracy of all stripes. With sluggish sales, a price bump in a few bucks per volume is about what these publishers need to return their investment. It's just natural. When movie attendance goes down, movie ticket prices go up. Notice that downloading a new single on iTunes will now cost you $1.29 a song, instead of the previous .99 cents. Concerts, plays, everything; when the audience starts shrinking, even slightly, it's time to bump up the price and cross your fingers.

In other words, manga is hardly the only thing that's been affected on this issue. With any luck, manga prices will stop fluctuating like they are now and settle at something reasonable again. Hopefully.

Well then Mr. Hanson, I know how much you like your moral gray areas so I thought I'd put forward a little quandary for you to ponder in your little Tucson head (I mention Tucson as I assume you'd appreciate its acknowledgment, as you mention it like.. every week. Seriously, you may as well be sponsored by the place...)

Now, living in England I feel that, while we may not get the full range of international entertainment access options as America (streaming sites, DVD releases etc.), we are not so terribly underrepresented, especially with the increased release of subtitled (Region 2) Japanese DVDs recently. However, I was reflecting today, as I sometimes do, on the 'plight' of the smaller regions, the out-of-the-way countries who don't have the same ease of access and flowing fountains of entertainment, digital or otherwise as we are relatively privileged with. In regards to this, what are your thoughts on the use of IP shields to access otherwise region locked content? I mean this concerning content that, despite the rise of multinational sites like Crunchyroll, will remain pretty much consistently unavailable for this proportion of the prospective audience.

I am aware that companies limit the distribution for a reason, and opening the region locks completely would simply not be a practical business decision, but do you think it represents a viable (if still, at base, illegal and ultimately pretty impractical) alternative to fansubs and pirating, since it is not fueling the (similarly) illegal sites/sources? Do you think the fact that there would be more views registered, however negligible in terms of numbers, may be a good thing, or would it simply be a way of invalidating the numbers to some degree and thus causing INSURMOUNTABLE CHAOS??

I obviously don't expect a firm answer on the subject, but figured it might make for a decent alternative to the usual rip site/fan subs discussion.

Hey, in my defense, I've only mentioned Tucson twice lately; once during the time about a month or so ago when Tucson suddenly and tragically became international headlines, and again when it was so f***ing cold outside that it seemed like international news. But I'm sorry. I will take what little local pride I have and tuck it away in a box somewhere so that you will no longer be inconvenienced slightly. Yes.

Oh, hey, you have a question too. Sure.

Concerning my fellow English-speaking anime fans abroad in nations far beyond the reaches of North America and Europe, would I rather they watch streams using IP-cloaking trickery than resort to piracy? Absolutely.

Of course I would much prefer some sort of way where we could do away with all this junk like region-locks and distribution ordeals so that anyone who speaks English could legally purchase or watch a product intended for English-speakers without the need for such hassles, but there I go with my crazy hippie-socialist rhetoric again. If I had to turn a blind eye to one dubious tactic in order for a foreign-bound anime fan to get their subtitled anime fix, then yes, IP shields are the way to go. It certainly seems less harmful than a bittorrent download or a bootleg, sure. Of course the ideal method in that case would be for everyone to simply import their DVDs or Blu Rays or manga volumes from legitimate sources, but yes yes I understand that shipping fees are a bitch and it takes a long time and everything else, yes.

As far as the potential ramifications of this... there really isn't one. One way or the other. And that's sort of the problem, from a business perspective. What little advertising streaming sites have is completely inapplicable to people living overseas. No, it's not enough to cause MASS PANIC AND HYSTERIA but it's certainly not going to help anyone either, extra page views notwithstanding.

It's a question that sadly has no real positive answer. That market certainly exists, but from a business perspective it's a difficult and costly proposition, so they are of course being either underserved or completely ignored. My heart goes out. You see that? Up there, in the sky? That's my heart. It's going out, to all of you.

Dear Answerman,

I have a question about out-of-print anime. Is it at all possible to bring it back? Is it like out-of-print soda where only if you have every single person in the market wanting the item, they won't even THINK about bringing it back? I am asking because alot of my favorite "oldschool" anime like Zoids, Card Captor Sakura, and Fushigi Yugi aren't available anymore or are available but only if I sell my soul to some weird collector creeper who lives in his mom's basement. I know one person asking a company won't get me a series box set of each, but I'm not sure what else I could do. Please help!

Of course it's possible to bring back. Just look at Funimation's product page, it's chock full of titles rescued from the depths of Out-of-Print purgatory. Full Metal Panic!, Black Lagoon, FLCL, too many others to list.

But! You'll notice that most of those "license rescues" are very popular shows that were buried when the companies that previously owned them (or particular contracts within those companies) collapsed (Geneon, ADV, CPM, Synch-Point). It's rare that a title that goes OOP through the natural course of a DVD's life-cycle is picked up some years later for a shiny new re-release.

Just look at last week's Answerfans, where everyone wrote in fiery passion to have their favorite title valiantly rescued from the plight of OOP-ness. Hell, I personally will give whoever license-rescues Paranoia Agent and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and puts them on a DVD boxset one-hundred American dollars. (Probably.)

In other words, yes. Unless it's a title that has been a proven seller in years past with a lot of cache remaining in the anime community, you're looking at scrounging Amazon Marketplace for "Fine - Like New" copies setting you back at least 40 bucks. Not to fret though, as some of the titles you've mentioned - Card Captor Sakura and Fushigi Yuugi - are certainly amongst those kinds of titles. And Christ, whoever the brave fool is who manages to sort through the tangled legal nightmare that is Toei and Sailor Moon and is somehow able to bring that show back to the English speaking world on DVD will make out with a fortune.

And sadly, that's the other part of this complicated issue - many times, these OOP titles are owned by stingy Japanese license-holders, demanding a King's Ransom for the licensing rights. Because of course they got screwed over when the show was a hit in the US ten years ago, so they can double the cost of it in 2011!!!

This is just another one of those crappy things about this industry, and it's not anybody's fault in particular. We're a niche market, and oftentimes in niche markets, re-releasing Out-of-Print merchandise is simply not viable.

So, in case you haven't noticed, the Flakes I tend to get fall into a few specific categories:
1) Spam
2) Asking how to get in touch "with Japan" to have Gosho Aoyama produce their TOTALLY AWESOME idea for a manga 3) Asking how to download or stream something from an illegal site.

This week! Somebody forwarded me their first issue of their independently-produced comic book: "Genecy." The guy who wrote it wanted me to review it.

...meh, whatever. I was curious, so I looked at it, and it's not bad. I mean it's painfully derivative (the author even admits that in his conspicuous email: "Genecy is like Conan becoming the Silver Surfer after being a slave on Apokolips. With that being the case, he's very brutal. So I guess a blurb could be, 'Conan Meets the Silver Surfer!' LOL") but I've seen far, far worse amateur comic books.

(I know, I know. The planet "Apokalips"???? Anyway.)

Far be it from me to openly mock people's independently-minded creative endeavors. I support that stuff. No, what really makes this Flake-worthy is, well... Here's how he tried to sell me on reviewing this thing:

I wanted to come out with a character that had a broken mind due to a cruel history and reveal the necessary steps to take in order to be fixed. What difficulties would that type of character have to go through? What type of influences should replace the present ones? What considerations have to be offered in order for one to redefine their view of reason … of function and purpose? Again, I want to reveal what a broken character has to go through in order to become what they should have been. Starting with the second issue, there will be 8 page story-shorts (these stories will be drawn by various artists) to give everyone an understanding as to what's already happened. The main character had a very brutal upbringing. Think of “Roots” and “Schindler's List” all jammed into one, building the main character's history. These 8 page snippets will explain why Genecy is the way that his is presently. Ugh!



God... damn it.

Ah, there it is: That sweet, sweet Answerfans banner. That, innocuously enough, infers that it is time for Answerfans. Last week I posed a potent question:

PmChivas almost begins the week with a Forrest Gump reference and then wisely moves away from it:

I wrote in last time about my inability to find time to watch the anime I have accumulated or watch some of the big name anime that everyone has seen (Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist) and I believe this week's question is right on the money. I prefer to watch my older titles in my anime collection.

I've been an anime fan for about 19 years and because of my longevity I have amassed a pretty nice collection. A collection in which, I spend most of my time revisiting older titles that I've watched and enjoyed. For example, I recently purchased Aquarion and while watching it I couldn't help but feel it was the bastard love-child of RahXephon and Neon Genesis Evangelion. And after thinking that, I decided to watch both of them again just to see if there were anymore similarities. Therefore, I once again abandoned my new titles in search of the old.

Also, I think aside from the elusive time factor, is that with newer series (especially ones you haven't seen) you don't know what you're going to get. They are the mysterious box of chocolates you receive on Valentine's Day, sure you're grateful for the box of chocolate, but you can't help be a little suspicious about what's contained in those pretty decorated chocolates. While on the other hand, with series you've watched and enjoyed you know what kind of chocolate you're getting and it's gonna be tasty.

So that's why these days I more often than not find myself enjoying previously viewed anime like Sailor Moon, Twelve Kingdoms, Saiyuki, and yes, with the help of my still functioning VCR shows like Akazukin Cha Cha.

As for manga/manwha, I don't have as much as some other people (I think!) but even in this area I do find myself re-reading favorite titles like Please Save My Earth and King of Hell.

I think I do the same thing Camille does every other year, and BY THE WAY THAT IS NOT AT ALL A GUILTY PLEASURE, it is a masterpiece and you are wrong for thinking so:

Hello answerman! To answer your question for this week, I usually re-watch my favorite anime of all time, The Vision of Escaflowne, once a year during the summer. Why the summertime? Well, throughout the year I am either too busy with classes or work to really re-watch anything. During the summer I make sure to set aside one weekend to marathon all 26 episodes without any interruptions, and then finish it off with the movie. It's slightly embarrassing and definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, but it's also like I revert into a hermit of some sort. As for watching new anime, I can't even remember the "newest" anime title I last saw. I have to be the laziest and/or most oblivious anime fan out there.The only new title I've heard about recently was that Panty and Stocking show, and that was word of mouth from my sister. It's not because it's a popular show (or so I've been told) that I haven't seen it, but because I don't have that much free time to watch it. So to say the least, I am most definitely not up to date with anything, besides Escaflowne, which has been out for more than ten years.

Play it again, Sam:

I re-watch stuff pretty often, actually. I'll try out news stuff (how do I know if I like it or not if I don't?), but I'll always got back to the classics I loved in my youth. In particular, I watch my fave episodes or scenes of Dragon Ball whenever I get a chance (I never get tired of Yamcha getting that accidental head-butt to the groin) and like to reread my old manga volumes of One Piece when I have the time. If I hear enough good things about a new series I'll give it a shot, but the classics were big, lucrative, standard-setting hits for a reason.

Jonelle's nostalgia senses, tingling:

This is what I do! More often than not I am re-watching or re-reading a favorite anime or manga. Something in real life might trigger a memory of the series and cause me to go back to it. Other times I am working on a craft or school project and want something entertaining yet familiar on in the background. If I am reading a new series, I am often re-reading an old favorite at the same time. When I get the last book in a series, I will go back to the first book to read the entire storyline from the beginning. When I do not have anything new to enjoy, it is fun to look over my collection and choose something I have not seen in years. It brings back feelings and memories of what was happening in my life when it was first watched or read. Sometimes I enjoy a series even more the second or third time around. I love my collection! :-)

Jay maintains an even keel:

Although I've never been one to read much manga, I watch anime every day. Honestly, I'm not really sure exactly how often I re-watch my anime. However, I will say that over the years I have re-watched most of the anime I have seen multiple times. I know for sure that I have seen all of Slayers, Magic Knight Rayearth, Trigun, Outlaw Star, Ranma 1/2, Tenchi Muyo!, and many, MANY more at least three or four times each. As far as staying current, only recently have I started keeping up with new releases. I normally wouldn't watch an anime unless I could get the entire series. Mainly, because there's nothing worse then when your watching a great anime, and they leave you hanging...WAITING...for that next episode. For what it matters, I admit that I watch a lot of fan-sub streaming anime. However, I also own (not exaggerating) hundreds of DVDs, many of which I would not have purchased had I not been able to watch the anime first. Well, that's my 2 cents. I hope you find it interesting.

Emma likes her brother's cheesecake, which by the way is not a euphemism:

In regards to the Question of the Week, if it gives you any idea of my habits, I'm in the middle of watching Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star while reading JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Ah, memories. I guess I cling to my old favorites because I'm attached to the characters and I know they're guaranteed to entertain, whereas much of the new anime I watch just doesn't satisfy for one reason or another. (Most of anime, like most of any medium, is mediocre. The stellar titles that define any art are few and far between, so I'm statistically unlikely to run into something phenomenal when I randomly tackle a new anime.) To my credit, I just tried Princess Jellyfish and Panty and Stocking and enjoyed them, but that just means that in another couple of years, I'll be rewatching them as old favorites. I acquire new anime in my personal canon pretty slowly.

Oh, and I know you didn't ask for it this week, but my favorite cake is my brother's homemade cheesecake.

Tiffany makes a good case for the fun rerun-athon that is cable television:

Though I don't usually reread manga, I would definitely say I love re-watching some of my favorite anime series every now and then. Its easy if its a show that actually comes on TV because I have no idea how many times I've probably watched Cowboy Bebop since its an Adult Swim favorite. For the rest though its simply too time consuming to just sit down and watch an old series when catching up on a new great series feels more productive of my time. There always seems to be so many shows out there I want to see but haven't yet but there are two main reasons I find myself lost in anime nostalgia. The first would be when introducing a series to one of my friends. I've re-watched an entire favorite series just to enjoy sharing it with someone else. For my younger cousin, who right away thought cosplay was cool and wanted to know more about anime, I knew I couldn't go wrong with Sailor Moon and through the magic of my english dubbed vhs tapes of old, a new fan was born. What little girl wouldn't love Sailor Moon? The other time is right before a con when I love putting on dvds while I'm busy sewing, whether for references or just to watch them again, and the night before I often bring a dvd to watch with my friends to get us all into the mood. It always makes me love a series that much more when I find myself still smiling at all the best parts no matter how many times I've seen it before.

I hope PingSoni hasn't re-played the newest Star Ocean game, because yuck:

Most of the time when I watch anime (series or movie) I am re-watching something I know I like, and something for which there is not a good manga or novel version. I do purchase likely new series and eventually sample them, hoping to add a new gem to my rotation, though honestly I am more likely to track down or import something older that I know more about through reviews, web pages and music. (Music can make or break a purchase decision for me; I always buy/import OSTs for my favorite anime and games and listen to them. I'm listening to the Madlax OSTs right now, though I find the anime a bit tiresome to re-watch because of all the repetition.)

My behavior is similar with video games. I usually re-play from a small set of Final Fantasy and Star Ocean games, even though I have a line-up of new games to play that I hope to like.

With manga, though I also reread series I like, I do not hesitate to buy and read new work by creators I like. In that sense I find manga to be much more predictable than anime. If I know the mangaka and where the work was serialized, I can make a very good prediction as to whether I will like the work. Anime is so often a group effort, constrained by budgets and market, that whether something new is good and to my liking is very much a roll of the dice; expensive and time-consuming dice.

Part of why I behave as I do is my personality; I tend to go for comfort and depth over new and potentially upsetting in all things. The other reason is that looking back on say, twenty-five years of anime and manga, unless the percentage of great work is increasing, most of the available great work is always from the past.

Perhaps as an older person I have more tolerance, even affection, for older styles and technologies. I dunno. But I'll take something done with 80's or 90's methods that has a great story and characters over the latest whiz-bang bleeding-edge tour-de-force with no heart any day of the week.

Castle of Cagliostro is my sick-day anime, Katherine:

My current work schedule leaves me a lot of free time to watch anime; so, in addition to the new series that I get to watch, there is plenty of time for rewatching. I do however have what I call "sick day anime" that I can set to play on days when I don't feel so great. Mushi-Shi is one of my favorites for this and so I watch it at least three or four times a year. Lately, the three runs of Nodame are added to this list; once or twice a month I'll skip whatever new show was on the stack to rewatch Chiaki et al. I am also re-watching Eyesheild 21 thanks to Cruchyroll's hosting. If there's a segment of my viewing that is given over to rewatching rather than forging ahead, it would be the anime that I watch with my husband. Most of what he watches are shows that I've already seen or shows that he is watching much much slower than I (he's in the 20's on Bleach, where as I watch the new episode each week).

Capping it off for the week, Elliot gives us his list of re-watchable favorites:

First off...I'd like to start with a small list.

Air, Kanon, Spice and Wolf, Yozakua Quartet, Soul Eater, Simoun, Afro Samurai: Resurrection, Bamboo Blade, The Skull Man, Toradora!, Blade of the Immortal, xxxHOLiC, Claymore, Sengoku Basara, Corpse Princess, Genshiken 2, Tweeny Witches (hate the name, like the show...), Ghost Hunt, SaiKano, Haruhi Suzumiya Season 2, Stratos 4, Someday's Dreamers, Ai Yori Aoshi, Otogi Zoshi, El Hazard (Magnificent World, Alternate World, and Wanderers), Miami Guns, Shrine of the Morning Mist, Happy Lesson, Rah Xephon, Aquarion, Noein, Gunbuster, Record of Lodoss War, Real Bout High School, Irresponsible Captain Taylor OVA, Mars Daybreak, Witch Hunter Robin, Kaze no Stigma, My Otome, AD Police, Flag, Boogiepop Phantom, Rurouni Kenshin, Burn Up Excess, Burst Angel, and Gene Shaft.

You know...when I write it out...makes me realize that I spend a LOT of time rewatching stuff...and for anyone counting...48 is the magic number here. I own 48 different series' that I haven't fully watched (or in some cases, even begun to...). That said, I watch a decent amount of stuff per week. I have a few buddy's that are also into anime, as most fans tend to, and we all buy out stuff and have fairly impressive collections (mine is the largest of anyone I know, but I have been doing this for like...10 freakin years...)

That said, I watch a decent amount of stuff per week. But even then, I have so many things I don't watch because...well...there are some shows that I just absolutely adore.

My (likely) biggest or most reoccurring offender is Azumanga Daioh. Hands down, I watch this show more than any other, bar none. Despite my 6 feet and 1 inch tall of extra manliness and facial hair, I absolutely love this show. It never fails to make me laugh, no matter how many times I've seen these jokes. I find the cast adorable, and I love the style and humor that it exudes.

Another, is Aria. My super girliest of girly shows that no one else I know likes because they get bored. And I can't deny it. But I love the setting, and the feel good atmosphere. Maybe it's because I work in a kitchen where there is extreme heat, cold, bad language, and lots of shouting. It's a good step away from all of that. Plus, I love character development, plot be damned if need be, and there's a lot of lovable characters here.

And there are others. Romantic comedy's seem to be my biggest thing overall, but I like a wide variety of shows, and I try to always be open to even the worst of plot devices. That said, I rewatch a lot of things. Hell, I have a decent sized movie binder than barely gets any love. Most of the movies in there I bought and haven't watched cause they pretty much sit on the back of the list, AFTER all the anime.

So yeah, I frequently rewatch old stuff over actually getting around to watching my newer things. Kinda sad really, but I really do enjoy some of my older titles a lot. And to me, they're pretty hard to beat. But as long as new and interesting shows come out, I'll do my everything to pick them up and watch them eventually. It may take me a few days, it might take me a year...but I'll get around to it. After all, it's what I love.

Aw. We all just love loving stuff. So! On that tender note, here is next week's 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.

Okay! That wraps everything up, so I am officially gone for the next seven days! Until then, don't forget to drop by my internet mailbox located at answerman((at))animenewsnetwork.com, and keep sending me the goods! See ya!

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