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Hey, Answerman! - Taken to Task

by Brian Hanson,

Tom Hooper for Best Director?!? What the hell, Academy. What the hell. Tom Hooper didn't even win a BAFTA. He's a British guy who didn't even win a BAFTA. Man, fix your s***.

Ahem. Moving along! Welcome to Hey, Answerman! Let's get started, quickly and efficiently-like:

I just wanted to start out by saying that the Berserk manga is great and I appreciate your coverage on it! I recently became a little obsessed with it, and I haven't been able to stop reading it since. I thank Anime News Network for introducing it to me, and you'll forever have my appreciation.

I think this manga has a strong level of character development that is seldom achieved. The story has the ability establish emotional connection with almost any reader, causing heightened experiences of good, great, bad, and terrible times. I know this is a bit out of your jurisdiction, but how would I go about contacting the creator of this story?

I'd like to ask why the progress of the story has reduced so much, and if possible could it be put on the right track? I've seen forums where hundreds of people wait in great anticipation for next chapter and no one ever knows when it will arrive. I feel the pain for the millions of fans out there, and I just want to thank the author for this story and ask him what happened? It truly is a great tale.

Ah, well. That's the thing! Nobody really knows what the deal is with Berserk's publication schedule. Berserk is so popular globally that I'm sure Hakusensha, the publisher, would love to crank out a new volume every month. Unfortunately, Kentaro Miura is such an avowed and notable perfectionist that he's been able to secure himself a lovely little release schedule that other manga artists probably dream about: an irregular publishing schedule. Whenever he's happy with it, Hakusensha publishes it. Which, thus far, has been bi-annually, if that's any comfort.

If it's not, and you'd like to contact Mr. Miura yourself, well... Sure, I guess. I get variants of this question often: "I NEED TO TALK TO THE CREATOR OF DETECTIVE CONAN BECAUSE I HAVE IDEAS WHAT IS HIS EMAIL" and so forth. But you seem like you've got a good head on your shoulders and you sound as though you have some cogent things to say, so I'll at least give you a few hints. There's a few things to keep in mind, though. This sounds obvious, but it's worth pointing out: Miura is a Japanese man who works for a Japanese company. Which means he's probably not all that fluent in English, if at all, and his staff or his publishers probably don't have the time to translate your letter for him. Also, and bear in mind that I'm merely basing this on my own assumptions here, but I doubt that someone of Miura's stature is in the habit of happily accepting unsolicited foreign emails, much less responding to them.

That said! If you're still serious about this, there *are* some steps you can take that will drastically increase your chances of reaching Miura.

1) Don't write an email: Write a letter.

Let's face it, all of us skim or ignore 99.9% of our emails on a daily basis. It's either spam or a chain letter or some nonsense written by somebody you sort of know. Writing an email can take seconds, doesn't need to be proofread or spellchecked, and are usually frivolous. Writing an actual letter, on actual paper, means that you've taken at least some cursory steps at things like grammar, punctuation, spelling, and, most importantly, actual content. If you've taken the time to compose a formal letter, people are generally more intrigued as to what it actually says.

2) Hire a translator.

Well, maybe not necessarily "hire" a translator, but... get it translated, properly translated into Japanese, so that Miura or Hakusensha don't have to do it themselves. And I don't just mean throw your English words into Google and have it spit it back out in Japanese; have it translated and checked by an actual person who is fluent in the language.

Got that? Good. Now, as for the particulars; be prepared to do some actual research, and to pay out the nose to have that letter shipped into a foreign country. Since you'd be asking specifically about Berserk, your best bet would be to address your letter to Hakusensha. I don't know their address and honestly I don't think I know anybody who does, but it should be something you can figure out yourself with a little research and some gumption.

Again, bear in mind that even after all that work, there's never any guarantee that your Berserk letter will ever reach the right people. But at least there's a *much* better chance that your questions or concerns will be heard if you take all the appropriate steps, instead of emailing various Answermen like myself.

I always hear about how important it is to support the industry, so I do what I can by buying any anime I like. The only problem? I'm still a teenager, so money is rather hard to come by. So instead of buying DVD's at full price, I usually go to places like Half Price Books, where I can get DVD's and manga for really cheap.

So my question is, how does this affect the anime industry? How much, if any, support does it give to the company that originally published the item?

How does buying second-hand anime DVDs and manga support the anime industry? It doesn't, plain and simple. The only thing you're supporting there is your local bookstore. Which is nice enough I guess, but the companies and the creators don't see a dime.

It's not ideal in any way, but it's not like you're doing anything illegal. I wouldn't feel ashamed about it if that's what you're concerned about, but make no mistake that it doesn't really support any of the people involved. Hey, at least you're not pirating.

Hey, look at that! A simple answer to a simple question that didn't involve lots of rambling and esoteric references! I still got it.

Dear Answerman,

I have two questions unrelated to each other but regarding two aspects of anime connected to larger blocks of Japanese society.

The first, more trivial one, concerns common Japanese names like Akira. I am a little confused by the use of names like these because even though they appear as often as American names like Steve or Bob, you cannot draw a direct equivalency between them. For instance, Akira is a name used often in Japan, and in Otomo's classic film it is also the name of a character and the title of the film. From an American perspective, the name sounds exotic, so it fits well for a science fiction movie. But when an American tries to put that name into a Japanese context using American norms about names, it might be assumed that calling a science fiction movie like "Akira" would be equivalent to calling an American science fiction film like "Blade Runner" or "Minority Report" Bob. So what exactly is the difference between the use of names in Japan and America?

Like many people who keep up with the news, I also heard about the recent disruption of Japanese whaling ships, which once again reminded me of some disparity I see between the depiction of marine mammals in anime, and how they are treated by the Japanese when they are in the news. I sometimes cannot help comically thinking of certain moments in anime like "Chobits" or the recent "Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance" without imagining what it would be like for the characters to shout, "F*** YOU, DOLPHIN!" in the stereotyped manner from "South Park" or wonder what Hayao Miyazaki or Hideaki Anno (who now apparently has the desire to put an environmental message into a movie about loneliness and giant robots) would think if they saw "The Cove." When Japanese animators create stories with environmental messages, are they ignorant of what happens in their own country, what their government's policies on the subject are, or are they hypocritical, or simply trying to keep their hands out of messy international politics? Also, do you think there is any particular stance or reaction that anime fans should or should not have on these unrelated Japanese issues?

Oh boy. Okay. Your first question:

The thing to keep in mind is that the Japanese language, and I apologize if I'm sounding too obvious here, is a pictorial language, combining symbols and images from centuries of Asian cultures and societies. Japanese names are a combination of these symbols, and so their meanings are, by extension, symbolic. Let's take the name "Akira." According to behindthename.com, "Akira" means "bright" or "clear." Considering that "Akira" in the movie Akira is a supernatural being who transcends human understanding (spoiler alert), I'd say that's a pretty apt name.

Now that my Japanese 101 lesson is over, let's get to that... other question.

The key word you mentioned is "controversial." There are certain elements of environmentalism which are completely un-controversial. Who doesn't want to save the rainforests, stop pollution, and save cute, fuzzy animals like pandas? Everyone, that's who! Except for a few dark souls, at least. And then we get into certain... controversial elements of environmentalism. Should we call it "global warming" or "climate change"? Or do you believe people like Ben Stein who say that the entire thing is a hoax? Eh, well. That's the sort of controversy I like to avoid in my column, because, frankly, it's irrelevant. I'm talking about Japanese anime here.

You see what I did there? I just made a point. And now I'm going to obviously point out that point.

Most anime is entertainment. Evangelion is rife with heady philosophies of all stripes, and that's certainly what makes it unique, but it's still just entertainment. Miyazaki certainly loves to tell his audiences to love and respect nature (and planes, and pigs, and headstrong heroines), but he still makes entertaining movies.

There has certainly been anime in the past that have dealt with controversial topics aside from the usual ones of sex and violence; just look at Isao Takahata's Little Norse Prince - originally the film's lower-class were meant to be a depiction of "Ainu," an indigenous race in Japan and Russia who have been subjugated and discriminated against in Japanese society for centuries. Needless to say that aspect of the film was completely scrubbed out to avoid the sort of controversy that drives people away from paying to see movies. For better or for worse, in my opinion for the better, Japanese creators are probably of the notion that anime is not necessarily the proper forum for tastefully discussing touchy subjects in Japanese culture like, um, dolphin slaughter.

As far as hypocrisy, well. I'm not going to give Miyazaki's movies, with their gorgeously-rendered imagery and huggy-feely lessons about loving nature, the stink-eye just because of a Japanese cultural ritual that the rest of the civilized world finds revolting. Really, I don't see how it's any different than Hollywood cranking out dozens of romantic comedies and dramas every year that extol the virtues of sober-living and marriage, considering Hollywood is a haven for philandering and substance-abuse. For God's sakes, Bob Crane was in Superdad.

So, no, I doubt that Miyazaki or Anno or anybody high in the stratosphere of top-tier anime directors would be ignorant of something as prominently controversial as what was brought to light in "The Cove." Those guys read the newspaper, they read actual books and stuff. They just, wisely I think, wish to disavow themselves from sermonizing on something so obviously polarizing in their medium of escapism and fun.

Hey! No Flake again this time. No worries, I'm not attempting to drop the feature; I'm just waiting for that certain email, the kind of snide and/or idiotic email that truly inspires me. But, hey, here's some Answerfans! Here was last week's question, for old time's sake:

So! Einhorn303 gets things goin' with a lot of acronyms:

My fandom spending habits have changed dramatically over the years, in an upward direction. They can basically be divided into three stages:

1. High School (Adult Swim) - low
2. Early College (4chan) - low to middling
3. Otaku (AnimeOnDVD) - high

The first two were in High School and Early College: my "Adult Swim" and "4chan" phases, in which I barely spent any money on anime and manga. While I spent time on 4chan, I became more interested in moe otaku stuff. My tastes or personality weren't changing, it's just that I was only then learning it existed.

The third stage's dividing point was when Strike Witches was simulcasted, in DRM-free DTO form, by the short-lived BOST TV. Before, I'd always felt like my otaku-ish tastes would forever be under-served by the North American market. "They'll never license the kind of shows *I* like..." I'd say, but this changed my mind. After that, I stopped watching fansubs: to this day I only watch anime through simulcasts and DVD/BD. Seeing long threads about pirating BOST's DRM-free DTO episodes was part of it. But after watching no fansubs for a while, I just learned I enjoyed anime more that way: I only focus on the things I truly enjoy, the things I'll pay for. That leads to a lot more enjoyment than watching every hot airing show of the season, just to hate them and complain about them on a blog.

After that there's all sorts of other milestones...first Blu-ray player, first dakimakura, first imported R2 release (with English subtitles). But my spending has trended dramatically upwards. All thanks to companies recognizing me as an existing customer when I didn't think they ever would.

Patrick's got a massive metaphor to climb if he ever wants his collection on Shelf Life:

I first got into anime about four years ago and I honestly haven't spent much up till now. Its not for lack of watching anime either, I just tried to take advantage of all the free/cheap stuff out there (which I generally do for everything). I used to watch a lot of fansubs but as time has gone on I have cut back on that method, though I admit I do still use them for some currently airing shows that aren't simulcast. The amount of free/cheap stuff out there is pretty massive and is awesome for broke college students, like myself until last year. Simulcasts of new shows; streaming of various licensed stuff on sites like Hulu, Crunchyroll and ANN; inexpensive services like Netflix; and to a lesser extent TV like AS, Syfy and OnDemand have been my bread and butter for a while now. There are signs of change starting to show through. I just bought a new blue-ray version of the original Ghost in the Shell movie, which isn't normally something I would have done in the past (even if it is one of my favorite movies of all time). I don't know whether its because I have a bit more money to spend now, my cold stingy heart is finally warming, or if I'm just being guilt tripped as I see how much some other fans spend. That said, I still don't see my spending increasing enough to have my collection pictured on Shelf Life any time soon.

Can't you feel both good and weird, Susan? Can't you?

This question is dead on perfect, as it's something I was pondering at the convention I went to last weekend.... the convention I left having not bought one single thing.

Once upon a time when I was a teenager I bought everything...and I mean EVERYTHING...that I saw that related to anime. I'd buy stuff for shows I'd never even seen. While I was briefly living in Scotland I bought a bunch of anime related stuff I found at some obscure store because anime simply did not really exist yet in the UK and I thought it was novel. I probably could have died in an avalanche of the pure amount of crap I owned. I still own more anime keychains then I have keys or anything else I could attach them to. My first ever convention was Otakon, and I about died when I saw their almost Walmart sized dealer room and I know I dropped entirely more money then I ever should have on things I in no way needed.

I'm not sure if it's that I grew up and somewhat lost interest, or if it's that I just now realize there's much better things to spend money on, or even just that I have less in the way of disposable income and bills to pay... but I don't do that anymore. I guess there's only so many plastic figures collecting dust one person needs in their life. Over the years I've given away most of what I used to have. At the convention last weekend I saw a few things I thought were neat, but as I was staring into the face of a 20 dollar plushie I just couldn't justify spending that kind of money on something that had absolutely no practical purpose. It felt weird coming out of that convention without a single bag... but in a weird way it also felt kind of good.

Don't feel disgusting, April, you're among friends here:

As an anime fan since my yonder years in middle school-ish (I don't really consider myself an anime fan before I knew what anime was, but I did love Cardcaptors, Tenchi, Sailor Moon, Yu Yu Hakusho and all that jazz back in the day) my habits have definitely changed tenfold. I used to be an avid DVD collector, before I even knew what manga was I was lusting to own my own DVDs... took a while before I did though. My first DVD I bought was in 6th grade, the Ah! My Goddess movie, and after that I was totally hooked. I spent most of my years after that collecting DVDs, and soon after I started collecting manga as well. I pretty much grabbed whatever scraps I could find with my babysitting money back then.

But over the years, it's changed a lot. I still love to get DVDs, but I rarely buy single discs anymore and go for the box set releases unless it's something Im crazy over. But most often now, I'm a figure and character goods collector.

I started collecting figures in late middle school to early high school, I covet my favorite characters' 3-D likenesses all the time, and though I rarely get the chance to import them, I keep up on what's out there. When I visited Akihabara I drooled all over the many figure stores and even played those UFO catcher games for a Mugi (of K-ON! fame) figure. I was horribly delighted to find the hole-in-the-wall shops around the corner from big businesses and get a load of out of package figures for mega-discounts. (400¥ Maria Ushiromiya figure, anyone?)

However, I'm afraid I've become one of those disgusting 'otaku' everyone frowns upon. Yes, I collect character dakimakura (hug pillows for anyone who doesn't know the term). Since I'm a girl it's slightly less horrible in the eyes of society, but I love to snuggle up between Haruhi (Suzumiya) and C.C. (Geass) each night. So back on track, I'd say my spending habits have changed drastically. I'm much more inclined to spend $50 on a figure than a DVD nowadays, and I'm horrifically prone to dropping cash on pillow cases.

Andy's anime intake is strictly regulated:

I became a fan back in my freshman year of college. Back then I would watch a few fansubbed shows, maybe one or two on Cartoon Network. My Sophomore year I started buying DVD's. The whole year I maybe bought 5-10 titles including Slayers, Love Hina and Ranma 1/2. The next year I bought a few more titles. Starting my Senior year I began scouring the "Used" section at Suncoast and the dealer's room at anime conventions for unusual titles. I became the go-to guy among my friends for amusing titles good and bad.

Five years later I'm an established working adult and now all of my disposable income goes to new releases and hunting down obscure older titles. Each weekday I watch 1 episode of anime with breakfast, 2-3 while exercising and 2 with dinner. On weekends I watch OVA's and movies. My collection has grown enormously over the past 7 years. I'm practically a library now. In addition to spending so much time watching anime, I'm now going back through my collection and choosing unique titles to blog about. I started the blog this year, making 4 posts a month. So now I spend extra time each night reviewing titles, taking screen shots and preparing summaries. So all of my extra time and money go into anime. I really enjoy sharing some of my favorite titles with friends and internet strangers.

Putting a capper on all this, Rednal tells us that this aggression will not stand:

On the whole, my spending habits have remained mostly the same from when I first started collecting, though admittedly it took me a few years to start buying actual anime series. First of all, when I started, there were fewer box sets and more individual DVD's... and there were also VHS tapes. Much smaller selection than now, see. My spending habits simply absorbed the fact that anime had started to come out, because on the whole, what I really do is purchase the things I want to read or watch. It's Entertainment, after all, and how much something will entertain me is one of the deciding factors for whether I'll get it or not. Also, for the most part, I stick with a series until the end, which is why the choice to start a series or not is a very serious one for me, since long-running manga can end up being a considerable investment. I, uh, don't buy the super-long anime series like Naruto or Bleach, so that's a manga-only problem. Slayers is the closest I'll get, five seasons and counting. I do manage to acquire most of the things I really want to watch, though, or have on DVD if I've already seen them. So I have a semi-decent collection of anime, and a manga collection counted easiest by the hundreds of volumes, most of which I'll watch or read again at some point. Another factor.

I do think I spend a little more now than I have before, but primarily because there's simply more stuff I want. So it isn't really that my habits have changed, just what I indulge that habit with. Though, Kara no Kyoukai is still a bit out of my price range... *Sigh* Even as a fan, there are some things I cannot do.

And that's all I've got for this week's Answerfans, but surcease! I do have another question for that ever-impending next time:

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.

And that's a wrap! Thanks again for turning your browsers to my personal little bit of webspace, and remember to drop off an email or two to answerman((at))animenewsnetwork.com with any questions or comments or concerns or bizarre conspiracy theories! See you around, everyone!

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