Hey, Answerman! - Questions and Altruismby Brian Hanson,
Oh, man. What a week.
I was sick last week, and unfortunately I learned the hard way that being glued to your computer screen to receive up-to-the-minute information on one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent years is not a good and healthy way to overcome an illness.
In the wake of such a disaster, in some ways, it seems a little silly to devote this much time and energy to something as disposable as entertainment. Or at least, that was my thought. This is a disaster that has claimed lives and wreaked untold amounts of damage and brought one of the most developed and influential nations in the world to a halt. And here I am, worried about anime.
But! Then, I was quickly and powerfully reminded that even though we are all anime fans - and we have arguments and opinions and rivalries and all that - we are all still people. And people, more often than not, will do the right thing. And they have. Nary a second later, anime and manga fans of all stripes and sizes were donating to worthy causes. They were united.
So it's in that spirit that I'm starting up my Answerman column again as per usual. And of course, if you haven't already done so, take a peek at some of the things you yourself can do to help. Because even though we're in another side of the world, most of us at least, there are other live human beings who make a living producing all these things that we clamor for and discuss in fervor.
Now let's get to those questions you had for me.
Okay, this has long been a serious pet peeve of mine, and I was just wondering if you could help shed some light on this for me. First, a bit of context; I was at a friend's place and he was telling me how good the Black Butler English dub by Funimation is, and that I should watch it. I asked "isn't one of the main male characters voiced by a female VA?" and he said "yeah, but you don't even notice". So I said fine, and we proceed to watch the first episode. Low and behold, all I think every time that kid speaks is how UNBELIEVABLE this is to me because a teenaged male character is voiced by a female VA! Now, I understand that a pre-pubescent male voice does indeed sound like that of a girl, but come on! He is 12 years old! Not 10, but 12!
Now (which brings me to my actual question), I noticed a trend here, because it seems to be that if the original Japanese cast had a female voicing a lead male characters role, then the English version follows suit. But can you please tell me why this is the case? Because seriously, I couldn't even make it halfway through the first episode because of that, and while I get that this may be more the custom in Japan, why does Funimation have to follow suit? I know that all companies don't have to follow suit, or I am guessing at least given the case of Hitsugaya on Bleach being voiced by a female in Japanese but by a male in English, so what gives?
Well, first of all, let me quash the notion that you have that English studios are somehow contractually obligated to use the same gender of voice actor in their casting decisions. Like you said, they hired an actual dude for Hitsugaya on Bleach. Edward Elric on Fullmetal Alchemist is voiced by the definitely female Romi Park in Japanese, and voiced by the definitely male Vic Mignogna in English. That settles that.
No, the reason that a female voice came out of the lead character's mouth in Black Butler is because... whoever directed the dubbing at Funimation just thought that she sounded the best for the character.
There's never any sort of magic science when it comes to casting, especially for voice actors. The directors listen to a bunch of auditions and pick the best one. It might be that they all had certain ideas for the character's voice before they started auditions - a certain tonality, perhaps, or maybe an accent - but it never comes down to "let's just have a girl do this voice because that's how they did it in Japan."
If the explanation of "that's just how the director thought the character should sound, sorry" isn't filled with enough unprovable conspiracy theories, then how about this one! Oftentimes the Japanese producers will want to have a say in the casting of certain English dubs, and when that happens, those choices can sometimes be... questionable. Look at 4Kids' One Piece dub for an instance of that.
In reality, though, directors really just choose the right actors to fit the right voice in order to sound the most natural for the characters. Unfortunately that's not always the sort of thing that everybody can agree upon.
My question is about anime adaptions of manga/light novels/whatever. How do animations studios decide what series to adapt? Lets take Studio Bones - they adapted the shojo manga Ouran High School Host Club, and a few years later worked on Soul Eater. Different genre, different magazine. Heck, Ouran itself seems to be pretty different than most of the series Bones has worked on.
So how are series selected? Do they get to pick and choose, are they hired, or does some higher-up just say 'You're gonna work on this now'?
Yeah, for the most part, animation studios are "hired," in a sense. When it comes to adaptations, there's always a "Production Committee" of some sort that bankrolls the project - usually it's split between representatives from the TV networks, the publishing house that produced the original material, and the animation studio.
The purpose of being an animation "studio" is that you're never completely "defined" by one particular genre. Toei Animation is best known for Dragon Ball and One Piece and other Shonen Jump properties, sure; but they've also done Captain Harlock, Xenosaga, Kanon, and countless other things. Studio Pierrot has done Bleach and Naruto, but they did hundreds of episodes of Urusei Yatsura, Emma, and they're currently in charge of Doraemon. If you're an animation studio and you're only capable of producing one specific kind of thing, well - unless you can finance your own projects (like Studio Ghibli), or you're in charge of one specific property that will keep you in business forever (like Sunrise with Gundam), you're out of luck.
Bones is no different. There is no "house style" in most animation studios, and they would honestly prefer it that way. Bones was hired to work on Ouran for a variety of reasons, most likely; there probably was a good relationship between them and Hakusensha, the publisher. Maybe Nippon Television was eager to get in bed with Bones after Fullmetal Alchemist was a huge success. Or maybe it's all just as simple as something like, at the time they were shopping around for a studio to produce the show, Bones was the only place with an open schedule.
There's no specific science to it, other than the producers thought that Bones would be a good fit for the property and Bones was eager to do it. Simple as that.
I'm writing to ask if you know much about just what things (may) prevent some new anime in Japan from not being accessible to the West via legal streaming, and the reasoning to those means of prevention. As many fans have seen in recent anime seasons, companies have increasingly become more open to making their shows accessible to western markets via legal and subbed streams. Crunchyroll now has a steady lineup of shows from each new anime "season" in Japan, Funimation is doing simulcasts of already-licensed shows, and ANN itself has recently entered the fray this past year.
However, I don't really keep up with actually watching many new anime per season or year, and so far the only "new" show that I've been expressing an active interest in, as recently as two weeks ago, is Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Encouraging viewers to come in for the splendidly unique visuals, and then pushing them to stay for both more of those visuals and an actually interesting story (those that have watched from episode 3 on know what I'm talking about here), the series has appeared to solidified itself among the community as one of the truly best new anime of Winter 2011. But sadly, as I discovered when I started Puella Magica, there weren't any legal subs out there for it. Sure, there are already a few fansub groups on the series, which I've gone on to follow, but I feel that I would personally be more comfortable if I could watch a legal stream, for both "industry support" and how its simply an "official translation." This is especially the case when I see some the differences in the translation among the different groups, leading to occasionally very different interpretations of the same line.
Sure, it's not the only show left out of the legal-stream-lineup, but I'm having a hard time understanding of why this one, at least, isn't being given legal streams, whereas shows like Dragon Crisis! and Cardfight!! Vanguard are.
This is one of those things that will likely remain unknown, sadly; Aniplex and MBS are likely to keep the secret as to why they didn't allow Puella to be simulcast with them to their dark, cold graves.
But, taking on the more general question of "why are most shows simulcast nowadays and some still aren't," there's a few clues. Rarely at all is it about the content itself - simulcasters like Crunchyroll aren't looking to add only the best of the best to their lineup, because they'll just as happily show mind-numbing pieces of mediocrity like Cardfight!! Vanguard. Nor is it about concern for controversy or somesuch - Freezing is being shown roughly day-and-date and that's about as risque as a TV anime can get.
It's all about rights issues. Complicated, stupid rights issues. Even though we all love simulcasting and streaming (well, most of us anyway), it's still a pretty new method of content delivery, and nobody's really figured out the best way to squeeze the most money out of any specific title as of yet. Even though it seems like a no-brainer in 2011 to simulcast a new TV anime series, most of the bigger anime producers are still a little bit... wary of the concept. There's the obvious concern of piracy, certainly. There's the concern that once the streams have hit the internet for free, that devalues the title should they decide to release a DVD. (Ludicrous, I know, but it's a still-permeating fear.) And then there's other concerns, like... presentation, cost, et cetera. Even making a simulcast isn't cheap, and it certainly takes time. Perhaps time and money that the studio simply doesn't have.
Whatever the reason, the simple answer is... if Aniplex wanted to make Puella available as a simulcast, it would've been simulcasted. It's an edgy magical girl show with huge fan buzz, directed by Otaku-favorite Shinbo. Sounds like a hit to me. But maybe they want it on DVD, or they want to release it themselves, or anything else.
I guess that's the theme of this week - things are chosen because they just were by the people involved, and the people involved are usually not the types to explain the why part.
So! I really want to get ahead to next week's Answerfans question because this is one of those times were I'm really aching to hear your stories, but before I do that, I do have some of your responses to the question I asked a fortnight ago!
We start with Matthew. And I agree, Monster In My Pocket should never be remade, even though the NES game ruled:
Wow what a question.
As someone who is closer to 40 then 30 I grew up watching a LOT of 80's cartoons and I can think of a few that SHOULD get an anime Makeover.
1) SilverHawks. Cyborgs. Space battles. Crazy Villians. Need I say more?
2) M.A.S.K. Iron man type good and bad guys beating each other up! With super transforming vehicles!
3) Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. Crazy mix and match vehicles saving the universe from Intergalactic weeds! Plus the original never had an ending.... Written by J.M.S!
4) Galaxy High School. Aliens! Teen Angst! Pizza! Original by Chris Colombus!
5) Captain Power and the World of Tomorrow. Interactive video and toys.....
While most of these were little more than 1/2 hour commercials to sell toys, they did have a number of interesting plots and thought provoking ideas.
A few that should NEVER get a makeover?
My Little Pony.
Oh, Patrick, your idea is closer to real than you probably imagined:
Although it's pre-80s, I would be curious as to what an anime version of The Flintstones would be like. In fact there's plenty of western cartoons that could be interesting if done as anime. Can you imagine what a modern Hong Kong Phooey would be like?
It's hard to pick much on animation from the 80s and 90s simply because so much of it was anime so one already has an idea of what it would be like. And even much of the stuff that wasn't anime was done with a fair amount of quality. They would be able to do a more sophisticated story today but I don't think it would look all that different. And the 80s and 90s did see a fair amount of material coming from quality studios like Disney.
As for live action, I know Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation would be obvious choices but I would be more interested in seeing what they might do with Knight Rider or Quantum Leap.
Props to Greg for choosing The Dark Crystal over Labyrinth, the superior choice (THERE I SAID IT):
The Dark Crystal. Jim Henson's masterwork would be perfect for the right team to adapt into a season-long TV anime. It's got everything. An otherworldly, ancient setting with wildly imaginative landscapes and equally inventive creatures inhabiting them. Main protagonists constantly on the run from a genocidal campaign waged by evil power-mad monsters. The more colorful characters from the movie, such Aughra, Chamberlain and the Mystics, didn't really get the screen time to develop that a longer-form anime series could give them. My only contention would be that the character designs not deviate too much from Brian Froud's source material. (Jen and Kira sort of look like anime characters anyway, with their large eyes and stylized mouths.) Were I to hand-pick a director, I'd grab Kenji Kamiyama to give The Dark Crystal the big-budget Moribito treatment. Kawajiri might be interesting as well, though I suspect he'd add a little too much testosterone for its source material. That's what I'd go for.
David gives mad ups to Carl Macek:
The one show from the 80's I would want to get a new anime of would be...Robotech. Yes, I realize that's already technically an anime (or rather, three). What I propose, though, is a modern and unified animation. I have always been impressed with Harmony Gold's effort to expand what is essentially the Super Dimension Fortress Macross story across three generations, especially in keeping the quality of writing going across the whole series, when it was just a Saturday-morning cartoon. But it would be really nice to have a more...mature telling of the story. I mean, most of the surface of the Earth was so devastated that Rick flying around years later and finding a small field of flowers was something significant, and yet we never really get too deep into the significance of that.
I know you weren't asking for this necessarily, but here is what I would want, aside from the above:
1: Minmei should be a bit older. It's one thing for Rick, a teenager himself, to go after her. It's quite another thing, before she's an idol or anything, to have grown men, soldiers, to hit on a fifteen-year-old.
2: No stock footage. That is really my main complaint with the show as-is, especially in the Macross Saga - it's almost always the same exact scene over and over again of Valkyries and Battle Pods getting blown up. In a series with as much mech fighting as Robotech stock footage is terribly distracting, and really takes a person out of the story.
3: Robotech really needs a unified design theme throughout the series. We go from three-stage transforming F-14's, to transforming tanks, to motorcycles that become suits of armor (there is a transforming fighter, though). This is fine, but there is nothing to connect them together...because they originally weren't connected. With a pure Robotech anime, this shouldn't be an issue.
I would keep the story as-is, just with more emphasis on the atmosphere of everything that's going on. Yes, the story is silly, but that's part of the charm.
I would vote for DuckTales, but Laurence would vote for:
I hope you don't mind me just barely falling outside of the time window you proposed, but a cartoon that aired in 1990 - 1991 that I think would be a smash if turned into an anime would be Disney's TailSpin. It had great characters that wouldn't need to be tinkered with to be at home in an anime series, managed to have a historical level of tech (around the 1930's) while still having some fantastical devices (Kit Cloudkicker's cloud surfing disc), and the art deco style would look great in the hands of today's animation experts. I think the original lacked only one thing, something that most American cartoons of the time did: A storyline that was more evolved than the adventure-of-the-day, where things that happened one week weren't conveniently forgotten come the next episode. I'd love to see what kind of machinations Shere Khan could put together given the chance to use the patience and confidence he always seemed to exude, or what kind of raids and plans Don Karnage would be able to assemble. With its setting, action, characters, and even some romance, I would gladly shell out some money for a anime TailSpin.
ZERO_ninja brings up Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors again, which is probably more times that show has been mentioned since 1987:
Hmm, a chance to to talk up Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors... not gonna miss this! So may be clear by now, my choice is one of my favourite 80s shows, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. One of those many shows from the 80s based on a toy line, though this was one of the few toy lines that weren't given any background story for the packaging, allowing the writers of the cartoon freedom to as inventive with the story and characters as they liked.
One of these writers was J. Michael Straczynski who has gone on to do several other amazing shows and stories, such as Babylon 5, one of the most acclaimed runs on Amazing Spider-Man comics, as well as one of the best runs on Thor comics, among others.
Getting back to the show itself, it was a sci fi show with the main characters, the Lightning League, travelling across space trying to find the father of the main character, Jayce, while fighting off the plant-vehicle villains the Monster Minds. Like most 80s cartoons the series had no resolution, however, Strazynski had scripted an entire feature film for the series that would have been produced if the toy sales had been successful enough. The film script resolved the main plot of the series, wrapped up some of the character development and saw the villains defeated.
Unfortunately the toys weren't as successful as Mattel wanted so production for the film never really began. If I could have my pick of any cartoon to be revived it would be Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors with huge budget traditionally animated film based on the Strazynski script. Sadly I think chances of that ever happening for such a cult show that can't even make enough DVD sales for the current rights holders to justify releasing the second half of the series are substantially less than none.
Laura is outrageous, truly truly truly:
If there was any series from my childhood that I'd love to have remade into a series or movie from the 80s or 90s, there's one that I'd pick over any other series.
That series is Jem and the Holograms. It's my favourite cartoon ever and trumps some of my favourite anime series merely based on some of the lessons that it taught me as a child. It taught me that smoking and doing drugs were bad decisions to make in your life. It taught me that with enough determination and force of will, you could do anything that you set your mind to. It showed me that through a love of music, so many different messages could be conveyed to the masses. For a series that only had approximately 70 episodes, it had such a huge impact on my life and I would gladly show it to my child when I felt that they were old enough to handle it.
There aren't many cartoon shows these days that are willing to deal with tough issues. Captain Planet for example, deal with polution problems and offered solutions on how to combat them. Jem and the Holograms dealt with other issues ranging from drug use to finding a character's long lost father. I strongly feel that a lot of kids today would benefit from having a show that could teach them important life lessons. By having these issues animated and presented in a way that's easy to relate to, anything is possible.
In all honesty, Zeynep, I dig the short version, and I would probably prefer it:
I had written you a long and thoughtful essay about why I think She-Ra would be a great anime but then my computer crashed and the e-mail got deleted. Here is the short version.
Girls with magical powers and transformations, running around in short skirts. Mechanical, magical, and mutant villains that live in a giant mecha city. Males as plot devices instead of characters. Magic and sci-fi. An anime similiar format (continuing and connected plot-lines, a themed soundtrack, etc.) And most of all tons of heart.
Lastly! Don't toy with me, Manny, BECAUSE THAT WILL NEVER EVER HAPPEN AND YOU KNOW IT, so why even bring it up, huh, WHY:
What relic would I choose to be made into an anime? Easy, Calvin and Hobbes directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli. It's the perfect setting for a coming of age story that would be beautifully animated through the eyes of Miyazaki. Best animated picture ever.
That takes care of the requisite quota of nostalgia for the month - onward to what I want to hear from you guys next week:
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 I've got this time, so remember to drop off any potential questions and Answerfans responses to answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Happy belated St. Patty's Day, too! Because I had to mention that somewhere in here, too. Bye!
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