Hey, Answerman!- Anime World Order Edition

by Daryl Surat,

The feed has been interrupted. The brain functions of the one called Brian Hanson have been stun-locked upon excessive contemplation of the Epimenides Paradox. The entropy induced by April Fool's Day means that this week's Hey, Answerman! is hereby taken over by me, Daryl Surat of the Anime World Order podcast and Otaku USA Magazine. If you don't know who I am, just ask fellow Otaku USA contributors/ANN columnists David Cabrera, Erin Finnegan, Jason Thompson, and Mike Toole! That fearsome foursome will all say the same thing: they love me, I'm MUCH better than “Cats,” and they're going to read me again and again.

But enough about me; there are questions to be answered and I wield the Power of Answerman! Power without perception is spiritually useless and of no true value. Fortunately, I PERCEIVE ALL that is sent in via email:

I have a younger brother who is about 2 years old. When he gets older, I want to show him some of the anime that I watched as a child, to see if he'll follow in my footsteps, so to speak. Other than the obvious, and what I watched as a kid (Digimon.... That's it. And Yu-Gi-Oh, but no one likes to talk about that little spawn of 4Kids and Lucifer), are there any really good or "classic" childrens anime I should keep my eye out for in the years to come?

Raise that kid right: show him Fist of the North Star! Hey, it worked for the rest of the world! It's not as much a joke as you'd think; the original anime and manga of that WAS actually meant for children, just as most of what modern kung-fu scientists classify as “MANime” was. That people genuinely thought “boy, this would be great to give to an 8 year-old child!” is what was TRULY groundbreaking about Violence Jack and Devilman! To think that most kids now don't know about Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner, and the rest of the original Looney Tunes because THOSE are now considered “too violent” by parents…

But I do understand your sentiment. Subjecting one's younger siblings or children to the same entertainment that captivated our own youths is quite common. Just try not to hit them too hard when they inevitably say they don't like the original Star Wars movies as much as the prequels or what have you and you should be okay! Actually, since you describe yourself as having watched Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh! “as a kid,” then YOU were a kid when The Phantom Menace came out! But despite your presumed affinity for Jar-Jar Binks and the very real possibility that you listen to Justin Bieber of your own free will, you're in luck. As it turns out, much of the finest anime ever produced are indeed children's works! For the sake of your kid brother, I'll stick to titles that can be finished in under two hours, have been released on Region 1 DVD, and were dubbed into English. But once he can read a bit, it's your DUTY to show that kid the 30-minute Grendizer, Getter Robo G, and Great Mazinger crossover movie where they fight the sea monster, got it?

Junkers Come Here
is a critically-acclaimed yet criminally overlooked kid's movie about a middle school girl and her talking Schnauzer named Junkers—pronounced “yoon-kers” per the hilarious cover—who has the power to grant wishes. It deals with some things you might not usually see in traditional “family” films—namely, divorce—but kids can handle this stuff just fine. Also worth noting, some of the classic Toei children's films of the 1960s and 1970s are available courtesy of

Discotek Media: Puss in Boots, Animal Treasure Island, and Taro the Dragon Boy. All three of these films are more reminiscent of classic Walt Disney Animation that most modern-day anime, but they hold up quite well and are entertaining to children and adults alike. On that note, it almost goes without saying that the works of Studio Ghibli are near the top of the “anime for all audiences” echelon. It'd probably be better to hold off on the Isao Takahata films until he's a bit older, though. Or in the case of Only Yesterday, a LOT older!

Just be careful with My Neighbor Totoro. Kids that are too young will be TERRIFIED of that guy.


I do wish we'd get more children's Japanese cartoons, classic or otherwise, released in the US that didn't run 100+ episodes or wasn't a movie version of a franchise property. Got any others that can be acquired without needing to be Mike Toole or Justin Sevakis? Let's hear ‘em! I get the feeling that I'm forgetting something REALLY obvious.

I don't know if this is the right place to ask for advice but I thought I'd give it a shot.  I'm going to my first anime convention soon and I was wondering if you could give me some pointers.  I'm really new to this and don't quite know what to expect.  I was wondering things like:  Which day(s) are the best to go on?  Are there any things that I should be certain not to miss (and on the flip side - anything a newbie might want to avoid)?  Are most people dressed in cosplay and will I stand out if I'm not?  Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!

My primary bit of advice would be “don't act like you're posting on the Internet, only in person,” but I imagine you'll see everyone else doing this and follow suit. (Please don't. Pretty please?)

Wandering the halls, you'll see what you'd expect to see when a lot of kids for whom anime is just one of their many interests are enclosed in a confined area away from their parents for the better part of three days. Expect lots of Internet catchphrase shouting along with varying degrees of hallway congestion, typically caused by people taking photographs or waiting in lines for particularly popular attractions. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on your feet. In the later hours you're apt to encounter people there just to attend the requisite nightly rave put on by the convention for the sake of congregating and expending the energy from would-be vandals. You will easily be able to spot them thanks to their predilections towards mesh and their carrying of glowsticks which they in all likelihood bought at the convention itself!

That's just in the hallways, though. Inside the event rooms there are things going on for you to watch or listen to, often while sitting down! You most likely won't be able to do or see every event that you want to due to time constraints and overlapping events. So take a pen, get a copy of the schedule, and highlight the events you want to see. Hopefully, the convention guide will have helpful descriptions of the events to assist you in doing this. Note: getting someone's autograph might take a few hours, as you often have to line up BEFORE their designated signing session. Saturday is typically the most attended day for a convention and so most “major” events occur then. Every day, leave time to at least get lunch and/or dinner. Drink water, take multivitamins, and wash your hands more often than normal to avoid getting sick. Bathe at least once a day; more if you plan on dancing. Don't wear the same clothes all weekend. Yes, some people do this, most noticeably people that only have one costume.

But contrary to nearly every single anime convention report that is posted on the Internet, you will NOT stand out if you don't wear a costume to an anime convention because most convention attendees—get this—AREN'T ACTUALLY IN COSTUME! This misconception isn't your fault. It's so commonly held thanks to decades of convention report coverage suggesting as much. There are plenty of people in costumes, sure, but I've been going to anime conventions for 13 years and have never once worn a costume. It isn't out of the ordinary. I don't ever intend to cosplay, despite the Ruinous Powers of Cosplay Chaos plotting to put me in an Anthy Himemiya dress. Why it's never Dios is beyond me; I imagine they just want an excuse to slap me around! Want to really stand out at an anime convention? Wear a suit and tie. THAT is out of the ordinary.

What events to see or avoid is completely subjective and is dependent upon what/who is present at each convention, so I can't answer it for you…but the answer is “Anime Hell and/or whatever panels I'M doing if I'm there.” Next stop: Anime Boston, April 22-24, where I'll be Mike Toole's sidekick at the aforementioned Anime Hell, and then on the solo side I'll be showcasing Anime's Craziest Deaths, giving my Anime 101 presentation for first-time con-goers such as yourself, and I'll be presenting posthumous memorials of both Carl Macek and Satoshi Kon. That reminds me: I really ought to finish those up…

Okay, here's my question. You know how there's tons of fans who want to grow up and become a mangaka in Japan? Well, I used to be one of them. I drew my crappy animu art, and made up stories, but I never did anything with them. Then, a few years back I had to make a story for school. I made a lame story on purpose, but during the summer, I thought about making it a real thing on the web. After going through drama irl, I really wanted to make that story into something. The story would be all that I would have left of my youth and friends. So, inspired by some dating sim games, I decided to make a visual novel.

So, I wanted to ask you why visual novels aren't that popular, and what would happen if there was a "Visual Novel Boom"? I know that people who don't like reading, and there are people who just can't stand the horrible art in visual novels (Like Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni and Umineko no Naku Koro Ni). When I look at who actually reads visual novels are mostly the people who also make them too. Also, I'm making a kinetic novel,which is a type of visual novel where the player does not interact with the story. People who are willing to play visual novels usually want to play Bishoujo games, or Otome games. What exactly is needed for something to be worth reading?

There is no way for me to answer this without earning the vehement ire of the small yet EXTREMELY vocal English-speaking online fanbase of visual novels. I suspect they defy the “1% Rule” of Internet participation inequality such that they're ALL actively posting online.

Distribution is problematic. Visual novels seem like games but they're not, so they can't be sold through traditional gaming channels. They're closer to e-books, but due to the audio and limited animation/interactivity they can't be sold via those outlets either. The companies that release these software titles are tiny and reliant upon direct sales, so few titles get released. Plus, as John from the confusingly-named visual novel company MangaGamer noted in ANNCast Episode 70, the amount of text in one of their many porn games was about as much as that of The Lord of the Rings. Most people won't read that much text on an LCD monitor. All of this greatly restricts the market, so it's as you stated: visual novels are made by and for otaku—I use that word in the Japanese sense—to the exclusion of everyone else, and otaku will pirate releases in a heartbeat over issues such as disagreement over how someone's name should be spelled. Reminds me of the anime industry…

But the KEY obstacle to their popularity—see what I did there?—is the MASSIVE negative stigma against their perceived content. So I'm clear: they're not ALL porn, and they're not all targeted towards men. But the supermajority simply can never be sold by major retailers because the public face of the visual novel in North America is that of the Choose Your Own Little Girl To Rape Adventure. THAT is why visual novels are unpopular.

Accuse me of whatever persecution complex-based label you want, but it won't change the facts. Most English-native anime fans and a growing number of gamers are now female, so when visual novels have titles like Suck My Dick or Die (yes that is an actual best-selling title) they may as well post a sign that reads “NO 3D GIRLS ALLOWED.” So a “visual novel boom” in their current form wouldn't be a net positive. It'd only lead to more such visual novels as well as awful anime adaptations.

How visual novels can turn over a new LEAF (okay, I'll stop):

  • Remove all sex or romance with characters who look like and behave like little girls entirely; this includes spending hours watching them get sick and die
  • add several more “game” elements to bring them more in line with RPGs or classic point-and-click adventures
  • substantially overhaul the graphics and sound, or release them to platforms where the simpler visuals and interfaces won't seem so outdated

Consider the US success of titles like Persona, Phoenix Wright, and Professor Layton which all incorporate elements of visual novels and satisfy the above criteria. They're rather popular with the ladies, too! The result: while a typical visual novel is lucky to sell 2000 copies, each of these titles have sold hundreds of thousands of copies just in North America. Currently, 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors is doing well enough to have sold out and been reprinted. THIS APPROACH CAN WORK.

Your “kinetic novel” which stresses non-interactivity obviously won't be able to do all of the above, but while I have no clue what your work will be about, what is needed for it to be worth reading is clear: ignore catering to the desires of the current visual novel base and make something that anyone can read and enjoy without needing to know what defines a “galge,” “eroge,” and “nakige.”

Editor's Note: Since Brian is on hiatus, here are the responses to his question from two weeks ago:

From 'Proud Petty Officer':

As a service member I have to say it has affected a lot of us in the Navy. I have a lot of good friends and people I went to boot camp with who are now evacuating their families, and are now wondering whether or not they'll be next. People who were in transit are sitting in limbo waiting for the all clear, and now people who are now trying going are trying to get their orders changed. Be these are minor and temporary effects, and there could always be a ‘worst case scenario’ that is worse.

But I do have to mention how happy I am with the relief efforts implemented by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force in concern with Operation Tomodachi. Sister ships turned around from other missions to support the nation of Japan. Trust me it's no fun getting recalled and getting a ship underway in a hurry. As I watch the news and images coming from the hardest hit areas, I can't help feel a sense of pride knowing that we were ready, willing, and able. I know we'll continue to support Japan as she recovers, as our good ally and friend.

From Ben:

"My dog won't settle down."

That's the first thing I thought late Thursday evening on March 10th. It was well past midnight, and my little dog refused to go back to sleep. Little did I know what would actually transpire a few minutes later.
A 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit some 80 miles of Sendai, Miyagi, Japan, yet I was entirely unaware (and yet, my elderly dog, despite being mostly deaf, mostly blind, and living a few thousand miles away, probably knew something was up).

The following morning, I turn on the TV and discovered what really happened. I was confronted with images and multiple headlines regarding a tsunami and earthquake hitting Tokyo. Slowly, I worked my way through the footage, my heart sinking with every new visual of destruction. The three images I still remember most are the massive fireball at an oil refinery in Chiba; a gargantuan, mud-colored wave carrying the wreckage of a still-burning building toward a highway; and an amateur video of a guy filming his apartment just as the earthquake shook, sending many of his belongings to the floor and forcing him to take cover. As the day went on, I struggled to maintain my composure. Despite living in a country half a world away, I felt depressed to the point where I was in a continual state of shock.

And yet, I managed to find solace in the most unlikely of places. Hours later, I noticed fan art being posted on Pixiv (think Japan's DeviantArt) showing all sorts of characters (ranging from Transformers to Touhou) either helping others out, praying for Japan, or telling Japan to smile and not give up. Needless to say, it touched my heart in a way few things on the Internet ever could.

Today, two weeks after what many modern-day Japanese may well remember as the biggest disaster to strike their homeland in their lifetimes, I continue to wrap my head around the full extent of the damage. Right now, I couldn't care less about the numerous delays and/or cancellations in the anime, manga or videogame industries- my greatest concern is for the people themselves, those who lost their lives, those who are still missing, and those who continue to work tirelessly to save either the survivors (like Hideaki Akaiwa- look him up) or the country (like the brave workers at the Fukushima power plant who continue to do everything they can to prevent another disaster from taking place, even placing their own lives on the line to stop a potential meltdown). Meanwhile, all I can do is donate and pray. I wish I could do more, but as Anime News Network forum veteran samuelp said, "Going to Japan to help out directly with the disaster is a bad idea" (not his exact quote). So, for the time being, I can only hope that the Japanese people themselves (with a little help from the rest of the world) are able to pick up the pieces and save their homeland.

An anime forum member from Chile wrote that roughly around this time last year, his country suffered an 8.8 magnitude earthquake. To this day, he says that his country is still recovering. That post alone helped put things into perspective for me. It could be months or years before the full extent of the damage from the earthquake and tsunami is fully assessed. Until then, donations aside, all I can give are my thoughts and prayers and hope that one day, in the not-too-distant future, Japan is able to move forward once again (and if the resiliency of fan artists on Pixiv are any indication, that can only be a good thing).

From Ahren:

How did it affect me personally? Well first I was extremely worried after I had heard the news. Although it is true that some anime series have stopped airing in Japan ( probably temporarily ) after the destruction and several big events have been cancelled. However anime and manga problems are the least of my worries.

My main concern is for the people of Japan who have suffered a loss of loved ones, property, homes etc.. I truly hope that The country and its people are able to get back on their feet soon. I have a few family members who live in Japan ( 2 cousins and an aunt ). My uncle who had lived in Japan until recently had been calling from America to make sure his family wasn't hurt, but it took a while for him to get in contact with any of them. I believe none of them were hurt as they weren't near the dangerous areas, but there were so many other people that weren't so lucky. He said that according to family he contacted, Tokyo is currently very dark and quiet at night due to lack of power which is why he hasn't been able to contact my cousin ( The same cousin who introduced me to One Piece before it reached America ). He also said that foods aren't being shipped in certain areas and water use is severely limited in some areas of Japan because of radiation. I even donated money to charity in order to help and I'd like to donate more.

Once this whole thing has passed I would love to visit my family in Japan as I have not seen them in years and they probably won't be visiting America anytime soon. 1 cousin speaks english fluently but might lack money and or time to travel here. The other cousin doesn't speak english and seems to have no interest in learning or going to America.

Anyway it just feels very saddening to hear how bad things are over there although the problem is still being worked on. I think Japan is a very interesting country that I'm quite facinated with so I'll be more relieved once I hear that everything is back to normal, things are cleaned up, and Tokyo is once again the bustling metropolis that it usually is. Until then my prayers are with you Japan

Lewis has some harsh sentiments:

Living in Tokyo, I'd have to say the earthquake has made my life a little more annoying. But everyday I thank god I am not further North where people are really facing hardships thanks to the tsunami. I think crying about how the earthquake affected you unless you were in that area is pretty selfish.

At least I am not one of the cowardly fly-jin who wet their pants and fled home to mommy at the first sign of trouble. I would say they ran away like little girls, but that would be an insult to the little girls playing in the park in front of my apartment complex as I write this.

From Jennifer:

I was in Japan on vacation.  We were in Himeji (west of Osaka) at the time the earthquake happened.  Not having access to any television at the time, we were clueless that anything had happened until the shinkansen stopped running and we had to unexpectedly spend the night in Osaka (instead of returning to Tokyo as per the original plan). We made it back to Tokyo the next morning with minimum difficulties. Despite everything, we enjoyed our stay in Tokyo until we went home on the 15th. The need to conserve power meant that museums were closed, and train schedules reduced – but it wasn't about making sure the tourists were entertained.

I wanted to visit Japan because of my interest in manga and anime (mainly manga). I wanted to experience the country and culture that has provided me with so much of my leisure time entertainment. I found out that Japan is a beautiful country – both its landscape and its people. Seriously, the Japanese people are the friendliest people I have ever encountered when traveling.

And so I keep thinking about the people I met on the trip, and wondering if their family and friends are okay.  The manager at the restaurant we ate at in Himeji before the earthquake happened?  The woman in Osaka, who seeing some completely lost gaijin at the train station actually walked us to our hotel.  She said she had family members in the Sendai area that she had not been able to reach.  Are they okay? The elderly couple in the train with us when we were on our way to the airport to go home….

I feel a sense of helplessness at the whole situation. Here I am, safe at home, drinking tea out of the Hijikata coffee mug I bought in Akihabara. So I did the only thing I could – I donated some money.  And I just want to encourage everyone to donate what money they can to reputable organizations that can help. If you can't donate (and believe me, I have been there and I understand), then ask friends, family, coworkers to donate. If you can't donate now, the need will still be there months from now, when everyone else has forgotten. And keep supporting the anime and manga industries.

Finally, from Amy:

The tsunami was something that I could never comprehend. However for many residents of New Orleans, such as myself, it has brought back a lot of memories. Especially since New Orleans sister city is in Japan.

Many Americans remember Hurricane Katrina, but not nearly as well as the people of New Orleans remember. Five years later, there are still homes with symbols that mark the following information: When the building was found, who found it, and the number of bodies found inside the home. Some places are now just vacant grass lots. People who evacuated to the emergency shelters were not better off. Just like in Japan, survivors who stayed in the Superdome ran out of food, water, and all of the bathrooms broke just a few days after usage. And with bridges and  interstates in New Orleans broken into pieces or flooded, travel in and out of the city was impossible unless you were from the military or rescue.

In some ways, Katrina pales in comparison to the Tsunami. But Sendai and New Orleans can learn so much from each other. New Orleans is slowly coming back to life because the people who live here love this city. Sendai can rebuild because the people who live there also love their city. First, it will be the restaurants to help feed the people who are still there. Then, people will trickle in to slowly build the infrastructure again. Then, people will start playing music again and replanting gardens to grow food in. It will take years. The ignorant man will tell you that it is your fault because you live near water and therefore, you don't deserve help. Your government will run out of money and leave you to dry. Your economists will cry out that your city will never prosper again. But Sendai can do it. They will rebuild, proper again, and show the ignorant man why it is worth going back to the homeland.

The Hey Answerfans! segment will return when Brian's back. See you next week!

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