Hey, Answerman! - Copy-Cat Catharsis

by Brian Hanson,

Are the weeks getting shorter, or is my sense of time waxing and waning over the years, clouded perhaps as they are through my own collective, ethereal memories of love and loss? Not to get all poetic or anything.

Anyway. A really great batch of probing, intelligent questions this week, so let's get to the good stuff:

As a denizen of the Los Angeles area, I have been a regular attendee at Anime Expo, held every year during the July 4th holiday weekend. Lately, I've been seeing all sorts of interesting press releases about another convention called AM2, which bills itself as Animation, Manga and Music to a Higher Power. It's got fantastic J-Pop bands and the Regional Cosplay Summit competition and it's being held in Anaheim, CA, maybe 30 miles outside of Los Angeles. It looks like another great convention opportunity has come my way. But wait, AM2 is schedule for July 1 through July 3, the exact same weekend as Anime Expo. Now, I may not be a convention coordinator but holding the exact same type of convention on the same weekend seems like a bad idea if you're actually interested in getting people to attend.

What's going on here? Obviously AM2 knew when Anime Expo was being held, since it's the same time every year. Is this some of anime convention grudge match (much like a fandom grudge match but on a much bigger stage)? Have the people running Anime Expo (the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation) finally pissed off enough people that the disgruntled fans have rebelled? Who should I be rooting for here? And where do I spend my convention dollars?

"Rooting for"? These are conventions, not political causes. No need to "root" or throw any sort of philosophical weight behind anybody.

Now then. After checking out the AM2 website a bit and browsing around, it seems to me like... AM2, compared to Anime Expo, is by far the underdog here. Aside from some of the bigger J-Pop acts like SCANDAL, AM2 is missing the key component that makes AX the big juggernaut that it is - namely, 20+ years in the business and the status of "largest anime convention in the country", and notably the one that historically has attracted the most industry attention and hype.

Realistically, though this whole thing does seem a little bit like cannibalizing your own fanbase, it's hardly unheard of for conventions to overlap each other. It just usually doesn't happen over the exact same time period and within seventy miles of each other, with one event being run by the guy who formerly ran the other event. That's a little bit weird. If you're going to start a comic book convention, would you host it 40 miles from San Diego on the same weekend as Comic-con? Probably not, right? So, yeah, what is the deal here?

In all honesty, I don't know exactly; the rumors about the rivalry between these two shows have been raging for months, and while there's plenty of message board sniping you can dig up, there's really no official "statement" by AX on how they feel about AM2. On the other hand, the "official" position of AM2 - or at least what their representatives have said on this here podcast - seems to be "hey, there's no beef between us, decide which convention has what you want and attend that show (by the way our show is free! did we mention it's free? this convention is free, you know)". Their marketing isn't exactly subtle ("This summer's most anticipated anime, manga and music event!"), but they are going out of their way to at least be respectful of the show they're trying to compete with and present their own show as an alternative. Fair's fair.

But honestly, that does seem to be the big difference: AM2 is a free show. It has "premium" events where you need to purchase tickets, like the masquerade and the concerts of course, and the site is really hard selling "premium passports" that give you access to all the paid events, let you skip lines and meet the bands playing and whatnot, but it won't cost you anything to just show up and grab a wristband and hang out. Anime Expo, of course, still requires a flat fee to run around in - but of course that fee covers just about everything you want to do while you're at the show. So, for you, sir, here's what you need to ask yourself: Which of the two cons has the most events I want to see? And how much is that experience worth as far as my money is concerned? And also, do you go to conventions as part of a group? Where are they going? Et cetera.

Deciding which convention to go to shouldn't be a part of some complicated rubric insomuch as it should be, simply, about having the most fun as possible. Which con seems more fun to you? Go to that one. Simple as that.

A few years ago, I became a fan of a certain OEL manga, this manga was pretty much the only one of its company's line of OEL manga to be relatively successful. It gave me hope that yes, an American mangaka can be successful by their merits and achieve. However, I also began to read another manga (a very well-known Japanese manga that was published some years before the OEL manga's release) later and discovered some eerie similarities. Panels, positions, and even some character designs seemed to have been directly lifted from this manga and replicated into the OEL at certain points. At first, I thought that it was homage, but this practice persisted in later volumes to the extent where I could compare some panels between the two as almost identical. This saddens me, because now I have lost respect for the artist, but I am clueless as to what to do because it is so blatant at points. Should I contact the publisher? The artist? What is the drawing line between homage and blatant plagiarism? It breaks my heart because she has so much potential, yet decided to copy another artist's efforts. I know even the implications of plagiarism are the mark of death to any profession, so I want to make it known that I am not doing this out of malicious intent but out of concern and sadness.

Here's the thing. Japanese publishers and manga artists are very aware, and honestly very proactive, about protecting their work and their copyrighted material, and aren't shy to pull the trigger on a lawsuit if they notice anything fishy. I mean, when Nick Simmons was tracing over entire pages from Bleach, all Tite Kubo did was sigh and laugh it off. Not really worth his time, I guess. The author was publicly humiliated over the internet and his wankishly terrible ripoff comic was canned.

In other cases, though, creators aren't so humble. Rest assured that if, indeed, this OEL comic was considered to be a real threat to the viability of this particular well-known manga, they would've taken action. This is why artists have lawyers and publishers; they themselves don't really have the time to track down every two-bit hack taking unauthorized cues from their work.

But, you know what? There was no lawsuit. As far as who to contact about it, honestly... I'll leave that up to you, in the end. Listen to your conscience. If you feel that the creator of the original manga is entitled to some sort of business settlement for this act of plagiarism, then by all means, contact the publisher. If you simply wish to register your disappointment that such a talented artist would stoop to such thieving lows, then contact the artist and make your point known. Do whatever you feel like you need to do to get this off your chest.

Personally speaking, I differentiate "homage" and "plagiarism" by one simple thing: honesty. I know I'm looking at an homage, because I can genuinely feel, crazy as that sounds, the intent of the author or the artist to reference something they thought was cool or interesting in their own work. Like, say, Tarantino's smattering of homages to B-movie tropes and characters throughout Kill Bill. When something feels inauthentic and cynical, like the work of, say, Asylum films, then it's just lazy plagiarism.

So, y'know, listen to your heart. Or something.

I've been wondering since I read last week's Answerfans, when Rubi-kun observed that the recent animes are mostly aimed at 'hardcore' otakus, almost in all cases containing some form of moe or fan service - in any case, it is, overall, obviously much greater than back in '06. So I start asking... why?

After recently finished watching Bakuman, I noticed a huge theme is that the editors (or perhaps the decision makers in general) often decide whether to serialize a piece of work based on a preconception of what would be 'popular', and in effect, profitable. It seems that this process, or the idea of popularity, is leaning towards moe and fanservice. My question is, do you think that this recent development is simply another phase in the development of anime, brought on by perhaps financial troubles? Or could it be that we the audience, being lustful animals that we are, will cling on to this, and that this trend is here to stay?

Okay, so let me just throw something out there, something that people might not like to hear.

Anime, as a whole, is not really made for us. To clarify, by and large they are not making anime for us English-speaking residents of nations other than Japan. Anime is made for fans of anime in Japan, who live in Japan. We are part of an ancillary market; we are fans that the Japanese producers and publishers are glad to have around, no doubt, because we provide them a secondary market to sell their products, and sometimes they do create something with Western fans in mind. But make no mistake, the overwhelming majority of anime produced were not "made" for us. Just in the way Hollywood generally considers the domestic audience first when greenlighting new films (although big blockbusters these days are increasingly designed to be as palatable to a global audience as is humanly possible without resorting to simply being a series of cave paintings, discernible by any language and culture in existence).

It's just a personal pet peeve of mine when people always complain that OH THE FANS ARE THE REASON THAT ANIME SUCKS NOWADAYS or HOW COME THEY DON'T MAKE ANIME FOR ME ANYMORE WHY. That is because these companies and these artists aren't really trying to please you. They are trying to please the audience they already have in their own country, the one that's keeping food on the table; the audience that has vociferously and successfully argued for the types of entertainment they want the anime industry to make for them. To wit: they like anime and manga with cute characters that they can buy on life-sized body pillows so they can hug them and care for them, and then they can watch those same character's exploits on late-night television as they fight demons and expose their breasts and buttocks in the process.

So, are we "lustful animals"? Well sure. Biologically speaking we all are. But we, meaning you and me and everyone else on this North American continent, are not to blame for moe and fanservice. Nor are we responsible for being righteously indignant that the nation of Japan isn't making more content specifically for us, damnit.

With that out of the way! I think I could argue - quite successfully - that the so-called "trend" of nothing but moe and fanservice shows was never really true to begin with, and even if it was, certainly this season alone disproves this. Tiger & Bunny, C - Control, Toriko, AnoHana, and others that people in the forums will be glad to mention I'm sure.

If moe and fanservice isn't your cup of tea, basically, you're not at a loss for choice of quality shows to watch this year. And if you, gasp, *like* moe and fanservice, then your spectrum of programming has increased tenfold. My point is - I understand completely if you don't like moe and fanservice, and I understand your frustration if you feel like the anime industry has abandoned you in favor of that crowd. But we are a secondary market for this product, and it's not their responsibility to make titles that appeal to us. It's wonderful when it happens, of course, but that's almost never their express goal. So let's just stop all the fussin' and worryin' and just focus on the shows we like when they come around, and hopefully when we all band together and support the shows we like - crazy, I know - it sends a clear message that we would like more of them. Just a thought.

Man, after that last rant I'm a bit out of breath. So! Time for me to conserve my strength and turn the tides over to the control of you guys, the readers! Last week, inspired by the stinging sun of early summer, I was intrigued as to what your plans were:

Starting this whole parade, I'll admit that I'm pretty damn envious of Andrew:

I've been attending conventions avidly for about five years now. This year, however, my convention schedule is going to be very different. This is because I am no longer attending conventions in the southeastern United States as per usual, but this year, most of my convention time will be spent in the United Kingdom. I'm studying for a masters in here in Durham, England for the year (a full year masters so I'm at school during the summer) so while conventions are going on in the states, I'll be visiting ones in England.

Specifically, I'll be attending the MCM Expo in London and Nemacon in Middlesbrough. This is going to be fascinating for me in many respects. Firstly, I've never attended a con outside the U.S. so I really have no idea what to expect from a British version. I'd imagine some things will be the same, but I'm also looking forward to the differences. Secondly, I like that I'm able to attend the extremes of the convention bracket while I'm here: the MCM Expo in London – the biggest of its kind in the U.K. – and Nemacon – a small, fan run event. In addition, I was lucky enough to be able to visit my hometown convention, Megacon in Orlando, FL this year during a school break so all the cultural variables I hope to encounter should be reasonably fresh and make for a genuinely new and grand experience.

Besides straight up culture things, there are a few things I'm looking forward to at these British events that I wouldn't get to usually see elsewhere. When I'm in London, for example, my days will be spent at the Expo while my evenings will be spent down at the Globe Theater or London's West End for plays. You simply cannot get this kind of combination of awesome back where I'm used to doing my conning. Also, I will be able to encounter a really unique experience of leaving London at the end of the MCM Expo and rushing up to Sheffield where I will be seeing the U.K. premiere of Karigurashi no Arrietty. Being from the Florida, movie premieres, especially anime ones, are just non-existent. It's going to be a ball.

Finally, I'm especially looking forward to being able to attend Nemacon with my good friends from the University of Durham's Anime Society. They are a wonderful group of people and they've made my year at Durham extremely fun and filled with plenty of great anime experiences.

I guess it's not really "convention season" proper for Christopher, but whatever:

There are two conventions that I go to per year, SugoiCon and Ohayocon. However, those happen in November and January, respectively, so I have a lot of time to prepare what I need to do.

I've only been getting into the convention scene in the past few years once personal time opened up and finances became better, but I've been enjoying things thus far (save for all the creepy people around). At the last Ohayocon, I was dressed as a Shinsengumi member. At the next convention, I would like to be able to add accessories or something to improve the costume and try it out.

The main thing that I would like to do differently is to try to contribute something to the convention. I am part of a Kendo club and the members thought that it would be an interesting idea to put on a demo to get a glimpse of a martial art they may or may not be familiar with fused with some aspects of Japanese culture. The problem, however, is knowing what steps I need to take to make that a possibility.

Ahren will look positively dapper in that hat, methinks:

This year I plan to see the Vocaloid live concert in Los Angeles.... is what I wish I could be saying. Unfortunately I live all the way on the east coast and can't afford to travel that far and I also have no sense of direction and would get lost if I went there. So I will simply do what I do every year and go with my friends to Otakon. I enjoy that convention although in recent years it has started to seem overcrowded. A lot of the events get packed. It would help if the staff had megaphones when they talk to crowds, because it's hard to understand them when they're screaming. I love going to the dealers room to purchase dvds, manga, and other goods. And of course I love cosplaying.

Last year I had made a costume (with some help) of the Millennium Earl from D.Gray Man. I made the pattern and cut the fabric out myself. I also hand sewed the top hat myself. I'm terrible at using a sewing machine so somebody else sewed the coat together although I had to explain some of the pattern to them. I really enjoyed wearing this costume last year so I think I might wear it again this year. Of course it needs some work. The mask I had made got deformed in the sun so I'll have to make another one and I plan to make a rubber mask this year. Also the Lero umbrella I made is coming apart so I'll have to fix that. Hopefully I will have everything ready before the convention and I plan to have a good time.

Best of luck with the GRE, Melissa! Unless you already took it, in which case please disregard.

I live in central Alabama and there aren't very many conventions around in the summer, for good reason. Any congoer in the Deep South can tell you it's hot and humid as hell, so no one in their right mind would hold a summer con down here! In between Kami Con in the spring and waiting for Anime Weekend in Atlanta in the fall, I've had to take matters into my own hands. In the past I've trekked up to New England for a summer filled with a late Anime Boston and Port Con Maine, but this year I'm heading off to Dallas to check out a graduate school in June. "Coincidentally," A-kon happens to be the same week I'm looking at the school. Of course, my father saw through my "coincidental" plan, but did agree to accompany me to yet another con, although he continually refuses to cosplay.

So I'm trading in the sticky humid heat of Alabama for a dryer Texas heat... and realized that all of my costumes are long sleeved, layered, and hot in some way! And I have to wonder, how does Ciel Phantomhive deal with the heat, how does Edward Elric wear those leather pants, and how does Norway not pass out from lack of snow? Nonetheless, I'm using A-kon as a chance to premier a joint Ciel cosplay project between myself and my mom (I design, she sews, I embellish) and trotting out my favorite cosplay, Edward Elric, to give Fullmetal Alchemist some much needed con love.

It'll be a nice, productive break in between taking summer school terms. Here's to hoping I go to grad school in Dallas!

And lastly, I've played just enough of Portal 2 to get Sara's reference:

I am going to my two staple cons this year- Otakon and AnimeNEXT. I will be cosplaying, like I do every other year. I will likely also be teaching shodo workshops at Otakon like I did last year. But this year is different. This year is special.

This year I will be cosplaying as an Aperture Laboratories employee. Juggling "combustible" lemons. http://img41.imageshack.us/img41/8698/photoon20110513at12023.jpg

Alright! Next week, given all the questions I tackled about plagiarism and whatnot, I thought I'd get your opinion on something...

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.

Sweet, that's it! Remember to compose a fanciful email of question-y joy and send it my way, located at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com sometime throughout your busy week! Until next time!

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