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Hey, Answerman! - The Dying Breeds

by Brian Hanson,

Hello everyone and Happy Early Memorial Day Weekend! Enjoy your day off from the crushing boredom of schoolwork and the deadening ennui of your lousy full-time job! Also: get pissed that the government doesn't deliver mail for an entire 2-day period, making your next Netflix Blu-Ray arrival days later than it otherwise would have been!

And hey, what's this about questions? I think I have some questions.

Hey Answerman!

This is hardly a topical question, but... I'm curious about getting into collecting actual anime animation art. Cels, background art, rough pencil drawings, that sort of thing. I feel like I need to get into collecting it soon if I'm ever going to, considering they don't make shows on cels anymore.

My question is... where do I start? How do I make sure I'm not being ripped off? How do I know how much a cel or a piece of anime production art is worth?

Well now! Luckily for you, Mike Toole's already got you covered.

Personally, I've always been a secret, closeted, would-be cel collector - out of all the anime trinkets and doo-dads that people collect, like toys, DVDs, wallscrolls and soundtracks... actual animation artwork is the one I'd personally prefer. If I had the time and the money and the space for it, at least. What's truly cool about animation cels is that you can literally see some of the artists' work, right there in your face. And considering that cels obviously pre-dated digital technologies, there were a lot of really cool things that anime directors did with their cels to either achieve a certain look or cut a few corners - it's not uncommon to find cels with multiple layers, or cels with things that you would've never noticed from the finished product, like airbrushing and other paint-related tricks.

So I guess just to summarize what Mike Toole said in his column a few months back, it's actually quite the opportune moment to grab some really cool animation cels on the cheap. The market sort of burst some years back when dangerously obsessive collectors (see the creepy, almost Borat-ish live-action segment on "The Cel Collector" on Otaku no Video) literally flooded the market with cels that nobody really wanted. They were either from shows or movies that were never all that popular with hardcore Otaku in Japan (Japanese Otaku all love Sailor Moon obviously, but Trigun? Not so much), or were random, out-of-sequence bits of animation of side characters with their eyes closed and their hands in front of their faces. Hardly the sorts of poses that hardcore cel collectors want - they want their favorite character from their favorite show, eyes wide open, staring at them on their wall at all times, telling them how much they love them and will never leave them.

The rub, though, is that... you kinda have to go to Japan to get a lot of this good stuff on the cheap. A Japanese hobby store will probably toss a pretty cool Trigun cel in a bin for only twenty bucks, but eBay sellers and importers know better - they know that Trigun still has a bit of a following in the West, and aren't afraid to tack an extra hundred dollars onto it. People will pay for it, after all.

Another thing to look out for are "Reproductions." And, don't get me wrong, "Reproductions" - cels that copies of the original cel, which is either lost or forbidden from the public's dirty hands - can be quite nice. But since they're far from the "original" artwork, don't be fooled into paying the same amount of money as you would for the original production artwork. Just as an example, you will never ever find a legit animation cel from the original Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series. Never in a million years. Or until Hideaki Anno collapses into a cloud of dust and debris, dropping a special key, Legend of Zelda-style, that unlocks his mystical treasure vault of production artwork.

I mean, unfortunately, there's nothing like, say, Sotheby's for anime artwork that definitively determines that actual "value" of any One Piece of anime artwork. The "value" of these cels and douga sketches are, as with anything else, worth exactly what somebody is willing to pay. But don't be scared, though - if you're serious about building a pretty cool cel collection, now's a great time to do it, because you can get some really cool stuff for not a lot of money, and be the envy of every Otaku on the block.

Hey Brian,

So you've gotten your fair share of questions about starting your own anime blog, and things of that nature -- and lately, I've been getting the urge to start up my own podcast. Given all the other anime podcasts out there already, though, I'm a little worried that it'll be hard to actually get any exposure and any listeners. Any advice?

Why are you asking me? Is it because perhaps I am once again a guest on ANNCast? This is what I like to call... kismet.

So, honestly, I listen to a ton of podcasts - the big ones, like Weekend Confirmed, WTF With Marc Maron, The Q & A With Jeff Goldsmith, Retronauts... well, as you can tell, I really like video games and movies and comedians, so there you go.

I guess my point is, there are TONS of podcasts about video games and movies and comedians, and I don't listen to all of them, because I would never have the time. I pick and choose the ones I like the most, featuring the people I like the most. I like Garnett Lee, I like Marc Maron, I like Jeff Goldsmith, and I like Jeremy Parish. And these are all folks that have been doing podcasts for a while now - several years or longer - and for many of them, it took quite a bit of time for them to really hit their stride and start doing something different than every other podcast about comedy or movies or video games. They all weren't afraid to experiment, and as a result, they've developed into some of the individual highlights of my week. Whenever there's a new episode of any of those shows, I have to stop everything and hop onto iTunes and download it.

From the mouth of an avid podcast listener, as well as a (mediocre) podcast guest like myself, I'm just going to say... don't worry so much about getting "exposure" when you're starting out. There's a reason why they call it "starting out." It's because nobody knows who you are, and they don't really trust you yet. Happens to everybody in every profession or hobby. Way it is, man.

Ergo! Ipso Facto! Quid Pro Quo! Just, instead, focus on making the best and most fun show you can. For yourself. Don't worry about, you know, one-upping Anime World Order or ANNCast, or anything else, really. Don't compete. Because it's not a race. Differentiate. Give people a reason to check out your podcast after listening to AWO and ANNCast. I know that sounds far easier said than done, but it's the truth. And bear in mind that it doesn't have to be necessarily the format that's different - it can be as simple as an attitude, or production quality, or the breadth of topics discussed. Oftentimes that's more than enough to get a successful podcast off the ground. And then, you know, you learn and grow and develop and get better at it. Hooray!

Okay my question is about the Long Runners in the manga world, specifically the ones in the shonen genre. You've fielded questions like this before and I wanted to hear your take on what I think is an interesting phenomenon.

Now starting off this, I know there are series that have been running for nearly forever (or at least the 70's), the JoJo's Bizarre Adventures (102 Volumes and counting), the Dokabens (164+), and the Golgo 13s (160+, though this is more senien but I wanted to use the big number).

Now discounting those as the exceptions rather then the norm, as while they do exist, they aren't that common, my question(s) is thus: Do you think the current shonen series are running longer then they did previously? And if so, why? Do you think the global appeal we have now has something to do with it?

I'm thinking mainly of the so called "Big Three" currently being published, Bleach (49+), Naruto (55+), One Piece (62+), all with no real end in sight and interviews with the mangaka saying how they would like to run the series for about ten more years.

And the ones that aren't so much the big fighting ones like Detective Conan (71+) but I guess I'm more forgiving of those because it has less of a plot and more an excuse to run eternally like Kochikame (174).

Contrasted to the big shonen shows that got me into anime when I was younger, Inuyasha (56), Dragon Ball (42), Yu-Gi-Oh! (38), Yu Yu Hakusho (19), all have pretty big numbers, but they ended at before the 50 line (except for Inuyasha which was limping around in circles for a while and it's no wonder they got confused and went beyond the mark). While the ones written today feel like they will hit the 100 line and go beyond.

And maybe this is just the perspective of someone who is WAITING for the next volumes of One Piece to come out to eagerly buy and read, or the next Bleach to get from a friend paw through in moments of boredom, (or the next Naruto to continue to ignore completely), that makes them feel longer. But I do think series these days are running longer then they used to.

(Not that this is remotely a bad thing, except on my wallet and shelf-space, because hell I will own every One Piece Volume there ever will be, and I would love for that series to hit a 100.)

Oh, god no, it has *nothing* to do with "global appeal." That's certainly not the reason that One Piece and Bleach and Naruto are destined to run forever. If it really had to do with "global appeal," then Akira Toriyama would still be busy drawing Dragon Ball Z volume 127.

Shueisha makes editorial decisions about which series to keep going and which to axe based solely on the sales and responses from their weekly Japanese magazine. That's it, really. I'm sure that's gotten a bit more flexible in recent years - as things like Stan Lee's Ultimo pop up - but by and large the "Long Runners" are kept that way because Japanese fans still eat them up.

Besides, how would that explain the mystery that is Kochikame? Nobody in the English-speaking world knows what the hell that is. And yet it ran for 174 volumes. Which by the way, JESUS CHRIST 174 VOLUMES. That is out-and-out madness.

Personally speaking, I see this so-called "trend," which is to say, "the trend of three particular plot-related, non-episodic manga series to continue being published ad infinitum," as a combination of three things. Number One: Obviously, these are popular series, they sell a lot of merchandise, and so there's a vested interest to keep them going. Number Two: The folks in charge of Shonen Jump and Shonen Sunday aren't the same exact people who were running things back in the 80's and 90's. I think a good part of the reason these series are running as long as they are is because the editors are willing to let these properties develop, slowly at times, whereas before I'm sure they would've demanded to keep the pace up and the cast of characters to a relative minimum. Number Three: The individual creators behind these three manga just... have no desire to stop. Akira Toriyama got burned out; Rumiko Takahashi eventually gets bored (I said eventually), and so they decide to stop for a while, take a little break, and maybe try something else later.

Although, again, I'd hesitate to call three individual titles - ones running in the same magazine, at that - a "trend." Suffice to say, though, that each of those three series are going to keep running and running and running. Until "someone," from the magazine, from the fans, or the artist themselves, decide it's time to stop. And any one of them could make that call at any time.


...is what I'm going to write in this space this week, because I only got two responses to my question last week. Boo to that. Well, Boo to Myself, I guess - you can't really expect every question you fire off into the internet's thinkin' complex to strike a chord, but this one really went over like a lead balloon. Don't worry, I have every intention of doing better next time! Fingers crossed, etc.

Well, regardless, the two responses I got were pretty good, though. Kudos to you two. Kudos. For a refresher, here was the question I asked last week that ended not with a bang, but a whimper:

First up to the plate on this week's slammin' expose on idea thievery, Nolan forgets that Gravion has WAY MORE BOOBS IN IT than Evangelion ever had:

I actually have an exact series that demonstrates what I'm talking about. It's called Gravion, a mecha show. In it, the super robot Gravion battles the creatures called the Zeravire who are VERY obviously ripped off of the Angels from Evangelion. However, Gravion the robot is NOTHING like the Evas, more like Voltron really, and the characters are exuberant and lively, very unlike the Eva pilots. This to me is a perfect balane of being inspired by something but not copying it.

And you know, come to think of it, if something rips off something I like, I typically don't mind as long as the rip off is good. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. By the way, anyone who reads this and hasn't seen Gravion really should, If for no other reason than JAM PROJECT makes the themes.

And secondly/lastly, Max also brings up the specter of Evangelion to prove his point:

When it comes to anime/manga, I won't deny that there are clusters of series that share certain ideas; just look at how an Evangelion fan reacts to the plot of RahXephon. However, what makes a show enjoyable for me is its execution. If you briefly described Gunbuster, for example, many people would be unimpressed. In fact, I admit it takes a few episodes for Gunbuster to get up to speed. But by golly, when it does, it works really, really well. It transitions beautifully from being a light-hearted show about a bouncy (Both figuratively and literally!) girl with dreams to a solemn story of war, sacrifice, and promise. I'd even say it gets as mature as Black Jack, and the ending is said to be one of the best endings to a GAINAX show. Overall, I'd say that while there are certain ideas that many shows can share, it's ultimately up to your own opinion to determine weather a manga/anime is simply derivative or a stylish variation.

So speaking of next time, that question I answered earlier about... cels, and... film, got me to thinking about The Good Old Days. Or at least what I thought were The Good Old Days, which in fact might neither be Good nor Old, or even Days for that matter. So I thought I'd put my question to you guys.

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.

wow, can you believe it? I'm all done here. Unbelievable. Until next week, remember to drop by my email inbox-thingy over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com to give me your questions and responses! Good night, and good luck.

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