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Hey, Answerman! - Struggling For Illegitimacy

by Brian Hanson,

Welcome, welcome everyone! Hopefully the server troubles over the past day or two haven't scared you all away from Answerman this weekend. Because I'm here! I am so totally here.

To be honest, I'm a little verklempt, considering all the work I and my esteemed comedy cohorts have been doing with Cactus Pants Cowboy. As always, if you're in the area, come on down! It'll be funny.

Let's get to the questions.

Wow, it's certainly been a while since I've sent anything in, but I've got something I'd like to ask.

I don't know if this has been asked before, but I figure I'll ask. I've recently read that ISPs are going to be more proactive on illegal downloading of music and TV shows. As piracy is obviously a prevalent topic in today's society, and assuming that this also stretches to anime that have been copyrighted in the US. (Series such as Bleach or Kekkaishi). I can see this as a positive for anime (although the RIAA has been off my Christmas card list for quite a while and this doesn't help them), but is it the right move when people are struggling to earn an honest pay with the economy on the downturn?

Well, as far as anime goes, there've been a small and isolated amount of legal wrangling. Leave us not forget the veritable internet shit-storm that happened when Funimation pulled the trigger on over 1,000 Bittorrent users who were sharing episodes of One Piece. The response to that was... conflicted, to say the least. People (such as myself) argued that Funimation acted well within their legal right to protect their copyright, and considering that they were (and in fact still are) offering One Piece episodes streaming for free on their own website, they were also well within their right to control the method of distribution on their part. Others, however, questioned the implications inherent in taking legal action against a large swath of people who are, ostensibly, One Piece fans; fans that Funimation is supposed to be catering to, not acting against.

So to answer your first question, yes! Yes it does stretch to anime. Copyrighted material is copyrighted material, no matter how niche it may be considered in the grand scheme of things. Is it the "right move," though? I believe this is a perfect example of moral relativism.

Which is to say, sure it's the right move. For them, at least. Copyright laws and the DMCA argue quite succinctly that companies and ISPs have every right to fine you, suspend you, or even incarcerate you for any violation of their copyright. That's it. No argument. For everyone else? For the leechers and the fans and everyone in between? I believe in all honesty that there are better ways to dissuade people from piracy than just fear. I think it's sort of bully-ish to try to instill in folks the notion that a simple Bittorrent download could cost them a pricey fine or prison time. Also because such methods are, as illustrated above, quite unpopular and tend to upset people, and when we're dealing with an industry as small as anime, that's not always the best move. Hence why it's relatively rare when it happens.

I myself am never a fan of strict black-and-white moral judgments, since I live in the real world, where everything has a nice shade of gray to it. On the one hand, companies like Funimation and Viz should feel empowered to literally protect their work if they feel that it is being violated. The internet is full of monsters, and if companies don't at least put up the facade like they can fight back, they risk losing sales. On the other hand! I feel like the vast majority of individuals are actually quite reasonable if it is fully explained to them that piracy can cost people their jobs and can negatively impact the shows they purport to love, and so they will refrain from doing things that are outright egregious.

It's not just about "hurting" people when the economy is still in the toilet. It's a damn moral quagmire, is what it is, filled with people being right for the wrong reasons and vice versa. Moral relativism is the buzzword of the day, everyone.

My question is in regards to the translations in English dubs. I have seen quite a few English dubbed series where they have not bothered to translate writing in the background. Now I know a lot of times it's not necessary for the story (I don't really need to know the name of the stores) but then there are times when understanding it is quite important to the plot. For example in Rahxephon at one point (I'll try not to give away spoilers to anyone here) during a certain fight, the lights are spelling out messages to Ayato but the dub offered no translation as to what they said. I don't think it could be too hard for them to do so as a fansub of the movie version I had seen had the translation readily available, nicely integrated into the actual message. As someone who prefers dubs I find it a little disappointing that they could leave out such important parts. So I'd like to know what are your thoughts on this? Are they just being lazy or is there some legitimate reason they don't give this information?

Laziness? Nah. In the case of Rahxephon, somebody probably just screwed up.

I know this doesn't necessarily answer your question, but the topic of sign translations and background text and such is the one thing I can think of where nearly every company has tried to handle the subject differently, and nearly every time people are unhappy with it. Try going back and watching the ADV translations of the later Evangelion episodes; the screen gets literally trampled under the weight of gobs of yellow text describing every tiny bit of text in the background. People, obviously, were unhappy with that. And then you've got situations like the one you described, or my personal favorite, when Paranoia Agent was broadcast on Adult Swim; the master tapes for the TV broadcast were missing any sort of subtitle tracks which meant that certain emails and newspaper articles, especially ones that were crucial to the plot making any sense, were absent, and it wasn't until 4 episodes in to the series that the issue was "resolved."

It's the sort of thing that always seems like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't kind of situation. People either complain that you're translating too much, or not enough. Companies like Funimation are keen these days on only translating objects that are crucial to the development of the plot or the characters, so good for them, but even they aren't immune from criticism.

And speaking specifically for English dubs, it has more to do with making a separate subtitle track for text translations than one for the Japanese language track, which often companies simply don't have time to offer. Back in YE OLDEN DAYS companies would simply hard-matte text overlays next to signs, but fans didn't like that very much, citing that it ill-fitted the original animation; not to mention the fact that it always looked pretty cheap. Go back and watch a couple of Ranma 1/2 episodes to see what I mean.

Personally speaking, as a guy who also watches a lot of dubs, I think they've got a pretty good handle nowadays on what to translate in the background and what to leave out. Take Funimation's dub of Mushi-shi, for example; that's a show that's heavy on text and heavy on atmosphere, and there's a lot of stuff that they translated, from signs hanging above doorframes to books and other things, that they probably didn't necessarily need to - but it helps compliment the atmosphere of the show, and that works fine for me.

Others, I'm sure, disagree.

Recently, one of my favorate anime shows, Sgt. Frog, had the first half of it's 3rd season released by Funimation, with the second half to be released later this month. This came after almost a year or so of the previous seasons which came out almost side by side, and there were a lot of rumors amongst fans of the show that they wouldn't pick it up for the rest of the series, at least not yet. I understand that it's a weird show and they wanted to test the market and experiment a bit with how they were going to do the rest of the dub, should they continue, and that they would of course require enough sales volume to justify continuing the series. I already bought part one and have a pre-order for part 2 and I really just wanted to know if there's anything else I can do to show some support so they'll be more likely to pick up the rest of the series.

Ah, see, this is another one of those times where I have to break someone's heart.

There isn't much else you can do, chief. I'm so sorry. You've done all you can. Now you just hope for the best.

Point being, it costs a lot of money to produce a show like Sgt. Frog. Mainly from the fact that Funimation is taking such pains with re-working the dub, and that means more time is required to write a script than it would for a usual dub, and more time means more money. And Sgt. Frog wasn't a cheap license, either. So, for you, considering that you've already bought all of the series that's been released so far, and pre-ordered the other... there's not much else you can do, logistically. I mean, you could perhaps make a paper-mache Keroro and ship it to Funimation HQ, and buried inside you place a lovingly baked basket of delicious cupcakes that spell out "plz release more sgt. frog guys," that probably wouldn't hurt. It would certainly be nice, and the good folks at Funimation are always glad to see creative applications on behalf of the fans.

Regardless! The one thing you can do, if you're serious about getting more Sgt. Frog released here... is to make sure that other people buy it. Which is always tricky, considering that short of putting a gun to somebody's head it's hard to physically make somebody buy something. But! It never hurts to try at least. Get the word out there, let your friends both on the internet and in the real world know that if they, like yourself, would enjoy getting more Sgt. Frog on DVD here in the 'States, it's pivotal that they go out and friggin' buy it. No web petitions, no Twitter campaigns, nada; just buy the damn thing. Money talks, it has been said.

Hey all! It's the triumphant re-return of Hey, Answerfans! Last week I asked a question, and now this week, I have your answers. Which will be listed before the image that remind everybody just what exactly the question was:

Ben begins the remembrances of cons past with his Otakon rumblings:

For this particular "Hey Answerfans!", I will share my two most recent (and noteworthy) experiences:

Act One

Prior to Otakon 2010, I had hosted a number of panels at various small and mid-sized anime conventions (namely Anime USA, Katsucon and T-Mode). Since early 2005, the panels I have run have varied greatly in terms of topics, ranging from Fanfiction and cosplay photography, to the King Of Fighters and the Neo-Geo; I've even hosted an anime-themed variation of Let's Make A Deal (twice). However, by the time I ran my first Sega Saturn panel at T-Mode 2007 (and Katsucon 2008), I had a feeling I was on to something. In early 2010, I decided to submit my Sega Saturn panel to Otakon for consideration. Against all odds, it was selected (well, that, and the fact that the addition of a hotel and two rooms for panels to the Baltimore Convention Center didn't hurt).

Anyways, July 30th rolled around, and as I walked into the panel room to set up, I noticed a ton of people in the audience (something to the tune of 150, give or take a few people standing against the walls). The sheer number of people far eclipsed that of my Anime Let's Make A Deal game show at Katsucon 2009 (50 people or thereabouts). After a brief technical delay, I announced that "due to technical difficulties beyond our control, the Vic Mignogna & Crispin Freeman duet concert has been cancelled. Instead, we present to you the Seven Sega Saturn Games You Should've Played panel!". And with that, the panel got underway. Few things give me greater joy than sharing little-known games and hearing people say something along the lines of, "I never knew this existed!". The highlights (for me, at least) included:
-"Groove On Fight" and showing off mid-boss Gartheimer's lover Damian (and his hug attack).
-"Gunbird" and the opening animated sequence.
-"Sengoku Blade" and the audience's reaction to a powered-up Katana.
-"Astra Superstars" and the audience rooting for Fooly and Test-kun.

Other games on the panel included "Twinkle Star Sprites", "Magical Drop III" and "Guardian Heroes". Though there were a couple things I wish I could've done differently, I found the panel to be a memorable experience (it went so well that I was interviewed by a retro gaming website called Old School Gamer afterwords). The panel inspired me to perform variations of it at Magfest 2011 and Katsucon 2011. I certainly look forward to doing it again.

Act Two

Early Saturday afternoon at Otakon 2011, I was racing around the Baltimore Convention Center, taking as many pictures of cosplayers as I could. When I looked at my watch, I noticed the "K-On Cast" autograph session was drawing to a close. Having not been in an autograph line at Otakon since 2007, I decided to dive in and see if they'd let me in or turn me away at the last minute, figuring I'd have nothing to lose. To my (pleasant) surprise, the autograph session was still going (and the line wasn't as brutally long as it was for Ayako Kawasumi back in 2006). Even better, the cast was giving out free posters and autographing them (which was a real plus for me, especially since I didn't have anything to get autographed). Minutes later, I shook hands with the cast, asked them if they were enjoying Baltimore (they all said Yes), and admitted I hadn't seen the K-On anime yet (but I quickly pointed out that I did read the first two volumes of the manga prior to Otakon). Still, I got my autographs, I got a free poster, I got to chat with a few voice actresses, and I didn't have to wait in line for an hour or two to do so. In fact, that was the second-shortest amount of time I had to stand in line to get an autograph at Otakon (shortest was Hiroyuki Morioka at Otakon 2002). All things considered, I'd say my gamble was a complete success.

It's okay if you didn't get to shake my hand Ahrem, it was probably filthy anyhow:

Nothing like a brief vacation at a convention to make you feel like a new you, or drive you to the brink of insanity( whichever happens first). For me it was the former luckily!

Probably my most triumphant memory was that I was able to finish my latex mask for my Millennium Earl from D. Gray Man cosplay. Man there sure is a lot of work that goes into making a latex mask. First I had to make a sculpture of the Earl's head. Then I had to cover it with plaster. Then remove the clay. Wash the plaster mold. Fill it with liquid latex. Pour it back out. let it dry. Peel the mask out. Then trim it and paint it. Of course things didn't go perfectly. I realized I was short on supplies, which wouldn't have been a problem if I wasn't ordering my supplies on-line. Although the mask ended up a little bit deformed, I was still proud of my work! And I was able to impress many con goers at Otakon with it. Everyone was all like " Wow you made that yourself? " It was a lot of fun!

I'm pretty hardcore with my cosplaying. I stubburnly refused to take my mask off in front of anyone, no matter how hot it was. I even designed the mask so the mouth could open and I could use a straw to drink from my water bottle without taking my mask off. Whenever I got back to my hotel room and took off my mask it looked like someone had dumped a bucket of water on my head that's how sweaty I was. It seems that the Millennium Earl is also quite a popular character among fans. About 235 people took my picture. I was hugged by 3 guys and 8 girls. What can I say, it would seem that the Earl is a real lady's man. I was also able to impress girls with the fact that my long, pointy, Nosferatu-like fingernails were in fact my real fingernails ( I'm very eccentric ).

I was able to shake the hand of Erin Finnegan of Shelf Life. I also promised to one day send pictures of my shelves to Shelf Life. Sadly I was unable to shake your hand as I didn't know where I could meet you and finding people at Otakon is extremely difficult. I was interviewed on the last day by a person that was wearing a tie like yours. I was asked a question about Hey Arnold! ( what a blast from the past remembering that show was ) I was going to ask who that person was but they left quickly after the questions were over. I have no clue whether or not that was you or an imposter. If I had met you I would have liked to shake your hand and thank you for doing a good job as Answerman and continuing to make it an informative, amusing, and humorous column.

Another fond memory I had was from last year when I was in Baltimore to attend Otakon. I had reserved a dinner at a nice restaurant for the day before the convention for me and my friends. I had a suprise planned for all 8 of us. 2 of them refused the dinner because they would rather participate in a cosplay photo shoot. Too bad for them because the suprise was that I had rented a limo to take us to the restaurant! Its something I wanted to do at least once in my life. Riding in the limo we each felt like a million dollars. So in total we were 6 million dollars. It felt great to be king for 4 hours! I'm probably never doing that again unless I win the lottery.

Hopefully in the years to come I will make more fond memories at Otakon with my friends.

George is right, Masao Maruyama is indeed a man:

I only attented two cons this past season: AnimeNEXT and Otakon. Not too much happened to me during AnimeNEXT, but Otakon gave me some moments that really made my weekend. The best moments of all, though, involved Masao Maruyama from anime studio Madhouse. First, the autograph session was a small line, which made it quick and easy. When my turn came up I had him sign a Region 2 DVD of Kaiji that I had; to my pleasure Maruyama was very happy to see someone with a Kaiji item for him to sign. I asked if it was possible for a picture with him and I was told yes, so after my friend got his Geneon DVD release of the Barefoot Gen movies signed, to which he said he saw Maruyama look nostalgic over, we got a picture with the man himself. As if that wasn't cool enough, the next day we went to the Q&A panel for Maruyama and I asked him my question: Since Kaiji has a second season airing right now, is there any chance for Akagi and One Outs to get continued? While One Outs wasn't talked about, I was very estatic to hear Maruyama respond that not only is Akagi Season 2 a highly-wanted title by himself, Yuzo Sato (the director), and a higher-up over at NTV named Nakatani, but the 2005 anime has "cleared all requirements" an anime would need to do in order to get a sequel/continuation; this included estblishing a new style of storytelling, showcasing characters with "strong characteristic", and obviously successful DVD sales. Following that Maruyama nodded his head at me, and I naturally nodded my head back in complete respect and thanks for the man. Hearing that Akagi, one of my absolute favorite animes of all time, was likely to be continued absolutely made my weekend and was the best "announcement" of the con, in my opinion. These two moments combined lead me to one solution: Masao Maruyama is the MAN!!!

This is so sweet, Daniel:

Although I only go to one con a year now and as staff at that. Anime North remains the convention that I am devoted to. Originally I went merely as a fan when the convention first started, started cosplaying the second year of the convention but it was 2001 when I discovered an even better reason to attend.

2001 was the year I discovered the charity auction that Anime North runs. The auctions proceeds benefit Toronto Sick Kids Hospital, a cause that is close to my heart as I was a former patient there. In the auction I found a way to give back to the organization that helped me in the past and have fun at the same time.

I'm now on staff with the auction, helping to plan for, collect and sort items for the auction, but I will always be there during the auction itself, bidding on and buying items as well. It may not be the most ordinary reason to enjoy an anime convention, but it's the best reason to me.

Jeff teases me about Nyan Cat and I am upset:

At AX '10 I met Nabeshin outside on the street having a smoke with his handlers while I was walking to the bus. Decided to go and ask for a picture after walking past and thinking about it. One of those more interesting moments.

This year (AX '11) I got myself tied to volunteer work and didn't get to catch too many panels or events. Miku was just totally sold out, missed Masquerade for the first time I've ever been to AX (but got to watch some old LD anime). And since I had a job this year I bought stuff. Got this nice ocarina I need to practice more.

Also glad AX staff was able to somewhat overhaul itself from last year's BS. Cause last year had pretty noticeable BS.

Also the one panel I did get to was the JET panel on the industry and piracy. Glad to see they saw that a good deal of their fans are both downloaders and buyers. and that we don't as a majority prefer to download anime as to buy them (more likely both). Got to mention that sales numbers are kinda down "because if you don't release things, we don't buy things." Kinda hard to buy things that don't exist. Which is what got me thinking about what can the anime industry do with piracy. And more in a engage these people in what they expect. Cause whiny customers are still customers and their views are worth considering.

So my thing is can the anime industry say that piracy is a good thing for them and work with it instead? Or is big media just going to bs against the internet as always?

Oh and also got to watch my friend DJ at the dance. He got to talk to Nirgils as well, so cool shit happened for him. He's the one that went up as Reimu. Got him to play Nyan Cat at the end of his set. Bigger story around that but it happened and was win.

S.B. raises his/her fist against the empirical rule of Google Maps and shouts SIC SEMPER TYRANNUS:

So I went to AX a couple weeks ago. First day, I cosplayed Shinra and my dad cosplayed at Shingen. I didn't get asked for many pictures, but I don't mind, I was not good enough for pictures, but not bad enough for people to point and laugh. But that's not the point.

I've had problems with embarrassment for several years now. I'm not talking about your average embarrassments, but the ''Holy shit, how are you able to go outside?" It's pretty bad.

First day, there were several people in line that I wanted to take pictures of. But I was too embarrassed to ask for a picture so I didn't. I get my badge and wait for the dealer room to open, looking down at the big hall, staring at the other amazing cosplays... still too embarrassed to ask. My dad kept telling me that if I was too embarrassed, then he would go and ask, but then I got embarrassed for the cosplayers at a 40 year old man asking to take their pictures. Even the cosplayers that had a giant group of people taking their pictures was too much for me.

I attempted to go to the Durarara meet. But I got there and watched people for two seconds before panicking and running back inside to sit on the stairs and mope. Dad attempted to make me feel better, but we left soon after. I later heard that people were looking forward to seeing me and my dad, and I regret the decision to leave badly.

That first day, I only got one picture: The nyan cat warrior guy.

Second day, a friend came up to join me and we did a couple things for her. Signed up for niconico, saw the long cat and still too embarrassed to ask for anything. It was only during the last half of the con, after we ate lunch that I started to get pictures. They're mostly Bunny and Tiger, but I don't remember. After that, we went to the dealer room again, got a nico nico account (only for the water bottles) and then went to the Anime rooms to hang out. Big mistake.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was showing and we watched that, but of course, they had to show Nina. The whole room was teary. After that, we went to Trigun. It was during that room, that I realized... I was bleeding. Heavily. As soon as that was over, we ran back to the car, I went back into the bathroom (which felt like it was a mile away) and changed. Now, I was wearing pants with a long shirt before, but the shorts that I had put on made me look like I was only wearing the shirt.

Welp, can't do anything about that so, we get ready for the Miku concert. Let me tell you, as soon as I walked into those doors, my friend got called out by security for having a metal water bottle. We take it down to their item check-in, then go back up 2 flights to our seats, which are four rows from the back. It's fine, everything is fine, I warm up, dad leaves to go get glow sticks (he gets jealous of the guy with the light saber), the concert starts, everybody stands up to cheer but... after a couple songs, the people in front of us will not sit down.

Every time there's a break between songs, the entire back section would yell ''SIT DOOOOWWNNN." They didn't listen to us until near the end of the concert, so I could see most of it.

My con experience was mostly bad, but I enjoyed it. I met a friend that I met except online, I learned that when google maps says there's a McDonalds in the area, it's most likely closed and I need to work up the courage to ask for pictures. And what pictures I've taken are still stuck in the camera. I haven't looked at them since the con ended.

And finally, this one from Lynzee has personal resonance for me:

Well, my most memorable memory there was that time at Otakon where Answerman got my name wrong in front of the entire ANN panel audience and owed me a sandwich and then when it was time for said sandwich exchange our boss bought the sandwich! I'm pretty sure he still owes me a sandwich! Or maybe pushing me in a wheelbarrow at 3AM down Fayette St like a personal farmhand makes up for it? I'm not sure.

I just really want another reuben.


ANN Intern

Once I find a way to effectively mail a reuben to Washington, you got it.

Anyway! Here's what's on the docket for 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 for now, but remember to keep sending me emails of the question or answer variety located at answerman((at))animenewsnetwork.com! See you next week!

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