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Hey, Answerman! - Omnibus In Absentia

by Brian Hanson,

Hey, guys! What's up!

So, last week I took a question about libraries. As in, 'how do libraries get the selection that they get?' My response was about how they mainly get donations and such.

Which is, actually, only a small, small part of a library's, uh, library. There is a much bigger and more interesting truth on the subject, which was explained to me in no small terms by friend-of-ANN and librarian himself, Mikhail Koulikov:

I don't particularly like getting on a journalist's case about something, and definitely don't like getting on a colleague's case, but, there's no way around this.

The question that was pitched to you is straight-forward: "Really, who picks out these titles? Was it some lady, randomly buying whatever manga came up? Or do they actually go by some guidelines?"

Here, what you had is a great chance to introduce readers to the idea and practice of collection development in a library. The short answer to the question is should be more or less - yes.

Libraries do in fact tend to have specific guidelines for adding titles to their collections, and specific employees whose jobs primarily or significantly involve deciding what to add to a collection, and how.

The most important components of these guidelines include things like "popularity" (as reflected in bestseller rankings), awards (the Eisners, Harveys, etc.), mentions in "recommended lists" such as the Young Adult Library Services Association's "Great Graphic Novels for Teens" (which ANN has covered for several years now), and reviews in specialized magazines like Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, and Young Adult Library Services. Librarians looking for a 'first introduction" to manga can even turn to specialized books including 'Understanding Manga and Anime' by Robin Brenner and 'Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More' by Michael Pawuk. Patron requests and librarians' personal preferences may not play as big a role, but there is some provision in policies for these as well.

A typical statement from a public library's collection development policy that mentions manga reads as follows:

"Materials are selected from reviews in professional journals and general publications, patron recommendations, publishers' and booksellers' catalogs and flyers and by inspection of materials at professional conferences, trade shows and retail outlets. There also are many collection development resources, reviews, web sites (both commercial and non-profit) lists and recommendations on the Internet."

(Spring Township, PA Library Association Collection Development Policy)

Another description of the process, mentioning manga specifically, is:

"Manga, graphic novels, and comics are selected based upon the age appropriateness of the text and illustrations. The collection will include titles for older teens, however, no rated M or mature titles will be selected. The collection may also include non-fiction and classics in graphic format. Selections are based upon professional reviews, customer requests, and the popularity of styles, authors, characters, and series."

(Haverhill, MA Teen Services Collection Development Policy)


- Mikhail Koulikov (MLS, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University, Bloomington)
Reference/Research Librarian
New York Law Institute

See that? Those are straight-up proper citations. Dang. I just got educationally schooled in more ways than one.

So that's last week's questions. I've got more for this week! Let's see what else I need to have clarified and extrapolated next time! Kidding, kidding:

There's been a recent trend with some releases that I've been looking forward to that really has me frustrated. I haven't been able to get any kind of a response from the official company (Dark Horse), so I'm wondering if you can shed some light. My gripe is with DH's Clamp omnibus releases and their constant postponement of... well, everything.

For years now, Dark Horse has been listing items on Amazon and everywhere else, only to silently and sneakily not release them come shipping time. They'll postpone for months at a time. Multiple times. For the same release. Some items end up coming out a year or more after they were originally expected to. (MKR2 is one of them, at one point projected for Jan or Feb of '11, now Jan '12) The fans had noticed, and they pestered DH to know whether the fate of the constantly postponed releases. The only answer we were ever given was that no, they weren't canceled. Good news, but the misleading dates continued. It's exhausting and frustrating when you're looking forward to something that keeps getting delayed over and over again. And it's somehow worse when you get used to it, and just start telling yourself "Never mind what Amazon/Dark Horse says: it'll get here when it gets here."

It's not just Dark Horse though... but all of Clamp. Kobato. hasn't been postponed, but after rushing out the first three volumes, we had to wait almost a year for volume 4. Clamp in America was delayed time and time again, before ultimately getting canceled (though I'm more open to believing there are other, understandable reasons for this) And xxxHOLiC and Tsubasa were released barely 2 volumes a year throughout their span: the kicker is that now they want me to believe they are finally going to finish xxxHOLiC by releasing 3 volumes in 5 months. And I believe there was a mysterious dry spell of releases for xxxHOLiC as well... Perhaps they've been hoarding ready-to-print volumes? But where's the sense in stockpiling them like that?

I don't even really care about protesting these terrible practices (I guess I'm a junkie). I just want to know why, and if there's a better way (perhaps based on astrology?) to predict release dates. And what's going into these omnibus releases? The new translations are wonderful, but is it that hard to do when the titles have all been released in English before? What are the rights for Clamp titles like? Is it some kinda black hole of restrictions and limitations that mess up the localization process? I believe the rights recently switched hands, but these problems have been going back too long to conceive that the transition of the rights got in the way. Clamp are alleged "manga superstars," so why aren't their releases being treated with more respect? Or is the group some kind of a "prima donna"?

I know you can't possibly know the plans and practices of every company in the business, but I really am curious to know what's behind my anguish.

Well, I know it's not an "omnibus," but at least Dark Horse seems to be getting the first volume of Gate 7 out in early October, which, as a brand-spanking-new series, probably clams a higher priority amongst Dark Horse's CLAMP endeavors than any of the re-releases of the older stuff.

So, those eternally-delayed omnibuseses. You're right, none of the reasoning behind their slow crawl to the marketplace really makes any sense when under scrutiny - there's no point in stockpiling them, there's really no financial sense in staggering their releases the way they do, et cetera. So what's going on?

Well, who knows. The one thing I can say with utter certainty about anything CLAMP does, is that they do it in complete secrecy and silence. They are anonymous and like it that way. Luckily they've built up the clout to do so by being not only really talented and creative, but also having their hand in some of the best-selling manga titles in both Japan and overseas.

Let me make it clear, though; their work IS getting "respect." Those Dark Horse omnibus collections are great; the translations are leaps better than they ever were before, and they look and feel wonderful. That's about as respectful as I think any manga can get. So really, what is "going on" is a lot of things all at once, but because this is CLAMP we're dealing with here, that's the sort of thing that will probably be taken into CLAMP's collective graves. Are they "prima donnas"? Oh I wouldn't doubt it for a second. I've heard stories about their visit to Anime Expo back in 2006. But in a way, I don't think I was alone in expecting that, and in a way I was relieved; it's comforting, in a strange fashion, to know that a group of artists that you both admire and are also commercially very, very successful still have their own little personal flaws.

Case in point, it's not easy to release anything with CLAMP's name on it. Nor is it quick. Dark Horse isn't toying with their release dates because their printing presses are powered by the tears and frustration of nerds on the internet. These are forces beyond even their control, and unfortunately they are forces so dark and mysterious, only CLAMP knows their true, terrifying secrets.


Hey, Answerman.

I'm sitting at my cubicle, doing busy work, labeling this and that, binding materials, etc. and trying to listen to this audiobook mystery novel that is trying way too hard to make every single character edgy and crazy, wishing I had something else, and the question occurs to me... Why don't VN publishers or anime producers ever produce audio book productions of visual novels? My question is mainly concerning western productions but I also have to wonder if companies in Japan ever make them.

It seems like such a ridiculously logical progression to make. Some works could even be interpreted with partial dramatic casts. Considering the audience in the west I'd speculate audio books of known properties might even sell better than actual books. Get Crispin Freeman to read through the Haruhi book, maybe with the occasional lines from the rest of the anime cast, maybe bundle them with extras and I'd think you'd have a nice product.

Looking into it a tiny bit I see Tokyopop attempted a "Mangapod" format very, very briefly (maybe only one crappy "American Anime" called A Midnight Opera ?) and in Brain Driving I see Brian Ruh mentioned a recent attempt by Mike Dent at a Dirty Pair dramatization of the first novel, but that's all I could find.

They do have something similar in Japan that's also quite different than what you're talking about: Radio dramas, starring the voice cast of this anime series or that game franchise, are still quite popular over there. Look up any of your favorite series on, like, CD Japan and you'll find a "Drama" CD or two that has several seiyuu doing some side stories.

Now, what's stopping something similar from happening here in the West? Same thing that's stopping a lot of good ideas from materializing in the English-speaking world - cost, cost, cost. I would speculate, in all brutal honesty, that the cost of such a thing far outweighs the demand it would have.

And just as a side note, you should notice that the "audiobook" in and of itself - save for your typical bestsellers and celebrity memoirs and whathaveyou - are slowly fading away. With the exception of something as big as maybe Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, whenever people these days are looking to listen to something for hours on end to get through the day, we have these things called "podcasts." And there are tons of them. And for the most part, they're free. Free!

Audiobooks aren't exactly the sort of business endeavor anybody is thinking of getting in to anymore, for better or worse. Audiobooks are simply not a format that has weathered the transition to digital media well. And to think that any company publishing light novels - very small niche publishers, mind you - would shell out the expense of hiring a seasoned voice actor for several hours in a recording booth, is... well, it's sort of unfeasible, in this market.

I mean, I'm with you in that this sounds like a pretty good idea, and I have no doubt that it would work pretty well if it were marketed and delivered properly. And of course in Japan there's a whole cottage industry of Radio Drama stuff. But the market here in the West seems all wrong for it. And I can't blame a small publisher like Little, Brown and Company for reading the tea leaves the same way and letting it be. They are, after all, a little brown company.

(I am sorry for that pun.)

Hey Brian, I was wondering if you've ever thought of doing a special "video response" or "reader video question submission" episode of Answerman. An episode where we, the readers, send in a video of our questions, and you could either answer in normal text format, or go all-out and answer with a video of your own? I imagine that the time and resources to do this would be far greater than a normal Answerman column, but I think it'd be a refreshing change of pace, if only occasionally. So, has the idea ever crossed your mind?

Videos, huh?

I'll be honest in saying that the thought has definitely crossed my mind once or twice - it's not like I'm camera shy, and it certainly wouldn't be the first time I've ever attempted a video feature for a column I've written on ANN - but, well.

Here's the thing. Myself, as well as ANN as a whole, strive for a certain, how shall we say, professionalism. And if there's one thing that doesn't look professional in any way, shape, or form, it's... two people, using their crappy webcams, asking each other questions. There's certainly a place for that, and in fact I know it's quite a popular thing on YouTube and the like, but for ANN, we like for things to look a bit, uh, better.

It's a production value thing. And that of course, like anything else, requires a bit more, well, time than I can really commit to at the moment. Key word: At the moment.

So, let it be said that I like to keep this column as interactive with my readers as possible, and videos are certainly something I've thought about, but I haven't really found something, so far at least, that would really fit with the rest of the column as a whole. But I dunno, I'm still thinking about it, and once I've perhaps found something suitable, you guys will of course be the first to know.

Keep watching the skies, people!

Well kick me in the butt and call me Santa Maria! It's time for Answerfans!

Last week I was, for one reason or another, thinking about honorable, interesting failures, which is something I do often, probably to my own personal detriment. Thusly, I decided to spread my malaise to the rest of you, with this question!

To begin! Kyubey brings up a Sanrio-produced Tezuka production, which is full of this sort of fascinating failures:

Here are some:

Demon King Daimao: I thought the premise was awesome: The really saintly protagonist is suddenly declared to be the next Dark Lord out of nowhere, and all his life instantly goes to heck, because everybody insists on interpreting even the most innocent action as having some devious purpose. And things really do seem to go in that direction, despite his desperate attempts to prove his honorable intentions.

Done well it could have been really good and hilarious. Unfortunately there had to be a big problem: fanservice. Lots and lots of it, and of a weird kind (in my opinion, anyway) too. There's so much of it that it takes away from the plot immensely.

The end result fails from any point of view you look from: as a story, it's spoiled by the unnecessary and very pervasive fanservice. But it's nowhere near porn either, so not really worth watching for that reason either. It does have its moments, but I'm very reluctant to even mention it to most people due to the darn fanservice. Which isn't even seen much, because Crunchyroll blocked most of it with huge black boxes.

I think it's a nice idea that deserves being redone properly.

Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature: This is obscure. Honestly, it's painful to watch. It looks extremely dated, many scenes are incredibly awkward and the ending makes you go "Aaaugh! Why?!" The whole movie is a weird piece of propaganda from Osamu Tezuka against an issue nobody finds controversial anymore. Also, the protagonist is pink, apparently because Sanrio provided funding for it. All in all, lots and lots of issues and weirdness here.

Despite all that, it still has something quite unique: it's the only anime I've seen that uses the idea of mixing a human and an animal and actually takes it seriously instead of just sticking ears and a tail on a girl and making her go "Nya!" once in a while. There's a lot of potential just there, and room for exploration of serious issues that still exist, and the movie actually does a decent job of it.

The overall plot is actually fine too. It's just the way it's realized that today looks extremely awkward in a way that's hard to explain. Ryo is drawn with a weird thing on his cheek. Bagi is pink. There's a lab called "la cucaracha" (seriously!). The bad guys are stupid looking and too one dimensional. There's an unneeded sidekick. And so on. If remade properly it could be really good, even without making any large changes to the plot. As it is, though, the viewer has to be able to ignore all the problems to see the good parts of it.

Still, I recommend trying to watch it because it is something quite unique, and hope some day somebody will take this concept and do it right.

Origin ~Spirits of the Past~: Graphically breathtaking. But the plot is very awkward. I heard it's "cliched". But it wasn't in the way I expected. I thought it'd be cliched in the "environmental cliche" sense, that I don't really mind. No, the problem I found is that it's a weird hodge-podge of anime tropes strangely thrown in without a good reason.

For example: the movie opens with the protagonists running around. Ok, for whatever reason lots of anime begins that way. But here it makes no sense at all, because they're trying to *sneak* into a well, and instead run around like crazy and make a huge racket and risk getting killed. And somehow get in anyway. Their "noble purpose" is getting water for Agito's father, apparently. But that makes zero sense, because Agito's father built half the town and made a huge sacrifice for it. It makes no sense that he'd need to barely subsist. Surely the villagers must have some gratitude for his hard work. But it's never shown that he was forgotten or anything like that, so to me it comes out as odd.

Characters behave oddly. They live in a decayed city that is a deathtrap. Agito gets to his house by walking over a rusty ladder laid across a precipice! Toola is bland and lethargic, and just days after waking up in a strange world decides to try to bring the old world back, without trying to figure if it's a good idea or not, and what would that mean. Minka obnoxiously sneaks behind her, snatches her device, randomly declares she'll marry Agito and wanders off. Toola's chance of reaching her people was just spoiled but she doesn't even protest. Agito for some reason keeps running after Toola despite her never doing anything that would warrant risking his life for her.

It's like the script consisted of a list of things that must happen, and then minor cliches were picked that match those things, and animated, without anybody bothering to check whether they actually fit in the context they're in.

I get the impression that this should have been a 12 episode series, at least. If it was that long, it could have been really cool. The movie is too compressed, the characters need a lot of development they never get in the movie, and too much is left unexplored.

You are right Sam, Final Fantasy: Unlimited *is* one of the worst things I've ever seen:

This is going to sound crazy, but when I think of an anime that tried to be different and failed, I think of Final Fantasy: Unlimited. Ya gotta give it credit for not adhering to the clichés of other fantasy adventures like many animes of the genre and/or are based on JRPGs. Amongst the diverse events were a werewolf girl who transformed when she saw her reflection and had a super sonic howl, mythical beasts summoned by gun, magic soil and masculine haikus, a character who was actually a part of a world destroying monster, a giant torpedo powered by a bunch of blow dart tubes, a special material that could make people fly, and that the evil Earl was feeding off negative emotions and was really the monster Chaos. If these and other ideas had been used better, FFU could've been cooler than it was...

...but instead we got a slow, strange cross between Power Rangers and Alice in Wonderland (to those who haven't seen it: it's as bad as it sounds) that had every problem an anime could have, from ugly design to unlikable characters to a bland dub. Under normal circumstances, an anime that opens with a “Big Kaiju Battle” (another sign they were going for something different) would win me over from the start . But the monsters' poor designs and the general...dullness of the battle ruined whatever epicness they were going for :'(

Yes, FFU ended up being one of the worst animes ever and failed on every level. But no one can accuse it of being just another shonen show. And it deserves points for that.

In this, our last response, Matt maybe makes a mistake, mainly about manly men being manly:

There are a few shows that I've bought based on their concept alone, the most notorious being Moonlight Mile. I've always been interested in space exploration and I loved the approach that Planetes took to the subject, so I was honestly hoping for more of the same. What the previews neglected to mention, however, was that the show wasn't really about space.

Space exploration, for this show, serves as a helpful excuse to show Manly Men doing Manly Things. These things include being ripped beyond all logic, heavy drinking, being in the military, sleeping with every woman in the show and never having emotional attachment to any of them, and being good at everything that they try to do. And why do such men want to go to space in the first place? Well because it's a hard thing and the moon is up there... SO LET'S CLIMB IT. I really didn't like any of the characters and, despite its awesome premise about the first steps of space colonization, the show had nothing more to say than "Manly men are manly."

I dunno Matt, that actually sounds pretty damn cool. Dudes drinkin' and having sex and CLIMBING TO THE MOON. But like with many things I hear that the manga is way, way better. Figures.

Anyway, as you can see there's not a voluminous amount of responses this week, but at least I've got some recommendations for more bizarre things to subject myself to!

And speaking of bizarre things, here, below, is next week's question:

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.

And I am finished! Don't forget, everybody, to keep sending those emails, positive, negative, neutral, whatever, over to my email-box located conveniently at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Adieu!

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