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Hey, Answerman! - Avec-quois Les Anglais

by Brian Hanson,

Hey there! Welcome back, one and all, to the sanctity and Answer-iness that is Hey, Answerman!

Ah, fall. That brief period here in the pit Arizona that is, dare I say, absolutely exquisite. I can type outside now! It's lovely.

So while I'm in this good of a mood, let's get on to the questions. Ahh.

What common factor links Naruto, Bleach, Rurouni Kenshin, One Piece, and (sort of) Dragon Ball/Z? Well, of course they're all shonen action series, but they're also long-running shows that have enormous amounts of filler over their lifetimes. That filler stems from the need to keep product going all the time, even though animation easily outpaces the manga unless the pace is slowed to that of a crippled snail. The need to keep product coming for new shows constantly seems to stem from an idea that reruns are verboten on Japanese television. Which is the root of the problem: why are reruns not allowed? Is the Japanese television industry so averse to the concept? Remember how many reruns Saturday morning cartoons would feature instead of new programs, for instance?

I had no idea why this is, so I asked our resident expert Justin Sevakis. Here's what he had to say:

The whole idea of having a summer of reruns, and then new episodes every fall, is a mostly American one. While some countries follow our system, many other countries, including most of Asia, work on a quarterly rotation of new shows. Since TV networks divide up their scheduling every 3 months, any break in a show means that, if the producers want to come back in that time slot, they're going to have to negotiate for that time all over again. There might be another, better-rated show in its place, by that time. In the case of TV programming, your time slot can make or break you.

When the producers run out of story material, reruns can seem like an unacceptable option. Since anime doesn't bring in any better ratings than, say, yet another miserable news talk show, or yet another variety show in which celebrities discuss video clips while eating pasta (and yet, is WAY more expensive and time-intensive to produce), anime producers live in constant fear that the network will suddenly decide, "why are we bothering with all these cartoons, let's just fill time with general audience programming." It's a very valid fear: pretty much every American TV network made that choice during the 90s, and stopped showing animated and children's programming entirely. So rather than tempt fate by giving the TV networks reruns (which will inevitably cause ratings to drop -- keep in mind, these are serialized stories), the producers keep the anime coming quick and cheap. As long as the quality doesn't drop too much, kids keep watching, ratings stay mediocre-but-acceptable, the toys keep selling, and everybody's happy.

That said, I think this only works with long running shonen series. For more seinen-oriented programming (or for the 75% of anime that's broadcast at 2am as a paid infomercial for the DVDs and merchandise), there's less risk in securing TV broadcast for a second time. Trying to come up with filler storylines that don't screw up the plot is really, really hard, and usually the manga artist and publisher isn't so happy to see it happen. So rather than pad things out, they'll opt to end the show, and if the first season was successful they'll do another round when they have the material.

But unfortunately, with many Shonen action series, the powers that be have decided that quality is just less necessary to maintain its audience. And since people are still tuning into Naruto, they've been proven right.

For what it's worth, Japanese TV has plenty of reruns, especially on cable and satellite. But that particular broadcast is always sold as resyndication, never as original programming. They just don't like to mix things up that way.

And there you have it.

Hi Brian,

I have a question about anime Region 1 DVDs which are intended for sale to both Canada and the US. Canada has a sizeable French-speaking population (particularly in the province of Quebec), so why aren't companies like Funimation and Right Stuf putting french subtitles on their DVDs? To date, the only DVDs that I have seen which have French subtitles are anime movies like Cowboy Bebop: The Movie or Steamboy (released by Sony).

In my opinion, I think US anime companies like Funimation and Right Stuf could have helped increased video sales and rental in Canada (while stemming the flow of illegal downloads) if they had better catered to the French speaking population of Canada. It is particularly annoying for a French Canadian to go into a music/video store to buy a video game, movie or anime only to find out that the disc is completely in English. Thankfully, video game and movie companies have now made sure that their discs include a french soundtrack or subtitles. However, anime from the US sold in Canada continues to have only an English dub or English subtitles. Thus, the only alternatives for French Canadians to watch anime is to: a) buy an all-region DVD player and import discs from France, b) watch French-subtitled fansubs, or c) hope that a streaming site has French subtitled anime that is not region-locked to Canadians and watch it there. Strangely enough, anime magazines from France are sold on Canadian newsstands. This lets French fans know about the latest anime, but due to the lack of French subtitles or French dub track on TV or DVD in Canada, what's the point?

In addition to increasing DVD sales and rental in Canada, I feel there is a good incentive to license anime that has not traditionally done well in the US, but super in countries that have a so-called international audience. This type of audience has a greater appreciation for anime that goes beyond Naruto, Bleach or moe. In Quebec, for example, anime such as Galaxy Express 999, Grendizer, Rose of Versailles, Astro Boy have been hugely popular when they were first broadcast on TV (dubbed in French) during the early 80s. During this period, we even got Nobody's Boy Remi, Candy, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Maya the Bee, and anime based on Little Women, the 3 Musketeers, Treasure Island and Around the World in 80 Days!

Also, whatever manga gets licensed in France are carried over to Canada (especially Quebec). In the bookstores and libraries of French speaking provinces such as Quebec, the French manga section is much larger than the English manga section (in terms of variety, number of titles licensed by a manga distributor and number of volumes per title). Thus, while old titles such as Captain Tsubasa, Lupin the 3rd, Detective Conan, City Hunter, Saint Seiya, Princess Knight, Rose of Versailles, etc.. tends to be unpopular in the US, it is popular in Canada. This could potentially make Canada an untapped market for anime companies to release DVDs of old titles.

I know that more and more Canadians are increasingly gaining greater command of the English language, but I think that US anime companies are making huge mistake assuming that all Canadians can understand English and don't care if DVDs only have an English dub/soundtrack.

Alright, you make some good arguments here. And you're definitely right about Canadians being much savvier and hip to anime than anybody gives credit for - our own boss here, Chris Macdonald, is himself comfortably nestled in Canada, and has made that point countless times. Anime is big in Canada, and unlike other parts of the Western world, it's actually growing. But, about this French subtitle conundrum. Let me turn once again to Justin Sevakis:

Quebec is a stronger market for anime, but it's a very tiny one. Let's put it this way: the total population of the entire province is around 8 million. That's about equal to the population of New York City itself, without any suburbs. That's not a lot of people, relatively speaking, and of those, a sizable chunk CAN speak and read English, even if they prefer to keep things in French.

So as a publisher, why would you bother with the time and expense of adding French subtitles (which, by the way, you can't proofread yourself because you can't speak French) to reach such a relatively small additional audience? It's a tough expense to justify. But there's an even better reason not to do it: most licensing contracts won't even allow it.

When international licensing is concerned, rights are carved out either by territory ("You have the right to sell DVDs in the United States and Canada") or by language area ("You have the right to sell DVDs in English speaking territories"). Often contracts will even spell out what languages can be used in connection with the show. The vast majority of licenses to American companies will specify that only English may be added to the program in question. So even if, say, Funimation wanted to add French subtitles to their discs, they usually wouldn't be able to without throwing a wrench into the already difficult contractual side of things.

For what it's worth, there are Canadian publishers that have produced a handful of French-only DVDs of anime that us Anglophiles can't even get (including many of the classics you mentioned). So if anything, the bilingual types have it the best out of all of us.

This is mostly an opinion, but I am still curious about something. A couple weeks ago I found out that a series I was following has recently been licensed in the US. I was very happy to hear that, I was finally going to get the chance to own the book in a language I can read (I have the original Japanese edition), but then I found out that the series is only going to be released online. I'm not too thrilled about that. A part of me thinks, why should I pay to read something online when I was already reading that something online, for free? In order for the series to be released in print format depends on how well the digital copies sell, and that took me to my next question, why should I pay twice for the same content? I buy a lot of manga, so I am not against buying a licensed series, but my issue is that I like buying books. What I am trying to get at is, wouldn't it be a better idea to put the print edition on pre-order and only print the amount of books that have been pre-ordered? Or have both options available, print-on-demand and the digital copy?

Uh, well, you see! What's nice about saying something like, "we'll release this in book form if it sells well on digital," in a corporate-sense, is that it requires little to no commitment. Sort of like, you know, you're on a first date, and it's going well, and the guy says, "you know I'd like to have kids, some day." Jerks.

What was I saying? Oh yes. So, you're basically miffed that even if this non-specific series gets a physical release, you're going to end up buying it three times, essentially. I can understand being miffed about that. But come on, man. We're hobbyists. We're enthusiasts. Being ripped off is part of what it's all about. Cynical, but true!

How many people bought Star Wars again this week, despite the changes just getting worse? I personally have bought Castle of Cagliostro three times now, and none of those releases have been perfect. Thanks to PSN, I have now bought Resident Evil 4 three times as well. Have I thought to myself, deep down inside, "man, how many times am I gonna spend my money on the same damn thing?" Yes, I have. But sadly I know that I'll probably do it again if they give me the chance, because I just can't help myself. Because I'm a damn nerd!

I mean, having a print-on-demand solution, or some sort of pre-order thing, would be a better idea for you, sure. That way you won't have to spend money on the same thing twice. Business-wise? If they can get your money twice, they will. Because why not? You're a fan of this series, you like supporting it, and you show that support by throwing all logic and sense out the proverbial window and surrendering your wallet in sad, bitter defeat.

Bitter defeat that, for myself, is mitigated by the fact that I take a sense of pride in knowing that I purchased something I genuinely love. I love Castle of Cagliostro. I love Resident Evil 4. I love Empire Strikes Back, but luckily my roommates broke down and bought the Blu Ray set so I didn't have to. But Star Wars is one thing; something like, I dunno, Wings of Honneamise (as much as I keep bringing it up) is another. I'll buy that movie again if they re-release it somehow, because it's just obscure enough that I know that my dollar-vote really counts on that one.

And that's really the way to go about it. Wings of Honneamise isn't going to sell like crazy, no matter what happens. I'm buying it because I love it, first and foremost, but I'm also buying it because I still have this crazy notion that I'd like to think my dollars go towards rewarding quality. If Honneamise shows up as a digital file on iTunes, or the PSN store, yep, I'm buyin' it. If they come up with a way to release the film as a high-speed Energy Disk that is literally injected into my brain, yeah, I'll buy that too. Whatever the format, give it to me. I want it.

Those examples are rare, though. I won't do that for things I just like. I really have to love them. And if I had to fathom a guess, you're upset about the possibility of buying something twice, because you don't genuinely love it, but you still want it. And that's up to you; if the chance to own this series in a nice physical book on your shelf is truly worth buying it twice, then sad to say, that's what you gotta do. Otherwise, no use getting all huffy. Just skip it.

I was going through some old Answerman backlog emails, and I found this.

i was reading the answerman forums and i want to know why does everybody act like a kool aid drinker

Here we go with Answerman's Answerfans! Last time, with the near-ubiquity of smart phones and such, I was interested in a bit of unrelated market research:

To begin, Mark and Android are the best of buds:

As a guy who loves tech toys but hates to spend money, I purchased a 10" mid-range Android tablet and have found it quite convenient for watching anime and somewhat handy for reading manga.

The main app I use to watch anime is the Crunchyroll app for Android. Crunchyroll's app, which is free but I believe you need a Crunchyroll subscription to use, gives you access to all of their anime library as well as their simulcast shows, so there's a wealth of choices for watching. The screen resolution is adequate, certainly not HD but on such a small screen how can you tell? The files load quickly and I haven't had a problem with stuttering or timeouts. The user interface is a bit sparse but it gets the job done.

I also use the YouTube app which works quite well in Android, although since I generally don't watch anime on YouTube, it's used more for viewing trailers and other videos.

Unfortunately, the videos posted at Funimation and Anime News Network aren't available for viewing on my tablet, apparently Hulu hosts the video files and they currently don't support Android.

I've also used the tablet to read scanlations, although I don't have a dedicated app for that. The web browser works fine and the 10" screen does a decent job of rendering full pages in the horizontal and vertical alignment. I'm not sure how well it would work with a smaller 7" screen (or an even smaller Android phone screen). My biggest complaint with reading manga like this is sometimes the touchscreen interface does weird things, like switching to the desktop or going forward a page when I didn't mean to, probably caused by my chubby fingers. Still lounging on the couch reading manga and watching anime sure beats being stuck at my computer.

Tim is right, less overhead is good. GET WITH IT, LIGHT NOVEL PEOPLE:

I do, but I have some misgivings with the mobile market.

First off, the whole "app model" is a huge step backwards in computing. Instead of compatibility standards, companies are fighting each other to hold onto lock-in monopolies. Instead of owning content, it's lease out to you at the whim of corporate powers. Instead of an open market for programs, gatekeeper companies like Apple push out anything against their interests or "naughty." There'd have to be a lot of changes to how things are done to make my step into that pit. I fear the day when some manga or anime I love is licensed, and released app-only....urghh.

Despite that, I use my eReader in all sorts of fannish ways. I use it to read some of the few DRM-free digital manga out there, like the new indie magazine "GEN Manga." Plus, getting an eReader allowed the number of fanfic I read to explode. Finally, I can read it comfily in bed without burning my eyes out on an LCD screen. It also helps that there's a really nifty tool (FanFictionDownloader) to automatically convert it to ePub format. It'd be really neat if companies released some light novels as eBooks. It could be a good fit, since light novels are so niche, and publishing them digitally needs less overhead.

And finally, Joyce hops aboard the Apple Hype Train, choo choo:

In actual fact, I don't have a smart phone, e-reader, or tablet but, I have added read manga and watch anime to the pro column in my "why I need an iPad" list. I would not even consider watching anything on the small screen of a smart phone and don't understand why anyone would. I haven't bought an e-reader because I have way too many paper books. I would consider it though if more manga I wanted to read was available. The tablet, on the other hand, provides far more possibilities. I don't like watching anything for very long on my computer but I can get comfortable with a tablet so the chance to watch anime that is not out on DVD is attractive. I might even watch some subs. There still isn't much digital manga, but a tablet screen is big enough to see a whole page and there are (can I say it?) scanlations of old manga I want to read but can't find/afford. All that said, I have to say that the tablet provides a very attractive option for digital entertainment, it even makes NetFlix portable.

I, personally, was just given an e-Reader; I dig it, and manga looks great in e-ink, but stores like Viz and such only want me to have an iPad to sample their digital wares. Boo hoo.

Anyhow! Next week, inspired by the fine fall weather, I want to know your secret plans:

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 sound you're hearing now is the sound that my time is done! I'll be back around next time, so until then, keep my inbox flowin' full of questions and answers over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Fare thee well! Or not.

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