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Hey, Answerman!
Delicious Creme Filler

by Brian Hanson,

Hello there, fans and readers! It's time for me to sit down once again and whip up some answers to those little questions that burrow into your mind and refuse to leave until they are sated.

Wait, that makes it sound really gross.

Er, I'm going to answer your questions now. Yeah.

Ok, in Japan they don't like reruns for the reasons you've explained. But, why does filler have to be so bland? Filler seems near guaranteed to be bad, due to the attempt to make something that doesn't affect the canon storyline in any way, so we get no character development, new characters that will never be seen again afterwards, and a new location that won't ever be seen again either.

The results are sometimes so horrible that perfectly good series like Kenshin get cancelled due to it. So why not do filler a bit better?

Why not for instance discuss filler with the manga author and make storylines based on the background information the author came up with but isn't going to include in the manga?

Or why not go off the rails entirely? Like doing "what if" type scenarios. What if Naruto killed Sasuke at the Valley of the End? What if Naruto joined Orochimaru's side? One of my favourite fanfics ends with Naruto having a romantic moment with Tayuya amid the burning ruins of Konoha, and things get to that point in a surprisingly convincing manner. Heck, I'd even pay extra to see something like that animated. At the very least there'd be much more room to make something interesting to watch.

So why is it that filler seems to always get done in such a boring manner, when there's evidence that a studio can go off the rails and do a decent job of it, like with the first Fullmetal Alchemist series, for instance?

I'm with you there, as I think everyone else is, in that filler by itself has no right to be terrible. The anime writers' hands are tied, in a sense, in that they really can't do too much, character-wise, for fear of possibly contradicting something that will happen later in the manga. But still, we really don't need or deserve an entire episode of Naruto peeing on things.

And also, Fullmetal Alchemist is a bit of a strange duck in the sense that from the get-go, they only had 52 episodes to plan out when they knew long in advance that the manga was still ongoing (and in fact went on far, far longer than they could have possibly foreseen) and the writer and director wanted to end the story their own way. Think of it in the same way that both Hayao Miyazaki and Katsuhiro Ōtomo had plans for both Nausicaä and Akira, respectively, to continue on their own path as a manga, but they still had to think of a premature ending when it came time to turn them both into films.

Filler shouldn't be bad, no, but as I've mentioned before, the deadlines and schedules for these shows are absolutely grueling. Every conceivable shortcut is taken, from the animation to editing to even the writing. (There's a recent episode of Bleach that just aired where they even forgot to erase the production notes from the animation of one of the scenes!) Stuff slips by, occasionally.

The one show I have to give some credit for, though, in that regard, is One Piece - occasionally in their filler parts, the writers at least attempt to think outside the box a little bit. There was a filler arc that aired some years back that transplanted the Straw Hat Pirates into the feudal Edo samurai era. I mean, the fan feedback on that was mixed, but I have to give them a little bit of applause for taking somewhat of a different direction.

And on the subject of One Piece, if there's one thing that I would like to see more of in regards to these eternally-running shows, is attempts to take a completely different stylistic approach to everything. The 6th One Piece movie, for example. Now, feature films based off of long-running Shonen series are basically the worst examples of filler you could ever hope for - they take your favorite characters and set them up against blandly unforgettable villains and make them friends with a troupe of irritating side characters that are graciously never heard from again. I think I'm on record as having said that the 3rd Naruto movie is one of the worst animated features I've ever seen, including Care Bears 2. But the 6th One Piece film was handed over to future Summer Wars director Mamoru Hosoda, who was given free reign to radically change the look and tone of the universe and made something uniquely interesting. I mean, the story is still a bunch of dumb hogwash, but damn if it doesn't look amazing.

So, think of it this way - as bad as filler tends to be, it could always be much, much worse. For the most part, filler just tends to be stultifyingly mediocre; an obvious attempt to pad the running time with a bunch of pointless stock characters who engage in pointless violence. It's a rare thing, honestly, when a filler episode comes around that's as outright horrible as Naruto's Urination Story.

I have Fios, so I get the FUNimation Channel. Two of my favorite series aired on there, NANA and Hunter X Hunter. But, neither of those series are Funi's, but Viz's. I was curious on what kind of licensing agreement goes on here so Funi is allowed to air series that aren't licensed by them. Is it up to the Japanese company if it's allowed? Or is it eventually up to Viz's, or any other company's, decision after the licensing process?

Well, despite the fact that Funimation's name is obviously plastered all over their own channel, the FUNimation Channel operates like any other TV network out there - which means that, even with Funimation's voluminous catalog of titles to choose from, every so often they need to license shows from other licensees. Luckily, Viz doesn't have a competing network that they themselves own and operate, so NANA and Hunter X Hunter are free to a lucky home, and the FUNimation Channel snatched them up.

Broadcasting licenses are handled differently than licenses for home video and streaming. Occasionally the broadcasting rights are even handled by a completely separate company - look no further than Enoki Films, who hold all the broadcasting rights for licensed properties like Slayers and Revolutionary Girl Utena, so even if a company like Funimation puts out the DVDs, all broadcasting inquiries go through them.

But for the most part, both Funimation and Viz have had broadcast partnerships with several different US TV networks (Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Syfy, etc.), so they typically wrap up the broadcast rights as part of their universal licensing agreement. And once they own the show, they're free to shop it around to any network that's interested. Sadly these days most of them aren't - which is why Funimation's own channel is handy, because it at least gives them a small but appreciated broadcast run. It's similar to how ADV's then-owned Anime Network picked up a few notable non-ADV shows many years ago.

I recently found this box set at a store and it caught my eye so I purchased it.

I have been searching the internet extensively since and cannot find anything even remotely like it. Do you have any info on it at all? Is it rare? Valuable?

And so, not knowing that I was going to use this question in my column this week, I responded: "That isn't rare or valuable or anything. That right there is a bootleg. Whatever you paid for it, was far too much." He quickly wrote back:

I got it for $5 from a thrift store locally. Is it normal for them to make such extensive packaging for bootlegs?

First of all, five dollars? I won't deny that that seems like a great deal on its face; five bucks for a whole smorgasbord of Bleach! Kickass! But then, like many things in life, if something seems too good to be true... it probably is. That is definitely a bootleg.

And yes, bootlegs often have extravagant, often impressive-looking packaging. For years at my local second-hand bookstore, I was occasionally tempted by the shiny-looking, ten-dollar boxset of the entirety of the Rurouni Kenshin TV series. It was held together in a very nice digipak box with clean, impressive artwork that looked custom-made and neat.

But, of course! Five bucks is still a complete ripoff. And not just because you're supporting scummy pirates instead of the actual artists responsible for the show. Because for those five hard-earned dollars you'll be getting some of the worst, dirtiest, poorly-encoded video you'll likely ever see outside of a YouTube video circa 2006, compounded with poorly-timed, incomprehensible "English" subtitles that won't help you understand the show any more than just watching it in Japanese.

As far as identifying bootlegs goes, it's usually pretty easy to distinguish a fake from the genuine article, at least when it comes to DVDs. In the case of the pictures you included (not uploaded: the back of the box which informs you, in Chinese, about the "STROY" of Bleach), none of the familiar logos of any of the actual companies involved in the show - such as Studio Pierrot, TV Tokyo, et al - are visible. That's a pretty dead giveaway. In fact, bootleg DVDs are astonishingly easy to sniff out in comparison to the genuine article.

The only bootlegs I can think of that are still, to this day, rather hard to differentiate from the real things are soundtracks and CDs. But even then, there's a lot of resources available to collectors and fans alike to make sure they're paying for an actual product, and not a ripoff.

BOOTLEG ANECDOTE: One year for Christmas my older sister bought me, completely by accident of course, a bootleg DVD of My Neighbor Totoro. Which also, on the same disc, had an equally cruddy, visually incomprehensible simulacrum of Grave of the Fireflies. Which I knew I just had to watch, and I did. The ending of the movie, which is otherwise an incredibly harrowing and emotional scene where the main character watches his little sister slowly starve to death, is uniformly destroyed when Setsuko, on the verge of death, is subtitled as saying "HUNGLY! ! ! !"

Which is why I think that whatever you pay for a bootleg, 5 bucks or no, is a complete ripoff.

So, I'm going to throw in another question to this week's little column. Which, you'll see why in a second.

I was wondering about manga that are not going to be finished (most likely) yet are popular, and if an anime could finish the series or are their things preventing that. For example NANA has about 10 chapters left tops before it is done, but the mangaka is so sick that she apparently can't even get someone else to draw it for her (or refuses to). Could the studio pay to make another season and finish the series?

They absolutely could, you're right. But, you know, given how upset people are over the quality of, how else do I put it, "filler," as evidenced by the questions I've fielded on the topic over the past few weeks, would you really want something like that?

The main sticking point for something like NANA is that the creator is still very much alive, and she has, up to this point, refused any potential offers to finish the series, either in manga or anime form, without her participation. Speaking for myself here, it would seem kind of... morbid for any studio to find a way to sneakily circumvent that just to squeeze a couple extra bucks out of hardcore fans who just want to see the series finished.

I hate to say it, but NANA seems destined, outside of perhaps some divine intervention, to be another one of those sad casualties of a series that will never see a proper conclusion. Every week or so I get another email asking about a second season, or wondering if the manga will be finished, or whatever. The answer is probably not. Which is too bad, because it's pretty fantastic I agree, but it's fantastic because of Ai Yazawa. And I'm not sure that even with a boatload of money thrown at fantastic writers can match the sheer brutal emotional honesty that one person of Yazawa's skill could conjure.

My basic point is, is that sure, a studio could always inject a bunch of cash into a moribund property and resurrect it so that it has an ending. But for something like NANA, which is very much a singular artist's vision, I'm not so sure that's the best way. Especially because NANA had an ending, but the grim specter of poor health has rendered Yazawa unfit to create it in a way that she would like. Personally, I'm going to honor her decision, because I respect her as an artist. And that's that.

It's Answerfans time!

...or at least, it would be, but I didn't get enough responses last week to make a worthwhile entry. So we're gonna try this again, but with a different topic.

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 that's all the content I've got up my sleeve for this go-round, so once again, make sure to respond, respond, respond!!! Be it in Question or Answer format! And send those responses my way via answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Have a splendiferous week, y'all!

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