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Hey, Answerman! - Tooting One's Horn

by Brian Hanson,

Well howdy there, readers! Welcome back to another prototypical jaunt into the sordid fount of acquired knowledge that is Hey, Answerman!

And for any of you local Tucson, Arizonans out there amongst the teeming masses, if any of you're headed to the Tucson Comic-Con this weekend, feel free to drop by on Sunday bright-n'-early at 10 am for my panel "Getting a Job in the Manga & Anime Industries," and then if you're stickin' around until the very end, at 5pm that same day I'll be a panelist for the "Journalism in the Anime/Comics/Sci-Fi/Gaming Industries" panels as well. I love entertaining a crowd, and I promise to bring an arsenal of cartoons and terrible jokes in my endearingly pathetic attempt to amuse an audience!

This week, I've got an arsenal of multi-part questions, so be prepared for some lengthy responses this time:

There seems to be a recent trend to turn non-Japanese properties into anime, such as Supernatural, The Count of Monte Cristo, Romeo X Juliet, and now The Magic Tree House. I was wondering if we could expect more of them, and if other European/ American properties will be getting turned into anime or more American influenced shows like Tiger & Bunny.

Also, there seems to be more and more shows it seems with more mature audiences in mind (I mean grown up/refined, not just with boobs by the way), with shows like the ones on the noitamaina block, along with Natsume, Future Diary, Hana-Saku Iroha, Fate/Zero. Do you see this as a trend or just a noitamana thing? While I love noitamina shows, they almost always seem to drop the ball on the ending. Is this just because of their short episode count?

Well, first of all, I reject the notion that it's only a "recent trend" that we're seeing Western-influenced/adapted anime and manga recently. Going back to the 70's, each decade there's been a spate of shows or movies or what-have-you that were developed out of Western ideas. I mean Christ, the World Masterpiece Theater series itself spanned nearly 30 years, from the late 60's to the late 90's, and those were nothing but high-class adaptations of Western children's books and novels. Not to mention the sort of stuff that has, for better or worse, fallen off the radar - if you were lucky enough to catch Mike Toole's latest Dubs That Time Forgot panel at this year's Otakon, you got to see anime versions of the German children's book Vicky the Viking and Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. This recent "trend" is nothing new at all, I'd argue, and it seems to me that anime adapts various Western things with relative regularity.

So, yes! Of course we'll see more of them. In fact, Funimation is working on producing several of them themselves. Lord knows when we'll actually see them, mind you, but they're being developed. And as for Western "influenced" shows like Tiger & Bunny, I'd like to think that, considering Tiger & Bunny's success, executives in charge of anime programming will take notice. But it also wouldn't surprise me if either a) Tiger & Bunny's success is considered to be a once-in-a-blue-moon fluke, and the anime business will stumble onward as per usual, or b) that the executives in charge disregard what really made Tiger & Bunny work, e.g. the script, and we just wind up with a bunch of crappy anime superhero shows. But who knows, really; the lead time in making your average anime series is so great that what works this season isn't necessarily going to manifest itself in the following season. Sometimes it takes a couple of years before the rest of the industry gets the memo about what's working and what doesn't.

To the noitaminA thing! I'd say that's definitely a trend because that's specifically what noitaminA was designed to do. The entire purpose of the block was to offer the discerning viewer a chance to watch anime with just a scad more plot and less frivolous fanservice than what was being offered at the time, which is a goal that I fully support and admire! I just wish I was actually, I dunno, completely satisfied with more than just one of the noitaminA shows so far. The Tatami Galaxy is the best show they've done by far in my estimation, although Eden of the East came so close to being great during the first half of the show before the momentum sort of died out of it.

And as far as endings go? Let's be fair here. Try and think of ANY TV series, anime or no, regardless of episode count, that had an honest-to-God, GOOD, planned-out ending. That is a hard, hard thing to pull off, it seems like. Think of the endings for big shows like The Sopranos and Lost - some loved them, others hated them, and people still argue back and forth, long after those shows have disappeared off the airwaves. A good ending on a TV series seems to be the rarity, not the norm. Episode count really has nothing to do with it, really.

It only seems worse in shows with fewer episodes because, well, there are less episodes in general, so I guess from a simple perspective of ratio it seems worse. But it's all illusory; writing good endings is just hard to do, really.

Hey Answerman! I have a three-part question.

First, I wanted to ask what exactly allows the whole doujinshi business to exist. I know that they are self-published material, but many of them are also derivative of other copyrighted works. I've heard that there's some sort of loophole that allows doujinshi like that to exist and I wanted to know what that was was. How can doujinshi be sold for a profit and not get in trouble with the law if they use characters from other works without the permission of the original creator?

Second, If I were to hypothetically make a game involving several copyrighted anime characters, would I be able to go to Japan and just sell it? Say I made a game featuring the girl from Daicon, Vash (the Stampede), and Nausicaä as an example, would there be any problem with me selling it in Japan as a doujinshi game?

Third, does the girl from Daicon(s III and IV by Gainax) have a name, and, if so, what is it?

According to Wikipedia, bastion of truth and wisdom, the girl from the Daicon videos is just called... "bunnygirl." Huh. I always assumed she had a name but that I forgot what it was. THE MORE YOU KNOW!

So anyhow, doujin works!

First of all, there isn't any sort of "loophole" around copywritten material that allows doujinshi to flourish. In fact there's plenty, plenty of anime producers out there who set their sights on doujinshi featuring their properties. Sunrise, for example, has been the subject of a lot of criticism in the doujinshi realm for their militant protection of all things Gundam. Certain companies have no compunction against using legal action to stop doujin artisans from using their characters.

But, it is, how shall we say, unpopular amongst the otaku crowd for companies to do that. Because let's be honest, the doujin market is, very clearly, the anime and manga industry's rock-solid base. It is considered unwise for companies to clamp down on doujinshi, as it commonly alienates and enrages those same otaku who are otherwise perfectly happy to spend their money supporting a show with stuff like character goods and such.

In fact, the whole market of "Character Goods" sprang out of the doujin market! Until recently, if you wanted a dakimakura pillow with your favorite anime girlfriend in a state of undress, you had to turn to the ever-industrious doujinshi realm to slake your thirst. Ditto for things like Boob-Mousepads, PVC figures, and other stuff. It wasn't until Gainax - who, coincidentally enough, started out during the Daicon days as doujin artists, assembling their own garage kits in their off hours - pioneered the subtle art of otaku pandering with their never-ending line of Evangelion merchandise that the rest of the industry took notice. Now, it's basically the only profitable part of producing anime these days.

But in all honesty, it usually just depends on the property itself. Sunrise is leery of doujinshi featuring Gundam because, well, Gundam's audience goes deeper and wider than just the hardcore otaku. Something like Strike Witches, which was statistically designed with laser-like precision to appeal only to otaku essentially, will thrive in the doujin world with silent but tacit approval from the show's producers.

But anyway. You want to make your own game! Well, you can certainly try to bring it to Japan and sell it, but be wary: Given the flagrant copyright abuse that much doujinshi is, not to mention some of the unseemlier elements of doujinshi, the doujin market is known to be rather... secluded. They're very quiet, very small, and they don't like to gather a lot of attention to themselves. Most doujin artists, for example, hate it when their work is scanned and uploaded online. Most of them are perfectly content selling a small amount of whatever they make strictly at Comiket and other conventions and calling it a day. I'd say that getting in to something like Comiket to sell your game would be the hard part, and the threat of litigation takes second place.

'Course, you could simply try to sell it here, but I can pretty much assure you that Studio Ghibli will send you a nasty letter for trying to use Nausicaä.

That reminds me: who wants to develop the Daniel Day-Lewis Fighting Game I've always wanted? Hawkeye, Bill the Butcher, Daniel Plainview, and the guy from My Left Foot, all locked in combat.

The previous week's first question brought up art classes and portfolios, which reminded me of my own situation: I've wanted to go into TV animation (western) since I was little. I decided to major in film in college, and I found myself in a double dilemma there. Art classes there are restricted only to art majors (no art minor existed, or I would've chosen it), and the head counselor of the film department seems to hate animation and got angry whenever I inquired about what I should do. So I graduated and I have since gotten the hardest part done, which is getting into the entertainment business, where I'm an assistant to an executive producer of movies, though it's live-action. He noticed my love for drawing and I was assigned to illustration work in addition to the tasks I'd normally do. He says, along with other crew members, that I'm good enough to illustrate professionally. My last art class was a beginning class in community college (I was hoping to continue it upon transferring), I never took any life drawing classes, and I don't have a portfolio. Do I stand a decent chance of getting into TV animation, even in the long-term? Did my counselor screw me over?

Well, like with anything else in life, there's really no one "right" way to go about doing something. Because, at the end of the day, Quentin Tarantino never took a class in film, Ernest Hemingway never went to college, and the list goes on and on.

So, I don't necessarily think your counselor "screwed you over," no. Do you stand a decent chance of getting into animation? Hm. Well. Much like any industry that thrives on creative talent, there's a lot more talent to be used than there is actual work to utilize it. Big series like Spongebob Squarepants, for example, have waiting lists that are miles long, full of hungry artists eager to work on them. Competition is fierce and stiff.

But don't let that scare you off, though! The key to getting started, as with anything, is to make sure you get noticed in some way. And that of course means getting a good portfolio. And, of course, a website of some kind so people from afar can check out what you're up to - even something like a Blogger page will work. Here's an example, courtesy of my good buddy Kali Fontecchio. On the plus side, you've already done some illustrations for your boss, you've said, so you can put "published, professional artist" on the ol' resume there. And then the rest is just, you know, keeping at it, making connections, and just all-around being fearless. Hit the ground running, as it were. No retreat, no surrender!

And of course if your Executive Producer buddy wants to buy a script off of me, that'll help too. Yeah. And a WGA card. That'll all help.

I'm not desperate. No. Really. I'm not.

It's time for a BONUS QUESTION!

Dear Brian,

First of all, this question isn't about anime. Sorry *frown-y face*

But since you're a stage actor, I have a question about THEATRE! *dramatic voiceover* I'm just wondering what the process is to submit a script or...whatever the THEATRE! version of a script would be. And not to some Broadway production, but even to a local community or school theatre production setup.

Ummm...that's all. I'm not expecting this to make it on Answerman per se, but it would be nice, and I know a lot of people would like to know too!

Sure! I'll try to make this as brief as I can so I don't take up too much non-anime space.

First of all, it behooves you to research all the different theater companies and troupes in your area - find out what they do, what their lineup is, and try and find one that's a good fit with what you're trying to do. Most community theaters have individual programs for local playwrights, and they'll accept (and READ!) your script if you give it to them. Doesn't mean they'll necessarily produce it, but it's a great way to get your work out there. Also, keep an eye out for any local playwriting contests, too - basically, any way that you can find to get your script read by people, find it and do it.

Barring that, if you're not averse to spending a bit of money, you could always just rent a theater for a week or two and put on a play yourself. Of course then you'll be in charge of finding a crew, a cast, a director, and all that stuff on your own, but there's been a few productions here in Tucson that've gone that route and been quite successful.

Hope that brief little snippet at least points you in the right direction! Oh, and one last thing - make sure your script is good. That always helps.

And here we go with Answerfans! Last week, I wanted you all to eulogize the soon-to-be relinquished print run of one of the biggest manga repositories here in the ol' US of A:

To begin, Ben worries that he is the unwitting arbiter of change:

I have a few anecdotes I'd like to share regarding Shonen Jump:

When I walked into a comic book store in Fort Lauderdale, Florida back in December 2002, I asked if they had the first volume of Shonen Jump in stock. They were sold out, but undeterred, I purchased the third volume of Shonen Jump a couple months later from a bookstore in Boca Raton, Florida. Upon reading it over, I looked forward to future chapters of One Piece and Yū Yū Hakusho, but I thought to myself that Shaman King and Naruto wouldn't last very long (in my defense, I based my judgement solely on what I had read in that particular issue; I'd later take back my comment about Naruto after picking up the first graphic novel in September 2003... and after seeing a bunch of Naruto cosplayers at Otakon 2003).

Years pass, and around 2007 or 2008, after hearing that Bleach would be moving to Shonen Jump, I asked myself, "Why don't they just cancel the magazine?". I thought with Shonen Jump out of the way, it would speed up the release of volumes of One Piece (and other Shonen Jump series) without waiting 4 months in between each new volume. Well, here we are, four-odd years later, and the magazine's getting canned... to allow for faster digital releases (not print releases). I wonder if my idle suggestion that they ditch the magazine and pick up the pace had unintended consequences.

With Shonen Jump going digital, my biggest fear is that future print volumes will be left by the wayside. How will I be able to complete my (theoretically-speaking) 110+ volume collection of One Piece if Viz abandons print altogether? Granted, I'm being overly-dramatic, but this is a company that can't even keep all volumes of long-running series like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Claymore and Monster in print (and don't even get me started on Excel Saga). I hope I'm wrong, but after hearing all the hype (VIZ Media Suits) Alvin Lu and Brian Piesch have heaped upon Shonen Jump Alpha at New York Comic Con (grooming it to look and sound like Viz's revolutionary cash cow), it's sounding more and more like physical copies are going to be a thing of the past (and that's not a future I want to live in).

Jean-Karlo is up next, and wow is this moving:

My time with Shonen Jump was rather bittersweet as a whole, as it tied in with my declining relationship with my father. When I first learned of manga, I was just fine with the man. It was when my mother decided to divorce him because of his abusive attitude that circumstances allowed me to find that one issue of Shonen Jump. My father usually picked me up from high school, because we lived in the center of Puerto Rico, and my school was almost on the one end of the island, while Mom worked on the other. Once my Dad heard the word "divorce", he decided to give Mom "time and space", so he high-tailed it to his native country (won't say where, it's no matter) for a few months, leaving me without a ride from school. Eventually, a friend of my mother's, who had a son in my high school, let me stay over at her place while Mom got out from work. One day, I was accompanying said friend to a grocery store, and I found the September 2005 issue of Shonen Jump. I practically have that issue memorized, cover to cover. By the time my father had returned, a hobby was born.

Because I didn't have many places available where I could readily pick up the latest issue of Jump--and because I really wanted to read more Shaman King and Hikaru no Go--I decided to subscribe. Again, this involved my father, as he made a big row when it turned out the subscription would run me $34. I saved my pennies for it, anyway.

My parents had officially broken up by New Year's Eve of 2005. By then, I was on pins and needles for my first issue of Jump. It turned out, my father had picked it up, and he showed up at my Grandmother's house to drop it off, drunk, at around 8 o'clock at night. After making a point of how he "loved me like shit", he left. I didn't have to dwell on his attitude--there was a New Year's party, and I was intrigued at this "Gintama" series that was being advertised on the cover.

By February of 2008, I honestly didn't have much of a relationship with my father to speak of. I was in a college far from where he lived, and we never called each other. I had realized that talking to my father was an act of futility, as he only wanted to brag about my academic endeavors, and not help make said endeavors possible. By that time, I was also getting burned out on Jump, mostly because we were getting three chapters of Bleach, Naruto and One Piece per issue. Much like how I never got my father a Christmas gift after his shallow appreciation on Christmas '10, I didn't renew my subscription after February of the same year.

Fortunately, Shonen Jump did bring me one fantastic, fantastic memory, one that shows me how this hobby of ours can bring people together. See, in '08, I announced to my nerdy friends that I would be transferring to the Metropolitan campus of our college (which is where I am now). One of those friends was a big help in my transformation into the nerd I am today: he helped maintain my laptop, he helped me find anime I didn't know about, he even knew a few of those shows that none of my other friends knew about, like Lunar Legend Tsukihime. Now, that year, we made an order of anime off of a website that commonly advertises on ANN, and among the stuff I ordered, there were the first two volumes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, which is quite possibly my favorite Shonen manga, Jump or otherwise. When the order arrived, I was ecstatic: not only had my two JoJo volumes arrived, but so had the Tsukihime artbook, the second half of Gaogaigar, and other things I really loved. Then my friend turned around, and dropped the third volume of JoJo into my hands. It turned out, among the stuff he ordered, he got it for me, because in two years we had been such close, nerdy friends, and "it was a shame to lose someone to talk to". I'm not used to receiving gifts, so the act always stuck out in my memory. That's one manga I'd try to save from a fire.

I still have three years worth of Shonen Jump on my shelves. They represent a time where I grew a whole lot, I think. They had a great run, so kudos to them.

Robert offers an amusing perspective that I haven't heard before:

The American version of Shonen Jump started coming out right about when I moved to Japan to teach on the JET Programme. I grabbed copies of the first couple issues, bought a few more imported issues at a bookstore in Kagoshima City, and proceeded to amuse, bemuse, and confuse my students.

Their comments usually included things like this:

"It costs around ¥500? So expensive!"


"These are all old stories!"

They would also be amazed at the paper quality...and the fact that the monthly issues were less than half the thickness of the Japanese originals. I gave away most of them, the English Yu-Gi-Oh! cards were a big hit too.

But Eric! The more I think about it, the less room I'll *have* for dreams!

I forget the actual year or issue number for my first Shonen Jump magazine, but I can specifically remember it being when DBZ was still in it's rotation, during the tail-end of the Cell Games arc. I can also remember that it was right when my interest in manga was first growing, but my love for Shonen Jump went further back than I knew at the time.

The first anime that got me into the fandom was Dragon Ball Z. From there, thanks to the advertisements on some tapes, as well as Toonami, I fell in love with Yū Yū Hakusho. I got into a lot of shows over time, but it was only when I got into manga that I realized a lot of them shared a connection. DBZ, YYH, Naruto, Bleach, Rurouni Kenshin - a majority of the shows that I called my favorites originated in manga form in Shonen Jump. So of course once I found out that a US version had been made available, I subscribed right after buying my first newsstand copy, and I never looked back. It opened a whole new world of fun stories to me.

Even now that I've grown into a lot of other genres, the shonen genre is still where I feel the most at home. Heck, my three favorite manga authors are all classic SJ authors - Akira Toriyama, Nobuhiro Watsuki, and last but not least, Masakazu Katsura. Katsura in particular captures my imagination like no other, to the point that I've spent hours at a time plugging away on research online, and even more time re-reading his works, for material for my fansite dedicated to him (or more specifically, his I”s title).

Trying not to ramble anymore than I have to here - I've seen a lot of hate for SJ or just ‘shonen’ in general in some places, and sure, I'm not going to lie. SJ stories are not the deepest nor the most polished works out there. They can run on and on, and are usually the shows most drawn into lengthy arcs of nothing but fighting. But if that's all there was to them, we wouldn't be fans of them. There's a lot of heart in these series. When you see Goku giving it all he's got to save the Earth; you see Luffy declaring time and again no matter how beaten down he is, that he will be the King of the Pirates; when you see Kenshin struggling to atone for his past sins; or even just when you see Ichitaka risking his life and his heart to save the girl he loves - it encourages you to try your best in life. Yes, they're stories written for kids and often times the lowest common denominator, but I can't imagine myself ever NOT enjoying them.

I'd be a very different person today if I hadn't found my way in all those years ago with DBZ, I wouldn't even know my girlfriend/best friend, so I owe SJ a lot. So while I won't be re-subscribing for the digital version of Shonen Jump Alpha (I'm not fond of digital-only media in any format), I wish Viz and the SJ brand the best in the future, and I'll continue to support the physical volume releases for the series I love.

In closing, I think a lyric from DBZ's first opening showcases the ‘shonen’ feel to a ‘T’, and it's how I like to live life as much as possible - 'the emptier your head is, the more room to fill with dreams'. Think about it.

I doubt Brandon's left-to-right faux pas was an uncommon one:

Ahh, Shonen Jump. I remember the first time I saw an issue was in a Blockbuster when I was a kid. Yugi from, you guessed it, YuGiOh was on the cover, and being a fan of the show at the time I opened it up. I think that it was issue 8, and I started reading it... the wrong way. I had never read a manga at the time, so about halfway through I realized I should read from right to left after peeking at the inner-cover. I enjoyed it, and soon enough, started picking one up every month until eventually I purchased a subscription. I often only read about half of the manga that was in the book, but I still enjoyed it.

I collected many volumes until I eventually I began to read less and less of it. Things I read from it, like Bleach, had become anime on Adult Swim (I was up later than my parents as a kid), and I saw no reason to read chapters of what I was already seeing more frequently on tv. I got to the point where I just kept getting them for the promo-cards. I of course outgrew YuGiOh, and stopped subscribing. It did have quite an effect on me though, as one day, at this point in middle-school, I was strolling through a Barnes & Noble and wandered into the manga section. I saw the name on the spine of a manga that I had remembered reading a sample chapter of in Shonen Jump, called Death Note. I read the first volume, and it became the first real manga series that I had ever read.

Shonen Jump really helped me turn into the full-fledged otaku that I am today. A Junior in high school, I have seen a massive amount of anime at this point, read the occasional manga series, am learning japanese, attempting to plan a trip to Japan, have a respectable amount of japanese music, and am on the verge of purchasing my first figure/nendroid (despite the high cost and the fact it is just plactic). Luckily(?) my supposedly 'hipster' side appears more on the surface (from the various things I hear), so alot of people are somewhat surprised to hear the extent of it. It is thanks to Shonen Jump, and hearing that they were going to stop printing brought on a wave of nostalgia. I hope their endeavors online fare well.

And finally, leafy sea dragon gives Shonen Jump a proud viking funeral, so to speak:

The best part of the Shonen Jump magazines I get are the samples of manga they're about to publish or have recently published. The first chapter of a manga is usually not enough to give me an idea of the entire series' story or how it'll pan out, of course, but it is enough to let me know if this will be something I like or not, the feel of the series and its author, and the artistic approach of the author. The best part is that many of these series are not particularly popular or are too new for me to know much about. An example is WaqWaq. As of this date, there is no Wikipedia entry or TV Tropes page on WaqWaq, just simple mention of its publication in Jump. Viz decided it's worth publishing anyway, so to get readers an idea of how it'll be like, they published the first chapter. Ultimately, I felt that the story is too scattered, the protagonist too distant to relate to, and the author, while a great illustrator, has too much style and not enough substance to where it hinders the story because it can sometimes be too hard to understand. However, I am familiar with the series and its premise; if the sample had not been there, all I'd know about it is that it existed.

Great, great responses this week, guys! But of course, I've got YET ANOTHER QUESTION that deserves your pondering, so get your email composin' ready:

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.

I am fresh out of content for the week, unless of course you drop by Tucson Comic-Con this Sunday! Otherwise, remember to send me all your nutritious questions and Answerfans answers my way, at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com!

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