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Hey, Answerman!
Simply Cel-ular

by Brian Hanson,

Well, hello and welcome, on this grand weekend of thankfulness and general thanks! I say this as some of you are most likely waiting in some God-forsaken Black Friday line, shivering in the cold expanse of darkness, clinging to your smartphone or whatever in the vain hopes of entertaining yourself in order to survive the clenchingly exasperating effects of consumerism.

Or maybe, like with many things, I'm over-stating my welcome. So! It's the holidays and all that, so let's get on with the questions that I've selected for this installment!

Hey Answerman!

Though I don't own very many, I really love the idea of collecting cels of my favorite series. I'm sad that they're no longer used, although I realize this is only because I never had to actually draw on and paint hundreds and thousands of little sheets of plastic. I'm curious to know what the last series that used cels was. I know GTO used cels, and that Fruits Basket was all digital, so the changeover had to happen between 1999 and 2001. The Cowboy Bebop movie used cels, and since the Bebop movie was a major project, it's possible the changeover occurred during its production. I'm also tempted to think that it's Spirited Away, since Miyazaki dislikes computers, but I never recall seeing a Spirited Away cel.

So: If I wanted to buy a cel from the last anime ever to use cels, what would I buy?

You want to own a cel from the "last anime ever to use cels," eh? Well, I know the answer, but it's probably not the one you'd expect, and probably not the sort of series that you'll want hanging in a frame on your wall.

The answer, strangely enough, is Sazae-san.

In fact, it's actually still using cels for the bulk of its production, all the way into 2011. Only the opening and closing animation is done digitally. I bet you're beside yourself with excitement over having an ugly Sazae-san cel, right?!?

But you are correct; the bulk of animation production shifted to digital ink-and-paint in the early 2000's, simply because the tools and technology were finally able to catch up to the clean, vibrant look of paint on sheets of celluloid. Just think back to some of the rather gross-looking early output by studios like Gonzo, for example, to reflect upon why certain studios still preferred cels to digital late into the 90's: While something like Blue Submarine No. 6 had some truly spectacular animation and coloring, many of the effects and panning shots look downright clumsy and amateurish by today's standards. Amazing, though, that technology is so quickly able to catch up in an affordable way, as just a few years later studios like Gonzo and Madhouse were able to make some truly stunning animation entirely in digital. Studios had been experimenting with digital ink and paint since the 80's, with mixed results; The Rescuers Down Under was the first major production to use a digital system for ink and paint, and that holds up pretty well to this day. Something like, I dunno, some of the effects shots in Cowboy Bebop? Not so much.

And, interesting factoid, Spirited Away was not filmed on cels; the last "major" 2D animated film across the globe to be filmed on cels was, in actuality, Princess Mononoke. In fact, it was some of Mononoke's digital composite shots that turned Miyazaki around on the benefits of digital animation, and all subsequent Studio Ghibli productions were filmed that way.

And though I've probably linked to this before several times, if any of you at home are at all interested in cel collecting, you should definitely give Mike Toole's article on cel collecting a gander, as it's a pretty neat primer on how to find great animation cels from your favorite shows without spending a fortune.

Something's been irking me about Adult Swim lately. WHY do they keep showing Fooly Cooly over and over again? You'd think that after seeing the whole anime 8 times throughout the year they'd feel their viewers are getting tired of seeing it. Why don't they show more of their more recent anime titles like Death Note or Code Geass in its place?

Ah. Very simple explanation here: people still watch it.

And as for why you don't see something like Code Geass or Death Note instead? Also very simple; they no longer have the rights to air those shows.

See, Adult Swim doesn't like to pay a whole lot for any of the anime series they license. Which means their broadcast contracts typically last about two years or so. UNLESS! The show is either something they own outright, like Big O, OR it's something that is enduringly popular, like, I dunno, Fooly Cooly. Fooly Cooly at 2 am still manages to pull down approximately 700,000 viewers on average, which for any series airing at 2 am on a Saturday night is no small feat.

Effectively, Adult Swim only has the rights to air the following shows: Big O, Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Durarara!!, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Bleach, Kekkaishi, and Inuyasha. (Though nobody's sure if Inuyasha: The Final Chapter is included in that.) Of those, only Bleach and Durarara!! are new episodes; the rest are repeats. And I have the sneaking suspicion that Kekkaishi is only still airing because its contract hasn't expired yet. Big O still airs because, well, they own it, so why not? The rest is a pretty solid representation of some of their biggest and most popular series. Yes, folks, believe it or not, people still, to this day, tune in to watch Fooly Cooly and Cowboy Bebop, nearly a decade later!

The long and short of it is that in the tricky world of broadcasting, ratings are essential. Consider that Adult Swim doesn't see a dime off of things like, say, DVD releases or merchandising from nearly all of the anime series they air. If the viewership isn't solid, they literally have no incentive to keep a show running endlessly, even just for the sake of variety, once the contract is expired. So without putting too fine a point on it, it appears that Adult Swim's viewers aren't "getting tired of seeing it," as it were. And those "more recent anime titles" have since lapsed in their contract, so why bother re-upping them for another rerun, when there's newer stuff like Durarara!! out there?

We all like to say that we like variety, but sadly, the ratings out there suggest otherwise.

Hey Answerman,

I forked out the 400 bucks and bought the Blu Ray boxset of The Garden of Sinners because it had English subtitles, and now they are going to release the first Blu Ray box set of Fate/Zero with subtitles as well. Do you think that Aniplex of America will cut a deal again with Right Stuf and bring it over here for about 200 bucks cheaper like they did with KnK or will I be stuck paying another 100 dollar markup for one being sold on eBay? Will there ever be a chance for dubbing studios like Funimation to get a hold of Garden of Sinners or Fate/Zero or will American audiences always have to pay hundreds of dollars for subtitled imports of these amazing shows?

Think of it this way: if Funimation wanted Garden of Sinners or Fate/Zero, they would've grabbed them already, before Aniplex decided to release them themselves.

And as far as any sort of "discount" on the Fate/Zero boxset goes, that's... all up in the air. I know that the speculation is that Aniplex of America is planning some sort of simultaneous Western and Japanese release, but I'll believe that when I see it. Still, though, it's curious that the Fate/Zero boxset was announced with English subs in the first place, so one would have to assume that there's something going on in regards to a Western release. As they say, where there's smoke, there's usually fire.

But, I will say this: The Garden of Sinners boxset was pretty much a unilateral success for Aniplex of America. It was a gutsy move to release such a pricey product in such limited qualities, but it sold out. I'd have to think it proved to Aniplex that, in a pinch, the hardcorest of the hardcore will buy them if there's no other option. Just thinking about it logically, it seems like sort of a no-brainer; what worked once typically works a second time, right?

I know that's not what the ardent Fate/Zero fans want to hear, but that's the sad truth. And in regards to re-licensing and Funimation and all that, well, listen: think about how completely rare it is for anything to be re-licensed these days. The halcyon days of "license rescues" seem to be behind us. The popular shows once owned by the triumverate of failure known as ADV, Geneon, and CPM have already been picked over and scattered, the marrow from their bleached bones sucked dry. In the past few years, try and think of something, ANYTHING, that's had a drastic re-license or "license rescue" from Funimation or anyone else. Didn't think so.

Again, though, Fate/Zero is still airing, and though the English subs on the Japanese Blu Rays is a bit of a warning sign, it's far too new of a property to go flipping out about how much it'll cost to own, just yet.

Odds are that it'll be expensive, yes, but hold on to that hope. Or something.

Alright folks, time for an especially timely Thanksgiving-themed edition of Hey, Answerfans! Last week, after several iterations or so of nothing but unbridled cynicism, I thought I'd do something a bit more... positive:

We begin here with Paul, who is grateful for the little things in life:

These days, it's just a race to see who can produce the anime with girls of every cup size in as little clothing as possible. That's why I am thankful for the occasional studio that releases an anime that actually contains an interesting story which isn't all fan service accompanied by amazing background music. Same for manga as well.

George is thankful for the grand resurrection that is HunterXHunter:

Hey Answerman,

Although I live some 10,000 miles from anywhere Thanksgiving is celebrated, I cannot help but feel a surge of thankfulness towards Togashi for the long awaited continuation of Hunter x Hunter. I started reading this exciting piece around 2003, it was my first manga and I've kept following it to this very day, both buying the VIZ volumes and gobbling up the scanlations the moment they were released. I even read it in Japanese every week for about a year when my fandom was at its peak and I couldn't wait for the translations. Though my feverish worship may paint a different picture, I can hardly say it was a pleasant trip. The total amount of time this manga has been on hiatus is probably over 3 years already, and that's a lot of waiting, a hell lot of waiting.

It is hard to justify why this manga is so much fun, the plot is straightforward to a fault, the artwork is bad (and at times terrible), and about half of the manga dragged on about a most uninteresting arc with nearly completely new characters, abandoning all the ones who grew to love. Nevertheless, I can't put it down, the fights are always interesting and unpredictable, the world is mysterious and enchanting, and nen is just one of the most fun ability systems ever. Personally I was pessimistic when I first heard HXH is going back to serialization. After all, last time it came back from a year-long hiatus, Togashi published 20 chapters and went on ANOTHER year-long hiatus. But his time it seems Togashi may prove me wrong, he is close to hitting the 20 chapter wall again, and things seem to be picking up this time, rather than heading to a close. Last chapter everyone's favorite character Leorio came back, and he is kicking some serious ass. Last time we saw Leorio was chapter 126. I recall Gon telling him "Next time see you, I want to call you 'Doctor'", and Leorio answering "That means we won't see each other for at least 4 years!" Well Leorio, it has been 10 years, Ten long years of waiting. But Hunter x Hunter is finally back at full force.

Thank you, Togashi, please continue drawing this wonderful series!


The thing I'm probably most thankful for as an anime fan is streaming video. I remember about ten years ago downloading anime which took hours for just a half-hour, low-res video. At that time the anime one saw was mostly limited to whatever happened to aired on TV. Eventually, as anime became more popular on TV, some stores did have a limited amount of anime but it sold for higher prices than other DVDs so one couldn't afford to buy it just to find out whether one liked it or not.

Of course fansubs created a flood of anime but one had to deal with worrying about it's legality and the chance that one could get sued for downloading it. Streaming video however provides legal anime for free, or a fee for the impatient, and such a wide selection so that one can now afford to sample shows then pick and choose which ones to watch. As anime has gradually disappeared from North American TV it's been particularly appreciated. I now find most of the anime I currently watch comes from streaming video.

Godspeed, you Funimation Dubbing Gods, for putting a smile on Anthony's face:


I am thankful that we are still getting some English dubs (though not as many as I would like) with some of the shows being released these days. I am thankful for Funimation for still dubbing everything that they release instead of doing a mix of dubbed releases and sub only releases. I am thankful that more shows are being simulcasted each season so that more shows are available to watch legally each new anime season. I am also thankful that we are starting to get more special edition sets (like Funimation's LE and what NISA puts out at least with the first run).

So what do I plan to watch you ask? Well since I have a four and half day weekend from work (which I desperately need) I plan on watching a few things. First I plan on getting caught up the shows that are currently airing that I am really being on (like Gundam AGE for example. I also plan to watch some shows from my physical collection that I need to get watched that I have been way too lazy to get to.

I'll take your word on the tasteful part, Utru:

This Thanksgiving, as an anime fan, I am grateful for many things : the Fate/Zero and Mirai Nikki anime adaptations, Fate/Extra, the manga version of Sora no Otoshimono finally moving on to the plot after so many filler chapters, some of the early Rance games being fan-translated and so on. But what I am most grateful for is the completion of Katawa Shoujo coming out sometime this year.

Most people who have played the trial version of this freeware American-made visual novel about romancing disabled girls share my sentiment. If you are confused then let me explain, Katawa Shoujo is good. Really good. It may have originated on 4-chan, but has since left it and blossomed into a tasteful yet awesome visual novel. The characters feel real, the aesop it conveys, disabled people are just people, is extremely important in real life, and the dialog is witty and meaningful. In additions, it's clear that the creators do not fetishize their characters, so even the skippable H-scenes will be tasteful. Best of all, the creators are doing it completely for the art. High quality free stuff is rare, so I am always happy when new high quality free stuff comes along. That and the fact that it is American made means that the Japanese have to go through the trouble of fan-translating it. I shall enjoy the time where, for once, the Japanese have to wait months, maybe years, for a American made visual novel to get translated instead of the other way around.

Of course, the game could bomb and fail badly seeing as it hasn't been released yet. However, with the time, effort, and passion Four Leaf Studios have put into their work, I doubt it will happen. It's strange to be thankful for something that hasn't been released yet on Thanksgiving, but I think that Katawa Shoujo deserves it.

And now we end with Andrew, who's had a real banner year in 2011, I'd say:

Dear Answerman,

I'm thankful for the chance I got earlier this year to cover the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention for G4's Attack of the Show. It was a big opportunity for me as a member of the Viewer Army and I'm glad it aired after the network and me worked out the technical difficulties. I love attending MTAC and I'm hoping to go again in 2012. I even emailed my request to G4 to cover it again for the AOTS Viewer Army.

I'm also thankful for winning the MTV Geek Trigun prize pack. I won Trigun: Badlands Rumble and all of Trigun on DVD, plus a Trigun wallet, notebook, and Badlands Rumble autographed by Johnny Yong Bosch. I've already watched the movie and it was as good as I was hoping it was.

As for what anime I'll be watching this Thanksgiving weekend, I'm going to have my work cut out for me. I seriously need to play catch up with a couple of series. Like Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere, Phi-Brain - Kami no Puzzle, Chihayafuru, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam-, Ben-To, Mirai Nikki, UN-GO, Guilty Crow, and Mawaru Penguindrum. Wish me luck!

Thanks, guys! It's always nice to see the warmer side of the readership; typically the only way to guarantee a wealth of Answerfans responses is to post a question that will bring forth the invective and bile that typically builds and festers in all of us, but it's great that we can all be damn Thankful every once in a while.

And on that note, I am taking a little break - and that means, so are all of you - next week, because I'm up to my eyeballs in editing work for a local TV documentary that coincidentally airs Thanksgiving weekend, and I am now out of time and need to minimize this window and spend several more hours pouring over footage in Final Cut. Terrific.

With that, though, everyone have a fantastically great holiday weekend, and I'll be back next week in full force! Don't forget to ask me anything, anything, by emailing me over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Happy Thanksgiving and Black Friday!

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