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Hey, Answerman! - Printing Money

by Brian Hanson,

Hey everyone! Welcome to Hey, Answerman! We all know the drill, we all know why we're here - at least I hope so - and I've got some serious last-minute Christmas shopping to be done, so let's get down to brass tacks, as it were.

If I might say a few words about Christmas shopping, for a moment. It is legitimately nice that my friends, family, and everybody else I legitimately care about would not want anything for Christmas that could be purchased in either a mall or some cluster**** of a big-box retail outlet. Nothing but kooky art galleries, second-hand bookshops, and comic book stores. Which makes Christmas shopping a much less agonizing and lighthearted affair. I certainly appreciate that. Let's take care of those questions, now:

I was wondering how much an impact, if any, having an anime series get licensed would have on the chances of the corresponding manga and/or light novel series getting licensed as well. For example, this past summer I really got into Angel Beats! and bought the DVD when it was released and that series had two manga series and a single-volume light novel that haven't been licensed in English. Is there any chance that any one of those might see a release stateside in the foreseeable future?

Well, it certainly doesn't hurt the chances of seeing the light novels or the manga seeing their way to the Western world, but it doesn't always help, either.

The market for manga and the market for anime are actually quite a bit different, in the sense that there's a pretty big demographic split between the two when it comes to actual sales. I mean, logistically speaking, it's nearly impossible to find somebody who only buys anime and doesn't buy manga, but you could make a pretty solid case that there's a large portion of people who only buy manga and doesn't ever bother to pick up an anime DVD.

The other key difference (or Key difference, if I wanted to make a horrible pun regarding the visual novel label in regards to this series, which I do), is that Angel Beats! is that rare beast that began life as an anime series first, with light novels and manga coming afterwards. Rare is the case that a manga series is a direct continuation of an anime series, instead of the progenitor.

Either way, though, Angel Beats! hits a bit more of the demographic cues in regards to a successful anime series than a manga one. Lots of high school kids, rampant death, superpowers, secret organizations that seek to destroy God, et al. The sort of things that anime fans really dig. Specifically the older folks who actually, you know, buy DVDs. The market for manga in the west is skewed significantly younger, without putting too fine a point on it. And by that I mean that licensing any of the Angel Beats! manga or light novels isn't a sure-fire winner just because the anime is out on store shelves; Angel Beats! doesn't have flashy fight scenes on every third page, nor does it have a bunch of pandering T&A or pretty bishounen floating around in various states of undress. The DVDs would have to sell really, really well in order for it to have any bearing on the licensing of the ancillary products.

I mean, the Key brand obviously has a lot of cache amongst the hardest-core of the anime fans here in the West, there's no denying that. But in the manga world, the tides have certainly changed insofar as the amount of content that's getting licensed compared to a few years ago. If anything, it seems like Angel Beats! would be right up Yen Press' alley; and if the past is any indication, the Higurashi manga eventually found its way in English after a year or so of Geneon releasing the first batch of DVDs before dying alone and sad in a ditch.

Essentially, there's precedent, certainly, and any sort of awareness is a good thing; but it's important to remember that, in simple sales-talk, the demographics between anime and its adjacent light novels and manga spinoffs cater to slightly different markets. And sometimes, even in regards to the exact same property, those markets can be wildly different.

I've always been interested in the publishing of manga in the west and since I'll be leaving university fairly soon, I've thought about possibly trying to get a job working with one of the western publishers like Yen Press or Seven Seas. Therefore I've got two questions: First, other than being a translator, what kind of position can you get in a western manga publishing company? I know there must be more than just translation that goes into producing manga in the west, but for the life of me, I can't think what else would go on. So what other positions could (potentially) be available?

Second, are there any skills or qualifications that may be an advantage to wanting to work with a western publisher? I gather that if you're wanting to work on the translations side of things, fluency in both Japanese and English would be essential, but for other positions what would be the type of skills required? And would any particular university degree be of any help when trying to get a job in a publishing company?

Acchhhgh, another job question. Alright, since you were pretty specific about this one, I'll bite.

Basically, there's two big things that happen when a Western publisher decides to release a title out here for all us lucky fans who only speak English. First, of course, they have to translate it. And you don't want to do that, so that's fine. The other thing they have to do is to actually release the damn thing, make sure it looks nice and professional, and make sure that people know about it so they feel like buying it.

Essentially, outside of translating, Western manga companies need all sorts of folks who can design, be it book covers, print and web ads, or web sites, and people who are fluent in the tricky language of marketing; folks who know how to effectively spend what is essentially a non-existent advertising budget and insure that your audience is both familiar with whatever manga-du-jour you're releasing, but that they also desperately want it.

Going the design route, obviously some degree - be it an associate's degree, even - in Graphic Design is preferable, but not always required. So long as you've got the skills and Adobe InDesign proficiencies and the portfolio to back it up, it's not hard to get work as a Graphic Designer. Just don't expect to be salaried staff or anything; most Graphic Design work is as freelance as they get.

For marketing, yeah, it's kind of important to have a college degree for that one. If, say, *I* were to show up at Seven Seas' office one day and start barking ideas at them, i.e. "YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD BE A GREAT WAY TO SELL AOI HOUSE, IS IF YOU GUYS GAVE ME A PISTOL WITH ONE BULLET IN THE CHAMBER AND CHALLENGED PEOPLE AT OTAKON TO A GAME OF RUSSIAN ROULLETTE," and then they would ask me what my credentials were, and I would say "lots of free community theater, a bunch of cartoons, and a sense of earnest pride," and they would promptly have me escorted by security out of the building. Marketing is one of the more cutthroat career options though these days, as the rise of social networks and other such web-related nonsense has created something of a vast new frontier of advertising. And, luckily, that's lead to quite a few new opportunities for smaller publishers, like Seven Seas, to experiment a bit more in how they attempt to reach their intended audience.

But, as I've said countless times before, the key to getting a job in this little anime and manga industry of ours, is that you have to legitimately be good at your job. And typically, in order for people to be good at their job, it sort of needs to be something that they, I dunno, like doing. I would say, in all honesty, maybe the end goal shouldn't always be, "I want to work for this company, what should I do?" and more along the lines of, "This is what I like to do, and so this is what I have a degree in, how would I apply that for (Insert Manga/Anime Publisher Here)?" For all the working stiffs in the anime and manga realms I've had the pleasure to come across, it's usually the latter method that led them to where they are now.

Hey Answerman,

I have often seen it said on internet forums that mangaka do not actually make any money off of US sales. That it doesn't matter how many Viz copies of the Bleach manga I buy, or how many US Bleach anime DVDs I buy, or if I subscribe to the US Shonen Jump, or if I subscribe to Crunchyroll, or if I do anything else related to the US release of Bleach. If I want Kubo himself to actually see some of that money, I have to buy the Japanese manga volumes.

This seems incredibly odd to me. I'm certain this is NOT the way things work in the west: no way would J. K. Rowling have become a billionaire if she hadn't gotten royalties off of those sales of Harry Potter in the US and other countries outside the UK. And it just seems weird to me that mangaka won't at least get some royalties when I but US manga volumes or similar things. Indeed, it seems like the above claim is something that could have just been made up by people looking for another excuse not to buy US releases of anime/manga.

But on the other hand, the Japanese manga industry is obviously different from the US or British book publishing industry, so maybe it really is that way. I don't know, which is why I am asking you.

Ah, this is sweet! I love you. I love you because somebody on an "internet forum," that bastion of truth and accuracy, made a clearly insane and untrue statement, and you said to yourself, "wait a minute, that cannot POSSIBLY be true, because of all this logic and fact!"

So yes, that is wildly untrue in every way for a variety of reasons. So I'll point out a few.

First of all, the actual percentage of each sale of a manga volume, be it here or in Japan, that finds its way back to its original creator depends on a number of things. But chief among them, of course, is what's written in his or her contract with the publisher that's shipping all those volumes globally. It goes without saying, of course, that the more popular / successful mangaka out there (your Toriyamas, CLAMPs, et al) have a much more lucrative contract than the also-rans. I wonder, for a moment, how they might've gotten those lucrative contracts? Could it be because, I don't know, their titles have sold hundreds-of-thousands-to-millions overseas as well? Yeah, that's probably it.

Now, listen - I'm not saying that all publishers are completely magnanimous and on the up-and-up when it comes to accurately paying the creators themselves. More often than not, no, the creators get sort of screwed when it comes down to how rich a successful series makes a publishing company, toy company, or anime studio, versus how much of that cash actually goes back to them at the end of the day. It's no different here in America or Europe or anywhere else. MTV and Nickelodeon took a lot of flak in the 90's because their two most successful cartoon shows, Beavis and Butthead and Ren & Stimpy, were essentially bought wholesale by the respective networks, and all the millions of dollars made in merchandising alone went right by the original artists and straight into the pockets of the studios. And in those cases, both Mike Judge and John Kricfalusi had to either re-negotiate their contract or they had to buy back the rights to their own characters for a not-insignificant sum.

But at the end of the day, they got those rights back, and now whenever Beavis and Butthead makes a bit of money, it winds up in the proper hands. In Mike Judge's case, he went off and made yet another highly successful TV series, as well as a string of cult-hit movies. And with all that hard work and subsequent success, he was able to get the rights back to the first thing that ever made him a nickel.

So, again, it's hardly a rosy scenario when it comes to original artists being compensated for their efforts - it takes a veritable machine to get a manga volume translated and printed and on store shelves halfway across the world, for starters - but it is asinine to assume that artists aren't being paid when you buy a volume. And even if it is just a pittance, those sales are what really counts in the end, anyway. Tite Kubo might not have had the most lucrative publishing deal in place when Bleach first began all those years ago; but I assure you, after selling millions of copies around the world, publishers eventually take notice, and their compensation shifts accordingly.

So, take this as a public service announcement. Not everything you hear on an internet forum is factually correct. In fact, sometimes, it is so hilariously and cynically un-true that it makes even the most pathological of liars feel uncomfortable.

Goodbye reader questions, hello reader answers! As we continue to look back in fondness at 2011's best and brightest, I wanted us DVD-buyer-types to find that Most Special Thing:

We begin with Chi-Linh, who echoes a popular statement about the 2011 release of one of 2010's best films:

Hi Brian,

I have to say I am somewhat of a lapsed anime fan. I used to have the time to follow a bunch of series at once, but sadly work and life took over. Generally these days, something has to be monumentally big for me to notice it. I think Summer Wars was one of those releases.

Being in Canada, I didn't get the release Blu-Ray until sometime in February, but it was definitely worth the wait. I loved seeing the mash-up of new-school (the OZ universe and the digital realm) and old-school (the expansive extended family house with traditional values). The soundtrack was big and boom-y, and the animation was fluid and movie-like. Summer Wars is one of those movies where it looks gorgeous on the flat screen and sounds amazing with the speakers pumped up.

The other great thing about Summer Wars was the accessibility. I succeeded in playing it as a general movie-night screening for friends who weren't anime fans, and they loved it. The plot isnt too complicated but lots of fun, and there is an equal mix of laughs and action. I think in many ways the fact that it reminded people of the old Digimon movie (which brings people a lot of nostalgia around these parts) made it that much more memorable. And it is also interesting to think about the technology used in the Summer Wars future- it is so well done it might be a realistic prediction of what OUR technological future might look like.

The Blu-Ray case it came in is pretty damn nice, too, with raised ink and imprinting. Having owned many shoddy Blu-Ray titles, I was impressed. Anyway, Summer Wars is my shout-out for the best Western release of 2011. I recommend all anime fans try watching it at least once- and while you're at it, turn down the lights, pump up that bass, and pop that popcorn.

Representing Mexico, Hono.no.Tenshi can for once gloat about something us English-speakers aren't able to have, for once:

Hi Brian,

This is the first time I'm answering one of your questions, but simply I couldn't keep this to myself. The thing is, I'm from Mexico so I don't know if this answer would apply because the DVD release I'm going to talk about is only available for certain Latin-american countries.

This year happened something incredible, something I didn't believe until I saw the oficial date of the release on the retailer's website: The Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1 Box Set OFFICIAL and LEGAL RELEASE for Mexico!!! As part of the 20th anniversary of SM, a mexican anime publisher (Tower Entertainment) bought the rights to publish all but one of the anime seasons of Sailor Moon (except for the 5th season, which they would consider only if the sales are successful enough). This is so incredible because the only official and legal anime releases we get over here are shonen titles like Saint Seiya (all sagas), Bakugan, Yu-Gi-Oh! and one soccer-releated anime which name I can't remember (IS NOT Captain Tusbasa though). And to think that Toei Animation sold the rigths to a really new mexican publisher for -what I've read- a very good price was unbelievable; The good news was traveling the Mexican anime websites since the spring of 2010 and every fan was skeptical, but then our dreams came true this past November 6th. This edition (only in DVD, not BD) that I snatched right away from the special pre-sale comes with a special metal box called “Talk Box Moon Edition”, 'cause within the box, there's a small button that you can press to hear a rather corny message from Usagi (VA Patricia Acevedo) thanking you for been a fan. Inside there's a thick DVD case with 4 discs conteining the first 23 episodes of season 1, and the best of all is that you can choose between spanish dub and the original japanese audio with/without subs. I cannot be more grateful for this release!

Megan's choice is another much-lauded re-release:

I'm probably not the best person to ask, as I only got into anime in a serious way (and thus, started buying DVDs) last Christmas, and thus most of my purchases over the last year haven't been the latest and hippest stuff, but a lot of older stuff - a lot of the classics, along with whatever odd little show caught my fancy and didn't cost a lot. Baccano and Spice and Wolf S1 are about as recent as its gets, as far as my anime collection goes (at least until I finally get my hands on that Durarara!! bundle).

But for me (and I'm guessing plenty of others), the best anime release for this year was actually a long anticipated rerelease - the Revolutionary Girl Utena boxsets from Nozomi. They look nice (both in regards to the picture quality and the spiffy artwork on the boxes), they're chock full of extras (the brochures with the interviews, notes, and key art are especially nice touches), and it allows newcomers like me to finally get an affordable look at a classic title. I can only hope next year's rerelease of Martian Successor Nadesico (which I'm dying to see, because everything I've read and heard about this show sounds really interesting) can meet the exceptional standards this release set.

One more for Utena, courtesy of Triltaison:

Hands down, the best release this year was Nozomi's re-release of Revolutionary Girl Utena.

I own the original Software Sculptors DVDs, and while they are adequate for the time they were released... They could have really used some work. While I don't totally fault SS since DVDs were still a fancy and new thing at the time, some of the image transfers look little better than a direct VHS rip. Things were hard-subbed into the video and action scenes were poorly compressed, looking like a fan-made product rather than an official release sold nationwide. While I am thrilled to be able to own the series itself, this particular pressing could be a little better in a lot of places.

The news that Nozomi would bring over the newly released sets that Japan received recently completely floored me at the time; I honestly didn't expect to ever own the sets for myself without importing. The new sets are absolutely breathtaking in the quality of the remastered visuals, especially considering the SS release didn't even sport the ability to turn off subtitles for background music or even a textless version of the opening.

This is the release Utena deserves, and I am so grateful that the good people at Nozomi brought it to North America so anime fans of this generation get the chance to see such an amazing show as it should be seen.

Breaking away from re-releases, ShadowNeko003 jumps for ecstatic joy for a Tales series, one that I should probably watch after I buy the 3DS port of the game in February:

The best Western anime DVD/Bluray to me would have to be Tales of the Abyss. I was jumping for joy when they announced that they were going to bring it over. Even though the release was delayed for a few months, I was just glad to have it release, even if we didn't get the Bluray releases like the Japanese did. I didn't mind that it was sub only, although the cast of the video game was superb. (It would have been nice for Bandai to get the English cast together again but you win some you lose some.) It was the fact that the West would even get a Tales of anime release. Heck, even the Asch and Jade manga adaptions got translated and released. While Tales of have a good fanbase here in the West, it's relatively small to something like Full Metal Alchemist, Evangelion, and Final Fantasy. So for Bandai to go out on a limb and cater to the Tales of fans, specially the ToA fans, this was the best release of the year.

Jecca gets to do a little callback to the first question with her pick:

I'd have to say that the best anime release for me of 2011 has to be Angel Beats on BluRay. The transfer is just really fantastic quality both on the audio and video fronts. But most importantly, the show itself is excellent. I didn't see this show when it was coming out via fansubs, and I picked up this BluRay set on a complete blind buy, just hearing that it's good. It has lots of quirky characters, including a character who randomly dances and shouts out weird English phrases, and a plot I've never seen in anime before ever (and I've been watching anime since the early 90's). With so many anime that feel same old, same old nowadays (mostly of the moe variety), Angel Beats was a breath of fresh air to me. Which, in a way, is ironic since Yuri is blatantly stealing Haruhi's character design.

Also, Angel Beats gets kudos from me for helping me discover a new food. Japanese-style mabo tofu is pretty tasty!

And finally, just for the craps and giggles, here's one more round of plaudits for Nozomi and Utena, from David T.:

The answer here for me is short and simple - the remastered version of Revolutionary Girl Utena. There are also very few series that would even need a remaster as badly as Utena did. The original release of the first arc just packed too many episodes onto too few discs and left the picture quality wanting. Besides that, if the whole "herp derp" meme was around back when the show first came out, there are several screencaps that could be used for it, and those have been pulled back at least a little bit in the remaster. On top of those, the colors are brighter and more vivid, bringing the whole visual experience up to date. The surround sound mix clears up the muddy audio that came from BGM, SFX, dialogue, and lyrics being stacked on top of each other during the duels and also does a great job of immersing you in the show's atmosphere, not that it wasn't engrossing enough to begin with.

Basically, this rerelease addresses all of the concerns that people nowadays have with watching "older" anime, although Ikuhara seems to be incorporating several similar themes and visual motifs from Utena in Mawaru Penguindrum anyways (WHEN WILL THAT GET LICENSED ALREADY?!)

So, that's your picks for the best Western DVD release of the past year - Utena wins in a landslide!

But I'm not done forcing all of you to pick 2011 favorites just yet. Oh no. We've got one more, one big last hurrah before ringing in the new year, guns a'blazin':

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.

Alright everyone, hope to see your ULTIMATE TITLE OF 2011 in two weeks! Yes, that's right, two weeks - I'm taking Christmas off, mostly because I can, but also because of the standard reasons of family and togetherness and such. But! That doesn't let you all off the hook, so of course if you've got any interesting questions buggin' you over the holidays, or of course an Answerfans response of merit, look no further than answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Merry (somewhat early) Christmas everybody!

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