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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

I'm alive! I am very much alive and well!

Last week I was laid out with a nasty case of tonsillitis. Which is, I mean - I'm 27 years old. I'll be 28 in two weeks. What the hell, nature? What in the name of everything holy and not made you decide to inflict a painful infection that is typically instilled within children? I mean, what's next? Mono? What, do I gotta hide my face in the schoolyard because I got the "kissing disease" and I probably got it from Smelly Shelley in Mrs. Cranbrook's class? I am nonplussed.

Well, I'm better now. I've adjusted somewhat nicely to my nice, new East Coast digs and I'm ready to start answering questions again. So let's chow down on the ambrosia that is knowledge.

Lately, there has been a lot of on-going anime getting the boot, namely the Shounen Jump anime: Bleach, Gintama, Beelzebub, Katekyo Hitman Reborn, D.Gray-Man. Some people are saying these shows are getting cancelled because of low-ratings in Japan. Others might speculate that the anime have caught up with the manga material and they do not want to do fillers. If that is the case, wouldn't it be smart to put the show on hiatus until there are enough material to animate it? And are there any chance for these shows to return on the air?

Oh, no no no - it is ABSOLUTELY not the case that these shows are being cancelled because "they've caught up with the manga material and they do not want to do fillers." Are you kidding me? If the show was still successful and profitable, they would fill up an entire season's worth of filler and cash their checks and laugh at the gullibility of their audience, one-hundred-percent. What, you think there's some semblance of integrity at stake here? That's insane. If these shows still had a shot of making a mint, they'd still be bleeding them dry, week after week.

No sir - it's low-ratings. Actually, it's low ratings and a number of other things, all revolving around the fact that these shows just aren't making enough money. You can have a "low rated" show and still make money - almost none of the many late-night anime series do well in the ratings department, but they sell a ton of DVDs and merchandise to make up for it. And actually, ratings are irrelevant to most of those shows in the first place; for a late-night anime, much of the time, their 1:00am timeslot is paid for by the production committee to act, basically, as a commercial for the forthcoming "uncensored" home video release.

So, that works for stuff like Fate/Zero. But for your four-quadrant Shonen series? By and large, these shows have decent timeslots - Bleach, for example, airs at 6pm on Tuesdays - and with a good timeslot comes a lot of expectation. And since paying for that timeslot outright like a late-night anime would be far too expensive, these shows have to pull their weight and reach a wide audience. Now, it's not like the various Japanese TV networks have some ungodly expectations for these shows to draw huge numbers; that's just not possible. The only Shounen series that does extraordinarily well in the ratings department is One Piece. Not to mention the fact that nearly all of these shows air on TV Tokyo, which is something like the lowest-rated of all the major TV networks in Japan (with the exception of Beelzebub, which airs on NTV, which is probably the 2nd-highest-watched Japanese TV network behind NHK). TV Tokyo is usually pretty patient with a lot of their anime series, which explains why Naruto still continues to this day, despite waning interest.

And, really, let's look at the episode count for these shows. Gintama - 253 episodes, including its "sequel" series. Reborn! - 203 episodes. D.Gray-man - 103 episodes. Beelzebub's making it to 60 episodes. And the leader of the pack, Bleach, gets to end with a staggering 366 episodes. And four feature films. Jeez.

I can understand the unwillingness of people to let go of the characters they've come to love over the years, but come on. I've read D.Gray-man, and it's impossible to fathom how a property like that can sustain 103 22-minute episodes. The Bleach anime has inspired nothing but consternation and derisiveness even from its most ardent fans for years. These things are ending and that's a good thing, right? We get to collectively move on and enjoy the next thing that we'll obsess over until it "jumps the shark" and we start hating it? Isn't that the natural order of the universe? Or am I totally off base here?

Of course, let it not be said that cancellation is never the complete and total end of things - especially these days, and especially considering how popular something like Bleach once was. If Toei can still find the time to make wacky Dragonball shorts for theme parks and tie-in events, I'm sure TV Tokyo won't be averse to trotting out the Bleach cast every once in a while for one reason or another. For the other shows - Gintama and Beelzebub and the like - those were never as globally popular as something like Bleach, and the list of list of anime series that have been resurrected thanks exclusively to Western support are rare. In fact, I can only think of two - The Big O II, and the Escaflowne movie. As far as I'm concerned, stick a fork in 'em, because those shows are done.

Without seeming too callous, I, personally, look forward to the days when 200-plus episode behemoths are old hat. When long-running shonen series are culled into season-long chunks, instead of barreling forward through dozens of crappy, padded-out episodes just for the sake of making an extra buck. And for that to happen, it means that all of the current shows that do this need to die. So, a few of the herd has been culled - it's time to start thinning out the rest of them. I'm lookin' at you, One Piece and Naruto. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Hey Answerman,

I didn't get around to answering your Answerfans about anime Kickstarter projects, but I just thought of something which would be the best possible use of Kickstarter for an anime project. The Dreaming Machines, Satoshi Kon's final film, has fallen into production hell due to lack of funds, despite being at least two thirds finished (I forget the exact percentage, but it was closer complete than not). So, if funding's the one issue, could Madhouse possibly set up a Kickstarter page for the film to get the remaining funding? I'd think that would turn out quite successful. The total budgets for Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers were only about $3 million, so if Dreaming Machines costs the same amount, a good portion of that money could be crowd-sourced. If you have any connections or know anyone with connections, please send this idea along!

Y'know, that's actually a terrific idea, and if it started up tomorrow, I can vouch that myself and virtually everyone else in this industry would pitch in as much as they could to make sure Kon's legacy is fulfilled. I'd be thrilled, and as far as I'm concerned, whatever concerned citizen / film distributor / philanthropist who would create such a thing would be a god damn hero.

Having said that, I can understand that there's probably a few roadblocks to crowdfunding something like this. For starters, that hasn't been done before. No anime has been crowdfunded before. And aside from that, I know it doesn't sound like 10 million bucks is a lot of money, but the most successful Kickstarter EVER in the HISTORY OF THE COMPANY has been Double Fine Adventure, which raked in over 3 million dollars. And that was huge, and had its share of problems - many people from Europe and abroad had some difficulty donating, and without that truly global fundraising network, there was no way that amount of money could've been raised in such a short time. And for something like 10 million dollars to be raised, it would need to be a truly global endeavor, and to be honest, I just don't think Kickstarter - or any other crowdfunding method - is up to the sheer logistics of something like that. To make The Dream Machine the way it was originally envisioned, you can't cut any corners or spare any expense; any less would dishonor the memory of one of anime's true luminaries.

Having said that, though, I'm sure there could be some way for it all to work out. I'm sure of it. But it would be a massive fundraising undertaking, and honestly, I'm also sure that there's no shortage of interest in seeing the film completed even without Kickstarter's help. Kon had his admirers far outside of our little fandom - take note of Darren Aronofsky's eulogy in Kon's posthumous artbook - so personally speaking, I'm not of the opinion that we'll never ever see The Dream Machine without Kickstarter's help.

Look, at the end of the day, I'm rather glad there's a delay and they're taking their time with this film. As much as it pains me to even be reminded of Satoshi Kon's passing, I'd rather they slowly but surely spend their time and resources wisely and approach the completion of this film as delicately as possible, rather than scramble together something slipshod simply to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. And I think the film is in good hands - Yoshimi Itazu has been Kon's trusted confidant for his past two projects, and if Kon liked him, then I like him.

Now then. Anyone got 10 million dollars lying around? Let's get this film made. C'mon, guys.

Hey Answerman,

I know that I'm beating a dead horse into an even more dead horse, but I'm curious as to whether you think fansubbing has ANY benefit at all for the industry. I won't lie to anyone about my use of fansubs. I also won't say that I'm exactly proud of it, because I'm not. It's a real shame that people have to resort to such legally gray areas to view shows they love simply because they live outside of Japan. I'm all for Crunchyroll when the series you want to see is available there, but the sad fact of the matter is that many titles simply aren't viewable through any means other than fansubbing. Wonderful shows such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica weren't watchable during its run through any means other than fansubbing, which is just ridiculous. I'm of the opinion that in cases like that, fansubs are the ONLY reason it becomes popular in the United States and therefore makes money after being licensed. Certain members of the industry, such as the former VP of sales for Tokyopop, Steve Kleckner, agree with that opinion. I think that if companies based their Blu-ray and DVD releases partially off how popular its fansubs were, they'd see more sales. I would never have purchased many of the anime I own if I hadn't seen the fansubs. Ultimately, I blame poor customer-company relations in North America for the recent drop in sales. Many companies simply don't license shows people would buy because those companies aren't really aware of WHAT customers want. Most of the largest anime fan communities use fansubs to view most of their anime, for better or worse. If companies want to sell more merchandise, they need to visit those sites that host fansubs and license shows that are popular. Eventually, I think that we'll no longer require fansubs once the companies understand what it is that people want. Perhaps I'm just a naive optimist, but I think companies need to cooperate with the "enemy" at the moment if they ever want to move forward. Can anyone honestly say that certain shows would have sold DVDs and Blu-rays if it weren't for fansubs? No. Shows like Madoka are proof of that. What I'm saying is that companies need to capitalize on the popularity of titles people watched through fansubs in order to make a greater profit. Set the legality of the issue aside and focus instead on how they can foster a relationship with fansubbers than is symbiotic.

See, I've gotten a lot of mail from fansubbers, who often feel like they're being "demonized" because of stuff like Horrible Subs and other fansub groups that refuse to comply with the current realities of streaming video - i.e. fansubbing titles that are readily and easily available via Crunchyroll and Hulu and the like. And I understand that frustration. Nobody likes to be lumped into the worst aspect of whatever subculture they're a part of. And truth be told, there are a bunch of likeable fansubbers, who take it upon themselves to act as a sort of Island of Misfit Anime Series - fansubbing things that never had a shot of a decent license. Not to mention things like Macross, which we won't ever get to see properly subtitled in English until Harmony Gold surgically removes their heads from their massive asses.

Personally, though, I think fansubs are the lingering nuisance of a bygone era, clung to foolishly by an increasingly shrinking, increasingly vocal, and increasingly irritated minority who adamantly refuse to accept the sea change of anime. And by that I mean, legitimate streaming services. Ironic, I suppose, considering how long fansubbers have claimed a sort of moral superiority because they "offered a product" that legitimate business refused to offer. As I see it, unless you're fansubbing something that's old, rare, or otherwise unknown, you're not helping anyone. On any level. It's 2012, people. There's no reason to be spending your time translating and encoding an English fansubbed episode of Naruto. And in the case of Madoka Magica, that was recently streamed on NicoNico. All you had to do was wait. I know, I know - TORTURE, PURE TORTURE. Waiting. I mean, it's like, I wanted to write to my congressman to report WAR CRIMES when I had to wait TWO WEEKS for Kodocha to send me my VHS fansubs of Rurouni Kenshin, which were themselves at least a year removed their Japanese airdate. IT WAS THE WORST THING EVER, AND- I think you get my point.

Yes, yes, I know, OTHER REGIONS OTHER REGIONS - but there are ways around that particular roadblock that don't involve fansubs.

I've talked about fansubs until I've been blue in the mouth, face, and lungs, and so has everybody else in this industry. But unfortunately I don't think that's going to stop anytime soon, because the fansubbers have so fully committed to their bizarre alternate-reality world where THEY are the ones wholly responsible for a show's "success" in the states (a "success" that doesn't translate into a single dime going towards the original artists, naturally), and so of course they are completely unwilling to accept any sort of rational discussion. And in a way, I can respect that amount of passion, and I'm no fool - I know the amount of work and sweat these guys pour into what they're doing. I know it's not easy. But I can't in good conscience condone an activity that's irrelevant at the least, and outright harmful at the worst.

I mean, if EVERY SINGLE FANSUBBER ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET were doing NOTHING but fansubbing old Tezuka films, old Go Nagai shows, and episodes of Chibi Maruko-Chan, I'd be okay with it. As a matter of fact, if ANY fansubber out there would be so kind as to track down and fansub ANY of Tezuka's Animerama films, I'd be jumping for freaking joy, ecstatic as a toddler on Christmas! But why would any fansubber do something like that - spend their time translating and encoding a film with historical significance and very little international exposure - when they can translate an episode of Hunter X Hunter and have their sweet IRC handle displayed to the 400,000 or so people who download their file? It's a pathetic, Pyrrhic display of unnecessary glory, and it's unsustainable.

Simply put, the "need" for fansubbers is growing thinner every year. When your casual anime fan can flip on Hulu on their PS3 and watch the latest One Piece episode in High Definition instantaneously on their HDTV, the benefits of a fansub start to look awful slim. Unless you live in those OTHER REGIONS. Or you're trying to watch something like Macross. Or you're weird and want to pretend to understand what's going on in Tezuka's insane Cleopatra film. (It starts off in space, where real live human bodies have anime faces, and nipple-tubes transport them back through time or something, and it just gets weirder from there.)

I would never presume to suggest that fansubbers themselves are obsolete, because there will ALWAYS be stuff that slips through the cracks, and markets that aren't being properly treated. But, the current culture of fansub-ing is unsustainable, as more and more anime companies become hip to the jive of simulcasting, and folks on both sides of the Pacific make great strides to make acquiring this content even easier than it currently is.

And with my return comes the return of Hey, Answerfans! That thing I do where I don't do anything except give YOU, the reader, the chance to respond to my questions!

Last week, wanted to get to the bottom of this whole "debate" about supporting your fellow artists:

To begin, Melissa gets rather magnanimous:

I think there are lots of kinds of "support" one can give for an individual artist. Most obviously, there's financial support when you buy the manga, anime, or an accessory product for that franchise. I think we're all familiar with how that can help the artist, though the money will have to trickle back based on whatever was agreed upon in the contracts. Essentially, yes, you support the artist when you're buying manga or anime, but you also support more people who helped on that enterprise, which is NOT a bad thing. Everyone who helps make a manga or anime come to life deserves their equal pay, it's just worth noting for fans and critics to remember that buying a product supports the larger infrastructure within which the artist works.

Perhaps a more abstract way to support the artist that still generates revenue (as well as moral and emotional support) is to generate or contribute to the popularity of a show. Now while shows that are popular may not make money, and shows that don't make money aren't inherently "popular" (or good), popularity generally does lead to a steady stream of revenue for a series that can successfully crossover to a franchise of sorts, whether it be a purely manga or anime based franchise. Ways for fans to generate or contribute to a show or comic's popularity is to be an active member of the fandom, or create the fandom. This includes having conversations about the show or comic both on the internet and in reality, creating fanworks for a show, and cosplay.

If we consider franchises with heavy fanbases that have contributed to the epic rise of that comic or contribute to the continued popularity of that show, I think we can clearly see that in an abstract way, this supports the artist. Axis Powers Hetalia blew up because people congregated in the fandom and began to build a fanbase much like an empire of sorts. That fandom was powerful before there even was an anime for the manga, and was a really powerful force in fanart and conventions (remember for a time when the DeviantArt homepage was nothing but Hetalia and you couldn't go to a con without running into a giant flag bearing cosplayer?) Or take Naruto, which is still hugely popular in the US. There's still tons of Naruto cosplayers at conventions and the fanbase is still active and cohesive. Being part of fandom not only gives fans a sense of community and belonging, which they will then want to contribute to in order to further this experience for themselves and others, but provides an abstract sense of support for the artist. If I'm involved in a fandom to the extent of cosplay, drawing fanart, reading doujinshi, and discussing the latest chapters, I'm more likely to actually financially support the artist when some kind of product reaches the US or is available at a con.

Plus, all of this fandom activity lets the artist know that some people, no matter how few or how many, actually care about the work they're producing. Yes, people draw manga and make anime to make money, but if we continue to just boil these mediums down to finances, we're taking away the idea of art for art's sake. Maybe making money is just a nice side effect of anime and manga, and we can appreciate those forms because they're artistic forms that were drawn for pleasure, and not just financial gain. Yes, manga-ka and animators still need to earn a living, and I always think about people like Yana Toboso who know people in the US love her manga, but don't contribute financially (and have spoken out about it). But I'd like to think that knowing your manga or anime is popular and has people who are passionate enough to draw fanart or cosplay your characters would mean more than making money. It's a less tangible form of support, but it's a more meaningful one.

Kyubey and I have a matter of disagreement but because we are DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMEN we settle it through the ancient art of Mutual Respect:

I find it most amusing how much it's possible to disagree over something. For me, support is about one thing: money.

One must recognize that at the end of the day, manga and anime are a business, and the end goal of producing it is to end up with some $ or ¥ in one's pocket. Of course there are different ways of getting there. One can pay for a product, or influence other people to pay. In any case the end result that matters is that the creator's bank balance increases.

Now to disagreements. To me it absolutely doesn't matter how one delivers money to the right party. Paying money for "assuaging guilt" as you call it to me makes complete sense. I don't see it in terms of owning a product, but in terms of access to content. The end goal for me is to watch the show, not to own the DVD of it. The DVD is just a support for the content that has no real intrinsic value to it. I don't proudly exhibit my shelf full of DVDs. The DVDs lay forgotten in different drawers and I watch the ripped content on my computer, and proudly exhibit the contents of the "anime" folder.

The overall idea is exchanging a payment for video, and buying a DVD in a shop, or torrenting it and buying enough merchandise to compensate, or in some other way getting a payment to the right place are in my view completely equivalent to each other. In fact I'd love it if everybody had a paypal account or whatever. Then I could torrent and pay via paypal and skip the part of having any physical media at all (no, Crunchyroll doesn't offer the same thing.

I'll admit that I don't understand your obsession with ownership, because as I mentioned before, for me it's all about money. If my objective is to support the maker, then I ought to pay by some method. If not, then torrenting, borrowing from a friend, or never watching at all are completely equivalent.

Lacey's approach is downright clinical:

Support, Verb. To keep from weakening or failing, to strengthen.

In other words, to aid in succeeding. And regardless of how much I personally loathe this world's reliability on physical money, it is what it is, and at the end of the day the money is what put the manga or anime there in the first place, and it's money that will allow it's creator to continue to publish such means of entertainment. If you are enjoying an artists work without putting a dime into his pocket, you are not supporting him. You are doing the opposite of what my little web definition is stating above. In order to support him, you must add to his success. And to add to his success would mean to increase his funds, so that he can continue his work.

How in God's name are we expected to "strengthen" an artist by stealing their work? How could anyone with ANY amount of audacity be able to categorize piracy and support in the same argument? Yoshihiro Togashi is brilliant, and I want him to succeed and make more stuff for his fans to enjoy. Am I getting him any closer to releasing new stuff by downloading all of Yu Yu Hakusho and watching it for free? Hell no. So how could I ever consider myself supportive of his work? To succeed, hell, to survive, Togashi needs funds. That's why he put YYH and his other brilliant works out there in the first place- to support himself. By having a folder on our computers strictly for Hunter X Hunter downloads, we are not helping Togashi in any form or fashion. By watching fansubs of Saiyuki, we are if anything doing DAMAGE to Minekura's career.

To support an artist means to add to his success. To add to his success means to allow his paycheck to grow. To allow his paycheck to grow means to legally BUY his material so that he can get a fraction of that purchase. And there's my two cents.

Juno's an artist himself, and he beckons you to support your, uhm, support:

When it comes to "support" for the creators, I can't NOT support the creators. My own life revolves around being an artist, so that immediately puts me in the position of one who wants and needs to be supported in order to create work for others to enjoy. However, even then, and possibly because of that, things are not so rosy and simple. I've got mixed feelings, and here's why:

--In the first place, I would rather trust my money to a system that gives everyone a share that is fairly proportional to the amount of time, effort, and actual input they do. Or at the very least, the artist/author/etc. (or team of them) should be paid enough that he/she doesn't need to worry about making a living while doing one successful series. I've been told that this is just how the business world works--but it doesn't HAVE to work that way, does it? Why must I support a system I personally don't agree with? I have yet to question this far enough to actually stop buying the products, since I know that at least SOME of my money is going toward the original creator (as well as others involved to definitely deserve some kind of payback for their services)... but I still feel it's a legitimate reason to hesitate "supporting" the industry the "legal" way.

--And then there's the "legality" issue. Just because something is "legal" does not mean it is the defining standard for how something should be done. In a somewhat similar (though intricately different) situation, doujinshi are technically "illegal" because they use the intellectual property of creators. They "steal" from the creators, but this is relatively acceptable on the side of many creators, as it shows support for their works even though no money is going back to them. Pirating makes this more complicated since it involves the actual products and not third-party products... but fansubs, while not perfect, are sometimes made in a way that no official product could imitate--and in my particular stance, I prefer fansubs over official subs, for many reasons I'm sure others could reiterate. With no current legal way to allow fansubs to actually "support" the creators, I don't agree that downloading the fansubbed versions of a series is as "wrong" as it is "illegal" (as long as I'm also buying the series itself).

--And finally, there's timing. I've been called "impatient" for not waiting for my anime releases, but I'm not sure if that's really the issue in my case. I am a big part of Japanese communities, yet I don't always have the same luxuries as them (watching Madoka as it broadcasted live on television), so I end up being singled out if I am not in tune with a lot of what goes on on the Japanese side of things. I still end up getting releases either in Japanese or when they come out in America, but I still feel it's important for me to stay up-to-date. Possibly even more important to me than that is the idea that, since I want to BE a part of the Japanese creative industry in the future, I should stay up-to-date and then personally experience the feelings and witness the reactions of Japanese fans now. After all, there is no better way to learn about something than experiencing it for yourself. In this case, too, it's not that I won't eventually "support" the creators, but whether I should or shouldn't get into something BEFORE I can "support" the creators. And I, personally, don't think it's so wrong to do so.

Thus, I still feel it is important, if not the MOST important thing, to support the creators... but if supporting the creators was the only thing that mattered here, we wouldn't be having such an issue in the first place.

AsteriskCGY has a nice little visual metaphor, which I always appreciate:

Hey Answerman,

I would say to "support" a creative artist is to find ways to show your own enthusiasm for what they do. This may mean leaving nice comments about said product on a forum for others to read. This can also mean housing a museum of relevant goods pertaining to said product. It can also mean spending what others can consider an inordinate amount of time and effort in displaying said enthusiasm at any given time.

What it means to be financially supported is standing in this sea of enthusiasm and taking advantage of these motions. And a large, uncontrolled ocean has more to offer than a small, man-made lake.

Wrapping things up succinctly as I like to do, here's Lise:

Hey Answerman,

I spend money on the anime and manga that I love. Without the artist, there is nothing, and as we all know, money talks. So what better way is there to convince publishers, distributors, and producers to support these artists than by slapping down my cash on North American releases of DVDs and books? I haven't thought of a better way yet.

Great job, guys! Now, speaking of support... within the realm of the nerd-o-sphere recently, there's been a bit of a kerfluffle about endings. That's always fertile ground for discussion, which then prompted me to ask you all this question:

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's all the stuff I've got lying around for this week! I'll be back next time unless I am stricken with Cholera, Gout, or Laughing Diarrhea! Remember to send me your questions and answers at answerman[at]animenewsnetwork.com! Cheers, friends!

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