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Hey, Answerman! - Kids on the Slippery Slope

by Brian Hanson,

Hiya folks! Welcome to another rip-roarin' tale of truth-telling commonly known by people who speak in a patois as Hey, Answerman!

I know I remark about this every year, but boy is E3 some prime-grade nerd kibble. Game trailers! Exclusive demos! Inebriated Instagram pictures from Gamespot writers! It's a fun time, but the effect it has on my brain has reached dangerous levels.

Last night, I had a dream about E3. I was in a press conference for a new game. That game was called Bible Adventures EXTREME. This was a dream that I actually had. Stammering, shy game developers walked a gaggle of bored press, which included me, through a real-time demo of a sequel to one of the most derided unlicensed Nintendo games ever made. They touted buzzwords like "Social Integration" while clumsily controlling Moses through a very Unreal Engine-like Red Sea. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH MY SUBCONSCIOUS. It's making snide, ironic comedy sketches on very specific topics during time that I'm supposed to be resting. I woke up very confused, angry, and slightly weirded out. Not a good feeling to have while you're fumbling with the coffee maker in the morning.

So despite my unease that E3 has officially broken my fragile mind, I just want to say that I think I was the only person on the planet who was sitting with childish glee during Sony's "Wonderbook" demo, where grown-ass adults sat crosslegged on a stage while using their Playstation Move controllers to conjure up dragons and fire spells from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And then of course that quickly gave way to boredom as they displayed an atmospheric trailer for another game where you graphically blow apart people's skulls with shotguns at point-blank range.

We'll return to gaming in a bit. For now, questions!

Hey Answerman!

Ever since seeing some hints of worry expressed on the ANN boards, I've increasingly felt concern about how the release of Kids on the Slope in the States will be handled-- perhaps more than anything, in regard to its music. We see very few series rely on so many actually popular Western songs-- why, this might be the series in which Yoko Kanno has made the most homage to once-popular songs by explicitly incorporating them in the work itself. And it's not as if they're peripheral homages either; they tie in very strongly to the episode titles, thematic content, and plot elements. For example, the song of "Some Day my Prince Will Come" references a famous jazz standard inspired by Snow White, but I've read it implied that Disney might own the rights to that song/title. There's "My Favorite Things," which strongly ties into the time period and a key scene in a latter-end episode. And don't get me started on some of the big jazz pieces that we hear in the first place, like Art Blakey's Moanin' or Gershwin's "But Not For Me."

Basically, is the music of Kids On The Slope in jeopardy? How much of it might be able to get by unscathed due to licensing issues, if there are any to be concerned about? Might they actually have to get it replaced with some other stuff? Would any changes just affect the dub, or both the sub and the dub? I realize that this kind of thing has happened before-- if I recall correctly, a Beatles song (or some other 60s band music) couldn't make it into an episode of BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad on at least the dub track, and how Eden of the East's "Falling Down" OP by Oasis only made it to the first episode of FUNI's DVD release. However, I don't think it's mattered to me before as much as it does now.

Finally, perhaps an overreaching line of questioning: why can it be so difficult for American anime dubs to retain popular Western songs that Japanese dubs already provide to begin with? Is it largely because American licensors simply don't have enough money to scrub for it, and/or the Japanese side of business won't help in paying? Or is it actually much cheaper to get those music rights for a show in Japan than in the States (or rest of the West)?

I suppose the answer everyone wants to hear, and the general consensus I guess, is that Kids on the Slope should be exempt from these licensing worries because of that wonderful little thing known as the Public Domain. But that's tricky: while the music itself may fall under the Public Domain, the specific recordings of that music are not. Quote PDinfo.com:

"Music recordings, however, are copyright protected separately from Musical Works. There are no Sound Recordings in the Public Domain in the USA. If you need a music recording - even a recording of a public domain song - you will either have to record it yourself or license a Royalte Free Music track."

So, that would be a real problem if Kids on the Slope's soundtrack was nothing but old jazz recordings. But the cool thing is, it's not! Most of the recordings are completely original and new, composed by the wonderful Yoko Kanno and her band of jazz lovers.

Of course, not *every* song in Kids on the Slope is under the Public Domain. "My Favorite Things" is obviously not, since that's a Rodgers & Hammerstein song. So even though Yoko Kanno is making mostly new recordings of these old songs, there's probably a lot of legal wrangling involved to make sure this show pays proper legal tribute to the music that drives its story.

But I'm not worried. The difference between Kids on the Slope and something like BECK is pretty obvious, but it bears stating: these are older songs, and jazz itself isn't exactly a beloved genre of music for most people under a certain age. BECK is filled with wall-to-wall music references, but it's mostly contemporary, and uses music from an era where bands could copyright everything from their logos to their wardrobe. Meanwhile, shows like Eden of the East and Monster had to drop their OP music by Western bands simply due to the differences in music licensing from publishers in Japan and the West.

But Kids on the Slope lives and dies by the music itself, and you are absolutely right - each of the songs and the pieces they play in each episode ties heavily into the story. It would be downright impossible to release the show in the west without drastic, expensive rewrites and changes if there were any legal complications. Which could, potentially, be just as expensive to do as, I dunno, ponying up the cash to license the music in the first place.

Rest assured, though, have a little faith in Sentai Filmworks. Watching the show, it's impossible to fathom how it could work and still be as resonant and touching without its music. I certainly saw it that way, and no doubt Sentai had the same thoughts. And even if they have to spend a little extra money to license the show's many, many different jazz songs, it's *probably* worth it in the long run - this is a show that can legitimately state "FROM THE CREATORS OF COWBOY BEBOP."

Tying yourself to one of anime's few mainstream hits has to be worth a few song licensing fees, don't you think? But more importantly, this is a show that is such a loving tribute to an original American art form, and it would be incredibly disingenuous to cut out such a vital portion of the show's soul.

That, and the simulcasting streams on Crunchyroll seem to have been without incident. Where there's smoke, there's fire. And so far there's no smoke. So relax.

Originally my question was going to be "Why don't we see light novels on the Kindle?" However I was browsing Amazon's Kindle section and I notice that the Haruhi novels will be coming to the Kindle in September. (YAY!)

So now my question is this: Do you think this is just a one title kind of thing or could this be a foot in the door that novels and light novels from Japan need?

It *could* be a big door-opening title I suppose. If, by some divine miracle, it sold nearly a million copies or so. At that point, a "gold rush" phenomenon would take hold and you'd have dozens of publishers tossing up whatever light novels they could find in the hopes of cashing in on the viral wave.

But that's unlikely. The Haruhi novels have been in book-book form for a while now, and they certainly haven't blown any doors off within the publishing industry. I'd expect that Little, Brown and Company have rather modest expectations for its performance on the Kindle store.

And that's certainly fine. The Kindle store is obviously a way to eke a few extra dollars out of the franchise at this point, considering Haruhi's moment in the anime spotlight has decidedly passed. I'm not suggesting that it's completely dropped off the radar, but it's been a couple of years since you would see every convention attendee start a Haruhi Dance Flash Mob.

So for right now, I'd say that it's definitely a one-time, one-title thing. And more importantly, this is a book that has already been published and released to bookstores. I don't anticipate that publishers will be releasing translated light novels exclusively as eBook downloads anytime soon, if nothing else than the fact that eReaders haven't exactly taken flight in Japan. (And yet they read everything on their tiny flip-phones. What a weird place.)

That having been said, if any of you out there want to see more light novels as eBooks, it's time to put your money where your internet-mouth is! Nevermind that this is probably just a one-off thing, an attempt to squeeze a tiny bit more revenue from an existing product - *any* positive enforcement for the acceptance of light novels in the West is a good thing. If you want more of them, at least.

What do you feel is the most over-hyped show ever? For me, it's Death Note, ever since some local kids started calling into a local radio station just saying "WHO IS KIRA!" Don't get me wrong, I still love that show, but...

"What's up, Brian?" You might be asking your computer screen right now. "Have you lost your cred? Why are you answering this question? This is a direct question with a simple response - you don't normally do those."

Right you are, my inquisitive friend! See, I wanted to make a point here:

People misusing the word "hype."

Hundreds of thousands of people this weekend are gonna go see the movie Prometheus this weekend. For the past year and change, we've been inundated with teasers, viral videos, trailers, fancy Comic-Con presentations, and more marketing material for that film than any I can think of in recent memory. That's all "hype." And, without question, you're going to hear a lot of folks shambling from their local multiplex saying the same thing:

"Well, that was overhyped."

And I sort of detest that. For one specific reason:

"Hype" has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the film itself. "Hype" is a product of marketing. It's advertising. When you say "that was overhyped," basically what you're saying is, "they spent too much money marketing this thing." Under every criteria of criticism, that is exceptionally poor criticism.

"But Brian! Death Note obviously didn't have a huge advertising budget! He's probably just talking about the constant badgering and word-of-mouth from his fellow anime-watching friends! Who most likely built Death Note up to be this game-changing series of exceptional emotional depth! And it wasn't! That's certainly a valid point, wouldn't you say?" Not really. Because unless you're telling those same people who told you how great Death Note was that you thought it was "overhyped," again it has no real meaning. "This show wasn't as good as my friends said it was" is pretty lousy criticism. I don't know who these "people" are, and I certainly don't know about their opinions of Death Note. Nor do I care.

Basically, I'm against it because the word "hype" has everything to do with the periphery of something, and yet, nothing whatsoever to do with that Thing itself. A film, a show, a book, or anything else should live and die on its own strengths and weaknesses. I don't hate the Transformers movies because they're "overhyped," I hate them because they're idiotic, poorly-written movies. The Dark Knight Rises probably isn't "the biggest movie since the Silent Era," if Christopher Nolan is to be believed - but that one sentence he said should have NO bearing on the quality of the movie. The quality of the movie will speak for itself just fine, thanks.

For me to say what I think the "most overhyped anime ever" is would imply that I merely didn't think a show was "as good as everyone said it was," and yet it would really imply nothing. I hear all the time that Evangelion is "overhyped," but that's irrelevant. Evangelion is basically Required Viewing at this point - whether you love it or you hate it, it's important to see it in order to understand the impact that it has had on anime in the intervening 15 years. I mean, if you were to put a gun to my head, I suppose I would say that I don't think Macross: Do You Remember Love? is as sacred of an anime artifact as many anime fans suppose it to be, BUT THAT IS AGAIN IRRELEVANT. I don't hate the movie. I think it's a fun bit of anime blockbuster distraction with lots of brilliant, colorful animated violence in service of a dopey script.

And, I mean, look, I get it - we all want to react to the common consensus on a lot of things. We all like to stand out from the crowd every once in a while in order to maintain our individuality in an era where our likes and dislikes are being sold to Facebook for marketing reasons TO CREATE MORE HYPE FOR THINGS. But, to reiterate for the umpteenth time, that says something about *YOU*, and *NOT* the thing itself. Yet regardless of how much space I waste here on my column, I realize that we live in an era of immediate social media and part of the way that we consume media today is by discussing it with our friends, and of course "hype" in relation to said media is going to dominate much of the discussion. Because, and I'm not blowing the doors off with this revelation, that discussion is part of the "hype" itself.

So why am I so worked up about this? Because at some point, this stuff is supposed to be art. There are artistic qualities to even the most commercially-minded of movies and TV shows. And the same is true for anime. There's characters. There's a story. What makes this "art" exemplary, mediocre, or outright terrible is based on our *OWN* reactions to it - and not anyone else's. If you're writing a review of an anime series or a movie on your blog, and you flat-out state "I thought this was a little bit overhyped" I stop reading. Because I don't care what you think about what other people think about it. I came to your blog or what-have-you to find out what *YOU* think about THE THING ITSELF. Did it move you? Did it make you laugh? Did you notice anything incongruous or strange? Did it make you feel funny? Did it make you sneeze and give you venereal disease? That's what I want to read and hear about.

By the way I understand the irony here of explaining that I like reading honest reviews, which typically fall under the "hype" distinction, while angrily decrying discussion of hype itself. But it's okay because when I read an honest review or a sincere critique of something, I'm not reading hype about more hype - I'm reading hype about someone's real and emotional response to a work of commercial art!

Does that make sense? If not, i give up.

Either way the answer is Popotan. Most overhyped. Boom. Done. Moving on.

Time for me to shut my stupid yap and give it up to my fine readers! Although in this case they're also writers.

Definitions be damned, let's here what you had to say about last week's question!

We begin with Mandy, who sort of has a weird way to introduce her younger sister to the joys of womanhood:

My sister turns 13 this October, so for a late birthday present I'm taking her to Youmacon. We have a con that runs in the city we live in, but both times I took her we only stayed for one day and she was too young to get into most of the panels, so this is going to be her first 'real' con experience. She looks exactly like a younger version of me, so we're going to cosplay from a show with a timeskip in it, with me as the older version and her as the younger. Currently our top choice is Nia from TTGL, but we're still looking into other possibilities right now, since we have plenty of time to plan and make everything we need.

That's okay, Ben - I think Jigen could use a more wisdom in his beard:

Cosplay for this year? With a new Lupin III show actually airing weekly on TV in Japan for the first time in *over twenty-five year*, how could I *not* break out my venerable Jigen Daisuke costume? I have to admit, there's definitely something to be said for cosplaying a character from an ever-lasting franchise. Plus I can grow the beard for it (though there may be a little more grey in it than the first time I did it in, oh, 2000 or so).

Dear Angel: I don't think Homestuck has been around long enough to provoke the GOD NOT AGAIN response (aside from snide jerks)

I can't afford to go to any cons this year, but Feferi from Homestuck is one of the top cosplays I want to do. I'm a big fan of her character, and that trident seems like it'd be a fun challenge to take on. I know Homestuck cosplay is probably at the top of people's lists for OH GOD NEVER AGAIN, but I promise we're not all obnoxious jackasses! A lot of us are actually pretty chill dudes, but the bucket-throwing, curseword-screaming weirdos give all of us a bad name. If there's anyone I wish were extinct at cons, it's the glompers. We've all heard the horror stories of some obsessed hambeast jumping someone in costume while squealing "OMG CHARACTER-KUN IS SOOO KAWAII DESU!" Tackle-hugging a complete stranger is never a good idea.


Con-season is over in Puerto Rico, but given the rampant cosplayers we saw at last week's PR ComiCon, I still get a few ideas every now and again. I wouldn't mind pulling a Monkey D. Luffy one of these days, and seeing as a group of my friends are such accomplished Gurren Lagann cosplayers, I wouldn't mind being their Leeron for a change (it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it). Thing is, I tend to stay away from cosplay. I prefer to appreciate cosplay, as opposed to do them. My philosophy is, if I'm going to do it, I'm going to hit it out of the ballpark. I'm not gonna show up in ripped jeans and a red shirt and claim I'm the King of the Pirates. What can I say, I'm a perfectionist, and my friends have won awards. I don't want to let them down.

As for the cosplay trope I'm sick of... I'm going to run on the assumption that "L Lawliet" is a given. Too many people run around in a T-shirt and jeans and act like drug-addled madmen because "LOLSORANDUM!" I'm going to say steampunk is wearing out its welcome. I understand the appeal--I mean, Victorean-era fashions are nice, but that's the thing: there's Victorian-era fashions, and then there's steampunk, which, you know, needs pipes and frakking steam. A steampunk Gundam, I can appreciate. Making a guy wear a green pinstripe suit and claim he's a Steampunk Green Lantern or Ben 10, and I need to ask if you even know what "Steampunk" means. Oh, and a random pair of goggles don't count: that's not "steampunk", that's a random Digimon protagonist. At this moment, I'm just taking a page out of Lewis Black's book and waiting for some "genius" to make a steampunk Final Fantasy VI cosplay (which is already steampunk). It'll be like standing between two Starbucks cafés, and hopefully, I'll only have to put up with those kids with the "free hugs" signs afterwards....

To wrap up, Whitakker has made me realize there should be more Baccano cosplayers, because looking dapper as hell would be rad:

Well, for this summer's con season (course, I only go to two of them, DragonCon and Anime Weekend Atlanta), I've been entertaining the idea of cosplaying as everyone's favorite Roaring Twenties bootlegger, Jacuzzi Splot from Baccano! Something about getting to sport a Mike Tyson tattoo on my face and trying to imitate a high-register, keening Brooklyn accent just makes me smile on the inside. Plus, there's a dearth of Baccano! cosplay out there to begin with, and its a series that definitely needs more representation out on the convention floor.

As for cosplays that I'd rather see fade into oblivion... I could give you the easy ones like L from Deathnote, or any of the dozens of Naruto/Bleach characters that've been done to death (not to say that they can't be done well, mind you). However, when will the day come when we as a community join hands across America in a great kumbaya circle and agree that Team Fortress 2 cosplay should go on hiatus for a few seasons? I swear, you can't throw a rock in the dealer's room without hitting a Heavy or a Scout (I should know, I've tried!).

But my ire would be eternally assuaged if I could, for once in my life, see either of the following cosplays: the crew of the Black Lagoon (or just a good Revy cosplay would do), or the unstoppable Chicago duo of Rally Vincent and Minnie May Hopkins of the Gunsmith Cats. Alas, those will probably stay pipe dreams for me, but I'm allowed my fantasies, aren't I?

And with that, I wanted to turn the tide a little bit to ask your thoughts on *another* convention that just wrapped this week!

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.

So there's your homework for the week, and I'll see you next time with a farm-fresh batch of content for you all! So long as you pester me in my emailspace by sending stuff to answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! See you at the movies!

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