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Hey, Answerman! - Elfen Lies

by Brian Hanson,

Hi there, friends! If not friends, then well-wishers! If not well-wishers, then neutral observers!

Just a quick note before I begin, I will be attending both Anime Expo and Otakon this year! Whee! That way, no matter which coast of the country you reside, you'll have the opportunity to bring me a bottle of cake vodka and a t-shirt that says "LET'S GET ROWDY"!

Otakon's going to be a little bit of a nightmare, though. I'll be covering the con for ANN during the day, then driving to Evergreen Park here in Baltimore to perform in a production of Love's Labours Lost all three nights. Then shunning my Elizabethan robes to hand and chill with my cool anime friends.

Or maybe I'll forget to shun my robes and I'll show up around downtown Baltimore looking like the lamest dork that ever existed. Everyone in sexy cosplay outfits will point and laugh at the sad man in his silly theater get-up. All judging and laughing.

Now that I've scared everyone, I have some questions!

Howdy Answerman,

Was noticing something while checking out the page on ANN for Sankarea that sparked a question that I hope you will answer.

I read the news article that wrote that Funimation “has acquired the broadcast, home entertainment, mobile, streaming, and simulcast rights to the television anime series Sankarea”, which on their ANN page says “licensed by Funimation.” That made me look at a couple of other shows (like Jormungand) that Funimation is streaming/simulcasting this season, and it only says “internet streaming: Funimation Entertainment” (again in the case of Jormungand).

Obviously, these are two different kinds of licenses. My question is, in the case where it is the whole “Licensed by Funimation” part, that means one can expect a DVD/Blu Ray release of the show, yes? Most likely to include an English dub?

I ask because I am still confused as to the whole process of what shows will get “fully” licensed (I suppose that is what is being said about shows like Sankarea and Eureka 7: AO). If you could enlighten me to this process, that would be greatly appreciated as well. I have mostly been streaming these days, and so have been watching the Japanese dubs, only to find out a few months later that they get licensed and an English dub is produced (but by then, I have already watched the show in Japanese, and don't usually tend re-watch the English dub, as I can't help but compare the two, and whichever I watched first usually is the one I stick to). I like supporting the industry, and it is one thing if I have only watched a few episodes of a show just to get the feel, but if I complete a series that is streamed, I am less likely to buy the DVD. Better understanding in advance what shows will get or are fully licensed (and what that means), will make it much easier for me to hold out until the release to buy the DVD.

In case you haven't yet, I'd urge each and every one of you out there to read all three parts of Justin Sevakis' excellent, informative, and entertaining expose into the weird world of anime licensing. That should give you all a bit more of an insight into how and why these deals often get split between simulcasting and "physical media."

See, here we get into a bit of a Catch-22. Streaming and simulcasting licenses are figured out a little bit in advance simply to score a coup as far as getting an exclusive streaming contract on what could be a high-profile series. Once it hits the airwaves, though, there's always the possibility that it's a dud; the viewers disappear, or worse, it gets savage reviews.

I shouldn't need to repeat this as I'd like to assume it's common knowledge, but just in case people still aren't aware - DVD sales have stagnated. They've petered out. Releasing a show on DVD sight unseen is an incredible risk, and so, simulcasting has been quite a boon for companies, licensors, and producers who need a cheap, efficient, and well-entrenched way to gauge the reaction of a particular series before commiting it to a disc.

For a company like Funimation, though, physical releases still make up the majority of their income and profits. Typically, though not always, Funimation doesn't want to bother with a simulcast license UNLESS they know it's something they can sell on DVD later down the line. That's also true for Viz, as well. Which path they take -- getting all the rights up front and planning a full release, or just getting the streaming rights and trying for more if they have a hit on their hands, often just comes down to what can be negotiated in time.

Either way, I think the bigger issue is whether or not you truly want to "support" the show by buying the DVDs or not. You say you're "less inclined" to buy the DVDs if you've already seen the show streaming? Probably because the show wasn't good enough to warrant a repeat viewing. Nor did it strike enough of a chord in your fandom heart to become a proud part of your life. Its quality did not earn it a Seal Of Shelf Display Approval. And what's wrong with that? Don't feel guilty about it, man.

Support the shows that you feel truly earned it. Believe me, companies understand the notion that maybe you don't want to buy the show after you've seen it on Crunchyroll or Hulu. They hope you'll go ahead and buy it anyway, of course, but we're only human, and money is precious. Shelf space is precious. Time is precious. People always tell you to "vote with your dollars," and, well, this is a great place to do that.

"Should I hold off on watching the streams so I can finish the rest of the show on DVD?" shouldn't really be the question. The question should really be, "Do I enjoy this show enough to own it? Ostensibly forever?" If the quality is there and the answer is "yes," that sends a rather potent message to the companies involved that this is what we fans want to own. We want to own quality. We'll watch damn near everything on a stream, of course, because it's cheap and convenient, and were are nothing but ravenous when it comes to new content. But for a physical release, we demand some form or another of quality and efficacy.

Whoops, there I go again with my heartfelt... I'd like to call it a "plea," but at this point it's more like yelling. Heartfelt yelling.

Hey Answerman,

Having read a lot of the columns on ANN this summer and watched a lot of the season's new shows, I've really been getting a sense of anime as an art form that goes much deeper than my thus far narrowly shonen-focused experience has given credit to. I am pretty much a newbie outside of the biggest series of the last decade, like Naruto, Bleach, and the like, and am trying to branch out into some of the shows that have made and are making anime what it is today. But I have no one good to ask.

So, I've been inspired to try and make the transition from occasional anime dilettante to true blue fan. What should I watch/read/learn/listen to/wiki, with no lines drawn according to genre, age (of both intended audience and work itself), gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or squigglyness? Recommend five things or fifty, I appreciate anything at all. Go nuts!

Normally, I would jump at the chance to flout with unassumed importance my taste, cavorting about like the dandiest fop - but, nah. I could deluge you with recommendations until I'm blue in the mouth, but contrary to the title of this column, I don't necessarily enjoy telling people what, explicitly, to do.

However, I do enjoy giving people some options. So let's do that!

Most of the cool things I've discovered in my life - books, films, music, anime, whatever - hasn't necessarily come from recommendations from like-minded folks. Not that I'm closed-minded to the suggestions of others, but there's a more powerful force at work when it comes to my entertainment: curiosity!

That's how I got into anime in the first place. I was curious. I'm curious about the connective tissue between the things I already like, and the stuff out there I haven't seen yet. I was already rather heavy into animation and its history, and anime existed in my head as this ephemeral, weird offshoot; I was also quite into video games, and after playing Lunar on my friend's Sega CD, I knew it was worth investigating.

So, looking at your existing taste, just branch out from there, like a graph. You like Bleach? Check out Yu Yu Hakusho. Same director - Noriyuki Abe - same studio - Studio Pierrot - and essentially cut from the same cloth. One of the major directors who worked on some of the Naruto features and episodes is Tensai Okamura, who has done some terrific work at MADHOUSE on films like Memories. And if you liked Memories, one of the directors on that film, Koji Morimoto, has done some rather weird and interesting OAVs in his day, like Bobby's Girl, and "Comedy," a very strange, very unique short film.

And who knows where you end up from there? You just keep branching out, exploring little nooks and crannies, following the names and the talent behind the things you like in the hope of understanding just where all this stuff comes from. And of course, through interviews and so forth, it's quite easy to find out where the inspiration for titles like Naruto and One Piece came from. Masashi Kishimoto was very much inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo, while Eiichiro Oda was quite taken with varied things like Kinnikuman and Vicky the Viking.

That sort of curiosity is key, I think, to forming a fully reasoned opinion on a particular medium. It allows you to compare different works on more than a superficial level. So, from somebody already enmeshed in this world offering advice to someone wishing to do the same - keep following that rabbit hole, I guess. The connecting threads that tie together seemingly disparate shows and films and one-off OVAs aren't as tangled as you might think.

And if all that's a little too daunting at first, rest assured, right here in our own forums on ANN belies a constantly-updated, community-fed forum thread for people to rank and proseletyze their "Top 10 Anime." Of course, you can go ahead and toss out the gimmes - the Ghibli films, must-see titles like Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion, and titles like Tenchi Muyo that needless stick in the nostalgic craw of us older fans - and pick through what sounds interesting.

More often than not, though, you'd be surprised to notice those same connecting threads tying together what you think "seems interesting" and what you already like. Beyond just a superficial likeness - perhaps there's a similar setting, a familiar seiyuu, and whatnot - there's often a shared influence, or perhaps a point of view that permeates both works, stemming from a particular writer. And so on, so forth.

So go out there, get curious, and dig up stuff you never thought you'd be watching or reading a million years, let alone enjoying. Good luck! You're the one who gets to go nuts, dude!

Dear Answerman,

I don't have a question, and I'm not sure I am even emailing the right person about this. But I would love to see new episodes of your fantastic show "Elfen Lied." It is my favorite show of all time and has literally made a noticable impact on my life. I cried multiple times in many of the episodes, and I love the deep emotional control that this show had over me. I believe that the majority of the people who have seen this show would want a continuation on what already is a great anime. I wouldn't care if it was just one episode. The show had a cliff-hanger ending and I would love to see what comes next, even though I did read the manga. The two were different indeed, but the anime could still branch off and away from the manga just a little and still have that wonderful feel to it. So, in a nutshell, I want you to bring the show back and make the end to feel more complete. If you read this whole message than I apologize for making you read this mass of illogical bantering.

Ah, well. Another one of these.

No, I didn't make Elfen Lied. I don't think I have quite that much malice and despair in my heart to unleash something that cruel and sadistic on any audience.

But I didn't pick this question to laugh at the notion that I created Elfen Lied! Funny though the thought may be, no! Instead, I want to inform my readers - and the Whole Of The Internet, if possible - that sometimes things end in a way that is unsatisfying on behalf of both the fans and the creators themselves.

The directors of Elfen Lied haven't been shy about their disappointment regarding the anime series. They balked at the episode count - they figured that 13 episodes was "not enough" to contain the entirety of the story - and they agree that they were "rushed" to create their own ending out of whole cloth while the manga was still running. But, hey - them's the breaks, man. They only had the budget to make those 13 episodes, and that's all. For a while, it might've seemed like Elfen Lied could be a big enough hit in the West - and indeed, ADV Films was often touting its rather astonishing success - to lead to further developments with the series. But with ADV gone and the DVD rights under the purview of Section 23, it's hard to say that such a thing could ever resurrect itself without some divine intervention.

Especially since it's been almost a decade since the show was produced. The creative staff have all moved on. Lynn Okamoto's been hard at work on a couple of newer titles in the intervening years. The tricky thing when it comes to the notion of "finishing" a long-unfinished project is the logistical nightmare of getting everyone back together again. Look how long it's taken them to get new Arrested Development episodes in the can. It's a mess. People move on to other projects. Sometimes they move. Sometimes they're just not interested in doing it anymore in the first place.

I mean, I understand. Wouldn't it have been great if Joss Whedon's Firefly lasted more than 11 episodes? Wouldn't it have been terrific if Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" had the budget it needed to tell the "whole story"? Wouldn't it have been great if Hideki Anno had all the money and support he needed to do Evangelion right the first time so we didn't have a deluge of remakes, director's cuts, and rereleases? But getting all the elements back together to "fix" something the way it was "supposed to be" is often trickier and more expensive than necessary. And besides, tinkering and adding stuff isn't always the best answer. For every Blade Runner: The Final Cut, there's a bunch of stuff like E.T. and Star Wars. To say nothing of something like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which does an interesting alternate take on the same story that preceded it, but not really in ways that are much of an improvement.

Speaking of Brotherhood, Elfen Lied could be due for a re-adaptation. A "reboot" to use common parlance. Another shot. A new crew, new actors - a fresh new take on this material. That could work, I think. I, for one, would like to see a version of that story that didn't feel quite so compelled to wallow in the gallows of appalling violence.

Now we get to the other tricky part. Where's the money for that going to come from? Elfen Lied was successful, but it wasn't a huge "hit." It sold much better internationally. And the only money that goes to anime from international investors is going to productions based on existing Western properties - Bioware games and Thundercats, naturally.

Basically, the show is done. It's done. And what's wrong with that? The ending might not be what they "wanted," I guess, but virtually no production is entirely, 100-percent perfect in the way the creators envisioned. In a way, I think that's the beautiful and fun part about discussing these things with each other; this imperfect quality from these rather bold and audacious shows that challenge us emotionally, that lead us to think of other resolutions and meanings. It gives us fodder for discussion and empathy and, sometimes, controversy.

Nothing is ever perfect. It's not supposed to be. Things don't always turn out the way people wanted. Elfen Lied was a project that really strove for something creatively, and it didn't quite succeed. But that's what's fascinating about it. Aside from being a bad show or a great show, I think Elfen Lied accomplished something even better - it's an interesting show.

It's Answerfans time! My question to all of you last week was in regards to one of the big-ticket events at every convention I've yet seen:

I wanted to try and spark a little bit of AMV discussion, because, I thought, "Hey! The AMV panels are always packed and highly attended affairs!" But, as it goes sometimes, you folks just weren't in the mood to speak at length on AMVs at length. Not to worry; the two that I got are, as usual, rather impassioned, which I like.

Let's queue these up! First is Sam X, who likes Cool Stuff:

AMV. Heck the name sounds cool, so what do I want to see when I watch it? Something cool! If I click a link and get delivered a video that just cuts together unrelated pieces of footage along to a song that in no way fits the atmosphere of the scene then I just have to close it down. If an AMV is going to be good then it needs to look professional. Gainax did a fantastic job with the Gurren Lagann Parallel works and are one of few examps of a legitimately professional AMV (which they essentially are) what Gainax achieved was a story that was told through music as much as it was the images on screen, and that is a quality I look for in an AMV, the “cool” factor that makes me want to watch a piece again and again. Where the actions on the screen play out in perfect harmony to the correctly chosen song. When a big bass note hits and a defining moment occur simultaneously. Heck, even if the story that is being told is totally different to what's canon to the series! These are the cool things I want in an AMV.

Half-hearted works with subtitles along the bottom, low-quality footage and watermarks just don't tell a story. They come across as what they are: a quick ploy to get views from the fan-base. It's when a person genuinely puts time, effort and passion into an AMV that the truly great ones shine through. My favourite examples are that of [MAD] and his summary of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, condensing the whole series into around 5 minutes and set to the blisteringly amazing Welcome to the Black Parade and of Regiosk8's One Piece AMV set to This is War. Both these AMV's show the passion, commitment and love that tells the story of the characters and events in a condensed and emotional burst. It is these kind of AMV's that leave a lasting impression and the kind I hope to see win the AMV contests this year.

Trevor, now, breaks things down into numbers:

Hey Answerman,

I personally love watching AMV's. I've never made one myself for a few reasons (no time, lack of creativity and motivation, etc.), but I go on YouTube and other AMV websites to watch them all the time. So, what do I think makes an AMV great? Before I get into effects, timing, flow, etc. I think first two things are *almost* out of the creators control.

1. Song Choice
2. Anime(s) chosen

What song the creator chooses is important because if I song is unbearable, I probably won't watch the entire AMV…If the song is good (or really matches the anime), then I'll be more likely to continue watching it. I've actually found a lot of good song's I've never heard before from AMV's, which is pretty cool. Another type of AMV I like is the “trailer” style, when they take the trailer audio from a movie and make an AMV out of it.

I personally like AMV's about anime I've already seen (and liked) because I know where the clips come from and it's easier to see why the creator chose the scenes they did. Also, I've noticed that the more I like the show, the better chance I'll like the AMV. Might be “shallow”, but watching an AMV about your favorite anime is awesome. I'm not saying I don't like AMV's about shows I didn't like; just that I actively search for ones about my favorite shows.

I say the song choice and the anime(s) chosen are *almost* out of the creator's control because no matter what song or anime they choose, there are going to be people out there who don't like one or both. They're both very subjunctive to the watcher. Other important things I look for in AMV's are:

1. Flow
2. Effects
3. Originality

The AMV needs to have good flow from clip to clip matching the song. If the song is very mellow and there's an intense fight on screen, it doesn't really work out. I like a good amount of effects in AMV's, but they can't be overdone. Some AMV's have so many effects, they suffocate the anime and the song. I feel bad for AMV's like this because it takes the creators so long to make them, and you think in your head “maybe they put too much effort into this one."

Some things are intertwined. I.e. you can use effects to maximize flow. If you have a section of intense effects, you need to slow the pace down to have some contrast. Watching great effects for a long (continuous) time can get boring. Like the movie “2012”, just go go go, no stopping.

But, as with anything, nothing is set in stone. I like some AMV's that have no effects at all because the song, the anime, the pacing, flow, etc. are awesome ( see “Spanish Lady” ~ Spice and Wolf, it's on YouTube). But there's also AMV's that are all effects that I like (“Celebrating A Decade of Anime”). There's a lot of wiggle room and sometimes, you can't explain why you like the AMV, you just do.

I know what *I* look for in an AMV - Haruhi dancing to either Weird Al Yankovic songs, or that one song by Live. Can't get enough of 'em.

I'm kidding. Please don't send me those. I may die.

Next week, however! Let's put on our Answer-caps and think about this question, inspired by my Elfen Lied query:

Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.

Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I have so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers
. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.

We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.

Things To Do:

* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.

Things Not To Do:

* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.

* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.

I'm all out of stuff to say, so farewell! But don't forget to email me! C'mon and email me! Email me, damn it! Email me at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com for all your questions and responses! See you all at the cons!

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