Hey, Answerman! - Boobs & Violence

by Brian Hanson,

Hello friends! Welcome to yet another Hey, Answerman!

This week's column gets into some rather strange territory about fandom and its role in things, so I'm pretty excited (and also somewhat scared) about the reaction - either way, hear me out, I think it's neat to put ourselves under the microscope for a little bit. Let's get in it!

Er, after this interesting first question that's not about fandom at all:

I'm a huge fan of cable TV series like Mad Men, Hell on Wheels, and Sons of Anarchy. My question is why haven't anime creators followed the hour-long drama format? Some series like Ghost in the Shell seem tailor-made to be adapted in an hour-long format and by combining two 22 minute episodes together I would think it would cut down on production costs and streamline the episodes.

An hour-long anime show? Nah. Too expensive.

Mad Men, specifically, is extremely expensive to produce, which has led AMC to drastically slash and burn the show's budget over the years in order to keep the show going. Consider the fact that an average 22-minute anime episode costs, at the very least, $100,000 or more. Doubling the running time per episode is - obviously - doubling the budget per episode. The production time per episode would also be - obviously - twice as long.

Now, this has been attempted before - both SohRyuDen and, more recently, Figure 17 were hour-long shows; though I'm not certain if they aired every week or simply once a month. Either way, I think it's a telling statistic that only two honest-to-goodness TV anime series were released as hour-long episodes instead of OAVs. Not to mention that Figure 17 aired on AT-X, a premium satellite channel, instead of any of the major networks.

I think, logistically, the biggest problem is simply time. Rough ballpark estimate, it takes approximately 6 months or more to make your average 22-minute anime episode, from script to final color animation. Using very simple math, it would take twice as long to animate a single episode. 12 months; an entire year to make one episode. Now, obviously, in the realm of TV animation, episodes are worked on concurrently; even still, with that 6 month production schedule, anime studios need a certain amount of lead time to make sure they get their episodes completed on time to meet their air date. (Or... not, in certain cases. Delays are common, as are instances where members of the anime studio staff have to physically run freshly-completed TV episodes to the networks mere minutes before they air. This apparently happened a number of times with Shoji Kawamori, according to the Satelite panel I went to at Otakon.) Look, there was a reason that OAV series tended to be shorter, length-wise, and why longer series - like Legend of Galactic Heroes - were released over the span of a decade.

Just try and think about it logistically. You've got twice as many script-pages to write. Twice as many lines of dialog that need to be recorded. Twice as many frames of animation to create. Essentially, you're asking these studios to make a 26-episode show, except in the time it would take to make a 13 episode series. That is crazy. Unless, I guess, they wind up cutting a lot of corners to make up the difference - but that's how you wind up with things like Lost Universe or Musashi Gundoh. And trust me, a show like Ghost in the Shell could not survive with such limited, garbage-y animation.

And really, I just don't think it's terribly necessary. A lot of shows do have hour long episodes, basically - they just split them up into two-parters. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex did that a lot. So did Fullmetal Alchemist. Case Closed does it all the time. Now, if you're tuning in every week I imagine it kind of sucks to have to wait a week to catch the denouement of the episode, but honestly, that's a small price to pay in order to keep the quality of the series as high as it is.

Live-action shows can sort of "cheat" a little bit because they can re-use sets. Every new piece of animation, meanwhile, needs to be completely created from scratch. That's why hour-long live action shows are common, though expensive; hour-long animated shows are virtually unheard of, and prohibitively expensive. Maybe someday another enterprising animation studio will be headstrong and foolish enough to try it again? Keep hope alive, I guess.

How do you, as a fan, deal with repetition when it comes to Japanese comedy in anime? If you look at it from a logical standpoint, many (if not all) Japanese comedy is either about one of two things - fanservice/boobs and tsundere females.

To me, it was funny when I saw it in a few episodes, but now I can't find it funny anymore. I just can't. It's like that saying "too much of anything is bad for you". Well, it has come to that point. You either have some guy ogling a girl for her boobs, or a tsundere female punch a guy. Every single anime out there, their jokes have a primary basis of these two repeated and recycled elements. I just wanted to know how people still find this funny? Do they not want originality? Something new? When you look at American comedy, one might say that the jokes are the same, but how they are presented and delivered is completely original. Japanese anime comedy? Nope. A guy walks into a room and gets randomly hit or something like that. Or a woman gets swarmed by 100 men at the beach who wants her boobs just because of the pervertedness that is overused in Japanese comedy. And then her boobs jiggle under some unexplained phenomena that defies all logic which feeds to the pervertedness. Both the men and the boobs play a part together. Both are one in the same. Both are very repetitive and overused. Like when Ed Elric gets back, and Winry hits him with a wrench. No logical reason behind it. If she misses him, hitting him with a wrench shows affection? I don't see how that does. It's just a ridiculous use of recycled comedy that I cannot fathom my mind around the fact that people still find this funny. I just don't, and I want to know why and how people still find this funny? Is it funny to see a repetitive cycle of boobs and violence, used very unoriginally with how the jokes are presented and executed?

This ties in a little bit to my comment last week about critics. To wit: People could do with a lot less garbage in their lives. Garbage they willingly consume. We eat terrible food, watch terrible things, and we generally put up with it because - well, life is tough, and we all need a little light entertainment in our lives.

But, hey man, let's chill out a little bit with the hostility here. You don't need to convince me that a lot of anime "comedy" shows are garbage. I'm well aware. I do not cackle and howl with laughter at Man Falling Into Boob. I'm not stricken with paroxysms of histeria when a peek at a girl's underpants produces a poorly-animated bloody nose geyser. But you know what? Those shows are not made for me. And, from the sound of it, they're not made for you, either.

Now, let's examine your Fullmetal Alchemist example a bit further. Is it funny when Winry chucks a wrench at Ed? Not really - the gag is telegraphed from a mile away, it's poorly timed, and it lacks the sophistication of a similar bit of slapstick you'd find in Looney Tunes. But you know what? I'm glad it's there. I'm glad that Fullmetal Alchemist has a bit of levity to it. Or at least attempts it. Otherwise, the show is such a dramatic drag, man; every principle character is haunted by death and chaos, the plot of the show hinges on the genocide of an entire nation of people, and there's chaos and violence in every episode. It has a flair for the melodramatic, to be sure. The "comedy," though not funny, at least allows for a bit of breathing room in the otherwise stuffy atmosphere.

Look man, not every "comedy" has to be the funniest thing ever. Nor does it have to be your particular cup of tea. What I think you have more of a problem with is the fanservice part - and, tonally, it's a lot more appropriate to make a show laden with fanservice if it's a lighthearted comedy. A bit of a "romp" if you will. As has been said countless times before, cheeky fanservice comedies are easy and cheap to make, and they have their dedicated audience that shows up and buys them every single season, so they persist for a couple of months until the next show arrives and takes its place.

So, you can get mad that people find these shows funny. You can deride their sense of humor all day until you're blue in the mouth. But the hostility I'm sensing is more than a little bit misplaced. It's not the fans' fault that these shows are bad. A little tip that has helped me get by in the pop-cultural wasteland is: review the show, not the audience. "HOW DO PEOPLE FIND THIS FUNNY" is not a valid critique. That doesn't really say anything about anything. Are you having trouble understanding why people enjoy a show with lazy writing, unlikable characters, and mediocre animation? Well, now we're getting somewhere. But we still have the problem of being so... hostile to the show's audience.

That won't get you anywhere. Like I said last week, we, as humans, dislike being told explicitly what to think. That's why, when a lot of people read a negative review of something they like, they cling to very nebulous arguments that devolve into "well, that's just, like, your opinion, man." Another free tip: when trying to be critical, it doesn't help your cause to put people on the defensive. I don't think you'd appreciate it much if I went into your house, gazed at your bookshelf, and grabbed a couple DVDs off the shelf and threw them in your face, shouting "DEFEND YOUR PURCHASE OF THIS MEDIOCRE SWILL, YOU SWINE."

And all of this is discounting the fact that, to the audience of these lighthearted fanservice romps, there's plenty to like. They like the characters. They like the fanservice. What can you really say to that? You could be pedantic and tell them why they're "wrong," or you can, as I mentioned above, relate your opinion of the show as it pertains to you.

The last free tip: a good review is hard to argue against if it feels like it came from a certain place of truth and honesty. (Well, some people will anyway, but still.) So long as your review and your criticism comes from that special place in your heart and mind that respects craft and ignores mediocrity, people may not agree with you, but they will respect you. Getting people to agree with you is easy - respect is not.

So, lighten up, dude. Anime "comedy" clearly isn't for you, and that's fine. The audience for those shows is happy to enjoy them on their own, with or without your approval. Or mine. And I'm cool with that. You should be too.

My question will require these blog entries for reference.

According to my friend's blog entry here - specifically his Chapter 12: Types of Anime Fans - he categorizes frequent encountered traits in the countless fans met by dividing them into their attitudes towards the medium FIRST before anything else. Despite this being essentially opinionated hypothesizing, I found his basing - that is, how such attitudes affect the market - to have some concrete worth in how each passing year shorter seasons of anime are made (KyoAni titles aside as they seem to have the industry in the pocket with every production they make) to, more-or-less, advertise a currently running manga or recently made vis. novel that are already popular to begin with (a pitch-perfect example is Lucky Star being famous just for making jokes about popular works using popular narratives revolving around popular tropes, like Haruhi and more moe vis. novels).

His other entries, Reviewing Truths: Chapter 4) Why People Are Idiots, Chapter 5) Wrong Reasons to Recommend a Show, and Chapter 8) The Old Logic vs. Emotion Fuss prompted these theories - "fans settle for what they are told and don't challenge their desires", "people feeding the quality control by defending favorites with blind, overtly focused opinions", and "that the market intentionally makes more emotionally appealing anime (like melodrama, harem, and quirky, ill-pursued romance premises) because it just sells well" - respectively from each one. Then I get these series of thoughts:

1. Fans base their impressions of quality on the early titles that they love first before...

2. ...expanding their tastes around popular/classic titles that skew close to them without...

3. ...ever caring to know how, why, or even if they find what they've watched to be truly great, thereby...

4. ...fueling the notion that the more similar opinions (i.e. popularity/hype) a genre/gimmick/theme/style is the more it is considered actual quality, leaving me...

5. ...with a horrible possibility that the largely uncategorizeable anime (like Texhnolyze, Haibane Renmei, Ergo Proxy, Ghost in the Shell, Redline) will be primarily recognized for how well each title endures their popularity - no matter how unfair that sounds.

I ask myself: Where do you place fans' ability to recognize eclectic/simple enduring value in the frequency of expanding the mediums' potential along Satoshi Kon, Hideaki Anno, Oshii, or even Yuasa-class efforts? How can fans determine or identify timeless innovative quality when popularity determines the classics, when that essentially leaves fans having to figure out what is good... when it isn't even popular but just plain forgotten?

Sorry for the excess, but this topic extends to quality in any medium. Can there be hope for innovation when it may not guarantee money back? Does anything in the blogs make you see something I don't about intellectually challenging trends/tastes to promote expansion? Do you have any advice for a fan who wants to make things different?

Man, no offense to your friend or anything, but I couldn't disagree more with simply the notion that anime fans even need categorization.

I'm not saying he's not wrong. Reading his entries, he neatly hits the nail on the head on a lot of things, but I completely disagree with this notion of categorizing and labeling large swaths of fans with such a heavy brush. Because these are people. They're all anime fans, sure, and when you get into some of the smaller niches of anime fandom, you start to notice a lot of patterns and similar interests, sure - but they're still people.

I remember in the VHS fansub days, there was one guy I traded with - whose name escapes me now, sadly - whose website, with all his tapes available for trade, also displayed his other interests: namely, baseball, and game shows. I remember thinking that this guy was THE COOLEST GUY. (Granted, I was 17.) What a way to defy expectations, you know. Up until that point, my interactions with fellow VHS fansub traders was pretty much the stereotype - some guy who may or may not have a ponytail AND male pattern baldness and a faded Lum t-shirt, arguing with me on rec.arts.anime.misc. That interaction alone basically turned my head upside down and made me re-evaluate my pre-conceived notions on what, and who, fans represent. Which is: they represent themselves, basically. Their anime "fandom" is just that, and that alone.

And aside from that, I gotta say, sadly, this entire hypothesis about fans' expectations and how that affects the product being made in Japan... is completely false. Because, although Western sales are a nice bonus, Japanese fans are priority number 1 with anime companies. No mistake. We buy what we are given, sure, but that doesn't necessarily translate back overseas as to what gets made and what doesn't.

In regards to the other stuff though, I think you're on the right track, but dude, you are just one guy. And we're all just fans. All of the stuff you mentioned that you want to see more of - Redline, Masaaki Yuasa, Satoshi Kon, and so forth - those are all creator-driven projects by artists. That's an uncommon thing in any form of entertainment. Is it the fans' "fault" that so much mediocre pablum is churned through the system every single season? Sure, because they "like what they like" and they buy it in kind. But those very same fans are the ones that, initially, give the much-needed support and public eye to the works of truly visionary anime talents like Masaaki Yuasa and Satoshi Kon. Millenium Actress, specifically, was shat into theaters with zero marketing by a disinterested (and quickly disintegrated) arm of Dreamworks. The only way that film managed to sell as well on DVD as it did was through the efforts and proselytizing of ardent fans who'd probably seen the film as an import, or fans of Perfect Blue maybe. Either way, these "fans," these fans for whom any number of them could also potentially support your dreaded and feared Harem Anime Du Jour, were instrumental in keeping interest for that film alive.

It may seem like, right now, the only things the fans want to focus on are the newest, shiniest bits of fanservice nothingness. The shows that exist for 22-minutes, give their target audience their required bit of placation, then disappear. But in 20 years, that show will be forgotten and (probably) impossible to find. In 20 years, we'll still be watching My Neighbor Totoro and Redline. We'll still be watching Cowboy Bebop and Mind Game. The recycled, formulaic shows burn bright and loudly, but then disappear without a trace; the great shows sometimes take a little while to simmer and boil before they really find their proper place in the anime ranking pantheon.

And then, after time has been kind to Redline, we'll probably see more things like it. I'm not at all one of those fans who are virulently angry that Redline wasn't a huge seller. To be honest, I didn't think it would've been in the first place. It's too strange, too weird. It's terrific for precisely those things, but that's an unfortunate stumbling block for a lot of people. But it will persist. And I'm willing to bet, that as the film continues to linger on in the conversation, a good percentage of "those fans" who dismissed it out of hand for being too "weird" and so forth, will eventually drop their guard and give it a shot. It will wear them down. And a good portion of them will say, "huh, that was interesting. I'd like to see more anime things like this."

And that's how you, and we, win. You're just one guy, you can't necessarily dictate the quality and "originality" of the projects being created in the hushed boardrooms of anime studios. But you can be as fervent and honest and dedicated to the celebration of these interesting and timeless works of creative art as - hey! - "those fans" who celebrate their love of predictable, stylistically recycled harem/romance/shonen series.

We're all into the same stuff, and it drives me nuts, personally, when people segment and categorize fandom into neat little pockets. It gives me the - perhaps false - impression that it was written for the explicit purpose of placing oneself on a higher pedestal than others. I do not care for that at all.

But maybe I'm just reading too much into things again. I don't know. What do you think? Hey, that's a cool segue.

Heyo! It's Answerfans time! Last week, I wanted to lighten the mood a little bit with some back-to-school fun! However fun that may or may not be! I've been out of school so long now I kind of have no idea. Anyway!

First up is shadowneko003, who gives it up to the great GTO:

That's a very tough question Brian. There's so many high schools to chose from! Domino High from Yu-Gi-OH!, Osaka Gakuen from Hana Kimi, the Ninja Academy from Naruto, etc. But I just got off the GTO wagon (again,) and I really wish I had a teacher like Onizuka. I mean, I had cool teachers in high school (yay me!) but come on, it's Onizuka! He's like the coolest homeroom teacher you can have! He just tells the straight truth, no curveballs. And he'll do anything to save you! That's what a teacher is all about. So, yeah, I'd go to the Holy Forest Academy.

I sure hope Shaye has some Getting Punched In The Face For An Inappropriate Nosebleed Insurance:

I'd pick Mahora Academy in a heartbeat. Why?

1) It's an escalator school, meaning fewer worries about entrance exams. And it goes from elementary school to university.

2) It's gigantic and amazingly well-funded. There's like a whole city built around it.

3) The library is also gigantic. It's got its own island, more than a dozen stories, and a middle-school-through-university club whose whole purpose is mapping it Indiana-Jones-style. Speaking as a bibliophile, this honestly makes it worth it on its own.

4) The Negima universe also has a book-themed magical-girl series. What's not to love about that?

5) Nearly every speculative-fiction element you could possibly want is there. Ninjas? Ghosts? Wizards? Psychics? Ancient amnesiac magical princesses? Vampires? Androids? Dragons? Giant robots? Magical girl hackers? Half-demons? Gunslingers? Mad scientists, one of which is from 22nd-century Mars? All there.

6) Impressively low mortality rate, considering the above.

7) Mahorafest is probably the greatest school festival ever.

8) Judging from the cast as a whole, the university probably has more than its fair share of attractive coeds. (This is mainly relevant in the scenario where I'm not getting de-aged. If I am, things get thornier.)

I'm going to be nice to Chantel in the off chance she goes through with her jiu-jitsu training and decides to use it on me:

Personally, I'd love to go to Ishiyama High, from Beelzebub.

I like the casual uniform and attitude that prevails in there, plus I wouldn't have to worry about my grades as much as I do! Long skirts are a plus, 'cause I hate showing off my legs...

Sure I'd have to brush up on my jujitsu, but it'd be a fun ride!

That's all the responses! Huh. I guess, when you think about it, anime schools are actually kind of dangerous and weird places - for as much fun as I'd have at Naruto's Ninja Academy, there's an awful lot of death and permanent physical damage to be considered. Guess I never really thought about that part.

Anyway, next week, I want all of you to consider my plight about categorizing fandom! Get into it heavily!

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.

And that's another Hey, Answerman! Make sure to send an e-mail my way, to answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com, to respond to my Answerfans plea, or to ask me something I can really sink my silly teeth into! Until next week, everybody!

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