Hey, Answerman! - Property Impropriety

by Brian Hanson,

Hello there, everyone! This is Hey, Answerman! That thing I do sometimes, where you send me questions through my electronic mail and I answer them in a public forum!

I know that it's probably become passé over the past few months to complain briefly about how tired I am at the top of this column, but allow me to say this: I set my phone's alarm for 4:30am this morning. Somehow, I am awake at 5:30am, and I am standing up, and holding my phone up to my face, while it rings its annoying little alarm clock ring. I may or may not have spoken to it. Then I am halfway down the block to go to work, and I notice that I'm not wearing the correct pants. I trudge back through the door, angrily yell "WRONG PANTS" to the indelible surprise of a block full of barely-awake neighbors and strangers, and ruminate on what a parody of life I've become.

But this isn't Hey, I'm Tired! This is Hey, Answerman!

First I just wanted to say thank you for saying how awesome Rahxephon is. Nowadays it seems to only be mentioned with disgust. Not only that but you did it in a column without mentioning Eva! No one has done that since the show came out. Really and truly thank you.

Now onto my question. In this age of adaptations of Manga/(Visual) novels/Video games/etc., how/why does a studio decide to do an original property? What is the development process (hiring someone to create a property, deciding length, tone, genre, etc)? Why are studios themselves (or Hajime Yadate) sometimes credited for creating or co creating a property? Thanks for any answers you can give!

Well, in the interest of honesty: the reason I didn't bring up Eva when I mentioned RahXephon is because it kind of goes without saying at this point. It's a pretty cut-and-dry Eva-inspired thing. I think that's indisputable. Still good, though.

So, this "age of adaptations" you say? Nonsense, I say! "this age" is no different from every other age in recent history. Anime has been adapted from manga and other source material from, quite literally, its popularized inception. Astro Boy. Come on now.

As far as the "development process" is concerned? I mean, it's still a series. It runs through the same crazy production pipeline as any other anime series, whether it's being adapted from a pre-existing property or not. The "length, tone, genre, etc." are usually figured out by the head writer - the "Series Composition" credit that's very popular in the anime world, for some reason - and the producers. Just for the sake of an example, let's pick... Ergo Proxy. Since it was recently re-released and I gave it a re-watch, naturally.

In Ergo Proxy's case, the show came from the germ of an idea by director Shuko Murase while working at Studio Manglobe, and the "composition" was fleshed out - characters, plot, and so forth - by head writer Dai Sato. In fact, here's an interesting quote I found on Wikipedia from an interview Murase did with Newtype USA:

"There was almost too much freedom," he laughs. "A show slated to be on a commercial network carries restrictions according to the time slot," he explains. "Sponsors often have requests intended to help propel the work to hit status; and merchandising entails another set of requirements altogether. By comparison, all Ergo Proxy had to deal with was a DVD release and a TV broadcast over a pay satellite channel.

So, the particulars of development are largely the same. A team of writers and directors work closely together to get the show off the ground, while teams of animators get to work on executing all the scripts and storyboards they're given. The one major difference, that Murase outlined in his interview, is that the Production Committees - those aggregates of TV networks, toy manufacturers, merchandisers, and so forth - play a much larger role in shaping the series. Since, y'know, there isn't any pesky manga or Light Novel to swear fealty towards. As has been said countless times before, making an animated TV series costs quite a lot of money, and the folks in charge of the budget naturally feel a little worried about recouping their investment without a known brand or title to fall back on. As far as the credits go, the animation studios who invest themselves in an original product tend to get "Created by" credits on them because... well, they did create it. Yes, Ergo Proxy came from Shuko Murase's mind and Dai Sato's pen, but Manglobe was the company that invested themselves and initiated the project from the start, so I'd say they deserved that credit.

So, the various members of the production committee like to throw their weight around with original productions, but there's kind of no way around that. Unless...! They can somehow find a way around using a network's money to fund their project. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that anime mad genius Masaaki Yuasa takes to Kickstarter to fund his new short film with Production I.G. But of course that'll only happen if it meets its funding goal. At the time of this writing, it's almost there! And they've only got a few more days left! Shameless plug? Let's say this is an "Earnest" plug.

Hey Answerman! I hope you are doing well.

I've been wondering about something. You know those sites that host anime videos without permission? Like [redacted], [also redacted], etc. When you watch the show on the sites, you usually see commercials from some pretty big US companies.

Here's my question... theoretically, could the people who advertise on these sites face any fines? They're selling their product on a site that illegally streams videos without the owners' consent. I'm not trying to say that the people who host the sites or the people who illegally watch videos aren't doing anything wrong. I was just wondering if the advertisers who are actually making a profit off of the shows (by selling their wares) could face any penalties.

Penalties, eh? Unfortunately, the advertisers aren't the ones doing anything wrong, technically, so they're free and in the clear. Honda isn't going to get sued, fined, or otherwise dinged for showing a few 30-second ads in front of a HorribleSubs rip of Naruto Shippuden.

Hopefully this is common knowledge by this point, but nearly every ad that you see on your run of the mill website comes from AdSense or something similar. Advertising aggregators, basically, who partition and deploy ads that are activated by your browsing history and cookie data. And there are a lot of aggregators. Internet ad agencies are like a billion ouroboroses (ouroborii?) buying and repackaging and reselling the same ads to much of the same viewers on a daily basis. But let's not think for any amount of time that these scummy fansub streaming sites are getting rich off of the deal. Granted, any money they make off of the back of copyrighted material is a sham and worthy of anger, but the Kim Dotcom's of the internet piracy world are rare.

So, what, if anything, can happen to any ad agency if they're caught red-handed advertising on stolen intellectual property? You can complain about it directly to the advertiser. That's always an option. I reached out to Justin Sevakis for a quote:

Justin: When people complain, that client usually has to play detective and track down what company eventually placed the ads on a questionable website, and only then can they even do anything about it. This happens occasionally, and several of the better-known internet video advertising networks have been making a concerted effort to make sure that each of their "publishers" -- the websites that serve them impressions -- are on the up and up. But some care more than others. So it really helps when the ad client is informed that their ads are going to bad places. If they get enough complaints or care enough, they can go on the warpath and find out why.

So, there you go. There's nothing "illegal" going on with the advertisers, but it sure does look suspicious. So, if it upsets you to see the good, honest name of the Volkswagon Jetta tied to the unethical practices of anime thieves, it certainly wouldn't hurt to contact the company directly and let them know. You may hear back, you may not. But at least it's an option.

Salutations Answerman.

I've been scouring ANN's backlogs and Google and reddit and finding no satisfying answer to my question. The question is why are kids often put in the proverbial (and sometimes literal) cockpit when it comes to saving the world? This is particularly evident in your shonen shows like Naruto, Bleach, and Fullmetal Alchemist. But I'm taking a particular gander at Neon Genesis Evangelion.

So...Why do people write stories about kids being mecha pilots? Not the specific circumstances in which they became mecha pilots within their respective stories or "Well, because people keep watching them and the mecha can sell toys." What is the genesis of the trope and why does it continue?

I got this.

Why do romantic comedies targeted at young women usually star young actresses aged 25-30? Why does MTV serve their teenage demographic with nothing but skeezy teen reality shows? Why do the hyper-violent God of War games feature an ugly dude with stupid facial hair? Because ugly dudes with stupid facial hair enjoy morbidly violent videogames with terrible heavy metal soundtracks!

Kidding aside, the protagonist of any story - specifically, stories that are meant to target a specific demographic - needs to be a kind of entry point; a way for us, as the audience, to feel somewhat invested in the goings-on of a made-up story about nonsense things like giant robots. The easy shorthand is to present your audience with a generalized version of themselves to provide that entry point. Numerous, numerous books have been written on the subject of young heroes and heroines saving the world; I think there's this Joseph Campbell guy who has said a few things on the topic. These young characters, the same age as ourselves, are a way for us to suspend our disbelief and become empowered. Because, y'know, aside from Naruto's inherent beastly powers from the Fox spirit that was imprisoned in his tummy, he's just some brash, cocksure, highly motivated but undisciplined young kid. Hey! *I* was a brash, cocksure, highly motivated but undisciplined young kid once! I can relate to what's going on with that character! Even if he can slice through hordes of enemies with ninja magic from his belly-demon!

With Evangelion, though, it definitely cuts a bit deeper than merely ticking off a box on the demographic checklist. Hideaki Anno, mad genius that he is, wanted to tell a different kind of giant robot/giant monster story, one that included pain, loneliness, sorrow, and guilt, alongside the usual superheroics. And I, personally, can think of no other time in my life where I wasn't as lonely, in pain, felt sorrow, and wracked with guilt than when I was a 14-year old mopey teenager. That angry, confused time in our lives where our emotions outpace our intelligence, where every feeling and thought contains the entire universe. There's no more ripe fruit for hypersensitive angst than being a teenager, no sirree. Plus: Giant robots and monsters!

I think it's unfair to call this a "trope" of any sort. We're talking about something that dates back to Arthurian legend, 1,001 Nights, and other classics of early literature. Tales of adventure, valor, and bravery. Each generation of young men feasted on those stories, and some of those same men went on to write their own stories, culling from the same well of empowerment - writing tales of derring-do and gusto to empower yet another generation of young readers that, though their young lives are fraught with frustration and pain, maybe they could one day go on an adventure to save the world.

This is entertainment, and what's more entertaining than wish-fulfillment?

What's more entertaining than wish-fulfillment? Why, another partition of Hey, Answerfans!

Oh, if only that were true. So! Last week, when confronted quite bluntly with my distaste of harem anime, I thought it would be fun to force you guys to wrack your brains to say nice things about stuff you might not enjoy very much:

First up, it's Packy_Boy, who kicks things off extremely right with the vastly underseen Princess Nine:

The one genre I was never into was sports anime. In general, I'm just not a sports fan. I'm one of the few people on earth who actually gets bored to tears watching players play the same game by the same rules for a few straight hours but only in slightly different variations leading to one of two outcomes. It isn't any better for me to watch or read about it even in fiction. Yet there are two baseball titles, one manga and one anime, that happened to become the exceptions to my rule. With manga, it's Cross Game. I heard too many good things about this title to not give it a try, and the character drama story was all it took for it to grab and keep my interest. In fact, while some readers may find the story boring after a while but the baseball action picks things up, it was the complete reverse for me as I was counting down the baseball pages before we're finally back to the character drama.

With anime, it's Princess Nine. It really was the story alone that made it seem remarkable. In a male-dominated country where it's genuinely frowned upon for women to play what's considered to be a man's sports, one woman defies it all by forming an all-girls' baseball team to train their skills and help achieve her dreams as well as their own. With a cast of various and likeable young girl characters that the viewer cheers and roots for (including the ever-so-rare overweight girl who isn't dumb), add it all up and it makes for enjoyable, appealing viewing. I consider myself fortunate for having collected all the single ADV DVD's before this classic series went out of print. It would be a shame if it stayed that way, because there's just no other recent series like it.

So, Joyce, I take it you don't like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters? Even the Super Nintendo version? It was really good and had barfing sharks:

Hi Brian, I'm a (fairly mature) girl but I like shonen anime just fine. However, under that big umbrella lurks the tournament fight genre and that I just don't get at all. I mean, they just keep fighting on and on why not just get it over with. But then there is YuYu Hakusho. I bought it because I believed the blurb about him being a ghost detective and I like that kind of series. That premise lasted one short story arc and then became a fight show. I was disappointed.

Then something strange happened. I liked the characters. Even Kuwabara grew on me so I kept watching. I hated the character designs for Yusuke & Kuwabara but I kept watching. I loved Hiei and Kurama when they were introduced and Genkai was a hoot so I kept watching. I didn't really like the fights but every time I decided I had had enough darned if they didn't pull away for some character development or throw an emotional punch in the fight. Until the end I watched it in fight arcs but I watched all 4 seasons and still own my sets. It has great characters and the stories that revolve around them keep the fights bearable so I can't say I don't like tournament fighters.

Petrea marks another positive notch for Yoshihiro Togashi:

Shounen adventure or tournament stories. "Doesn't quite pique my interest" barely begins to describe it. "Utter apathy" is closer.

But... Hunter X Hunter. After a few rounds of The Stream repeating just how gosh-darned *fun* it was all the time, and seeing that it got generally positive reviews elsewhere, I decided to check it out. I wound up catching up on the whole thing over one weekend.

I think Jason Thompson's column on Hunter X Hunter, which was after I started watching the show, articulates well what I'm enjoying about it. He described it as imitating everything else in Shounen Jump, one by one, only weirder. If it had been described to me like that before, I'd have been watching the show from the outset.

As it is, the point at which it gained my full respect was episode 3, when it got an entertaining episode out of a storyline which can be summarized as "Everyone runs down a really long tunnel and then up some stairs."

Kaiji? Baseball? Thanks for the tip, RF_InSAnE, this one's going on my list:

Hi Answerman,

I'm sure you're getting plenty of "I'm not really in the mahou shoujo thing, but Madoka Magica was awesome", so I decided to go with another one.

I've never really enjoyed watching sports on TV, neither real-life competitions nor anime about sports. I still think that sports is something you have to do to enjoy instead of just watch. In any case, about one and a half years back, I was introduced to One Outs. One Outs is about baseball and specifically a team that isn't exactly the best in the competition. That is, until they find themselves an awesome pitcher. So far it sounds standard enough, if not for the fact that the pitcher, whose name escapes me at the moment, has a contract with the owner of the team: he gets paid a certain amount (in the millions of yen) for each player he strikes out and he has to pay ten-fold for every player who manages to get to home base again.

Needless to say, the pitcher wants to win, but the owner wants him to lose and stops at virtually nothing to make it happen. Also, none of the other teams are any less set on winning the matches of course. As such the show has a lot crazy strategies mixed in (and not everyone is above cheating either). Think Kaiji meets baseball. It's a show you can really enjoy even if you don't like sports anime or baseball in general. You don't even have to know all the rules to enjoy the show.

So, I hope we all learned a valuable lesson from those responses. That we should all be open-minded, because there are great things wherever you are willing to look for them, and that next week will be my last column in October before Halloween and I should do something campy with lots of stupid puns ripped off from Tales From the Crypt.

Wait, did I say Halloween? Damn right I did! Next week will be a SPOOK-TACULAR! It'll have a BOO-tiful cavalcade of nightmarish fun, FRANKENSTEIN-ly! On your way to The Great Pumpkin, make sure to respond to next week's Halloween episode:

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 long for now, everyone! Once again, don't forget to write me emails, asking me questions or responding to my own, by using your computer.com internetualized e-box over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork! See you, everybody!

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