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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,


Did I scare you? Oh, too bad. IT'S ONLY HALLOWEEN.

Or a couple of days before. Or maybe afterwards, depending on how late you're reading this.

Look, either way, you get it. It's late October, and we're all in a spooOOooOooOoOooOky mood. Ghosts! Ghouls! Goblins! Girls in "Sexy Super Mario" costumes!

But I've got something far scarier in store for all of you this week. Something that will shake you to your very core and disturb you. Something that will leave you as a dried husk of terror, whimpering and weak, praying for the moment your soul leaves your useless body.

Your questions.

This may be a question that may have been asked before, but I'm generally curious of what your opinion is between cartoons and anime. The other day, a person called anime "cartoons" and I couldn't help but be a little offended at the observation. But, why was I offended? It's quite obvious that there is many differences within the visuals, but they're both animations/motion pictures for entertainment. What is the main difference that defines and establishes anime from cartoons? What makes anime so unique from western cartoons? Thanks beforehand for any answers you can give me!

Wow, holy crap! I honestly can't believe people are still discussing this!

In a way, this makes me happy. Like a single tear rolling down the cheek of a proud father sending his child to college, this means that a new generation of anime fans has all growed up. For as much as anime fandom has altered and mutated itself like a resilient virus over the past decade or so I've been involved in it, some things are unchanging. It's nice and heartwarming.

My position has always been that the word "cartoon" has a negative connotation to a lot of people, which I understand, but I personally have no such negativity with in. Quite the opposite: I embrace it. I've been watching "cartoons" since I was a kid, and as an adult, I still watch animated drawings on a screen; that's what cartoons have always been for me, so why should I change my vocabulary?

The sticking point for a lot of people is this idea that "cartoons" means something very specific, which I argue that it does not. "Anime," however, does mean something pretty specific. At least, here in the West. It means, without equivocation, animated pieces of entertainment that were created and produced in Japan. To a lot of people, the word "cartoon" only means Spongebob Squarepants, Family Guy, The Simpsons, and all related ephemera. Gags and jokes and primary colors. I dispute this notion. I think of "cartoons" almost as broad of a term as "animation." To me, the word "cartoon" implies any character-driven piece of animation. Pixar movies are cartoons, Gundam is a cartoon, Don Hertzfeldt's films are cartoons. Cartoons!

But I understand that my definition of the word isn't universally accepted, and to a degree, I sympathize with people who get defensive when anime is called a "cartoon." They're thinking of the term as a slight, as a reductivist attitude at the notion of animated drawings conveying anything more than cheap gags for children. ANIME ISN'T CARTOONS, IT'S ART! Or so it goes.

My opinion is this: anyone who derisively calls anime "cartoons" doesn't have an especially high opinion of "cartoons" either. Me? I think cartoons are art, too. There are Looney Tunes cartoons that are preserved by the National Film Library for being, I quote, "a work of art." There's no shortage of idiots and small-minded entertainment nihilists in the world who turn their noses up at things they might even like for the sheer self-indulgent thrill of feeling mildly intellectually superior to people. It happens with books, movies, music, architecture, food - why not cartoons?

So, look, it's not worth getting offended over. When people call anime "cartoons," you're either dealing with people like me - people who think very highly of cartoons and means it endearingly - or people who just suck at being judgmental. Although, to bring up rec.arts.anime.misc again for the nth time in recent weeks, it used to bring me no end of teenage joy to watch the uptight USENET nerds bristle with rage when I used the word "cartoon" to describe something like Ranma 1/2. Which is as cartoony as an anime series gets, anyway. Ahh, bliss.

Some things never change, I guess. Are anime cartoons? Sure. Are cartoons anime? The ones made in Japan sure are. Is Aeon Flux anime? No, Blockbuster Video. Get that Peter Cheung crap outta my face, I'm trying to rent the Guyver OVA again.

Dear Answerman,

Why are you so obsessed/angry over piracy in the West? The Japanese anime market can survive without the US market. Whilst, a small number of anime targeted at the US like the Trigun film wouldn't be made if the US market died, 95% of anime studios would continue as is. Do you really think the Japanese care much about the Western market when they can charge 5 times more for DVDs and Blu-rays in Japan? What percentage of the anime released this season is mainly targeted at the Western market? Very little. Despite a serious increase in piracy over the past decade due to the proliferation of fast internet, the quantity and quality of anime has more or less stayed the same. Most anime is rubbish, but that's how it's always been. Maybe the problem isn't piracy it's crappy treatment fans have received from US anime companies. The sky isn't falling, piracy in the West hasn't killed anime.

- An Answerfan tired of the anti-piracy hysteria on this site.

Just one thing I want to make completely clear before I roll my dumb self into this minefield once more: "anti-piracy hysteria on this site"? Look, pal - I've seen a lot of clatter on the forums and elsewhere that insists that everybody on ANN's editorial team, from the reviewers to the columnists to everyone in between, shares some sort of demonic pact with Zac Bertschy insofar as our bitter hatred towards fansubs, moe, whatever - take your pick. Here's the thing: I don't speak for them, and they don't speak for me. That was never a basis for why any of us were hired in the first place, and more importantly, IT'S NOT TRUE!

So to assume that we here at ANN's editorial team have secret meetings where we tow some kind of company line against fansubs is ridiculous. I speak for myself here on Answerman; Zac and Justin speak for themselves on ANNCast, Bamboo speaks for herself, Carlo speaks for himself in his reviews. We've been cultivated to contribute our musings on anime because of our passion and talent, not our ideological bludgeons. There isn't some subterranean conference pit where hooded figures whisk us away to sit in front of Zac, who bellows behind a demonic lectern, shouting "FELLOWS, WE MUST CONTINUE THE NARRATIVE THAT WE ALL BLAME PIRACY AND FANSUBS AND MOE FOR EVERYTHING, FOR AS WE KNOW, OUR SOULS FEED ON THE BITTERNESS OF FORUM POSTS AND ANGRY TWEETS. WE NEED ANOTHER HIT PIECE AGAINST FANSUBS TO FILL OUR BELLIES WITH DISCONTENT!" While a nervous Mike Toole sheepishly raises his hand and says, "well, uh, y'know, without fansubs I don't think any of us would even be here, writing about this stuff, so, uhm-" and is promptly sucked into a chute and transposed into the fiery Pain Dungeon.

Now, why am I, personally, angry over piracy? (I wouldn't say I'm "obsessed," either. I pick a fair amount of piracy-related questions because, simply, people send them in, they're usually interesting to think and talk about, so bam.) I have an issue with entitlement. And not in the Mitt Romney sense. I mean in the sense that we all feel entitled to have whatever anime and manga we want, right now, for free. And anything else besides that is a waste of money, it's not what the fans want, it's more proof that anime companies "don't get it," and so on. That's an unsustainable economy.

So, no, the sky isn't "falling." The sky already fell, and destroyed several companies with its icy comets of financial death. Others survived the wreckage and persist along in a smaller form; others still decided to pack it in, considering the risks involved. And piracy was absolutely a part of what happened to a lot of these companies several years ago.

Now, "piracy" had always been around, and fansubs were always a tricky thing to dance around when it came to releasing anime in the west. I remember something Matt Greenfield said once in the halcyon days of ADV Films: All Purpose Cultural Cat-Girl Nuku Nuku was one of their more popular titles, but he always noticed that one specific volume of the OVA series sold drastically lower than the other volumes. It didn't take a tremendous amount of sleuthing to find out that that specific volume they released... was also the volume that contained the only episodes of the series that were easily obtainable with fansubs. So, piracy has always been an issue, but it proved something - convenience was the key. If the fans could find a way to get what they wanted for free, they would. And who could blame them?

The landscape has shifted now, I would think for the better, and the dust has settled while the survivors of The Great Sky-Falling Of The Late 2000's hunker down to try to think of ways to stay relevant while packaged media sales continue to wane. And, hey, I haven't been completely sold on some of their newer initiatives myself; I think Neon Alley is a joke, and judging from the feedback I get on a weekly basis from my readers around the globe, no one is pleased with the way English-translated anime and manga is parceled out to foreign territories. Or not at all, as the case may be.

I believe it's a complicated issue with a lot of different facets to it, which - surprise! - makes it interesting to discuss. Because this isn't just a one-sided relationship anymore; the fans have proven their effect on the industry at large, albeit through apathy. Now, anyone daring to release any anime or manga in English has to actively think about ways to avoid getting their profits eaten away by piracy. And personally speaking, I do not want anime to slink back to Japan, where our only method of obtaining it is through importing goods or piracy. I feel like there's sort of an honor system in place, with me, to financially reward the artists who create things I genuinely like with my hard-earned money. But I can't afford to do that with imports. That is impossible. Nor am I comfortable with the thought of the artists never getting a cent of my money to continue to create art that I enjoy, because the only financially viable way I can enjoy it is through piracy.

And the other sad truth of the matter is that some of the best and most interesting titles of the "anime bubble" were made with American money involved; ADV pitching in as part of the Production Committee for Kino's Journey, for example. That's a very real and very sad fact about the death of these companies; regardless your opinion of them and their stubborn obstinence towards fans, it's an unfortunate thing that we are incredibly unlikely to see something like that ever again.

And that's my take, and not representative of ANN as a whole. And if other ANN writers and staff members agree with me, that's their business, and vice versa.

Hey Answerman!

I'm hoping you could help me out with something I've been noticing. First off let me say that in no way am I ranting or being a champion of any crazy cause.

I'm a fan of the Ghost in the Shell anime series and I love its science fiction setting and butt-kicking special forces stories (well, the ones that do have those sequences.) Anyway it caught my interest when foreign politics are the subject. They always make note of the American Empire in some ways. I decided to research the GTIS universe and found out that the former US was split in a nuclear war. It struck me as odd that it portrays the US as a losing nation when it came to nuclear war. I continued to research and found overall that the American Empire is oftentimes found to be received in negative light, while in the meantime Japan is perceived as a grand superpower. In one episode "Poker Face" it is mentioned that the new security treaty renegotiation bill is proposed as a kind of payback because Japan lost WWII (they don't mention the actual conflict by name). I understand this is a alternative future story, keyword "story", but I get the sense of some message there. What's with this negative portrayal of America, exactly?

Wow, okay. It's been a while since I wrapped my brain around Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, but I'll potentially embarrass myself anyway.

Just as an aside, one of the real strengths of Ghost in the Shell is simply how malleable the characters are to the different kinds of stories across different mediums. There's Shirow Masamune's original manga, which paints a vivid, extraordinarily detailed portrait of this dystopian cyber-future, replete with reams of footnotes and superfluous technological details; there's Mamoru Oshii's two feature films, which take the characters through Oshii's own quiet, bemused thoughts on scripture and existentialism. And then there's Ghost in the Shell, which spares no victims in its critique of political corruption on any side.

From my perspective, the "politics" of Stand Alone Complex are a lot more, pardon the pun, complex than simply painting America as a foolish arrogant nation. If I recall correctly, the show doesn't take too kindly to various "terrorists" that are no more than congregations of extreme Japanese nationalists, blinded by xenophobia, angry at immigrants and outside influences. In fact, I remember one episode specifically, where Section 9 allies themselves with the former American Empire to use their advanced, illegal-in-Japan spy satellites to track down a lead in the Laughing Man case.

In the midst of all the cyber-cultural philosophy and literary overtones, there's a pretty potent undercurrent of political nihilism running through the veins of the Ghost in the Shell TV series. Section 9's hands are always tied by impotent bureaucrats and self-serving politicians, and they're forced to work outside of that rigid structure of indifference in order to get to the bottom of all the terrorist conspiracies they find themselves embroiled in. I mean, "playing by their own rules" has always been a popular staple of every cop show in history, but the Ghost in the Shell series takes it even further than that; the nice thing about having such a fantastical setting is how it allows you to layer in pointed political and social criticism without damning yourself to a specific time or person. And that's a long-standing staple of science fiction, really. Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Alan Moore, the list goes on. Stand Alone Complex merely continues that tradition.

So, it's not just America that gets treated like garbage. Every political entity is garbage in the not-too-distant-future of Ghost in the Shell. Governments are inept, people are starving, and the bad guys can take down an entire organized society with a little ingenuity and cunning - and it's up to our classified black-ops cyborg agents to keep the peace in the shadows, disavowing themselves from the debauched lesions of civilization that prey on the public's fear and resignation. Same as it ever was.

BOO! Hah, got you again. Halloween. Monsters. Ghosts. Demons.

Hey, last week, I had a themed question that ties in directly to this season of spookery!

Let's begin our descent into reader response MADNESS with frequent contributor, Ahren!

It is nearing the end of October and once again it will be time for my annual Halloween Horrorthon!

Every year I dress up like a Jiang Shi (hopping corpse, usually dressed in clothes from the Qing Dynasty). This year I decided to make my own Jiang Shi costume instead of using a kung fu robe and hat. I'd have sent you a picture of the finished product, but it's not quite done yet.

My party is on Saturday and I have a lot of work left to do. I have to cover the windows to darken the rooms. I have to set up all my props and decorations. I have to bake a devil's food cake and maybe a chocolate chip cheesecake. I have to polish my tea set. Make sure my movies are all together and of course I have to set up all the games.

The games this year are as follows:

#1 Grave Digging Game (always a favorite)

#2 Pin the Knife in Makoto Itou (My grudge against that character will probably never end!)

#3 Dance With Death (fairly new game where players dance around a blindfolded Grim Reaper while the song No One Lives Forever by Oingo Boingo plays. Whenever the Reaper points at someone that person is eliminated from the game. The last person standing is the winner.)

#4 Eyeball Bounce (Bounce eyeballs off a hard surface and into a target)

#5 Shooting Star Gallery (players throw rubber throwing stars at other players)

Also the prizes are almost always some anime DVDs or Blu Rays. When it comes to movies I always start with The Evil Dead because it is a TRADITION (spoken like Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof) also by request I will be showing Evil Dead 2 this year as well and hopefully The Cabin In The Woods. Once again I will have a whole cauldron of candy for my guests and for any trick or treaters (although sadly I haven't had any trick or treaters in 5 years). My friends were nice enough to donate a turkey for the party dinner.

I had every intention of posting my video of last years party on You Tube so I could show my decorations and the games and other fun, however all of my guests unanimously refuse to be on You Tube (Not even for my sake and I thought I was the shy one!). I even offered them masks to wear so their faces would be hidden but they wouldn't budge although they have no problem posting pics of themselves unmasked on Facebook.

Jesse's got a pretty solid marathon of mind-f***ery this Halloween:

Have you ever heard of the Rail Tracer> Cloaked in darkness the Rail Tracer races down tracks chasing the trains, and when it catches one all the passengers slowly start to disappear. Victims of the Rail Tracer's insatiable hunger. If you're ever on a train with the Rail Tracer there is only one way to save yourself and that is ... the reason I'll be watching "Baccano!" this Halloween.

Not to digress from Melissa's Halloween fun, but what's the big deal with bobbing for apples? Who the hell came up with that? "Here's a fun game! Let's dunk a bunch of apples in a pale of fetid standing water, and you have to dunk your entire face into it while nearly drowning in order to sink your teeth into an apple that was probably delicious before getting basted in this gross tub of disease water." Anyway. Please invite me to your candy swap, Melissa:

Hey Answerman,

Definitely looking forward to Halloween this year (it's my all time favorite holiday, which is saying something since I was born on Valentine's Day). Our local yaoi group is having a grand Halloween party to watch Nyanpire, have a costume contest, bob for apples, have a trick-or-treat candy swap, and get sick off of even more sweet treats. The other hostess and myself will be cosplaying pirate versions of Hetalia characters (Pirate!England from fanart for her and Ghost-Pirate!Norway from the 2011 Halloween Event for me). But Nyanpire is really going to be the best part of the night. It's so freaking cute (and surprisingly BL).

If you don't win our Pumpkin Contest I WILL BE VERY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU, TIFFANI:

Hello there Answerman!

And what anime related stuff am I doing for Halloween you ask? You have no idea how excited I was to see such a question! First off, as can be guessed, I'm an anime fanatic (what else would I be on ANN for!?) Secondly, I'm also a Halloween fanatic! All things Halloween, I love 'em!

So, onto the question at hand. This year will be my first Halloween party (err...first one I've thrown anyway.) And I'm sort of going all out with it. I'm having a creepy dinner and then raving it up with glowsticks afterwards all while having most of the exits covered in creepy cloth and spiderwebs and the floor with tombstones! What's anime-related about it? Why, everything of course! Other than some standard Halloween decor, my party's pretty anime-centric! The creepy atmosphere music I'm using during the dinner...it's mostly somber anime tracks (like that bit of music that plays at the opening of Shinsekai Yori and "Requiem" from Tasogare Otome Amnesia.) The rave afterwards? Full of remixed anime music of course! The people attending? All of my fellow anime fanatics! And yes, they're coming in cosplay!

And who am I going as? Gasai Yuno, psychotic yandere, of course! (In her 'God' outfit to boot!) What better!? I've even got myself a bloody axe! Coincidentally, I happen to have a college class on Halloween day...and yes, I'm going to class as Yuno as well! :D Heck, today I attended my college's Diversity Club meeting (we were having a Halloween craft night) as Saya from Blood-C!

My Halloween is always anime-related! Now, to get to carving those Luna-P and Nyanko-sensei pumpkins!

Very disappointed I was not invited to your Case Closed interpretation, Hunter. Very disappointed.

Well this year me and my anime buddies decided to do a few different things this year for Halloween. (Although not too different for us)

To start things off, a little early, on the 30th we plan to begin a giant marathon of the entire When They Cry series. (Including Umineko, despite all of us agreeing that the Visual Novel was much better) 'Cause nothing says incredibly violent and scary like When They Cry. After that long marathon we plan to gather an even bigger group on the 31st to have our groups famous (well at least in the college) mystery challenge. And since we will have finished a marathon of Umineko, we plan to have it themed similarly having several people dressed up as several characters from the series. Now our mystery challenge is basically several closed room murder cases and various smoke and mirrors effects that the 'audience' members have to solve. With small donations we give out prizes to the best answer, usually nice chunks of cash ($50-100) or anime disk sets. Last year we held a Case Closed themed challenge with myself playing the role of Kaito Kid. I do hope that the audience members are inspired by Umineko and come up with the most crazy insane logic and theories that top previous years.

Lastly, here's Shaun, who lays it out nice and neatly:

Hey Answerman!

My plans for this Halloween, give or take a week, are to introduce some friends to one of my favorite classic anime, Witch Hunter Robin. And if that doesn't go over well then there is always High School of the Dead. If that doesn't go over well, then I need new friends.

Thanks for the ghastly treats, boys and ghouls! Sorry, I had to. I had to.

But, hey! Halloween isn't the only upcoming holiday! Very soon now it'll be Election Day here in these United States I live in, so I thought it'd be fun to come up with a question along those lines! And overseas readers who may not be familiar with what Ballot Initiatives are, well - just Google it, I'm sure you have something similar in your possibly broken political system.

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

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

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

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

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

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

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

Things To Do:

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

Things Not To Do:

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

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

That's all for me, my garishly nefarious companions of infinite evil! Don't forget, in the midst of your Halloween witchery and hauntings, to possess your email for a moment or two to write any questions, responses, hexes, curses, or dark magick directed towards answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Good night, fright fans!

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