Hey, Answerman! - The Vast Wasteland

by Brian Hanson,

Friends. Readers. Loved ones. Acquaintances, well-wishers, unknown entities. Welcome to another Hey, Answerman!

Every time I come back to the beginning of this page to write a better introduction, I get distracted by the large, swelling wound on my arm that I got when I fell down the stairs a few days ago. It is at least healing up nicely and less and less resembles moldy pizza. This is a good thing.

That was gross! Moving on:

Hey Answerman,

These questionnaires will sometimes pop up in online communities I'm in, and after hearing the most recent ANN Podcast discuss where they see anime in two years, I'm curious as to what your take is on where anime will stand in the coming years. I'm curious about both the Japanese and American markets.

Where do you see anime in two years?

Where do you see anime in five years?

Where do you see anime in ten years?

Let's see now. After inserting both ends of my scrying device into my frontal lobe, I think I've effectively charted the course for the future of this little industry.

In two years, Anime will achieve physical form, in the visage of director Yoshiyuki Tomino, in order to be easily understood by the populace. Contact with Anime results in mild anaphylactic shock for some; a mild tingling in all others. This is, of course, due to the strain on physical matter caused when a genre or medium of entertainment defies all known logic to achieve corporeal form. This is at first considered an oddity, but after two months of shock victims, everybody gets used to it.

In five years, Anime's whereabouts are unknown - due to The Great Cleansing, most of the Earth's previously inhabitable land has been covered with rich synthetic grass. Most of human life is dead. Anime treks across the empty landscape of immaculate-looking fake grass lawns, feasting on discarded iPhones and bits of Greta Van Susteren's hair.

In ten years, all consciousness throughout the infinite span of existence will converge in an orgiastic glow, in the vicinity of the now-dead Lancaster, Michigan; all matter will simultaneously cease to be, and exist all at once. Our universe will be replaced with that of Final Fantasy VII, proving otakukin and "headmates" on Tumblr horrendously correct, while our remaining spirits live through the rest of time in the netherverse, confounded and haunted by past lives and memories that we are no longer able to physically experience. It will be a hellish time.

I guess what I'm saying is - I don't know! I'd be a fool at best and a liar at worst if I were to prognosticate anything. I mean, there's certainly trends you can point to - streaming video is obviously a major thing, and that can only continue its dominance as the preferred method of entertainment content delivery as bandwidth technology becomes cheaper. The bigger question, I think, is - which companies are better poised to take advantage of this digital encroachment? Will the money eventually arrive to make streaming a viable business, to the point where it makes sense to be a company's core focus?

And, something we cannot accurately gauge, is - what happens to the fans? New forms of social networks appear and disappear every couple of months; even just two years ago, who heard of Tumblr? I sure didn't. Now, that's basically the major outlet where anime fans (the young'uns, at least) congregate, and share things back and forth with each other. So, what's next? What's the next major platform for anime and manga fans to share their love? Will there be one? I dunno!

Of course, all this forward-thinking hibbledeebib is nice and fun for us, but for "the industry," they've got their hands full just figuring out how to ensure they stay in the black over the next few months. And that's not just the problem of anime and manga; virtually every industry under the "entertainment" banner is just trying to coast along, figuring out how to still remain profitable in spite of rising development costs and shrinking "traditional" revenues, in the form of retail sales and digital downloads. Basically, the cost to produce entertainment has gone up - or at the very least remained high - while DVD sales have shrunk exponentially, and digital sales bottom out as people outright refuse to pay more than a dollar or so on iTunes and the like.

Until the various entertainment industries figure out a way to keep the lights on long enough to figure that out, I don't see any radical changes in the way we either consume content or share it. Meanwhile, the various social networks that lead to things like discovery and word-of-mouth are continuing to grow and simplify, making it all the easier to connect people together around the specific stuff they like. So that'll be good news; making money, of course, will be the tricky part.

In short, no amount of crystal ball gazing and tea leaf-reading is going to do much of anything until our very dusty method of content distribution sees a major overhaul, and it's a puzzle everybody whose livelihoods are on the line are trying their best to figure out. It'll be interesting, to say the least, to see how niche markets - like anime and manga - choose to adapt over the next few years. Until then, let's not bother speculating. Let's just enjoy it, support it, and hope for the best.

Put on your best Freud hat Brian cause do I have a question that strikes at the very core of anime fandom. Why are people such bullies when it comes to shows they don't like? Personally I try as much as possible to avoid stuff I don't like instead of watching or reading it just to complain. In my experience good entertainment falls into one of two categories: Providing an experience we couldn't otherwise have, or reflecting ourselves and the society we live in. I guarantee you every single piece of fiction ever made has its lovers and detractors. Are there pieces of work I make no hint of not enjoying? Sure, But I move on because not only do I have better things to do with my time but I don't want to ruin someone else's potential enjoyment. I understand you feeling your time wasted, but why not watch something you like instead? I guess my underlying question is how to deal with the trolls and go liking what I like. Especially someone like me who has a very diverse taste and therefore has to deal with trolls of every mold. I also was wondering if you could help me understand why I care so much about the opinions from people I don't even know?

Oh and I strongly disagree with your comment about tropes. Quite often if someone has the passion for a particular project they can do it better and use that love to take it to the next level (for example I think Evangelion and Osamu Tezuka influenced things that are far superior). Its all about the thought that is put in. A recycling needs to understand what is interesting about this trope rather than simply copying for the money and if they can add their own thoughts to the idea all the better. What is ultimately the most important step in any visual medium is to try to put thought and attempt to have the audience think about it beyond the visual level. If something can make me do that then I don't care what the staff were reading or watching at the time of production.

Hey, you tricked me! There's nothing psychosexual about anything you wrote here! At least, overtly. Now, pardon me while I wear my mother's dress and smoke this phallic symbol by putting it into my mouth. ALSO: I love the fact that you wrote in to ask me why people cling so tenaciously to other peoples' opinions, and then denounce my own opinion in a separate paragraph. Classy!

Here's the deal, pal: the key to dealing with "trolls" is to recognize them for what they are. Sad people behind a computer. Also, the word "troll" is something a bit more specific and mean-spirited than what you're talking about; a troll is the sort of person who'll find your YouTube page for the sole purpose of finding your only video upload in order to call it "gay." Somebody on the internet loudly trumpeting their opinion over somebody else's, while rude, isn't quite in the same league as your garden variety "troll."

As to why it happens? Well, look at me, right now - I've been granted a relatively large audience of readers, and I get paid to introduce those readers to my specific thoughts and opinions. A lot of people want that privilege, and they'll find any way to get it - either through constructive means, by writing and working on their own, in order to cultivate their own separate audience. A few others, meanwhile, will simply bully people into listening to them; it's hard to hear over the loudest person in the room, you understand. I don't think there's any major psychology behind it; I think it's downright biological. People want that sort of attention, and if they disagree with the person getting it, it strikes a certain survival mechanism in our tiny reptilian limbic system.

So, I think it's just garden variety human nature that's causing it. Now, how do you *deal* with it? That obviously depends on the severity, or rather, dickishness, of the parties involved. I'm going to speak freely here, so take note - if you're seriously having to deal with "trolls of every mold," then you're the one doing something wrong. No one I've ever met with a truly decent head on their shoulders has ever said, out loud, "what am I doing wrong to attract all this negative attention?!?" (This counts non-celebrities, of course. I don't really know any of those.) On the flipside, every person I've ever met who constantly complains about "drama" or "trolling" or other constant negative attention - has been a tremendous crap human. Basically man, if "trolls" are a constant thing you're fighting with in your life, it's time to figure out why that is. Either fix yourself, or fix your environment - if you truly have the attention of trolls on a consistent basis, it's time to maybe leave whatever places you're hanging out online that foster that kind of behavior. If that takes care of the "trolling vis-a-vis my opinions" problem, then congrats! If it doesn't, uh oh - something's wrong with you, pal.

Why do people get so upset over other people's opinions? Because we're uncomfortable with the idea that somebody's opinions are more "valid" or "correct" than our own. Like I've said in the past, that's the stupid person's reaction to criticism, and is unfortunately a common opinion about critics and reviews. Just because we get paid to cite our opinions, doesn't mean we think our opinion is better than yours. Only the worst critics think that. Part of this whole weird social network of anime fans is this enduring notion that some of us have better taste than others, some of us like things for better reasons than others, and generally there's a race to have the "correct" opinion and therefore The Last Word on the world's anime forums and Blogger comments. Like, y'know, your last paragraph - I don't know where you're getting this notion that Evangelion has somehow been "done better." I've never heard that before in my life. Of course, you're welcome to that opinion, just don't assume that everybody shares that same thought. I agree with the rest of what you said - visual entertainment mediums shouldn't be afraid of "copying" from various past tropes if they still work, so long as they find interesting and entertaining methods of utilizing them.

So, there you go, there's the kibble - you got one of your opinions validated in a publicly read spot, and one of your opinions kinda challenged a little bit; more than likely, the conversation will spread to the forums here, like a blistering application of Meme Theory, as our ideas are unwittingly parroted by like-minded souls across the globe.

Can I take this Freud hat off, now? It's giving me gum cancer.

Hey, Answerman!

I have been looking at Anime News Networks' animation TV rankings and noticed that the most popular anime in Japan are Sazae-san, Chibi Maruko-chan, and Doraemon. I have never heard of these anime until after looking at the TV rankings list. All of these anime have been going on for a very long time and are always at the top of the list. Funimation has licensed and dubbed One Piece, Toriko, and Case Closed/Detective Conan which are also on the list. So my question is why hasn't Funimation or any another company licensed and dubbed these popular anime? Are the licenses too expensive to justify getting these anime which may or may not become popular here?

I can't speculate on the cost of those licenses, but I will say that licensors are at the very least aware of the popularity of these series, but the reason we haven't seen them here in the West yet has to do with a very simple fact: Sazae-san, Chibi Maruko-chan, and Doraemon aren't what we, in the West, consider "anime."

What I mean is, when we think of "anime," we think of the stuff we were initially exposed to as "anime." Pokemon, Gundam, Dragon Ball Z. Robotech. Astro Boy. Speed Racer. That's a pretty diverse range of shows that cover a lot of different genres, but one thing you can't take away from them is the fact that they definitely look like "anime." One look at any of those properties, and you know it's anime. No question. Sazae-san, meanwhile, looks like this. Chibi Maruko-chan looks like a Nick Jr. cartoon from the 80's. And Doraemon looks like... well. It looks a little odd, to say the least. None of those three shows look like your typical garden-variety "anime."

I mean, as different as Detective Conan was in its content from the usual anime fare that gets licensed in the West, it at least still looked like "anime." Another long holdout from Japan's top-ranked TV animation was Crayon Shin-chan; Funimation worked rather hard to "adapt" it to make it fall in lockstep with contemporaneous Western TV cartoons like Family Guy. And look at how successful that show was! Oh, wait.

The "cost" of those licenses isn't really much of an issue, because no matter how much they cost, the notion that any of them could conceivably sell well in the West is laughable at best. They don't look much like traditional "anime" in Western eyes, and their stories couldn't be any further from the typical anime fare that still sells well over here. Sazae-san is basically a distinctly Japanese family cartoon show, like a warmer, less-satirical version of The Simpsons. Chibi Maruko-chan is sort of the same thing, except told from the point of view of a precocious little girl. Doraemon, meanwhile, is a weird, gag-oriented thing involving a time-traveling cat robot teaching kids about life lessons and morals. Yep, those three shows sound like great additions to the late-night Toonami lineup! I'd bet if Crunchyroll streamed any of them, they'd wipe the floor with the likes of Vividred Operation!

The other thing to keep in mind is that these shows have been around FOREVER, and there have been attempts at bringing these titles over before; Doraemon specifically I know has had a sordid past of almost airing in the United States. First in the mid-80's, when 50 episodes were licensed by Ted Turner of all people, but those were never aired for some reason. And before Viz Media merged with ShoPro (the US licensing arm of Shogakukan and Shueisha, who handled things like the edited dub of Zatch Bell), ShoPro themselves were aggressively marketing Doraemon towards Western broadcasters. Obviously, not much came of that. Chibi Maruko-chan hasn't made it to America, but it's been around the globe already - showing up in India and Germany. Sazae-san has at least shown up in the US, to some extent - Kodansha published a few selections of the original manga in English. Although I doubt the sales were anything Earth-shattering.

Basically, the big, marketable demographic that spends money on anime is a very narrow age range of teenagers to college aged kids, and Sazae-san, Doraemon, and Chibi Maruko-chan all aim quite a bit younger and broader. Add to that the lack of success for similar ventures - Case Closed and Shin Chan - and you can see why no Western licensors have taken the bait on those particular properties yet. In some cases, not for lack of trying, either. These are the biggest cash cows in the Japanese anime world, and I'm sure each of their Japanese licensors would love nothing more than to eke out a couple of extra bucks by shopping them around the world, but the Western market is clearly wrong for them, at least at the moment.

Now is the pre-determined time in the column where I feign some sort of throat illness and lie down, giving YOU, the readers, time to respond to my carefully-constructed queries!

Last week, I wanted to GIVE YOU ALL THE POWER IN THE WORLD. The anime and manga world, I mean. Which isn't much, but - just take it anyway.

We begin with the always reliable Ahren, who exaggerate all he wants - that's part of the fun, brother!

I could have provided an answer for last weeks question, but you've already heard me talk about how School Days forever ruined my chance at finding happiness with it's horrible ending so onto this week's answer. This answer is gonna be somewhat nonsensical so don't take it too seriously!

My studio will be called: Perfect Project Studio because the customers expect perfection and I demand it!

The projects we make will vary with whatever's popular at the time. Some action series, comedy, horror, etc. Although a series that has a new and creative concept will always be accepted. Harem comedies are a guilty pleasure of mine but I will only work on ones that at least stand out from others. If my studio was also making the animation and if the world was a perfect place and money wasn't an issue then I would hire Richard Williams and/or animators that worked under him because I would love to see what professionals like them could do with the animation in anime (wait would it still qualify as anime then?).

My studio will also do all it's voice recording for the shows. I will be directing the voice acting and I have my own personal guideline for what I consider acceptable voice acting. First they must be able to shift their voice tone higher or lower for different characters, after all if a voice actor or actress is able to sound completely different on various projects then they have greater value. They must be able to speak normally in whatever voice tone they use. They must be able to handle a variety of different emotions. Also they must be able to handle a crying scene that can convince even me (which would require well-timed voice tone changes and stutters as well as the properly timed hiccup and sniffle). If an actor or actress has difficulty with handling a scene where a character cries or is in pain I will be happy to assist them WITH MY CANE, then they will really sound convincing (don't take this seriously. I'm not really an abusive person)!

If my studio was an American company licencing anime for American audiences then I would need to look over the writing. I prefer a translation that is somewhat creative, but doesn't change the original work. Another point is that the writers MUST make up their minds as to which order names are spoken (Western order: given name then family name or eastern order: the opposite. The writers for Funimation's translation of One Piece couldn't make up their minds on this).

So that's what my anime studio would be like more or less, I was exaggerating a bit.

There's never enough mayhem to satisfy the kiddies, Chris:

Were I able to run my own anime studio:

-- Personnel: More or less fungible; everyone wants the Big Names, but are they necessarily the best for the projects one wants to do? In my case, I doubt it. So I'm not going to concern myself with it.

-- Projects: In the words of a famous person, "Oh, myyyyy...."

I am a fan of Military SF, and Space Opera, authors; which means there is exactly zero chance of my ever seeing any of the books I read made into feature films or TV series. Running my own anime studio, on the other hand... well, here's a short list of projects which would appear:

_Hammer's Slammers_ (various novellas), David Drake
_Countdown: The Liberators_ and its sequels, Tom Kratman
_Darkship Thieves_ and its sequels, Sarah Hoyt

"Ripple Creek", Michael Z. Williamson
"Daniel Leary", David Drake

Too name but a few. Enough violence and mayhem to satisfy the kiddies; enough actual thinking to satisfy the adults.

David continues the universe's quest to make me feel guilty for Not Knowing Enough about Moto Hagio:

If I had a studio, I'd want to dig into the glory days of 1960's and 1970's gekiga/story manga -- back when there were more manga written like novels and fewer written as "let's-see-how-long-we-can-run-with-this" cash cows. Back then, it was usually the kid-friendly ones that got animated, so there's still a mother-lode of period dramas, mysteries, sports dramas, and love stories from that period that are still untouched.

Beginnings, middles, and conclusive endings would be the order of the day. There would be strong storylines with unique characters. Settings, art styles, and especially viewpoints of the originals would be not be modernized in any way, though we would be open to adaptations of more recent work and to original projects as well, so long as they were tightly-written, conclusive, and seemed generally worth doing.

"From Up on Poppy Hill" is one recent example of the kind of thing I'm talking about (even though they tossed out the original character designs in favor of Ghibli's house style).

Who to hire? Gisaburo Sugii, if he'd still be up for it. Osamu Dezaki's no longer with us, but his longtime collaborator Akio Sugino is still around, and I'd definitely want him aboard, probably wearing many hats. If Shin'ichiro Watanabe wanted to work a little more of his "Kids on the Slope" magic, that'd be awesome too. Nobuteru Yuuki would be good to have on as character designer; he does great work in general, and is especially good at adapting his style to those of others as needed. For voice actors, I'd want to look outside the established seiyuu world for graying TV and movie actors -- I'd want these shows to not only look like 60's and 70's Japanese movies; I'd want them to sound like them as well. For music, I'd look far afield of the modern J-Pop world: big band, enka, kayoukyoku, strings, piano, jazz -- and of course old American pop from the periods we'd be covering, if we could afford it. Some comic artists I'd be specially keen on looking into for source material would include Moto Hagio, Osamu Tezuka, Youko Shouji, Sanpei Shirato, Riyoko Ikeda, and Ryouhei Saigan (okay, we might have to compromise on art style in his case).

The people who'd love these shows the most would be exactly the ones who'd never pay money to buy cartoons and toys, but I wouldn't have to worry about making a profit because all this is funded by imaginary money anyway.

I was initially scared by what James might've meant by "Reproduction," but, well, read on:

If I ran an anime studio, i think there's two sorts of things I'd do: continuation and reproduction.

Okay, reproduction may be a bad word for it, but I mean it in the sense of simply 'producing again'. By that, I mean produce old anime with 'modern' graphics, sound quality, etc. I'm fairly new to the anime scene, and I often find that I'm quite deterred from watching older anime, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop, simply due to their aesthetic quality. I know it holds a lot of sentimental quality for older fans, though it may not be as good for trying to introduce newer viewers to the 'greats'. However, if the graphics were brought up to current standard (or better), I would be much more likely to watch anime that I know I really should. Hence, if I were to run an anime studio, I think that'd be one of the things I'd like to do (though I do accept the idealism of it).

The second thing I'd do is continuation of anime. Every now and then, I'll watch a really good anime, just to find out it's stopped before it's reached it's 'end', i.e. the manga or light novel has continued, though the anime has been discontinued. However, just as often I'll see how anime which, in my opinion, really shouldn't get yet MORE seasons, get more season (Duel Masters, Bedaman, Yugioh!). In particular, I'd like to be selfish and continue the Haruhi Suzumiya series and Spice and Wolf.

I hope my email was interesting enough for you to read through completely, though I do accept that it is not of sufficient quality to be engaging beyond that. I look forward to your next installment.

Alright, that's enough Fun In Imaginationtowne - next week, I wanted to tackle something based in cold-hard facts and cruel reality, something that is always prime-grade nerd kibble whenever and wherever they are discussed:

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.

Thanks of course to all of you for submitting stuff! You are ALWAYS welcome to drop off a query or two - or an Answerfans response or three - to my email haven known as answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Adios, muchachos!

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