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Hey, Answerman! - Samurai Ecks vs. Sever

by Brian Hanson,

Good morrow to thee, fine connoisseur of anime and manga-related discourse! This is Brian, I write Hey, Answerman! Which is a thing where people send me questions, I answer them, and we all learn a little bit about life, love, and the afterlife.

Or maybe I've just got some questions about weird anime dubs and stuff? All in the eye of the beholder, man.

Hi Answerman,

It seems like some manga books are released in England by a different publisher than in America. I don't know if it's still the same company releasing under a different name in a different country, but my main question here is this: Are there any series that ended prematurely in America but continued to be released in English in a different country. There are a few series I want to keep reading but aren't being put out in America anymore. (Pumpkin Scissors, Aventura) I was hoping there was still a way for me to read it aside from buying it in Japanese and trying to translate it.

Sad to say, but yeah - if scanlations aren't your thing, you're pretty much out of luck unless you can read Japanese.

We'll get to this in the next question, but it's awfully common for certain popular ANIME titles to receive different English dubs and releases outside of the US. It's still a bummer to me that there's a subtitled DVD of Genius Party that's only available in Australia, for example. But, from what I've seen, it's awfully rare to see it happen in manga.

At least, in the sense of what you're talking about - certain titles that cease publication and are finished in English by overseas publishers in Europe or Australia. I remember I had a friend of mine who was really into a manga called +Anima, and the only way to get it for a while was by importing it from Europe. Shortly after he paid a fortune to have the whole series shipped over to the US, Tokyopop released it in the US, thereby serving as sort of an object lesson, or something.

Of course, I'm sure there's some manga out there, somewhere, that was picked up by another English-language publisher, but whatever it is, it's so relatively obscure that I've certainly never come across it, either in my research or elsewhere. It's certainly not happening with either Pumpkin Scissors or Aventura. The main problem is, there's SO MUCH MANGA out there. With the heady days of the "manga boom" long since behind us, there is almost zero financial incentive for any publisher to take a crack at a title that was considered a "failure" even back when manga was tearing up the sales charts. Pumpkin Scissors and Aventura were part of the Del Rey / Kodansha deal, of which there were many, many others that were dumped by the company as Borders fell apart and the audience dried up. Del Rey is gone now, with Kodansha Comics USA taking their place; they're otherwise riding high on the continued success of their Sailor Moon reprint and things like Fairy Tail and Negima, while other manga publishers have either exited the fray or retreated to the warmer embrace of digital distribution. I'm not as familiar with the manga market in other English-speaking countries, but it certainly feels like they get the same shaft in the manga department as in the anime market.

Releasing manga in English nearly anywhere in the world is a tricky prospect thanks to the proliferation of easily-accessible piracy, so once again we happen upon the nasty catch-22 that plagues this business: too many titles remain unlicensed because of concerns about piracy, wherein the fans' are bereft of options and turn to piracy. The Ouroboros continues. In fact, UK-based manga readers are probably gnawing their forearms in frustration about now - consider the plight of British manga fans who were fans of manga published in the UK by Tanoshimi, a publisher with roughly the same relationship with Kodansha as Del Rey. They shuttered in 2009, so they're only option to continue ongoing series was to import books from Del Rey or, later, Kodansha Comics USA.

Of course, this is just a recent phenomenon. In the early days, you'd find all kinds of manga that would be translated and published in English, French, and German that would never find their way to the United States, and vice versa. Leiji Matsumoto was much more popular in France than anywhere else; ditto for Space Adventure Cobra. There's a storied history there of weird alternate versions of manga floating about Europe. Now that the internet exists as it does, bookstores are struggling, and tablets are nigh-ubiquitous, those days are pretty much over. With the digital revolution going strong, here's hoping that arbitrary region-restrictions will soon be behind us.

Hey Brian!

I have a question about licensing that's been bugging be for a while. It boils down to "what was the deal with Rurouni Kenshin's multiple versions"? I mean, from what I understand, the series was first licensed by Sony as "Samurai X", received an LA dub, and aired all around the world except in the U.S.. Then a few years later, Media Blasters got hold of the series, gave it another LA dub (that curiously cast Richard Cansino in the title role again), and sold that version in the U.S.. Right. So, who had a hold over the series, anyway? Was it simultaneously licensed by both companies? Is that even possible? Did Sony only release their version on Crackle after Media Blasters lost the rights over the series, or did they have it at the same time? Is Media Blasters's dub lost forever? And what's the deal with those two dubs anyway?

A similar thing happened to Saint Seiya; DiC produced their Knight of the Zodiac version virtually at the same time as ADV produced their uncut version. So, did both companies have rights over the series? Was DiC's dub commissioned by Toei or something? Why were the two version so radically different from one another (couldn't Cartoon Network air a more "traditionally" edited version of the ADV dub, like they did with FUNimation titles?) How did one version affect (or help) the other?

So, yeah, what's the deal with these "dual licenses" kind of cases?

This is where I strongly urge everyone around who's even remotely interested in weird, alternate dubs of stuff to attend any of fellow ANN contributor Mike Toole's "Dubs That Time Forgot" panels. Lord knows what dark deal with Beelzebub he's made, but somehow he's gotten his grubby mitts on things like ADV's aborted dub of Gurren Lagann, the filthier UK TV dub of Urusei Yatsura, and other forgotten treasures like a pilot made by Harmony Gold for Dr. Slump.

But, yes, Samurai X! I remember how excited I was to hear that the entirety of Samurai X was out there on Crackle. "I would watch it all over again!" I thought. Nah. I barely made it 15 minutes into the first episode. It's weird, but it's both too close to the Media Blasters dub, and too different. Also, it's leaden, boring, and badly written. Makes the Media Blasters dub look like Thomas Pynchon by comparison.

Now, as to who had a "hold" of Rurouni Kenshin itself, that's an easy one. Sony Music Entertainment, now currently known as Aniplex. The story is a pretty easy one: Sony Music Entertainment produced their own English dub of the series in the hopes of selling it to US broadcasters, and figured that a title change to "Samurai X" would make the sale easier. It worked overseas, but not in the US. Media Blasters knew they could do very well by releasing the series on DVD in the US, so they licensed it for North America just like any other US publisher, and produced their own dub under the original title. The casting similarities owe more to the fact that they were both produced in Los Angeles than anything else. The Samurai X dub was then relegated to use elsewhere in the world, such as Sony's Animax channel. But it was never a case of two companies licensing the same property - Rurouni Kenshin belongs to Sony and the Samurai X dub belonged to Sony, and Media Blasters merely licensed it. Which is why the Samurai X dub showed up on Crackle! Because Media Blasters no longer has the Rurouni Kenshin license, as part of their new strategy to release nothing but hentai and weird Japanese live-action movies with lots of gore and stuff.

The DiC Knights of the Zodiac thing is pretty different. DiC and ADV both, essentially, shared the license to the property, with the assumption that the two products - Knights of the Zodiac versus Saint Seiya - would appeal to a different enough audience to justify essentially releasing two different versions of the same thing. Neither one was all that successful, though. But it wasn't an issue with Toei, really. Toei obviously wanted to have Knights of the Zodiac on television in the US, but this was before Toei deigned to release anything in the US on their own. Those poorly-authored DVDs of Slam Dunk will forever remain a shining trophy of incompetence!

Fortunately or unfortunately, this is also becoming rarer as anime dubs are growing scarcer by the minute. The concept of producing a dub for TV broadcast is practically laughable at this point. There are of course dubs being produced by and for Animax that are still an anomaly, but those are the exception that proves the rule. Dubs are now a luxury. And given that, it's now *highly* unusual for something to have multiple versions out there in the ether.

Hey, Answerman, I have a question for you about classic anime and how it differs from classic movies and literature. A classic book or movie is one that has remained relevant past the initial generation that it was created in. A classic is also a work that is currently, mostly beloved, regardless of how popular the work was when it was first made. Lastly, a classic is widely considered to be ‘high-quality’ or at least ‘worthwhile’, since a work that's only remembered for being awful can hardly be considered a ‘classic’.

These rules seem to mostly hold true for movies and books, but they do not seem to hold true for anime and manga. With movies and books there is usually a group consensus as to which works are classics and which aren't. Homer's The Odyssey, Casablanca and Charles Dickens Oliver Twist are all classics and rarely does anyone argue that there not, but with anime, there is no real group consensus as to which anime are classics or even if any are classics. Even if an anime fits all the above rules, it will often only be considered classic by a narrow group of fans instead of by the anime community at large. Even the big name anime like Evangelion or Cowboy Bebop* seem to be acknowledged as classics only by people who have both seen the show and enjoyed it, and people who dislike the shows tend to argue that the shows aren't worthy of being called ‘classics’. This doesn't seem to be the case for movies and books. Most people will acknowledge that something like Pride and Prejudice is a classic even if they've never read it and don't really like that type of story.

So my question boils down to this, why are classic anime viewed the way they are by anime fans, especially compared to the way movie and literature fans view their classics.

* You noted recently that Cowboy Bebop came out in 1998 (and therefore wasn't that old) and that young anime fans might have only been 6 or 7 at the time. I was 8 when it came out, I am now 23. I have been an anime fan since I was 10. In other words, today young fans may not have been born until well after Cowboy Bebop was released. I am so sorry.


Setting aside the histrionics: I don't think we do ourselves any favors whatsoever when we try to differentiate between what makes a "classic" novel versus what makes a "classic" anime. Is it an enduring piece of culture that still resonates with an audience decades after the author had presumably assumed it would be irrelevant? Then, it's a classic. When Hideaki Anno and his team at Gainax were putting Evangelion together, they all just thought they were making just another animated TV series for a content-hungry network. They'd air it once, maybe twice, and put it on video, make a decent profit, and they'd be off to the next thing. They didn't foresee a theatrically-released alternate ending, and a series of four films that "reimagine" the story. Due to the extent of thought and care that was given to the characters, the world, the designs, and the script, it persisted in the public eye.

And even the people who argue against Evangelion would probably agree that its legacy is earned, if perhaps not entirely justified. Only the truly hateful monsters would argue that its persistent and valuable contribution to anime and its fans is in any way illegitimate. And as far as your concerns about a "narrow" group: what is the entirety of Western anime fandom? Seems pretty narrow to me, compared to a lot of other things. In some cases, those "narrow" groups championing something as truly "classic" leads to permanence beyond what the sales numbers indicate. If that were the case, Jeff Buckley's transformative studio album "Grace" wouldn't even be in the same league as the best-selling album of 1994 - Hootie & The Blowfish's "Cracked Rear View." Vomit, puke, gag.

And that album is a perfect example. That album was released to a crowd that was more into grunge and/or the Goo Goo Dolls to care about an album of mostly blues cover songs, but a handful of notable admirers - chief among them David Bowie - kept that album alive, until after a solid decade of slowly germinating throughout the culture of popular music, its legacy is now secured. And its secured for all time, pretty much. Were it not for that "narrow" crowd of ardent supporters, I probably wouldn't have ever heard of it. And I would be all the worse for it.

And then there are situations where a "classic" title has its reputation precede it. When the original Mobile Suit Gundam was aired in America, it had consistently mediocre ratings until it was pulled from the schedule to avoid showing animated armed conflict on a children's network after 9/11. Most Western "anime fans" have probably never seen it, much less the entire series. But we can all agree that it's a "classic" right? We're quite aware of its impact; one of the pop-cultural sensibilities that is synonymous with anime is "Giant Robots" and most of them have a relatively direct lineage to Gundam. And for a Western specific example, FLCL is probably one of the biggest and most influential anime series ever released in the US. In Japan? It came and went, largely without any major fanfare. The audience it was intended for bought it and watched it as it was released, enjoyed it, and then quickly moved on to the next thing. In the US specifically, it had time to percolate and expand. It aired on Adult Swim in rapid succession, reached something of a pop culture peak, and became a touchstone of what makes anime cool and unique. Most of the hardcore Japanese anime otaku probably only barely remember it. Here in the US, we've got entire episodes committed to memory.

In that way, I don't think it's really any different from how movies, literature, or music has been deemed "classic" throughout the years. Blade Runner started out as a failed big-budget science fiction movie, but it persisted until it became this touchstone of movie fandom, where it is now required viewing for anyone considering the term "film buff." Becoming a "classic" is all about persistence, more than anything. It has to stay in people's minds far longer than any piece of so-called "entertainment" logically should. That's what separates the wheat from the chaff.

Rejoice, people who hate my opinions! Now is the time where I *don't* opine, and instead give the floor to you, the readers!

Last week, with a major new crop of anime titles ready for public consumption, I was curious about how y'all manage your time to decide on what to watch, and why! Here's the image file that started all of this:

We'll start with Chantel, who digs into the credits and finds familiarity!

When I look at a new season chart to decide what to follow, I look for well, what looks good. I'm not really one for researching what the directors, music creator and writers have done, but if I recognize some of the bigger names, like Urobochi or Yoko Kanno, that does influence me.

Horrible harems are pretty much spot-able a mile away, and the comedies I generally avoid unless they look mildly intelligent- i.e., Hataraku Maou-sama!. So I try to find the show that'll pull ahead of the rest in quality, though I'm not so good at divining that, so I keep an eye on reviews as things come out. I look for a nice guilty pleasure (reverse harem usually) a bit later on, and then I also give myself something stupid to make fun of on tumblr!

Supplemented with a long-running show, that keeps me tided over.

Joe likes charts, graphs, infographics, and lists:

For me, the first step in figuring out what to watch in season starts with finding a chart of what's coming out in that particular season, usually by going to 4chan's /a/ board or getting a retweet of a chart. Once I've got a chart, I look for adaptations of manga I know people are talking about (especially if they're more positive than negative on it). For this season, that wound up being Attack on Titan, so I picked that up. Then I look for shows that fit genres I like, such as mecha or scifi, then I check the description and staff to see if there's anything really interesting/off-putting about the show. I picked up Yamato 2199, Gargantia, and Valvrave, but not Majestic Prince, because I can't stand Hirai's character designs. I do a final pass over the chart, looking at the show descriptions for anything that might be interesting, even though it's not in genres I'd usually watch – Asian Risshiden no Shima Kousaku immediately stood out because of its satirical potential, so I picked that up.

Because I look at the charts months ahead of time, anything I decide to watch from there is usually my end-all, be-all list for the season. Obviously, I drop stuff that I don't think is good after a few episodes, but I rarely pick up stuff when the season starts. But I check out the Preview Guide to see if there are shows that turned out more interesting than their descriptions made them out to be. If the reviews are more positive than negative, I give it a shot – I wouldn't have seen The Devil Is a Part-Timer! otherwise.

Hey, at least Peter is honest about it:

I'm what you could call "What's wrong with the industry today" because what draws me to shows are the cute girls. I'll see promo art with a girl whose design catches my eye and I'll want to check it out. It's like seeing a hot girl in real life. Her appearence catches your interest so you go and strike up a conversation with her. After that is when you learn how deep/shallow she is, or what she's all about, how smart she is, her life story, etc. The girls can draw me in, but the rest of the show has to be entertaining enough to get me to stay. I do try to watch as much as possible, but character designs help with prioritizing.

Oh, and robots. Robots are an instant sell. Cute girls and robots? You couldn't try hard enough to keep me away!

Robert has his hierarchy. On a related note, "The Robert Hierarchy" is either a great title for a novel or a Sundance movie:

The hierarchy as I see it usually goes in this order:

First, I tend to pick out the highly anticipated shows, especially sequels to shows that I have enjoyed in the past. Secondly, if it has a really intriguing plot, or simply just tickles my fancy, I'll likely give it a try. Thirdly, I like to look through the staff of the new shows and see who's done what, naturally, if I like their track record, I'll be more inclined to try the show than not. I usually place this underneath the second one because I kind of have to be lured in to get in depth in it. That being said, the spotlight features that ANN has been making is incredibly helpful and makes it much easier to track down small details.

On the list of things that I would really like to watch, Oreimo 2 is definitely up there, as I'm sure it is for a lot of others as well. I have been excited about a sequel even before the new one was announced and in no way will I miss it.

A close second would be Flowers of Evil. There isn't been much information about it, and the trailer pretty much revealed nothing in terms of the plot, but I'm really curious about it since almost the entire staff is either connected to or had directly worked on Mushi-Shi, one of my most favorite shows of all time. The sound direction is being picked up by Starchild, whom have a track record longer than time itself which is a definite plus.

As far as the random shows that I'll probably check out for S&Gs goes, I'll probably try Hataraku Maou-sama!, Attack on Titan, The Severing Crime Edge, Red Data Girl, and maybe if I'm particularly bored, I'll try the "Hentai" Prince and the Stoney Cat.

I actually might have enough free time to watch every show if I wanted, but I don't see the point in subjecting myself to that kind of torture.

We round things out with frequent contributor Rednal:

I have a very simple and straightforward way of selecting which shows to watch: I read the summaries, and on occasion I glance through the list of people working on it to see if there's anyone particularly interesting. I mean, if someone like Gen Urobuchi is working on something, it's more likely to be worth my time regardless of what else I know about the series. Even if it's something I don't usually watch.

One thing I've realized over the years is that experience is very helpful. For example, if I notice that a series is an Action/Romantic Comedy based on a Light Novel series from Japan, I'm -probably- going to enjoy it about the same as I've enjoyed other shows of the same type. There are some genres I'm simply not interested in, so I pass on those, but I do tend to give most shows a reasonable chance. The odd recommendation from friends comes into play, too.

I've seen enough anime over the years to have gotten a pretty good sense of what I'll enjoy and what I won't based on minimal information. They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but let's face it, some stuff is so formulaic that you don't really -need- to look at the cover to know whether or not you'll enjoy it.

My only regret is that so many of the shows I like most have more to the story back in Japan that we're unlikely to ever get licensed. It's very awkward being a fan of something while knowing the story's going to be incomplete...

And that's all the comments! But next week, speaking of things from the Spring Season, there was one specific title that divided fans pretty cleanly in half, which inspired me to throw this question together!

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 for the fun times once again, people! Don't forget that YOU, TOO can contribute a question or Answerfans response by sending an email along to answerman(at!)animenewsnetwork.com! Until we meet again, friends!

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