Hey, Answerman! - Sun Kil Sailor Moonby Brian Hanson, Apr 26th 2013
Hey, people! Welcome to Hey, Answerman! The weekly diversion into Brian's complaints about the East Coast weather that abruptly turns into a question-and-answer column!
But! Friends, friends... soon, I won't be able to complain about the Maryland weather. No, no sir. This coming Wednesday I'm hoppin' on a plane to move to the sunnier, warmer climes of Los Angeles. The land of taco trucks, depressed film executives, and frustrated screenwriters!
Until then, hey, here's some questions you asked me!
Hey Answerman! I hope you are doing well.
I had a question about licensing that I don't think you've answered before.
Sentai Filmworks is once again snapping up titles that have only aired 2-3 episodes in the new season. I was wondering, how much of an entire anime season American publishers have access to before they purchase a license. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's highly unusual for an entire 13 or 26 episode series to be completed before the first one airs.
So do American publishers license shows that have just started simulcasting without seeing the entire product? Are they basically making a "blind puchase"? I'm guessing that, at the very least, they have access to the scripts so they know where the show is headed? Or do they look at the initial ratings for the first few airings on Crunchyroll/Funimation.com/Hulu, etc. to see if a title has sparked interest in America. (I'm guessing that might not be the case since the titles are licensed less than a month after they've simulcasted and I'd wager it takes more time that that to go through the steps to acquire a license?)
I can name numerous shows that start out strong and end in a whimper as well as the reverse. So it seems risky to license something before it's complete.
I'm not asking you to address whether or not Sentai snapping up licenses is a harbinger of doom for them or the anime industry. (I know you've answered that before.) I was just wondering about how much they and other publishers get to see before they purchase a license.
Well, regarding Sentai specifically, nobody I've talked to (since, y'know, Sentai isn't gonna talk with any of us publicly) has any real idea what Sentai's "plan" is when it comes to licensing. It's debatable that they even have one.
One thing I do know, though, is that any licensor in the anime game typically has access to a tiny bit more about the show than what ends up on simulcasts. Any anime publisher who wants to sell their stuff - and that's their job, to sell stuff - has a Powerpoint presentation put together for potential buyers. That comes along with a sample bit of finished animation from the first episode, character designs and key artwork, some story outlines, and demographic data. And they have access to this stuff far in advance of the show's airdate. Now, if it's a "sensitive" show - i.e. something with a swirling buzz of mainstream interest, like say for example, the new Sailor Moon - most anime licensors typically have someone living in Tokyo, who can swing by and check on these samples without any of the material leaving the studio.
Basically, these days, there is an understanding that selling their titles outside of Japan is typically a good thing, albeit far from their core focus. That, obviously, remains in keeping their hardcore domestic fanbase mobilized and happy. But, who's going to turn down some extra money? It behooves them to put together a press kit of sorts and send it out to any potential licensors, and especially licensors they've worked with in the past. And Sentai, for its part, has been ubiquitous. Lord knows what they're up to, but chances are, they got a decent look at Yuyushiki long before it started airing. So far, the buzz on the show has been good, and even from the few episodes that've aired, it's obviously a smart buy for them. It's cute as hell, with serious otaku cachet. It'll easily sell, no question.
This wasn't always the case, though - prior to the boom years of the early 'aughts, it wasn't uncommon to hear stories about titles being licensed based upon a few scant pieces of key artwork, or a tertiary connection to a video game or other such things. Never in the history of anime licensing has it necessarily been a requirement for people in the licensing business to see all of a title, or even most of it. Owing more to the impractical nature of the elongated, protracted production of television animation itself, and less to the notion that licensors having all the free time in the world to see every show to its conclusion before they deem it "acceptable" to a foreign audience. So, the process of getting the information about their upcoming shows out to potentially interested buyers is far more streamlined and more effective than its ever been - and yet, none of that care or consideration actually goes in to the planning process of any of these shows. That has its positives and negatives, I guess.
Basically, they get sent stuff far in advance. It's far from a completed show, mind you, but usually its enough to tip a company one side of the fence or the other. They're certainly not "Blind Buying" anything. Although they sure hope that you Blind Buy them at your retailer of choice. Caveat Emptor, all around!
This is my first time sending you a question and I'm not really sure if you can answer it but, I'm a concerned Moonie, what gives with Sailor Moon 2013? You'd probably were asked this before but man it's been bugging me like woah.
It's almost summer which is when Kondansha said the show would debut but from the outset there's been no new information, no screenshots, PV, images, nothing, we recently got an unveiling of a Figma figure of Sailor Moon but that's it. What gives? Is Kondansha they afraid of the response? Did they do something drastic to the design? Is it not working out? What gives? We seen art/promos for anime shows that weren't unveiled until the following year and SM is all quiet on the Eastern front.
I don't think I've ever seen such secrecy before for an anime (and I've been in anime since the-import Newtype, go to anime club at school, VHS and pray the subs are readable, 80 bucks for 3 episodes-days), especially in modern times where we get 24/7 information at our fingertips everywhichaway. Or perhaps I'm spoiled now with all this easy access...anyhoo, I hope you could calm my fears with your knowledge...thanks!
I'm *always* concerned that when people call themselves a "Moonie" that they're actually referring to cult leader Sun Myung Moon. One would assume that this word-association would disappear, since I spend a lot more time around anime fans than members of the Unification Church, but, there ya go.
So, I got another question on this that touches on something I think people need to pay attention to:
I recently found out that there will be a reboot of Sailor Moon this summer. Now, if Sailor Moon was an American show, there would probably be trailers/pictures/designs from the upcoming reboot already released--or leaked, as is often the case. But there is not even an official date for the premiere of the Sailor Moon reboot, other than that it will debut sometime this summer. I haven't been able to find any other information. So my question is this: Why is it that American shows are often eager to give viewers glimpses/sneak previews of the show, whereas Japanese shows are much more tight-lipped? It seems that you never know any information until it's almost time for the show to debut--not that that's a bad thing, I am just curious as to why this differences might exist.
Aha! Bingo! Here's the problem - we're all freaking out about this thing because we're so used to being drip-fed pieces artwork, plot details, cast information, and other "buzzworthy" marketing campaigns for movies years in advance. I mean, we knew who was writing and directing Iron Man 3 back in February of 2011. From there, it was a slow burn in details being "leaked" to the press, like Reese's Pieces leading up to the film's upcoming release. News about Ben Kingsley being cast, the 3D post-conversion, and Robert Downey Jr.'s omnipresence. Several teasers, posters, and trailers. It's saturation.
The reason for this, I suspect, is this: there was never an Ain't It Cool News for anime in Japan.
Once Harry Knowles managed to send his internet spies to film sets and scoop up early details on big movies in the late 90's, movie and TV studios were eager to utilize that preemptive enthusiasm as a viable part of their marketing plan. It began to infiltrate other nerd markets; comic books and video games and novels are disseminated piecemeal by sly marketing teams and distributed in chunks to eager fans. I'm not saying there aren't big fansites in Japan, because there are, but it's a very different beast.
Specifically, the beast isn't really digital - the most information you'll find about upcoming anime projects doesn't come from the internet, it comes from magazines. Manga anthologies, and magazines like Newtype and Megami, contain just about the only information you'll find on an anime series before it goes live - usually with a brief plot summary, cast list, and a few pieces of key artwork, if that. There's no other reason for it, other than that's just what those fans expect; much like we now expect to know damn near everything about a major movie before it opens, save for maybe one big reveal and the ending, the Japanese fans are simply used to finding out a few tiny details about upcoming anime projects in their magazine of choice, mere weeks before it airs. And to bring up a point I mentioned in my last answer - something like Sailor Moon is sensitive information. I doubt that Kodansha is letting anyone take anything related to their new show anywhere outside of the studio. They know its a global property with a lot of nostalgia appeal. Who knows what behind-the-scenes shenanigans are going on over there.
Basically, Kodansha's got this thing on lockdown. There's one bit of good news though: in the anime world, "Summer 2013" almost always means July. When the actual "premiere" date is - that's impossible to predict, since every Japanese TV network carrying the show is going to be airing it at a different time throughout the week. And until all those TV networks have their programming schedules in order, there's no point in nailing down any one specific "date," since it's all meaningless to the Japanese audience anyway.
Hola El Answerman
My friend and I recently got into an argument/discussion over his frustrations with the Japanese style of adaptation. Conveniently, this post came up on reddit just the next day and I sent it to him. We became much more civil with each other following his reading it.
Anyway, he says that anime is "just making the manga panels move." In a way, he's not wrong (his basis being Brotherhood and the Hellsing OVAs). But it's certainly goes deeper than that. It got us into comparing other adaptations, like those of the Marvel films and Lord of the Rings. In the former case, it takes a source material and makes a completely new story out of it. In the latter case, it takes a source material and adapts it to the time frames and medium in which the story is being told (in this particular case, a book to a film).
Further, this got us into comparing storytelling styles in general. I'll keep with the Brotherhood example and use Breaking Bad (his example of American storytelling) as the yang, so to speak. In Brotherhood, he exclaimed, the episodes seem padded in places and end abruptly. In comparison, Breaking Bad is definitely one story, from pilot to finale, but each episode has a story within itself, is trying to say something stand alone, and has a distinct beginning, middle, and end all on its own. So as far as storytelling goes, it seems there's immediately a difference between the two. Oversimplifying it, it seems the Japanese like a "Tune in next week!" style of storytelling while Americans prefer singular stories, even if those singular stories are part of a larger whole.
So, me being ignorant on the matter, decided to turn to your finite wisdom! Could you elaborate or extrapolate on the differences between the American and Japanese style of storytelling? Not solely when it comes to adaptations, but in general as well. Are there any recommended resources to look into the matter further myself in terms of Japanese storytelling?
As far as the two defining novels in Japanese history, there's two that you should be familiar with, in the sense that they form the Japanese cultural touchstone for modern storytelling: Journey to the West, and Tale of Genji. Journey to the West is an obvious once, since the legend of the "Monkey King" has rather direct descendants, from the mighty Dragon Ball Z, to the lowly Monkey Magic.
For The Tale of Genji, well. I had a literature professor who described it as "impossible," and added, "I hope I never have to attempt to read it ever again." The story has something like 400 characters if I remember correctly, and the story itself was written by a nobelwoman to entertain the high-class women of the Heian court, so the language is dense, poetic, and largely impenetrable to a modern audience. That said, its influence is difficult to ignore - considering its age and structure, its sparked contentious debate over the years as to whether or not it is, in fact, the "first novel" ever written in global history, in the sense that it has an ongoing plot and internal logic.
Here's the thing, though; us damn Americans are often considered to be pop-cultural imperialists. Any modern anime series is going to be a melange of several different influences from all aspects of culture, be it directly - such as an adaptation of a manga or a light novel - or indirectly - such as, the original manga or light novel's obvious odes to other things. Look at Sword Art Online; it's based on a light novel, but the novel itself is obviously riffing on tropes from RPGs like the Ultima and Wizardry series, and fantasy novels. If there's one thing I have to take issue with in that reddit post, its the author's insistence that plain-ol' novels make the best adaptation fodder for anime. Sure, you could make a great anime out of a novel (Gankutsuou) just as easily as you could make a lousy one (Lensman), but I disagree that there's a fundamental difference, merely aside from the terminology, between a regular "Novel" and a "Light Novel." The market for a "Novel" is certainly broader, and a "Light Novel" implies a certain tone and a certain demographic, but... they're just telling stories. I don't think there should be any real difference between how they could be adapted aside from that.
Going back to your question: It hasn't been proven, but the evidence strongly suggests that The Tale of Genji was published in chapters over a period of time. The fact that the story literally ends in mid-sentence certainly suggests this. If anything, that sort of direct influence could certainly be considered influential in the general way that anime stories are structured. But, I think it's even simpler than that: Going back decades, most anime has been based on manga. And manga, traditionally, has been published a chapter a week, or per month, so the individual chapters are rarely self-contained. The eventual anime picks up on that and runs with it, because ostensibly, the audience is tuning in to watch their favorite manga on TV, and they expect it. After so many years - and so many successful, influential anime series using that formula - it permeates outward, even to original series. Mobile Suit Gundam is very much structured in that same way, even though it's not based on a manga.
Personally, I don't think it's a good argument to dissect and analyze and, worst of all, rank which things are better suited to an anime "adaptation." I think that's reductivist and needless. Ideally, you can take any ol' thing and make an anime out of it, so long as there's a story and some characters there. The strength of the show depends on its own execution and the sum of its parts, not fealty to the source material. Let's not judge a whole swath of things because of what they're based on; let's just look at them on their own merits.
Well, I'm all out of original things to talk about. Must be time for Hey, Answerfans! Last week, all the gibbin' and gabbin' about imports got me to thinking that I was sure that some of you out there had some cool import stuff. Looks like I was right!
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD J. DOUGLAS DON'T DRINK THAT COFFEE:
Most of what I have imported have been books to help me learn Japanese (now if I could only find time to study!) But my top 5 imports:
5. Evangelion figures bundled with cans of UCC Coffee
4. Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland
3. Negima 38, with pactio cards and Amine Final DVD. I had to turn an old laptop into a Japanese region DVD player.
2. Japanese Graded Readers. Children's stories that are simple enough that I have translated the stories from Levels 0 and 1.
1. The complete Haruhi Suzumiya light novels. (Now if I could just get to the point where I could read the original Japanese!)
Next up is Ahrem, who brought us some visual representation of his defeat:
My first big import was back several years ago. During that time the only version of One Piece that was available in America was the horrible 4kids version. This was way before Funimation had announced their licensing of the series. At the time I was afraid that I would never see the original uncut version. So I jumped at the opportunity to buy some imported discs on ebay.
Of course I later realized that these dvds were quite obviously pirated! The poor video quality and the bad subtitles was the best giveaway. Another disc I imported was of the film Robot Carnival ( which was also revealed to be pirated ). At this point I don't bother with imported dvds or bluray unless it is an item listed on rightstuf.com. I have also purchased all the dvds of One Piece that funimation has officially released. Sadly Robot Carnival never had an official release on dvd here.
I also occasionally buy imported goods from j-list. Usually novelty items like this surgical mask. The kind that are usually worn by people so they won't give their cold to other people. The side facing the person wearing it has a random cute anime girl posed in preparation for a kiss ( in other words the person wearing the mask is supposed to be kissing the girl). This item cracked me up so much that I had to buy it just for the novelty and I also bought some extras to give away at halloween.
Those are just some of the things I have imported over the years. I have also become more careful of where I buy my goods. I'm kinda stuck with these pirated discs though. I can't sell them and if I throw them away I'll feel like I was defeated.
Andrew's Autograph Board is the envy of all:
I am by no means a regular importer of anime-related goods. Out of all the products I've imported, the only substantial item has been the Puella Magi Madoka Magica Production Note. In the case of this art book set, I can honestly tell you that I never expected to properly import it from Japan.
As a avid fan of Madoka Magica, I wanted to get the Production Note even though I failed to pre-order it. When I began my search, I found that they ranged in price roughly between $150 and $200 on various importer websites, eBay, etc. On a whim, I decided to check some Japanese websites to see how the price compared. At first, the currency conversions I found worked out to the same cost. When I came across the set at CD Japan, I had one of those jaw-dropping moments. Even with shipping calculated, the cost was only $108 (and this was after considering the 79 yen/1 dollar rate at the time). I subsequently made contact with a few American import companies to see if I could get the same sort of deal while being able to support their business stateside, but the cheapest I was ever offered was $140. Consequently, I snatched up a copy from CD Japan. One week later, I was the proud owner of a Madoka Magica Production Note.
Beyond enjoying the artbook set itself, I also made the collection my official "Madoka Magica Autograph Board." Through the various conventions I've been lucky enough to attend, I have collected a whole slew of autographs: Urobuchi Gen, executive producers, the Japanese voice of Kyoko, and much of the American cast. Along with my original 1981-1982 Mobile Suit Gundam movie posters, this collection ranks amongst my most prized anime possessions.
O Henry, your collection is like a Gift from the Magi:
Being a hardcore Japanese import collector of anime and manga, I do get really picky on items. Some fellow import collectors are far more serious than I am. Like this collector. Anyway, I do have stories behind some of my treasured Japanese imports.
A. DVD proof-of-purchase items (No photo taken)
One-of-a-kind items only obtained through Japanese DVD singles proof-of-purchase. I went through expensive, within-deadline, DVD single purchase to collect those proofs. No cheating through Anime Jungle, Mandarake, or Yahoo Japan auction. Unfortunately I don't have pictures because they're stored deep in my parents garage.
-Noir: Super deformed Character key chain set.
-Chibits DVD (Bonus/Omake epsiode of CLAMP's Chobits. Fansubbers already have ripped the video, but nothing beats the rare physical copy)
B. Japanese Pre-order Promo posters, not some common wall scrolls.
Autographed poster of Sword of Stranger with Director Masahiro Ando. During the autograph session at Anime Expo, Director Ando was surprised by the my Japanese promo poster because everyone had generic poster provided by Bandai Entertainment. He drew two main characters' faces on the poster along with autograph.
Memories LD promo poster. Brian, we all know that you're a fan of Memories. So enjoy.
C. Cel drawing by very respected animator. Golden Boy episode #3 Key animation drawing by veteran animator Hideki Hamasu. Hideki Hamasu is a veteran animator who worked with directors Satoshi Kon and Hiroyuki Kitakubo. His works include Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Rurouni Kenshin, and many other A-grade anime shows. I found his whole key animation sequence at WonderCon comic convention in San Francisco two years ago. Although the drawings didn't have his name or signature, I could recognize his scene and double checked with Sakuga@wiki database and numerous key animation art books to be certain.
I wanted to buy the complete 100+ sheets of that sequence, but comic book dealer was selling it for $10 per sheet. At that time, I didn't have enough money. Even though the dealer doesn't know a single fact behind those drawings, just like many other typical comic dealers, he thought that he could make more money through individual sheet than the sequence. Anyway, I bought only one sheet. My regret is that I've lost the merchant's contact information and I can't reconstruct the pencil test with that one sheet alone.
Just to be clear, I don't collect anime cel at all. I think all anime/comic cel dealers just happen to sell some anime studio's dumpster trash (Yes, many anime drawings wound up in dumpster or shredder once the production is over and storage gets full). Plus, they don't have certified appraiser's credential to put value on anime drawings other than profiting off from perceived popularity of the time and prettiness of cel. I bought the drawing because of the artist, not because of popularity.
D. Some of my Japanese Anime DVD, LD, Blu ray, books, magazine collections. Great bonus materials comes with Japanese imports.
E. Studio exclusive limited edition art books and merchandises (No photo taken). Hanasaku Iroha artbook from PA Works.
F. No anime/manga/video game toys or figurines (except my anatomical figure by sculptor Andrew Cawrse). (They look very nice, buttttt.... they scream fanboy and they're too fragile)
Shame:A. Certain Hentai artbook and dojinshi. Bible Black artbook and Samurai Showdown hentai dojinshi are now in recycling bin. Good thing that I wasn't into hentai.
A. A box of Ghost in the Shell Cardass Master trading cards. (No photo taken)
B. Evangelion postcard booklet... I never got to use it. (No photo taken)
C. Free, unknown anime cel painting and drawing. I got them for free. I still haven't figured it out. Probably from an 80's anime.
D. Anime movie pamphlets/programs. Since I can't go to Japan to watch anime movies on big screen, movie pamphlet is the second best thing to have that theater going experience for me. Even film festivals here don't offer anything close.
E. Final Fantasy Advent Children collector's box. (No photo taken) This box is big as luggage. Other than the movie, it comes with toy, t-shirt, bonus discs and other stuffs. Too bad that movie wasn't good as the package.
F. All sorts of trinkets and stationery that come with Japanese anime magazines. (No photo taken) Kids buy Japanese magazines because of those freebies. Personally, I have no use for them. (Maybe I can store yearly tax documents into one of those free anime clear folders)
I don't think anyone can beat that last one - except for maybe Ben, who definitely wins points for obscurity and rarity:
Over the years, I've collected a number of imported goods. Here are two prime examples:
Back in the early 00's, I was a huge fan of Neo-Geo games (going so far as to buy a number of arcade carts, since they were generally cheaper and easier to find than their home version counterparts). Back in early 2004, as SNK Playmore was about to release its' final game for the Neo-Geo AES (home system), Samurai Spirits Zero Special (a.k.a. Samurai Shodown V Special), there was some incident in Japan (can't remember what it was) that forced the company to release the game censored. Needless to say, I wasn't about to drop $395 on a butchered game (and you thought Aniplex of America's prices were insane).
One year later, I find the game's arcade (MVS) cart at a low price on Yahoo Japan, so I leapt right on it, won it, and received it some time later. At first, I was expecting to receive just the arcade cart itself, but once I received the package, I got the box, instruction sheet and move stickers that usually come with Neo-Geo MVS arcade kits. Upon testing the cart out, I noticed that it had everything included (especially the uncensored fatalities). To put it lightly, I was ecstatic. I got the game (uncensored), the arcade extras, and the original box, all for a fraction of what it would've normally sold for on eBay (then and now). To date, it remains the only Samurai Shodown game not released on any other system. (For the sake of argument, let's pretend the awful Samurai Shodown 64 series never existed, shall we?)
As for my biggest shame, it would have to be years of buying doujinshi. I've already gone on record as saying I had a doujinshi addiction in an earlier Hey Answerfans column, but just to recap, at one point I had over 200 doujinshi, mostly focusing on King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Guilty Gear, DBZ, and Final Fantasy VII, with some Tenchi Muyo, Escaflowne and Inuyasha thrown in for good measure; none of which were yaoi or hentai (because back then, you couldn't swing a dead cat around without hitting a hentai or yaoi doujinshi). After spending a little too much on a One Piece Luffy x Vivi doujinshi, I knew I had to stop, so I spent much of 2005 and all of 2006 gradually selling off my doujinshi collection (with some of my biggest sellers containing pairings both common and unusual, like Vincent x Yuffie, Luffy x Robin, Sol x Baiken, Ky x Dizzy, and Shizumaru x Rimururu, among many others). By late 2007, I had sold off nearly my entire collection (with only a scant few doujinshi remaining, namely a Sakura Wars & Card Captor Sakura crossover one, a KOF one with a Benimaru x Kula pairing, and a Guardian Heroes doujinshi drawn by Koge-Donbo). I thought I was done, but in the summer of 2011, I tracked down and purchased a Gurren Lagann doujinshi drawn by Pixar artists that was released for charity. Despite that, I have since overcome my doujinshi addiction... for now (at least until someone releases a KOF Shingo x Kasumi doujinshi).
(Note: Apologies for the small doujinshi photo- that was taken back in December 2003 with an old digital camera.)
That's a lot of stuff, folks! So let's take a turn to a much different topic for next week's question, wherein I put the thought about "buzz" far in advance to you all:
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 now, but don't forget to send me your further questions and answers to answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! See you guys on the West Coast!
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