Hey, Answerman! - Attack on Deadlines

by Brian Hanson,

Hello, friends and true believers! Welcome to Hey, Answerman! Which is a column about the answers to many of life's mysteries.

Shortly after this column is completed, me and my girlfriend are donning our Starfleet uniforms in order to embarrass ourselves at the Arclight bar while doing my damnedest to avoid getting the thing spoiled to me by angry nerds. YES, I'M WELL AWARE THAT THE BUZZ ON THE MOVIE IS HARDLY POSITIVE. I will discover this for myself.

Wait, questions? MAKE IT SO:

Hey Answerman!

Really enjoying the new season so far with the wide variety of genres being put out. The big one a lot of people are watching, Attack On Titan, has my attention more so than others but not for the reasons one would think.

Recently there has been a lot of press implicating trouble behind the scenes regarding the anime whether its delayed materials on Crunchyroll, incomplete versions being sent to TV stations in Japan, the head animator recruiting freelancers via twitter, or even just the abnormal amount of stills we've been seeing, my question is: What's Up? Did the studio just have poor planning when budgeting time and animators for the show? I'm thinking maybe they underestimated those things not even factoring in the art style which we don't see too often.

I'm liking the actual story itself but am worried for the future if we're seeing all these problems now when we're only at episode 6 out of 25.

I hate to break it to you, folks, but this Attack on Titan "fiasco" is something that's plagued anime production since virtually its inception; Given the multitudinous nature of Japanese broadcasters, and the perfectionist nature of most animation directors, it happens all too often that deadlines are slipped and episodes are accidentally delivered incomplete. For an amusing and dark portrayal of this common phenomenon, look no further than the "Mellow Maromi" episode of Paranoia Agent.

Of course, historically, we wouldn't necessarily be aware of this sort of thing, because we'd only ever get the completed DVD versions of the episodes. Now that we've got simulcasting out the wazoo, we get to share in the Japanese audience's pain and frustration for the first time! Hooray for equal-opportunity disappointment!

Really though, we shouldn't either be disappointed or upset in any way that this happened. Like I said, it's happened before. I've referenced the legendarily incomplete episode of Lost Universe before - the one where ALL of the inbetween animation was missing - but that's the sort of almost mythic-level of incompetence that rarely happens. Attack on Titan is a visually ambitious, stylish production. Just look at the Encyclopedia entry for the thing - there are 26 FREAKIN' "2nd Key Animation" studios listed, in addition to "Animation Production Collaboration" from Production I.G and CGI help from MADBOX. The main studio listed is Wit Studio, which is a small subsidiary with majority ownership by Production I.G. And, really, people are making a mountain out of a molehill with the "OMIGOSH THE DIRECTOR IS TAKING TO *TWITTER* TO FIND ANIMATORS???" angle. That's hardly new or newsworthy. That happens all the time. When you're in a bind and you need to find skilled labor quickly, and you need a loud and large signal to broadcast with, Twitter is the place to go. I've seen dozens of job offers blasted out from Twitter, be it from game developers, filmmakers, and so forth.

As for the cause of the delays, that's less the studio's fault and more the fault of the director. Directors on projects like this can leverage a lot of power, and they're the ones that (usually) control and budget everybody's time during production. Attack on Titan's director, Tetsuro Araki, strikes me as an energetic and creative guy who is quite young - he's only 36 - who really tries to lend a lot of intensity and kinetic motion to his work. Nearly all of the best scenes from Death Note were his. Highschool of the Dead, as gross as it is, can't be faulted for its animation and style. This, meanwhile, is an ambitious project. If he's been able to make it to episode 6 with only one delay, that's hardly ideal, but the end product is certainly worth the effort. Attack on Titan is truly wonderful. If a few delays happen, oh well. At least we get a great show out of it. I'd rather the director care too much rather than too little.

Dear Answerman,

I don't know if you can help me with this, as I'm unaware if you are a member of the production group for New Video Entertainment, but I was curious as to whether we will be seeing a DVD release of Digimon Frontier in the near future. I have been immensely grateful for the release of the first two seasons, and the upcoming release of Tamers. However, I would love to see Frontier released as well. I was just curious, as I have not heard any news on the matter. Thank you for your time!

I can say with 100 percent certainty that I am not a member of the production group for New Video Entertainment! HOWEVER: considering this question is about Digimon, I thought I'd forward this question to my favorite expert on all things Digimon, and also my favorite person on Twitter, Digimon Otis!

Otis: Frankly, as it says in my Twitter bio, " The Anime of the same name does not concern me." I have no real respect for the imbecilic, ineptly animated program that bears the Digimon brand, nor do I share any empathy with the fools and idiots who enjoy it. I am unsure why you have e-mailed me about this question, and quite frankly it insults my intellectual capacity to even entertain the notion of answering something so idiotic.

I will say, however, that I do share a vociferous and violent hatred of "pirates," or as I like to call them, "freeloading, hippie scumbags." Rampant piracy on the Nintendo DS platform is the primary reason, as I understand, for the reason that the withholding, asinine slobs at Namco Bandai games refused to release North American ports of either Digimon Story: Lost Evolution, Digimon Story: Super Xros Wars Red, and of course, Digimon Story: Super Xros Wars Blue. Not that I have even the slightest of interest for the latter two; they are supposedly based on the Digimon Xros Wars cartoon series, and cartoons are for children and simpletons. I am neither.

Do not pirate the release of the Digimon Frontier DVD that is forthcoming, and potentially you will see future Digimon products released in North America. As though our country, governed by fools and cowards and populated by slobbering mongoloids, even deserves such a thing. Or maybe it does, since I haven't seen Digimon Frontier or Digimon Tamers. They're cartoons, as I've said. Cartoons or "anime" as you call it, insults my grand and impeccable intellect.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm quite done whiling away my precious time and mental acuity babysitting you and your foolish "Anime News Network." As Analogman put quite acutely in Digimon World (PSX): "Let's fight and see if slaves or friends are better."

Please don't e-mail me ever again. I despise casting intellectual pearls before swine.

"Want to know how to deal with all the alcoholics on Campus? Use a flamethrower. Theyll burn quickly. -Otis"

Uh, well! Thanks, Digimon Otis! I guess, uh, he's got a point - you want more Digimon, buy the ones that are out or forthcoming. Hopefully I can curry more favor with Otis; I can't get enough of that guy.

Hey Brian!

Is there any critical or editorial voice in Japanese media coverage? The recently departed ComicsAlliance has me thinking about the role of journalism in calling out social issues like sexism, racism, homophobia and more in media and the fandoms that surround them. Are there any progressive voices like that in Japanese news outlets or blogs?

Or is the Japanese otaku scene just pictorial fluff pieces in Newtype and those really upsetting 2chan posts that Sankaku Complex has from time to time?

Well, here's the thing: I did a lot of research to find such a thing, but I've yet to find anything truly concrete. I asked around to a lot of my industry pals and expatriates living in Japan, and they all told me that they themselves haven't heard of anything, but they wouldn't rule it out.

Personally, I'm pretty sure there is some sort of Japanese otaku analog to ComicsAlliance (R.I.P.), but it would hardly matter in regards to most of us fans here in the West. Primarily, because a) it would be in Japanese, and b) we've already got our editorial coverage, which is tailor-made for us Western anime fans. Such as myself, everyone else writing editorial for ANN, and dozens of other otaku culture blogs, podcasts, fanzines, you name it. The reason Sankaku Complex finds the weird stuff that it does is because 2chan is ubiquitous, and, like our 4chan, filled with the sort of brazen, sensationally gross crap that amuses and horrifies people on the outside.

Now, you may ask, why am I so confident that such a thing exists? I have no proof, clearly, and the otaku faithful of 2chan seem to have no aptitude for it. There's a kernel of truth to that, but here's my hunch - Japan has an active and thriving underground comics/manga and animation movement, not terribly dissimilar from our own. The terrific Mind Game was adapted by an underground manga by Robin Nishi. Looking outside of the comfy confines of weekly manga publications or anthologies by the major publishers like Kodansha or Shueisha, and there's a huge and interesting amount of work being created by edgy, boundary-pushing artists. Much like Western underground comics, these are produced as a direct counterpart to their "mainstream" brethren; instead of a polished product, these are wild, discordant, often divisive works of pop-culture that come from a place of dissatisfaction with the mainstream manga. These sorts of things cannot exist in an environment that would otherwise be blind to critical interpretations of anime and manga.

Plus, some of the most successful and transgressive anime and manga that's been produced has come from creators with the presence of mind to critically examine a lot of the tropes and symbolism inherent in their respective genres. Witness Gundam's bleak take on cartoon warfare fought by toys but won by actual human beings; Fullmetal Alchemist's rather blunt and unforgiving excoriation of Western military involvement in the Middle East. To say nothing of Evangelion, which took every Giant Robot cliche in the book and found a way to completely upend it.

One of the people I asked about this question was ANN friend Brian Ruh, who wrote a terrific book about Mamoru Oshii - and if there's one guy in the anime realm who does NOTHING BUT critically examine the sociopolitical elements inherent in the medium, it's Oshii. Every interview I've read with Oshii - and I try to read EVERY SINGLE ONE - is dripping with the moody thoughts of a frustrated but occasionally brilliant intellectual.

Basically, there's no shortage of people within the anime industry who do exactly what you're talking about. It's not on 2chan or in Megami, but so what? The same might be said of any Japanese fan of Hollywood movies looking for great film criticism, and is unable to find it from reading Entertainment Weekly and Ain't It Cool News. I think this is a fascinating question and I really do wish I had a definite source to point out, aside from making parallels to stuff that's already out there. But it has to exist, somewhere.

Wherever it is, though, don't expect it to turn into a funny Sankaku Complex post. Smart, savvy fans critically discussing their favorite shows doesn't have the same humor value as a guy snuggling in his PJ's with his dakimakura collection.

Speaking of media criticism, it's time for Hey, Answerfans! The segment where I set my criticism aside to let you, my faithful readers, chime/weigh in on topics of my own devise!

Last week, I wanted to hear from the oft-maligned yaoi and yuri fans regarding the state of their favorite genre!

We'll start with bystrouska, while wondering if he meant to say "the ball is in our court" or if indeed the ball was in his camp, and what the camp intends to do with that ball:

Hello Brian, bystrouska here, answering the clarion call as a yuri fan.

As a manga enthusiast, I think this is a very interesting time to be a yuri fan, although one's milage may very depending on one's location. I, for instance, live in France, where we have been lucky to see a rather spectacular surge of the genre in manga publishing these past few years, with, most notably, the launch of a new imprint, and a wealth of titles getting licensed. While yaoi has been pretty popular for quite a while now, for a long time there wasn't much in the way of yuri apart from Yamaji Ebine's work (and while I do have a very soft spot for her work, it's always nice to have a bit of variety, which wasn't the case until the late naughties). So when Taifu Comics (a publisher specialising in yaoi releases) launched its Yuri imprint a couple of years back, bringing us works by Morinaga Milk, Morishima Akiko, Shuninta Amano and a handful of others, let me tell you that I felt forever grateful to the self-professed fujoshis out there who made this possible by buying Taifu's yaoi releases! Other publishers have also licensed yuri titles under non-specific imprints: Asuka is releasing Shimura Takako's Aoi Hana, for instance, while Ikeda Takashi's Sasamekikoto is available from Clair de Lune. (Both series are usually filed under seinen at most book stores, rather than in the yaoi-yuri section.) So as far as yuri manga goes, we French readers have it pretty good right now (the state of yuri anime is, alas, much more dire at the moment).

Of course there is always room for improvement — these releases are often printed on mediocre paper at best, and in the case of Aoi Hana, rather poorly printed, and in the smallest regular tankoubon size, which doesn't do Shimura's art justice. Most of these releases also have typos and/or grammatical/spelling mistakes. However these are issues that affect all areas of manga publishing nowadays, not just yuri. And when it comes down to a choice between a slightly frustrating release and no release at all… well, I just bite down the bullet and shell out the cash, because if it means we can get more titles licensed here, then I will gladly support the effort.

Following the same train of thought, I followed the Jmanga adventure (and, sadly, its recent demise) with equal interest, taking a monthly subscription and using my points to purchase pretty much every one of their yuri releases, Sweet Blue Flowers included (even though I already own both the Japanese and French editions). I cannot even imagine how complicated it must have been to negociate global licenses, but I thought it was a worthy endeavour, and it got me thinking about the possibilities of digital publishing. However I don't think the French market is quite ready to take the plunge yet, as we are, by nature, very attached to the physical medium of ink on paper, but if/when a publisher gets around to exploring that particular venue, I will be sure to check it out and vote with my euros.

So, while the situation may not be ideal yet, it looks like more steps are being taken in the right direction everyday. Publishers are slowly but steadily building a reasonably diverse yuri offer. Right now it still mostly consists in an overwhelming majority of adolescent love stories, but Taifu's most recent licenses (Shuninta's Sweet Guilty Love Bites came out here in February, Satou and Kiduki's Ebisu & Hotei was just announced two days ago and slated for a June release) seem to hint at a possible extension to include more grown-up stories, a perspective that I, as a working thirty-something, find positively thrilling, to be honest. What we need the most right now is for the audience to be responsive and buy the books. We need to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. The ball is in our camp; it is our duty to send it back with enough momentum that it can be sent to us again. Then, only, can we start complaining about neglect.

Kayla is strong but composed:

As a yaoi fan, I feel a bit underserved in that there are very few yaoi animes. That being said, there's a ton of manga and OELs out there, more than enough to keep me happy, so I'm not really bothered by the lack of anime. Personally, I prefer reading manga to watching anime anyhow because it takes less time for me to get through the story, I don't have to worry about reading subtitles/listening to a bad dub, etc. I suppose the way I truly feel underserved, in regards to yaoi, is people assume if you're a yaoi fan you have to be gross or weird. People think this about anime fans in general, although it does seem that yaoi fans bear the brunt of this stigma within the community. To an extent, I can't say I blame anyone, because there are definitely yaoi fans out there who shove their love of this genre in people's faces and just make everyone nervous. Is there a way to alleviate this stigma? I suppose the only way to do that is to show people you can like yaoi without trying to force them to like it. Things are what they are, and until the very vocal part of the yaoi fandom dies down, there doesn't seem to be much anyone can do about it.

A.L has a... Sublime answer:

Hey there. As a Yaoi fan myself I feel like the genre is a little undeserved in the anime department. A lot of what is out there are one or two episode tie-ins to manga or straight up adaptation of the first chapter/tankoban that is meant as an advertisement of the source material but really only services the fans of said material.

Occasionally there will be a series, usually they become popular enough to get a few seasons, and for the most part American fans get to see these streaming but I do still feel like no one is listening when fans say they would buy a series. A great example is the recent Media Blasters facebook page request. They asked fans what boys love series they would like to see a physical set for but when shows like World's Greatest First Love or Kyo Kara Moah came up, shows with established fans and lengthy runs, Media Blasters responded with a no on the grounds of being labeled a license rescue company. As a fan who waited patently while they moved Ai no Kusabi back further and further I sort of felt like they were just trying to cash in on that illusion of a super popular sub-genre that you mentioned in last weeks answer.

That being said I am happy that companies are at least paying attention to yoai and yuri fans. We have great releases like Maria-sama, Simoun, and Junjo Romantica in the anime department and though there is a lot of shlock in regards to manga there are gems out there like Men of Tattos, In These Words, and The Heart of Thomas. I do think it would be nice to see yuri fans getting support in the digital manga department. Sublime seems to be doing ok with the digital set up.

Hey, my name is Brian too, and I'm publishing your answer:

I'm Brian, and I'm a huge yuri fan.

With regards to anime, I think the situation is okay. Almost all the actual yuri is available for legal streaming, and we get a fair number of disc releases. Of course, I'd love to own more, but all in all, we're doing pretty well.

I think the manga market is a bigger problem. It's been wonderful to get Moringa Milk's work through Seven Seas, but disappointing that the options are so slim outside of that. I realize that physical manga publishing is going through rough times, but it would be great to see high profile yuri titles like Aoi Hana or Sasameki Koto available in bookstores. (We've seen releases in other countries, such as a French release for Aoi Hana.)

More than anything, I think the best way to serve our audience right now would be to expand the digital offerings of yuri titles. JManga had very good luck with this market segment, but now that they've folded, the pickings are slim indeed. Digital Manga has picked up a few of Shimura's works, but other than that, there's nothing out there. It would be fantastic to have yuri options available on eManga that are comparable to their yaoi options, or to have something like our own SuBLime manga. I really do think that there are opportunities here, and want to see them taken.

Obviously, as fans of the genre, we need to do our own part, and actually pay for the releases we do get. I just there to be more for me to buy in the first place!

We'll end with VZMk2, because honestly I'm so shocked by him I don't think I can keep typing for much longer:

As a MALE yuri fan (shocking, I know), I do feel I'm underserved when it comes to the lack of yuri manga/anime being released in English language. Where's titles such Yuru Yuri (besides Jmanga's digital version) and Kanamemo? Then there's of course 18+ yuri which is almost non existent.

While I do agree that I don't think that there's a YURI vs YAOI thing going on, it can be perceived to be that due to how little yuri material is released compared to yaoi today.

Looks like much of you yaoi/yuri fans have already taken Digimon Otis' advice about purchasing, not pirating, to heart. Good to know. I'll make sure to tell Otis. Even though he'll probably call me a "drooling malcontent" again, and start ranting about Hamas. Ah well. Still love the guy.

So, what's up next time? Well folks, there's a new streaming/crowdfunding initiative in the anime realm, so of course, I'm curious what you guys think about it!

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.

Much love to everybody who wrote in with questions and responses this week! Want to get it on the Answer-action? Just drop me an email over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Until next time, NO SPOILING THIS STAR TREK MOVIE UNTIL AFTER I SEE IT AND AM DISAPPOINTED AND/OR ELATED!

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