Hey, Answerman! - Hen-Timeby Brian Hanson, Jun 7th 2013
Hello there, internet-friends! Welcome to another Hey, Answerman! Another weekly dose of informative chaos that I have cultivated from my Inbox of Queries!
I have some solid stuff to impart this week, so let's get down to it:
So yeah there's all these manga reader sites out there blah blah, that's all been gone over before. But there was something that irked me recently, about a particular subset that usually gets ignored in the larger anime/manga community.
It's about hentai.
...b-b-but wait! Maybe give this a look, and tell me if this would ever fly if any other manga site did this.
There's a particularly large and prominent hentai manga scan site (it's FAKKU), although it has dabbled in anime streaming. It's possibly the most legit looking and functional manga reading site I've ever seen. Pair that with their Wikipedia entry that reads like ad copy and makes absolutely no mention of the legality of its content, and I wouldn't be shocked if people took it to be as official as Crunchyroll.
And they took a stab at being the Crunchyroll of hentai, when they got a streaming deal for one show through a US distributor (Kitty Media, the division of Media Blasters - that show is Immoral Sisters). The episodes are still up, but there hasn't been anything else for two years, so I assume it didn't work out. As they sold the DVD for the show on their store, they continued to put up manga that obviously was there without permission.
Alright, so to get to the point after the whole backstory: As noted above, they have a store. They've sold a range of things, from t-shirts bearing their brand, to doujinshi and visual novels picked up in Japan. And English language hentai manga published in America, although it's not clear to me how aware (involved?) the respective companies are.
And then you've got some things being sold as a clear result of working with someone. Some artists and t-shirt designers, sure, but still young enough that it's little surprise. But recently they started selling anime-related board and card games from a certain company (Japanime Games, known for Tanto Cuore and the Lupin the 3rd board game), and it's apparent that it's a result of actually setting something up directly with them.
So you've got a situation where a company is totally cool with selling their official products on a store that gets its traffic primarily from obviously pirated content. And, also, it appears as if all the fans are cool with this too.
On top of that, the site's creator and his collaborators regularly go to, and get invited to conventions, running panels and selling goods. He's made a name for himself on this. And it seems everyone is totally OK with that. Part of it appears to be the assumption that they're not making a profit, but that's not terribly clear when they have a store, and obviously in this case, at least one board game manufacturer stands to.(Not to mention, profitable or not, they're still getting money from visitors drawn in by manga they don't have permission for)
Wouldn't people be up in arms if this kind of thing were going on with a, well, non-porn pirate-y manga reader site? I know, maybe it's filth or whatever, but it's still the hard work of many being exploited without permission or compensation, and I'm not sure I've ever seen this level of exploitation go so totally unquestioned. It seems like that extra layer of shame is enough that those who would be concerned aren't paying attention, and those remaining either don't care or are dissuaded since, bah, it's just porn anyway!
This all sounds rather damning, so I looked into it a bit, and here's what I think.
On the one hand, yup, those sure are some scanlations, and by any metric of copyright, they're most definitely skirting the law, there. On the other hand, the porn industry - and more specifically, the marketability to legally sell or distribute hentai - was basically decimated by piracy in general. The simple fact remains that at least they're trying to offer a few things like merchandise, and legally streaming a small handful of titles isn't bad, considering they could just as easily not do that. There is some money there that's going into the right places.
The whole thing feels sadly... neutral. Chaotic Neutral, in D&D Alignment terms, I guess.
Look, though; in order to make a living selling porn, you have to be quick-witted and crafty. That's the sort of person the industry attracts. I don't think I'm going to blow anyone's mind when I say that the history of selling pornography in this country has always been a little bit shady, but in the grand scheme of things, what FAKKU is doing feels like small potatoes. I ran this question by Justin Sevakis, and he made this astute point:
Justin: Hentai manga is also something that has never really been a viable business in the US. While several companies have dipped their toe into those waters over the years, that industry has been regularly held back by a lack of stores: no major bookstore chain, nor Amazon will stock the stuff, and there are but a few comic book shops left that will carry outright filth. (Yaoi, by virtue of being for girls, for some reason flew under the radar for a while in some places.)
Stopping short of the brilliantly weird decision to book Legend of the Overfiend in movie theaters, hentai has, for as long as I've been a fan in the early-aughts, been a pervasively internet-based community. While hentai manga in Japan is a thriving business, where there's monthly magazines devoted to it, not to mention the still-booming Doujinshi culture, it has been nothing but a hard sell in the US since its inception. You can still find a couple hentai releases on DVD, but that too has shrunk drastically since the DVD boom. Even in Japan, production of Hentai anime has virtually ground to a halt.
In a way, yes, "it is just porn anyway." And there would be righteous outrage if anything like this happened anywhere else in the anime and manga world. But at least before the uprising of manga scanlation aggregators and the collapse of chain bookstores, there was a thriving market for anime and manga that was demonstrably damaged by such behavior. Hentai's never been so lucky.
It's not so much as I'm willing to turn a blind eye to it, and more that I'm kind of surprised that anybody's thought of a way to put any money from an internet hentai site and give it back to the license holders. It's inert.
I read somewhere that the company Pony Canon was starting an anime adaptation competition, where if someone submits a novel/manga/illustration/music, and it is chosen, it could become an anime. You see, I love writing, so I thought if I submitted a story, maybe I could win? (not likely, but it's worth a shot). Here's my conundrum though: Do they accept foreign submissions? And if they do, how do I find a translator to translate it into Japanese? And after all that, where do I even submit my entry?
ALRIGHT, LISTEN UP FOLKS, THIS PART IS IN ALL-CAPS SO THAT I CAN MAKE THIS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR:
FOR ALL OF YOU PEOPLE WHO WRITE IN WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT, ASKING ME HOW I CAN GET YOU IN TOUCH "WITH JAPAN" TO MAKE YOUR ANIME AND MANGA IDEA A REALITY, IT'S NOW YOUR LUCKY DAY!
Uh, kind of. EITHER WAY YOU CAN STOP ASKING ME ABOUT IT! For a little while, at least. I hope.
So, here's the scoop: In case any of you missed it, if you follow all the rules laid out on the contest page, you get a cool one-million yen cash prize, and the "opportunity" to get your idea made into an anime. Key word there - "opportunity." From the sounds of things, you're not necessarily guaranteed to get an anime made with your name on it. But, contests like these are pretty rare, and the lineup of judges - including bigwigs at A1 Pictures and Production I.G - looks legit. There's also nothing in the rules, as far as I can tell, that prohibits foreign entries. All it says is that "text-based submissions need to be in the Japanese language."
Here's what you gotta do: be incredibly fluent in Japanese. Failing that, hire an awesome translator who understands anime and manga as well as you do. Also, have a really cool, original, unique idea. No Naruto fanfiction. No derivative ripoffs.
So, you've got a lot of work cut out for you. But, September 2nd is quite a while away. You've got time, so get to work. And now, some things to consider before you get too cocky about this:
Realize that you'll be competing with a largely Japanese audience, who are all natively skilled at the language. If you submit an idea and its poorly-translated, confusing garbage, expect the judges to throw it away outright. And finally, and this is going to sound mean, but I say this honestly; every single person I've met, who one day "dreams" to have an anime produced based on their original ideas, tend to have the most boring and derivative ideas I've ever heard. It's a similar problem that plagued a lot of the OEL manga that drenched bookstore shelves oh so many years ago; so many of them were carbon-copy, soulless pastiches of already derivative anime, manga, comic books, and genre television. I'm not saying that ALL OEL manga were like that - there were a couple that broke out of that mold and became their own thing, like DramaCon - far too many of them read and felt like a Buffy the Vampire Slayer spec-script with familiar anime stuff thrown in. So, just for clarification - the Japanese producers most likely haven't seen stuff like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Supernatural, or any other thing that seems to have infected niche genre fiction over the years in the West.
So, do something else. Do something creative. When it comes to these contests, you've got a much better chance of at least making an impression, if not winning, by going for broke and creating something interesting. Try that, everybody.
But of course do make sure that it's presented in top-notch Japanese, and you don't just feed it into a Google Translator and expect them to do anything but laugh.
Good luck, everyone! Now you can stop bugging me!
One thing that's bothered me since the tail of the pre-cancelation Saturday midnight run of Toonami is how, even when Toonami is exclusively in the middle of Adult Swim and under the purview of Williams Street (AS and CN are technically separate channels so AS doesn't have to conform to certain regulations and standards and practices placed on childrens' networks), none of the of shows seem to correspond to any of the other programming on Adult Swim and of the current shows with new episodes (with the exception of Deadman) correspond to the old midnight run and the reruns are largely in a later and more mature timeslot than the were before cancellation. Overall, the current block seems to resemble CN's old Friday night lineup, with a lot of middle-of-the-range shonen action. Previously, the midnight run was still action, but seemed to be stuff that, like the rest of AS, straddled the shonen-seinen border (moving across it as the night wore on, just as AS slowly moves from King of the Hill to Superjail to the truly weird stuff like T&E). This brings me to my question: what info and conjecture do you have on how AS selects its shows, and why it never seems to have anything to do with any other programming or the exec's own tastes? I've noticed that all its shows seem to be Funimation, but that could be market dominance rather than contractual exclusivity. Why isn't there more depraved, semi-seinen comedy bearing a resemblance to Williams Street favorite FLCL on Toonami? You'd think they'd jump on Desert Punk, Angel Beats, Panty and Stocking, Is this a Zombie, Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei, or Penguindrum, or some of the mediocre but weird stuff constantly coming out of Japan (I'm still wondering how they're not just showing Dead Leaves every week instead of shows).
Ah, everything old is new again! "WHY ISN'T TOONAMI SHOWING THIS???" "WHY ISN'T ADULT SWIM SHOWING THAT???" Oh, early-to-mid-2000's. It's cute to see some of your detritus show up again.
Here's the deal with the "New Toonami": it was a way to re-brand Adult Swim's overnight Saturday dead-air. That's all it is.
And boy, if you think that the network only programs things "to the exec's own taste," you couldn't be more wrong. I believe that one of Adult Swim's senior producers, who was instrumental in the development of Big O season 2, called Code Geass "terrible," and flat-out remarked that all of the other anime programs Adult Swim was airing at the time were not his "cup of tea."
Nobody, at any network, anywhere, would dare to program things exclusively to suit their own personal taste. That's a good way to build a home DVD library, but a terrible way to create a diverse lineup of shows. Right now, "New Toonami" is playing things pretty safe; they just picked up Sword Art Online for Christ's sake, which is as generically appropriate for US broadcast as an anime series can get. (Except for the weird, gross stuff at the end.) Why isn't there "more depraved" stuff on the network? Let's go down your list: Desert Punk? That show is poorly-animated and kind of awful. Angel Beats is "depraved"? Huh? Either way, it's far too Otaku-centric. Not that that's a bad thing, and the show is great, but it's not a good fit for any major cable network. Panty & Stocking could work I suppose, but I'd imagine that Adult Swim is still reeling from the pain of airing Super Milk-Chan. Is This A Zombie? is also too Otaku-centric, and also not very funny. There's also not a whole lot of "action" to it. Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei is kind of the polar opposite of everything Toonami stands for. No real "action" to speak of, just a lot of a sad dude and some upbeat kids and weird imagery. And Penguindrum? That one could work, I guess. But considering that Adult Swim is primarily focused on a male demographic, that could be a hindrance.
I guess I don't get why people are still doing this sort of thing. Why doesn't Toonami show this thing, or that thing? Because, people: there's a reason you're not in charge of a major cable network, and they are. To an extent, they know what they're doing. They're trying, rather desperately, to get any relatively sizable audience to pay attention to cartoons that they show in the middle of the night on a Saturday. They have their methods, and they tend to work out for them.
Hopefully you're still around after all those angry words about Toonami, but hear me out! You'll no longer have to hear me out, because it's time for Hey, Answerfans!
Last week, feeling the pinch from E3's forthcoming internet omnipresence, I... I acquiesced to its whims, and formatted it into a question for my column.
Let's start with Josh, and by the way I'm coming over to your house with some GBAs, a link cable, and three friends to play Four Swords:
When it comes to video games, I admit that I'm a bit of a weird duck. The newest console I own is my GameCube (no Wii, Xbox 360, or PS3), and I've found that I've been playing more and more PC games lately (thanks to Steam, GOG, and Desura). Part of it is a money thing, but another part is a rather large lack of interest on my part in console gaming. For one, many of the console exclusive games I was interested in have made their way to PC (Brutal Legend, Castle Crashers, Dust: An Elysian Tail, etc. Now if we can only get Journey on Steam...) For two, I just haven't been as excited about this last (seventh) generation, and it's taken this long for me to even decide that each system might be worth getting because they finally have 10 or so decent games I'm interested in. Just the way I feel. The other recent development in my game buying habits is waiting. Why bother buying a game new when I can just wait a few years and get the "Complete/GOTY/Ultimate Collection" edition for $20, and have just as much fun? Because of this, I haven't touched Skyrim or Borderlands 2, but I'm in no hurry. I've got plenty of video games to play in the meantime. (For crying out loud, I still have my NES, SNES, Genesis, N64, Dreamcast, PS2 (which plays my PS1 games), and GameCube with a GameBoy Player, and I haven't beaten all of those games either. And let's not talk about my ever-growing and dust-gathering Steam library.)
ANYWAYS! When I look at these new consoles, I admit that I feel quite a bit of apathetic disgust. I get the impression that the games industry expects us to only be interested in the newest, shiniest games, features, and systems, and that we'll only play through our video games once, needing the newer and shinier things mere months later. Maybe there is a sizable, profitable demographic that feeds on this, but it isn't me. (Seriously not down with draconian always-online, DRM, and used game policies.) Not everybody gets the system Day One. What if I get mine four years from now and I want some out-of-print game? Are you really going to punish me just because I can't afford Day One prices? Because I don't want to commit to a system without knowing there are more than a handful of worthwhile games? Because I don't have to have the lastest and greatest right now to have a fulfilling and meaningful time with my video games?
As for watching anime on consoles, I guess I feel it's a bit redundant. I mostly watch anime on my computer (which at the moment is a beastly 19" laptop with a Blu-Ray player), and I'm under the impression that anything I could watching through a console I could get online. And if I did get a big-screen television to watch anime on, these days it just might come with those features installed without having to buy another box to do so. If not, I'm sure I could just hook up my computer to it and go from there.
Essentially, I feel that everything this new generation consoles is offering falls into two categories: either I already have it in some way, or I'm just not interested in it. At this point, it's going to have to be about the games (which is what it should be about anyways), but since it took six-some-odd years for me to start thinking about getting their last systems, I doubt it will be anytime soon.
Knick Knack Paddy Whack, Throw Ian an XBone:
Well, let me start off with the Xbone, err, Xbox One. I'm not a big fan of what I've been hearing in regards to that lately. DRM/Always-online, no used games, required Kinect (that can see in the dark, shudder.) If Microsoft wants my money, they should hurry up and dispel my fears.
In regards to the PS4, it looks alright. I'll definitely use Crunchyroll and hopefully Neon Alley should it support them, though I don't see why it wouldn't. Sony hasn't said alot to get me excited, unless Killzone really gets your blood pumping. We'll have to wait for E3.
Overall, I think I'll focus on my Wii U for now. I've always enjoyed Nintendo games the most, and what they've got in store for their next conference has me stoked. Fire Emblem and SMT? YES PLEASE!
I second Matthew: GOOD JOB, FACELESS CORPORATIONS!
I'm getting more excited for this new generation of games as we get further into the year and I'm pretty much already sold on the PlayStation 4. I use my PS3 for video just as much as games and I can't imagine Sony wouldn't carry over their current video services for PS3 onto the PS4, including Crunchyroll. However, I don't expect the video services to differ much from PS3 to PS4, as all that extra horsepower probably won't make Attack on Titan any more incredibly awesome than it already is. I'm not really sure how watching a movie or TV show could be made better by hundreds of more ‘bits’ (what are we getting to, like 512 bit systems?). I have no interest in gathering in a virtual living room to ‘share’ my video watching experience with others, and I think sharing a screen of a movie or TV show over the internet would probably violate some sort of archaic copyright rule. I guess more choices could come about with this new generation. Maybe a Funimation channel on PS4 to go along with Crunchyroll? Or, and this is just me thinking out loud, being able to download/stream anime with your choice of sub or dub (since it seems to be an either/or choice currently)?
So I'd be fine if the status quo was retained in this new generation as far as video is concerned. Streaming and downloading in hi-def is great, keep it up, faceless mega-corporations. What I really want to see advancements in is the games, and that first advancement can be the utter destruction of quick time events in every game made forevermore.
Your fellow Los Angeleno (and E3 rat)
And lastly, here's Ol' Joe "Worrywart" T, worrying and warting all over the place:
You asked what we think of the reveals of the consoles from Sony and Microsoft. I'm... nervous. The TV functions of the XBox One (I honestly think they could have come up with a better name, but that's neither here nor there), while nifty, aren't exactly useful to me. I don't pay for cable or satalite, so the function quite simply wouldn't work. That being said, it's not something I'm going to complain about either, because I'm sure there are people who WILL get use out of it, and who am I to fault something they enjoy. If there are more convenient ways to watch anime legally though, I'm all for it. The record/share functions of the PS4 and One are nifty, even if I may never end up really using them. Regardless, they do have their uses. And the controllers both look great. I do not, however, care much at all for the forced use of the Kinect with the One.
But that's not what makes me nervous. I like being able to pop in a game with no worries about having to be online to authenticate or to link a game to my account. Microsoft has said a great many things in their attempts to control the flames that have sprung up in the aftermath of their conference. The VP said 24 hour check-ins soon after the conference. Then another PR person said that wasn't true, and someone else said this, or that, and in the end, it's like we, the fans, have been getting the run around. They've been discussing these issues raised by gamers, but never giving us a straight answer on them. And there's speculation Sony may try something similar in terms of DRM. But I do like to play older games too. If I have to link a game to my account and periodically check in, what happens in 15 to 20 years when servers get shut down? Will I still be able to play my games? Do these systems become fancy bluray players? Or do they become bricks.
My SNES (RIP) lasted me a great long while, and I can still play the games if (more like when) I choose to replace it. My (Pikachu edition) N64 is still alive and kicking, as is my PS1 and my Dreamcast. I had to replace my PS2 several years back due to a dying laser, but I can still play my games no problem. My worry is that this generation is going to be the end of my ability to pick up and play a game ages from now without having to buy a game I already own. I feel like my freedoms as a gamer are being crushed because of a few bad apples (the pirates), and I, as a fair and honest gamer, am being treated like the criminal. And I think they're blowing the used game market out of proportion (I know many people who've gotten into a series they otherwise wouldn't have thanks to a blind used game purchase, but that's not the main topic here). Hopefully E3 can alleviate these concerns, but until then, I'm a worrywart.
Thanks guys! Here's to the following week full of over-indulgence of videogame information and stirred, pointless debates on NeoGAF and Twitter!
And SPEAKING of spoiling large amounts of information to a rabid fanbase, here's next week's question, inspired by a certain Red Wedding on a certain Television Programme I watched last Sunday:
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.
I'm all out of Content for my Personal Brand this week, so until next week, make sure to stuff my email full of questions, answers and other fun stuff! Email me at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Toodles!
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