Drug Induced Stupid

by Justin Sevakis,

I start this column with a public service announcement: herbal supplements are basically unregulated medicine. Drug interactions are really really not good.

It all started last Saturday. My stomach didn't feel so good, so I took my usual sleep aid, a capsule of valerian root, and went to bed. Maybe because of the gastronomical weirdness, maybe because it was a new package of valerian root, but I ended up waking up with fitful chaos dreams, the sort where you wake up in a cold, confused sweat because you can't quite build ancient catacombs in your mind.

Anyway, at 4 AM I thought, "god, this feels almost like a panic attack. Let's see, the sedatives my doctor prescribed me for my overseas flight were also supposed to be anti-anxiety..." So I popped one and went back to sleep. I didn't even think about the STRONG HERBAL SLEEP AID I TOOK THREE HOURS EARLIER.

I don't remember Sunday at all. I think I got up a few times to drink water, pee, and adjust the thermostat.

Monday is kind of a blur too. I was a mess for most of this week, in fact. I just managed to eat a full, normal-sized meal again for the first time on Wednesday. Words cannot adequately convey how stupid I feel.

Luckily, most of the knowledge I have for you this week are facts I came to much easier than that.

Nick asks:

The process of securing the rights to and then adapting a manga, light novel, etc. into an anime has been described in much detail. That being said, there are certain cases where the opposite happens--an original anime is made that later gets adapted into one or more manga series. One genre where this happens somewhat frequently is the mecha genre (although I am sure there are others). Series such as Gundam SEED, Gundam Wing, and Valvrave the Liberator come to mind. I was wondering if you could shed some light on the licensing process that comes into play in this scenario. How does a manga writer secure rights from the anime studio to adapt the series? Is doing so harder or easier than an anime production studio obtaining the rights to an original manga? Are any manga/light novel adaptations of an original anime commissioned by the studio itself?

Amusingly enough, manga are made out of anime often for the exact same reason anime are made out of manga: promotion! It's easier to sell one when the other is prominent, and the customer is reminded of a particular property often, they're more likely to buy, and when they do, they'll likely buy everything -- anime, manga, toys, games... everybody wins.

The actual business of it varies a lot, but here's the long and short of it: usually the show's producer will reach out to a publishing office to talk about a new original project coming up. Or a publisher will be on a production committee, and as part of that, gets to develop a manga around the show's original concept. The script might be done, it might not be, but if they think the new show would benefit from having a companion manga, maybe the publisher has a new, untested young artist that isn't quite ready to tell their own original story, but can draw decently and won't fight too hard for their own ideas. If it'd be better for the manga to go off in a different direction, that can be worked out by the manga editor. Ideally, the manga runs in the magazines around the same time the DVDs hit stores. Fans would buy both and chat endlessly about the differences between the two. It would be a beautiful thing.

As we all know, sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the story REALLY isn't done, and that manga artist is just forced to wing it entirely, and the manga ends up being almost entirely unrelated. Sometimes the show's producer is willing to just let the manga artist go off in different directions and see what they can come up with. (Who knows, if it works, it could be a sequel or spinoff anime!) Sometimes these artists drop the ball or end up being barely able to pull off the job. Anime studios are the gensakusha (original creators) here, and while they technically get to sign off on everything, they're usually are nowhere near as tightly wound about that as the manga artists get.

But the conditions under which these adaptations take place really run the gamut. Gundam manga usually must stand up to very particular scrutiny, both in terms of mecha designs and in terms of story. And of course you have manga like Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's Evangelion manga, which, as one of the original creators, he gets to enjoy a pretty amazing level of autonomy with. But those are the exceptions. Mostly the manga ends up being somewhat disposable pablum at best. Does anyone remember the multiple manga versions of Escaflowne? Didn't think so.

Sarah asks:

I've noticed that with every passing anime season there is a certain correlation between what gets licensed by a company and the animation studio that produced that particular anime. My two biggest examples (although I do have many more) for this is that Aniplex always seems to license the shows by Shaft, the Monogatari series, Madoka Magica, Nisekoi, and now Mekaku City Actors. Funimation on the other hand always seems to go with Bones, such as Soul Eater, FMA, Space Dandy, and Noragami. Now I know there are exceptions to this rule, but I can generally predict who will license what based on the studios. I'm wondering what is the reason behind this? Is it because the companies know they work well together and are more likely to cooperate, or is there some other reason I am unaware of for this? Or am I over thinking it and it's just a coincidence?

You're missing a giant, important piece of the puzzle in the middle, there: the show's PRODUCER. You know, the people that own the show, control the show, license the show, and generally run things? They're kinda important.

In Aniplex's case, they ARE the show's producer. In Japan, Aniplex is the one deciding which animation studio to hire for each new show, and they work with a lot of them. They own A-1 Pictures, and do work quite a bit with SHAFT, but by no means can SHAFT only work for Aniplex. Generally, the animation studio really doesn't have much of a say in anything. They're just doing work for hire. Most of the well-known Bones shows, including the ones you mentioned, are actually produced by Bandai Visual.

We all know what Aniplex is doing Stateside, so let's not revisit that topic again. Bandai Visual has decided to work with Funimation quite a bit these days, after the closure of Bandai Entertainment. So that's why those shows by specific animation houses tend to end up at specific US publishers. It's not a direct relationship, just a matter of who certain producers like dealing with.

Daniel asks:

I live in Japan, and most of the anime I watch is DVRed straight off of Japanese TV. This allows me to replay lines I didn't catch the first (or second or third) time, and also follow along with Japanese subtitles that can be turned on or off for most TV anime. Not everything has subs (Hyouka didn't), but most Jump shows have 'em, anything on NHK has 'em, and Noitamina shows have 'em, too. So why is it that these subs -- which have already been created for the broadcasts -- so seldom appear on the Japanese home video releases? Do the companies just not need money from the hard of hearing, or something?

A combination of things. Laziness. Not a whole lot of people really asking for them. A salaryman culture pervasive in Japan where if you're not specifically told to do something you tend not to even question if you should be doing it.

Japanese DVDs and Blu-rays are so expensive by our standards that it seems pretty appalling to us how barebones some of them can be. The deluxe ones are very nice, of course, and the encoding quality is usually beyond reproach, but when there are closed captions out there, why not use them? It would, after all, make anime more accessible to the hearing disabled.

There are probably some technical reasons why it's a pain in the butt. I've never had to deal with Japanese closed captions (which use a different system, as their digital broadcast method is significantly different than ours), but rendering out subtitles from a closed captions file isn't all that difficult.

I wish there were a better answer for this, but there really isn't.

Jason asks:

Why are manga shrinkwrapped and slapped with "for mature readers 18+" stickers but regular books aren't? Is it because they have pictures? I thought at first it was just a suggestion, until I was straight-up refused purchase of Berserk at Barnes and Noble because I'm sixteen and didn't have a parent. I would be able to buy Fifty Shades of Grey just fine, albeit without a weird look or two from the cashier, so why are manga any different? (I've never seen a manga as graphic as some erotica, at least ones sold in a mainstream bookstore.)

For some reason, as freaked out as parents get about sex and nudity in this country, nobody ever seems to care that much about their kids reading smut. Comic smut is different, of course: there are pictures. To be fair, when I was 12 and trolling for whatever printed nudity I could find (the Internet was not yet much of a thing), I sure as hell wasn't thinking of lingering in the romance section of Barnes and Nobles, looking for flowery descriptions of a towering, ravenous figure gazing longingly into the transfixed eyes of the young maiden has his hand caressed her silky thighs, or somesuch.

It's kind of amusing, really. Text porn seems to be the one kind of porn that nobody in America seems all that scandalized by. It's been the preferred media for female titillation for centuries. The Internet has been drenched in absolutely filthy stories since nearly its inception. But I don't think I've heard of a single cautionary warning, scandal or parental scare about reading books with graphic sexual descriptions, at least not in my lifetime. Americans were too terrified of their kids reading comic books.

So, to summarize... Porn is bad, but not as bad as illiteracy? Wait, that doesn't sound right...

And that's all for this week! Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!)

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap, and check out his bi-weekly column on obscure old stuff, Pile of Shame.

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