Why Are All The Parents Dead?

by Justin Sevakis,

Mitsuki asks:

I was having a discussion (and by "discussion" I meant Tumblr post) about truly godawful cartoons, and someone brought up "Super Duper Sumos", and posted an image. Thing is, I noticed something utterly peculiar on the top right corner, "ADV Kidz", yes, with a Z. I would have written it off as a coincidence, except it was indeed a colorful version of the ADV Films logo, same font and everything. Did ADV also dabble in licensing crappy Canadian cartoons alongside their anime at one point? What is the "ADV Kidz" imprint? Even their kid targeted stuff like Hello Kitty and Medabots still carried the regular ADV logo, at least the ones I've seen.

Through most of the DVD era, ADV Films could be seen experimenting with different home video markets, including in the occasional kids' property. Most obviously there were the kid-oriented anime such as Hello Kitty or Monster Rancher. In their crazypants rush to expand their product lines in the early 2000s, they could also be seen experimenting with toys, music CDs, magazines, and -- as you point out -- a dedicated non-anime kids' home video line. (Anything that was still technically anime was usually still under the standard ADV Films banner.) Then when the anime bubble burst and the home video market went bust, these brands were quickly jettisoned. Most of them were dead weight anyway.

The ADV Kidz line was doomed from the start. Children's home video product is heavily dependent on physical retail shelf space, and most of the places that stocked kids' video, like TOYS R US and Walmart, had most of its shelf space dedicated to established brands such as Disney, Nickelodeon and Sony Wonder. Unless you had something that everybody wanted (like Pokémon), it was very difficult to break into a position where you could be seen. Additionally, the ADV Kidz line never really had any "A" titles -- it was mostly stuff nobody had ever heard of, like Super Duper Sumos and a treacly Korean anime called Michel.

You can't blame ADV for wanting to diversify, but that was simply a line of products that didn't work.

Para asks:

Jinto (anohana) Mother dead, Taiga & Ryuuji (Toradora!) both father's missing, Sailor soldiers (Sailor Moon) pretty much all parents dead except Usagi's, Mai (Mai Hime) both parents dead, Ohana (Hana-Saku Iroha) - dead father, Minami-ke sisters - no mention of parents. Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, CLANNAD, Kanon and countless others have their fair share of dead or missing one or both parents. What is it with authors and their constant one or no parent families for main characters in their stories? I know some authors do this for plot reasons but others just seem to randomly kill off a parent for no real reason or consequence. I do wonder why?

There's almost certainly some amount of laziness at work here -- the dead/absentee parent is basically as much of an anime trope at this point as the story being about high school kids. That said, there's something of a rule when it comes to writing about kids, and that is that parents usually get in the way. For most stories, it's important that the main characters be in control of their own lives, make choices, and generally have freedom to get into trouble or have adventures. When parents are active and present in a child's life, they often dramatically limit the amount of freedom that child has.

To use Naruto as an example (simply because most of us know it), how different would the story, and Naruto himself, be if he had parents around? He'd have a curfew, would get grounded for being a slacker student, and would never be allowed to wander off in the night or go on weeks-long excursions. No parent in their right mind would allow their kid to be a soldier, or a warrior of any stripe. That would be no fun to watch, and a giant killjoy in a story that's meant to allow for a young person's flight of fancy to wander off.

Part of what makes anime such effective escapist entertainment, especially for young people, is that it allows us to experience the life of a character that's much more action-packed, dangerous, and interesting than our own. Having parents around would stick a pin in that fantasy life pretty quick. So for writers and artists, they are left with two options: kill off the parents, or reduce them to barely-there non-entities, Peanuts-style. And if they have an option that gives their protagonist some sort of angsty, tragic past, you can bet they'll probably opt for that one.

Brandon asks:

Does Funimation only have the rights to streaming the anime they're producing simul-dubs for? If they also have the rights to publishing the dub on DVD/Blu-Ray, is there a process in which they will put together the final product, i.e. redub some of the lines, using the Japanese DVD/Blu-Ray product and not the Japanese broadcast versions they are receiving, and when they are allowed to publish and release the anime in physical form? I am almost certain Fall 2014's Psycho-Pass season 2 and Laughing Under the Clouds may have already been released in their physical form in Japan already.

While the particulars of each contract are, of course, confidential, the simultaneous dubbing you're seeing from Funimation is part of a trend in licensing. Increasingly, ALL the rights to each new show are being bought before they air. That means, if Funimation is doing a dub, chances are pretty good that they have, or at least are fairly sure they have, all the other rights to that show as well.

It is unlikely that they will announce these rights ahead of time, for a few reasons. There may be something in the contract that allows them to bail out of a license if the show turns out to be a dog. Also, nearly every license these days requires a certain amount of time to pass before they can release a Blu-ray or DVD in the US, so that Japan can produce and sell a decent number of their crazy expensive discs first. Once the Japanese fans have the ability to import a cheaper American disc, many of them will do so, and Japan has to protect their home market.

Simultaneous dubbing is very difficult, and exhausting for everybody involved. When it comes time to do a home video release, it's near certain that small tweaks will happen if their schedule allows. And if the Japanese home video masters have changed the visuals to the point where the audio needs adjusting (which is rare), they'll need to go back and tweak that session before releasing it again.

Mark asks:

I have a pretty simple question. About how long prior to a show airing does animation production start? So not pre-production meetings or voice acting or anything like that, but the artists sitting down and drawing the whole dang thing. How much of a lead time do these artists need to be able to produce a 12 episode anime? Is 24 episodes just twice as much time? I realize each anime will be different, but a rough estimate would be interesting to know.

Unfortunately this is one of those questions where the reader is hoping for some definitive, hard and fast rule, and there basically isn't one. Anime production schedules are highly elastic, based on both the budget and the level of ambition of the production -- as well as, frankly, how organized and/or sane the people producing it are. Ideally, planning and pre-production (things like writing, storyboarding, finding talent to be on staff for the project, design work, etc.) starts a year or more before the first episode is scheduled to air. The first bit of animation is a little hard to pin down, since some test animation is often done early on by the core team of animators, both for promotion and to attract investment in the project. Some of this animation usually finds its way into the final product.

There are several teams of animators that each take on one episode at a time, and rotate between them as their schedules allow. (Shirobako has a great depiction of this.) As one episode is finished, the team moves onto the next episode in their pile. Unfortunately that means that if they're running late on one episode, the next one gets a later start, and so scheduling issues tend to cascade, resulting in production running notoriously behind schedule towards the end of a run. Occasionally a special team will be brought in to do a single episode, either as a pinch-hitter, or as a special event.

A really ambitious show will allot 3 months or more of production to each episode, but that's not the norm for most anime. For an average TV series each team will start with two months or more to complete each episode, but after a few episodes schedule creep sets in, and start date will slip later and later. Some episodes will get seven weeks. Then six. There are times when whole episodes are produced in as little as four or five weeks. With digital animation, it's getting easier to cover up quick-and-shoddy animation with effects like lighting, mist, different coloring, and impressive-looking CG layers that are cleverly re-positioned and re-rendered from earlier episodes.

Yet another reminder that this business flies by the seat of its pants.

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 real, strange stories from the anime business, Tales of the Industry.

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