Answerman
Even More Quick Answers

by Justin Sevakis,

Looks like some questions built up during the holidays, and nearly all of them are quick to answer. So let's plow through 'em, shall we?

Hirudan asks:

I've been noticing how frequently the name Alice appears in Japanese media -- from series like Rozen Maiden and the upcoming Alice or Alice to doujin circles like the Touhou Project's Team Shanghai Alice. In each of these cases, "Alice" seems to be something of a metaphor for an ideal rather than just a name. With so many other names Japanese creators could choose from to give their works some Western flavor, why the preference for Alice? And how did that particular name become imbued with seemingly metaphorical significance?

The answer to this, as many have guessed, is in the popularity of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the world-famous 1865 children's book by Lewis Carroll. First published in Japanese in 1908 (though its sequel, Through The Looking Glass, was actually published earlier -- in 1899), the book became a huge bestseller in Japan. It's often noted that many of the creatures in the book bear a coincidental similarity to the yokai of Japanese mythology, so this may explain why it so connected with Japanese audiences. Over 150 Japanese translations have been made available over the years, and, of course, "Alice" as a girl's name has entered the lexicon.

Tyler asks:

Given anime companies like Crunchyroll and Funimation deal with simulcasts as well as simuldubbing (in Funimation's case), how do these companies juggle their employees while keeping labor laws in mind?

There is no legal maximum number of hours that any employee can work in the US. And it's a lucky thing for simulcasters -- since new anime episodes are often only made available less than a day before it has to be posted, translators are often forced to wake up in the middle of the night to work on an episode. They are often paid by episode, not by hour. Voice actors ARE paid by the hour, but seldom spend the 40+ hours in the booth per week that would allow them overtime pay under law.

Many dub script writers, audio engineers and some directors employed by dub studios are (salaried) full-time. And full-time professional employees are exempt from overtime pay requirements -- in fact, they get the same amount no matter how late they work. (Unless they work under 40 hours per week, in which case they are no longer full-time.) However, as a full-time employee, they typically enjoy benefits such as health insurance, tax withholding and a 401(k) retirement investment program.

Southkaio asks:

I recently heard that each recent Tatsunoko anime has a sub-only release in North America. So why all the recent Tatsunoko anime get such treatment in North America?

The classic Tatsunoko shows like Gatchaman, Casshan, Time Bokan and Yatterman were all aimed at young kids, and the style in which they were both written and designed don't "look and feel" much like the rest of anime. While there have been some more modern reboots over the decades, both they and their more recent sequel/spin-off shows have never gained much of an audience in the US. Most of those sequels and reboots were not successful in their US releases. And so, while newer incarnations are still being made available in the US, oftentimes nobody wants to risk paying to dub them. It's not an investment that is likely to pay off.

Shayne asks:

Ive noticed Christmas pops up in a lot of anime lately, but not so much Halloween or Easter or any other important holidays in the U.S. Why do you think that might be? Not celebrated as well?

Very few people in Japan are Christian, and so barely anyone in Japan celebrates Easter -- that's simply not a holiday that has crossed over into the secular mainstream. Halloween, meanwhile, has really only become a thing in the last ten years or so. Japan already has a festival -- Obon -- that's about spirits of the dead, and it's in the end of summer. For years, the only people that celebrated Halloween in Japan were the foreigners who used to get drunk and take over train cars with their celebrations, often annoying the hell out of the locals who just wanted to go home.

All that changed in the last few years thanks to Halloween celebrations at Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan, which pushed the holiday into the public consciousness. Nobody trick-or-treats, but there are lots of parties (especially for kids) and snack foods that incorporate the official Japanese food of Halloween: the purple yam.

Jacob asks:

I had recently attended an anime convention panel where they were talking about the anime bubble of the mid 2000's. In the panel they made an off-handed comment about how the manga industry also collapsed during this time. There two points were that fan translations/scanlations made it so unprofitable to stay in business as well as the company Tokyopop flooding the market with bad manga caused the English licensing industry to collapse. What really caused the manga industry to retract? Was over-licensing and fan translations really the only reason?

Indeed, the manga crash was contributed to in part by the rise in online manga piracy and a saturated market with too many sub-par books. (Those books were published by several companies, not just Tokyopop.) But the real meteorite that crashed into the manga market was the bankruptcy of Borders Group in 2010. Borders (and its mall-sized subsidiary Waldenbooks) was by far the most important retailer for manga -- they were responsible for about 1/3 of sales -- and publishers worked closely with them. When big retail chains go bankrupt, they often owe lots of money to the manufacturers of products they stock, and those manufacturers end up never getting paid.

Borders' bankruptcy was a slow train wreck happening over about 2 years, and was the direct cause of Tokyopop's closure (as well as some other publishers). The companies that could weather that storm mostly still exist today.

Edward asks:

One thing that Funimation touted for Funimation Now was that there were no ads. Recently, there have been certain shows with them, and got this quote after checking their site for the details: “The reason you are getting ads on Peacemaker is that we don't have SVOD rights - only AVOD.” What does that mean?

Video-On-Demand is the industry term for any video service where you can stream what you want, when you want it. There's cable-based VOD, internet streaming VOD, and some other small services that use a private network of some sort. But aside from how the video is transmitted, there are three distinct business models that VOD encompasses:

"SVOD" stands for "subscription video-on-demand," which means a service like Netflix where a video is made available to paid subscribers, and those subscribers' fees are what pay the licensing costs. These are ad-free, typically.

"AVOD" stands for "advertising video-on-demand," which means all the money comes from ads that play with the video. This would be like YouTube, or Crunchyroll without a login.

There's also "TVOD" or "transactional video-on-demand," where you pay for only the shows you want to watch, like Pay-Per-View. This would be like renting a movie on iTunes or Amazon.

These are often separate rights that have to be specified in a licensing deal. It's quite possible to license a show only for one type of VOD and not the others. Since Crunchyroll and Funimation Now are both combinations of SVOD and AVOD, not having the rights to one or the other can complicate things. Only having SVOD rights would mean the show would not be available to free viewers. Only having AVOD rights would require the streaming service to always run ads with that show, regardless of whether the viewer is a subscriber or not.


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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.


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