Answerman Why Do TV Networks Air Reboots Instead Of Originals?
by Justin Sevakis,
As much as you and I love the look of classic, pre-digital anime, in today's media marketplace such shows simply don't have much value for TV broadcasters. They look old. They're the wrong shape for modern TVs. They're grainy. While many fans, myself included, appreciate these things as the mark of the era in which they were made, to younger and less experienced fans, they simply look old. And unless a show is a Dragon Ball Z or Cowboy Bebop-level classic, old simply does not sell to the unwashed masses that a TV network must gear its broadcast towards.
First of all, a lot of people hate pillarboxing (the black bars on the sides of a widescreen TV that are shown when "classic" 4x3-shaped content is played). It's hard to know just how many people hate pillarboxing, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that A LOT of people who don't live and breathe video content (specifically, classic anime content) just careth not for those black bars. They didn't buy that fancy widescreen TV just for a fifth of it to be left unused.
Funimation ran into this problem when remastering Dragon Ball Z for Blu-ray. The hardcore nerds who know a thing or two about video and presentation wanted to see the entire 4x3 image, but enough mainstream consumers balked at the pillarboxing that Funimation ended up stopping their release to go back and zoom in everything, cropping areas of the picture to fill a modern 16x9-shaped TV without any black bars on the sides. The fans were irrate, but the resulting discs sold a lot better. And it's not just anime: a great deal of money has been spent remastering classic mainstream TV shows for widescreen: Seinfeld and The Wire, to name just two.
In addition to the pillarboxing issue, most older TV anime simply doesn't look very sharp by today's standards. While most movies and some OVAs still look pretty great (assuming there's a proper HD remaster available), a good number of TV shows tend to look a little rough when presented in HD. You see more crudely animated cuts, you see blobbier, sloppier art, and you often see lots of film grain and splices.
Cel-based anime has a warmth and a charm that you don't see in modern anime, but conversely, the animation quality of most TV anime today is pretty mind-blowing compared to what came in years past, before digital compositing techniques and video editing made fixing mistakes and redoing shots a relatively simple process. Quite simply, modern TV anime is MADE to be seen in HD. The old stuff just isn't.
If you're an old timer like me, none of that matters. You want to see every grain, every cel and every flaw in the original animation -- they're part of the charm. But mainstream audiences don't care for any of those things. They want new, shiny and well made. They want a sharp picture that fills their screen and doesn't have grain. And since a TV network, by its very nature, must be targeted towards more mainstream viewers, that's what they get.
In general, most catalog content, anime or otherwise, that is still in standard definition 4x3 has become nearly worthless in re-syndication markets. It's just a sign of the times.
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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for nearly 20 years. He's the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.
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