Answerman
Lightning Round

by Justin Sevakis,

Doc Fraga asked:

I have wondered about this for almost 30 years. But what is the meaning of the three finger point "Sign of the devil" hand sign in anime. it's usually seen in Ranma 12 or Urusei Yatsura when someone gets knocked out.

The hand-sign often associated with the devil and heavy metal music in the West is seen a lot in anime, particularly slapstick comedies from the 80s. Rumiko Takahashi uses it a LOT, but it's also been seen in other shows like Sailor Moon. And it's true that it comes up when someone's surprised or being attacked violently.

In the East, the hand sign is a commonly known Buddhist hand sign called a "karana mudra". Buddhism has many divine hand signs that mean/do different things, and this one is meant to dispel negativity and evil. Used comically, it has roughly the same meaning as using your index fingers to make a crucifix does in the West: "get this evil away from me!"

José asked:

I have seen the compliment "you have a small face" thrown around numerous times, generally towards foreigners, as a synonym for "you have a really cute face". But why is having a small face considered cute? Is this some kind of specific Japanese expression that doesn't translate that well? Or is their ideal of beauty particular in some way compared to the West?

Having a "small face" is an aesthetic and a compliment intended more for women than men. It doesn't describe having tiny features in the middle of your face like a seal, but rather the opposite: it describes a face shape where the chin and forehead aren't very big and don't extend very far from the rest of the facial features. Many people consider that to be a dainty, or "feminine" trait. I suspect it became one of those things that was turned into a much bigger deal culturally by beauty product companies, who make big money every year selling products that promise to slim and contour facial appearances to people who are insecure that they have big-face.

A more accurate name for the aesthetic would probably be "small head" but even in Japanese that sounds weird.

Brianna asked:

why don't we hear much about crime in Japan? I've noticed that there are lots of major stories from the US and Europe about serial killers, horribly abusive parents and spouses, cults, unsolved mysteries, ect. However, you only ever hear of the same few cases about similar crimes in Japan. Given how Japan has such a high suicide rate, frowns upon reporting child abuse, and has abusively strict work places and schools, you'd think that there would be much more unsolved and violent crimes there. Is that sort of stuff rare there, or is it just heavily guarded and kept out of the global media?

Japan is considered a very safe country. Their homicide rate is 0.31 per 100,000 (as of 2014), which is the lowest of any country in the world (except for ones that are only the size of a city, like Singapore and Macao). The few that did happen are mostly gang/yakuza related, and they mostly just tend to kill each other rather than put the general populace at risk. When a violent crime does happen, it's a HUGE story that the local media drives into the ground for months.

But it is true that non-fatal violent crimes do go under-reported. Part of that is out of shame (particularly with sexual assaults). That doesn't change the fact that Japan is, and has for decades, been one of the safest countries in the world.

Kait0 asked:

A lot of people were hoping for a sequel series to Highschool of the Dead. I know the manga artist Daisuke Satō died, but that doesn't mean someone else could restart the show and take it in a new direction. In fact, there's an internet petition to support that idea! Do you think it could be successful?

Almost certainly not. First of all, internet petitions aren't worth the time they take to even load the page they're on. Anyone who's been in the anime business for any length of time knows that fans will just vote on things that capture their attention in the moment, and they're not an accurate reflection of any real number of fans that definitely can be counted on for support. They are a vague sign of fan engagement for the show, but let's be real here: everyone already knew that Highschool of the Dead was a huge hit. The fact that a few thousand fans would put their names (often not even real names) on a list on a random website somewhere isn't particularly surprising or enlightening. It doesn't open any new doors or inspire any new thought. It does nothing.

Highschool of the Dead was a big hit, it's true. There's always an outside chance that it'll be dusted off and brought back at some point -- Japan goes back to the well and resurrects old shows all the time. But in order for that to happen, the original creator (or their family and/or management, in this case) would have to approve it. By Japanese law, the original creator must be granted approval over anything that has to do with their work -- every rights sale, every new production, every spin-off. If the manga artist's next of kin do not want Highschool of the Dead to be animated again, there's nothing that anyone can do.

I don't know that that's the case. It might just be that the business end of things hasn't found fit to revisit the franchise, or there's some legal quagmire so that the production rights are tied up. We just don't know. Regardless, if and when it happens, the producers will take a hard look at the previous show's sales numbers, market conditions, and similar shows on the market, and make their decision based on that. They will not even look at, or care about, any fan petitions. You can sign one if you like, but don't get your -- or anyone else's -- hopes up that it'll accomplish anything, because it won't. Internet petitions almost never do.


Do YOU have a question for the Answerman?

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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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