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by Zac Bertschy,

Zac: OK, then. Welcome to Kurosufaiyah! We'll start by going around for some quick introductions before we get started. Bamboo?

Bamboo: Hi! My name's Bamboo and I'm currently an undergraduate student on the East Coast. It's nice to be back at Kurosufaiyah again!

Brian: Heya, folks! I'm a Media Arts student down in Tucson, AZ. My current anime obsession is Naruto.

Rebecca: Hello, I'm Rebecca, also known as Ms. Answerman! I've recently graduated with a degree in Japanese Studies and I'm now a freelance writer.

Zac: And I'm Zac, your moderator. I'm a professional journalist. On to this week's first topic. First: Dot Hack. Is this thing dead? It has seemed as though interest has waned in this title. It's on at 9:30pm on Saturdays. The games generate little buzz, the DVDs don't seem to be that big a deal, and I didn't see many Hack cosplayers at AX this year. So the question is, was Dot Hack stillborn? Is there excitement over this thing, or is Bandai looking at a sunken ship?

Brian: There was an interview over at Gamespy a while back with the Dot Hack developers, CyberConnect2, who seemed quite complacent with sales of the game. Nonetheless, I think the writing is on the wall that Bandai is looking at a real turkey from here on out. The anime series is at a godawful time slot on the Cartoon Network, and nobody seems to be watching it. Reviewers have also been pretty lukewarm to both the anime and the games; they admire the concept but are kinda shaken by the execution. But I guess it would be kind of naive to assume that Dot Hack could come to achieving even one-tenth of the popularity the series achieved in Japan, which is about what it's doing here. So, it's not "stillborn" or a total flop, but I do think it's underperforming what Bandai, and we, predicted.

Rebecca: I think they already used up most of their big guns with the release of the first game and anime. The idea to split the game up into four parts wasn't the best decision, since people who want all four games will have to shell out a lot more money, when they could spend less money for another game that offers more play time. They might see a slight turnaround with the last volume for the anime, especially since it has new material that CN fans haven't seen before. People might've bought the first game, then decided to wait around for the last one to hit the shelves. Truthfully though I'm not expecting a miracle.

Bamboo: Well, on the one hand, .Hack still seems to be fairly popular amongst the anime fan community. Cosplay based on the anime series and games are still predominant at conventions, and people still chat eagerly about the different aspects of the franchise. Unfortunately, I think that's as far as it's going to go. The interest that exists for the series is what is already there. The concept of .Hack may still be intriguing to many fans, giving them ample opportunity to talk about game strategies and character relationships, but there seems to be no interest in new releases. Bandai's marketing strategy certainly didn't help the situation. I'll admit that at first, I thought it was a pretty good idea having a simultaneous release of the series and the game, but the series itself proved to be the downfall. With the slow pace of the series, and the time between game and series releases, fans had much more time to completely lose interest in new volumes, and just focus their attention on the volumes already out. I don't think .Hack will die— but it certainly won't grow any further.

Zac: I think part of the problem is that American gamers are far less willing to tolerate the concept of spending 200 dollars on a game that could have very easily been sold as one game for 50 dollars. Each volume of Dot Hack takes 10 hours or so to complete. Your average RPG takes 40-50 hours. You do the math. Bandai started out with a lot of steam but the timeframe just wasn't quick enough. That and .hack//SIGN is incredibly slow. I don't think .hack//DUSK is going to be a cure-all for this problem; the cutsiness is going to turn off every testosterone-filled high school anime fan instantly. The first volume of the manga came out, and I'm not sure how that's selling for Tokyopop; I know the comic shop near me sold out, and I suspect it'll outperform the DVDs for .hack//SIGN, But I think at this point we're looking at a franchise that ran out of steam quick. It has a fanbase, but I don't think they're picking up anyone new, and I think that's the major problem. Also I think Decipher's card game is approaching market saturation. You can now buy video games, anime DVDs, manga, soundtracks, and watch Hack on TV. That's a bit much for something that isn't called Harry Potter, The Matrix or Lord of the Rings.

Zac: Alright then, next topic. Pioneer and Tenchi Muyo!. What happened? Why has Pioneer suddenly abandoned this franchise? It used to be Pioneer's flagship title, and now they're selling it off to the highest bidder. There are obvious reasons for this that we don't know, but it can't hurt to speculate.

Bamboo: I think one of the reasons is the age of Tenchi Muyo!. There are still a large amount of fans that remember the days of the series and are still wildly devoted, but it's no longer "fresh" or "unique"— key buzzwords in a market that is getting filled with repetitive ideas. It wasn't long ago that Tenchi was on the Cartoon Network, but since then, the recent influx of anime on TV has ushered in a new wave of anime fans that don't have any interest in things like Tenchi. Why watch a show like that when they can watch a newer show like Love Hina or Ai Yori Aoshi? I don't think the popularity of Tenchi will ever die, but I think Pioneer knows that they need to move on to bigger— and newer— things.

Rebecca: I have to agree with Bamboo. Even with a new addition to the Tenchi Muyo! saga coming out, it still isn't a 'new' idea. I've never been a fan of Tenchi (or Love Hina or anything like it), but it's obiviously not due to lack of interest in this type of anime. It's also possible that Pioneer is dealing with internal things. Maybe they're having problems with the original voice actors and don't want new ones, maybe the price tag for Tenchi has been pushed a little too high and Pioneer doesn't see a huge profit after intial costs have been paid. Any of these things (and possibly others) could explain the sudden shift away from the Tenchi world.

Brian: Right. Shows like Tenchi rely on momentum. It wasn't original, it wasn't the best, but it managed to maintain interest for quite a while. If AIC had made the 3rd Tenchi OAV and the GXP TV series right after the show had its second or third run on the Cartoon Network, the show would still be a hot property, and Pioneer would still have it's flagship series. But even a lapse of one year it seems like can put a real dent into the viewing habits of most anime fans. Speaking for myself, I started out watching anime about four years ago, watching stuff like Tenchi and Ranma. I loved both of them; now I couldn't care less for either. The 12 year olds that watched and liked the show on the Cartoon Network might have wanted to see more of it, say, a year ago but they certainly don't anymore. The only audience left are the obsessive fans who've been importing the laserdiscs, reading all the manga, and writing the dirty fanfiction since Pioneer began releasing Tenchi in the early 90's. I think Pioneer has seen that, and moved on. Right now I think the big question is what Pioneer's current flagship title might be, but that's neither here nor there.

Zac: Alright. First off, Tenchi GXP Is a world-class turd. Pioneer knows that. I think they sold it to FUNi on the cheap. I also think that the recent re-release of the Tenchi OVAs was intended to test the market to see where the interest level was on Tenchi in 2002-2003. I think those sold poorly and now Pioneer is selling Tenchi off, knowing they can make more money on the licensing deal than they can selling through the DVDs. Plus, FUNi has a better relationship with Cartoon Network and is more likely to get the show on TV than Pioneer is. Aside from that, I agree with most everything that's been said. Tenchi is old-school. The new OVA is a throwback; it's practically retro at this point. The kids these days have their Naru Narusegawa and their Aoi. They don't need Ryoko and Ayeka. I think Tenchi has been out of the loop long enough to make newer anime fans think that it's a rip-off of Love Hina. Basically, we're looking at something that's become a stale retread, being compared to other stale retreads, and I don't think it's going to hold up. Pioneer is jumping ship while the jumping is good.

Zac: Alllllright. Series discussion time. You're gonna love this one. Azumanga Daioh.

Rebecca: Azumanga Daioh falls into the category of 'Why the hell is this thing popular?!?!' anime. I try to pretend that this series doesn't exist, except when I get to read about people who flame Zac when he says anything bad about this show.

Brian: The people who find it funny are no different than the millions of people that tune in to watch "Friends" every Thursday night. Or the handful of Americans who paid 8 bucks to watch "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star"

Zac: HEY!

Brian: For some reason, people have a mindless attraction to mindless pablum, be it anime fan or no. I think watching paint peel is funnier than "AzuDai," as with "Friends" and whatnot - but with things like this I guess the point is to simply KNOW it is popular, rather than to try to understand WHY it is popular. I don't think I'll ever truly understand that.

Bamboo: To me, to me, the popularity of Azumanga Daioh is the mass movement of thousands of lonely men signaling vainly to each other to give validity to them watching a show about pink-donning prepubescent girls. people say that it brings them nostalgia from their past days of high school life, or the happiness of hanging out with their friends after school, and I can understand that. But beyond that point of ol'-time-feelin', I can't see the selling point at all with the "humour" that prevails the series. Make no mistake— this isn't because I don't understand the jokes. I do. I just don't find them funny. Or rather, I found them funny the first time through, but beyond that, got bored the 4th time around. Perhaps I'll be missing out when this series is eagerly gobbled up at Best Buy by thousands of fans, but if I've lived this long without being consumed by the 1337n3ss of 0s4k4, I think I can live just a bit further without falling into the pit of AzuDai fandom. Am I missing out? Maybe. But we all have different tastes, and mine surely don't rest in little girls with mobile hair and b00bi3-size jokes.

Zac: Firstly, I want to call out the guy that said ANN said that 'Azumanga Daioh is for pedophiles". ANN never said that. I said that Azudai is for creepy old men with lolita complexes. I did not say pedophiles. Those are two different things. Furthermore, that statement was hyperbole; obviously not everyone who watches the show is a creepy old man with a loli complex. I know plenty of well-adjusted guys who like the show and don't lust after the little girls in it. That having been said, Azumanga Daioh is one of the most insipid, pointless shows I've ever seen. It isn't about 'nothing', it's about something. Like Bamboo said, it's about boobie-size jokes, and the same other 5 gags over and over again, centered around a set of marketing-friendly little girls. I don't think the jokes are funny, and I don't think the average anime consumer will find them funny. But there are a lot of people out there who think it's the funniest thing since Bob Hope made a crack about his wife's overspending. If you ask me, these people wouldn't know funny if it walked up and smacked them across the face with a pair of Najica panties. Aside from that, I think a big portion of the audience for this show is made up of hardcore fanboys who have already seen the entire series; you know, the type who collect magical girl shows and the like. They're a very different type of fan and have baggage when it comes to how you're supposed to market something towards them; they're a very problematic niche to cater to.

Zac: any other comments?

Bamboo: The only sales that ADV can guarantee are for preexisting AzuDai fans.

Zac: People who have already downloaded the entire show. The same people who will use any excuse to not buy a DVD, like the translation is "inaccurate" or they put the security tag on in a “bad” place or perhaps the box's cardboard isn't thick enough.

Mystery Man: You don't think anyone will buy it?

Zac: Oh, they'll buy it. But only if ADV meets their EXACT specifications. That's the baggage I was talking about.

Brian: uber-1337 fansub nerds who crossplay as the characters and quote their lame japanese catch-phrases and whatnot.

Rebecca: 'true AzuDai fan'...

Bamboo: I'd honestly be surprised if it picks up a new wave of anime fans. Shows focused on humour like Kodocha may do that, but not something so culturally focused like AzuDai.

Zac: Well, if that's all, then we be done, people. See you next time on KUROSUFAIYAH!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of Anime News Network or its sponsors.

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