Monday, August 23, 2010

K-ON! Why all the hate?

K-ON! pretty much every anime fan knows the name and what the show is. But it seems that when it comes to the show you either love it or hate it with a passion and I have seen such hatred towards the show in recent months I have really started thinking. Why exactly do people hate the show so much?

One of the common things people seem to hate about the show is that it's a show about nothing. Not much really happens. Which in all truthfulness is true. However why is that a bad thing? K-ON! is purely and simply a Slice of Life show. It's not a new genre or anything it's been around for the life of anime as a whole. So why people feel the need to call K-ON! out as a boring nothing ever happens tea and cookie eating simulator is beyond me.

Compared to Slice of life shows of yesteryear K-ON! moves at a million miles a minute. Look at shows like To Heart. The original season of that show was so incredibly slow moving it turned off a large amount of people. And Unlike K-ON! To Heart wasn't really funny so you didn't have the laughs to keep you going. You just had the characters. I'm not hating on To Heart at all. It's actually one of my favorites but I'm simply saying that all the hate leveled at K-ON! based on the sole reason that nothing much happens in the show is quite ignorant as there are shows that have been doing the same thing for years and years and many of them are very popular. And if you look back nobody made a big fuss about those shows. I never remember hearing people complain about To Heart. Sure I heard people say stuff like "that show isn't my cup of tea" but not the constant bashing we see now.

So what else may cause people to hate the show? Well perhaps it's that the show is filled to the brim with Moe. But again. Many other shows are similar and no one seems to single them out and tear them apart for no reason. And as much as some misguided fan boys may like to think so K-ON! didn't invent Moe. Moe was around LONG before K-ON! ever came into existence and will be around a long time coming. The success of K-ON! didn't lead to the deluge of moe shows. That flood had started before K-ON! came out and K-ON! was one of the shows that came from that flood and ended up being one of the few that became a large success. But that didn't cause tons of other studios to do the same thing. As a matter of fact if you look at how many moe shows have come since K-ON! the number has gone down. Of course the number of shows as a whole being produced each season has dropped but that still doesn't change the fact that Moe shows are still thinning out.

Really it is understandable that people may not like a particular show but really not only is it ignorant to constantly be singling out K-ON! but it's also annoying. I have seen people mentioning how K-ON! pales in comparison to shows that have nothing to do with it such as House of Five Leaves, Gundam and believe it or not Fist of the North Star. None of those shows are even in the same genre yet they are being compared to K-ON! just so people can get their point across that K-ON! pales in comparison to them but it's a stupid argument.

Now don't take this whole little article wrong. I'm not trying to defend K-ON! or anything. I'm just annoyed at seeing the shows name brought up at the most irrelevant times just to be bashed because someone wants to bitch and moan about how much they hate the show. I don't wanna be on ANN reading in a thread about Gundam Unicorn and see some moron start yelling "At least this is way better then that K-ON! crap" What the hell does that contribute to the conversation? Nothing it has nothing at all to do with the show being talked about and it's annoying and it's quite commonly happening everywhere I go. If you are a angry anti Moe person more power to you but please just be quiet and leave it be because all you are doing is annoying Fans and non fans alike. No one is forcing you to watch the show and no one is forcing you to read about the show in the various forum threads and news stories out there.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Is Funi putting all it's eggs in one basket?

Next year seems to be a big year for R1 anime fans. Thanks in no small part to Funimation. They have time and time again blown fans away this year with the myriad of licenses they have revealed. While this is all well and good it has me wondering if perhaps they may be risking to much by licensing this number of shows and movies before they even get return on them. It got me thinking.

For those that don't know over the past 2-3 months Funimation has announced nearly 50 new anime licenses(including rescues) most of which could not have been cheap. A partial list includes: A certain Magical Index, A Certain Scientific Railgun, Black Lagoon Roberta's Blood Trail, Shakugan No Shana II movie and OVA, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Trigun Badlands Rumble, Both Eden of the East films, Hellsing Ultimate 5-7, Darker Then Black 2, Strike Witches 2, Hetaila World Series + Paint it White movie, Okami-san, Everything Tenchi, Haibane Renmei,Rosario + Vampire 1&2, Rideback, Chrono Crusade, Peacemaker, Serial Experiments Lain, Texholyzhe, Moyashimon live action TV series, Summer Wars and perhaps the biggest license Evangelion 2.22 You can (not) Advance. Trust me this is only a partial list and doesn't even come close to listing everything Funi has licensed these past few months. Oh and did I mention the list doesn't count the simulcasts?

After looking at a list like that one may wonder if perhaps Funimation is over extending themselves and grabbing up more then they can handle. Or perhaps are even jumping the gun on some of these series.

There is no doubt it will take an enormous amount of resources to translate and dub that volume of shows and films(and that's not counting money spent on promotion, packaging, printing, shipping and what not). However we have seen Funimation perform well on doing slightly smaller volumes of shows in the past so I can conceive that they could pull this off.

But what about the whole jumping on sequels to soon? While fans are still waiting for the sequel series to shows from a few years ago like xxxHolic Kei and Higurashi Kai new shows are getting sequels nearly instantly(at least as far as anime licensing goes). We are talking Spice and Wolf 2(forgot to add that to the list), Stike Witches 2 and now the Hetalia movie and not even in production yet 4th season. Could funi be jumping the gun on these series? While I loved Spice and Wolf and am VERY happy to be getting the 2nd season I have to wonder if it really did well enough to warrant a sequel. After all it is basically a show about economics. I somewhat enjoyed Strike Witches and of I'm sure it did well thanks in no small part to all the fan service and funi's incredible ad campaign(winning the war on pants anyone?) Hetalia in particular has me worried. While there is incredible buzz online for the show's US release we have yet to even see the DVD's and Funi has already licensed the movie and newer seasons. What happens in the show bombs despite it's online buzz? We have seen in the past that online buzz doesn't equal massive sales. Bandai learned this with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. While the show did well enough to warrant licensing the movie and 2nd season it didn't break any sales records as many thought it would based on the online buzz. It makes me wonder if something similar may happen with Hetalia.

Of further worry is that Funimation is planning a theatrical run for both Summer Wars and Evangelion 2.22. These runs are far from cheap and more often then not cost the distributor money. We never got the numbers from Eva 1.0's theater run but we do know that it was a demand from the Japanese studio that it get a theater run. There is a good chance Funi could lose quite a bit of money on these runs. Unless they are able to get the movies into more theaters which costs far more money and normally doesn't equal the risk.

It will be interesting to see over the next year or 2 how Funi handles the volume of shows they have right now. It will also be interesting to see what else Funi has up it's sleeves as we still have a few cons left this year such as New York Anime Fest. I guess time will tell how well Funi handles the pressure of the sheer volume of shows they have licensed. If they can handle it properly they can make a massive profit and if they don't handle it right they could be the next Geneon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Is Aniplex already fixing it's Mistakes?

So not to long ago I wrote about Aniplex's foray into the US anime market and how it seemed at least to me that they were doing everything wrong and it seemed they were doing everything in their power to fail. However Anime Expo has just recently passed and we saw some encouraging things from Aniplex and after the show even more positive progress was quietly let out.

Going back to my original article there were 3 points that were of major issue. Distribution, Pricing and Lack of dubs or Localization. 2 of these issues seem to be corrected or will be in the near future.

During Aniplex's Industry Panel at Anime Expo the company announced they would be releasing Durarara!! In and of itself great news. However in the announcement came news that they would be dubbing the series as well. Set for release early next year the series will be the first of Aniplex's releases to receive a dub. The question now is why are they dubbing the series? There are a few possible reasons that I can think of.

First is that considering alot of people are cross over fans of the series Baccano!( A series that's always mentioned whenever Durarara!! is) Aniplex may have deemed it a good idea to dub the series as Funimation released Baccano! a year or two ago with a dub. This scenario however is highly unlikely to me for one reason. The Original Gurren Lagann TV anime had a English dub and it's movies still never received a dub.

The other more logical scenario is that Durarara!! is going to be aired on TV. If you remember when Aniplex announced their entrance into the US market they said they would never dub something unless it was intended to be aired on TV. The question here is if that was the case and if they were dubbing it for that reason they would already know it was airing on a TV Channel and it would make sense to announce that along with the series. But they didn't.

So that leaves the question. Are they doing a dub because they have come to realize it will help the show reach a wider audience? Ironically enough during Anime Expo Funimation showed that via their own customer survey that the majority of consumers are dub fans. Is it possible Aniplex figured this out and is dubbing for that reason? It's certainly possible. The answer to this will be if the upcoming series they release have a dub as well. They have already said they had 4 licenses to announce by years end and so far we have only gotten 2. Durarara!! and the Gurren Lagann movies. Regardless of what the future holds one can only hope that they have come to the realization that they need to dub to reach a wider audience and that their future efforts will contain dubs as well and that Durarara!! is not a isolated incident.

Another nice surprise was quietly slipped out after Anime Expo. Aniplex properties are getting wider distribution. Previously the only way to get them was from Bandai's own online website which is notorious for not being very easy to use. However now it seems as if Right Stuf and Amazon will also be selling these products. This move of course gets the products into more hands as these are 2 widely used web sites for Anime fans. Although one has to wonder if this was Aniplex's move or Bandai's as the Gundam Unicorn OVA was also recently listed on Right Stuf when it was previously a Amazon exclusive. Of course this is a Bandai property so it's possible this was Bandai's call however I have a hard time believing that is the case.

So at the end of the day Aniplex has corrected 2 of the biggest complaints people had with their first releases. And considering we have yet to receive pricing on Durarara!! it is also possible they may correct that problem as well. Although the inclusion of a dub in that release will soften in the blow should the price remain similar to previous Aniplex releases. Regardless Comic-con and Otakon are coming up very soon and Aniplex will more then likely have stuff to say so definitely keep a ear open for more news.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sub Vs Dub part 2: The Genre breakdown.

So any who have read my original sub vs dub article will more then likely know where I stand on the issue. This time around however I thought I would break it down into a genre by genre basis on why I prefer the dub over the sub. I think you will probably start to notice quiet a interesting pattern.

One of the bigger things that draws me away from subs is that when you have to focus your eyes away from whats happening on screen you miss quite a bit. I thought I would break that down on a genre by genre basis for you.

Comedy. I can't stress this one enough. Alot of comedy has what are known as visual gags. These are jokes that are often never mentioned by the characters but are simply there and are meant to with visuals alone get a chuckle out of the viewer. The problem with visual gags is that seeing as there is no speech associated with them you can't put them in the subs. Hence alot of viewers will miss these jokes all together.

An example if you will. Funimation will soon be releasing the anime My Bride is a Mermaid. In the trailer there is a scene in which the main character is at a festival and is about to eat what looks like a chocolate covered banana(a common treat) But at the last second throws it into the air screaming at the top of his lungs. Now when I saw that subbed I didn't think anything of it. Simply another freak out on the part of the main character. However once I saw it dubbed I noticed something new. The Banana was actually a chocolate covered gun which he had just put in his mouth. A simple joke really. But one easily missed if you have to follow the subs. With dubs moments like this won't happen as your eyes are free to wander the screen and you are far more likely to catch something like this.

Another good example of dubs prevailing in the comedy area is Excel Saga. Now on performance alone Excel Saga stands proudly over it's subtitled counterpart. But take into account the speed at which Excel speaks in that show. Motormouth doesn't even begin to explain how quickly she unleashes jokes upon the viewer. Now imagine having to read her 1000 miles a minute speech instead of just having to hear it? Seems daunting yes? To the point of almost rendering any scene in which Excel is on screen as unwatchable and considering that's the point of the show(it is called Excel Saga after all) it kinda makes you question why you would bother watching it subbed in the first place.

The other problem which is actually quite simple is that when people laugh they more often then not don't stay completely still. I don't know about you but when I get a good laugh it's a full body affair. Obviously that causes me to lose sight of the subs and can cause you to miss the next joke or important plot point. This isn't really a problem if you are one of those laughing on the inside people but come on. Where is the fun in that?

Next we have action. This one is really quite simple. Why would you want to have to be reading subs on the bottom of the screen when all this awesome action is taking place? Is that a contradiction? Doesn't that go against the reason you are watching a show like that to begin with? A good example of this I find is Gurren Lagann. Often times you will find your eyes stuck at the bottom of the screen during a incredibly action packed fight scene or battle only to realize you are missing the meat and bones of the show. One could argue that whats being said during these battles isn't really important and while that may be true for some shows it's certainly not for others.

Take Gundam 00 for example. There are many points throughout the show that have key plot points discussed during a hectic battle. If the viewer was to read the subs they would miss the battle and if they were to watch the battle they would miss some of the plot and risk being lost later. With dubs you need only listen with your ears and watch with your eyes.

Next we have the really really deep show. Ok yeah I know it's not really a genre. I guess you could call it the Philosophical genre. Shows in this genre would be stuff like Serial Experiments Lain, Ghost in the Shell, Noein and BoogiePop Phantom(one of my all time favorites). All these shows have one thing in common. They are very very deep. Serial Experiments Lain gets into very in depth conversations about technology and the ramifications it has on humanity as a whole. Ghost in the shell goes deep into the same with quite a heavy does of politics. Noein goes deep into the kinds of science that would make Einsteins head explode. And BoogiePop just generally fucks with you head.

What am I getting at here? Well doesn't it seem somewhat of a difficult task to run these deep conversations through a filter back into English just so you can think about what was just said? Take the away the subs add a dub and you now have 2 steps. Hearing and thinking about it. It's a much easier task if you ask me. A good personal example that I'm sure many a fan has actually experienced is Ghost in the Shell Innocence. The movie was originally for 2 years only available via subtitles. Until recently Bandai released a Blu-ray with a dub. Now I won't claim to understand everything that happens in the film but I have a MUCH better grasp of it after watching the dub. It was truly like watching two different movies.

The last genre I will get to day is Drama. Take into account this scenario if you will. You are watching a Drama and you are completely absorb by the story and it's characters. Suddenly a heart breaking twist leaves one of the characters heart broken. Your eyes well up and you begin to cry. DAMMIT I CAN"T READ THE SUBS. Isn't that annoying. Having to stop or pause the show or movie because your tearful blurry eyes couldn't see what was being said? Doesn't it just kill the flow for the show? Doesn't having to rewatch the same scene completely kill the mood? I know it does for me. Fortunately drama is a good place for people who are new to dubs to start. Some of the best dubs I have heard came from a drama(Carrie Savages performance as Haruka in Rumbling Hearts still brings tears to my eyes to this day).

A good example in this genre was Clannad. The show was sub title only until very recently and it was one of those shows that pulled on my heart stings. There are quite a few moments that tears did indeed flow and it was difficult keeping up with what was happening with blurry watery eyes. The dub solved this for me. Most of the characters are cast perfectly and the performances to my ear are just as good as the original. I still cry with the dub and it's now easier to let myself go and do so because I don't have to follow text on the bottom of the screen.

So my challenge to sub fans is to go and watch one of you favorite shows in English(assuming of course that it has a dub) and see how much more you notice how much you missed and what it added to the experience. Ignore acting(which as I discussed in my last article isn't even bad) and just focus on what you are hearing and seeing for the first time. Tell me how many things you missed watching the show subbed. Oh and don't cheat and watch the show subbed a thousand times. That would be cheating.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Aniplex gets into US anime market.

So recently it's been announced that anime production company Aniplex will be directly releasing their own product in the US as of July. Now normally one would think that this was a good thing as another distributor can only mean more content. However it seems to me as if Aniplex is doing everything in their power to fail in the US market making many of the mistakes Bandai Visual did a few years ago. It makes me wonder if those at the top of the totem pole in Japan even have a understanding about how the US market works.

First and foremost a little background info. Aniplex announced it would be getting into the US market with the help of Bandai Entertainment whose site they will use to distribute their product. They will be starting with the Gurren Lagann Movies Childhood's End and The Lights in the Sky are Stars. In and of itself not bad news. The bad news comes when it's revealed that no English dub will be included and that they never intend to add one regardless of how well the movies sell. This is disheartening to many a fan as the Gurren Lagann TV series did in fact air on US television and was universally praised for it's top notch dub. Not only that but it seems this is the plan for all future Aniplex releases. They seem to be dead set on never releasing dubs with any of the shows, movies or OVA's they release.

There is however a single exception to this rule. If the Show, Movie or OVA in question is intended to get a US television run then a Dub will be considered. However looking at the catalog of shows that Aniplex is likely to release in the coming months(they mentioned 5 properties to be released before march 2010 however no names were given) it's unlikely anything they have will be suitable for US television. Despite the massive popularity of a show like Bakemonogatari it's not exactly a good fit for US television due to the lack of mass market appeal. The 6 Kara No Kyokai: The Garden of Sinners movies are far to violent and graphic to ever be considered being aired on television and a theatrical release is highly unlikely seeing as animated films aimed at more mature audiences seem to fail here. So what exactly does this all mean? Put simply unless Aniplex drastically changes it's strategy in the near future we will never be seeing a dub for any of their properties.

This however is not the only issue. A larger issue in fact is the fact that Aniplex will be selling their products exclusively through Bandai's online web store. That means you cannot buy through Right Stuf, Amazon or Best Buy. Not only that but Bandai charges a premium for shipping options that are often a third of the price elsewhere. Even reaching double digits for the slowest form of shipping via USPS. The problem here is that the Bandai store is a largely unused and even worse unknown store. Most fans shop via Amazon and Right Stuf. Very few are even aware of the existence of the Bandai store. So when you factor in the fact that this is the ONLY place you can purchase Aniplex products it's easy to imagine a large number of fans being completely Oblivious to what is being sold there regardless of if they wanted to buy it via Bandai or not.

Worse still is the pricing Aniplex has on the two Gurren Lagann movies. around 25 to 3o dollars for a standard edition and 45 to 50 for a special edition. Shades of Bandai Visuals insanely over priced products seems to be evident here. While the prices are not quite as high as Bandai Visual prices were there is one thing would be consumers must keep in mind. The two Gurren Lagann movies are just that movies. If Aniplex is willing to charge this much for films what would their asking price be for TV series with 5-10 times the content? Even worse what would those series cost on Blu-ray? It's easy to see the prices quickly growing out of control. At that point consumers would be paying a premium for contact that didn't match that label. I.E paying 2-3 times as much for Funimation DVD's and Blu-rays that have dubs as well as subs. This isn't likely to go over well with fans.

With this strategy I don't see Aniplex lasting very long. The question is will they realize they are failing and change things up or will they simply fade away like Bandai Visual did? I for one would love to see them stick around because as I stated earlier more companies in the US market means more content. Something I would LOVE to see. However only time will tell if Aniplex will be around long enough to see that happen.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Top 5 anime that have not been released on Blu-Ray

The other day I was looking at my anime collection and was shocked to see that alot of the shows I think deserve a Blu-ray release have not yet gotten one. So I thought why not list the top 5 here for all to see. Before we go on let me clarify that some of these shows do indeed have a Blu-ray release in Japan and may eventually get a release here. However this list is based solely on the US releases of anime.

5) Code Geass and Code Geass R2. Now I know what you are thinking. Why is Code Geass so high on the list? Why isn't it number 1? Well the reason behind this is because of all the anime to be listed here Code Geass is the most likely to get the Blu-ray treatment in the US. Why? Well awhile back Bandai said they would do everything in their power to release any Blu-ray released in Japan here. Well Code Geass and R2 have both seen a full blown Blu-ray release in Japan and as per Bandai's promise will most likely get a release here in the near future.

So what is it that makes Code Geass worthy of a Blu-ray release. Well aside from being one of the best anime released in recent memory it's also stunningly beautiful to look at. CLAMP created some incredible characters for the show and the world was always very detailed. So it's obvious that the leap to Blu-ray would just bump up the visual fidelity that much more.

If the show does get a US Blu-ray release I would expect to see it some time near the end of 2010.

#4) Gurren Lagann. Gurren Lagann was a show that tried alot of new things in it's animation. Gainax created a ton of new filters to add immense amounts of detail to all aspects of the show. Be it dust and rock debris being thrown into the air after a giant Gunmen came crashing down or glowing green light of spiral energy shown throughout the show.

The show also had memorable character designs. From Yoko to Kamina to Simon all of the characters have a great unique look that most fans still remember to this day. Lets also not forget that Gurren Lagann has some of the most over the top intense battles and fight scenes even seen in a anime. Just when you think "This battle can not possibly get any bigger" it does and then some. So it's no surprise to see Gurren Lagann on the list.

3) xxxHolic
. Yes yes we all know that the first xxxHolic TV anime didn't look nearly as good as it's movie counterpart A Midsummer Night's Dream. However that doesn't mean the show isn't nice to look at. In fact there are parts in the show that are a sight to behold. The Hydrangea episode comes to mind. Or perhaps the episode in which Watanuki and the pipe fox venture into the mountains in search of Zashiki-Warashi. Both incredible beautiful episodes that show off the incredible world CLAMP built for xxxHolic.

While the show was not able to completely capture CLAMP's original style and look from the manga(and honestly who could?) It still did a commendable job. The long slender style the manga had is on full display and some may argue that it was over done in the anime. The use of smoke as well is done rather well just as in the manga. While the spirits that plaugue Watanuke were more full form in the movie they are still represented rather well. While I personally would have liked to see the connection to Tsubasa left intact I still thoroughly enjoyed xxxHolic and would love to see what a Blu-ray release of the show would look like.

2) X/1999. Yes we have another CLAMP manga adaptation on the list and it is probably one of the best known. Known not only for it's more violent aspects(something CLAMP normally doesn't do) But also because the manga on which the anime was based has never actually ended. CLAMP simply "took a break" and to this day they have not returned to finish X.

That however did not stop the X from being a incredible show. Being the oldest show on this list one might wonder how it can possibly measure up to stuff like Gurren Lagann and Code Geass. But let me assure you this show is a visual feast. The amount of detail on display here is mind blowing. X is also home to what in my opinion are the best character designs CLAMP has ever produced.

The show has spectacular battles that at some points even become hard to watch thanks to the violence I mentioned earlier. As well as some motifs that are still used in anime today like the use of black and white feathers to relay good and evil to the viewer. To top that all off X also has a incredible soundtrack that would certainly benefit from the jump to 5.1 true HD surround sound.

X is probably the least likely show on this list to get a Blu-ray release. However not all hope is lost. Funimation recently rescued the X license and plans to re-release the show sometime this year and perhaps if it sells well we will see a Blu-ray release in the future.

So here we are at number 1. What show could possibly be worthy of number 1 on this list of stunningly beautiful shows?

1) Jigoku Shoujo/Hell Girl. Honestly what the hell is funimation thinking not having a Blu-ray release of Hell Girl? Hell Girl is one of those rare shows that not only totally shocks you with it's beauty but also retains the incredibly high level of animation prowess set by it's pilot episode. Something needless to say most shows are unable to do.

The show is also home to some of the most iconic images in anime today. Honestly who can forget the first time Ai ferries a soul across the river Styx straight into hell. Who can possibliy forget the first time they hear Ai's proclamation of "Perhaps It is time to die".

The show uses things to catch the user off guard many a time. One will be caught wondering after the first episode how a girl so frail and beautiful as Ai can possibly be someone who condemns people to hell.

So you may ask why exactly is Hell Girl number 1? Well as mentioned earlier the shows production quality remains top notch all the way through to the very end. Hell Girl has incredible art and if there was ever a show that would benefit from having a extremely crisp and clean picture it would be this one.

Lets also not forget the incredible soundtrack that adds to the feelings of terror the audience is experiencing which watching the show. Haunting vocals by who one can only assume is Ai Enma herself and beats that are literally meant to scare the shit out of you are the norm here. This is a soundtrack that actually helps the show scare you. Bringing a soundtrack like that to 5.1HD surround would just add to the tension the show inflicts upon the viewer. If you have yet to see Hell Girl I would highly recommend seeing it as it's a incredible beautiful show even on DVD. One can only hope that Funimation pulls their heads out of their bums and gets on getting a Blu-ray release of Hell Girl. Oh and while your at it Funimation why don't you go ahead and license seasons 2 and 3.

(Funi failed big time on this one. Shortly after this posting Sentai Filmworks licensed the 2nd season of Hell Girl meaning we will more likely never hear the incredible dub the first season had in season 2 and 3 of the show. It also makes a Blu-ray release unlikely as Funi would not release something on Blu-ray if they didn't sell enough on DVD.)

Well there you have it. My top 5 anime that really need a Blu-ray release. Feel free to add anything you would like to add to the list.