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  Commentary | Because I Said So



It's a great time to be an anime/manga fan.

I came to that conclusion at the San Diego Comic-Con. Walking around the exhibit hall, I noticed that the anime and manga companies had booths the size of big-time American comic companies DC, Dark Horse, and CrossGen. They were bigger, in fact, than Image Comic's island on the show floor.

Fans scrambled to pick up free posters, manga samplers, and magazine subscriptions. New anime/manga licenses were announced. Tokyopop had one of those trucks with a giant billboard on it circling the San Diego Convention Center.

The flood of anime/manga doesn't stop there. Tech TV and the Cartoon Network show anime every night. Del Rey, a huge publisher of sci-fi books, is working with Kodansha, one of Japan's biggest manga producers, to release a line of manga. You can even purchase Pocky at your local Suncoast Motion Picture store.

With everything that's available now, every anime/manga fan should be experiencing nirvana.

Or, maybe not.

A quick search of the web reveals trouble in paradise. This group of fans is pissy because Tokyopop romanized the names of the characters and is swapping out the Eurobeat music in Initial D. That group of Inu Yasha fans have their panties in a twist because Viz allegedly edited episode 21 of the series (they didn't; the part in question aired on TV in Japan, but was left off of the DVD). Then, we have old fans that look down their noses at the people who discovered anime as a result of Cartoon Network and Tech TV.

Get over yourselves.

Before any of the old school otaku start howling, I'm one of you. The first time I saw Mobile Suit Gundam, it was in 1985 with Chinese subtitles. There was no English around. I watched Akira, Appleseed, and Guyver raw. I own the entire run of Zillion. Raw.

So yeah, I remember the good ol' days. Or, should I say, bad ol' days.

When the only places to get anime was UCI's alt.ant and Crooks Nippon. The days I had to beg my mom to let me spend $40 on the 50 minute Robotech II: The Sentinels tape released by Palladium. Where anime releases happened once every 3 months instead of the tidal wave we receive every week. Where substandard dubs were the rule rather than the exception.

Before, there was a reason to circle the wagons. Anime was known as "…those weird porno cartoons from Japan," because everyone has one anime-loving friend who loved Urotsukidouji and showed it to anyone who would watch. I know. I was that friend. But, I digress.

Since Pokemon hit the air in 1998, Anime fandom has exploded. It's become larger and younger. Back then I'd say the average fan was 28-29 years old. Now, the average fan is 18-19. Whoda thunk the day would come when a 6 year old would know a Zaku from a Dom?

This is Sam Aquino. She's reading one of those new-fangled manga books called Paradise Kiss. It's about a bunch of fashion fruits doing fruity fashion things. She'll probably write cute things about it for @anime!. Fruit.
I can understand some of the arguments. For old heads, anime was their way of life. Fandom defined them. It was the one thing they could claim as their own. This appreciation gave them a chance to learn about a different culture; its customs, folkways and morays. Unfortunately, the old heads don't belong to the Japanese culture. They are observers; they can look at it and inform others on it to a point, but because they don't live in it or take part in the rituals and customs, they can't affect change in said culture.

But still, it defined them. Made them who they were.

Now, any snot-nosed 14 year old armed with DSL and l33t-speak can access in 10 hours a library that took the old heads 10 years to cultivate. Add to that the kids who step into Walmart and pick up RaXephon or Dragonball GT and poof! There goes the older fan's sense of originality. Now, they're like everyone else. The only thing they can cling to is the anime from the 70s that has so few frames per second, fans nowadays wouldn't be caught dead watching it.

If the old heads aren't spiteful towards anything made after 1986, they will complain about how "inauthentic" the commercial stuff is. And how they like fansubs better, because they preserve the authenticity of the creator's vision. I never understood that argument back when it was used as a reason why subs were better. Unless you are fluent in Japanese, what you see/read is going through a second source. For dubs, it's translated, then ADRed, then dubbed. For subs, it's translated, then cleaned up for English, and the subs are mashed on the master disc. It's the same thing.

It is necessary to change a joke here and there. Folks in America may not be familiar with, say Momotaro, the Peach Boy, but they know about Johnny Appleseed. They are similar stories, so a joke about Momotaro may be changed to one about Johnny Appleseed. But the old heads will complain that Johnny Appleseed is "inauthentic." Nevermind the fact that how they learned about Momotaro was a brief mention on a fansub.

Then, you have those who piss and moan about a name being romanized. Hell, that's been going on since anime hit U.S. television. Tetsujin 28 became Gigantor, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman became G-Force (I mean Battle of the Planets G-Force. Not that Ace Goodheart Eagle Riders crap from the 90s.) Names are romanized because people connect with characters who are like them, and live in similar situations. To the unwashed masses, Hikaru Ijicho is some Japanese guy, but Rick Hunter, that's a guy who could live next door to you.

Same thing with the music. A lovely Yoko Kanno score should be untouched, but the Eurobeat music in Initial D? That can go. Eurobeat has a specific audience here in the U.S., so I can see why they'd toss that in favor of rap, which is more mainstream. I say that with this caveat: Tokyopop'd better license the music. If they're thinking of getting a C-list group to make the music, then I'll gladly retract this whole paragraph. Listening to a Dutch guy saying "It's time to party/ And party/ And party party party" is more appealing than listening to some wankster trying to make rhymes about a tofu wagon.

Ultimately, the anime companies want to make money. To do that, they might need to change a name or a location to make it more familiar to the casual viewer. That's okay, as long as it doesn't change the meaning of a story. Because the more successful anime/manga is, the more they'll bring over to the U.S. And the happier we'll all be.

Except the old heads.

I'd like for them to join the rest of us in the new and improved world of anime fandom. Things may not be as tight-knit as they used to be, and you have quite a few kids underfoot, but there are a lot of fun people here who'd appreciate your knowledge.

If you can't adjust, shut up and find a new hobby. If you act now, you can learn origami before it becomes a fad in 2086.


Got something you wanna say to James?

Think he's right on? Think he's full of it? Let him know! He loves to hear what others think. Especially when they disagree. He just loves fan or hate mail. Gotta keep him happy. Send him an email at james.alsup@atanime.com.



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