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WO Interviews: Astro Nerd Boy

AstroNerdBoy
(no he's not Danny Choo)
Taking a break from my usual sarcastic and critical approach to the Otaku pop-culture, I thought I would tackle something a little more seriously minded, and get with fellow Anime/Manga afficianado AstroNerdBoy to comment a little about some things in the industry, and personally as a fan.

AstroNerdBoy is best known for his massively popular AstroNerdBoy's Anime & Manga Blog, as well as being one of the administrators of the FUNimation Forum on-line community.

When he isn't blogging away episode and chapter reviews of anime and manga, or getting away with blurbs about lack of sleep; he is contributing elsewhere on the internet and various communities doing what he does best, enlightening us with his rhetoric and refreshing opinions.



David-Ism:
"I'd like to kick this off with the usual question.

How old were you when you discovered Japanese entertainment i.e Anime/Manga?"

AstroNerdBoy:
"Nineteen. I'm not sure I would have even paid attention to anime or manga had I not been in Japan at the time. I did unknowingly watch anime as a kid (Battle of the Planets, aka: Gatchaman) though I just thought it was a cartoon. I also saw the live-action The Space Giants (aka: Ambassador Magma or Magma Taishi as it was known in Japan) as a kid but again, it wasn't "Japanese entertainment" as such."

David-Ism:
"Which would you say you prefer over the other, anime or manga?"

AstroNerdBoy:
"I don't prefer one over the other to be honest. I generally prefer the original source story over the other adaptations of the same story. So if the manga spins off an anime then I prefer that manga, but if the anime spins off the manga, then I prefer the anime. That said, in general, I like both media forms."

David-Ism:
"Looking around at the typical ages of the fan-base, and the people that go around with the Otaku label; would you consider yourself "old" by Otaku standards?"

AstroNerdBoy:
"I would consider myself "old" by any standard. *lol* I would not consider myself "otaku" though I am obviously a fan of the anime/manga format and passionate about certain titles."

David-Ism:
"You have expressed on several instances that you do not prefer dubbed anime, and that much of this has stemmed from your personal experiences with the anime Love Hina; is it safe to say that you are an Anime Purist? (A person who watches anime with no dub or sub)"

Astro Nerd Boy:
"I am a person who watches anime in Japanese with subtitles exclusively. However, I don't chide people who prefer dubs though. It is only for a title like the canon Tenchi Muyo! OVA's where the original Japanese story contains little things that need to be carefully translated that I tell people to watch the Japanese version to get the accurate story (assuming the subtitles are accurate)."

David-Ism:
"How important are honorifics to an American audience aside from having the constant repetitive -Chan, -San, -Kun, -Sama attached at the end of each person's name?"

AstroNerdBoy:
"I think they are very important. After all, we include various European honorifics (Spanish, French, German spring to mind) when they are used, but for some reason there was a great fear of Japanese honorifics. I think that's what makes the 70's mini-series Shogun so impressive in that the producers kept it real by letting honorifics stay in during dialog."

Davis-Ism:
"So then, is there no other way to express respectful attribute of title or status, or is this something that is simply a culture clash, that hasn't quite found its footing here in the states?"

AstroNerdBoy
"I think honorific usage has gained a much wider acceptance today than in the 80s or 90s. That's largely thanks to fansubs and scanlations, which not only caused anime and manga to grow in popularity, but also have educated fans about the hierarchical nature of Japanese society.

Japanese writers of anime, manga, and light novels use honorifics as a literary device because honorifics aren't used quite that extensively in modern Japanese society. In that light, I don't subscribe to the idea that honorifics can or should be force translated. I completely reject the notion that leaving in Japanese honorifics is being lazy while ignoring them is not being lazy.

Take the Slayers anime for my first example. There's a female cleric character named Sylphiel who is in love with the fighter character Gourry. As such, she addresses him as "Gourry-sama." The official translation turned this into "Gourry, darling" some of the time whenever Sylphiel appeared to just be fawning over Gourry. However, that translation does not work when Sylphiel yells "Gourry-sama!" to get his attention or in some other situation where she's not fawning over him. In those situations, the honorific usage was simply ignored. Yet Sylphiel's manner of addressing Gourry has not changed but in the official English translation, it has.

For example two, lets go to Slayers Next. In the episode They're Talking About a Girl Named Zelgadiss, Gourry, Xellos, and Zelgadiss have to disguise themselves as women to enter a female-only village. The cleric Amelia always addresses Zelgadiss as "Zelgadiss-san" but the official translation has this as "Mister Zelgadiss." Before this episode, folks could argue, "Oh, that's a good translation so what's the problem?" However, the "san" honorific is gender-neutral so when the group enters the village, Amelia continuing to address Zelgadiss as "Zalgadiss-san" isn't a problem. However, the official English translation for this episode still has her saying "Mister Zelgadiss" which makes NO sense considering he and the other males are in disguise lest they be caught and punished as males in the story. If the official translation had just retained the Japanese honorific, there wouldn't have been an issue.

I know I've said a lot but to me, leaving the honorifics in manga and in anime subtitles is important. They aren't that difficult to learn and if it is OK to leave in various Western honorifics, then why not Japanese honorifics?"

David-Ism:
"How much anime or manga do you usually manage to finish?"

AstroNerdBoy:
"I try to finish everything I start. There have been series that have started off poorly and ended up being enjoyable to me (Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha) so if I start something, I do what I can to finish it most of the time."

David-Ism:
"I know that you do a lot of reviews on your blog, and I'm sure elsewhere, how much viewing and reading are you able to get accomplished?"

AstroNerdBoy:
"To be honest, the blog has been detrimental to that. Back in 2002 when I first started looking seriously at anime, I watched a lot of anime that year and the years following. When I started writing for Community Anime Reviews, my viewing dropped a little but not a great deal. However, once I started episode blogging, a single episode might take me hours to completely blog. That's because I watch it, then I start writing but I often end up watching a second time before finishing the piece. Then I go through and do image grabs. If the episode or manga chapter causes me some questions, I may take hours doing research on top of all that, as I did during a recent xxxHOLiC two-chapter story that dealt with an aborted fetus spirit."

David-Ism:
"Do you follow the new releases of anime and manga as they premiere in Japan, or the broadcasts from each season?"

AstroNerdBoy:
"I am generally aware of the new anime titles that are released but on the manga side, I'm pretty clueless unless it is a title from a manga artist that I really like. If there is an anime that catches my eye, then I try to make a point of watching it as it comes out of Japan. Otherwise, I have a huge backlog of stuff I've yet to watch."

David-Ism:
"This is a question that I'm sure a lot of people have been wanting to ask, so I'll go ahead and ask it.

How do you watch your anime? Do you watch it fan-subbed, or raw? Since a lot of the anime and manga that isn't licensed in America can usually only come here a few ways; imported, fan-subbed, or raw."

AstroNerdBoy:
"Heh. My Japanese skills aren't good enough to watch something raw, so I will admit to having watched fansubs of unlicensed titles. That said, I am a HUGE supporter of anime in the U.S. and have purchased a ton of anime titles, to say nothing of the manga I've purchased. I make a point of supporting titles I like with priority given to titles where the R1 company does my subtitles right (meaning, they are accurate and retain honorifics).

I've also on rare occasion splurged and imported anime from Japan. I also import all of the Negima! manga tankoubons published as well as purchase the Del Rey (and soon to be Kodansha USA) releases. I was doing that for Ah! My Goddess but financial constraints forced me to drop the Japanese versions.

The bottom line though is that I have always supported the things I like, which is why my video collection has not only anime, but various TV series I've like over time (Max Headroom being the latest addition there), Hollywood movies, British comedies, and more."

David-Ism:
"Would you say that the fan-base has changed over the past decade, and how is being a fan now different than being a fan then?"

AstroNerdBoy:
"I think the fanbase has changed in that there are more fans and they are all on the Internet. Look at Pokemon as an example. When that was first brought to America, Nintendo and 4Kids were able to get away with renaming characters, changing stories, and removing Japanese references to go so far as to call onigiri ("rice balls") a doughnut. *_* Years later when 4Kids attempted to bring over the very popular One Piece, they were unable to get away with the same kinds of thing because though the audiences were still kids for the most part, they were more sophisticated because of the Internet. Plus, I'm sure most of them had been watching the fansubs and though most wanted an English dub, they wanted a proper English dub and not something edited and changed for U.S. consumption."

D:
"As a person with high moral and ethical and religious views, how does -- if any -- anime conflict with your ideas and principles? Do you find it detrimental to follow after the principles of religion and view anime, or read manga?"

ANB:
"If an anime or manga is that opposed to my Christian beliefs, then I just won't watch or read it. I have to take these on a case-by-case basis. Negima! is probably the series that is the most borderline for me because of the constant ecchi fanservice. However, the fact that the nudity is Barbie Doll stuff combined with the fact that this is one of the better written manga titles out there are enough to keep me buying. I do NOT take this manga out in public though because based on some of the covers alone, people in the waiting rooms of doctor's offices, auto repair shops, hair cutting shops, etc. would get the wrong impression of what this manga is about.

Now remember, what I'm OK with may not be something that another Christian is comfortable with and that's fine. We all aren't the same."

D:
"With each season of anime, and each new published manga, it seems that the perversity factor has begun to reach a fairly consistent level. Would you say that the industry has gone after the ecchi content more now than in the past, and how would you say the Moe and Loli fan-service anime and manga has affected the fanbase?"

ANB:
"In Japan, the ecchi and sex sells just as sex sells in the U.S.

You know, as I think on this question, I'm reminded of a Ranma 1/2 episode I saw when the series first aired in Japan in 1989. I was STUNNED to see female Ranma in a steamy bath, naked (obviously), and with her breasts fully visible through the steam. As my friend Robert pointed out to me, Japan's take on nudity is different from America's take. So fanservice and ecchi content has been a staple of anime and manga out of Japan from the start.

As to how the Moe and Loli stuff has effected the fanbase, I'm not sure. What it has told me is that despite the "progress" of the modern era, apparently many men still crave the younger girls on a primal, sexual level. Being that these are 2D girls, I suppose it allows these guys to give into that urge and lust after and fantasize about girls they wouldn't dare do so about in real life. ^_^;;;"

D:
"As a reader of your blog I was present during much of the fallout of your article regarding the censorship of Dance in the Vampire Bund several months back. Not to re-open that can of worms, but do you as a viewer, or reader think that the issue of more nudity and sexuality in anime and manga could become a double edged sword later on? "

ANB:
"As a person who is politically pretty libertarian, I don't care how much nudity and/or sexuality is placed in manga and anime. As a Christian, I won't be choosing those titles and don't now based on my own standards. Frankly, I don't see it is the government's business to decide what people should and should not read just as I don't see it is the government's business to decide what I should or should not eat.

Marketing a non-hentai anime or manga title with heavy nudity or strong sexual themes is always going to be a double-edged sword. There's going to be a certain market for that stuff but then there are going to be people like myself who aren't interested. Then, you have the busybodies who want to get involved for the "greater good" and REALLY jack things up by going after things I find personally acceptable."

D:
"Most broadcast series with an excessive amount of ecchi in Japan have censor blurs, and light streaks, and of course fog to remove much of the nudity for public broadcast, but what message does this send to the audience, and especially those that don't quite understand the cultural popularity of anime, doesn't this express a deliberate attempt by the Japanese industry to make shows that they know have these things in them?"

ANB:
"Well, the only censor blurs I'm aware of happen in hentai titles (and of course, live-action Japanese porn), but then again, I don't watch the modern ecchi titles so maybe I'm out of touch here. I do remember that in the 80s, TV anime titles seemed to get away with a bit of detailed topless nudity flashes here and there. I don't know if that is happening today or not.

That said, the Japanese mostly make anime titles for Japanese audiences. Western audiences finding a taste for their product is just icing on the cake. So I don't think that Japanese producers take the West into consideration when making their anime. On the Japanese side, any nudity is just excused, especially if it is for young teen males who might find such things "essential" (as I've seen it joked about in the manga Hayate the Combat Butler)."

D:
"Following on the heels of the previous question, should American Anime distributors re-asses their purchasing standards for anime based on the weighty decision of possibly being forced to edit and censor their product? Basically, should a company knowingly secure rights for an anime title that they know they may later on have to trim and edit?"

ANB:
"That's up to the marketing people at the American anime distribution company. If a company decides to license something that they may feel would land them in a negative light and hurt their overall business, then I feel they shouldn't license it. No matter what , there should be no legal requirement to censor anything."

D:
"Do you as a fan find it frustrating when companies drop or fail to release all the available episodes of a series, or is this 'Just Business'?"

ANB:
"Oh yes, it is VERY frustrating. I understand the business needs of a company to not spend money on a title that people aren't buying enough of to make it profitable. That said, dropping an anime or manga title will anger those fans who did buy everything that was released. Thus, you have a two-edged sword here as well.

For example, an R1 anime company licenses the first series/season of an anime to see how it sells before deciding on purchasing more series/seasons. For the sake of discussion, lets say that it sells OK, but not to the levels that justify licensing more from a business standpoint. Now, the R1 anime company hopes that the message gets out that in future, more fans will support a series right from the starting gate if they want more series/seasons licensed. However, I think that while most anime fans understand this, those "burned" by getting only part of the anime series (or manga title) take another lesson -- don't invest in a series until you see a greater commitment from the R1 company.

When a company is more fan-centric, they will at times make decisions to continue producing an anime or manga series even if it isn't doing well for them but at least has a vocal cult following. The series will be chalked up like a loss-leader product in a supermarket (or other store) to keep the fans happy and hopefully buying other stuff. However, when the cold black-and-white of dollar amounts on a spreadsheet come into play, then I see the alienation of fans and a stronger drive of those same fans to fansubs just so they can get the whole series."

D:
"According to Robert Brown (Anime Corner Store) internet retailer; it has been heavily suggested that an anime's profit is pretty much determined within the first 120 days of sale once it hits the street. Do you think that this is the reason some titles in America do well or fail, or is there a more major influence from on-line downloading?"

ANB:
"My experiences with FUNimation tell me that what Robert says is right. Again, we are faced with the cold reality of a pure business model versus the "do it for the fans" mentality that allows for a title that doesn't sell so well to carry on.

Online downloading of anime has certainly had an influence on things. In the days before digital fansubs, a company like ADV could license subpar crap, put a pretty package on it, and lure people into buying it on a whim. Today, that can't be done and fans who REALLY love an anime title will buy it when it hits the street even after they've watched the fansubs. They won't fall for marketing of crappy anime titles with suggestive covers and marketing schemes because they've either already watched it or they've read blogs of others who have."

D:
"The arguments have been made, that downloading fan-subbed anime that is unlicensed falls within a gray area of the industry, and that it couldn't possibly harm the market. What are your thoughts on that?"

ANB:
"Considering that any anime can be licensed at any time, then one could argue that there can be a negative impact. However, fansubs have clued in R1 companies on what could potentially be a very profitable title to license. As with many things, fansubs too are a two-edged sword as I see it."

D:
"Do you think that leeching ripped anime (dual-audio DVD) and fan-subbed anime are the same?"

ANB:
"No, they aren't the same at all. However, the fact that there is a demand for such ripped downloads proves there's a market for legal dubs and subs online. I wish all anime companies had their entire libraries out digitally, both in dub and in sub, for people to legally watch."

D:
"It has been suggested that seeders and leechers pervert the intention and integrity of the fan-base, do you think that is an accurate assessment?"

ANB:
"I don't know if that is an accurate assessment or not. What I do know is that we have been raised to turn on our radios and listen to music, talk, or sports at no costs to ourselves beyond purchasing said radio. Ditto for the TV. That mentality continues and so anime AND manga companies should find a way to get paid while continuing that kind of service."

D:
"With the digital age taking our favorite shows into the direction of streaming, do you think we will see an age when traditional DVDs and BDs of our shows will become obsolete?"

ANB:
"Yes. I dream of a day when I can have my video collection on a server of some kind with offline backup of said videos. I'm sure that Hollywood and even R1 anime distributors would love for a day to happen when they completely control how and when you view a product, something that doesn't happen with physical media like a DVD or Blu-ray. So I hope that in future, we'll still have the ability to have videos at our beck and call to watch when and how WE want to do so."

D:
"Will manga ever cross the digital boundary? As in, do you think we will ever see legal digital manga sites?"

ANB:
"I think if it were up to U.S. companies, we'd already be there, or at least much further along. The Japanese are apparently very afraid of digital content though, which is a shame really. I only purchased RIN-NE after seeing Viz post chapters online and saw how they were adapting it. Oddly enough though, I haven't bothered to keep current with it, mainly because it isn't a title that fires me up to read it on a weekly basis.

Assuming the Japanese start allowing it, I'm pretty sure you won't see legal, digital sites that are a "one stop shop" like the illegal digital manga sites out there now are. Instead, each U.S. publishing company would just have the titles they've licensed on their own company's site."

D:
"With the popularity of portable and digital devices everywhere, and the ability to carry our episodes of anime and digital books with us, which do you personally prefer, the physical copy, or a digital copy?"

ANB:
"On the anime side, assuming I had off-site backup of my all my digital files, then I'd be fine with 100% digital copies there. On the manga side, I'd like the same thing, though I admit that I like the feel of a physical book in my hand when I read in bed versus an e-reader."

D:
"As a fan, what are your hopes for the future of the industry both here in America, and in Japan?"

ANB:
"Obviously, I hope they continue to succeed. I would love for all anime in Japan to be legally simulcast in the U.S. and for all manga chapters to be legally published in English (online) as they come out in Japan."

D:
"To conclude, I'd like to say thanks AstroNerdBoy for taking the time to answer these questions; with your insight and opinions. Do you have any closing comments?"

ANB:
"I'd like to thank all those who've supported my anime/manga blog and read my dribble over the years. ^_^

Hopefully, I can keep it up for a while to come. ^_^"



you can visit AstroNerdBoy's blog and read more of his thoughts on the Anime and Manga industry at AstroNerdBoy's Anime & Manga Blog, make sure you check that out.

Comments

  1. So thiiiisss is what you were up to D. Kudos. ;)

    It was very enlightening to see the two of you, both of you more verbally articular than myself, bounce ideas back and forth on the subject of the fandom as a whole. I also particularly enjoyed the question about how one's religion can affect your fandom, since I once asked ANB the same thing. *lol*

    At any rate, this could definitely be a cool new thing to do every so often I think D. I hope you can continue to do reviews of fans. *thumbs up*

    ReplyDelete
  2. What do you mean he isn't Danny Choo? I came by because I thought ANB would be doing some Trooper Dancing here at Western Otaku.

    ReplyDelete

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