Friday, March 25, 2011

xxxHolic Rou Adayuma

xxxHolic Rou Adayuma
Now that the manga series has wrapped, it seems that CLAMP has still one more visual offering for the fans; presented as an OAD, and bundled with the final 19th volume of xxxHolic, the 27 minute episode takes us once more into the world of the new mysterious shop owner, and the supernatural.

 Picking up some years after the events of xxxHolic Rou, Kimihiro Watanuki is asked to grant a wish of Doumeki's grandfather, which takes him on a harrowing jaunt into the world of dreams. Once there, he is to decrypt the dream, using all the skill he has at his disposal, as he follows a thread of dreams through the past moments of his life, and that of the dreamer.

Once again the OAD is produced by Production IG, and despite the swiftness of the episode, it sports some of the most impressive visual effects in the xxxHolic franchise since the movie; A Midsummer Night's Dream. The score is first rate as always, and the dialogue is well crafted, allowing the fans not familiar with the manga to still follow along, despite the obvious major leap-frogging and gaps between OVAs, and OADs.

I was somewhat bittersweet at this latest OAD, as I am a huge fan of the franchise, and while I know how the manga ends, this episode seemed like a un-spoken fond farewell. Doumeki makes his usual appearance, but this time there was no Kohane Tsuyuri, and only brief moments with the supporting cast.

Some revelations in this installment were disappointing, and others leaving me despondent. It's not enough that Watanuki is the shop owner, but at the price he paid, to live forever, it means washing his hands of any sort of normality, and the burden is one that I think he shoulders well.

I would have greatly preferred this OAD to be twice as long, and maybe it's better that it wasn't; as that might have only given me more of a sadness to deal with afterward. Nevertheless, I personally feel that this is the end of xxxHolic, and if there are to be any future OVAs, or OADs; then they probably will only be side stories, and take the series in a direction that I don't want.

I won't compare this OAD to the manga, since I am a firm believer in letting the anime and the manga develop into their own unique life-forms, but as an anime, this one could have gone out with more of a bang. Instead it let you walk away sadly, wishing you could turn around and say goodbye before hanging your head and leaving for good.

If I had to recommend this, I would suggest it only to those that are true fans of the series, otherwise this is not something most fans would even be interested in seeing, despite it's creation by CLAMP. 

This is the OAD that happens when we just can bear to part with a series, and while it may have been sad to see it go, wrought with pangs of frustration, it still gave me an opportunity to say my farewells to one of my favorite franchises in the past several years.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

WO's March Top 10: Random Things

Well, I'm finally back from taking a brief break; been away for a bit doing some proper rest time, and visiting my fiance in Missouri.

So, now that I am back, it's time to get another month's top ten out of the way. I'll do everything I can to keep this one from going so dang long.

Anyway, jumping right in; this month I am not adhering to any theme, so it's going to be random stuff in the fandom.

10: Waiting On Word
One thing fans of anime and manga hate or get so worked up over is of course waiting on word of their new favorite show. Whether it is news of it's arrival in America, or news of acquirement, or even news of who is going to be voicing which character in the up-coming dub.

Most of the negative feedback that comes from the fan-base is due to a company's inability, either un-knowingly, or willfully to keep this vital information out of the general mosh pit.

09: Re-Issue
We all love our shows, and there is no denying that some jump at the first chance to buy an anime the very moment it comes out, regardless of whether it has a good dub, or comes subbed only; some going so far as to pre-order their product weeks and even months in advance.

On the opposite hand, you have those that wait patiently for a company to reduce an anime in price, and see it's life transformed from a full-blown 40+ dollar set to a super saver's special.

It's no big deal to some of us, because the average anime will make its total sum profit, within the first 180 days of it release, so the fact that a title even has a re-issue at a new lower price tag speaks to its popularity and longevity on the full price shelf.

What is annoying, is when a company, in an attempt to breathe some new life into a dead archaic title, sees fit to re-re-issue it as if it was something that just occurred to them, and never mind the fact that it is still the same damn price, but only features slightly different box-art.

What sort of morons do they really take us for? If I didn't buy the piece of crap while it was full price, and I didn't buy it after it failed to make money as a full priced hunk of crap, what makes them think that I want to buy it in it's third generation of crap-dom with just a crappier image on the front of the box?

08. Playing Favorites
It's usually not a big deal when two fans get together and swap their preferences for different anime, and in all truth, that's what it's supposed to be about. You know, good times and such?

But it's when one fan tries to force their favorite on another that typically isn't at all interested in the title, or the franchise, or the fact that your favorite might be some archaic relic from anime past, that barely had a passable audience in its two season run on some obscure network.

I have some shows that I love, and some that I won't go within a thousand miles of, and while I myself try to make a habit of not pushing my favorites on others, it's not fair that I have to listen to how much better some other person's favorite is.

Well, most likely my reasons for disliking something are a little deeper than their blind liking of something. I mean I love most things that others just plain hate. And I hate some things... well, a lot of things that others absolutely worship as the best anime on earth.

Just because you masturbate to every waking moment of One Piece doesn't mean that I have to.

07. Cry Spin-Off!
Just how many damned shows does a franchise have to have before it can ultimately rest in peace, or just flat out die?

It isn't as if we didn't already enjoy the other seasons, but often in what seems like a predesignated attempt to milk money from the fans, studios will invariably create spin offs to popular shows.

Pretty Cure, Tenchi, Haruhi Suzumiya, Gundam... the list just goes on and on!

And it isn't like the shows get much better. The Haruhi-Chan spin off to the popular Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series is nothing more than 4 to 8 minute episodes of random nonsense, packaged in two parts by Bandai to make more money off of starving fans eager to see more Haruhi, at almost any cost. It's so disgusting to watch fans grovel for more scraps from the industry it makes me want to slap them and scream, "Have some pride you retard! You SICKEN ME!"

06. Anonymity is Power
The best thing about being an anime and manga fan on the internet these days is that it doesn't take long to find more like minded individuals, but the worst thing about being an anime and manga fan these days is the fact that it's become a place where no one really bothers to care about anyone or anything.

Anime fans can make complete fools of themselves, and be ass-holes and ingrates, and it doesn't matter in the least, because there is no one there in real life to slap their internet hands, and tell them to behave.

It's gotten to the point that I hate internet message boards, and online forums. I've no time to spend with cowards that would rather troll, and spam, so I limit my involvement, and hope that the day will come that fans of anime take a little more pride in themselves.

The worst things about anonymity, the internet, and the anime and manga fandom, is that there is little to no recourse for our actions, and it's a perplexing and saddening fact of the fan-base as a whole.

05. Too Much or Not Enough?
So you are walking down the grocery store aisle, looking for orange juice, and you suddenly are halted in your tracks because you are confronted by eighty different varieties of O.J.. Some of it has berry mixed in, some banana, and some kiwi--why the hell banana and kiwi in my orange juice should be good is beyond me.

Well as you stand there, in the process of picking a flavor of "ORANGE" juice, you realize that perhaps "less is more", and sometimes variety only leads to too much choice, and too much hostility, because despite how we may want it, we can't really have it all.

What does this have to do with anime and manga?

I'm glad you asked.

With anime, well, at least anime back in the time before fappers with a keyboard, there was usually only one version of the show. There was no such thing as dual-audio, or subbed, especially when dealing with the VHS era. Sure some anime was only released subbed, but that still limited the choices of a show.

Now with so many options for shows; the dual-audio, the subtitles, and the multitude of fan-subs (each with their own unique distinctive flavor and grammar usage) it's no wonder the fans are angry and nasty.

Too much choice means that they actually have something to complain about. Like my favorite beef, manga vs anime... which is just an excuse for them to unjustly bitch and gripe about filler. No, filler isn't when a show gets adapted for television that it gets some expanded scenes and episodes; filler is when I ram your holier than thou manga up your ass till you stop complaining about ever single tiny thing that doesn't exactly follow every panel of the manga.

Too much variety has made a lot of good fans into unrecognizable tyrants, and bad fans only worse. Sometimes I wish we could go back to the days of old, and have a little less in our stew-pot to chew on, and pick out.

04. Rising Stars
There are quite a few success stories about people in the world breaking into the industry, whether that be the film or TV industry, and even the book industry. But there are not that many stories of people breaking into the Voice Acting industry as of late.

Sadly, many fans have illustrious dreams of grandeur about getting into the anime or manga industry, and while I am not here to squash anyone's dreams, I have to say that it isn't an easy road to go down.

Sure they fall in love with a VA and practice imitating their lines, or sounding like Chris Sabat while doing Piccolo, or Monica Rial as she voices Jo from Burst Angel, but the fact is, if that is all you are doing... then you might as well hang up hat. Studios want flexibility, and range, not you trying to imitate Goku or Revy, and they sure as hell don't want a kid that hasn't graduated from high school yet to be in their many seasons of shows, you think you are going to get.

VAs don't get rich over-night, and unless you are in hot demand, then you might not need to be quitting your day job. In the real world, Voice Acting is what live Action Actors do when they are between films and TV series.

If you want to be a rising star in the industry, then you best be prepared to endure a lot of training, vocally, and mentally. Go to college, and major in vocal music, with some drama, acting and even dance. Take courses that will give you the edge, then when a company has open casting, like the anime industry NEVER does by the way, then you might be on your way to stardom, and little nerds in their mother's basement can fap to the sound of your voice as some hot anime chick that they virtually stalk.

03. The Good Old Days
Let's be honest, when we as fans talk about "the good old days" of anime, what are we really referring to? Is it some grand epic adventure so large it could barely be contained within one small television screen?

Chances are, we are desperately trying to regain that special feeling we had when we were ignorant children that liked to sit on our asses in front of the television and watch something explode. It probably has little to do with great anime from back in the day, and more to do with nostalgia.

Sure there were great anime back when I was a kid, but what good does any of that do now? Voltron is long since over-shadowed, Speed Racer has lost the race for popularity, and Robotech is so old hat that we always move it aside in the video section to see if there is something better behind it to buy.

I'm sure we all feel a twang of good feeling memories when we think back to simpler times as kids that we didn't have the burdens of the fandom weighing down on us, but let's face it folks, the industry isn't gonna wait around for your good feelings and fond memories of days gone by, it's gonna press forward to newer shows, and better audiences.

So while we can get away with being fuddy-duddies and turn into anime geezers that refuse to try anything "new fangled", we won't be able to use the excuse of "Good old Days" for much longer, as the anime of the 90s and 2000s will have turned your vintage stock into a pile of retro backwash.

How about instead of sitting back and complaining about the past being better, you sample a few subbed anime, and some new modern classics, and see that the industry isn't taking any more steps back than it did two decades ago.

02. Social Acceptance
Some of us older generation of fans and even a few of the younger crowd have had to endure some pretty hard times when is comes to our fondness of anime and manga. Sure there was always some small foothold into the entertainment culture of America, but those stints were always short-lived and seldom lasted for very long.

Those of us that found ourselves between those times when anime wasn't frowned upon, had to make hard choices, and much harder sacrifices in our lives. We would go to great lengths to conceal from our family, our friends, and even the general public that we were fans of anime.

In Japan the term Otaku is a dirty word, it's not something that even very socially acceptable to the culture that generates anime and manga; mostly because the definitions of Otaku differ vastly from East to West.

In Japan, one is expected to be a raving fan, without it compromising their social and ethical standards, their way of life, and their contribution to society. But in America, it has come to signify a marker of extreme hardcore fanaticism, which couldn't be any further from the truth.

It seems that the biggest similarity we as American fans have with our Japanese brethren, is that personal inhibition over anime taken too far is unacceptable behavior, and that when we let our fandom and our passions cripple us to the point that we are no longer productive members of society, then we all should have the plug pulled, and go on a serious anime cleansing.

01. This Is Dedicated To The One I Love
When I first got into anime, I was in my early twenties, and it wasn't hard to fall into a "Aww she's so kawaii cute" attitude for many of the girls in anime. I had a particular fondness for Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura, and enjoyed seeing her character types, and there were times that I probably imagined some of the girls in anime a little too much.

But these days, I am older, I have a fiance (actually in the real world, yeah I can kiss a real girl too), and some of the innocent crushes that I once had are more or less just passing chuckles, and sideways glances.

A lot of fans, however are sadly taking the anime crushes too far. And it's hard to figure what is too far, and what is just down right un-healthy.

Am I saying that fantasy infatuation with a 2D girl is wrong? No I am not. But when we take this infatuation to the point where we handicap ourselves to the real world, and make believe that real girls are not as good as 2D girls, then we are one french fry short of a trip to the looney bin.

In all truth, I don't really have a problem with people being idiots and wasting their lives on girls that will never love them back, because that just gives some poor chap out there a shot with a girl they didn't have the balls to date and marry.

But in all honesty, I'd much rather have a flesh and blood girl that I can cuddle against, and press my lips against, and know beyond a doubt that the love I give is returned, than a character I have to draw into sheer moments of delight, and sew into a strip of cloth and hump in the night.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Where Are All The Dubs?

One thing that the fan-base in America has a great passion for is consistent and precise dubbing of anime shows. Sure there are the subtitle purists that would prefer their entire world to be spoken in Japanese with Arial style font popping up at the bottom; but for a huge majority of anime fans, we would like to see--well hear--a good dub for some of our favorite shows.

The cause for alarm is somewhat small lately, when we take into consideration some of the baby steps that anime distributors have made this past couple of years; however the mediocre trickling of solid sound-work titles has clearly seen better days.

Over the course of the past five years, anime has seen its share of major ups and downs, combined with controversy and the occasional idiot-fan making like a pervert at some convention. Sure the obsession factor has plateaued, and sure the industry is announcing title acquisition after title acquisition; but little is actually getting to our plates with the proper proportions, and side dishes.

It used to be that companies like the late great Geneon, and AD Vision would release the vast majority of their titles with an English dub audio track, most likely as an audio option to the Japanese track with subtitles, and companies like FUNimation would never release a title without one.

These days the companies pressing forward with consistent and solid sound-work is FUNimation Entertainment, and Bandai Ent., though Bandai has severely cut back on their outsourcing of titles to dubbing houses like Bang-Zoom; and have more often than not, played the shenanigans card by releasing a large cluster of subtitle only shows during the past two years; much to the dismay and aggravation of the fickle fan masses.

Not long after the demise of both Geneon and ADV, companies like FUNimation began doing what the industry lovingly called "license rescues" of their back catalog of titles, and the fans were too dumb to realize that as a fan-base move it was brilliant, but as a cost-effective marketing strategy it was damned near god-like.

Not only does a company like FUNimation not have to put out the cash of recording a dub for a show that already has a passable one, but they already have the layout and format for the DVDs themselves, which means the templates can be sent straight to the press, and lo and behold they are praised for saving the fan-base.

In addition to the closing of Geneon and ADV it didn't take long before new companies would rise to fill those gaps, and sure enough we now have at least three all angling for a slice of the fan-base's wallet.

Companies like Sentai Filmworks, and NISA along with Sentai's kid sister company MaidenJapan. Media Blasters, which isn't new by a long-run, but due to their merger with Right Stuf have also stepped back up and have begun to have more involvement again.

It seems that while we as fans are awash in this surge of companies all making announcements, and plastering release schedules up, the thing we are really missing the most of, is a list of shows that are really seeing the attention they actually deserve.

Lately, the release schedule for FUNimation's list of titles is a mixture of yet more so-called license rescues, a ton of re-releases and re-packages, and perhaps one or two actual new titles with an in-house dub.

For the moment companies like Sentai and the on-line streaming guru Crunchyroll have made good on more things than the last best vestige for dubbing in North America, and to date, Sentai Filmworks has released a total of two shows with a dub. Crunchyroll, which doesn't distribute will probably only ever air/stream their shows with subtitles.

So what's the problem if good shows are getting released, and the fans are happy?

Well the truth be told, the fans will never be happy, as it is more or less in their nature to bitch and moan about most anything they get, see or want. Though, in this case, I think their bleating needs some heeding.

Even though most of the casual fans are split down the middle on subtitle only releases, it's not in their nature to give much more than a passing damn, so they'll buy the show as is, and silently frustrate themselves while reading the on-screen text.

The other half that hate reading anything--makes me wonder how they passed grammar and English--will refuse flat out to ever watch a show that has no voice-over dub track, and they will frustrate themselves by constantly waiting on a dub that will never be.

The Ironic thing about the majority of the fans that I encounter, is that they are screaming for two things; more of their shows, and good accurate dubs.

More shows isn't a problem, well at least not to the people at FUNimation that seem to have enough shows licensed and waiting in the wings to provide the fans with new releases till the end of the decade; it's the fans wanting a good dub and wanting them quickly, that is beginning to be the problem.

We all remember the uproar that the fans made when several popular shows like Case Closed and Kodocha, and even select episodes of Galaxy Angles were either dropped or had their dub cut. Ah, yes such dark days indeed for the masses. 

In fact if you go on almost any site, read any message board, you will even hear how the fans want new dubs for old anime. Oh, yes you heard me; new dubs! As if such a thing actually exists in this world.

The issue now is the fan ignorance of just what it takes to get a dub of anything to their show, and out to their hands.

First of all, not every single anime in Japan is prime real estate for us greedy, fat, selfish, complainers. The Japanese do not simply sit down and create a show, and rub their hands together in excitement at the prospect of how fast we are going to snatch it up, and offer them the biggest lump sum of  money for a license.

No, they make their own shows, they probably couldn't give a flying **** about our intentions, and are only focused on getting their own networks to provide them enough advert and merchandising time to pay their production costs off, and not have them breaking even.

The second thing, is that once an offer for an anime is extended, the Japanese license-holders are going to have to make sure that it's enough of an offer that they can gain from letting their creation into someone else's hands. Imagine you go to the trouble of making a form of art, and then you sell the licensing rights to some other company to use it how they see fit, and the next you know, they took your art and flipped it on its ear.

Third. It takes time to make a dub, generally speaking; the initial steps are planning and meetings to discuss both marketing and script creation; which of course any American Company knows, that product awareness is vital to a good profit. So marketing goes about doing their thing, and soaking up a lot of the start-up money for this project, the script is still being hammered out, and hasn't gone through its many revisions(lets hope the fans don't bitch too much about it), and then it's off to casting calls.

This is where the real money for the dub is spent. 

Oh, I'm sure that the technical aspect of the dub, the mixing, the video transfers all of that is expensive; but it's taking a bunch of actors and paying them their prices that the cost of a dub usually goes way out of control.

A lot of actors are union, which means that they get paid set rates regardless of what the studios want, and there is even a guideline for paying voice actors based on length, role, and or hours worked.

Most typical voice actors will get paid anywhere from $250 to $800 dollars for a project. Some will get paid way more, and some will be paid by the hour, which can be any where from $40 to $80 dollars an hour in some places. 

So let's take an anime like Fairy Tail, that is still running, and set down to put a dub to it. Oh, I'm sure the gnarly little crap-stains will cheer in frenzied ejaculatory excitement, but the chances of it seeing the dub through to the end will be slim.

Lots of dubbing companies back in the day didn't care, they would slap a dub on almost anything. But then, they were also charging more than $30 dollars for a single DVD of any given show, and so could afford to put all that profit back into the creation of more dubs.

Some shows were so highly popular, that it seemed as if they could single-handedly bankroll a company for the next decade; and while us fans got accustomed to seeing release after release with an English dub, the economy and the failure of some shows, combined with new packaging decisions paved the way for a terrible shortage of new anime getting dubbed.

As any fan, and they'll tell you that no release of an anime could possibly have enough episodes per disc. I mean, if technology could cram nine million episodes on a disc, the fan's would still want more, like greedy little puppies that will keep eating and gorging even after their stomachs have ruptured on all that they've already been given.

So it was no shock that not a single fan complained, when North American companies began producing half-season sets of our shows.

At the cost of all the bonus features, which didn't matter when it came to more episodes; there was more than just a sense of loss.

Now instead of having to spend 120 or 130 dollars per series, a fan could get them for around a cool 80 dollars, or even less if they went to a Right Stuf anime sale.

So here we are, with companies selling more of their product for less, constant re-packages of five and six year old anime shows, only one or two shows a month getting released with a dub, and the companies like Sentai that are wanting to produce dubs are hitting a brick wall with the fans, that scream and piss themselves in anger because Sentai won't go bankrupt giving some idiotic show a dub.

To further baffle me, Media Blasters is putting dubs on shows two to three years after their release, which is like a time-lag thing or something, since they've never made much sense to me, but it's as if they are wondering around in some sort of post-industrial apocalypse, waiting for Nozomi and Right Stuf to give them the hack-saw enema, and shut them down.

In plain terms, dubs are seemingly on the back burner of priority for a major portion of the industry. Many of the once big dubbing houses have declined, some replaced with sub-only companies that can't quite build up their momentum to establish consistent dubs, and of course our great last vestige of hope; FUNimation Entertainment, that can't keep up with their back-log of titles to afford a dub for each and every one of them.

The bottom line of the industry right now, is that money is the biggest factor for why there seems to be such a major absence of dubs. Money for the acquisitions, money for the technical work, and money for the voice actors.

It is very possible, that if things keep going the way they are, that even companies like FUNimation will have to begin making some adjustments to their philosophy of no-sub only releases, and use this as an opportunity to earn some revenue like every one else.

The sheer deliberate ignorance and stupidity of the fans really baffles me at times, when it comes to dubs. Not only do they not even bother to think about what it takes to give them what they want, they don't really seem to do much thinking at all, and in the end just form a conga line of complainers, and bellyachers. I really hope that this decade isn't the last of the dubbing industry, but if we went by the demands of the fans, we ourselves would drive this industry into the got-damn dirt!