Life’s Great Mysteries: Watching Anime Socially

So with 2012 upon us, let’s look at another one of life’s great mysteries. Today, I want to talk about watching anime in groups. From the general trend I see online, this may not be such a common trend, but I want to look at how this dynamic changes the experience of watching anime.

So for the most part, the anime I watch is watched alone in my room. However, sometimes I venture out of my cave on the outskirts of town and go to the meeting for my school’s anime club, which meets every week during the school year. Basically, they pick like 4-5 different series and show one or two episodes each week.

What does this end up looking like? 3 hours each week in a dark room with anime playing on a projector with about 20 people watching. Clearly, this is different than watching by myself. How is it different? Random outbursts of laughter become choruses of laughter and personal predictions are met with outcry or agreement.

I like the atmosphere watching with others and it’s nice to get immediate feedback about an episode, but I’m not a huge fan of waiting a week for an episode when I could so easily finish it myself. Still, I found myself greatly entertained when I watched No. 6 for a second time with everyone else.

I also find that watching with the anime club introduced me to shows I wouldn’t otherwise watch by myself, like Nabari no Ou and Outlaw Star (No. 6 and Nabari no Ou? What is it with this anime club and borderline BL?). I start to wonder if this is evidence of the social environment acting in a negative sense, numbing myself to problems I’d normally have with an old show like Outlaw Star or…a show like Nabari no Ou.

Let’s switch gears to a completely different dynamic. What about watching with just one other person or two other people, such as close friends or significant others? Although, I’ve never done this, I’m sure that plenty of people have. Does this add to the experience? Subtract from it?

In the end, maybe it boils down to a matter of preference. Even though writing this blog gives me fairly quick feedback on the episodes I’ve just watched (which is part of the reason I’m still writing), I find that watching with the anime club is still the same amount of fun.

So what’s your opinion? Am I nuts leaving my cave because anime is not meant to be a social experience? Or have you always felt the same, but never quite been able to gather the necessary human beings for such an event? If that’s the case, maybe something can be organized online. Not quite the same, but maybe it can make up for it a bit.

Life’s Great Mysteries: Forums

We’re still in that quiet period in between seasons, so today I want to talk about forums. In particular, I was wondering how many forums people frequent and what about the forums attracts their attention, specifically anime forums.

From what I’ve noticed, anime forums often look similar, with general discussion sections to talk about certain anime and a downloads section where users can post links to download series. I use Cartoon World forums as a source for dual audio anime, but for the most part, I get anime directly from fansub sites.

Another use for forums to create a site for social interaction online. However, I find myself often using chats, like IRC and Skype, instead to communicate. Maybe I prefer to have the sense that I’m addressing someone specific, rather than just leaving a message for anyone to answer. But is it so simple?

Still, I understand that forums provide a much wider scope for communication, allowing you talk with so many more people than you can with a chat. But I feel like IRC is fairly similar if you find a popular enough one. You can definitely get some discussion going on with a plethora of people.

Another thing I’m wondering about is the forum rules. On one hand, it makes me hesitant about posting because I’m afraid of breaking the rules or re-posting something someone else has already said. But on the other hand, I don’t have to deal with the constant stream of disturbing comments people say in chats (usually sexual in nature).

I think the best part of the forum is the permanence. Without having to go through the effort of starting a blog (like someone I know >.>), you can throw out information to the world for everyone to read as long as the forums stay up. In contrast, a chat won’t show you the messages you’ve missed and it will clear when you close it.

I’d say that I want to get to the point where I’m reading forums often because of the wealth of knowledge that I’m sure to find there. I guess the problem I have is sifting through the bogus threads to reach the ones I really care about.

Another problem I have is how annoying it is to reply to someone with a fairly early post, since it just gets tagged at the end and I wonder if it’ll even matter to make the reply. I guess I really just like the way blogs organize the comments.

So that’s why I’m wondering what other people do to keep up with forum posts and such. I tried using email notifications, but that just becomes tedious sometimes for my inbox. So how do you do it? And which forums do you hang around? Any tips for an Asian guy with waaaay too much time on his hands?

Life’s Great Mysteries: Protagonists

Well, it’s probably a bit obvious why I’m approaching this topic (cough Shu). Basically, the topic for today is what makes a good protagonist. I know that it’s impossible to approach this sort of subject objectively, so I will instead propose my opinions for a good protagonist and my opinions for a bad protagonist, then open the floor for everyone else to chime in.

What do I look for in a protagonist? Honestly, I prefer to watch someone who’s calm, brilliant, and incredibly confident. Lelouch Lamperouge, Light Yagami, and Akagi Shigeru are some examples of this. I’m not looking for a perfect character, as flaws are necessary for a protagonist.

Physical ability doesn’t mean so much to me because I believe that the most intense conflicts can happen in just a battle of the minds. Bluffs, predictions, tactics: all amazing things to watch unfold in a show. This doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good sword fight or something, but I just really have a thing for the psychological style of things.

What’s a bad protagonist? Simple in my eye. Someone who’s a complete wimp is just painful to watch. Why would I want to spend all of my time watching someone run from battle or push some naive idealism forward to justify his actions?

Also, I dislike the idea of some random person suddenly being endowed with amazing power. This sort of scenario makes it seem so much like it doesn’t matter who gets the power. I like the idea of power being given to a protagonist that’s perfectly equipped to bring out the best of it. I feel like this creates the sense that the character must be designed correctly to fit the story.

Maybe a protagonist that melds into the background is good in that it draws attention away from himself to focus on other characters. I suppose there are some shows that feel like there are many protagonists that each contribute to create a powerful effect. I think for the purposes of this topic, we should ignore that aspect.

This brings to mind a separate question: What influences what we like in a main character? I’m sure there are those that disagree with me, and I want to approach the reasons for this. Unfortunately, these reasons are far too numerous for me.

Perhaps I like the characters I chose because I enjoy the larger than life persona that they present, as they represent some sort of ideal or model for the type of person I want to be. Perhaps I choose them as a simple reflection of my true personality.

Alternatively, I can understand the need for a protagonist who is down-to-earth and somewhat tangible, so to speak. Basically, someone who gives the feeling of “Hey, that sort of thing could happen to me.” However, I feel like that’s not what I look for in anime, but maybe in other media or games or something.

So what do you think? Why do we choose the characters we choose to be our favorites? A pretty face (*cough* like someone I know)? Reflections of ourselves? Who we wish to be? Do we want to admire the character or pity him? For me, this seems like a tough question to find what about a character I truly like. But maybe it’s simpler for others.

Life’s Great Mysteries: Japanese vs. English Dubs

So on the one hand, I feel like I’m the perfect one to talk about this topic because I often re-watch series when they’re released in English dubs and I’ve got so much dual audio anime. But on the other hand, I don’t really analyze things like voice acting, so I’ve been feeling ill-suited.

It’s never a good idea to generalize, but from my experience, English dubs are usually met with a bit of contempt, even maybe revulsion. Personally, I wonder why that is so. Honestly, I’ve never had problems with watching an English dub. Maybe this speaks of the time I have on my hands, or maybe it speaks to ignorance of the subtle differences.

So what’s the problem? I suppose one possibility is the translation issue. I understand that because of the transition from Japanese to English, much is lost. For example, when the Japanese version has a pun that doesn’t carry so well or if the Japanese version uses English words.

I think the most notable example in my mind of the latter case is the scene in the first episode of Death Note, where Light picks up the Death Note and says “Death Note. As in a notebook of death?” In English, this makes little sense, but if you watch the Japanese version, you’ll note (hehe…get it?) that Death Note is in English, but he says notebook of death in Japanese.

What’s another possible explanation for the disparity? Possibly the voice actors? Do the Japanese actors just do a better job? Do they convey scenes more effectively? I’m not really one to analyze the quality of a voice actor, but with Japanese dubs, I run into the problem of recognition. Sure, I can recognize notable voices like Rie Kugimiya pretty easily, but I’m going to have trouble recognizing Jun Fukuyama, the voice of my favorite character.

On the other hand, my recognition of English voice actors is almost spot-on. No matter the role, I can almost pick out the voices of actors like Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthal, Crispin Freeman, or Wendee Lee. Is this because I don’t have to spend so much mental power parsing out the Japanese language in the voicing? Or is it proximity? I was once at an anime convention where Crispin Freeman gave a talk. I’m sure that has something to do with it.

I’m aware there are many out there who are quite fluent in Japanese, and quite a few that have learned Japanese to satiate their desire to watch anime. Unfortunately, I lack this skill, so I’m forced to watch fansubs. But I’m certain that I’m not alone. How does this factor into the whole topic?

Personally, I think that having to read subtitles to understand the scenes forces me to focus on the different shows I watch. When I watch an English dub, I have a tendency to alt+tab and do something else while I continue to listen to the show (I love to multitask). Is this because I can still understand the show or is it maybe just because I’ve seen the show already in Japanese?

Nonetheless, I feel like I’m forced to appreciate the show more when I’m reading the subtitles. On a completely unrelated note, it also makes me feel like I can contribute to the anime society by joining a sub group and learning something about the process.

So what do you think? If you’re response is “Shut up and watch the Japanese like a good boy,” then let me know. Is there anyone out there that just watches both dubs like I do? Is there anyone that will dutifully wait for the English release before they even approach a show? I know there are people who will ignore the English release and just watch Japanese all the way (I know you’re there…put your hand down). Maybe the only reason for the difference is that Japan just gets the shows out first. Or maybe there are fewer English dubs available. Let me know!! That’s an order…

Life’s Great Mysteries: Endings

So this is a topic that I’ve always found interesting. Before I go on, let me clarify that I mean endings in the sense of “ending a series”, not the songs at the end of an episode. What constitutes a good ending? Or are endings so bad that putting one in an anime is undesirable? Personally, I’m a huge fan of endings, and I have trouble watching things that have no foreseeable end (with notable exceptions like The World God Only Knows).

What do I look for in an ending? Well, I find that hard to say sometimes. I could make a list of the endings that I did and didn’t like, but I have trouble coming up with a category for them all. Granted, it’s hard to talk about specific endings without spoilers, so I’ll keep it general.

I’m a big fan of the “just as planned” ending (to clarify, an ending that turns out to be all part of the plan). I don’t really like harem endings. I’d much rather the main character just choose someone. I’m also not a huge fan of the ending that’s not really an ending (“it’s only the beginning”).

That last example brings me to a different point. What constitutes an ending? Plot resolution? Because if so, Bleach ended ages ago. No more episodes? Because then we fall into the trap of “just kidding! More episodes! Also, is the ending the last episode? The final episode could very well be an epilogue. So maybe the final confrontation is more appropriate. But then what about the shows that have multiple epilogue episodes after the final battle?

If anything, I think that the most important thing for an ending is that I don’t see it coming. That being said, I wouldn’t necessarily hate an ending just because I didn’t know what was going to happen (for example, love stories like Kanon). I think that most people would agree that seeing events unfold exactly like you pictured them to is a bit dull, so plot twists are usually pretty welcome.

Alternatively, maybe it’s not the ending, but the buildup to the ending that makes it great. Even if the ending was what you originally thought it would, maybe the journey to that ending was so convoluted that it made you doubt that prediction for a bit. Or maybe the ending came out of nowhere and gave meaning to everything in the buildup that you thought was so dull. I admit that I definitely like to see these sorts of things because unpredictable can become predictable after a while.

So there. I’ve made my case and I’ve made my query. What does everyone think? As before, feel free to point it out if you think I’m just rambling randomly. Hopefully I can keep this type of post steady. I’ve got some ideas, but who knows how well I’ll be about to articulate them. Tell me what you think…or else Fear will curse you.

On last thing: What was your favorite ending? (again, not music)

Life’s Great Mysteries: Does animation vs. live action affect the time that a show runs?

This is sort of a pilot to a series of posts that I’m going to try to start that I call “Life’s Great Mysteries.” I had originally thought about calling it “Solving Life’s Greatest Mysteries with the Great and Brilliant Marth,” but I figured that was a bit too long (and too modest).

So I’ve been wondering lately about the different trends I see in American TV shows and anime regarding length. If you look at many of the shows in anime recently, they’re all either 12 episodes or 25 episodes long and then they’re just finished.

On the other hand, the shows I follow in America have been going on for 3+ seasons. Scrubs ran 9 seasons, White Collar is sitting on 3 seasons, Leverage and Castle are sitting on Season 4, and Chuck and The Big Bang Theory are on Season 5.

Let’s take the popular shows in the fall season for example to compare. Persona 4 is going to run 25 episodes, which you may count as 2 seasons, Guilty Crown is slated for 22 episodes, which is similar, and Fate/Zero is running 13 episodes, with a second season picking up later.

So I wonder: is this a result of animation versus live acting? My thinking was that on one hand, animation may require more effort because of the strain of drawing and moving every single scene and that may have something to do with the production patterns. But on the other hand, live acting may run into similar stress because of the constant rigidity of real life (aka physics) and the problems of setting and props.

Living with a 12 year old younger sister introduces you to the animated side of America too, and I notice they similarly run for long stretches. So now I wonder if these different production patterns say something about each culture’s approach to entertainment.

Maybe American viewers like to familiarize themselves with a certain cast going through a story while Japan tends to stick to certain motifs starring a multitude of different casts. Or maybe Japan takes an approach of starting on a clean slate when trying new things while America tries innovate while still working around the base they’ve set.

Before you say anything, yes, I know that Japan has live action shows. I don’t really know much about how those sorts of Japanese shows run, but I wonder if they run similarly to American shows. Maybe that would rule out a cultural difference.

Another possibility is that the entire difference is intentional. Maybe producers feel that live actors feel more real to the viewers and are easier to become attached to, making it harder for them to change up their shows. Whereas producers for animation may believe that the flexibility of animation gives them free reign to try completely new characters designs to broaden their viewership.

I’m curious to hear what you all think of this situation. Is there something I missed? Am I completely nuts? Is everything I said nonsensical and boring? Is anime the greatest thing in the world and not at all comparable to 3D? Are the images too distracting from the post itself? All of these are questions that you may have and for which I would definitely want to know the answers. And since you’re all so clever, I’m sure there are other things that I haven’t even thought of that you want to say, so comment below! Not only would I appreciate feedback on this post, but I’d also love to see some suggestions for other questions I might tackle.