so predictable, i predicted it

Since everyone seems to be jumping on Eric Sherman’s post about anime’s death in America, I might as well add in my two cents: I TOLD YOU SO.

Look, it’s predictable as hell. We’re in the worst global recession in generations. Unemployment is ridiculously high– officially above 12% in California but much higher unofficially– and some states are hovering over 18% like Michigan. Whole freakin’ countries like Greece need to be bailed out. The banking system collapsed. The automotive industry collapsed. The housing industry collapsed. Of course there’s going to be fallout! When money gets tight, people take care of their needs first (housing, car, food, utilities) before going onto their wants (anime). That’s just the way it is.

As I predicted in my original Mikuru-laden post, the anime industry is blaming fansubbing. Well, can we blame fansubbing for the Golden Age of 2002-2006 when everyone and their mom were cranking out DVDs and manga? Surely the free publicity and legitimacy that fansubbing gave anime, i.e. bringing over quality shows that no studio would initially touch, didn’t hurt the industry. Did we forget the frenzy that Haruhi Suzumiya brought? And the big thing fansubbing did? It created the audience. The same audience that is being blamed for the downfall. Well, sorry to tell you Eric, but you can’t have it both ways.

I also predicted that anime companies would suffer as interest in anime decreases. Has it? You betcha. What exists now that didn’t exist in 2002? Mmm… app phones? Facebook? Netflix? Hulu? World of Warcraft? Rock Band? YouTube? Twitter? Farmville? Playboy Channel on Demand? People have even more choices with what to do with their time and money.

And that led to my other prediction as the industry would handle the transition from DVDs to the next thing: badly. Selling DVDs is a dying business, much like selling newspapers. You’re either going to embrace the next thing or be swept away. For the reason, I like what a few studios are doing and putting their work on Hulu or YouTube… you gotta at least try to make a few market. The DVD gravy train is almost over, and Blu-Ray isn’t poised to take over. While I don’t think selling episodes of X’amd for five dollars apiece on PSN was a great strategy, it at least tests the market for something new. The Western studios have been too slow to embrace the digital market.

(The value proposition for anime has always been shitty. $30 for a four episode DVD? When I can buy a whole season of The Office for $30? Or play Torchlight for $20? Or Netflix for $12 a month? Or Hulu for free?)

(Also, anime just isn’t appealing to a lot of people anymore. Modern anime depends on an anime culture to enjoy… I enjoyed Bakemonogatari highly, but would a random fan off the street enjoy it as much? Probably not. There hasn’t been a unifying hit since Haruhi Suzumiya, and that probably hurt the industry more than the rise of Farmville.)

There’s other reasons too… I’ve joked many times that Western studios don’t need to license everything. I knew trouble was a-brewing when I saw Sister Princess and Avengers get licensed. Just because So-Ra-No-Wo-To is available for licensing doesn’t mean you need to do it. I’d just stick with A-list titles that would sell… and, on that note, when am I getting my Bakemonogatari Blu-Rays? Oh wait, I’m not. Probably didn’t help that Western companies were fighting against each other and bidding up sub-par properties like Gad Guard. I can only imagine the Geneon executive fist pumping in glee as he exclaims to his coworkers, “Guys, it was tough, and it was expensive, but we beat out ADV and Funimation for Gad Guard. High fives all around!”

(Didn’t help that it took over a full year after airing in Japan that I finally was able to finish off my Gurren Lagann sub-only DVD set. Really? It needs to take this long? If a fansubber can do everything in a week, why does it take a year for the DVD process?)

(Also, anime expanded way too fast. I remember back in 2005 going into Best Buy and the anime section was larger than the Sci-Fi section. Really? More people are going to buy Love Hina and Cardcaptor Sakura DVDs than Star Wars and ET? We’re in a correction period. Anime shouldn’t take up more shelf space than exercise videos, if we’re judging by market size.)

I have a contention with Eric’s statement, “Anime is going to die.” No, it won’t. It’s wounded. But it won’t die. But I do know anime isn’t a golden goose, and it won’t go mainstream… it just means that anime will remain a niche market for a group of devoted fans. But it won’t die. Eric won’t get rich importing anime, but with hard work and some good decisions, he can still make an honest living. But it won’t die. Maybe online video like Crunchyroll or Hulu will replace 75% of the anime series out there. But it won’t die. As long as people have stories to tell and a medium to tell them, anime will continue on. Maybe not with gigantic budgets, but they’ll still go on, even as labors of love. But it won’t die.

(Why do I know this? Hoshi no Koe. Supercell. They didn’t need a company backing them, just a lot of good ideas.)

(Also like how Eric attacks BitTorrent, but doesn’t attack the “free” anime found on YouTube or Crunchyroll. Or how if Hulu or Crunchyroll is streaming something, people are probably less apt to buy it after watching it on those sites. Nah, it’s all BitTorrent’s fault. Surely it’s not Pandora’s or iTunes’ fault that fewer CDs are sold now… it has to be those dirty pirates.)

Most of all, I think what hurts this industry the most is this myopic view. Remember the scuffle I had two years ago when I accused a proponent of the failing DVD sales model industry for denying that sites like AnimeSuki or Mirror Moon exist? Look, denying or whining about the problem isn’t going to make it go away. The issues with anime in the US today are varied enough that the industry can’t solve it on its own. I think it’s in everyone’s interests (especially the established companies) to work with the fansubbing community on ways to get anime faster, cheaper, and easier into people’s homes. I don’t know what the right solution is– working with fansubbers to lower production costs? Getting ad-supported online streaming video out sooner? Offering censored Seikon no Qwaser for free but charge Playboy on Demand-like prices for the uncensored version? I dunno, but I do know that the industry needs to try something other than “blame piracy for failing DVD sales instead of the craptastic economy or just that DVDs sales are just declining in general.”

(Other random ideas: sell anime grab for PSN/Xbox avatars, sell anime tracks on Rock Band Network, have fansubbers put advertising watermarks on fansubs, more Mikuru, have “bounties” that need to be met before a DVD is released like distributors and fansubbers back in the 80s and early 90s.)

(Another random idea: I’ve been running this blog for almost eight freakin’ years now. I have some viewership– at least twenty or thirty people read my posts, though this might be an optimistic number. Has a major anime studio ever wanted to work with me to promote some of these shows? For example, I wouldn’t have minded interviewing voice actors or translators to help promote the Gurren Lagann DVDs. I probably wouldn’t say “no” if I got served tea by a Mikuru cosplayer to promote Haruhi Suzumiya. I definitely would have forwarded coupons, like all readers get $5 off Evangelion DVDs. All I get are occasional uninspired requests like, “Hey, watch our DVD and write a review on it” or to review stuff that isn’t anime.)

Looking at newspapers, one of their biggest income drivers is classified ads. The advent of Craig’s List basically gutted that profitable part of that industry. Something similar is happening with anime. Newspapers choose not to work with Craig’s List, and look at where they are now… yep, that’s right… blaming Google for stealing their headlines. I think the anime industry needs to take a hard look at the services they provide to the public and wonder if it still makes sense. Because, in 2010, there’s sure of a lot of other things to spend money on than anime… now back to my Farmville.

36 Responses to “so predictable, i predicted it”

  1. The problem I have with people arguing that the Anime Fansubbing groups are hurting the current business model is that no one wants to point out the simple fact that most of Anime fandom are cheap.

    If Anime fansubbing stopped today and the only way to obtain the material was though official channels it would not save the industry because the people downloading all these series are doing it because it’s convenient easy and free.

    If the free content stopped so would their viewing habits.

    That why I’m glad to see the Hulu model because it includes commercials and the metrics advertisers need to see in order to pay for ads.

    But I will agree with Jason.. the business model needs to change.

  2. Hey Jason, Do sell yourself short, I been reading your blogs for 5 freakin years for the creativity in your thoughts and writing and I pretty sure that you have more than 30 readers man.

    I for once been a die hard fan for anime before 9/11 and trust me when I say if I had the money I would buy my dvds and manga. And your right about buying 4 episode series for $30. My bad exp was when I had a live action La Blue girl flick, that was money well spent :/

    It also hard to get some animes that not even license, (yes Bandai, I’m talking about you and Sunrise, It been the passed 10 years I haven’t even seen you guys license Gundam X yet.) Let me know when some ainime company come around and offers you a job they will definitely needs just pump out their series lol

  3. So what can be done to make media more viable?

    It’s a simple concept that can not be easily executed. If distributors want people to buy Anime DVDs and Blu-Ray discs then they need to come up with a reason for people to want the discs.

    Idea 1: Bundling – you can’t bittorrent figures. Anime fans like any other consumers will spend the money if they think there is value in it.

    Idea 2: No more single Disc or Partial Series. What’s the value in part of a series? Accept that the online community is already showing your content and just release the series in one sitting because that’s how much of the fans will watch it.

    Idea 3: New content: Now comes the hard part because since most companies are only re-distributing Anime its not like this can easily be done but push new content on the discs that you’re just not seeing in the fansubs.

    Idea 4: Fan-subbing contests… you got the licenses, and depending on the release you got multiple groups already making your subtitles for you just turn it into a contest with a cash prize. let the fans vote on the subs

    And the lawyers can have their fun by throwing in the whole “must remove content from their series to be eligible for next content. blah blah blah.”

    just some ideas that leave DVD and blueray in the picture.

  4. Personally, I pay for my anime when I want it.

    But that doesn’t mean I buy DVDs. There is more than one way of doing this.

    As an example, I donated $300 US Dollars to a fansub group to get my Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari fansubs done. Why? Because I am willing to pay for my anime.

    When the merchandise and Blu Rays come out, I will buy them too. But NOT because I want to protect the “Industry”. It’s because I love Isekai.

    SCREW industry. My money is not their right to own, it is their privilege to get. If there is something good, I pay for it. If the product is crap, I don’t buy. I spent an insane amount of money to get HD anime translated a month after the Blu Ray is released. But if a licensed anime takes 2 years to be released officially and ended up with no HD, then I rather give money to the Japanese.

    Thanks to Amazon and Ebay, we don’t need Western distributors. We just need Japanese animators.

  5. Here’s the response I wrote up to the guy.

    No, Mr. Sherman, Anime is dieing because people like YOU won’t change. Guess what existed before your company? Fansubbers. Guess what will exist after your company? Fansubbers.

    You don’t fight something by trying to take a moral high ground and whining. You don’t win support by supplying a service most people don’t want and then complaining when people don’t want it. Do you want to know how you can win against fansubbers? I’ll be kind and tell you.

    Fansubbing is not a fast process, though it is faster than it used to be. It still takes about a day for people who make subbing their hobby to find a raw, have a team translate it, typeset everything, compile it, and release it. Guess what you can do? You can go faster. Air the episode in America at the same time it airs in Japan, with subs. I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard for you to get an advanced script to translate. Throw in some commercials. Don’t be overly annoying about it. Just put in some effort. You beat the subbers, you give the fans what they want, you make some money.

    But no, you are going to blame the fans. You are going to blame the people who support your company. You are going to blame everyone but yourselves. Please go like the dinosaurs.

    I predict nothing will change, except more companies will go out of business. Such is capitalism, and I won’t miss them. I’ll be happy getting my fix from the same people I’ve gotten my fix from before they existed.

  6. Lamenting about old models doesn’t help much. Look at the music industry, and know that once the pandora’s box of convenience is opened, it will never shut. You either do it in new ways (like Apple’s iTunes and App stores), or die a slow death.

    The only way to “compete” with fansubs is to speedily deliver content. When you try to slow down, negotiate crazy per country distribution rights, and deliver lower quality non-hd content days/weeks/months late the hardcore will have moved onto not only other anime, but other entertainment. Anime isn’t just competing with fansubs, but with all forms of entertainment. If facebook/hulu/sports/etc eats up your time, you won’t know about the anime you are missing.

    The day fansubs started coming out HD (like it airs in Japan) and 3 days later, you must admit legal purchasers started getting shafted. Other than offering an English dub track, legitimate buyers actually get worse product.

    Still I have my crunchyroll account (even though I’d prefer to watch a fansub on a device of my choosing), and subscribe to Animax. It’s my token gesture to help with at least supporting the first attempts of fast delivery even with the quality being low.

  7. Anime tracks on Rock Band, wouldn’t that be nice…

  8. I think Blu Ray is a fabulous idea.
    I bought the Gunbuster/Diebuster movie set on BD last year and was amazed to discover that it felt like a Japanese set repackaged, the only english subs are for the actual features the bonus extra disc has no english subs that I can find. If anything screams, “lets make one set of discs and sell it to both nations” it’s this. And that’s exactly what we need. We already have fansubs or even official streaming subs for most of the shows within a week of airing. It shouldn’t take too much for them to throw a set of those subs onto the disc and release it in both areas around the same time.

    The problem will always come back to price though. Japan would just start importing our copies cause they be cheaper is what I hear most often(though haven’t they been doing that with hentai for years now anyways?). I believe they combated the whole BD importing thing with KuroKami only having a dub version for the BD, but this just ends up with them charging us more for less.
    Just like with digital products, companies seem unwilling to give us less unless we pay the same amount. Digital games tend to cost the exact same or more than the disc version(Steam seems to be the only place this isn’t 100% true but it’s still pretty bad). I haven’t priced digital versions of movies, but I know most of what’s on PSN are rentals. And as you said $5 an ep is mighty expensive, especially for a 26(?) ep show.
    If it wasn’t for Amazon(e)Books would be in the same boat of costing the same as a physical copy. Why should we EVER have to pay so much on digital media when shipping, storage, production, and extra’s are almost entirely gone from the equation. While at the same time we can never hold the product in our hands and then sell it used when we no longer have a use for it.

  9. Guys, it was tough, and it was expensive, but we beat out ADV and Funimation for Gad Guard. High fives all around!”

    That’s about right, hah.

    Doesn’t take much effort for these companies to point fingers, but the lack of innovation and positivity is discouraging. More than anything, I think they’re trying to resist change. Meh, R1 -_-

  10. I think, that this problem stems from the fact that the anime market is a niche market; but it isn’t concentrated anywhere in the world – which makes for the Internet such a good provider of it. Bad thing about companies and such is the because of licensing problems, many that live elsewhere of the US won’t get their show until much later than the US gets them – and the US gets the show (in a set of five, each costing $20+… ) three to five months after the release in Japan. And as people have said – these DVDs does not have anything else worth spending that money on. Anime, as a whole isn’t like American TV shows where a long-running season is the norm and DVDs will be spread out wide and thin. This results in weaker marketing, which results in lacking sales, etc etc.
    I do empathise with Eric, not only does the industry has to compete with TV, movies, but has to deal with fans who have been brought up via easy access to his merchandise for free. However, he can’t just point the finger at the problem and break down, but think of alternate methods that will compensate – like the music industry and the movie industry is trying to do.

  11. And the anime on iTunes is dub-only. Geez, no choices: looks like I won’t be buying that. Oh, and I’m not in the U.S. so I can’t buy your anime. Well, there goes a potential sale. Not your fault, Mr. Licensor? It’s all the In-Tar-Net? Yeah… I can watch it legally on CrunchyRoll. For free. Do I watch it there and find out it’s mediocre and buy the DVD’s when you release them two years late? Or will I watch it, then move on, like a regular TV viewer? Hmm.

    What will your excuse be if anime fansubs suddenly go away, as they didn’t really exist in such numbers during the 80’s, and your sales are in the shitter the way they were then? Something like ‘video rental stores and video games are ruining our industry and need to be banned’?

  12. Well, a huge part of the problem is in Japan. The people in gg’s irc channel did some Q&A with one of the guys who translates for crunchyroll which discussed a lot of this stuff, but revealed that a lot of the idiocy of the current english anime industry comes from the anime companies themselves and I’m not sure there is much the english companies can do, espcially the dubbers (like Bang Zoom).

  13. I’m still in high school and don’t have a job, so any games/anime I consume are strictly birthday/Kurisumasu gifts. I like games more and my parents can’t afford both, so I always ask for a game whenever a holiday comes around, which is the point you made; there are other forms of entertainment that we consume. I do watch anime, but that’s only because I can do it for free; if I couldn’t watch it for free, I wouldn’t be watching it at all (outside of the series I’ve already pirated onto my laptop). I don’t like the idea of stealing, but is it really stealing? The anime industry isn’t making a profit off of my consumption now, but it wouldn’t be anyway. I think a lot of American fans are in the same position.

  14. Well, the main problem (at least in my case) is the fact that there is no one here to import Anime or Manga for that matter. I’ve actually TRIED to buy online, but the official release sites have no subs *in most cases*, the dubed versions make my ears bleed, but they have Japanese audio and English subs, which is alright….except for the fact that they don’t ship to my area.
    I’m only left with torrenting and sites like mangastream. I am conscious enough to donate, but where that money ends up at is not for me to know (they assure you they will use it to buy series and stuff, but i think it goes for hosting o3o).
    I guess I gotta learn Japanese and find a way to have their official releases shipped to me. Or move to Japan.

  15. @Jabberwock.

    That’s an argument people make, and it has plenty of logic to back it, but fundamentally it is flawed. Stealing is stealing.
    Yes, they should not count piracy as they do, not only does the number include those that would have never bought the item, it also includes people who have bought it but also pirated it for any number of reasons.

    But even if fansubs weren’t a problem they would be blaming someone. Like how the movie industry is attacking netflix and redbox for the lower DVD sales.

    We need a new model for the sale and distro, but we can’t seem to move forward cause it would destroy the system we use now, and there are simply too many people who rely on how things are now.

  16. @bluestreak2:
    You are right. Stealing is stealing… is not copyright infringement. If you steal something, the original owner no longer has it. If you copy it, both of you have it. That’s at least one very fundamental difference. Sure, if I copy something without paying you, you’ll have a much harder time to sell the same thing to me. Mind you, this only matters, if I’d actually bought it from in the first place. You have no right to my money. I don’t have a right to whatever it is I copied from you either, yes, but if I do make a copy and wouldn’t have bought it, you didn’t lose anything material. This is really easy to understand, see?
    I could go on and write more about the fundamental flaws and absurdity of current “intellectual property” laws, but I’m lazy, and I’m sure you could find sufficiently eloquent articles with just a bit of search engine use. So I won’t.
    Hopefully you still got my point, and managed to rid yourself of the content distribution company’s propaganda’s taint. ;)

  17. I’m reading your posts when I have the time Jason,and I comment only when i have even more .I’m sure you have more readers than you think.
    Anyway,first about the post you’re right if only things would change.
    In my country it’s the same, maybe worse.Some shows are alraedy undubbed and only subbed on dvd.Maybe this is good for everyone tought as nowadays some shows are horribly dubbed in France not because of the actors but because of the dubbing companies
    ((tldr rant)if I remeber right the guy who dubbed K1 in Higurashi said he didn’t even know what he was dubbing not because he didn’t know the series but because the company didn’t told him,shows airing here 10 years ago like Ranma/Dragon Ball were much more good in dubbing don’t know why it changed.Also because of a lack of different dubbers:the guy who dubs Spike here also did Dryden,Nabeshin(so yeah in that excel saga scene it’s like if he parodied himself), and even hachiroku’s pilot Takumi ).
    You pay around 30€ for 3 episodes DVD in 4/3,the double for the entire series,and that’s only for 13 episodes long ones.They sell all episodes of Black Cat for 100€.They justify those high prices for things like posters in the DVD boxes . About licensing good shows, some series lke Moribito, Baccano! or even Higurashi Kai still aren’t licenced here whereas things like Asu no yoichi got licensed and released like 2 months after it ended in Japan.(for Higurashi it was because the company died so they can’t do season2 unless someone buy the rights I think)They should do the opposite like you said good sauce first then the dessert. Hopefully DVDs cost a little less on conventions and all but if it weren’t for fansub I wouldn’t watch anything.Like you said this guy shouldn’t blame fansubbers as it’s the best advertising they have.
    I like how you compared the situation to newspapers disappearing ,I had an english oral exam around 4 months ago about this issue.They have to change the way they do things.

  18. I’m just here to add to your reader count – been keeping up with your blog for a couple of years now.

    Anyway, what gets to me the most about all the fansubbing complaints is that they’re so…futile. There is no way to persuade the people of today’s generation to go out and pay $20-35 to watch four episodes of a series they could watch in its entirety for free online (and then wait around for 4-6 months to do it again) – not in a world where Blockbusters everywhere are going out of buisness. I think Funimation has the right idea about releasing complete collections, instead of bothering with individual DVDs, but even that just doesn’t cut it. $100 for Nabari no Ou (+ tax) when I could just watch it all on Hulu for free? Thanks, but no thanks.

  19. Eric Sherman’s wrong; anime is not going to die, but it’s the ANIME-IMPORTING COMPANIES who are going to die. As long as there’s anime and manga in Japan, there will be fansubbers and scanlators who are there in order to provide translation services. If they don’t adapt, they’re gonna get taken down. And besides, what’s more expensive to maintain, anyway: producing DVD’s, or maintaining download servers? Doesn’t it make sense to use the download-only model if it’s cheaper?

    Also, they sell anime by the episodes at the PSN if I recall, for $1.99 an episode, which is actually quite decent, since you can own Gurren Lagann for around $50. However, there’s still a bunch of problems with that:
    a) the series are NOT in HD, and I think some are in HD for $2.99; Same as DVD’s; are you going to buy a $2 episode that isn’t in HD ($3 in HD), or get it off fansubs, in full 720p definition (and when the BD releases come out, in glorious 1080p), for free?
    b) All series are English-dubbed, no subtitles, so what we’re getting is simply a copy-protected movie file, which is, again, not that much different from a fansub release aside from the fact that fansubs are free, and there’s a lot of fans who prefer the original Japanese dub. If they release HD subs, I’m sure it’ll cut importing costs significantly, or you know, the anime production companies can just cut the middlemen out, hire some halfway competent subbing groups from the deep bowels of the net, and release those episodes in literally hours internationally (sorry US dubbers and importers…).
    c) There is no rental system; I guarantee you that if they rent anime episodes out for a dollar or half a dollar, they’ll get more revenue, since I’m sure I want to browse through some series, but not own them, especially the 500+ episodes of Naruto.
    d) They are releasing the WRONG series. I mean, sure, the Gurren Lagann series is a good thing, but who in this day and age has an urge to own Boogiepop Phantom? Or Angelic Layer? Or every single honking episode of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece? For $2 an episode? In SD? I am sure that if they deleted their entire lineups (except maybe for the 3 main SJ series), and replaced them with Eden of the East, K-On, Clannad and After Story, Bakemonogatari, and Haruhi, then I am sure that it’ll sell significantly more that they sell right now.

    Jason has touched on this in his articles; the importing companies NEED a Competitive Advantage over the fansubbers. Right now, all the the advantages are with the fansubbers (HD video, original Japanese audio, release in at least HOURS after the initial Japanese airing, FOR FREE). Crunchyroll alone cannot do anything, given that they can only take in limited anime per season, and bad eggs like Horriblesubs release their work on torrents. The industry, both manga and anime, needs to really re-think their game plan, or else they’re gonna go the way of the music CD’s.

    But significant change, not just on the side of the importers, is required. The production companies need to understand that the system doesn’t work, and if they want to make money, they need to offer equal attention to the international market, who also want to enjoy their products, but do not want to wait long periods of time just because they don’t live in Japan (a lesson that game companies are starting to learn… although maybe not so much for Nintendo and Square Enix). We, the consumers, have been telling these guys what we want, and how to do it for YEARS, and for some, roughly two decades. it’s about time they stop blaming the decline of their industry on fansubbers, and start blaming it on their own incompetence.

  20. Probably the only reason there are pirated fansubs is because the anime isn’t on local television to just copy via VHS, TIVO, or whatever is the current record off TV media is these days (I still use VHS because it is simple, it works, and the computer copyright blocks don’t work against them like they do DVD-Rs).
    The lower quality VHS tapes work until the industry released better quality material without commercials, added extras, and large numbers of episodes per disc (or just full season box sets). Before it was just better quality episodes on tape without commercials (the stuff they use to rent at Blockbuster). This is the American model. It has worked, more or less, for almost thirty years. If the device has a “record” button, an American will use it.

  21. I, for one, welcome our fansubbing overlords.

    I remember when I was in high school, I was shocked to discover that the #1 revenue maker in the music industry was Heavy Metal. I was stunned. But it made sense. People who listen to the radio hear what they want, but rarely buy the CD (or album, from back then). But fans of Heavy Metal would easily lay down $50-$100 on stacks of CD’s, some of which they were buying on a whim. Why? Because they were serious about their love of Heavy Metal. Even though it was a niche market. And they were poor.

    I take offense at most of what Eric Sherman wrote because I feel like he doesn’t appreciate me as a fan. He doesn’t know me, part of his niche market. He doesn’t understand how much money I’ve blown on mediocre overpriced DVD’s just because I picked up the first volume on a whim and then felt obliged to finish the series. (I’m looking at you Gantz, which is so undesirable Suncoast almost gave me a gift card just to carry it back out of their store when I went to trade it in.) He doesn’t know and he doesn’t care. Niche fans are the best fans in the world. And when you appreciate them, they’ll blow even more money on your mediocre stuff. He’s so blinded by this fansubbing rage that he’s lost contact with reality. And his fanbase.

    Thanks for the post, Jason. You’re an example of why anime fans are some of the best fans around. Noblesse oblige. Please continue being a messiah.

  22. Oh gawd not FARMVILLE.

    Those game “developers” who ALMOST stopped VALVe from achieving total victory in TheEscapists’ Developer Tourney?


  23. Not suprising. Media companies in the US seem to enjoy the concept of wringing every last cent out of customers. The anime industry here seems to have a hard time understanding its customer base.
    Personally, I have enough trouble stomaching $30 for a season of TV I can watch for free. Don’t get me started on the $70 boxsets. I don’t go back and rewatch often enough to justify the cost for a negligible increase in quality (or decrease, when it comes to DVD’s).
    Movies, I buy a few now and then. I only buy my favorites, not everything on the shelf. I rent or watch every movie in the theaters before I even consider buying my own copy because I’m not paying $20 for a piece of crap I’m more likely to use as a coaster. I don’t pay $5 or $10 for actual coasters, why do you think I’m going to pay $20 for something worse? I’m not buying a movie just to watch it once when I can pay less at the theater or Redbox and I’m not buying for the privilege of owning when I’m not even going to use it.
    Yet, the anime industry here wants me to pay over twice what Hollywood charges for yesterday’s dregs and I don’t even get to buy it the same year it’s aired. Then, I get the privilege of buying the same thing on BD after the DVD sales are finished. Bloody hell, you’d make far more money releasing everything on time and at all price points and quality instead of trying to wring every last cent out of your richer customers. The more time you take stringing along your customers, the more customers you lose permanently.

    Hollywood can’t get it’s collective mind around the fact that not every viewer is a collector. We don’t buy everything just to own a copy and few of us watch anything more than once, yet they’re still charging for the privilege. At least the premium is less than it used to be.
    US anime companies took Hollywood’s spiel line and sinker and are now hurting worse. Gee, maybe next time you try to create a new market you should probably figure out what the customers want instead of what the producers think.
    In economics, the buyers always set the price. Before you ask, a “seller’s market” is simply a situation where the average price hasn’t reached market value yet.

  24. I remember a time when anime producers in the West insultingly say “anime is a privilege, not a right”.
    To this I now say: “Access to the money in my pocket is a privilege, not a right”.

    You want me to buy your product? Convince me.
    Send lawyers all you want, but I will buy what you sell only when I actually want it. It is YOUR job to “sell” it to me, not the cop’s job to grab me by the ankles and shake the coins out.

    If you can’t market your product properly, then it’s your own fault for being a failed business. We are NOT bailing you out when there is nothing in it for us.

  25. Maybe someone can help me out here, but why is anime so expensive?

    When Haruhi Suzumiya first came out in several box sets it would have cost me almost $200 for the complete (14 episode) season! To compare the blu ray release of Lost (18 episodes) is $51. I’m not sure how much money it takes to animate a series, but it seems like a blockbuster show like Lost would cost a lot of money too. (Probably more, factoring in actor’s salaries) How can they think their viewers have $200 to drop on every show?

    Heck, most americans don’t buy TV seasons except for ones they really like anyway. So why spend so much money on a show that you haven’t seen yet (assuming you didn’t pirate it?) If you compare the cost per minute of X’amd ($0.20/min) to Lost ($0.07/min), that’s more than double the cost. How does this make sense?

  26. Hm blaming all the troubles of the industry on one thing isn’t a smart move.

    Also, I think you do have more readers then you think. I don’t comment as much but I’m always on the lookout for your posts.

  27. I do know that some Japanese companies expect a lot of money just to buy the rights to an anime. This cost gets refected on the price at the store.
    I believe Voyager Entertainment attempted to buy rights to The Legend of the Galactic Heroes a decade or so ago…the Japanese wanted way too much for a long series that might not attact enough buyer to warrent the cost. Thus the anime was not picked up because the Japanese wanted too much money for it (also its well over 100 episodes of politics, war, and such….some of which would be boring for who most anime companies target as an audiance…who’d like the ship combat and such.)

  28. The anime industry in the US had dogged its own grave in the past ten years. Don’t blame the reception, don’t blame the fansubs, don’t blame YouTube or CrunchyRoll, what they have to blame is their shitty work at dubbing each and every series. Come on, I grew up watching cartons all my life until I discovered what it mean to watch anime. But when I found out some series dub in English, I wanted nothing more than thrown myself from a cliff to end my suffering. Learning Japanese from scratch since I was 16, is more enjoyable hearing it because the seryuu, regardless if they’re rookies or veterans, they put everything on the characters given to them; something that never happen in a dub. A comedy series like Azumanga Daioh sounds awful in English, or romance, just name it.

    By picking a shitty series and doing an outrageous work at dubbing, the industry will reach they end by themselves. HAKAKIRI.

  29. jason, if you want to know how many people read your blog, why don’t you have a post up asking all your regular readers to post in it once.

  30. I love this post. You put into works everything I’ve ever thought on this issue, but more eloquently, and with better examples (I’d have used Nuconuco Douga, cats, Touhou Project, and the rise of social media in general).

    Blog好き needs a Like FB button for posts like these. (Oh look, another “innovation” that wasn’t around back in 2002! Ha!)

    Sadly, the blaming of piracy and the internet is nothing new, and Japan has been doing it way before already. Case in point: the ending of Battle Programmer Shirase not-to-subtly blasts illegal distribution on why the series flopped (and not the fact that, say, the show sucked in the first place). And that was back in 2004.

    I think what the companies should do is to embrace the changes, and work around it. Why else would independent (doujin) groups like Type-Moon, Supercell (to use your example), or even Shanghai Alice became quite the phenomenon they were? They relied mainly on word of mouth and online distribution, not to mention that their works are of a standard high enough to surpass some commercial professional works. Sure, critics would claim these are niche series, but isn’t anime itself a niche?

    Then again, big companies couldn’t afford the short-term losses, and do not see the profit on establishing branding online. Pity.

  31. Hah, longpost is long…

    Whoever was suggesting American licensors should pick up the license quick and start spitting out product immediately is missing something. Just like it’s illegal to download and watch anime you didn’t pay for, it’s illegal to market anime you don’t have a contract for, because no anime studio is going to slit its own throat letting Funimation sell discs anywhere near the time that the Japanese are releasing them themselves. You think a lot of frugal otaku are going to get on and buy the $50 Blu-ray release of the Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya episodes 13 and 14 (or $40 for the Episode 14 only disc, if they decide to go that route again), not to mention the 6-7 $40-$50 releases before it, when they can wait a few weeks and order the whole Blu-ray series set off of for $50 plus shipping because that’s all those cheap Americans are willing to pay Funimation for the privilege of owning it? US and Japan are in the same Blu-ray region, now, remember? Anime companies aren’t going to let foreign markets undercut their sales. Fansubbers may take a bit, and raw providers some more, but someone else selling their own product concurrently takes away customers, ie: money that they know would have gone to them.

    Online streaming, not so much. There are ways to keep potential Japanese buyers from getting their fix from an American streaming site. Websites can be made to block access to certain countries (if MangaHelpers can do it, Funimation and Bandai can), and that kind of request can be put in the licensing contract, as can (and I’m sure, as do) requests that discs be only sold after a certain time and at no faster than a certain rate. You think American distributors don’t want to sell their discs faster, before the “new show smell” wears off and people realize what a piece of crap it really is? Especially if it’s something they’ve already seen 3 or 4 times through thanks to [Adult Swim], SyFy, and TiVo (and that’s just those who hadn’t already watched the fansubs).

    My suggestion?
    1. –Get a better feel of the target audience. Don’t shell out good money for the next Giant Killing when Kamen no Maid Guy and Kemeko DX still haven’t been licensed. Ask around, visit some websites, hire some American anime geeks for this express purpose. Find out what’s popular and figure out whether it’d be as popular over here (sports or historical period piece? probably not). If you’re real good, figure out what isn’t all that popular over there but would be huge over here (Bebop).
    2. –Snatch it up quick. Get things licensed quick. Yes, this is dangerous, as you run the risk of a Gainax ending killing the momentum, but the earlier you get in, the more of your own hype you can add to it, and you will manage to run off a few of the fansubbing groups (but never enough to kill the buzz on the show, unless it was shitty in the first place (see #1).
    3. –Ad-driven simulcasting. Or as close as you can get it. You’re going to want to have a good subber, because even if you make fewer mistakes than a fansubber (especially if they’re different mistakes), you’ll be roasted over it as “hating the fans” (call that #3.5). Also have access to the product beforehand so you can make the sub in a timely manner. If you can squirt it out within a day or so, you’ll have killed even more fansubs due to lack of demand, especially if you listened to #3.5. And don’t have a cheap web distro method. If they have a hard time with your site, they’ll ignore it. If they get popups or annoying banner ads, they’ll ignore it. If it’s LQ YouTube quality, they’ll ignore it. If there’s ads at the commercial breaks, you should be fine. You have to make some money, and they have to pee sometime…
    4. –Physical release as necessary. If you’ve got the next cash cow on your hands, and you should be able to tell before the Japanese suits will let you sell DVDs, then go all out. Get good voice actors, make some nice extras (or import the good ones from the JP release), and get them into the market. Unless the economy picks up, you won’t be able to sell the 4-5 a pop discs unless they’re $20 or less. Otherwise they’ll just wait for the boxsets. Sell “half-season” packs of 13-14 episodes for $30-$40 and if the show warrants it, LE versions for more depending upon how much the LE comes with. BD sets (and there better be BD sets) should be priced comparably. If the show didn’t meet expectations, sell complete season sets and/or dub-only sets at not much more than the latest season of, say, House. Someone will still buy (all series have some fans), and you can keep that price point for damn near ever. If the series bombed, don’t throw good money after bad. Make gag dubs using the janitorial staff and sell them as bumps on AniMonday. SyFy’s gotta be paying someone for that crap.
    5. –Be willing to change plans. But only if you need to. Despite what some people think, companies aren’t all sharks, and won’t all die if they stop moving. That was made up by overpaid idiots who worry more about justifying their own existence than putting in a good job. Tweaks here and there are good, and often necessary, but if you’ve got some young executive telling you he can triple your sales in 6 months, and you’re already running successfully, chances are he’s just out to feed his ego and get ahead, so fire his ass publicly, thank the staff that got you where you are, and then ask them if they think anything needs to be done, or if the the current successful course is good for now. But sometimes changes, even big changes, need to be made. If you’re steadily losing business, or stagnating, while using the above guidelines, hear out that young exec, and if he just might be right, try his stuff with a minor property. If it works, implement it as necessary elsewhere, and if it hurts you, fire his ass publicly and try something else.

  32. I’ve been hoping bandai would die ever since I spent $200 on the zeta gundam box set and it did not include the opening or closing songs but DID include the worst retail subs I’ve ever seen.

  33. Man, I feel like i’m going to run around AX 10 and post this shit around. People need to understand how the industry is going to shift as we are the consumer base.

    Realistically speaking, this upheaval has been coming awhile, like Bandai charging us 50 bucks for a 59 minute blu-ray of Gundam Unicorn, when I can download at the HD version in half an hour.

  34. My big concern actually isn’t what happens to the American market in the post DVD era, but what happens to the Japanese market. Will otaku still be willing to pay outrageous pricing for a non-physical product?

    I sometimes don’t think many people grasp just how ridiculous the Japanese market DVD profits for anime are by world standards. A Clannad DVD goes for what, $60 for three episodes in Japan? So $20 per episode? The series average around 24800 units per volume in season one in Japan. So that’s what, $496K per episode?

    Battlestar Galactica season 4.0 sold 244,000 DVDs in its first two weeks on the American market at like $50… so $5 per episode or $2.50 per half hour. $2.50 X 244,000 = $610,000 per half hour.

    And those BSG sales come from a market with twice the population. To me, that suggests that while the outrageous prices model will never fly in the US, it’s been essential to the success of late night anime in its home country. So I think it’s a very valid question to ask whether those prices can be maintained in a non-physical distribution era, and if not, what comes next.

  35. My goodness Jason, you are on fire this post!

    Haven’t actually been around much, but I’m catching up on these posts. And add me on Farmville<3

  36. I will never buy digital anime. Ever. If you want a sale from me, it better be on blu-ray (or DVD is you still refuse to move to the superior format).

    Again, no physical product, no money.

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