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Japanator's 2012 US Industry Review


6:00 PM on 12.31.2012
Japanator's 2012 US Industry Review photo



Looking back on 2012 is so in-vogue today. So, before you stab your eyes out from looking at all the lists and recap posts, here's one more for you to read: our look back on health of the US anime and manga industry.

We are a niche within a niche. We are fans that like cartoons and comics imported from a foreign country. Keeping tabs on the health of our little world is very important -- changes in support can have a big effect. After all, it's your money that keeps this industry running!

Let's dive in and take a look at the year that was!

Before starting this article, my gut feeling was that the industry is expanding, albeit very slowly. There was a big contraction a few years back, and because of a truly unstable economy in the US, companies were playing it safe with what they licensed and not pushing the boundaries with experimental titles.

Apart from the publishing side of things, conventions are another indicator of the health of the industry. Sales can suffer for any number of reasons, but if convention growth falters -- or even reverses trends -- that's the biggest flag that the industry is dying. After all, if warm bodies don't show up to celebrate at a convention, then they won't be spending money.

Safe to say, the industry is doing okay. Let's get into the numbers, and then explain what they mean.

First off is the number of anime licenses this year: 121. In 2011, it was 83, and in 2010 it was 102. So that means the industry is on the up-and-up over the last few years in terms of new titles brought to market. But. There is a key reason for this: Sentai Filmworks. Remember that back in 2009 was when the company started its transition from ADV to Sentai, which included a sale of titles and a relative downturn for the company. Since then, they have clearly seen success, as in 2012 they licensed more titles than FUNimation (this does include streaming titles, which I presume they will release).

Sentai has been very aggressive in pursuing new titles to build up their library, nabbing stuff like K-On!! that fits directly into their wheelhouse. One of the things to consider, though, is that Sentai is still in legal dispuit with FUNimation over the proceedings of ADV's shuttering and rebranding. The last mention of it was in October of 2012, and things are still unresolved as of this point. I can't speak to the details of the lawsuit, but it is almost certain that it will have a major impact when it's all said and done.

On the manga side, there has been one major game-changer to talk about: Kickstarter. I wrote last month about how it can change the industry, and I still stand by that belief. Publishers have seen success with the platform, and it can induce some major growth within the publishing industry. DMP is the biggest user of Kickstarter, and I don't see someone like Viz or Kodansha utilizing it, and I believe that their continued use of it will allow them to successfully release more indie and retro titles that ought to be out in the US market.

As things stand right now, we still see manga publishing dominated by the same titans, but smaller publishers Vertical and Seven Seas are more regularly breaking into the New York Times' top ten lists, and a few new publishers are entering the market. The manga trend looks healthy. Another good sign that manga is looking up is the opening of JManga. While yes, it is primarily an effort by the Japanese publishers to cut down on piracy, it's also opening the doors for much more "Japanese" titles to be translated and published than you would normally see.

And finally, conventions. Again, good news here: the major cons saw growth in 2012. Otakon, Anime Expo, ACEN, and A-Kon all saw growth around the 5% mark. Anime Boston saw about 15% growth, perhaps due to the city hosting Penny Arcade Expo East the same weekend. At the same time, New York Comic Con completely ditched the anime side of things, servicing publishers' announcement panels, but that was about it. The convention is more about serving the general (and much more lucrative) "geek" crowd, at the expense of the anime side. It raises the question as to whether we'll see New York host a new anime con -- likely in the Spring, so as to avoid being too close to NYCC.

All in all, we've got a lot good news from 2012. The fandom is alive and kicking, and if things go well, could be on the rise in 2013. My bold prediction of 2013 is we will see an expansion in the light novel market, to satisfy some fans' calling for the source material to their favorite anime. Due to high cost, though, it will be a short-lived trend.

How do you readers feel about the 2012 year, and what are your predictions for 2013?






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