Anime Die When They Are Killed


Here at Japanator, we're full of opinions. When it comes to controversies you can be sure that Brad does not monopolize the discourse. (Well, almost. And unless you mean by his deep, sexy, podcast-breaking voice). The thing is, it's like pie. And pie-holes. After all, there are no clear answers that can appease everyone when it comes to the age old question of "how to make money."

I do have a story to share. Once upon a time there was this guy, let's call him Shiro.

Shiro is a bit of an amateur, although gifted. His schtick was making stuff that was weak into something that is strong. Despite all of that he's just a normal high school kid, living the life that most of us are familiar with to some degree. One day his life was changed when some stoic chick magically appeared inside his favorite hideout and told him to kick some butts, but you probably have some idea how well that went.

A lot of things happened after that, but Shiro eventually learns a precious lesson: people die when they are killed. How does that have anything to do with a rant about the dying of some so-called anime industry? Read on brave magus!

Personally, I am not too far off from Brad's take and my opinion is hopefully non-controversial. The basic idea is worth repeating--anime is a business, and if the business is not profitable, these companies will decrease their output, go out of business, or do something along those lines. It's to a company's interest that business get better, that more people are buying their stuff, or whatever that brings home the pay for these guys. As a consumer, I leave the whole "making money" up to those businesses and companies; it's their jobs how to figure out the best way to part this fool from his money.

Brad pointed out a particular mode of "bringing home the pay":

My point is this: unlike many other areas of entertainment, anime only has a single entry point. Anything that you do besides buying the DVDs of shows that you watched isn't supporting the product, the fandom, or the industry both here and abroad. As the animation industry itself shrinks, foreign revenue becomes increasingly important to the companies over in Japan. If the market collapses here, it's going to be a forerunner to what will happen in Japan. The canary in the coal mines, so to say.

Perhaps that is true, but I think it's far-fetched to say buying DVDs is the only thing. Simply put, it seems like a rock and a hard place if my college-age friends had to choose between buying some DVDs versus going to a con. They're both great things to do as fans, but a large number of cash-strapped folks choose the latter simply because there is nothing as an alternative to a con experience, where as a DVD will always be available later (often cheaper if you wait!), let alone mentioning fansubs or borrowing the anime from someone else.

And if anime on DVD is a competitive market force along with anime cons, doesn't that just mean there's healthy competition for our money? Isn't that just the free market at work? After all, while anime conventions are a derivative business from anime franchises, my own experience at cons confirm the majority of attendees haven't really seen all that much anime anyways, and usually they watch the popular, widely available ones only.

Maybe that's the problem in the first place? People just don't watch that much anime? Or rather, some might have over-estimated the size of the North American DVD-buying market? This is the feeling I get when I see Section23 and Funimation are still doing what they've been doing, and doing it better despite some rough tumbles over the past couple years. And rough tumbling is common today no thanks to the Great Recession. This is also the feeling I get when I retrace the rough patch and the "bubble" that popped the past few years.

If we trace back to the roots of the North American anime-on-home-video licensing industry, it was something that grew out of demand for anime. If the kids today want to party and don't want to pay for some TV shows, maybe it's time for these licensees to change gear and target cons as a way to supplement their bottom line. If the DVD-buying audience has frayed so much that it can't support every good but niche show on the market, maybe it's time to stop licensing everything. If people want day-date Blu-Ray releases along with Japan, maybe it's time to play hardball with Japan's stubborn licensors and make it a reality?

Anime, therefore, will probably live until it expires, or gets killed. Right now there aren't that much stuff out there going around and killing anime, so I'm not too worried. Perhaps the Non-existent Youth Bill over at Tokyo's legislature will give anime a blow to the groin, but that's not going to kill it. What kills is when you have companies like minori who doesn't even want people outside of Japan to install and run their games, even if you bought it legitimately, to use a parallel example from eroge.

If anime passes away peacefully, none of us would probably still be here to see it go, so I'm not worried about that either. Anyways, anime is not going to die until somebody kills it, and until then, this kind of doom and gloom is just blowing things out of proportions. It might be good to support anime by buying DVDs, but who am I to tell you how to (legally) spend your money? At least I don't have a conflict of interest here, as opposed to a CEO of a dubbing studio.

Finally, back to Shiro. The thing with Shiro was that at some point, he realized he can't be all legalistic about his self-righteous crusade of saving lives (ie., people hasn't died yet because they haven't been killed). For every life he chose to save, at great effort, another life was lost because of his human limits, he can't save everyone, at the same time. In other words,  he was basically choosing who got a shot at life and who didn't. He knew if he got legalistic about this stuff, he'll end up murdering the people who caused trouble upfront, or letting someone dear to him die in order to save many, the masses. That was not something he wanted to live for. In the same way, it is not likely that we can buy all the DVDs, toys, and everything else that we want, so it's better to spend money where your conscious, your heart, tell you to spend. Don't be legalistic, just be good.

Wait, did you expect me to tell you to watch more anime and fall in love with more shows and score more 2D waifus? Is that really necessary? And if you can buy everything, uh, can I be your friend?

[Top Image from Licheus]

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Jeff Chuang
Jeff ChuangAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Yet to be the oldest kid on the block, this East Coast implant writes cryptic things about JP folklore, the industry or dirty moe. Attend cons and lives the "I can buy Aniplex releases" life. ... more + disclosures



Filed under... #anime #Industy affairs #Japanator Original



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