Another letter from the industry: GDH's Arthur Smith


ANN has just posted another step in the whole fansubbing debate that's been going on, and so I wanted to take a moment to reply with my own views. There are a few key points from Arthur Smith's letter that I would like to address. Please be sure to give the letter a look-over, and then check back here.

  • -Why anime DVD sales are down in the U.S.
  • -The relationship between anime companies in the U.S. and Japan
  • -The reason why fansub downloads are so popular (and thus...)
  • -...a possible solution to the whole fansubbing issue.
Really, this whole thing is a sticky issue, and like Arthur points out, this is something that is affecting the anime industry as a whole. If there isn't some sort of reasonable solution, the whole thing could start to collapse. Audience, meet me at camera 3.

First, there's the issue of low anime DVD sales here in the United States. The simple fact is that they are priced too expensively. I realize that broadcast television DVDs can be sold at cheaper rates because the show has usually already been successful financially when it was on the air. The DVD production is fuelled by that revenue, and so it ends up being a relatively low cost for the studio releasing the DVD, while bringing in a large surplus profit. Meanwhile, the anime industry is covering licensing fees, translation and dubbing costs, as well as packaging and the whole nine yards. 90% of the time, their income is solely based on these DVD sales.

The only solution, then, is to cut down on the cost of production for the DVDs. My solution? Not every show needs to be dubbed. As it is, releasing a DVD with both a dub track and a subtitle only track is trying to appease two groups at once, and not satisfying either. There are shows that should be dubbed -- namely those that are set to appear on American television and those that take place in America/focus on speaking English -- but the vast majority of shows that are more of a niche release should not be dubbed. Some things that pop into my mind for this category are Mushishi, Welcome to the NHK!, and Jigoku Shoujo. Shows like BECK, Azumanga Daioh, and Red Garden all did fantastic jobs with their dubs and did a great job of localizing the content.

Let's say, though, that only half of the shows that most companies released were dubbed. That would cut a large portion of their production costs, because each distributor knows that they are appealing to a niche market and can focus on both a speedier release and providing more fanservice for the buyers -- The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi special editions were an excellent example of this sort of fanservice.

Cutting out many dubbings also answers one of Arthur's issues with the relationship between U.S. and Japanese companies -- the fact that oftentimes, dubbings and script translations take many revisions because of negotiations with the companies. Once a show had been licensed by a U.S. company, then they could translate the episodes as they come out, either by getting a hold of the final script, or by having a team translate the show as soon as it comes out, much like a fansubbing team would do.

The problem still remains, though: a show is rarely licensed right away, and so there can be a gap of one to three months of the show being in production before it is licensed (or even in discussion), and so viewers can't get their hands on the show in a legal manner immediately. This is where the Japanese companies can come in and provide translations for the shows, because at that point in time, no one has distrobution rights to the show in the U.S. They would be able to provide viewers with a translation of a show right after it's aired in Japan, as long as they hired native speakers for the languages that the show is being translated into (as Arthur pointed out, that is usually 10+ languages).

Now, where would they release this? Why, the Internet of course! If there was a site that offered high quality streams of anime shows that were supported by ads, I believe that many people would have no problem with watching it in that manner. Just take a look at AdultSwim.com and how they air episodes of TV shows for free. Both U.S. and Japanese companies could release their shows on sites where people could go see their shows for free. Of course, it would be better if they were all gathered together on a single site, where a bargain could be struck between all the companies.

So, if this were to happen, the companies would have an additional source of revenue, lightening the burden on expected DVD sales, and maybe even lowering the prices slightly. Other distrobution methods need to be more fully explored. iTunes, Xbox Live Marketplace, and the Playstation Network are all viable methods of distrobution that companies have only put their foot in the waters of. If they want to be more serious, they should try releasing sub-only versions of a show, and put up a large amount of their library. If a U.S. company had decided to speed sub Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei and release it on the PSN for $2 an episode, I would gladly buy it. It's necessary to offer selections to a wide range, and to not be afraid to put a lot of things out there, not just two or three titles.

These are just some suggestions for how to keep the U.S. anime industry afloat. What do you suggest, readers? 

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Brad Rice
Brad RiceFounder   gamer profile

Brad helped found in 2006, and currently serves as an Associate He's covered all aspects of the industry, but has a particular preference for the business-end of things, more + disclosures



Filed under... #fansubbing #Industy affairs #internet



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