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Toonami Infolink :: View topic - State of the Anime Industry
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Now that college is behind me, the stress to do something productive with my time has significantly diminished. So, since then I've been spending the last week binging on all the anime series I missed over the past four years. Around hour 70-something, it dawned on me just how easy it's become to access anime in recent years. After having been away from the scene for so long jumping back in has made me realize how much things have changed. As a history buff, I tend to look for patterns in things over time, or at the very least take the time to sit and back and look at how things came to be the way they are now and think about how they're going to be in the future.
It gets boring to hypothesize alone, so I want to know what you think. Sadly, I don't think there's a anime message board out there that could stand an intellectual discussion such as this. Even though I know most of the board is dead, hopefully the few diehards left will have some thoughts on these issues.
The anime industry seems to be hitting some rough times. The Internet has continued to grow as the primary distribution channel for the medium, but this is much to the chagrin of foreign licensing companies. Most of us didn't bat an eyelash to the fall of Geneon or the slashing of releases in the past few years. Why? Because as online consumers we seemed to be the ones winning out. With Geneon's fall its former titles, like Sailor Moon, became fair game for download sites who had little to fear from copyright claims from a defunct company. With YouTube's streaming flash video technology gone open source it's become virtually impossible for companies to keep track of their licensed properties. You're far more likely to have a video taken down for using a copyright song in your AMV than using copyright video. Does the fan community care? Probably not.
The failing economy has exacerbated the problem on all fronts. First, the consumers now have less money to purchase DVDs and merchandise. Second, the licensing companies now have less money with which to buy titles, make high-quality products, and keep production costs low enough to make titles affordable. Third, the industry in Japan has had to cut salaries of workers, hires fewer quality artists, and is less willing to give the greenlight to risky ambitious projects.
All of this has finally come full circle and we're starting to see Japan's woes hitting our shores. If you look at the titles hitting the streets in the past few years you'll notice some unhappy trends. Fewer titles, too many titles that pander to “otaku” and those that follow the bigger breasts>better content equation. We're also seeing a lot more remakes (Dragon Ball Kai) and attempts to repackage old titles into smaller, cheaper sets.
Last year saw a lot of red flags being raised, mainly on ADV, which had been at the forefront of the licensing craze in the early 2000's. After low earnings the previous year the company cut back most of its more ambitious ventures. In January, the acclaimed “Anime Network” ceased 24-hour broadcast and switched to a purely VOD format. Weeks later ADV ended its ADVocates fan club program. In the summer we saw the end of Newtype Magazine and its supposed successor PiQ three months later. ADV Universe was one of the first attempts to create an “Anime Itunes”, but with sky-high prices ($4.99 an episode) the service was shut down soon after launch.
Not all is gloom in doom, however, because the entertainment industry is finally starting to catch up with technology. Streaming content with advertising is proving to be a viable market. Once companies realized that their media was going to be distributed on the net regardless of the threat of legal action, it became clear the option was to do file sharing better than the pirates. People, myself included, really don't mind having to go to a site like Hulu or NBC.com to watch a show, even if I have to deal with a few fifteen seconds of ads, especially if it means no long load times, higher quality video, and an easy to navigate library.
We're finally starting to see legal streaming video taking a chunk out of illegal fansubing, and I don't think the anime community minds one bit. Subscription services like Crunchyroll and Funimation's streaming sites now offer higher quality subs quicker than any fansub operation can match, some as early as one hour after the Japanese television premier.
Sadly, this isn't going to be a permanent solution, rather it's more like putting a band-aid on a bleeding cut. If you read the latest article on the financial situation of Japanese anime workers, they're still not making the living wage they deserve. It's obvious that the money generated from subscription services and online ad revenue is not going to be enough to drastically improve wages. Overextension and market saturation is part of the problem, and, most likely, some companies are going to go under, but maybe that's what we need.
Manga is another story, and a good one. It's an age old truth that nothing can beat reading a book in physical form and the same has proven true for Japanese comics. The industry has been nothing but growth over the past five years, minus the cutting of titles from ADV's manga division back in 2004-2005.
It's a big change from what we saw ten years ago. Anime exploded on the seen, hit a peak, fell drastically, and hopefully will soon rise again.
1. How do you feel the industry has dealt with fansubbing? Do you see fansubs becoming obsolete, and if so, is that a bad thing?
2. What's your opinion of the quality of titles from the past ten years? Has it declined? Has it just shifted tastes? Did we just get spoiled from years of "cream of the crop" titles released in the early 2000s?
3. What other changes do you see the anime industry experiencing in the next decade? More non-Japanese anime? Quality>/<Quantity? Obsolescence of disk formats? _________________ Bang.
Mon May 25, 2009 3:34 am
Joined: Nov 07, 2002
Some good reads here Zechs. I may not be an avid anime fan anymore, but I still enjoy animation enough to keep tabs on the state of the industry. Don't quite have the free time I once did, so gimme a few days to answer your questions... _________________ "Life's a journey, not a destination..." -Aerosmith ('Amazing')
Current RPG(s): (None)
Mon May 25, 2009 6:48 pm
Joined: Jan 26, 2003
I may not read manga, but the Amazon Kindle DX and other eReader devices do represent a major threat to the publishing industry. As consumers begin to adopt them, profits could start taking hits.
I'm of the mind that there's plenty of good anime, but there is a lot of gunk to sort through. I've seen the Funimation channel, and most of the shows seem to have limited appeal. (Except for Ninja Nonsense and one or two others.) _________________ Able and Baker is nice.
Tue May 26, 2009 11:54 pm
Joined: Nov 07, 2002
Well, this wasn't exactly how I planned to answer your questions, but it is sort of related. Comcast is slowly phasing out channels from analog and making them digital-only, and last week they pulled the plug on Cartoon Network in my area. Now I barely watch the station anymore, but I was keeping tabs on Code Geass, and having the channel drop out with three episodes remaining would have had me fuming in past years. Unlike the past though, TV stations are streaming some of their content online now, and thanks to adultswim.com, I will be able to finish the show. My guess is this approach will continue to develop and eventually redefine how we watch television in the next decade, so rights distribution contracts will have to catch up to modern times in that regard...
As for the quality of titles compared to ten years ago, you have it correct. Releases around the turn of the century were limited in scope, and fans went through a period where nearly everything was a hit because we only got the top stuff. If we were to sum up American television into just a few hours of content a week, it would probably appear a lot better than it really is too. Remember how easy it was to track nearly every new series as it was released back then? When it actually felt possible to watch everything on the local Suncoast shelf? Nowadays, the few shining gems are still there, but drowned out due to the flood of "me too" series, much like how the Nintendo Wii and DS libraries are packed with tons of titles the average gamer would never actually play... _________________ "Life's a journey, not a destination..." -Aerosmith ('Amazing')
Current RPG(s): (None)
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