The present and future of the US anime industry

This past Saturday I spent the day at AnimeLA, a small anime convention about an hour’s commute from where I live. One of the panels involved discussing how technology has changed the US anime industry. That, together with the recent news of Bandai’s closing, got me thinking of exactly what the future holds for the US anime industry…

(Sorry this post is longer than my usual editorials. I had a lot to say on this topic)

At the panel I attended with my friend and fellow blogger Neo-Shonen Fujoshi, I was surprised that not many people passionately blamed Internet piracy alone as the main culprit behind the decline of the industry. They probably would have a few years ago, but nowadays I think people are seeing that, while piracy does still have its impact, the problem is not so much obtaining anime illegally as much as a shift in how the younger fans of today express their hobby.

With this, the discussion at the panel brought up the idea of our changing times that are de-emphasizing the need to own physical copies of things. As I touched upon in a past post, with iPads, iPhones, streaming movies, Kindles, and the like, our society is rapidly shifting away from the need to own physical copies of things in order to have access to them. There’s now so much encouragement to save shelf space and money and just stream or download movies, TV shows, and even books rather than buy individual copies of them. And this is bad news for the anime industry, whose very life’s blood is DVD/BD sales. While DVD/BD sales of anime are still doing fine in Japan (more on that later), American fans are different – with so much anime available on Crunchyroll and similar legal streaming sites, many of which never even see a home video release, the concept of “being a fan equals buying anime on DVD/BD” is deteriorating. Not only that, but what was also mentioned at the panel is that, because of these streaming sites, the Japanese companies can just hire someone on their side to make subtitles and that’s it, saving money by bypassing the American anime company altogether. They’ve even started doing so with some home video releases, like the BD box set of Kara no Kyoukai. Just like getting your own book self-published or making your own videos with Adobe Premiere, what was once needed to be done by paid professionals with professional equipment can now be done by just about anyone with a computer. And unfortunately that means a gain for some but heavy losses for many.

So, with this de-emphasis on owning physical copies of all the anime you watch, what are the young fans of today doing to show support for their hobby? As the panelists mentioned and what I myself was briefly a part of in my early years as a fan, the only way to really see anime and be involved in the fandom back in the day was to either buy the VHS/laser discs/DVDs yourself, borrow them from friends, or get together in groups such as anime clubs to view and trade them with others. All you really found in the dealers’ rooms at anime conventions back then were anime on VHS/DVD and perhaps some character goods like shirts, CDs, and artbooks. Nowadays however, thanks to what I previously mentioned about streaming anime and society’s de-emphasis on owning physical copies of media, anime fans today watch all the anime they want alone via the Internet, no longer needing to go out and buy DVDs or get together with other fans in order to obtain anime. So, when they do get together with fellow fans such as at conventions, they’ve come to socialize in a different way.

In addition to a cosplay boom, another shift I’ve noticed through attending anime conventions over the years is that the fandom is getting younger and younger. With the ease of Internet access, and therefore anime access, it’s no wonder. And of course, these young fans who are still in school aren’t going to be spending large sums of money on anime DVD/BD releases, especially in a society that’s encouraging them to stream. So they express their hobby through other means – cosplaying, often quite passionately and in organized groups, talking about anime with others via vast social networks like Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc., making their own anime fan art or web comics to sell at conventions and online…all of which is nice, but is giving little, if any, money back to the industry that creates what they love in the first place. And the dealers’ room at conventions can’t help but follow this shift in fan interests. Now what we mostly see there is cosplay accessions and grey market character goods, which again, unlike sales of DVDs/BDs, profit the industry next to nothing. Of course, there are still plenty of American anime fans (yours truly included) who are not part of this new mentality and like to own their own physical copies of the anime they love. But it’s hard to please everyone and my kind of fan is a dying breed.

So why is the Japanese anime industry doing fine while the American industry is in such peril? The way just about all anime series are released in Japan has been pretty consistent – 2-3 episodes per Blu-ray disc every few months, often with extra goodies such as mini-artbooks and posters, for about 5,000 to 9,000 yen each (roughly $65 to $120). As expensive as that is to American fans, Japan has been following that same model for years and it’s been working. Call it a difference in what it means to be a fan in Japan compared to the US, but Japanese otaku do spend that kind of money on anime releases. Why aren’t American otaku willing to spend the same? I think over the years American fans have gotten used to having everything in cheap box sets. In recent years, companies have been releasing full 26-episode anime series on DVD for less than $50. Even Blu-ray sets of 13-episode series can be bought for less than $80. Compared to Japan where you can’t even get 2-3 episodes for less than $50, Americans can get anime for very cheap. So why don’t they? Other than the legit reason that people, especially the young people that make up the majority of anime fans, don’t have the money in this bad economy, and of course pirating still being an issue, I believe the reason goes back to what I discussed in the previous paragraphs. I’ve even heard people speculate that the reason Bandai can’t go on in the industry is because they followed the Japanese model of releasing anime (3-4 episodes per discs released every few months) rather than go with cheap full box sets from the get go like other companies are doing.

In addition, the Japanese anime industry has another major side of it that America doesn’t have – character goods. Official products from practically every anime released each season, ranging from CDs, artbooks, figures, and plushies down to mousepads, phone straps, and towels, are available, often for a limited time, at stores like Animate and Gamers. You can get a good idea of what these products are like by scrolling through sites like AmiAmi that sell character goods to US consumers. While they’re not as profitable to the industry as DVD/BD sales, they certainly promote series and reel in profit.

So, what does this all lead up to as far as the future for the US anime industry? One of the panelists mentioned that the Japanese companies may just start bypassing the American companies altogether. Or more extremely, they might not even see a need to have an American industry anymore, as the majority of their profits are from Japanese otaku anyway. If that were to happen, the only way American fans could legally buy anime series on DVD/BD is to import them at the much higher Japanese prices, certainly without dubs and perhaps without subtitles unless the Japanese companies decide to have them. I personally can’t afford to spend the Japanese prices on anime releases, nor do I want them without good English subtitles, so I would be very upset if this extreme outcome came to pass. All I can do now is to keep supporting the industry as I have been: buying the US DVD/BD sets of the anime I especially like (as we all know it’s too hard nowadays to buy every series we watch) and importing figures and other official character goods whenever I can. If I become a millionaire and fluent in Japanese in the future, then I wouldn’t mind importing the Japanese DVDs/BDs at all. But that doesn’t look to be happening anytime soon, so unless some comparable alternative from Japan’s side comes about, I really hope Funimation, Sentai, Viz, NIS America, Nozomi, and Aniplex, with all their various business strategies, can hang in there.

*Further reading*:
Signs of the Times: An Industry in Transition – relentlessflame expands more on the changing industry and the differences between the Japanese and American anime markets

Endings and Beginnings – Neo-Shonen Fujoshi’s AnimeLA con report and her thoughts on the state of the anime industry

Revenge of the Special Edition – Mike Toole from ANN wrote a great article comparing the US anime industry of the past to the state it’s in today

36 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. 2DT says:

    On the other hand, there’s a growing sentiment in this generation towards craftsmanship. In an age where you can carry hundreds of hours of music on a piece of metal the size of your thumb, there’s a certain appeal to vinyl records that didn’t exist even ten years ago.

    I see the market moving toward ad revenue from streams on one end (like Crunchyroll), and high-end custom goods on the other (like the Kara no Kyoukai BDs, which I hear sold like hotcakes). Perhaps not ideal for the average consumer, but anime in the US will live on.

    • Yumeka says:

      Good point that a fair number of nostalgic fans will always want to keep those old-school physical copies no matter what the day and age. And yes, those seem to be the extreme ends of the market, which no longer caters to the average consumer.

  2. f0calizer says:

    We are seeing a new generation of American fans who have so much to choose from with regards to anime. Older fans like to rewatch certain favorite series, either by themselves or with someone who’s never seen it before (I know you just rewatched Code:Geass, right?). So owning a physical copy makes a lot of sense — you treasure and cherish that series. Younger fans (as an arbitrary age, we might say below 21 years) nowadays don’t really have that inclination since so many new series come out every season online. Besides, who wants to cosplay a character from a series that’s now a year or two old? Unless, of course, it’s from an ongoing shounen series like BLEACH or Naruto. This is another reason why older fans complain there hasn’t been a really “classic” or “game-changing” series that defines this decade in the American fandom (although there are major contenders like Madoka, of course) — who cares about producing earth-shattering works when you have dozens of relatively good series to keep you entertained and make internet memes about, and that’s what most younger fans want. That’s also driving the whole move towards digital distribution, I think. I myself don’t want to see a day when anime becomes all digital, but I think the best compromise would be to find a way to let interested fans download and possess and rewatch digital copies of a series, rather than pay exorbitant prices for overseas releases.

    • Yumeka says:

      Being overwhelmed by choice is a good way of putting it. Since so much more anime is being produced in recent years and fans have such easy access to it all, they’ve grown accustomed to following anime seasonally and not lingering with and supporting older favorites the way fans like us do. But I’m hoping this has more to do with the young age of these fans though, and that as they mature, the way they relate to their hobby will mature as well (assuming anime becomes a hobby they keep with them into adulthood).

  3. Justin says:

    Well I will say this: anime in Japan in general should be doing fine–that’s where it comes from. The anime business in Japan should be successful.

    Now, onto the meat of the dilemma–there are a host of reasons why we don’t spend as much as the Japanese do so I won’t get too much into that, but one big reason is the general American mentality of anime. You would think that since anime has been around for so long in the states it would be more well known and accepted–it’s still not. People still think it’s for “kids” or “anime is just all boobs” etc. Why is this important? Well, that means it will stay in a niche market, whereas in Japan it’s not. You won’t see a lot of anime DVDs on store shelves as opposed to the stores in Japan, where there’s a lot of stores in general. Then we get to stuff like piracy, online, etc, and you see why companies are fighting an uphill battle.

    But despite your post, it’s not doom and gloom for the U.S. yet. I would start the doom and gloom talk if Funimation goes, but I can’t see them going down at all. BDs have become the rage nowadays, and with that being so popular, the physical media will still be there for some time. I still believe at some point anime can get some respect, and stuff like Funico, Crunchyroll, and Hulu can help. Lastly, it’s not just buying and importing that helps–get in contact with the companies and make suggestions. Whether they listen or not isn’t the issue, but they’ll get a better sense of what we want.

    • Yumeka says:

      What you said in your first paragraph is actually pretty true. The American anime market really is an afterthought for Japan and doesn’t bring in all that much profit for them. Which is why, in these bad times, there’s speculation that they may just find it’s not even profitable to have an American market anymore.

      I would say that most anime besides the kid/family stuff is very niche in Japan as well. You’ll only find the kinds of character goods I mentioned, and even a good variety of anime DVDs/BDs, at stores in Akihabara. But it’s true that anime is much more widely accepted in Japan as “not just for kids,” and since it’s aired on Japanese TV unlike America with all the streaming sites, the way it’s marketed is very different too.

  4. Mauricio says:

    If they are not selling enough DVD/BD, why not sell digital copies? I wouldn’t mind to buy HD anime from iTunes, that way i can watch full episodes even if i don’t have a internet connection, and my shelves have more room for artbooks.

    • Yumeka says:

      I think some American anime companies have been offering digital copies for the iPhone and such. But again, that just doesn’t bring in enough profit nor do fans seem to be purchasing enough of it either.

  5. Edward says:

    I can certainly relate. A few weeks ago, I bought an imported music CD from a Japanese bookstore for around 35 dollars. Later, I found out that I could have just bought the same songs on iTunes for only 10 dollars. -_-

    In regards to anime, you can find a lot of stuff on the Internet for much cheaper than buying a physical copy. Unless one is willing to pay extra and support the artists, I do not think a lot of American fans are willing to wait for an “official” North American release on Blu-Ray/DVD months after one has already watched the whole series through iTunes, the Internet, wherever. And with the mindset Americans have toward anime, I do not see that happening very often. As others have already said, digital copies could be more successful outside of Japan in terms of profit.

    • Yumeka says:

      Compared to America, anime has been around longer in Japan, and has been marketed more consistently there. Since so much anime is available online both legally and illegally, American fans have developed the mentality that if they’re going to spend money on anime, it better be for a good price (again, quite different from the Japanese mentality). And now with the shift away from needing to own physical copies, they’re even less inclined to spend money on DVDs/BDs. I don’t know if digital copies will catch on, but we shall see.

  6. chikorita157 says:

    The problem with digital copies is that it’s filled with DRM, which makes it impossible to play it on every device you own. What if I want to play something I bought from iTunes and play it on my Playstation 3. I won’t be able to do that since the DRM restricts it to only playing it in iTunes, Apple Devices or an Apple TV, which kind of sucks. Not only that, while streaming solves half the problem, you don’t own the file and you need an internet connection to play it. Either way, there are still severe drawbacks to digital that still needs to be addressed.

    As for me, I still buy physical DVDs of series I loved/want to watch badly and even imported a few albums directly from Japan. Of course, I cannot buy every DVD in the moon because I don’t want to waste money if it something turns out to be horrible and that I have limited funds. Still, the main reason the blurays/dvds are more expensive in Japan since they are considered collectable items. The packaging for the most part is nicer and probably contains more, especially the limited editions. Still, I think we just have to hope for the best…

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, DRM is a factor too. I’m someone who usually only uses a media file on one device, so it probably wouldn’t be an issue for me. But for others, it could be. And yes, that’s one of the reasons I don’t like streaming. What if your Internet connection has a problem or the site you’re streaming from has a problem? Random freezes and buffering while watching a streaming episode really put a damper on my viewing experience. Plus the quality isn’t typically good on streams to begin with.

  7. BeldenOtaku says:

    Too true, the sense of “being a fan” has definitely become more lazy (relatively) in America. We become so used to entire seasons on the rack at supermarkets and video stores, that we are dissuaded to buy anime that gets released 2-3 episodes in 5-6 volume sets. Each volume costing (as you said) up to and over $100, and that’s before various import taxes and shipping. It’s not easy, but to keep American interest alive, the only effective option IS to continue buying from the American businesses who receive distribution licenses from Japanese producers (though I can usually do without the dubs…)
    Pirating isn’t as detrimental as Bandai liked to put it, while it certainly wasn’t beneficial to download free versions of shows, it’s not like it kept us (or, rather, otaku like us) from buying our favorite series on physical copies. I’m currently waiting on some income soon to purchase a few more pieces of series-related items to add to my physical collection, and while I don’t mind paying a little extra for the shows I absolutely must have, it’s better to have the options of other shows for better prices being distributed on this side of the ocean already.

    • Yumeka says:

      Great thoughts. Like you, I will continue to buy my favorites series (again, the days where people are expected to buy every series they watch are gone) from the American companies whenever I have the funds. I don’t see any great change in fan mentality happening in favor of the industry any time soon – the fans like us who have always bought will keep buying, and the ones who rarely or never buy will keep doing so.

  8. Great editorial, it’s definitely a subject that’s consuming the minds of the more conscientious anime fan these days. Rightfully so, too, because simply put: licensing and distributing Japanese animation in the United States is not a profitable enterprise, nor has it been for a handful of years now.

    It can be rather difficult to reason why westerners (U.S.) don’t support the market without pointing fingers, but I’m confident that most of us have come to a point where we have some agreeable semblance of the largest contributing factors. However, it’s a shame that it took Bandai this long to come to grips with its futile business model.

    As for the stability of other companies, Sentai Filmworks seems the most consistent and stable right now… if only helped by how tight-lipped they’ve become since evolving from their waning ADV days. FUNi is supplementing their weak release schedules (or should I say, re-re-release schedule) with Asian cinema, isn’t that nice?

    • Yumeka says:

      You’re right, anime has always, and probably will always be, a niche market in the US. So any company that relies on it for profit is already taking a risk. It comes down to who has the best business model, and unfortunately Bandai’s didn’t work for the US market.

      Sentai seems to be doing well with their strategy of releasing series on relatively cheap box sets, often without dubs to save costs. Funimation releases a wide variety of series while Viz only focuses on the most popular series that are sure fire hits. While they have different strategies, I hope the remaining companies are able to keep up what they’ve been doing.

  9. Adziu says:

    More merch is what’s needed. If they released figures, artbooks, toys and branded things like bags for the properties they licence, they’d likely end up getting a large chunk of their revenue that way.

    • Yumeka says:

      That could be an idea – licensing figures from Good Smile and other companies for release in the US? Or they could just make their own official US-only merchandise right here and save on licensing fees. There were always some official US anime character goods released by ADV, Viz, and other companies floating around certain stores and conventions (I own some of it myself). But like a lot of other things, I’ve seen less and less of it over the years.

      • Ayinde says:

        Funimation tends to do that from time-to-time. There were Slayers coins being released with the Slayers Revolution DVD release.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUyBrRCOuRQ

        There was also a limited edition release for the Sacred Blacksmith featuring a hardchip box cover, a 32-page booklet with posters, and a bath towel of the main character.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlSZFoDw10o

        There’s also a Jellyfish Princess limited edition release coming soon with a Clara keychain. http://www.funimation.com/rojas/blog/jellyfish-fans-we-need-your-help/1876331

        So there’s definitely been an immediate attempt, at least from Funimation. I think what makes this complicated is that character goods among other merchandises like CDs are of completely separate licenses from just the show. Like there’s a music license, a character license, printing license, whatever other licenses there are. And I guess since Funimation earns the most money, they can afford to do stuff like that at this point. I know Greg Ayres mentioned it a couple of times in one of his fansub panels and how it’s similar to buying acres of land. I know I heard it other places like one of the ANNCast interview episodes of Lance Heiskell from Funimation.

  10. Nopy says:

    I really don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about. People have been saying the anime industry in the west has been in decline for years, but the way I see it, the industry is booming. Sure, Bandai did get scale back their Bandai Entertainment branch, but from what I’ve heard, they’re still going to be releasing anime, just not physically. On the other hand, companies like NIS America and Crunchyroll (who has already moved into DVD/BD sales) seem to be booming. The anime industry is just like any another, it’s the survival of the fittest. If you can’t adapt to the times, then you aren’t meant to keep up with them.

    • Yumeka says:

      I’m glad someone’s optimistic ;) It’s true that people have always been saying the anime industry is in decline, probably because it has been and always will be a niche market, and for years fans have wanted it to get the recognition it should. But with so many big companies dropping out in recent years – Geneon, ADV, Bandai, and Tokyopop on the manga side of things – it’s gotten even more alarming. I hope Crunchyroll, and whatever streaming Bandai has in the future, does well in this new wave of de-emphasis on physical copies. NIS America is a very new company, but their strategy of releasing a limited number of series dub-less on premium box sets with extra goodies seems to be doing alright. Only time will tell though.

  11. Ayinde says:

    I’ll be honest, I really wish for the days where I could just watch anime shows on a weekday afternoon. But that’s just me personally whether or not anyone else feels the same way and that can’t really happen because on top of a shift in anime consumption for the American market, there’s also a shift in animated shows being on American Television. I mean there are less and less programming blocks and more of Cable networks wanting a hold of what type of content they want.

    But that’s another separate issue. Regarding DVD/Blu-ray sales in America compared to Japan, I do agree that there is a shift in mentality among younger anime fans (and I was at one point much like them too) in terms of being used to consuming things for free, legally or not and the mentality at conventions (though I didn’t start attending any anime-related convention until 2008 so I’ve never seen what conventions were like years prior). However I do think there is something else in addition to younger, less shop-savy anime fans not having the money to buy DVDs or Blu-rays. I think Madoka Magica could be used as a prime example. Having rewatched and reexamined the show a few weeks ago, I’ll admit I like it, but I don’t love it. But I also know that from it’s premiere to the 3rd episode to the 10th episode to it’s 2-episode finale delayed a month later due to the earthquake, the show was talked non-stop EVERYWHERE on the internet. On My Anime List, Youtube, Anime News Network, etc..

    So it’s not as if nobody watched the show in America despite there being no legal streams. Having also watched the show myself, I also remember certain commercials straight from Japan attached to fansubbed episodes like Morning Rescue and Sparx (which was interesting but odd since lots of fans hate commercials). There were also 15-second commercials for Madoka Magica volume 1 on DVD and Blu-ray. I remember also seeing 15-second commercials for Star Driver DVD/Blu-ray volumes in fansubbed episodes of Star Driver. Thinking about that it hit me. These shows in Japan don’t just get shown on TV depsite it being late night, they also have brief commercials promoting their own DVD/Blu-ray releases. Here in America while some people are aware Madoka Magica was licensed by Aniplex USA and will be released 3 different ways with a dub, I wonder how many of the same people that first watched the show fansubbed are even aware that Madoka will be released here legally and people will know where to look for the releases?

    And it’s not like American companies don’t try to promote anime shows they’ve licensed here. Funimation is the strongest company that does this whether it’s because they still have a bunch of worker who’re of the brand managing department and there’s some brand managing for each show all done differently and creatively or because of some other reason. There are full episodes and simulcasts, clips, trailers, and special videos and interviews for about every show licensed by Funimation that’s seen on Youtube, Crunchyroll, and Anime News Network and fans can span the promotion of certain shows further by spreading the news in other websites. Even though Funimation at the most can only extend their promotion to TV networks by having FMA Brotherhood on Adult Swim and DBZ Kai on Nicktoons, they’re really doing everything they can with whatever resources they can use to advertise their content.

    Other lesser companies like Viz Media or Sentai Filmworks don’t seem to promote their own content as extensively. They certainly try though like with Viz Media and their Vizanime site or with Sentai and sending shows they’ve acquired to The Anime Network site and dubbed episodes to Anime Network on demand. But it doesn’t seem to be as extensive in promoting content or DVD/Blu-ray releases as with Funimation and maybe that’s because they can’t for some reason. The problem with this is that because ways to promote legal releases from companies becomes more finite especially outside of the internet, more anime fans will likely grow up consuming anime without even realizing they exist on home video or even on iTunes, XBOX Live, or PSN. I mean Fairy tail has been promoted non-stop by Funimation on Youtube in the past couple of months, and there are STILL some people who comment on how they JUST relaized the show was licensed, dubbed and is being released! I wouldn’t be surprised if a year later the show was re-released in 24-episode sets and and there would STILL be some people out of the loop.

    I don’t think it helps either that other than Amazon, Rightstuf and Best Buy online, people who may want to buy it on retail stores probably don’t realize that you can’t get just get any of the latest releases at Target or Walmart or any other place that would sell DVD/Blu-rays. Your best bet would be a specialty store or a Best Buy which even THEN you would have to look around a bit in the store for the 1-2 shelf anime section.

    • Yumeka says:

      That’s a great point that anime companies should try to advertise their releases more. I did see a lot of advertising for Aniplex’s Madoka release on ANN, as well as a link to where you can preorder it on RightStuf, but it was very brief. So unless you visit ANN around the time these announcements occur, you may never know about them. Like the commercials you mentioned in Japan, maybe US companies can have similar commercials during Crunchyroll and Hulu streams, or even on regular US TV if they have the funds. I’d say it’s worth a shot, especially now that online retailers are pretty much the only places you can buy a good selection of anime on DVD/BD.

      • Ayinde says:

        There was at one point commercials for the Bleach Fade to Black DVD Blu-ray release from Viz on Crunchyroll. Although I wonder if that had to do with more with how Warner Bros. is somehow also involved with Bleach movie releases. Because I didn’t see the same thing with commercials for Naruto Shippuden: Bonds. Also, there are sometimes advertisements for certain Funimation titles in Youtube streams. I remember watching some shows from Funimations channel several months ago and there were 30-second Soul Eater advertisements. But that’s the most I’ve seen with what you’re talking about.

  12. Frootytooty says:

    Very good article on an important point. Personally I’ll admit that I tend to download pretty much all the anime I watch, since I usually watch the less mainstream (non-licensed) stuff. However, I also noticed that as I got older I became more inclined to buy things that I wouldn’t have a few years ago. A prime example is books – I used to haunt the library’s manga collection but now I’d much rather own my own copy of manga or books that I enjoyed/think I will enjoy. It’s probably got something to do with the fact that I now earn some money for myself so I can spend more freely. Hopefully this will be the same for the younger anime fan population at the moment! I’d hate to see the English anime market die out.

    • Yumeka says:

      In these recent years, it’s hard to be a serious, well-rounded anime fan without downloading. But I feel that if you make a conscious effort to give money back to the industry when you can, a little piracy is forgiven. I actually used to buy more in my early years of fandom because that was the only way to watch anime back in the day because I didn’t have cable TV and torrents/streaming were barely starting out. Nowadays, even though I could watch all the anime I want without having to buy anything, I still want to own my own copies of the series I love and give them support. I’m glad you decided to start buying manga =D

  13. noiZ says:

    The Japanese have the opportunity to watch anime as it airs. Anyone outside the country has to wait for a) Crunchyroll b) any anime streaming site or c) for it to be released abroad. It makes sense that Japan is the biggest market. They are the most informed on it and have the most opportunity to preview shows on TV and buy the extras as they come out. If anime producers want a larger audience that will buy their goods, they need better marketing teams. People only buy stuff if they know a) that it exists and b) where to buy it. Most consumers don’t want to do much work so, they should accommodate that if they want the consumers’ money. :p

    • Yumeka says:

      You’re right that the only way the Japanese audience can view anime is on TV when it airs at “dead time” late at night. I’m sure they have illegal streaming sites, but for the most part, they’re thoroughly enticed to buy the DVDs/BDs. One could say that the anime’s airing on TV in Japan is just one long commercial for the home video releases. But here in America there’s little advertising for anime and Crunchyroll and other legal streaming sites are becoming very prominent as a means of watching, so there’s much less incentive to buy.

  14. Smiley says:

    Yeah lots of people (including me ) would watch watch them of streaming sites rather than buying a DVD or bd
    I kinda like buying figures and art books or manga more than DVD or BD but art books a really rare from where I come from

  15. Akasen says:

    I once found myself conversing with someone on the topic of physical objects vs digital items. Essentially his point was “Why buy a physical volume of manga when you can buy it over the Internet and have it not take up space?” This got odd because this can get into the philosophical debate that nothing has value, people just put a certain value on certain things.

    This much is true and so thus came the question of why do we buy those physical volumes that take up physical space when we can buy it over the Internet and have it take up digital space?

    The answer to me was simple, there just happens to be more value to the paperbacks I have than the digital pages of manga. While I have slowly moved to a digital format with my video games (the usage of Steam to purchase games and download them) I can’t help but enjoy those expensive tankoubon that take up space on my shelf and can cost a pretty penny for what it is.

    With manga it is very clear. I would rather own a physical copy of all manga I enjoy rather than a digital. But then what of anime? I have to admit that I do not own any anime whatsoever. I have a DVD or so from some video game but that’s where it ends.

    In this day and age, I have grown to enjoy the idea of Blu-Rays a lot. I have become one to put value in the quality of image and sound and thus require the best I can get. But those things can get expensive as well, arguably more so than manga. But then why get Blu-Rays? Why not just download all the episodes after purchase and get them in the format you wish? This thought occurs to me many times but even then, I’d rather have Blu-Rays for reasons such as technical quality and just to have a physical copy.

    Although on other thing I shall note is that I am not one to watch anime with others. I am somewhat private about it. It is known that to some extent I am into anime but I am sure many of my friends do not know that I have a weekly ritual of watching releases of anime every Friday. Thus, I watch my anime on my computer rather than in a living room. But alas, one issue I have with Blu Rays is that they won’t play on my computer unless I have some special software that only two companies own. Even worse is that you also have to have monitors with HDCP to just watch your blu-rays (Although there are other solutions to both of these). So as such, my anime viewing experience is made complicated by issues.

    So with someone like me in mind, how does one cater to the needs of one such as myself? How does one make someone like me go out of their way to spend their money on manga and anime? Making it cheaper would be one option but then comes the question of how?

    Sadly I have no real answer as to how to accomplish such a feat. And even if one were to make everything dirt cheap, I doubt I would attempt to buy to my hearts content considering I have little space for it all.

    I do not know what the future has in store for the Anime Industry in the US but I can only hope that the future is not grim.

  16. I’d also like to recommend relentlessflame’s post as it delves into the reasoning behind DVD/BDs being the “bread and butter” of anime fandom in NA.

    It’s no secret that anime companies are not in as good shape as they had been in the past. There’s a magnitude of reasons so including, but not limited to: differences in tastes between Japanese fans and international fans, differences between big series now and in the past, differences in media consumption now and in the past, accessibility of series now, and pricing issues.

    Anime is a niche product with a niche fanbase. It was a mainstream fad in the late 1990s-early 2000s, but it is niche once again. I’ve got a whole post in editing towards the production of a late-night anime show and the differences between it and something created by a television station, but the most important factor is that the two are separate and should be treated separately. Those shows are already paid for by the time they are released on DVD (and BD if really lucky) and as such, they can afford to be priced cheaper (and in sets) and not be as profitable. Anime lives and dies with merchandising sales (including disc/paper sales) as that’s what funds the business of these shows. It’s almost the same for licensors as they are in the business of selling DVD/BDs.

    I’m not surprised to see that NA companies aren’t doing so well as some of their decisions are asinine. I’ll begin by saying that I don’t think releasing with prices and volumes like Japan is a good idea because it won’t be alright in NA. I do think that the companies need to work on making the disc sales worthwhile for fans and not slap two discs in an amaray/DVD case and call it a day. NISA and Aniplex have made some wonderful sets that feel worth the price and yet remain profitable for themselves. They don’t cheapen their releases by re-selling them over and over under different titles with less on-disc extras. And at the same time, those shows are starting to be available on streaming for those who can’t afford them. It’s a good situation for fans as they can still view the shows for free on Crunchy, but those who really like the shows can pay for the DVDs/BDs. Wait, that sounds familiar…. (read relentless’s post)

    I’ll be honest: I feel little loyalty for the NA anime industry due to importing. I never grew attached to these companies as I started importing Haruhi 2009 before Bandai announced a license for it and my first thought for a show is import rather than wait. The main reason I’m importingShana Final is because I don’t want to wait for Funi to put it out in 3 years or so.

    I don’t think anime fandom is shrinking, and it’s evident that the anime industry is doing well and growing in Japan. It’s just that the NA companies haven’t adapted as well to the differing world.

    Personally, I’d love to see companies team with Crunchy/Amazon to provide links to releases/announcements about shows on the episode pages. I’d love to see NISA/Aniplex/etc become more aggressive and creative with advertisements to get their titles out there. TV has come and gone for anime, but the internet allows fans to be creative. Have a AMV/fanfiction/art contests with winners getting prizes like signed merchandise, etc. Innovate for once!

  17. Relic says:

    Actually I HAVE been thinking about that recently. American fans DON’T really buy the DVD’s and BD’s because not only do a vast amount of the titles not even make their way here but when they do, expense truly is an issue, and why bother when you can find it somewhere free? Or at least that seems to be the mentality.

    The cultural discrepancy is too much. So I was wondering how these companies stayed afloat, but I did some research and since the 2000’s the industry took a nose dive. I’m definitely concerned as I do love my own copy with good quality, more so than streaming which IS more convenient though. In my defense I just bought the EVA movies, the Haruhi movie and Summer Wars with in a month of eachother… Hope it helps some. I hope the next EVA movies AND Another make it here, unless things are worse than I expected. *sigh*

  18. Smoochie says:

    Economy Economy Economy.

    It’s happening world-wide. The industries are shrinking down and laying off staff. Laying off staff means less money going out. They call it “reconstructing”. I call it gutting.

  19. killzone says:

    What u say is right. I’m from the older group like u sead I would like to own the dvd and manga than put it on a computer. I still remimber the first anime I saw on tv I was 12 or 13 then but it was outlaw star it was like the best at the time. But now I watch sekire and a few other but there on netfex. If I could I would buy the to add to my collection and desrt punk is another one if u ant seen it u need to. But I do hope they hang in there. Its like I leave for a short time. I know it sounds crazy but I love it.

  20. someguy withaname says:

    This was a good article and is right, in my opinion, on a lot of points. Do you mind if I use this article as a source on the forum I am with. I am trying to stir some more discussion about this and other issues in the industry and I think your article would be helpful in this respect.

  21. bloodycelt says:

    Here’s another theory. Back in ’95 when I discovered Slayers, and anime… I was impressed by the fantasy setting, and the ongoing plot. This was when Hercules/Xena/Star Trek was what you had for Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and Sitcoms. Anime had long epic storylines, a variety of genres and settings. But now we currently have more choice. Following shows like Buffy, came Battlestar Galactica, the Lord of the Rings movies, Game of Thrones, and even “normal” shows have weaving plots that go through seasons. Superhero movies, Big Bang Theory, Vampires (ugh!)…. you’ve got a lot more choice in nerdy things to watch on tv then one did 10/20 years ago. I should also point out, right now the american tv shows feel fresher than much of the anime that has come out lately (well except Madoka, Bakemongatari, and Katanagatari).

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