So where does one even start? After what was likely the one time I most regretted not purchasing a full 4-day pass for Anime Expo in several years (The whole fit HERE), we finally arrived, able to enter the fray yet again for more of the same exploits and fun, right? Nope. The game, while cosmetically similar to the cons of years gone by has altered significantly. And even as licensors, vendors, and creatives alike are hard at work to promote their love of an art medium that has been going strong for 60-plus years now, it has become clear that the language of anime is indeed changing. What was once the domain of merely a rogue’s collection of animation, electronics, and toy heads diving in for a profit off of either the children’s or hardcore fan’s market, is becoming something of a more open, formless thing – especially in regards to distribution.
To witness what seems to be an almost apocalyptic dearth of US anime distributors (which we had all been following of course – to see it displayed so clearly…different matter altogether) for some might seem indeed like the end of a world out of yet another blast of teenage angst amidst a full-fledged end game replete with screams & scorched earth. A great deal of good pals new and old shared some time to essentially break down what has in fact happened, and what it is we are doing in order to better support a newly forming system. It can be argued that destruction itself is a creative act, and while many may wish to counter that, I tend to agree with it. Especially in times where the currently in place model does little to actually nurture creativity. We’ve been through the same shows so many times it’s no wonder even free streaming shows experience a hard time with clicks reaching double-digit numbers. And even then it isn’t as if it is the fault of the shows. Many diamonds in that rough, but a glut is a glut, and to see the possibilities in restructuring finally looking good to many in the know is very encouraging.
Among those met who gave some good impressions of this came in the form of both industry & bloggers alike. When discussing this with names such as ANN‘s Gia Manry, or even Nihon Review’s Tony Wang (aka Kyalaran), it’s pretty clear that what both anime and manga alike are within the same larval stage of development in a new world. And that to cower, and live desperately amidst challenging times helps noone. And the fear from some is understandable,
Carl Horn‘s notion of the presence of downloading, versus providing payment (of any kind) was reiterated by Manry. “It’s more about finding something you like very much, and giving something back. It only makes sense.”
“If the artists can’t figure out a way to get paid, then how do the companies ever hope to expect so many pages a week?” restated Jonathan Tarbox of Arashi Production. “Even I who comes from a generation that has been unwilling to be open to the technological changes over the years now knows that this is here to stay, and that we need to engender the future who will eventually master this.” He added. “We can help navigate it now with ideas instead of panic.”
But it also looks like were merely at another key moment in a neverending cycle. A very crucial one with a particular bent to it.
“We’ve been here before.” Tony made clear, “Many seem to overlook that when the printing press was first invented, noone knew how in the world this was going to work.” Important words to keep in mind. It is as if we are in the middle of a massive turning point to where the independent will have a greater say than ever, and without nearly as much interference from interest groups or major labels. We’re witnessing the remaining factions within and without the industry reach near equilibrium with the need for anime bloggers, journalists, and acolytes to keep the flame burning. And it has been a most fascinating ride to see the hands shift the way they have. Naturally, some are more ready than others. But it is pretty clear now that this is no longer a matter between japanese production companies, and american localization entities. In fact, it could be argued that anime itself is mutating through alternate forms of media and expression that have little place in what some would expect to be the realm of otaku vice. Whether it be american electronic music in the form of original 8-Bit wackiness ala _tlr_ , or comics like Hetalia that swing back in anime form, it is much like a sprouting, bulging cultural beast not unlike those inhabiting a Cronenberg film.
The promise, and perhaps horrors of living and terraforming a new home for media was also captured on a special AX edition of the ever-popular ANN Cast, where hosts Justin Sevakis and Zac Bertschy had some good words to share about the industry without sugar coating anything. (We were in attendance for this, and felt it was worth sharing here.)
Not to mention the words from Production IG who’s panel switcharoo was plagued with dramas of its own gave off the impression that despite the hard times we’ve been under, perhaps a more democratized approach to anime is necessary. When the Japanese production companies are looking for the help of the dedicated fans, it can either be a sign of something less than bright, or a field of hope never before displayed.
But what was expressed by many we spoke with was that of a market that has already hit rock bottom, and could only rise from the ash in an altogether ambiguous, yet promising form. If not a Phoenix, then what is it? Who knows? Personally, I found it refreshing to see so many willing to stare reality in the face, much like Jack in LOST. Allowing the fear to settle in for five seconds, only to dive headlong into a world of unknowns. We are in uncharted territory for media, and it couldn’t be more exciting.
(As a special bonus, here is a jumbled mass of memories of the weekend through the eyes of both V.Zero‘s junior mascot & friend Kiyomi Park and I! Enjoy.)