Free Food = Free Manga = Free Anime? Wha?!

What does free food has anything to do with free manga + free anime? Is Pizza Hut finally doing a campaign tied in to anime in the US? OH BOY!

Well, if you look at the first pic, you will realize this is about opinions on supporting the manga industry – don’t leave yet! There is free food! Or that’s being mentioned, at least!!! Also fan service pictures are posted through out the article!

After many years (yeah, 3 years) of thinking and probing (don’t go there) about the issue from every angle, which is encased in today’s cyberworld under the tyranny of the global Giga banker-controlled economy – think the Genom Megacorp in Bubblegum Crisis or the Tyrell Corporation in Blade Runner, I’ll give you my reflections. It’s not going to be a long article, trust me, because when you boil it down to basics, it ain’t that complex.

1. Supporters, industrial personnels, artists, etc.

Folks like them grew up in the age that I grew up in – simply put, we paid for entertainment in different ways. Because the truth is, no entertainment is ever free. Are TV programs free? No, the people who pay to get their commericials, which have annoyed most of us except for the creative professionals and critics, pay for them, though not directly. How about PBS? Well, there are people out there paying for the programs! In Japan, NHK used to be able to enforce a fee out of everyone and people in Japan used to just pay it every month. But now they can’t. So they also depend heavily on public funding and when that’s short, anime like the Story of 12 Kingdoms gets cut short. Similar things happen to other public programs. After all, nothing entertaining grow on trees and even the jokes we crack as people come about because we’re alive and we eat, sleep and think. But I digress.

It’s almost like going to a store to get groceries, ice cream, coke or ordering a pizza. Think about it closely. Can pizzas come to your doorstep for free? If yes, either you won a promotion (the store paid for that) or your parents/friends/sibling paid for it. Can cable/satellite dish/PC/Mac come from free? If yes, your parents/roommates/school (out of your tuition) paid for them.

In short, folks our age and older were paying for any kind of entertainment before the younger folks were born. As a personal note, I transitioned from the Age of Paying to the Age of Freebies (or maybe not so freebies). Like Rock from Black Lagoon standing in the shawdow night and day (in the twlight), I have observed both ages.

2. Teens and younger people in their early 20’s and some others.

It’s hard to pin down the exact demographic, but here’s their story:

“Pay? Pay for what? It’s right there on the net and I can just get it! That’s how we are used to doing things!”

Put yourselves in their shoes for a second. Imagine growing up being taught to use the net to find any useful thing without having to sit in a car to get to the library, or not having to dial a landline phone to talk to your friends, or not having to get a piece of paper and a pen/pencil to write to a friend who moved far away. Imagine not having to pay long distance charges to talk to a friend on the other side of earth online, imagine having another friend telling you that you can just read manga and watch anime online.

I’ll bet the friend never told you that or cared to tell you where these manga scantalations and anime torrent/streaming/downloads came from. Imagine growing up in the past 10 years as you matured from anywhere from the age of…let’s say 7, to the age of…let’s say, 17. In other words, imagine that you have gotten free manga and anime for half of your life.

If I were these young folks, I’d be questioning the reason for buying them. People tend to gravitate toward the free and the available. Permit me to use a biblical reference – In the Garden of Eden, food was free. As an extrapolation, resources were free. Nobody paid for anything. While the Garden of Eden maybe only a myth, a tale or an allegory, it does highlight some of the issue here: it’s free resource, right? So why bother paying for it?

Well, techinically, in the Garden of Eden, GOD provided the resources = he somehow pulled them out of his sleeves, which probably cost him something, disregarding all the theological debates. I think.

In the case of manga/anime/other “freebies”, a group of people worked their butts off, sometimes pulling many all nighters, so that these things can get to the hands of buyers = readers/viewers. In other words, it’s their job. It’s how they get paid.

Now imagine this: you’ve been working at a McDonald’s for, I dunno, $7.50 per hour. One day, you’re standing after the counter taking orders. Your friend walks in and say: “I want a Big Mac.”

You: “OK. That’ll be $1.50 (note: pardon my lack of knowledge on that, haven’t been to a McDonalds in ages).”

Your friend laughes at you. He proceeds to plug his PC/Mac into the internet connection nearby, and from the PC/Mac, a Big Mac (har har pun) comes right out. He grabs it and leaves. Leaving you behind the counter.

Do you report that to your boss? Let’s say you do. Your boss tells you: “We can’t really track down everyone who downloads a Big Mac. There are too many of them.”

You: “Oh, all right.” Not a big deal. A lot of people came and paid for the Big Mac and you’re just a part-time guy/gal. Who cares if just a few Big Macs are downloaded for free?

After a while, one day you walk into the backroom ready for work, your boss approaches you. He doesn’t look too happy.

Boss: “I need to talk to you.”

You: “What is it? Did I do anything wrong?”

Boss: “No, but I can’t afford to hire you anymore.”

You: “Why? What’s going on?”

Boss: “Because so many of our food items are being downloaded off the net and fewer and fewer people are paying for it, we’re losing money and I have to conserve my budget. I’m letting you go.”

What would you do? Get pissed off? Trash the whole backroom? There’s nothing you can do, really. People lay off people left and right to save their own budget and their own asses. That’s how the world turns. Certainly, people could use better treatment but the reality is, no profit + losing money + budget in the red = layoff…

Wait, you said, that’s ridiculous! You CAN’T download a Big Mac for free! It’s…it’s…food!

OK, so let’s say someone downloads a medium, such as a torrent program, or uses a streaming site (not Crunchyroll or Funimation, we’ll get to that perhaps in a later article), but anyway, a medium, and somehow, the Big Mac arrives on his or her lap.

But the Big Mac comes from your store.

Do you get the picture here? Every Big Mac taken without pay puts a dent on the store’s budget. Oh, I know there are free beer, free fries, two for one deals and all, but in the end, someone has to pay for them. Because we don’t live on a planet with limitless resources, someone has to pay. Ultimately, Earth has to pay so we can have oxygen, H2O and other things. But I digress.

So for the folks who grew up getting entertainment for free, they don’t think much of it. After all, they have no idea or put it out from their minds that someone has to get the money from these blasted things in order to live, or face layoffs or even worse, in the case of some Japanese animators, live in a cyber cafe and skip meals daily, not for the sake of dieting or Anime Dieting.

There’s the conflict. On average, older folks, who are often the creators, the industry personnel and so on, are making things  trying to make a living or keeping a job. There are young voice overs and artists, but they’re on the side of making a living by making manga, anime, anisongs (Anime Songs) and so on. On average, younger folks, teen people and others, who are often the consumers, are sometimes getting these things for free, thus depriving money toward these generally older folks.

So as a final note, let me take this a giant leap further.

After you’ve been laid off from McDonalds (I hope that never happens to anyone and I know the example is exaggerated),  you read online that McDonalds will no longer make the Big Mac. As you scratch your head and hopefully not your crotch (that goes for boys and girls), puzzled, and then continue reading, Google News tells you that McDonald’s can’t afford to do any business at all, because virtually everything that they offer is being downloaded for free and they simply can’t afford to let people taking them for free. So they’re shutting off all chains. That means…well, you know.

Sounds impossible, I know. After all, there are people paying for it, right?And McDonalds will always be there (which also means, you could probably invest in their stock if you’re looking at 50 years-return).

By the way, when Mike and I was doing the Summer 2010 season preview, we were surprised how few new titles came out. It is true that summer has traditionally been a lackluster season; but 18 was a lot less than we imagined. At least we thought so.

Huh.

P.S. Pardon me for the exaggerated example and for any stretches I pulled. But give it some thought. No pressure either way for either side (or any side), just some thoughts. Also, sorry if the article is too long for you.

News flash: Japanese, U.S. Manga Publishers Unite To Fight Scanlations

13 thoughts on “Free Food = Free Manga = Free Anime? Wha?!”

  1. This is something I’ve thought I had always known, but to see it put into example form in such a simple way really gave me pause.
    Furthermore, you’re absolutely right.
    However, I must pose another question to you. Let’s go ahead and use the people-downloading-anime “example” for this. Let’s say I get my anime through fansubbers.
    Ok, the same principles apply. I’m bypassing all methods of putting money into the animators’ pockets. However, let’s also go ahead and say I live tightly, with little extra money. We can safely assume that I would not have paid for the anime even if I did have the option to purchase it. (This example is for currently airing, non-Crunchied shows. Licenced shows are another matter.) Anime is an expensive thing. 19.99 for a six-episode DVD and after a while it’s 30.00 for about a season’s worth. We can assume that if there was not an option to download fansubs, I would not get any anime at all.
    How does this impact the anime economy then? Back to Big Mac. If no one has any money for big macs, then the same problems arise and McDonalds shuts down anyways. But in the case of downloading anime, a show downloaded from a fansubber means that the only party down in resources are the fansubbers themselves. They host the files and put the labor into distro and subbing. The anime would have been broadcast on TV regardless of any fansubber’s existence.
    The Big Mac example works up to the point where you can’t actually obtain a Big Mac without physical loss to McDonalds. For each person receiving a Big Mac, labor must be made to make the burger itself. This is not the case for an electronic medium where a labor is made once, and then others replicate it. A fansubber in the case of McDonalds would purchase a burger (unless there’s something I don’t know, subbers have to sit through commercials, too), change the mustard to a condiment in my language, and then make more burgers and pass it out to all their friends at their expense. No more resources are coming from McDonalds at this point, only the prototype, which was payed for. Would people who only eat at home get some of these burgers? Sure! They’re free! Would people who only eat at home get some from McDonalds? Probably not. No matter the cost, paying is always much more expensive than free.

    So, coming around to my question to you, Ray. Would you say that downloading is the problem for anime? Or would a drop in interesting shows that the people who pay would actually buy anymore?

    Long comment, but it’s your fault for making me think. :)

    1. No worries, mate. I love it! But before I reply (yeah, I have a lot of thoughts), let’s see what others think. Maybe talk to different folks and ask them to respond here?

  2. It is a very logical point, but it is as much the fault of the industry not adapting quickly enough to the needs of the consumer to have available easily accessible inexpensive digital formats with quality subtitles. I say that if the industry had offered this quickly at a fair price it would have put a serious dent in these issues although granted it would not have dissapeared. Also, people in the industry must also be ready to adapt. Either change or die that is the way the market works. Smart people see the coming changes and opportunity in them. The old models go the way of the buffalo and the new ones thrive. Take for instance, an old example where George Lucas sold the original Star Wars scripts for a song but just asked to keep the licensing and merchadise rights. The old hollywood folks laughed gleefully at what a sucker he was and patted themselves on the back on achieving a great deal. However, it was Lucas who ended up laughing all the way to the bank after he make a killing on starwars mechandise. The old hollywood folks were successful and made money but not near as much as lucas. He was forward thinking and they were not. So the industry failed to do what others like crunchy roll are starting to do and others have yet to do. Eventually, the market will change and smart forward thinking people will win and others will go the way of the buffalo. Survival of the fitest in the marketplace.

  3. I have generally tried to live by the old fansub ethics that dates back from the VHS days (I came into fandom at the tail end of it)–ie, don’t acquire series that have been licensed already and/or have legit releases. I’ve also been using and financially supporting the new streaming services as much as I can too, because I do think simulcast streaming is a positive direction for the industry to go to–the only problem is that it still isn’t all that profitable (yet).

    I suppose the question is whether the old fansub ethics are really no longer feasible in the age of cheap bandwidth and HD rips. I do believe there will come a time when fansubs are, by and large, no longer needed for the majority of new series–it may even come in a year or two (optimistic projection). Since CR and Funi streams came out I actually do download much less than before, and I would be happy to cease it altogether once legal means are available to acquire and review most/all new shows. Because Ray’s right–at the end of the day anime and manga is commercial entertainment, and needs money to keep going. The international audience may not be the main one, but we certainly can and do contribute–not just monetarily but in terms of spreading the culture around the world.

  4. I think it was Carl Macek himself who said that anime was never intended to be sold at a lower price than 29.99 in order to maintain costs. It aparently Orion Pictures’ mistake that opened that Pandora’s Box in the first place, assuming that the numbers would maintain on what was still considered a niche product. It all comes down to all the work that is required in order to bring the questioned product to your home/theater, and the whole of it must circulate in order to ensure more to come in the future.

    The less money comes into the mix, the less productions get made, the more calculated the production decisions are made (Queen’s Blade-hic), and the lower the quality is. So in many ways, we have indeed been witnessing the gradual downgrading of the anime industry over the last several years. It is the eventual sum of diminishing returns, so naturally new avenues must be explored.

    And as we are now privy to an entire medium-wide revolution, it is important to consider the role of Japanese government, and educational support there has been for young artists and filmmakers that is dwindling as the numbers continue to plummet. The inability to stay aware, and active within these changes is tantamount to financial suicide to those afraid of risk-taking, let alone working alongside those who are open with new technologies in order to create a more saavy understanding of the new anime paradigm. While we have seen CR, Hulu and others hopping onto the streaming method, it really is too soon, and primitive to hold up the numbers necessary to keep the roof strong. And for those saying that their current lifestyles are unable to support a more money-based model, I propose that in the early days of VHS, anime was almost solely what many would consider a “rich kid’s hobby”. It has to be said, and has relevance here. Niche products should never be equated with simply another Netflix subscription. It’s a medium unto itself, and therefore must have a direct support route not unlike an exclusive rental store. And with the technology in what is probably an infant version of what could be done with anime, perhaps its time to retire the now unheard of number of produced shows annually. The glut has done little to actually help the market, let alone has helped the medium to evolve in many positive ways. Like the old adage, less is more, and that is a large part of what attracted me to it in the first place.

    All I can hope for, is a time where those who inspire us so can work hand in hand with a supportive public to create a progressive culture of anime, rather than merely an industry of one. And a good means of starting, is to embrace the artists, and throwing some well-earned money into the hat.

  5. Very Anime Dietitian!

    No free lunch strictly. Yes, someone bought at the market before donation. But as long as we receive it free, it’s charity. It’s free lunch. In turn, Eden was complete charity. Seven days a week was Sabbath.

    TV makes earning from CM and direct sponsorship. The major revenue for newspapers is ad also, so I can read them online without paying a single dime. What’s the major revenue for anime? Not ad? NHK shows were boring. Very slow pace and fell a sleep.

    Animator is a McJob, making only $3 a frame, like flipping burgers. Disney-influenced Dr. Tezuka set this precedent, and Miyazaki Hayao is very critical of that. Yet MickeyDees blame us for worker’s condition, not CEOs themselves who are using workers like trash.

  6. And that’s another part of the problem. To treat it merely as an industry, leaves little room for experimentation, thereby leaving your complete creative realm devoid of individuality & spirit. It’s important to consider the 1980’s where anime was made with so-called stupid money by rampant investors, willing to leave the wheels to a young crop of artists & madmen. And the end result was not only a flurry of cross-over style projects with nods to Hollywood, but it offered a vision more on par with a community willing to touch multiple bases. What we have now, with the dire numbers present, we are witnessing the needle opposite. As much as cel counts had risen, and certain quotas are fulfilled, it is nowhere near the level I had once seen coming out of Japan. TO be sure, the system must upgrade from its low-end roots, but it begins with us fans and our support. And it also never hurts to consider the art of risk-taking in all of this. Less shows, and a little more artistic & technical savvy can go a decent amount toward rising from the ashes of an old model. It is going to happen. In what form, we’ll likely have a hand in it if we consider it.

  7. I see, interesting. So the 80s had a lot of “stupid” moneys invested in anime when Japan was emerging and heading to the bubble economy, buying up real estates in America. The distinction between 2-d and 3-d wasn’t clear that time. And Otaku were pretty outgoing, not avoidant like me. As you as an expert already know, the 90s Japan was depressed while America was booming like crazy with IT. EVA was made during the peak of the lost decade, I mean not only Japan but the entire Asia got tanked around that time. So, we grew up not having dreams, and some of us moved out from a dreamless land to the land of free.

    It seems that economic prosperity tends to bring artistic explosion like Renaissance, Europe got ridiculously wealthy after Columbus discovered the New World. Japan is still having a hard time from this global recession, so I don’t know how anime could revive as it used to be in the 80s during this time. I think once economy start picking up, then it would get better?

    I personally think the anime style of the current era is the best, even though creative activities were limited compared to the 80s.

    1. Wha??? In the 80’s the characters weren’t based on the same template for a show. Look at Bubblegum Crisis; every character differs from the other. In today’s show, the girls of a show are based on ONE template. But in the 80’s, each girl would have her distinctive facial + bodily character. Look at the girls in K-On! Just change their hair styles and maybe eyebrows, and you’d get the same character.

      But try to switch the hair styles for the girls in Dirty Pair – doesn’t work.
      Don’t feel that I’m offended; I’m not, but at least in the 80’s the female characters in a show aren’t spawned off a template.
      The US really inspired FUCK UPs globally.

  8. Ray, this is a matter of personal preference. If you feel the 80s better than the current anime, then you feel like that. I don’t.

    To me, the current one is much kawaii and iyashi-kei. The 80s girls hairstyle is really bad taste, that explosive sprayed bang is just appalling and that Farrah Fawcett hair. I can’t watch Kimagure Orange Road right now, their hair style is just too bad to have a Moe on them. It reminds me too much of the bubble era. Yawara too, her hairstyle is such a turn-off. And I feel old watching the 80s anime and listening to the 80s music. But the current one makes me feel like 17 again.

    But isn’t that uniqueness of anime? Well, if you listen to B/H, oppai size ranges from A-Z. I don’t think the 80s had that wide range, just only few cups, A-F at best .

    1. Ha ha. Well, I do like today’s anime as a whole because there are more varieties of show. My own personal nostaglia do get into the way of me seeing things. I do feel 80’s was when the explosion of anime began.

      Btw, we’re pretty much off topic, so I’ll stop here.

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