Tag Archives: Anime Business Model

Bridging The Gap: Anticipation 2012

Whoa. 2012 is has been off to a brisk start, and Spring seems to already be in the air. And even though the year has started off without a surprise breakout a la Madoka, one cannot help but feel like some greatness in the form of old favorites, the long awaited return of a genre-bending master, and more seem to be on the horizon. And not merely in regards to shows and films (although there are a few worth making noise about here), but in ventures that could very well change the anime market landscape for the better. To be completely honest, it has been a truly long time since someone like me has felt any real modicum of excitement about the coming months.

So let’s give a few moments to consider these potentially mark-making projects, and what they could possibly offer.


1. Uchu Senkan Yamato 2199

You guys have no idea how thrilled I am for this massive revival project. Far better than any of the previous movie attempts to resurrect Nishizaki/Matsumoto’s science fiction allegory classic, this big budget retelling of the Voyage To Iscandar has an equally large pedigree of talent and familiarity. It’s a project so large in ambition, the first 50 minutes of the series is to be premiered in a few weeks in select theatres in Japan on April 7th. Sporting modern animation, featuring some unique takes on all-time favorite characters via Nobuteru Yuuki (Escaflowne, Harlock Saga, X/1999,etc), and impressively updated mechanical works by way of Makoto Kobayashi (Super Atragon, Last Exile, Steamboy). For seiyuu fans, seeing Daisuke Ono cast as Susumu Kodai was definitely an eyebrow raiser. And most standout is the appointing of former mecha-design icon, Yutaka Izibuchi (Patlabor).

This is perhaps one of the more standout decisions for me as I remain in that cult of folks who happened to deeply enjoy his directorial work on RahXephon, so when considering such a huge heritage inheritance, this in many ways feels very appropriate. And even if the rest of the series won’t be seeing TV screens until next year sometime, there is no shortage of high hopes for what could very well be a stellar reinterpretation of one of anime’s greatest sagas. Among the recently developing news regarding the project continues to come in, noted fans like Tim (www.starblazers.com) Eldred , and August Ragone have been doing a bang-up job keeping English speaking fans up-to-date. Most recently through the pipeline is an announcement that the upcoming Blu-ray release of the first two episodes will be coming complete with English subs!

Yamato remains to many as one of the medium’s most heralded mythologies, and it looks like no expense will be spared in the months to come—all in hopes of bringing such a universal story to an entirely new audience while being deeply reverent to fans of the past.


2. Sakamichi No Apollon

A long injustice seems primed to come to an end. Despite a few scattered projects where his hand could only be seen in select areas (Star Driver, Michiko To Hatchin), director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) returns with a secret weapon for this period series centering on young jazz lovers during the 1960s.

There isn’t a whole lot to report regarding this at the moment, but mere words cannot express just how long the medium has felt something wholly missing. And while the criminally underseen Hatchin contained a great deal of Watanabe’s signature touch, there simply hasn’t been much of a truly international flavor to anime in a while. Budget concerns from studios aside, a void has certainly been there without Watanabe’s knowing, confident vibe permeating through a television work. Not to mention that his last big series, Samurai Champloo, despite its deserved place in the pantheon of wildly original pieces of “ought” anime shows, was also missing an element that made Bebop such an iconic achievement: Yoko Kanno. The very idea that Kanno is hard at work complimenting the aural space of Apollon is reason enough to celebrate. But to consider that they haven’t worked on a major project since Cowboy Bebop: Knocking On Heaven’s Door (2001), is just plain perplexing as their styles feel synergistic to a fault (even going back to their mutual work on the OVA favorite, Macross Plus), and considering the source material in Yuki Kodama’s manga. It’s very possible that we’ll be witnessing something of a mutual labor of love, which can translate into some truly unique, personal work.


3.) Feature Films

There’s also feature films waiting in the wings, such as the latest from Mamoru Hosoda, as well as the return of a massive revival which seems primed to delve into uncharted territory.

Well, the early teaser pretty much confirms it; Hosoda is ready to assume the populist throne from Miyazaki with his latest movie effort, The Wolf Children Ame And Yuki, a lushly animated tale that takes place largely in the countryside, centering on a single-parent family with a pair of wolf-children. It’s really hard to say where it will be going, but there is definitely a Tonari No Totoro vibe going on here, which is interesting. Being almost completely bereft of technological imagery does give off a feeling of newness to Hosoda’s usual repertoire, so it can go either way quite easily.

And we don’t really have to spend too much time left speculating what Studio Khara has in store for Evangelion fans when the third Rebuild film, Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo comes this Fall. And in lieu of very real disaster, it will be truly fascinating to see where this rendition of the mecha classic will go. Having pretty much obliterated the original story with the finale of 2.0, we(and the creators) will now be in completely virgin territory which can only remind one like me of the days between episodes of the original series, which seemed like a painful eternity. So, magnify that by a couple of years…I’ll wait..


Lastly-

Is the stunning, hint-laden bombshell that was shared over at ANNCast last week. It was dropped by anime simulcast translator & subtitler Sam Pinansky, who also shared quite a bit regarding the process of keeping up to speed with bringing anime to streaming screens. But what he could only talk around at the moment hints at a future of not only anime, but media in general that could very well take a large, positive leap for a more democratized media sphere.

For the whole thing, click me!

For those looking for the jist? (Skip to 31:00 minute mark!)

Mr. Pinansky is hard at work preparing for an ambitious undertaking that is happening via Yomiuri and several other media entities. This group of companies are looking to take a giant step forward by creating a one-stop streaming/Kickstarter business for not only recent, but classic anime, as well as television shows and movies! Pretty much open to redefining what we know as the classic distribution model, fans from all over will be allowed to put their money where their mouths are, even going so far as to allowing more independent artists and personalities to be supported for potential projects. And as mentioned at the beginning, a streaming home for many an older series that had yet to ever see the light of day in subtitled form. A hybrid site akin to Youtube and Kickstarter sounds like an idea too ambitious to be true, but it seems ready to roll out come late summer/early fall.

Think of it: all content, all directly supported, and zero middle-entity. This is the kind of thing that many have long feared that the Japanese networks and studios were completely unwilling to venture into, and it suddenly seems near time when the other shoe finally up and drops. If this risky gamble works, it could help rewrite the media market narrative, and that is simply thrilling.

So that’s what I’m most eager for this year thus far. How about you? Anything on the path in the anime/manga worlds that has you owned for the year?

Embracing The Fear: The End Of An Industry


Ready for something truly scary?

For a long time, I had been formulating thoughts on the state of the industry, as well as what is possible within the framework of what has been the home of not only people I regard, respect, and am friends with in many ways. And have come to the conclusion that a lot of what I happen to gripe about on these pages, and outside of it stem from problems that run far deeper than fan expectation(although it is definitely partially to blame), and more pervasive than a lack of a major anime milestone to enrapture an entirely new generation of fans. I speak of a greater source of much of the pain, power, and passion that fuels anime’s current woes; the anime machine itself. So when my Twitter feed is doing it’s best to funnel out much of what current output is failing to engage. Or when I spend more time articulating on shows from decades past, this is largely a central culprit for it. The more time one spends looking at how this cultural export has continued to be run despite dramatic changes happening throughout the entertainment world, it’s no wonder how cynical, note-heavy, and ultimately unengaging many shows have been over the last few years.

 

Which isn’t to say that we haven’t had a number of shining lights amongst the carrion so many regard with fleeting interest once a season ends.  This year alone we have experienced surprises like Madoka Magika, Tiger & Bunny, as well as the absorbing sweetness of Usagi Drop. But the ever present spectre of the late 2000s moe movement continues to haunt the majority of animated product, even as the Fall season kicks into gear. As of this writing, I have counted off quite a few shows featuring yet another cast of young girls, ready to dish out another several weeks worth of high school hijinks. How many of these shows will cordon off one episode for a hot springs/beachside adventure? Thankfully, there have been a few titles to have avoided this trap, and while this makes the enthusiast in me grateful, there still is a large amount of product, unwilling to adopt anything new in fear of further loss of revenue. But when this happens, especially in lieu of global economic and technological change, where is there left to go but an already overcrowded sanctuary?

 

Again, this isn’t to say that this industry has been free from this manner of corporate wringing, unoriginality, and fearmongering. Keep in mind who were largely driving anime production in the 70s through the 1980s. When Tomino initially had planned for his soon-to-be-revolutionary MS Gundam models to be dark colored, it was the toy companies who insited on the white, blue, red and yellow many of us are familiar with. It was also this drive which led the franchise which almost never was (the series was cancelled and considered a failure) to become one of if not THE name to keep Studio Sunrise on the map for this long. Each era essentially paying lip service to whatever deep-seated enthusiasm or fetish the public is harboring at the time has long been the anime on TV tradition. And while it can make for some truly memorable television, it also shines a light upon interests who tend to see a lot more money than the actual talent and labor that went into the making of such creations that offer such joy and thought. When all the money from viewers, meaning those out to purchase products from video releases, memorabilia, and character goods is exhausted, it is very often the creative staff that gets the short end of the stick, leaving them no choice but to produce less work that is indicative of their interests, let alone talents.
And keep in mind that there is no support system in place such as a guild, or even a union to protect, and assist this artistic endeavor in any equitable manner. This leads to a disparity in how the funds are actually distributed, and is no wonder the gaming industry becomes a much more viable option. And while the Japanese gaming industry is experiencing its very own set of problems, this only magnifies the problems plaguing matters here.

 

So let’s break it down, Diet-style..

What we have been seeing over the last several seasons..

 

1) An increased number of shows. Shorter seasons.

This may not be as severe as in previous years, but it has become the norm in many ways. We practically expect it as production value has been higher than ever since roughly 2004.

 

2) Less studios competing.

There’s no avoiding the reality that anime studios are closing down in dangerous numbers. It is actually frightening the sheer number of in-between houses that are no longer in operation. Even many well-respected houses are beginning to look worried. In a post-quake Japan, this is only gaining more prominence.

 

3)More outsourced talent.

Just watch a random recent show, and give the credits a good read. Pretty self-explanatory.

 

4)Less risks taken. More studio conformity to cater to the last paying clientele..

Usually against the grain producers, noItamina plans to produce a Black Rock Shooter anime. When even they have to cop an Akiba-centric series, the writing is pretty much burned on the wall.

 

5)More Japan-centric productions. Dwindled interest in a global market.
(In many ways an addendum to 5.) In previous years, there was some vetted interest in creating works designed with a general audience in mind. And despite the medium’s tendency to lean toward insular tendencies, there was a sense that anime production could come out of previous shells, and offer works more geared toward a larger market. In the last few years alone, this has almost been completely relegated to straight-to-video treatments of western properties, or commercial anomalies. There was a time when anime would take more effort to explore the world. But as commercial markets continue to mutate into wholly different creatures, the driving force has been to close off (And perhaps only look to compete with China and Korea), when doing so would be the worst thing imaginable.

 

While some otaku may see this:

Others see THIS:

There is almost an old-fashioned notion at work here. By closing off, ignoring the call of progress, and allowing the death of anime to go on unabated. It is as if they hope to land the plane, despite the wounds suffered in battle, only to die quietly in the cockpit. But in doing so, the livelihood of many continue to be compromised, and only serves to bolder the thinking of a select few who wish to go down with the ship, as opposed to nurturing a future. And in an art form that has always had potential for breaking down barriers, and offering a singularly unique window into the human experience, this simply makes no sense. Ironic, considering anime and it’s timeless penchant for the irrational. And even so, much of what makes Japanese animation so important to many of us is at risk because of a select few, uninterested, and unwilling to look at the system and see that it requires a shakedown from the bottom up.  As if denial ever led to positive returns. The elephant in the room simply is that change is not only required, but inevitable in regards to not only commerce, but art itself.

 

 

In fact, looking at the history of anime’s rise and fall in the US is an even greater set of revelations set to illustrate this point. In the years post-Evangelion & Pokemon, many (myself included) felt as if a victory of sorts had somehow finally come to pass. The idea that what was once a coveted vice of mostly males with friends and family overseas could ever be so widely accepted with full series releases, and near-capacity convention attendance numbers was unimaginable. It felt in many ways as if collective enthusiasm had finally helped the public accept what had long been either seen as inferior product, or sexually violent drivel. But the reality behind the success is something potentially more troubling when one considers a majority of so-called anime blockbusters from the 1990s, were in fact considered risks, and ultimately financial failures. (There are reasons why even Shinichiro Watanabe can’t get a gig. Yes. That Watanabe. Unbelievable. ) IN fact, many of my personal favorites, including the universally-praised REDLINE also failed to gain an audience in its native country. Despite the money made from many of these works, rarely did it ever make enough for the japanese producers, keeping much of the interests convinced that only certain markets were considered viable, and therefore worthy of pandering to.

 

 

And the fact that many US-based anime companies were incrementally drowning themselves in debt as licensing fees led to endless sessions of bidding wars, half-cocked prognostication, and drama, the Japanese producers continued to treat it as though physical media (and it’s often questionable pricing scheme) would remain viable for decades to come, and that american fans would be willing to pay top dollar for less content, and more discs. The problems come when the quality of work, brought on by fear of change leads to diminished sales, leading to more low quality work, leading to less sales, etc. It is this model alone that bears continuous questioning. And if the Japanese do not take any sort of action to alter the game from the inside, this gangrene-infected self-inflicted gunshot wound will continue to bleed until there is nothing left. It isn’t so much honorable, so much as self-fulfilling.

 

The gist? I love anime as a medium. Not unconditionally. But I also see the promise of it, and the potential it has always had. But when those on the inside insist on allowing it to rot from the inside out by clinging on to what amounts to tropes (IE- a severe lack of ideas), one can only support as much as it can without ignoring personal taste. We do our part to support, but when there is little to nothing to support, what then? Well, one way is to seek out the rare and interesting that the majors are not carrying or advertising. (In manga, I often point to publishers like Vertical for bringing out many classics that deserve a look, among others) Another way is to simply support the select few with your money. Let them know how grateful you are that they connected with you in some way. One of the great victories on the internet is the simple ability to actually connect. There are less excuses than ever to get involved. And while a disconnect still exists, and this post seems dead against the anime industry in its staid form, making sure that both the Japan and US arms know that it isn’t a glut of unnecessary product we want, but quality and equality between creator and consumer, perhaps change will be possible in a way that isn’t negative.

 

On the other hand, another side effect of all of this is a possible revolution from outside the industry. It could very well be that this atrophy could very well spark fans from all over to help create something more grassroots, and less in service of networks, and soulless business interest. Personally, I would love to see where all this user-generated content model leads to. It is perhaps here, along with imaginations, the requisite hard work and guts, may we be able to grant anime new life. But in the meantime, the deflating circus tent continues..

 

I love the industry, as in many of the people involved in the creative community of it. But something has to give in order for any of it to live past this very transitional time.

 

Even as it seems that puzzle-based titles seem to be the next niche to be plundered by the industry, how long will that take before the fickle public wanders away yet again, only to leave the remaining producers/business interests gasping for respite for yet another serving of crumbs? Having been an employee for multiple ventures, including the anime industry itself, it is important to share here the endless dogma inherent in models fearful of change. This is true of all sectors, not merely exclusive to anime. An awe inspiring spark of action is taking place in the US as these words continue to appear on my laptop, and it is clear that unless parties take it upon themselves to open up to a world re-wired, there is little left to hold onto except ad-hoc fantasies, and copycat relief. Streaming is far from enough. And of those in charge believe that merely streaming and physical sales will be enough, the changes to come can only spell a greater need for innovation and nurturing of those who create that which we enjoy. There is only so much of this one can take before the world comes knocking, and progress is waiting in the wings, ready to pluck out what remains of those unwilling to leave the larval stage.

Bridging The Gap: A Great Crossroads

In the wake of the fallout caused by a single blog post by none other than Bang-Zoom’s Eric P Sherman, it has occurred to me that the fandom has fallen into what can only be described as a cultural flash bomb, illuminating not merely the dying cries of a niche market, but what seems to be nature’s open-ended plan for media as a whole. It’s something that affects us far more than some may suspect, as the classic measures have heavily been in place over the last years, including cut staff, outsourced work, and desperate moves toward more fan-bait oriented material.

Like any anime diet, it is important to understand the tactful truth of a situation with good bedside manner, rather than an imagined scenario borne out of closed eyes, cynicism and fear. One must know how their body works before applying any kind of reductive cure-all to their living plan. For as few outlets are in existence that contain all the facts necessary to waylay the onslaught of raging fandom, there is a need for a semblance of solidarity in crucial times like these. And this goes for all subcultures, and not merely what brought you, the reader to this site. Media creation and consumption is mutating at an alarming rate. It can be said that the fate of the DVD was foreordained when it was made clear that amassed & copied kilobytes of data was the medium that contained the wonders of our favorite shows and movies come the late 90s. It was only a matter of time that piracy & the age of free would come knocking on virtually every doorstep, which is why it was so important that those in higher rungs of influence to embrace the technology, and shepherd it into a new age. But alas history has proven overwhelming for many, and we now live to see the end result.

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