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Stephanie Sheh on the anime industry


Stephanie Sheh is a voice actress whose works include the English versions of Lucky Star, Gundam Unicorn, Naruto, Bleach, Gurren Lagann, and Eureka Seven. She describes herself as an “actress, director, photographer, shortie.”

Following a dispute Sheh had with fansubber deviryuu over the motives, means, and impact of fansubbing, I contacted her to discuss the state of the American animation industry. The conversation was eye-opening, both in terms of what industry insiders think and in terms of the sociological factors that predispose them to think in certain ways.

For example, a commonly-touted argument now is that the industry depends on purchases, so by purchasing, a consumer is contributing to future anime, and by not purchasing, a consumer makes it less likely that anime will be produced in years to come. Implicit in that argument is the idea that a downloader cares about anime production in the future. While the idea that one cares enough to spend money holds true for serious anime fans, it is an assumption that probably should not be made when it comes to the broader audience of downloaders. It is, in short, the sort of argument an emotionally invested fan would think up, and Sheh’s assertion that American industry insiders were fans first serves to drive that home. (Being emotionally invested in what you produce is good – but inability to see past that one perspective when formulating policy could be disastrous.)
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