Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Changing Face of the America Anime/Manga Industry and Fandom

As I have said in previous posts 2012 has been rough for me and it has barely started. I am trying to be optimistic that things will work out and this string for sadness and bad luck will soon pass. Like all the horrible things are happening all at once and the next 11 months will be awesome.

For the American anime community 2012 has been rough as well. One could argue that 2011 was rough as well. And probably 2010. Let’s face it folks the anime and manga industry had a small community of followers in the 80’s and 90’s then it suddenly exploded in the early 2000’s. Then as quickly as things exploded things…well imploded.

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Look I even picked a retro anime girl for you! Floppy discs weee!!

What does all of this mean for American anime and manga fans? Changes obviously but good changes or bad ones? Will the days of physical copies of animes/mangas be a thing of the past or will the industry find a way to keep customers interested in DVDS/Blu-rays in this age of digital media? Will fans be able to find their favorite mangas in the book stores or will we only have the internet and scanlators to depend on? Will anime conventions be able to survive with older anime fans growing out of their hobby? Is everyone just being too serious and we should wait to ride this obvious economic problem out? I see a lot of people talking about all these changes so I thought I would give my uneducated two cents on the matter.


Back in my day….well maybe I should state what back in my day was. I believe it was my 15th birthday that my male parental unit got me a Sailor Moon comic for my birthday. That would have been 1998. That is about a million years in internet time. My first anime convention was in 2000. I believe the max amount of anime conventions I attended in one year was three (JaniCon, Megacon, and AFO). I have only cosplayed once in my entire life (as Amiboshi from Fushigi Yuugi) and with my very first paycheck from my first job I bought a camera so I could take pictures at anime convention.

When I was first introduced to the anime/manga scene things were relatively expensive, especially for someone who didn’t have a job. VHS tapes (you know those huge and often easily destroyed things on a VCR?) cost about 25 dollars for about 3 episodes. Now DVDs were just starting to be popular but there were barely any anime titles on DVDs. And even though I bought them I felt as if they were a rip off as the average price of a DVD at the time (for basic stuff) was also 25 dollars. But DVD players were super expensive. I even joined in on a petition to make Ayashi no Ceres available on VHS when it came out only on DVD. So when that failed….yeah I finally caved in and bought a DVD player.

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Such sad signs in the window!!! :(

My main source of anime and manga was the store SunCoast. It was mainly a movie store but slowly it had a huge manga and anime section. And by slowly I mean BAM has tons of stuff! They had toys and knickknacks too. My friends and I would go there every weekend and spend gobs of money on anything and everything. You know those Sailor Moon wands and broaches they have at anime conventions for 80 dollars? In my closet right now and I bought them at SunCoast.

The two other ways we were exposed to new anime and manga titles were our local comic shop and anime conventions. The comic shop had the newest manga chapters and would even rent out VHS tapes. I bought a lot of posters from that man and I think he might have started my love of pins. My then boyfriend loved coming along with us because he had Pokemon cards which was just starting out and becoming super popular. I even did my senior project in high school about manga and worked a bit at said local comic shop to complete the project. I even bought some anime magazine in Japanese just to look at the articles and get the posters.

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So much to see and do!

As for anime conventions my friends were the first to introduce me to them. I don’t know how they found out about them. We didn’t have Facebook or Myspace or anything major back then. It might have been someone’s father as he had business dealings in Atlanta and the first anime convention we went to was Anime Weekend Atlanta. Back then we mainly went to conventions to watch new series (well to us) with fellow anime fans. Dealer Rooms were small and usually only had anime/manga related items. There were a dedicated group of cosplayers and almost every single costume was recognizable by most con-goers.

One important way my friends and I were introduced to new anime titles was Toonami/Cartoon Network. Yes we mostly hated dubs and would laugh at the horrible voices we heard at times but it was a way for us to find new titles and such. I remember rejoicing when I finally got a TV in my own room so I could stay up “late” to watch titles that had DEATHS in them. Shocking I know.

While I have been a bit wordy I said this all to show you how much the anime/industry has changed for me personally. Then I will talk about how things have changed on a grander scale.

I think the first major change was SunCoast closing. It was a slow process. One day we walked in and the entire manga section was GONE. The week before it was there and the next week POOF. And since we were friendly with two of the workers we thought we could get some answers from them. Little did they know their store was closing down. A few months later I walked in and spent a great deal of month buying a lot of their 75 percent off animes. I think of that store every time I pass it in the mall. I have no idea what happened with the stores as a whole as it was always busy when I was there. But one store does not save them all.

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Why did you leave me Borders?! I supported you as much as I could. :( Goodbye friend.

Since SunCoast closed my main source of anime/manga purchases went to Borders and anime conventions. Because did I mention that our local comic book shop was sold and turned into a American Comic shop? I did have a website where I could buy half off mangas (which was the source of many paychecks) but something happened with them. I think they got sued or something. And we know what happened to Borders. So really all I have left now is Books-A-Million (BLEH!!!) and anime conventions.

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What strange device is this?

Watching anime used to be very expensive for me. I would rewatch series over and over again simply because that is all I had at the time and couldn’t afford anything else. I am pretty sure I watched Magic Knights Rayearth a million times. Oh and my bootlegged VHS copies of Sailor Moon S and Super S. XD But nowadays I watch all my anime for free via the internet. I know that will piss a lot of people off but I like watching animes now. I don’t want to wait and become spoiled via people on the internet and quite frankly it takes a long time for an anime series to make it from Japan to America. I DO support the industry in other ways though. My manga bookshelf shows that if I love a series enough I will buy a physical copy of it somehow. But I can’t remember the last time I watched anime on a TV though.

I still attend anime conventions although things have changed. Before we were all young and just dating people. We would pile up to 9 people in a room and do EVERYTHING together. One of my parental units would help fund these trips as if to make up for being a horrible human being. Dealer’s Rooms were small yet packed and competitively priced. And a lot of the rooms were dedicated to anime views. Nowadays my husband and I like to get rooms on our own. We do make an exception for one friend but the days of sharing a bathroom with 4 cosplayers are long gone. We are attempting to take better care of ourselves in terms of eating correctly and actually getting some sleep. We don’t really feel the need to sit in lobbies at 3 am and keep everyone up all night and know that a diet of pocky and ramune is not the way to keep away the con plague. The Dealer’s Room has changed dramatically. With the dollar falling prices have slowly risen but some take it too far with their greediness. Many booths have nothing to do with anime or mangas. American comics, movie posters, fuzzy hats, and weapons are all over the place. There are less viewing rooms as everyone has watched most of the newer episodes the week they came out. So in their place there are panels on Japanese history, America voice actors, hot former power rangers, and plushie making panels. It seems like there is less and less to do with anime and manga but as long as things are marginally popular and maybe related to Japan in some way it is allowed. People seem to think the fans are getting younger but that is just because people my age got married and made them. XD I am not sure how I feel about crazy convention antics. I don’t remember being that annoying but yeah. Maybe less buttscratcher and more being respectful of the people sharing space with you?

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Gone before your time.

I have always been on Team Subtitles. That hasn’t changed since day one. The original in my opinion has always been better. But that doesn’t mean when Toonami died I rejoiced. Cartoon Network does have some anime titles now but nowhere near as many as they had in back in the days. I don’t even think Naruto has the popularity it had a few years ago. So while I rather blast most dubs to the moon I recognize they do help the overall industry and helped make the fandom reach its peak. I think without that source we will never recover to how things used to be.

Back in my day we had a lot of manga companies. And one in particular (Viz) liked to try and rob manga fans blind. 16 dollars for one volume? Nowadays the manga industry is trying to stay afloat and is coming out with HUGE manga volumes. 3 volumes worth of manga at the price of one plus a bit extra is a positive thing. Yet manga releases are slow due for a lot of reasons. The Japanese artists get ill, American companies close down/change hands, or titles get cancelled due to being unpopular or all the book stores are closing down. So while mangas might be cheaper it might be harder to get them.

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At my anime convention? No thanks.

As for anime conventions…I myself would like to see more panels and events focused on the Japan aspect of the industry. More Japanese voice actors and musical acts and less My little Pony. More booth with anime and manga related products. I understand we are branching out but I don’t want an anime convention to become a Whatever Goes Convention. I think if things turn out that way guests will be less likely to come and it might further alienate people into thinking we are all weirdos. Not that some aspects of anime and manga don’t scare people already….

So now for how things have changed recently for the community. Where to start…

Well on January 2nd Bandai Entertainment announced they were not going to release any new titles. Instead they were going to act more like the middleman, finding other companies to produce Japanese anime and manga. Media Blasters has had to lay off 60 percent of their staff, a sure sign that things are super bad and that they might close down soon. FUNimation is suing A.D Vision and Sentai for 8 million dollars. Now this could mean that FUNimation is really hurting for money or they are trying to edge out some of the competition by collecting on money owed. In any event…whoa folks. Whoa. All of this in the last month?

So what does this mean for those collecting anime DVDS and Blu-Rays? Pretty bad things. Competition is key to keeping prices down and quality up. Now since I really don’t watch dubs I cannot speak for the quality of the American voice actors nor do I know if they are tied to only one company. But I do know that it is important to either have the American Anime companies be close to the Japanese companies or the Japanese companies to have a good relation with American fans. If neither happens we are pretty much screwed except for fansubs and scanlations. And we don’t know how much longer that will last O act of Congress right?

To me this doesn’t SEEM like the end of the world. I know people like to own physical copies so that might be harder to come by. And I know no one wants to pay Japanese DVD prices. Not sure how the Japanese fans can pull off 80 dollars for 3 episodes but that is way too much for ANYONE. So it might be hard for the Japanese companies to cut out the middle man (American anime distributors) as we won’t pay the big bucks. That is the big reason why many Anime companies have gone under, trying to stay afloat with cheap DVD prices while having to pay the Japanese for the licensing rights.

I see things going a more digital route. Which will make things faster and easier for anime fans. Obviously I am a fan of that. XD I have no problem with registering for a site. Just like other sites I use. I signed up for Photobucket and have a free account thus I have ads, limited bandwidth, and whatever else they decide to throw at me. Same with other like websites. So perhaps the Japanese anime companies could do the same. Maybe the free users have to wait a day or two (not a week…) to see brand new episodes and are subjected to ads. Not sure what kind of ads but something to help negate the cost of running the site and having a translator (preferably a native English speaker who is also fluent in Japanese).

Again I am not an expert on these things. I know that we are in a different part of the world as the Japanese and we do not make up the bulk of their revenue. And we are in different region zones which could cause a whole lot of confusion. And American anime fans (I keep saying America anime fans as that is where I am from and don’t want to speak for other countries) we tend to value media entertainment at a certain price point. Average movie ticket price in Japan is 23 dollars while here in America is around $8.50. So it might not be worth it media wise to create website or DVD/Blu_ray distribution store just for us. But that might open the door for Americans putting their money in other Japanese made products, like character goods and what not. The more anime a person watches the more likely they will buy merchandise from that series.

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Rest in peace. :*(

As for the manga/ magazine American front…yeah things are looking pretty bad. Shoujo Beat, Newtype, and Tokyo Pop are just some of the names gone from our book shelves. Manga would be harder to be only Japanese based. But since it hasn’t been done yet I am not sure how it would be if it went that route. And since I am a hypocrite it would make me sad if I couldn’t own physical copies of mangas. I am not sure why some American companies can’t get their acts together with decent release dates and completing series. But with books in general taking a hit I am not sure how this problem will be fixed anytime soon. The Lego section and Books-A-Million is larger than the manga section. This be bad folks.

I guess the point of this post is….yeah things are probably not going so well right now. But I have seen things peak fast so it is not really surprising it fell fast. People/companies wanted to make a quick buck and it sounds like no one really had long term plans. But maybe if things become smaller and tighter but more efficient this change could be positive. This change could be positive. Yes monster titles help carry the casual fandom and we haven’t had too many of those series in the past few years (except with Madoka) but I think there is still time to redefine the Anime/Manga fandom and industry here in America. So while things are not cupcakes and rainbows for our hobby…neither is anything else right now in the world. XD Many economies are suffering so the first things to go are luxuries. Things will get better but it will take time. It is sad when things go out of business when we really love them (SunCoast and Shojo Beat :( ) but perhaps in their place something else will rise and we will learn to love that too.

In any event I hope things improve for manga and anime fans. I hope we all can still buy the titles we love, attend amazing events, and look forward to positive changes that come along with new technologies. Things will never be like they are in Japan but hopefully we can still enjoy the stuff they produce. Nendoroids for all!

Obviously I typed this all up before I received the news about MegaVideo...so yeah folks....yeah.

2 comments:

Eternia said...

Manga books are really cheap in my country, only 25000 rupiah for one volume, which is less than 2.5 US Dollars. And they are legal.
There are no legal anime DVDs, though. Well, it's not a problem since I can download them from the internet.

I only know about the news today, too. Megaupload (and all it's affiliates) are gone. And the executives are arrested. Even though they are not US citizen and they dont even live in US? FBI barged in and capture people in handcuffs just like that. How could they capture terrorists when they themselves are terrorists?

Christina said...

Eternia- That is sad about not having any DVDs at all. I mean being overpriced is one thing but to have none at all...:( that is sad.

This is one huge mess considering they just said they were putting aside a bill about combatting internet piracy. And in the grand scheme of things Megaupload was so low on the totem pole why even bother? A lot of other sites are just like Megaupload but they made a mistake in having something based in the US. That is why they APPARENTLY had reason to arrest people overseas. But seeing how this is a nonviolent crime it seems way too dramatic. Whatever happened to cease and desist letters? People suing them first? Just bleh.

I just think this might be really bad for....shall we say...fansubs? I hope not though. :(