A Down Side to Easy-to-Access Anime

Let’s say, if you went to a typical sit-down restaurant in America and order some food. The waiter provides your table with a basket of bread as per custom at the establishment, and seeing you are very hungry the waiter decides to give you extra bread. Is this appropriate? I would think so, and most people probably wouldn’t even bat an eye.

Let’s say, if you spend a few hundred bucks and bought some late-night anime. The anime provides you with the content you thought you were getting. And seeing that this is the home video BD that you now own after parting a few hundred USDs or whatever currency, it provides some bonus material with extra T&A. Is this appropriate? I would think so, but some people calls this pandering.

Actually, it is pandering. But isn’t this wanted? Wouldn’t it be better to have this than not have this?

Hello again, old flame

This kind of made me think, in an orthogonal way, about the price of anime and the nature of its target audience. I am sort of pro-cheap anime in the sense that it makes access easy. And more access is better for access-starved international audience of anime, it’s hand-in-hand with marketing, as far as major areas of improvement for the state of the “anime industry” overseas. It’s more democratic. But I guess as with many things, there are down sides or unintended negative consequences to that. Well, maybe it’s not a negative consequence, but it’s naturally what happens when the signal-to-noise ratio drops.

There’s a fair amount of academic literature on the effects of internet and mass media and “noise” in terms of how to make the internet useful. I think we can apply the same idea to anime in that anime for the masses should be cheap and easy to reach. But anime for specific, intended small groups should be harder. And it is; in that naturally the marketing dollar isn’t there, fewer people care about it and fewer people talk about it. ┬áBut when what represents anime overseas is this small sample, what then? Cool Japan is not about Doreamon or Sanae-san but Evangelion or Pokemon right? I guess Pokemon is mainstream in that sense. But people don’t pass judgment on anime because they are in that niche. Anime is a marketing word, but that is probably a bad thing for the medium/genre in the long run, if you want to capture its diversity. Or rather, if you want to capture what passes for anime in the 21st century. Of course, the problem is also kind of the fact that there aren’t many anime titles that fits the Dragon Ball Z kind of profile in the 21st century; as in there hasn’t been more exceptions to the rule for companies like FUNimation to profit on. And all the anime-cancer sentiments is really built on this kind of mentality.

There’s this zone in oversea criticism that this is missed. It’s like all the people who think about anime in the framework of Mamoru Oshii’s works. Like, com’on. Maybe you’ll be more credible from Hayao Miyazaki’s framework. Can you just stick to Battle of the Planets and Speed Racer? Is this even relevant in the 21st Century beyond as a curiosity? Is Tezuka relevant beyond just his influence? Hasn’t anime changed enough in the last 50 years to, you know, come up with something new?

In other words, are people even watching the right anime? Is it because “anime” is too accessible, too plentiful, that people don’t even know what they really shouldn’t be watching? If the only way to watch anime is pony up some $50 or $100 to catch 1-2 cours of it, you probably would really want to know what it is before putting down the money. It makes people care. A lot more.

It also highlights the problem with marketing of anime overseas. There are little ways to “send signals” about shows as to who should watch what, from the homeland. And it’s full of lost-in-translation perils. If we have to rely on the likes of blogs that do season previews, then we are hopeless. I mean at least back in the days, people just hyped specific shows because they knew it was going to be something interesting as a reflection of Japan’s internal marketing and the buzz from its domestic fanbase. Now we just have people writing about every which thing, and it’s hard to say who knows enough or do enough homework to sift through the 50+ shows every season–if to just not get any one of them wrong, let alone more than a few of them right.

Maybe this is a call to people to watch anime in a way that treats it right–not just as disposable internet butt-wipe, a passing joke. Not every show is shovelware, not every show deserves your attention. But do enough to gain the appreciation for those the anime that you will fall in love with, before it happens. Maybe both you and the shows you watch will be better off as a result.

But I realize, the problem is also the general lack of easy-to-use tools. Which makes me think the Real Problem of Anime(tm) is still marketing. Which is odd/ironic, because most anime are just advertisement for something else. But it also makes sense if you think about it, and do more research. If people gets the right idea from marketing material on the get go, they wouldn’t even bother with a lot of the anime out there. But without the societal attitudes and otaku groups that form naturally to lay down the rules for people to watch whatever it is, what passes for marketing in Japan might not even work as is. Instead, oversea fans gets just piecemeal of all of this and who knows how effective that is.


4 Responses to “A Down Side to Easy-to-Access Anime”

  • Tony Yao

    You know, it actually would be nice to see how the American marketing industry can take on the anime and manga industries. They’ll probably be like “JAPAN, STOP AND LISTEN TO US! WE HAVE TO GLOBALIZE! WE RULE THE WORLD!”

    I spoke to a very well-known marketer about marketing something like anime/manga to the public if the internet is the main promotional channel (which is the case). He said it will take a really long time for success to happen.

    So many people I know think anime is either Ghibli or Pokemon with some DBZ. Here’s another question I want to know – does Japan really support the marketing efforts of the anime industry? Another question I want to know is how will the SPJA convince Japan to step it up, since they are insistent on preserving “anime culture” in the U.S.

    • omo

      Japan definitely supports it in various ways.

      The issue is multi-faceted, of course, and a lot of it is simple economics, is the business model robust enough, is it big enough to scale down to the kind of revenue you expect for sales, is it effective bang-per-buck. A lot of Japanese companies have tried, but who was successful?

      Not sure what SPJA does here to have a real impact, because at the end it’s a limited channel. Someone has to come up with the biz dev from the marketing point of view, and that might still be ultimately limited by the way we capitalize on “verticals” (as in, these kinds of verticals)

  • DarkFireBlade25

    I feel like the business model on the American side is very low margin and that is hurting a lot of the feedback to marketing that the shows are getting. I recently looked at the new Date a Live dub commercials and can gleam a few things from it in context of the Funimation talks that they give at cons. They are very strapped for people and a lot of shows they are rushed or don’t know what market segment this show is even for. They seem to only have the categories of action and sex related things and compartmentalize marketing as such. Idk if this is a chicken or the egg problem where you are either going to market to a set preconceived audience regardless of the nuances of the show to gain some kind of measurable market spread, or market the show as it is and it will attract the appropriate audience for it. There is a lot of “the US culture/market norm is different!” arguments, but that only goes so far. I suspect the problem probably lies in the beginning transactions to the US as in licensing costs, weird requirements by the original stakeholders, and crap like that and the resulting economic cycle time between working all that stuff sorted and hitting shows to market. Looks like a cost structure to time problem to me with a great helping of lack of communication. Maybe find alternative revenue streams?

    The freedom that script writers have to localize the shows is kinda disconcerting to me and also the fact that they still have trouble finding VA’s that can match mouth movements. I get the feeling that the industry here is very undisciplined or very hodgepodge from all the industry talks I hear.

    Another comment that I have is that I notice a great fixation of pre golden age of anime that people have in general. I went to a name this anime opening panel at Shutocon and nobody caught the Kill la Kill opening but caught a whole lot of 90s to early 00 titles. Idk if this is an isolated case, but if it isn’t, this speaks to the current industry’s health and probably something should be done to rectify it (again, a marketing problem).

    • omo

      The pre-golden age thing is totally true everywhere in America. but while a lot of people know about older anime, it isn’t to say not enough people are buying new ones. The pre-golden age shows will always be more well-known because there were fewer shows back then and there’s been more time for those properties to grow.

      Your overall point of view isn’t too far off the mark. As for margin, I think that’s something they have been improving over time, although of course a big part of it is the general struggle of how to grow that base.

      Also, when you market anime, a big part of it also has to do with how you work with the various retail or channels where marketing material go out, and it’s not always easy to figure out what would work best for a property. I’m not sure if FUNi is strapped for people but it’s not an easy challenge.

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