Shift in Purchase Modes, or Graduation from Pure Retail

While filling out the new Funimation survey the thought occurred to me: by “Anime” they really mean Anime to someone who has never bought anything from Japan. Because looking at my spending breakdown over the years the amount of money going overseas directly has drastically increased. This is partly due to the slowdown for the North American licensing scene about how fewer new anime gets put out every year since like 2007. This is also due to more spending on anime-related media like this seiyuu event Blu-ray or sometimes tempting fate by trying to buy an OAV or something. I mean, hell, there was that Kara no Kyoukai box. And how do we count the Kenshin re-releases Aniplex is shipping us straight from Japan?

Seems to me, it’s a tough time for American publishers like Funi. Of course, that goes without saying to a degree; it also goes without saying that I’m on the outlier of customers for them. As long as anime fans existed in America there has always been a contingent of importers. As anime grows in popularity and gain mainstream exposure, that contingent of importers will naturally grow. All those 20-something now with jobs and growing older will be able to actually buy something for a change, some are bound to fall off the main anime purchasing bandwagon, stop listening to English dubs, or become something else outrageous.

To me it makes sense that it is this group of people that is paying for Aniplex’s import gambit, for their expensive releases that are just discounted imports. Technology is no longer a barrier (LOL LD) ages ago, and recently the logistics have improved as well, with things like ex-fansubbers going oversea and working on things like this, for example. All that’s left is figuring out a business method to capture this contingent without offending the motherland and preserving the value of titles in the oversea market.

In some ways this is not unlike how a teenager or 20-something may opt for a practical compact automobile, and mid-life crisis types may opt for a luxury or exotic automobile. In other words, people who can afford some kind of value distinction (perceived, practical or otherwise) would want a choice in the matter. The nuances are varied and multiple, but one large looming in my mind is some kind of perceived collector’s value, versus the anti-physical-ware nature of new media distribution. In as such, there is some value in convenience of what a cloud-based model of storage/access versus one that is like an ancient leather-bound tome sitting on your top shelf. Well, maybe I shouldn’t posit them as opposites by the word “versus” but I think they’re often seen as such.

The truth is anime fans can already get the best of both worlds, or increasingly so. All it takes is the willingness to pirate some videos (to put it very briefly) and the willingness to buy certain things, and you can have on your shelves some of the most interesting collectibles, and on your cloud all the media that you actually consume, translated into English (or something else even). The only barriers are know-how, availability and cost.

Availability and cost, hopefully, are things you are familiar with. Especially that last one. Availability is not so much a problem today thanks to the proliferation of commercial proxies, both in consumer services (y’know, proxy proxies) and in digital services services like Paypal or PSN. But what is sold out is sold out. With Mandarake now selling things over the internet (HUGE help), things couldn’t really be much better.

Know-how is important because information is still poorly distributed when it comes to anime. A non-insignificant portion of the web-based press (and I mean both the press orgs and the promoter)  is out there getting info out there to as many people as possible, to all the interested folks. That’s why ANN would source to Japan’s equivalent of Sankaku Complex (lol 2ch blogs) for the majority of their news–not to single them out, but there’s no resources left for real journalism when most people are still trying to act like telephone lines and telegraph couriers, parroting from PRs and Japanese sites. I think ANN’s PR wire exists for this reason. And even if you focus only on the Japan’s domestic scene, there are just so many fan channels, blogs, twitter accounts, 2ch threads, fan clubs, and what have you, that it can be challenging to sort through all those news. Take a fraction of that level of organization and multiply by a magnitude of physical/meta-spatial distance and you get an idea as to how poorly the US fan scene is covered. It’s gotten to the point that I think ANN USA does a much better job covering Japanese events and happenings than domestic ones.

I think FUNi and every other US media publishing company for anime can really improve in this area. Actually I want to single out FUNi especially because for their size and the kind of catalog they have, their clout in the social media space is just not congruent. What can they do to really “fest it up”?

[PS: There’s also the know-how from the technical perspective. There’s a reason why CCCP is created, after all. Or why Ars Technica knows your need for large storage systems and fast transcoding schemes. And also more pertinently: 4chan’s raison d’être.]

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