A couple things.
I enjoy the nuanced commenting going on here by some of the usual suspects, so here’s a blog post to tease out some of the thoughts I had while thinking about those comments. You can read the original post here.
While I went over a wide variety of things in the last post, there are just a couple points we addressed in the comments. I think one thing to consider is what JP means by eye rolling. I guess we’ve been using it fuzzily but let’s read what it really means in this context:
In retrospect, the clear answer here is simply the chances of “great” experiments going through, and when we’re rolling them eyes, it’s because we’re about to encounter an OniAi. This is why you can’t have more Firefly, I guess. I think the “amount of vetting” is not so much “why” you get these bonkers anime being churned out, but the status of an IP being vetted. There are a lot of experimental anime. There are next-to-zero chances of anything unique like Trapeze in American broadcast TV. That’s the down side. (Or upside for some.) The upside is that you also don’t get anything like Juuden-chan, no matter how late it airs. (And that’s a downside for some too, I guess). So the net, if you are paying attention, is that the American system is win and a win for some, lose and a lose for…people who like things like Juuden-chan, and a wash for the rest. If I was a betting man, I’d say that looks like good odds for the American system.
The reasons why there are a lot of experimental anime are two folds, but it boils down to the fundamental issue with price and funding. Let’s tease out the two reasons: One is well-beaten (but surprisingly still a very rare nugget of know-how) in terms of its infomercial nature. The other is because it is just one cog in a greater system–and it might not be the biggest cog in that system. In other words, for every Game of Thrones, there is a Game of Thrones “will this actually sell/net a lot of viewers and interest” phase of the project where the pilot episode is created, shopped, A/B tested, what have you in order to safe guard the $50-60M USD that it takes HBO to make the series. You can call it vetting. Now the average anime isn’t really quite created like that, although often times you do get a pitch trailer (animated) created for an IP and it gets shopped for investors. But it would just be one cog. Unless you are Aniplex or something, that wouldn’t be your starting point. You’d probably be a producer at a publishing company working with other producers, trying to shop an IP, not an adaptation.
So imagine you produced K-ON and it turns out to be a hit. All you wanted was to make a fuwa-fuwa slice-of-life anime about cute girls playing music like all the others, but now even the mangaka says he is coming back from the end of the comic series to make a sequel. And what kind of anime did it turn out! Who did the vetting in this case? We the viewer, did. And since it takes a pithy few million bucks that you were going to recoup anyway even if K-ON turned out to be a dud, you let it run all the way for a cour (as opposed to canning it 3 episodes in).
Because, you know, who knew a show like K-ON can make you, the hypothetical producer, sing all the way to the bank? Or perhaps better yet, Haruhi? Do you remember 2006? That show had NO hype. Zero. Zilch. Vetted? LOL.
In the end, though, where does the money come from if you were Kadokawa Shoten? You can follow it both ways, as I mentioned below and in the comments about McD. It’s best to think of it entirely not using that “box” (as in, out of the box). You know the drill about licensing, franchise, merchandising, the whole nine yards.
The point being, cheap anime is both a pipeline of revenue and a way vet your IP at the same time. This is why we can’t have nice things–we are the beta testers. (But if Kickstarter is any indication, a lot of us actually want to be testers. [Insert some muv-lov alt reference here])
And yet, the success of Japanese anime constitutes something of a mystery. If you were to concoct a plan for entertainment-industry success in the digital age, Condry notes, it would probably not involve the painstaking development of hand-drawn cartoons.
“It’s incredibly difficult, and not very lucrative” for the artists, says Condry, who visited dozens of anime studios, workshops and artists while researching the book over the last eight years. “It’s one of the most labor-intensive forms of media there is.” Entertainment companies do not necessarily make huge profits off anime, which was an issue motivating Condry’s study; as he puts it, “How can things that don’t make money go global?”
The answer is that anime producers create many series and watch closely for what catches on — and then, once the characters in a series become a “platform” for audience participation, may cash in through toys, games and other forms of entertainment.
So, want to revisit vetting now?
All I’m trying to say is that anime as the mess that it is, is kind of a platform for the future. We can learn from its good and bad sides now and apply to new emerging media trends. Maybe it is only natural that Toonami resurrects. Maybe it took the internet and copyright reform and new copyright practices to slowly erode the power of the Western content owners. I don’t know. But things are pretty clearly moving that way, at least to me.
PS. While Tezuka cursed anime, does this mean Tomino saved anime?
PPS. The ex-corp-legal guy in me always just go back to Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. on this one. Golden bonus hanamaru super star if you get this one.