Monthly Archives: February 2013

Content Arbitrage Daisuki

Last AX I had a good chat with a rep from Viki. Not much came of it but I got a good once-over about what they do. I think it’s very important to realize what Viki is really doing in terms of what they are trying to do: content arbitrage. If you ever play the ’80s-90s BBS game Tradewars, you should understand what I mean. If you watch or read Spice & Wolf you should understand what I mean. TL;DR: Buy Low Sell High. And since times immortal (or whenever trade became a thing) this is typically done via traders across different geographic regions.

The Internationals

With the internet and our ever-more-global commercial market, it’s actually just the same with this new media crap. What sells for $$$ to Korean, Chinese and Japanese middle-age women probably is worth nothing to the broadcasters of, say, South Africa. I don’t know. But you get the idea. It’s like how big telenovelas in Brazil or Mexico are probably worth nothing in Singapore or Indonesia. Or are they?

I mean, it’s probably worth something, but to tap into that geographical and cultural market you need these proverbial traders to get the money flowing. Or in Viki’s case, fansubbers who fansub and a media delivery framework. Viki provides not just the delivery framework, but also a framework for fansubbers to attach themselves to the thing and thus make everyone’s lives easier. And hey, at least these fansubbers are doing it with the blessings of the content owners (even if you could equally say they’re being exploited for free labor–one man’s crowd-sourcing is another’s free lunch). Through this process, it turns something that’s worth nothing into something that you can make money from. The original content owners never intended their K-dramas or telenovelas to sell across the world, much like most anime producers back in the days. So at least they are doing very little work for some free licensing revenue, however little that it may be. It’s bonus cash.

This is basically the idea behind Crunchyroll as well, but the anime market in North America is trickier (which, despite their international claims, is still their #1 bread and butter). Ever since the early 00s, at any rate, foreign money became a much bigger part of the anime production equation. Of course one big reason why is that anime is pocket lint compared to how much money a prime-time TV drama costs and can stand to make (which is what Viki primarily dabbles in). Even just a good chunk of change from dead-ADV or dead-Geneon can mean a lot to those mix-media committees. It’s just that this is something more specific to the larger oversea markets like France, Germany, UK, Australia, North America, Korea, HK/Taiwan/China, Singapore, and whatever else I left out and probably shouldn’t. Nobody is making much money from a license in Zimbabwe or Nepal. Or even first-worlds like Turkey or Iceland. How much revenue can you get from those places for anime or other foreign-culture media products? Well, one thing you could do is do it in bulk, and the technologies we have today make it feasible (in terms of making a buck).

I don’t know how much you care for Crunchyroll’s license announcements, but one thing interesting about them is that they try to reach out internationally. So with each new stream they list the countries they are streaming in. There aren’t a lot of CR shows streaming in Iceland and Turkey, I can tell you that much; probably more shows are streaming in South Africa. But maybe there are some local-language effort? I don’t know. And of course they are doing something for Latin America if you ever look at the subtitle options for some of these shows.

This is all basically what I was thinking about when I read the latest news about this thing.

The Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei is reporting on Wednesday that Asatsu-DK (ADK) will begin streaming anime titles overseas in April. Six major anime companies are investing in ADK’s subsidiary that is handling the streaming. The venture will translate and host popular works from over 500 titles, and it plans to recoup costs through fees and advertising.

ADK issued third-party stocks worth 340 million yen (US$3.69 million) in its 100%-financed subsidiary Daisuki. The anime companies Toei Animation, Aniplex, Sunrise, TMS Entertainment, and Nihon Ad Systems (NAS), along with Dentsu, are investing in the subsidiary. ADK plans to retain a 26.3% stake in Daisuki.

Nikkei notes that Toei’s One Piece anime and Sunrise’s Gundam anime have garnered many fans overseas. Daisuki’s site will present new titles nearly simultaneously with their Japanese broadcasts. The venture will also stream live programs to anime fans in English. [Links removed.]

(Also click on the source link, and read the follow up.)

The second thing I’m thinking about is–hey, what live programs? Do we get to see those cheeky anime-based TV shows hosted by seiyuu-types? I’m sold if that’s the case.

After sleeping on it, the third thing was more like, “oh boy, a Japanese start-up that begins as a wholly-owned subsidiary.”  3.69 million USD is a sensible amount of startup capital, it’s ball park for what CR has to work with. But let’s remind ourselves what CR is/was in the beginning and how their services were. And to be honest, given how Nico US failed I have a lot of doubt in terms of Japan’s ability to do a tech startup (as what this really is) in the global market. It’s going to be a wholly owned subsidiary of a media company. Is that better than worse when TV Tokyo owns a minority stake in your venture? I hate to be pessimistic  but there are not a lot of reasons why we should assume it can execute. To be honest the whole idea feels more like DOA, not because it’s a bad idea but because it’s likely run with the strings and chains attached to the same old suits that causes all these problems in the first place. The fundamental truth is that it’s harder to succeed as a new business in Japan than in a lot of other, similar countries. On the bright side, these companies are really trying to compete and execute, because they’re not in a good position to sit idly.

Well, I guess this is also why I’m not particularly worried about it in regards to how it may impact Crunchyroll. I think it’s ultimately a good thing for the licensors and the consumers if Daisuki succeeds, and it’s just the status quo if it fails.

PS. One more note about Viki. There are some reasons why their initial attempts at anime are all distinctly old school. For one, they’re really good with Tezuka Pro. Second, oldies like the Rose of Versailles just don’t have the monetary strings attached to them as new projects do. I mean, at this point I don’t think anybody cares about making money off it in that sense, especially when it will be pushed to markets that have really no exposure or any stakes to go with it. That isn’t to say no amount of convincing the Japanese took place, but I guess at least Viki and the North America anime market have a track record.

PPS. If they brought over shows-nobody-cares-about like Tokyo Encounter, I will so be the first (or the first 100 w/e) in line for this service.

PPPS. Oh man this song is in my head again.


Sasami-san@Ganbaranai Episode 7, New Gods

I don’t know what passes for new gods. From my Judeo-Christian upbringing I can only say that, “Man, Japan, there’s way too many.” That said, Tama and Kagami are both fine specimens. I’m sure companies like GSC or SEGA will come out with something worthy for a household shrine. Oh, spoilers ahoy.

Tama

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Otakon Vegas Zero

Just my 2c on Otakon Vegas, the newly announced convention in Jan. 2014, the offshoot of Otakon (in Baltimore). In short, it’s still too early to say.

Himawari Dynamite

I think the concept of Otakon Vegas makes sense. If you want a convincing argument, reading the FAQ part of their site is an almost-bullet-point list of the common worries being addressed spot on. Otakon also sent 3 dudes on the ANNCast this week, and that’s a pretty good listen if you are into what the character of Otakon. Otakon, in my mind, separates from other cons because it feels like a con that is focused on the “anime” part of an anime con. It’s executed in that way–I can feel it, after all these years of attending. There’s a focus and a purpose, and the con is planned around it. There are also a lot of weird constraints that you never really have to worry about but end up making things difficult. If you listened to the ANNCast they’ll go into things like why streaming the con becomes a problem. (It also kind of explains why there was a DVD of L’arc~en~ciel concert, but Aya Hirano only got pictures of her at the Aquarium and walking around town from this summer.) It’s also about the slightly weird stuff about membership where when you attend Otakon (Prime, to cop PAX terminology), you are really a member of Otacorp attending its annual membership meeting. This means Otakon Vegas is more like a non-Otakon anime con in that sense–it’s going to be small and run by weird Otakon bros (as characterized by the ANNCast) who will use it as a lab to hone their 20+year of collective con-running prowess.

I think the Maid Cafe is a great example, so I’ll rehash it here. That’s basically what we should be expecting of Otakon Vegas. The story about the Maid Cafe is that for years on end, Otakon attendees (and staffers) wanted a maid cafe. Other local cons had it–Anime USA being the most outstanding example–but for a lot of different reasons, it wasn’t possible. Well, mainly one reason: serving food in their programming required some kind of labor contract trigger involving the union who work the con center to be a part of it. This stopped being a problem when the Hilton opened up and became part of the BCC complex. You can definitely serve food in the hotel on your own, and so this is partly why Otakon had its very first maid cafe last year. However a 30k-attendee con means you can’t really do a maid cafe without working out the logistics to deal with the crowd. I remember NYAF’s maid cafe–that was pretty sad. Otakon’s was somewhat better, from what I can tell by hearsay. I say hearsay because I join more than half of the people who wanted to attend the maid cafe–the more-than-half of people who couldn’t get in. It’s “too successful” but it’s more because that kind of activity just doesn’t scale with this size of a con. So to do a con Maid Cafe right,  you gotta set it up with not only the right kind expertise, without the contract constraints, but also scaled to the size of the con. This is where a brand new con comes in, and I guess it could apply to all sorts of other programs that Otakon may not offer today.

The other problem, also mentioned on the ANNCast, is one of logistics, when Zac brought up the point about how the con has outgrown its locale. Rather, it’s more about time, not so much size. I can tell you by hearsay that Otakon struggles with the idea of a 4-day con for some time now. As someone who plans for cons pretty hard and pretty far advanced, I can tell you by non-hearsay that it’s much harder to write up Otakon’s schedule because it’s much more jam packed than, say, AX’s. AX has that extra day to spread things out, to enable its high-capacity rooms to host more and larger programming. Not to mention it’s just more spread out physically (despite its much larger headcount). Otakon, in contrast, has consistently much better panels, but it’s more compressed and thus it feels like that con always have rooms too small for the programs it has–all because its big rooms can only host so many panels in a day, and there’s all this additional logistics problem with programming as a result of having less time to juggle more dynamic programming. By beginning from scratch, Otakon Vegas can do more stuff with less sort of the logistical constraint that comes with a 30k con, not just one of supply and demand.

There’s another angle to this. Similar to the Music Fest, Otakon Vegas is naturally another venue for Otakon to work with its Japanese contacts, to build its brand, to bring more JP guests overseas. It’s Otakon, so I expect at least this much. It’s also why I think Otakon Vegas is going to be financially not-a-major factor in terms of its impact to Otakon and its existing affiliated events, because it can possibly run cheaper than a small con of the same size due to economy of scale and other leverages as a spin-off con. Actually, the way how LV is being pitched to Otacorp in the podcasts seem to suggest something possibly revealing…

A little reverse engineering can tell you just where a con places its priority–in contracting the location, taking care of its staff, spending money to wrangle lines, bringing over oversea guests of honor, and balanced with its membership fees… I think the saying goes where your money is, your mind is there also? I believe that applies to a membership-run con like Otakon 100%. In due time, when Otakon Vegas begin to announce its detail plans, guests and events, we’ll find out for sure what this new con will really be.

PS. Otakon has, in years past, a marketing issue. You can kind of tell that with Otakon Vegas they are trying to make this marking thing work, at least a little.


Inertia of Social Network Sharing; The Garden of Words

I, like many others, read Anime News Network’s news feeds. I, unlike many others, also read a lot of tweets. By a lot  I mean I probably go through 2000+ a day on average.

But let’s put that into perspective. Twitter is a massively popular social platform compared to ANN. In fact, it’s kind of incomparable because one is really just a news site–I’m guessing it’s the sort of thing some people check once a day to get their daily dose of news. Maybe some people do the same with twitter; it certainly allows for that sort of slow-paced, not-drinking-from-a-fire-hose sort of consumption.

What I’m trying to get at is I’m wondering why people share the ANN story to the Makoto Shinkai’s new movie trailer, rather than the Youtube page itself or Shinkai’s tweets. I am going to assume this is mostly because these people either didn’t click through ANN’s embedded Youtube video, in other words engaging the content without digging in; or because it’s more convenient to share that.

The reason why I’m wondering is largely because the ANN story basically copy word-for-word everything the Youtube page has. The Youtube page has English-translated credit and English-language film synopsis and everything. It’s Youtube, not some awkwardly-programmed 20th century Japanese website. Maybe if I was reading about this news the first time, getting it from ANN makes sense. But as someone who read it from Makoto Shinkai’s twitter account, it feels really cheap? I don’t know how to put it in the right way.

kotonohanoniwa

I’m sure there are plenty of reasons to do it either way, but why does it feel oddly off in this specific case? Is it because Shinkai tweeted it in English and some of us were fortunate enough to see it? It’s no different than say if FUNi or Sentai did something and ANN reported it, although typically you don’t get the kind of layering we get here in those cases. Actually, maybe another factor here is that watching that movie trailer as an embedded video feels wrong. You really should watch it in high definition, and that’s something no news source reporting it mentioned.

Instead of me making something out of probably nothing, consider it a PSA: If you haven’t seen the latest trailer for Koto no Ha no Niwa, and you think Shinkai’s animated movies are possibly something interesting, do yourself a favor and go to Youtube, select it for the language you would like for the annotations, and change the resolution to 1080 and let it cache before you watch it. I promise you it’s 10 times more gorgeous looking than most embedded resolution you’ll find.

Bonus: A lot of us were initially surprised at casting Kana Hanazawa as the female lead. Shinkai actually tweeted about it shortly after the initial wave of tweets, saying he had trouble deciding who to select for the role, especially since Hanazawa is younger than the lead character, but her acting won him over. If you want to read between the lines, it probably means someone older got passed over for the role!

Bonus 2: Some people were disappointed about TENMON not partnering with Shinkai again on Garden of Words. While I’m definitely looking forward to more TENMON, I’m okay with the new guy. In this case the new name is Daisuke KASHIWA–seems like a post kind of guy who turned to soundtrack/neoclassical music, according to his last.fm profile. Seems like right up my alley.


Seiyuu Idol Debut Season

Congrats 2 Hiromi Hirata!

It might or might not be duck season or rabbit season, but it’s definitely seiyuu idol album debut season. Beware of the ref links, sorted by release date.

Ayahi Takagaki – Relation, Apr. 17.

Shizuka Itou – TBD, Apri. 17.

Ayana Taketatsu – Apple Symphony, Apr. 10.

Mai Aizawa – moi, Mar. 27.

Kana Hanazawa – Claire, Feb. 20.

Mikako Komatsu – THEE FUTURES, Feb. 13.

u’s – Love Live Best Album – Jan. 9.

StylipS – Step One – Jan. 9.

On the horizon is Yoko Hikasa’s “compilation album,” too… And YuiKaori is probably due in 2013. I’m probably missing someone. I have to give it to Yoko Hikasa’s Pony Canyon website for dishing it up, that’s exactly how you should approach selling her stuff.

Don’t even ask if they are any good. I guess we can actually admit that Hanazawa’s is something you can listen to, but nothing here is going to change the world or anything.

This is, of course, on top of all the other crap coming out. Looks like it’s going to be pretty busy up till April.