Embrace the Bubble

Reactionary take of the news item of CR partnering to put money on committees via Sumitomo. Trigger warning: ANN Forums.

Anime Licensing 2013

You can just realize how big that “licensing” section is in 2013 versus 2008 to know “bubble” is just silly talk.

The narrative we hear 10 years later about the mid 00s anime licensing bubble in the USA has more to do with how the localization industry in the US has failed to progress the business sustainably. I think this is more a localized trend. The global downturn from the later part of the decade also impacted the anime industry globally (you can pull one of those JP government reports on this) but unlike most entertainment sectors, anime-related industries bounced back fast. I think 2014 showed the largest growth in like 8 years, and 2015 will likely be even more successful.

Rather than the folk narrative that described what happened to companies like Geneo, Broccoli, or Bandai Entertainment USA, I would like a more business-like post-mortem. I don’t know if this is even possible.

The actual news item just reminds me that ultimately, the future is streaming. I feel bad for the poor suckers who still dogmatically resist this change, but as time progresses their options will diminish. Maybe that’s a net loss for consumers across the spectrum, but the offset to lowering publishing barriers might mean a more vibrant selection of anime and probably more artistically liberated animators. For example, the Vocaloid revolution didn’t start or end on CDs. LWA2. Things are really different today in some ways than they were 10 years ago.

The fact that a big company like Netflix is already fingers deep in Kodansha’s Sidonia anime as a launch point for their Japanese service is notable. That’s one show that’s going into the basket of Netflix originals in the heating-up streaming programming war, at least State-side. By basket I mean quiver. I won’t go into what Netflix is doing because that’s American news well-covered by pundits who write in English (see #1 in that link). So the news that Crunchyroll will get in the funding game is hardly surprising. There is money to be made, but also it adds a lot of vertical integration to CR’s anime streaming business. CR already co-produced (and co-fund) Wooser season 3, so when I said “hardly surprising” I was being super sarcastic–it’s fully expectant. Maybe they want to leverage their close ties to anime programming to prevent Netflix making a big move and cutting them out in an already kind-of-crowded market space.

To address another aspect of the “bubble” issue, you have to look at the data–domestically speaking, Japan is doing well in terms of the anime industry. They don’t need our foreigner opinions or our foreign money to churn out all those light novel adaptations that you and I love so much. It’s not to say we make no difference (in fact we, as in all of overseas, make a significant chunk of Japan’s profit), but the health of the industry isn’t really predicated on oversea money. So when people say bubble, which one do they mean? And where? Even if the US industry craters and a wizard magically erases every company that licenses anime in the USA, we’re only going to see like a third of the oversea licensing dollars (for anime) disappear, as per 2014’s aggregated counts. [In reality it’s a lot more because of merchandising licensing for things like Yugioh and what not but that’s not what these folks are talking about.] Unlike the 00s bubble, which we don’t have good numbers for, the US licensors are playing a much smaller role, at least by extrapolating how the picture looked backwards.

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