Monday, May 12

Malaise of anime DVD slowdown in USA?

In the United States, Japanese manga and anime are both increasingly popular, yet the manga business is thriving while anime sales are languishing. More people seem to be enjoying anime, but fewer are paying for it.

At the Tokyo International Anime Fair held late last month, the US-based Society for the Promotion of Japanese Anime (SPJA) hosted a panel discussion to address the anime paradox.

In opening remarks, SPJA chief executive officer Trulee Karahashi said US manga sales had grown from US$60mil (RM228mil) in 2002 to US$200mil (RM720mil) in 2006, with the number of titles released rising from 1,008 volumes in 2005 to an estimated 1,700 volumes in 2008.

But meanwhile, she said: “The sales of anime (DVDs) in the US have dropped dramatically, from US$500mil (RM1.9bil) in 2002 to US$400mil (RM1.4bil) in 2006, and that is expected to drop further.” The number of released volumes has also fallen, from 756 in 2005 to just over 500 expected when the final numbers come in for 2007, she said.

“The anime market is under threat in North America,” said panellist Christopher Macdonald, editor-in-chief of the website Anime News Network, attributing the problem to “pressure from illegal online alternatives”.

Macdonald suggested that a lack of nimbleness on the part of the legitimate industry helps pirates operate.

“Right now, fans want to see an anime, and they are told that this anime isn’t going to be available in North America for six months, two years, whatever. They’re not going to wait six months or two years. They’re going to go get it (illegally),” he said. “When we’re dealing with a TV series, very often Japanese TV networks ... (demand) a 90-day monopoly on that product. From the day that it premieres on whatever TV network in Japan, for the next 90 days, absolutely no one is allowed to show that product anywhere else in the world,” Macdonald said.

Panelist Summer Mullins, editor of Anime Insider magazine, said: “It’s really a limited number of groups that are actually making the piracy – and the millions of downloads that you can see of people watching Naruto for free every week – possible.

So beating the fansubbers at their own game via advanced digital (security) methods, possible simultaneous releases and things of that nature are really the best way to go.”

Mullins also said: “The people who are buying these DVDs are so young that I think education on Net etiquette and the realities of intellectual property (would help).”

“The anime industry in the States isn’t ailing necessarily because there’s a lack of interest in anime,” she said. “It’s simply the piracy issue.

Another Source

The article seem to target fansubbers as main culprit of the dwindling anime DVD sales in USA. It is paradox that they don't mention that fansubbers are the one who introduced the works in first place to non Japanese speaking crowd. So blaming on subbers squarely for the issue is a little extreme here.

Not to mention too that most US anime DVDs were poorly marketed, substandard subs or largely indifferent dubbing. Most common complaint is of course, it is too expensive.

But the fans also have role in the malaise too. It is difficult for them to purchase the anime after they seen the subs. Some fans also a bit anal on dubbing or essence of Japanese purity of subbing; citing commercial subbing are sub par compared to fansubs.

I see this as multifaceted issue. Not just that, it is tricky issue to walk on.

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