I recently watched a video from The Anime Man on Youtube that really struck me at the core of being an Otaku. While I was actually planning to write this article for quite a while, it was motivating to see that other people (e.g. Anime Review Girl) also have the same concerns about the anime industry as I do. In this video The Anime Man notes that the anime industry and community have been going in a very negative and worrying direction despite the current proliferation of anime worldwide. The fact of the matter is that, although we are probably living during the best times in terms of anime options, the sales and profits going to studios and publishers have been declining. If you need evidence: just take a look at Studio Manglobe that just produced the awesome kick-ass anime GANGSTA… before filing for bankruptcy a few months ago. Some of the major concerns cited include copyright issues and piracy, online streaming, pricing of DVD/Blu-Ray. While I agree that these certainly are important issues regarding the anime industry, there are also other issues the anime industry also needs to address. So lets look at 10 Ways the Anime Industry Needs to Change to both persist and improve going forward for the global audience. [In no particular order, beware of opinions and hyperbole].
10. Increase the availability of anime Blu-Rays, DVDs and merchandise
Japanese studios and publishers seem to be relying on DVD/BD sales after airing their series. But even so, the availability of these series are quite scarce in third world countries like mine (South Africa) where anime fandom and otaku culture is only starting to take off. Some series (usually the ones that have good stories with adult themes) do not have the luxury of easy merchandising like toys and candy for the series targeted at kids. But the availability of things like posters, mugs and wallets have declined here in my country despite series like Naruto even showing on national TV. The bottom line is that I can’t give you my money if you don’t give me an opportunity to.
9. Decrease the pricing of anime Blu-Rays, DVDs and merchandise
Now following on from my previous point. It’s hard enough to find anime stuff, but the pricing of the stuff I do find is just plain ridiculous. After completing the Naruto manga series I was keen to buy a Blu-Ray of “The Last: Naruto the Movie” to continue the story. A local online store sells it at about 33 USD (550 ZAR) without shipping, which is more than twice of what I could order from Amazon (15 USD). But I can’t use Amazon because I don’t have a credit card so I am stuck with local pricing that is completely outrageous. Look, I can buy a Naruto video game like Naruto Shippuuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 for 60 USD (900 ZAR) and get over 40 hours of entertainment, but for an hour and a half of animation I am not paying half that price. It should be about a 20 USD at most in my opinion! Dropping the prices and increasing the availability will almost certainly translate to more sales because people like me exist.
8.Proliferate within the gaming market
This is actually been happening quite a bit recently and in the past. But the new generation of consoles placed a bit of a space in development times for anime game developers. We are actually getting ports of older games that were not previously available in the West like J-Stars Victory Vs and Yakuza 5 and 0. Japanese games do have quite a bit of history and impact on the gaming industry as a whole with series like Final Fantasy, so it only makes sense to maximize output from both anime and gaming. While I see many games for popular anime releasing in the West, hardly any games for lesser known titles come out, except if they were visual novels in the first place. Visual novels themselves are starting to proliferate on Steam and PC but not on consoles. Sony’s PS Vita is a handheld console that many deem to be dead in the water, but I believe it may find re-invigoration with some visual novel support. Although Clannad was ported to PS Vita in Japan a couple of years ago, it still took a KickStarter Campaign to get an English version which should have been in mind from the start in my opinion. I wouldn’t say rush to make an anime licensed game, like a One Punch Man game for example just because it’s popular, but I would expect game developers to be smart enough to make solid games for different anime series providing additional revenue for anime studios. Games are also another chance for anime studios to animate cut-scenes, creating more work and revenue. I would much rather play through non-canon stuff in a game than watch it on TV.
7. Be smart and considerate with your IP/licenses
Like I said in my previous point with video games. Don’t rush to license out your IP (series) and potentially create half-assed adaptations. Hollywood movie adaptations of some anime series are some of the worst movies ever made… *Cough* Dragon Ball Evolution *Cough*. How do you expect to make BD/DVD sales if your movie is bad? This goes for video games as well. Careful consideration needs to be given before something is adapted for a different medium, if it is done wrong, it could place the entire series in jeopardy.
6. Sort out anime licensing issues
Handing out licenses for adaptations is one thing, but the bigger problem is licensing the actual series in different countries. The world cannot watch an anime and buy the merchandise if they don’t know it exists or if it is not available to be viewed. This extends to both TV and online. In South Africa it seems that only the dubs of the most popular shows get licensed to show on local TV. We used to have a channel dedicated to Anime called Animax that lasted a very short while before being dissolved. Even in that case, the titles available were limited. I don’t really care about (Cable) TV because I believe it to be quite antiquated at this point. However, we still run into availability problems online! The only way to legally watch anime online is with Crunchyroll who recently even launched their app on our local Playstation Network on PS4. Netflix recenty launched in South Africa and I think it should have some anime at least??? but I have not subscribed because the availability of shows is nowhere near the same as in the West or for local competitors. We are completely blocked from viewing any anime on Hulu and Funimation’s sites and also Daisuki as well (for me at least). This to me is completely absurd, cable TV is one thing because TV stations and broadcasting rights are country specific, which makes sense because of different economies and cultures etc. But the internet is a global entity, is it not? Do we not refer to it as the World Wide Web? Crunchyroll seems to have their stuff together but other streaming services are either blocked by licensing issues or just plain legally streaming. It’s quite sad to say, but illegal streams and downloads are the only way to view anime in some places and I think it is a totally avoidable problem in this day and age. The internet is still young I’m sure that we can make it so that if a show is licensed for a streaming website it should be view-able all over the World Wide Web.
5. Support and push anime streaming services
Let’s just be real here for a bit. TV broadcasting is dead/dying. Disc media is dead/dying. Just come over to the future already, the weather is nice over here. Whether we like it or not, streaming will probably be the way most media will be consumed in the next 10 years or so. Trying to hold yourself back is just a waste of your time, my time, and the time of the poor fool who has to log you down on the wrong side of the history books. To be fair, this is happening in the first world but emerging markets are left behind or being disregarded because the infrastructure is not quite there yet.
4. Think globally
Many of my previous points are from the view point of someone living in a “Third-World” country. But the fact of the matter is, despite being a “First-World” country, Japan’s mindset about things like anime is not very forward thinking. They are a very traditional society and despite their technological advances in many aspects, many of their business decisions are not given consideration from a global view point. Let’s take gaming for instance, Let’s Plays where people record themselves playing video games and upload it to the internet have become a big thing on YouTube. Many in the West see this as free advertising for the game, making viewers want to purchase a game if their favourite YouTuber is playing it so they can join in on the fun or the conversation. Nintendo (I shouldn’t need to tell you that this is a Japanese company… but I just did… so whatever) decides that this is infringing on their copyrights and has claimed revenue or struck down channels. To me, this is very backward thinking and exhibits a decision of a company that is tone-def to current trends. To put it blankly, if PewDiePie plays your game, it’s going to sell so let’s players should be left alone. Just recently, quite a few anime series reviewers were met with Copyright strikes by “Tokyo Broadcasting” because they were reviewing Dagashi Kashi (e.g. Chibi Reviews) and didn’t even have clips of the series, I mean really now? But anyway, in the same vain, when it comes to the anime industry, these anime (and manga) seem to only be made with Japanese consumers in mind. This makes no sense to me from a business or economics stand point, for one, Japan’s population demographics is quite top-heavy with fewer kids and more adults, an ageing population. So your target demographic for merchandising things like toys and candy is diminishing. You know where there’s a crap-load of kids? China, India, Africa i.e. developing countries. Targeting adults in Japan doesn’t help either because of the strict, hard-working, honor-driven society many adult just don’t have the time. Anime series should at least mildly consider their plan for porting to the West before they even start animating. Stuff like unnecessary over-the-top ecchi fan service might help you out in Japan but it’s only preventing you from finding a market elsewhere.
3. Increase collaboration with the West
Not only is considering the west important for the anime industry but I think its high time that the two came together. And I’m not talking about Hollywood adaptations, I’m talking about actually housing anime studios in other countries. It doesn’t seem to be working well for smaller studios in Japan and talented animators are losing their jobs? But the real sleeping market is elsewhere so why not take the animators there? Animation in Japan is becoming so expensive that studios are turning to CGI to make their anime series (Like Ajin and BBK/BNK) but the sudden change and clear low quality of the CGI makes these anime series quite jarring to watch. But you know who has been doing CGI cartoons for a long-ass time? America! So get on a plane. Netflix has expressed interest in spending money (part of 5 Billion USD) on producing new content including anime, this could potentially lead to an anime studio being housed in the US with Netflix backing and a Western marketing mindset… but that’s just speculation and wishful thinking. [Ajin was sponsored by Netflix but clearly not enough].
2. Take care of your employees in the anime industry
Leading on from potential anime studios outside of Japan, studios in Japan seem to now be run like sweat-shops. With animators working for many hours, usually overtime, with little pay enough to support themselves. An American animator working for Studio Pierrot (The cause of the dreaded Naruto Shippuuden fillers) has come out on saying that he was practically “slave-labor” at one point and that people are “overworked to the point that they vomit”. This to me is just ridiculous and is borderline infringing on basic human rights, and yet another reason to ship them off to the US.
1. Don’t be afraid of hiatuses or spin-offs in-place of ongoing anime
One of my biggest gripes, especially with long-running anime like Naruto, One Piece and Dragonball is fillers and blatant dragging on of the story. We are currently in filler hell over at Konohagakure and the current One Piece arc has been going on forever. The main problem is the anime outpacing the manga. One solution the industry seems to have found, which makes perfect sense, if to show anime in seasons with a set number of episodes releasing every year or couple of years or so. Fillers make no sense to me, you can’t call the story by the same name if it has unnecessary branches growing out of random places. I will probably never buy the Naruto Blu-Ray Box-Set whenever that comes out because I do not want to pay to see the filler-within-the-flashback-within-the-filler nonsense we are subject to currently. Sometimes you just need to take a break, let the series breathe, make people want to watch it and anticipate that next season. If you are afraid of losing mind share with your IP why not just make a spin-off? I would’ve been really happy to watch Naruto SD in place of Shippuuden fillers and I’m sure it’s much cheaper and easier to animate chibis than the real stuff. You can even make it CGI for all I care! If it is funny enough CGI shouldn’t be a problem ifor me personally.
So that’s what I think needs to be done for the anime industry at the moment. There are definite issues that should be addressed and I don’t think it would actually take much effort to address them, just a change in mindset. Even from an economic standpoint, some things the anime industry is doing now is silly, and from a consumer/critic stand point some things are just plain ridiculous. But hey, that’s just one man’s opinion. Let me know yours in the comments below or on Twitter or on Facebook, also check out our YouTube Channel if you are in the mood.
Until next time stay chewned! and Cheers!
Image credits (In order or appearance): NeoGAF, USGamer, tumblr, YareYareDaze, QuickMeme, ProjectRisingBeetle, Redbubble, SanityFallen(Deviantart), Bloomsburry, JapanAlert, AnimeBaka