Hey, Answerman! Region Lock Stock & Barrel
by Brian Hanson, Jul 15th 2011
Rise and shine, you midnight-show-going Harry Potter fans! I, personally, am going to wait to see it until the relative calm of Sunday. No obscenely long lines, no douche-y theater owners attempting to herd flanks of fans like nerdy sheep, and no musky teenage fan funk. As you get older, you learn to harness patience and restraint for these things sometimes.
Anyway, before I get started here, pretty big news! I'm coming to Otakon! That's right; come July 29th, I will be sweating profusely under the brusque, humid Baltimore sun! I've got family that lives out there, so it's great that I can spend a couple of days checking out the big East Coast con that I've never been to before, I get to help out ANN here with coverage and such, and I get to spend the rest of the time hangin' with my siblings and such.
I'm pretty stoked about it, actually, so those of you who're Otakon bound, keep an eye out for me! And now, on to the questions at hand:
I'm an Aussie anime fan, and I've been a staunch supporter of streaming anime ever since back in the day when Crunchyroll started off with only three simulcast titles. There was one particular season, when Crunchyroll was doing pretty well at getting a fair number of titles simulcast, and that was when I signed up for premium membership. After that boom, the number of titles they picked up that I was interested in started to drop, but there was always at least one title I really loved which prompted me to continue my subscription. However, with the last season, and even more so in the upcoming one, I've noticed that Australia has been region blocked for more and more of the new titles (I counted three that we were allowed access to so far). As far as I know, Siren Visual only has one new streaming license for the new season, so from my point of view, Australia is being shut out. Now, I have a friend who uses a proxy to watch Tiger and Bunny from Hulu, and I've begun to wonder, if I too should begin using a proxy in order to both make use of my subscription, as well as view titles legally (or at least in a slightly more legal manner, I don't know the ins and outs of the legality of using proxies). For the ongoing Steins;Gate for which Australia is region locked, I've been dl-ing fansubs/rips, but I've started thinking, 'wouldn't it be better if I view it from the actual source?'. So my question is, is it wrong to use proxies to view anime that you are region restricted from viewing? And do the companies themselves (ie Crunchyroll, Funimation, VIZ etc) care if people use proxies? I would think that they'd be happy for the extra views (especially non-member Crunchyroll views and Funimation who use ads). And finally, any thoughts on why Australia has suddenly been shunted to the side in terms of number of simulcasts streamed to us?
I've written before on the topic of proxies, so I won't go too into detail on it, but here's just my quick take on the matter. Watching simulcasts for another region using a proxy server neither "helps" nor "hurts" anybody, and that's sort of the problem. Free streaming sites rely on advertising dollars, which are basically worthless to anybody living outside of the region the ads were designed to be viewed in. Nobody's getting ripped off either, so it's not at all the sort of thing I'm going into launch into a righteous crusade over. But I would stop far short of saying that North American companies don't "care" about that sort of thing, because they certainly do. Do they care more about piracy and bittorrent? Sure. But anything at all, any small little thing that could affect their revenue from advertisements is obviously a concern.
Now then! Onto the issue of Australian being given the short shrift on simulcasts. The thing about region locks is... is that they're all done on a case-by-case basis for each series. Crunchyroll obviously wants to have everything available to everyone in the English speaking world on day one with subtitles, but there's always certain exceptions to every show. I wouldn't really blame Crunchyroll for this kinda lousy string of locked shows, basically. They do try to get everything. Whether you feel like maybe they could do, meh, a little bit more to pick up a show that's as popular as Steins;Gate for Australia, I'll leave that for you to decide. As far as the nitty gritty details go, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe the Japanese licensors are stubbornly convinced that Australia isn't a market for their series so why bother? Or maybe they were dicks about it and wanted an obscene amount of money for the license? I mean there's a bunch of contractual, sometimes petty, but always messy reasons why stuff gets locked out of one region of the globe or another. Sometimes, stuff just sucks.
Last week you "answered" my question about whether it's good or not if Japanese companies release their shows over here. You responded by saying that it's a good thing that they stream their shows over here, and that streaming is the future and physical release is dying down. I agree that streaming is the future, but with the recent news of Hulu being up for sale, what would entertainment companies in general have to do to make streaming work? And how is it going to change how anime shows get made: in the sense that shows are now made for a small audience in Japan that pays ridiculously high prices for a physical release, to making shows that would try to get as high of a view count as possible?
Woah, woah. It's still way too early to consider how streaming video is actually changing the way these things are produced. I mean, YouTube and Hulu and Netflix combined have been part of the daily entertainment regimen of tens of millions of Americans for the past five years, but the entertainment industry itself... operates the exact same way it always has, in regards to production. TV shows and movies are still vetted by an army of producers, who then go on to spend altogether way too much money "developing" these things until they are so bland and facile that they can hit as many of the "four quadrants" as possible.
So while I don't think streaming video has had much of an impact at all into how stuff gets made, but the one thing I will say is that it's certainly changed who gets stuff made. I mean, earlier this week they announced the director of the Evil Dead remake, and it's a guy who made a YouTube video for 500 bucks. The process is entirely the same, but it has democratized the talent pool in the entertainment industry more than anything else in it's history, in my opinion.
But we're talking about anime here! Silly me. But again, the process is entirely the same deal as it's always been; to get an anime series (or movie, or OAV) produced, you gotta have a hot property based on a manga or a light novel or a video game or a series of f*** pillows (OR ALL FOUR AT ONCE!) and then there's a throng of producers who represent each of those separate markets who throw money into a committee who then hire out an animation studio and bam, you've got Twin Angel: Twinkle Paradise. I'm sure the extra money that streaming brings to the table is a nice little bonus that they don't mind, but really they all know that the big money's gonna come from overpriced DVD sets filled with cheap tchochkes and bath towels, and figurines and PSP games. Basically the same crap that Gainax has been doing since they pioneered the art of Otaku pandering in the Evangelion days.
To address your general point, though, is that I *do* think that there's a way to really "make streaming work." Lord only knows what it is exactly, but that's what's sort of exciting about this whole process. It's still relatively new! Nobody's got it quite figured out yet! And so they're trying subscription services, advertisements, all kinds of stuff. Until somebody completely nails it, they're just gonna keep trying whatever they think might work, and keep failing upward until somebody finally figures it all out.
I've always been curious as to why Japan doesn't adopt the idea of creating their own English subtitles for their own DVD releases?
Their are so many older titles that the more "seasoned" anime fan (like myself - a twenty year long watcher) would be more than happy to import at any price, especially if they had English subtitles. Think about all the different reasons as to why anime titles aren't released in non-Asian speaking countries: "It's too niche of a title (Go-Nagai Super Robots)"; "Licensing the rights is too convoluted and too expensive (Macross)"; "America has it licensed, but isn't interested in releasing it at the moment (Countless times with FUNimation not giving a proper Dragon Ball Z release until the current Dragon Box sets, or currently with the Hellsing Ultimate titles)".
I know all the arguments as to why it might be difficult for English speaking fans to support imports from Japan, but every problem has a simple answer as far as I'm concerned:
Point - Japan is region coded 2
Counter-Point - The DVD format has been around for long enough that almost every player can be unlocked to play any region disc
Point - Japanese DVD's are generally more expensive for a lot less content/episodes (I've heard something like $50 for two episodes per disc)
Counter-Point - Who cares? If you're a fan and this is all you can get, you'll get it. If you can't get something anywhere/anyway else, it's better than nothing
Point - It's not worth the investment for Japan to cater to English speaking audiences with their own DVD's Counter-Point - It's a simple English subtitle track that even Korean DVD releases have legitimately put on their discs without much effort (actually own several Korean releases with hidden English subtitles that weren't mentioned on the packaging or website)
It even boggles my mind how there have been some truly great re-releases of anime titles in Japan, in super limited sets, that were very expensive in price and very sought after. Usually these big sets gave the same love and care to their audio/video restorations that English speaking fans would see in restorations for their own motion picture classics like Citizen Kane, or The Godfather, or most any big name film being re-released for some sort of anniversary special. Japan did this with their DBZ Dragon Box, and Go-Nagai's Mazinger/Grendizer series sets. And even if an anime didn't get some great restoration or big box set, it's still something English speakers don't have. I still watch my old VHS tapes of Dangaioh, End of Summer, Grandizer, and others just because I can't watch them anywhere else.
Why couldn't this idea work? Japan could cut out any middle man from American licensors, could increase their own production to account for the planned importation of any special release, and English speaking fans could finally open up that much more of Japans animated library for their own collections. Think about the all mighty Macross and how we wouldn't have to put up with any more of the b.s. train that's keeping fans from years of material not being released (Zero, 7, Frontier, DYRL?, etc.) if we could just have a reason to import the discs from Japan directly.
Ooh, I agree that that "solution" would be completely ideal for something like Macross, where the chances of any of those series getting licensed anywhere are zilch, but... for everything else, it just seems like a waste of their time to even bother.
So, here's a challenge for you. Go to your DVD shelf. Or if that's too far away, open up Amazon in a new tab, and scroll through the DVD releases. Pick a DVD that's *not* either a huge blockbuster hit or a family film, and check to see how many different subtitle tracks there are. Chances are you'll only find two; an English Closed Captioning track, and either a French or a Spanish subtitle track. It's really rare that you find both.
As a matter of fact, I've got a season set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 sitting right next to me. Lemme check the box here, and... hell, I'm not sure if there's even any subtitles on this thing at all. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MST3K FANS IN JAPAN AND - hopefully you get my point now.
It's an uncommon thing, really, to offer up a plethora of different language tracks for a DVD, especially for something niche. It's time and money that nobody really wants to spend; if they thought it would be worth it for them to do, they would've done it. Outside of a few high-profile titles here and there (from episode 2 onward, FLCL's Japanese DVDs had subtitles, and of course most of the Ghibli films have them as well), it's probably considered too much of a waste of time and money to bother.
I think, especially for Blu Ray where the US and Japan shares the same region code, that including English subtitles could be a great way to sort of spur the import market with a title, such as Macross, that would be unfeasible to release in North American in any "official" capacity. But by and large I can't see why it would really make much sense.
This made me laugh. Out loud, even! (actually it didn't, I just chuckled a bit to myself)
I would simply like to know if Crunchyroll.com has a contract with tv tokyo or a understanding of some sort along with legal documentation stating that Crunchyroll is authorized to sell tv-tokyo produced anime, in particular the series called "Bleach". If yes then is there any way I can get that authorization in writing. Because ofcourse if you do not even know who Crunchyroll.com is, then they are making money off your anime illegally, just wanted to throw that out there.
HOW DARE THEY PROFIT OFF MY BLEACH
Moving along, it's Answerfans! And as a fair warning, we're talking all about spoilers here this week, so watch out! Though I'll be sure to mark each response with a specific spoiler so you can skip it if you need to. And speaking of spoilers, I just spoiled the part of this column where I remind everybody of what the question I asked was. Oops.
To begin! Actually batou65 doesn't spoil anything at all:
I love spoilers. Sometimes I go to great effort to search them out. I'd much rather know what's coming than to be surprised in a disappointing way, such as by a bad or inconclusive ending.
The most epic spoiler I was ever subject to I did to myself, but it wasn't on purpose. I had just started to watch Gungrave and was a few episodes into it, and accidentally watched the very last episode. I didn't regret it though... it actually made me appreciate the series more, and it's still one my favorite anime endings ever.
But once in a while it's nice to watch something without spoilers as long as I'm pretty certain that I'll like the series. Right now I'm 3/4 of the way through the original Mobile Suit Gundam and completely untainted by knowledge of how it ends. (Who will win the war? Don't tell me!)
Stuart spoils the fact that there are spoilers in AMV Hell:
I have been lucky enough to avoid spoilers for the vast majority of anime I watch, but only after getting literally EVERYTHING spoiled for me while working my way through Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The experience forced one very important lesson on me, though: if you haven't finished watching a series, stay away from any website that has the slightest possibility of containing spoilers. This has served me very well indeed when viewing older anime series.
That said, a few minor spoilers have slipped through the cracks, almost all courtesy of AMV Hell (which I consider worth the risk). I put off watching Eva 2.0 forever, and as a result had a few plot details revealed to me out of context. I have put off watching Grave of the Fireflies for awhile now because I know the ending, as well. Sometimes, though, knowing beforehand that a series has a complete WTF ending can inspire one to sit through a lot of crappy writing just to reach that ending (Code Geass and School Days, in my case).
In general, though, I think spoilers are only a minor inconvenience at best. A truly good anime will not rely completely on the element of surprise to hook viewers, and in so many cases, the true pleasure of a story lies in the journey rather than the destination.
Ashleigh spoils the ending of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, in case you are one of the weird people who haven't played the game until the 3DS port:
Back before the Internet made it possible to know anything about everything before you've even laid eyes on it, the only thing you had to worry about was a friend talking about the latest Harry Potter book or an episode you taped but had yet to watch. You'd run away with your hands over your ears, screaming at them to stop talking about it.
The only horrible thing I wish I hadn't known before I finished was that Sheik from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was actually Princess Zelda. I had finally figured out how to use the web in 2002 as a source of information when I stumbled on this tidbit while looking for an answer to a puzzle in the Spirit Temple. Granted, the game had been out for over 4 years at that point, but I was still steamed.
Fast forward 9 years, and I have learned to stay away from the Internet before I finish anything. Books, comics, TV series, movies, games, nothing is sacred online. I've been careful, but still found out about:
-Every secret EVER in "Fruits Basket" (courtesy of a friend who would not SHUT UP)
-CLAMP's clone-creations and soul-swapping in "Tsubasa" (same stupid friend)
-The demise of most of the samurai in "Samurai 7” (Note: looking up names will also give you a FULL bio)
-The endings of “Portal,” “Assassin's Creed” and “Kingdom Hearts” (curse you Wikipedia!)
Nothing I've found out has made me not want to finish, but I would have wanted to find out for myself. Still, spoiler tags just beg to be opened and warnings simply must be ignored. It's like that last sleeve of Oreos, just sitting there. You know you shouldn't and you'll regret it later, but IT'S RIGHT THERE, TAUNTING YOU WITH ITS DELICIOUSNESS. When you awaken from your binge, you immediately hate yourself and wish you could forget what just happened.
But hey, now you're the one running after your friends and they are the ones shouting "LALALA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!"
JOHN SPOILS THE END OF COWBOY BEBOP DAMNIT but then he makes a nice little point about it:
We've all been in the room when there is an audible gasp, soon to be followed by the indignant cries of someone who heard too much; at some point, we've probably been that person. It's happened to me; in fact, I learned that Spike Spiegal died before seeing even the first episode of Cowboy Bebop! Despite this, I've found that spoilers only really matter to me momentarily. Wonderful shows like Bebop have a lot more going for them than just an atypical anime plot; the real value is in seeing the story unfold before your eyes.
Even so, it's still nice to go into a show and be surprised. Fortunately, there exists a somewhat unwritten code one can live by to mitigate the glut of spoilers. This is of course the Statute of Limitations: a time-sensitive protection against unwanted information. It's pretty simple; be discreet about the plots of recent titles. You can even take it a step further and tread lightly around obscure ones, too. What exactly consitutes "recent" or "obscure" will naturally vary with the crowd, but as long as you observe these entertainment tenants you're alright in my book.
For someone who sure hates spoilers, ss-hikaru, you sure do spoil a lot of One Piece stuff (in other words, look out, One Piece fans):
I absolutely HATE HATE HATE spoilers. I avoid them like the plague. I've grown quite skilled at skim reading blog/forum posts and immediately scrolling down at the speed of light at the first word of anything that may be a spoiler. My two most hated spoiler moments are related to One Piece. In early 2010, I decided to give the One Piece manga a shot (because of the speed up), and bought the first 10 or so volumes at my summer convention. I mentioned to a friend that I had started One Piece and was enjoying it, which prompted my friend to begin a tirade about ‘why do you bother buying the manga when you can read it online for free’. In order to ‘prove’ his point he opened up the (back then still alive) OneManga site and clicked on the link to One Piece. I began yelling 'NOOOOOOOO I don't wanna know, don't open anything, DON'T SPOIL ME' but he ignored my cries and opened the most recent chapter and I was greeted with the words 'WHAT?! ACE IS GOLD ROGER'S SON?!?!?!?!?!' and I almost cried (with rage). At that point I had no idea who the hell Ace was, but I knew he was Gold Roger's son. Considering that Luffy's father is introduced fairly early on in the manga, I never had the false impression that they were real full blood brothers. THEN, one day when I was reading a blog entry on the latest chapter of Bleach (I used to read the scanlations, but not anymore), I was scrolling through the comments and came across multiple posts talking about all the deaths in the ‘big three’ INCLUDING ACE'S. DON'T TALK ABOUT ONE PIECE IN A FREAKING BLEACH THREAD DAMMIT!!! *cries* So when I finally find out who Ace is, I also find out he's already dead. *SIGH* Considering how well Oda writes One Piece, giving little clues, building up the suspense, I feel like I missed out on major emotional components to Ace's character. Currently, I am at the start of the Impel Down arc, and I *know* that he's going to die, so I don't feel that tension, I don't hold that hope that Luffy will save him in time. When I do get to his death scene, I know I'll cry, but it won't be with the same feeling of loss (both in terms of losing Ace, and Luffy's inability to save him). I feel that I would've loved Ace so much more as a character if his entire lifestory wasn't revealed to me out of order...
And as we wrap up, bieksza spoils one of his or her anecdotes:
Years ago the anime club I attend was showing the first season of Code Geass. We were screening an episode toward the end of the series when a latecomer sat down and the following conversation ensued:
"What episode is this?"
"It's episode [whatever]."
"Oh, that's right -- [major character] is still alive."
... which thoroughly pissed off the entire audience.
Well I'd say that was actually a relatively spoiler-free spoiler discussion. With the exception of the huge One Piece spoiler though. Hopefully you skipped it if you're sensitive to this sort of thing and you won't send me angry emails about it.
Speaking of emails! Here's next week's Answerfans:
Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.
For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.
Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.
That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I have so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.
Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!
Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.
We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.
Things To Do:
* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.
Things Not To Do:
* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.
I'm outta time and outta breath, so I'll see you all next week! Remember to send me stuff at answerman((at!))animenewsnetwork.com! So long!
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