Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Work work work work. I am boring this week. Except for that night I sort of broke and ended up driving to San Diego for a night. That was kind of fun.
I've been following anime sales for quite a while (mostly thanks to jmal of someanithing.com). One thing about anime sales is that, particularly in the case of late-night anime, for a number of years now, BDs have sold a lot more than DVD, to the point that some anime (such as Fate/Zero and Wake Up, Girls!) no longer have DVD releases. However, this apparent boom in BD sales, from what I've read, appears to be (for now at least) limited to late-night anime: in Japan, the bulk of sales from kids anime, and other mainstream releases (such as movies, dramas) still come from DVDs (although BDs are catching up quickly). My question is: how and why did this trend happen? How come late-night anime are more popular on Blu-rays, whereas everything else is more popular on DVDs?
You have to remember two things about late night anime: it's aimed at adults, and those adults are otaku. Otaku are super-fans. They want everything in the BEST POSSIBLE, ULTIMATE, ARCHIVE-LEVEL quality you can get. You can bet they own Blu-ray players, and the second 4K Blu-ray comes out, they'll own a player for that too. Late night anime only needs to sell a few thousand units, and these guys will snap up those few thousand units on Blu-ray and everyone will be happy.
More mainstream shows attract more mainstream people. Kids who want One Piece or Bleach discs tend to not really care so much about image quality, they want something affordable that they can take to their friends' house. So they'll go for the DVD. Shows like Gundam Unicorn, which sells to old-school fans who probably don't pay that much close attention to anime anymore? They're probably older, less obsessive, and only have a DVD player. Or don't know and don't care. You know, like most parents.
These are broad stereotypes of course, but they probably apply to at least 95% of the buying public in Japan. Not everyone cares about image quality, not everyone can tell the difference between a DVD or Blu-ray, not everyone has bothered to upgrade their equipment in the last five years. Being an ultra-hardcore video nerd (by trade), I don't understand that either, but that's where they're at.
But the people who will drop several hundred dollars on several new otaku-only shows every season? If they're that into collecting, you can bet they probably own a Blu-ray player. I mean, heck, even in Japan players can be had for as little as ¥9,000 on Amazon. (And you might be able to find 'em even cheaper in Akihabara.)
How do you feel about screeners? I've heard some people argue that screeners are problematic because reviewers end up "owing" publishers good reviews, in some form or other. Yet, every mainstream review source--your OtakUSAs, your ANNs, your what-have-yous--use them. Does the dependence upon screeners affect reviews in some way? Thanks for your time.
In an age where people can pirate shows at any time, I don't think critics "owe" the publisher anything when they get screeners. Screeners cost the publisher very little, and in return, they get press and online discussion generated about their new release. Sometimes that makes sense to companies, and sometimes that doesn't. Regardless, whether or not they want to send the screener is up to the publisher. They can stop at any time, and while critics can ask for them (especially at major sites), the publisher is under absolutely no obligation to send them out.
Your question implies that having the anime on disc presents some sort of irresistible value to the critic. I would argue -- quite vehemently -- that the opposite is usually true. When you're a regular critic, the pile of stuff you get to write about builds up pretty quick, and the vast majority of it you would never, ever want to own. It ends up being a liability: you have this giant stack of mediocre discs you would never buy sitting in your house, and you have no clue what to do with it all.
No, the only time getting that firehose of anime on discs is actually a good thing is when you finally get one that does turn out to be a show you love. And in that case, you were already going to give it a good review anyway, so not having to buy it doesn't matter. The opposite is also true: if I was still writing reviews and someone gave me a disc of, oh, say, Girls Bravo? I would just get mad. I don't want that thing! I don't need that in my house. And I sure as hell don't want to have to poop out a review of it! And all that stuff in the middle I'm indifferent to? Well, again, having that stuff isn't really that appealing, since you'll likely never watch it again.
Once upon a time, I thought it'd be a great idea to get myself put on screener lists. Then when I started Anime News Network and was the sole person writing for the site, I managed to get on a few of them. Mind you, I was still living with my parents at the time. What is the first screener I get? Cool Devices, courtesy of Right Stuf. (It was followed shortly after by Twisted Tales of Tokyo from CPM and Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Returns from ADV. It's a miracle I didn't just scrap the site right then and there.)
Then, a few years later, when I called my mom to tell her I got the job at Central Park Media, she said, "That's great, honey! ...Wait a second, isn't that the company that used to send you all that really terrible porn?"
It seems that we are at end to an 'era' of anime. Moe is on the decline, One Piece sales are going down, and as of yet there doesn't seem to a replacement for this genre/show in the future. So would is be a jump to conclusions to say that this decade long 'era' is reaching to a close? Recently there have been more mainstream anime with Space Dandy and Attack on Titan. Are these a blip on the radar, or could they be signs of a news era of anime?
Eh. Eras are something that can really only be defined in retrospect, years after the fact. It's true, the same old formulaic otaku-bait moe shows aren't attracting the nerds like they used to, but a lot of the things moe brought to the table, including some of the less out-there character design influences and stories involving cute girls doing nothing in particular except maybe getting a little hot for each other but never acting on it... That stuff is still around.
As for One Piece being on the decline, I don't know that this is actually happening. The graphic novels still sell like hotcakes, the movies are still hotly anticipated marketing affairs, and you can still buy lots of One Piece stuff all over Japan. Maybe it's not QUITE as big a deal as it was at its peak, but these things tend to be cyclical anyway. Pokémon seemed like it was dying off for a while too, after all.
Maybe we are at the end of an era, who knows. It's too early to tell. Wait 5 years, it'll be a little clearer then.
In your opinion, what reason would there be to that Viz Media aired Blue Dragon's 2nd season dubbed on Cartoon Network Pakistan? Also, why is that sometimes licensing prevents Viz Media from streaming both the sub and dub versions of their shows (Blue Dragon falls under this though both series have their subbed versions on the site)?
I am not privy to whatever's going on with Blue Dragon and its rights. That said, if there was anything coming from the Japan end of things that would make it so that the dubbed version couldn't be put online, it would affect the subtitled version as well. (There are a handful of shows that involve an unreasonably powerful voice actor of musical person in Japan that can't get released in the US in any reasonable way, but such things wouldn't affect the dub.)
No, if Viz is holding back the dub from streaming for some reason, it's likely because some other party is interested or has licensed the dubbed version, but aren't currently doing anything with it. This has happened a few times over the course of anime history -- a TV network or somesuch will pay money to license a show exclusively, and then change their minds and just sit on it. The US publisher can still do something with the subtitled version, but if the dub was licensed exclusively for broadcast somewhere, they're out of luck until that contract runs out.
As for why Cartoon Network Pakistan is airing it, I have absolutely no clue. Perhaps Cartoon Network licensed that dub for worldwide release, but only their Pakistan network thought it was worth airing. We have no way of knowing, but that's a pretty likely scenario.
Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap, and check out his bi-weekly column on obscure old stuff, Pile of Shame.