Koichiro Natsume - Page 2by Christopher Macdonald and Justin Sevakis, Dec 19th 2012
Regarding the Aniplex-label artists, why did you decide to brand the artists with your own label?
There are only three Aniplex-label artists so far. Among them, Lisa originally wanted to be a rock artist; she went through a lot of hard work getting where she is; she started really small, at small-scale live houses, those that would seat fifty or less. She's been serious with her music, but at the same time, her style is very compatible, and has a lot of respect in regards to anime.
Of the other two, one is a voice-actor, Kana Hanazawa, she's a very popular voice-actress, she would be counted as one of the five most popular voice-actresses these days. The third artist (Marina Kawano) was in college until last year, she won in the anime song contest, and so she became a recording artist under us. The one element that's common to these three artists are their compatibility that they have with anime, as well as the respect that they have for anime works, and this is something different from existing label artists. We've always wanted to have such artists that would be available to us.
The management teams and the people that they work with, are those entirely Aniplex staff, or are they SMJ staff just labelled as Aniplex?
Lately Aniplex has been producing blu-rays in Japan with English subtitles, and you've been selling them in North America with adjusted prices. They've included a lot of the packaging from Japan but translated to English. Has this practice been successful for you?
Starting with the result, yes, this has been a success. I believe you are referring to the blu-ray boxes of Fate/Zero and Garden of Sinners; sales have exceeded our initial expectations, and many more customers have been buying these products.
You were surprised by the success of Kara no Kyokai ?
This is a relatively new business model. What kind of lessons have you learned from doing this?
Normally there is always a timelag between the Japanese customer base and the American customer base, but by taking this simul-release model, the packages were airlifted and actually the shipping cost was very expensive, but the simultaneous release was made possible. This is something that we wish we could do with every single title, but even within the Japanese domestic market, most TV shows are released as individual volume releases, and this is a battle against time, so it's not possible to do “simul.”
I believe this was a project that was made possible with Fate/Zero and Garden of the Sinners and something from another company, Gundam Unicorn, because these were box releases that had ample preparation time, and that was the only reason we could do it. And so, if we have a similar opportunity in the future, we'd be very happy to attempt a Japanese/North American simul-release.
The traditional logic has always been that the North American market requires less expensive releases, drastically less expensive. Do you feel that your results with these titles prove that that's either incorrect or not always the case?
Seeing how our box-sets did, this is going to be patting ourselves on the shoulder a bit, but we've confirmed that for collectors, for fans, that cheap isn't always what they're seeking, that production value does matter, and packaging is something that they care about.
These titles have been very successful with the core market, with the collectors, as you said, because they want something of quality. But are you worried that you are limiting yourselves to existing fans, and that with these titles, you're not growing the market?
Of course, we are a business and we do want a broader base to our products, and more fans to be there for Japanese animation. But this will take some time, and we have to consider what sort of format and timing that we're going to go with, but the broader base accessible line is something that we certainly have in mind. And one such example would be The Garden of Sinners DVD box.
What trends in new anime productions are you seeing, in terms of subject matter and demographic?
I don't personally feel any one strong trend, but for a long time anime used to be based just on manga, but recently the base work, that anime is based on, have been diversified to other media, such as light novels, PC games, or just plain original anime. The diversification of sources is something that I do see as a trend.
Do you feel that the diversification of source material is something that's going to provide growth, by bringing in fans of those original materials?
Yes, and I think that is evident.
How much potential or importance do you put in the North American market right now? And do you still think there's opportunity?
North America, Europe and Asia – each of them have a market size that would be one-third each; they're equivalent to each other in importance. But among them, North America is a market that uses one single language, English, and it has a population that's double that of Japan. So North America is a very important market to us, and in fact the U.S. is the only country where we actually have our own branch company, Aniplex of America. And it's a country where multiple anime conventions are held throughout the year. Aniplex of America staff go to these conventions, either to exhibit or to do promotional activities. So we strongly hope that these efforts would lead to the Aniplex brand being known and receiving better support from fans, as well as fans discovering related artists such as Lisa under the Aniplex label.
And also, the markets for packaged products such as DVDs and CDs is shrinking in North America as well, but we can still count on the North American market as a place where legitimate, proper products (non bootlegs) can be counted on being purchased. And the same applies to streaming and net-casting.
What do you consider Aniplex's speciality as a producer and are there any directions you would like to pursue, take the company in the future?
I think one thing we have is organization. We are probably the top in terms of quality as well as quantity of anime producers. Not only production but in terms of promotion, I think we have the top number and quality of promotional staff. And we have the best profit divisions such as overseas marketing, domestic merchandising, streaming, as well as package sales of all the companies. I believe – this ends up in being self-praise again, but I think we are the top company in Japan that has the drive and organization when it comes to making anime.
Interview transcribed by Andrew Osmond of ANN UK
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