Anime Economics 101
by Brian Hanson,
Hey everyone! Welcome back to my little cranny of the internet, wherein I dispense ill-gotten advice and generally act a fool, for the amusement of none, save myself. Good to be back!
For those few of you who might be curious about some of the other projects I align myself with in this crazed digital universe, I recently had a guest shot on Dumm Comics, which is quite an honor for a horrid cartoonist like myself to have my "work" (cough, hack) featured alongside actual artists and cartoonists. Warning! Contains one (1) swear word. (SPOILER ALERT: The swear word is the "F" word.)
Recently a friend has been educating me on Hollywood accounting and how original artists end up being paid very little or nothing at all. Does a similar system apply to anime and manga as well? I frequently buy stuff because I believe in supporting the industry, but how much of my money goes where?
...eesh. An answer to that question would probably require access to a manga or anime artist's specific contract, and good luck getting a hold of that. Or, perhaps, a manga or anime artist stupid enough to speak publicly about their contract, which would thereby breach and promptly terminate said contract.
So, no, we don't have specific data, but! There have been enough anonymous surveys floating around that we can sort of get a decent idea of how much your hard-earned dollar goes towards supporting your favorite artists. The answer: shockingly little!
The main reason for that, honestly, is because the goods you're purchasing are - most likely - domestic products, such as English manga volumes translated, printed, and sold in the US, or DVDs that have been re-authored, subtitled or dubbed, pressed, and shipped to your Region 1 DVD player. Most of the money you pay for that manga volume or DVD goes towards covering those costs, with a small, trifling amount of that $9.99 per manga volume or $29.99 per DVD heading slowly back to Japan, being meted out in licensing fees and such to the Japanese rights-holder before being dispersed in even smaller quantities back to the artists who originally made the thing in the first place.
It's not an ideal situation by any means, and it's certainly no secret that most of Japan's animators not named Hayao Miyazaki or manga artists not named CLAMP are begging for better benefits and royalties regarding their work. Unfortunately, just in case you missed the memo, the US market for anime nearly died a sad, ignoble death a couple of years ago, and the companies that are still around desperately need your money so that they can actually keep releasing this stuff. Ergo, the foreign markets aren't really much of a concern for most of Japan's non-famous anime and manga auteurs; they'd be much happier with, say, a slice of the always-profitable merchandising rights, instead of having them gobbled away by their publishers. That's where the real money is in this industry - none of this US DVD and graphic novel stuff.
Though, in case this is all coming off as some kind of horribly negative answer, so let it be said that at least A VERY SMALL, PERHAPS INFINITESIMAL AMOUNT of your money is ACTUALLY going towards supporting the artists that you like. As opposed to, y'know, leeching them from the internet. Which brings nobody zero money forever.
I have been in an area with very limited internet access for over two years and now that I'm using it again I have been thoroughly enjoying all the streaming anime that is legally available. I have a question, however: I understand why companies like Funimation are eager to stream the shows they've licensed as quickly as possible, racing their less-than-legal competition; but I'm curious as to what the benefits really are for them. It's nice to be able to watch the shows I want to see without worrying about using a shady site, but are those companies really pulling any kind of profits from the advertising? Or have these legal streams resulted in more DVD sales? It makes me wonder, after reading about how Crunchyroll broke even for one month, and how Hulu isn't really all that much of a money-maker: what's the benefit?
The benefit? Well, the hope certainly is that it leads to more DVD sales, but unfortunately the data hasn't come in yet to suggest that's the case one way or the other. Regardless, there's a certain cachet to having a way for consumers to legally "sample" your wares before investing in a pricey DVD set. Think of it, like, a TV broadcast. Look at Kekkaishi on Adult Swim, for example. The ratings are, supposedly, "decent enough" according to Viz, but still it's an anime airing at midnight on a Saturday night on cable. Advertising rates aren't really going to make anybody rich on that show. But, it certainly gets the show out to enough potential viewers that it is, hopefully, able to start a sort of avalanche of demand that leads to higher DVD sales. And for shows that air on TV, increased DVD sales are a proven fact; look at how well stuff like Trigun sold on DVD before and after its Adult Swim run. That's a pretty compelling argument, right there.
Streaming, though, isn't at all as widespread yet as even a poorly-promoted Adult Swim airing, and that's streaming video's biggest problem. There's an abundance of content available on demand, for free, and yet the average viewership isn't at all where it should be, across Funimation and Crunchyroll and everywhere else, really. Part of that is still the ever-present specter of piracy, sadly, but the benefit of something like Adult Swim is that it grabs viewers outside of the anime fans and reaches just a tiny bit into the mainstream. That's where streaming video should be, but of course, isn't. That's where everyone wants it to be (well, everyone who isn't in charge of a TV network at least), and that's what everyone's trying to figure out at the moment. It's a forward-thinking strategy, at the least, so while Crunchyroll is trying to find methods of making internet streaming a profitable enterprise in and of itself, Funimation is just as happy to have it around simply as a means of advertisement for their DVDs.
Did Funimation put themselves in a bind during AX? What I mean by that is that they licensed the Black Lagoon OVA, Shakugan no Shana 2, Movie and the OVA, and more Hellsing Ultimate, all of which have previous dubs that are beloved and not by Funimation. So it seems they've left themselves with two options:
1) Dub in-house to save money, but probably lose a good amount of sales and receive some heavy backlash (well, more than usual).
2) Hook up with Ocean and New Gen Pictures to get consistent dubs to please the fanbase and hope these sell enough to cover the cost of outsourcing.
I know Funi has done outsourcing before with Tenchi and most recently Slayers, but they weren't announced at the same time and expected be out on shelves within a year or so. And apparently Funi and Ocean have "bad blood" that could probably make things awkward if true. It just seems like outsourcing three dubs to two companies at or around the same time when you typically do them yourselves is a big investment nowadays that may not pay off. Then again, saving money by doing it in-house may not pay off either if people aren't interested without the original dub casts.
To the eyes of just a fan like myself who has no knowledge of the inside workings of anime, It's kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation, and those are never good.
Well, the one thing I'll point out, first of all, is that dubbing things in-house isn't simply a way to save a few bucks on dubbing something. In fact, outsourcing is usually cheaper all around. Funimation keeps their dubs in-house for the most part because, honestly, they like to keep just about everything in house. They have their own DVD and Blu Ray authoring department, for God's sakes. It allows them to keep every aspect of their productions very, very close to their vest, and maintain a greater sense of control over their properties.
Anyway, on to the specific titles at hand, um: I don't necessarily think it's been proven that a title has ever "lost sales" because of inconsistencies in the dubbing studios. It angries up the ardent fans, sure, but they still buy the damn things. And, yes, I get it, maintaining a sense of continuity is a good thing. I mean, I'm sorry to all fifteen of you who actually saw The Incredible Hulk who are sad that Edward Norton won't be reprising his sleepy Bruce Banner in the Avengers movie, but, YOU'LL STILL WATCH THE MOVIE, AND PAY TO SEE IT.
As for the specific titles themselves, well, I'm okay with Ocean's dub of Black Lagoon, I never saw Shakugan no Shana, and of course I dig the crap out of the Hellsing dub, and I'll be sad if Funimation decides to re-cast it, but... you know what? I'm a live-and-let-live kind of guy, so I like to just judge things on their own merits, when they come. Those titles were just announced, so those releases are still a ways away. It's conjecture, and don't get me wrong it's good conjecture, but it's sort of pointless to speculate about all these things so soon after they've merely been announced. We all know that Funimation treats their dub announcements like a beaming mother with their "Proud Parent of a Child On the Honor Roll" bumper sticker, so just give it a few months and you'll have a press release addressing this exact issue.
Besides, sometimes swearing fealty to the original dub is just a bad, terrible idea. We ought to remember well Manga's dubs of the original Evangelion movies. Shudder, shudder.
OH COME ON
Im full of manga/anime ideas that i feel will work. How do I get my ideas into manga/anime? Can you recomend a good licensing and distributor.
As I'm sure you guessed by the above banner that says "Hey Answerfans," it's time for Hey, Answerfans! Last week, seven days ago, I asked for all you collectors and connoisseurs to come together and tell me your grief, your joy, your rancor, your toil:
Lucy begins our discussion tonight by making it sound as though she's in a self-help group, and maybe she is:
Three things motivate me above all else to keep my anime/manga collection growing: fear, guilt, and good bargains.
My greatest fear is that my favorite series will go out of publication before I get my grubby little hands on them. That is how I started collecting Rurouni Kenshin. I was so worried (irrtionally or not) that because the series was "old", it would soon go out of publication. It didn't help that my internet was down and I was unable to buy them online. So the moment I was able to get to a decent book store, I searched for the series. Seven tankoban sets and a few normal volumes later, I was able to calm down. I finally had most of my prize. I'm still missing a few volumes, and wake up with nightmares because of it some nights.
Sometimes guilt motivates me too. Rarely, but enough that I can put it as a reason here. Like when I heard that Tokyo Pop was dropping Samurai Deeper Kyo four volumes away from the end, I thought it was all my fault because I'd been reading scanlations and borrowing copies from friends. "What if I had bought the series myself? Maybe they would have continued if one more fan had bought a copy. It is all my fault! NO!!!" Of course, all these ridiculous conclusions that I jump to are caused by the inner anime geek in me. I'm not an idiot, really. The little freak in my head is, but not me! ^_^
Besides, I bought volumes 1-34 used on Ebay a few weeks after my panic attack, so it wouldn't have really mattered anyway. Shh, don't tell my conscience.
The final thing that motivates me are good deals coughgreedcough. Take my SDK set for example again. Instead of paying $10 each for new copies, I got a practically new set for only $5 each. It was still a bunch of cash, admittedly. Usually more than I like to spend at one time on anything. But, again, that inner geek wouldn't let me sleep without it. And so I caved.
I also recently bought all four seasons of Yu Yu Hakusho thanks to an advertisement on your site. Thanks for that, by the way. My inner anime geek collaborated with my inner money hoarder and convinced it that I'd never find so great a deal again. So the two ganged up on me. They were right: $20 per season is way better than $60+. And they were brand new. One of the best deals ever, all thanks to the little voices. You do the math on how much I've saved and tell me if I'm crazy.
Sean's war of attrition may yet reach a standstill:
With regards to my somewhat sizeable anime DVD collection for some time I lived with another anime fan with a pretty large disposable income. Often during sales we would place simultaneous large orders. I think somewhere in the back of our minds there was a definite sense of one-up-manship going on, that culminated in single orders in excess of $500 each. Bear in mind this would go on for weeks, even months at a time, as various retailers and studios would have their respective sales. Also, this was during the period when there was a ton of new anime was being released on DVD (just prior to the Geneon fiasco - and even that resulted in a buying frenzy on both of our parts) and plenty of new titles coming out all the time. I'll admit, not my best time ever.
Subsequently, I donated a lot of the DVDs & manga I picked up to our local anime club. Yet to this day the collection is large enough that it resides in three seperate areas all across the house, due to space.
An ode to J.C., keeper of the Fushigi Yuugi artifact:
I've been - quite pointlessly - collecting Fushigi Yuugi merch since about 2002. In 2001, I was forced to watch anime and my first love ephemeral obsession was FY. Discovering anime led to a whole new group of friends, interests, and career opportunities; it also made living in Texas way less boring. Looking back on anything Fushigi Yuugi brings me great nostalgia. I also keep collecting it because I know it's finite. The original Fushigi Yuugi is gone and done except for an occasional repackaging or tie-in with the prequel, Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden (which I don't collect). I know pretty much all of whats out there, what is a reasonable price for it, and I have all the time in the world to accumulate it all. My most prized item is the issue of Sho-Comi that first ran Fushigi Yuugi in 1992 - it took me five years to find it!
Geekery, nerdity, dorkocity, whatever it is, Ruth:
I'd like to say first that anime *is* an addiction, you can't stop once you start, it's expensive, and it changes your life. What keeps me collecting is my always growing passion for anime, and all its crazy details. Let's use my "gateway anime", Eva, as my example, because it really started there. I love Evangelion, so first it was the set on VHS, then the set on DVD, then the Perfect Collection, then the Platinum Collection, 3 or 5 soundtrack CDs; then I thought, hey, why not some Revoltech action figures? Then a friend gave me a wall scroll, then I got some gashapon when I was in Tokyo, then figurines, and so on and so on. An Eva 01 wristband? Awesome! NERV logo flip-flops? Yes, please! Of course my whole anime collection was growing over the years too, and as I discovered new shows to love, I got scrolls and figures and keychains and plushies and bags and cels for some of my other most beloved, as well. Then 'suddenly', I wake up after 10+ years of obsessive anime fandom and realize I have a room that would put the Genshiken club room to shame! To me, my collection represents my lifestyle, my choice of entertainment, and a celebration of my favorite moments, characters, and details of an experience that hit home to me like no other kind of media ever has. So every time I find a new show I love, I'll probably have at least one or two character goods added to my intimidating shelves or overcrowded walls. Geekery, perhaps, but passionately so!
Heenz feels less than lucky:
I have a sick, sick addiction to those little blind boxes Japan loves to torment me with. It never fails - if there are 10 characters in a set, and I like all but one of them, I will get that one. Any series at all. I have a whole shelf of rejects, characters I hate and never wanted, that I keep just to remind myself of my failure and to never spend money on them ever again. And yet, at every con, I buy four or five of them, and cry myself to sleep when I end up with three Lao and no Grell. I can't stop buying them, because I know if I buy JUST ONE MORE, it will be something I want. So I will keep buying more, until they stop making them, or I die penniless with my collection of failures.
Ben collects fan-art, he does. And lots of it. Boy howdy:
Some people collect autographs, some people collect anime cels.
Me? I collect fan art.
That's right. Fan-made illustrations.
Ever since childhood, I've been fascinated by non-professional artists' renditions of characters, ranging from the well-known to "good luck finding it on Google" obscure. And yet, despite having a very vivid imagination, my own artistic skills haven't advanced much past the third grade. Thus, I thought to myself a decade ago (to quote Homer Simpson's campaign slogan for sanitation commissioner), "Can't someone else do it?", and at Otakon 2002, I'd find my answer. Running through Artists Alley, I noticed a sign by a artist who I was familiar with saying that she would take commissions. Without a second thought, I requested an illustration of four King of Fighters characters based on a fanfic I started writing earlier that year. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the illustration was (and to this day, remains) unfinished, but it was still quite lovely. This, in turn, kick-started my addiction to commissioned fan art (I figured that if I could find the right artist at future conventions, no idea of mine would be too outrageous). My fan art fanaticism also produced some of the best anime convention memories ever (which should've been in last week's Hey Answerfans, but wasn't due to time constraints).
At that same Otakon in 2002, I noticed an artist who shared the same name as one of my most frequent eBay customers. I thought to myself, "Nah, it's only a coindence", but took a business card anyways (in case I had any future fan art ideas). Lo and behold, months later, after purchasing a couple items, I asked her if she was the same person who had a table at Otakon 2002, and she said yes. Fast-forward to March 2003. Light on cash, I proposed a trade to her: one Final Fantasy VI/KOF/Evangelion illustration doujinshi, one Guilty Gear doujinshi, and one Guilty Gear X pencilboard in exchange for an illustration based on the same KOF fanfic I had mentioned earlier. (Before I continue, yes, I used to collect regular doujinshi [because you can't swing a dead cat around without hitting a hentai or yaoi doujinshi], as well as anime cels, but that's another story for another column.) Long story short, the deal was approved, she got a couple nicely-illustrated doujinshi, and I got one of my favorite fan art pieces ever.
A few years go by, and I continue with the same pattern at various anime cons (find the right artist, have them tackle my newest outrageous idea for the most reasonable price, get the illustration, smile). At Katsucon 2005, however, little did I know that I would set in motion a plan that would have a huge payoff. I came upon a couple artists whom I had done business with a few months earlier (at Anime USA 2004) and decided to pitch them my idea: have Ed, Winry and Alphonse from Fullmetal Alchemist, plus Sosuke and Kaname from Full Metal Panic, dress up as characters from SNK's classic shooter Metal Slug. They agreed, and a few days later, "Full Metal Slug" was born. Needless to say, the illustration looked awesome, but the real kicker would come nine months later, at Anime USA 2005. While there, I noticed that Vic Mignogna, Caitlin Glass and Chris Patton were signing autographs. Throwing caution to the wind, I asked all three of them to sign my "Full Metal Slug" illustration. I explained to them that while I wasn't the one who drew it, I did come up with the idea, and after explaining who was who (Ed = Marco, Kaname = Fio, etc.), I got all three of their autographs (Vic said he "loved it", which was awesome). Greg Ayres and Hillary Haag were also at the same table, and while none of their characters were represented in the aforementioned illustration, I did have a "Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu?!" boxed set for them to sign, thus marking the first and only time to date I got five people to autograph one item. (Two years later, at Anime USA 2007, I got Luci Christian to autograph "Full Metal Slug", but the back story behind it was more straightforward and dull.)
Years go by, and I continue to accumulate my bold ideas in fan art form (with my most recent ideas including a fight between characters from Bleach and Yu Yu Hakusho entitled "School Rumble" and a stare-down between the girls of School Rumble and Azumanga Daioh called "School Rumble Daioh!"). To this day, I keep an assortment of Post-It notes at the ready to jot down my ideas should they hit me either before, during or after an anime convention. So, if there are any fan artists out there willing to tackle ideas formed from my ever-rampant imagination (like Puchi Carat's Peridot and Shyst cosplaying as Eclair and Lumiere from Kiddy Grade, Nono from Gunbuster 2/Diebuster glomping Machine Man from NEXTWAVE, or a mammoth Sorcerer Hunters/Those Who Hunt Elves crossover entitled "Those Who Hunt Sorcerers"), then I say bring it on! (But only if the price is right.)
And now to put a definitive cap on this whole song and dance, Professor Bill Ellis would like to discuss his many sundry goods:
A sick obsession? Geekery? Surely nothing more?
Heh. I'll put it in a single word: fetish.
Ahhh, Herr Freud would say, I knew it all along. My mother wouldn't let me see her naked, and so I satisfy my repressed Oedipal desires with the gleam of cel paint on acetate and the sweet smell (yesssssssssss) of trace line fumes that emerges every time I tenderly change their cel bags and feel their nylon contours beneath the white gloves I wear. And I won't talk about what it's like to remove yellowing celotape from sick sketches, except to say that it feels good.
No, no. As an academic I have to point out that a fetish doesn't necessarily have to do with sex or motherhood. (It helps, but it's not necessary.) A fetish is an object that captures the dynamic quality of a memorable experience. The little rock I carry in my change purse reminds me of the hot July 4th that I visited Henry David Thoreau's gravesite. The brick on my bookcase reminds me of the great final scenes of "Blair Witch Project," as it was scavenged from the dilapidated house used as the movie set. And the cels and sketches in my collection remind me of artistically fine moments from animated movies and TV series that I have loved. They are all unique objects. They all come from the very spots charged with the energy of the creators. And they all, by the principle of fetishism, contain a drop of charisma from the creators they celebrate.
Maybe more than a drop. At my university campus, I once hosted a display of some of my art, including a series of dougas, or animating sketches, from one of the CGI episodes of "Inuyasha." A youngster familiar with the show from "Adult Swim" looked at them for a long time, then turned to me and said, "You draw Inuyasha very well." I smiled and corrected the lad: "That's not a drawing of Inuyasha, that IS Inuyasha. The studio that made the series scanned that sheet of paper and digitally colorized it to make one of the episodes." The boy looked again at the sketches and frowned a little thoughtful frown.
Of course, a sketch or cel of a character is not the same as a living, breathing human, yokai, or alien. But to the extent that these characters can exist in our world, these sketches or cels are the way they can. As unique images, photographed and put into action by the animation studios, these pieces of art ARE the way that our imaginations are stretched and intrigued. They are more than objects related to anime, like pencil boards, figurines, etc. They really are magical shards of something that we admire and love.
That's a good academic definition of "fetish" btw.
And now! Here's the question for next week! I probably should have included a caveat about "Inception," but, well... I'm too lazy to edit the image. So here you go!
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.
That's all, it's over! Onward to your lives and loved ones and whatever else. But if you happen to have a question or an Answerfans answer start percolating in the meantime, remember to jot it down and send it to answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Catch you all later!
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