Hey, Answerman! - SOPA Cabana

by Brian Hanson, Jan 20th 2012

Greetings, everyone! Welcome to Hey, Answerman!

Right now the internet is embroiled in the SOPA and PIPA imbroglio - and we'll get to that eventually with all of your Hey, Answerfans answers and such. In the midst of all this chatter and discussion - and you can find ANN's own position on the matter here - I thought it would be nice to, in a way, sort of... distance from that hot button topic a bit, and just go along with some general questions as per usual. And, because my readers are all damn wonderful, I've got some! So here we go:

Hey Answerman,

After reading this article from the LA Times about binge, or marathoning TV shows on websites like Netflix and their upcoming original series like "Lilyhammer" and "House of Cards" that will have all the episodes available at once, I wondered, how would this model affect the viewing habits and the structure of anime? I've marathoned my fair share of programing on Netflix. Is this a good or bad development for anime? It seems, given that most anime run between 13 and 26 episodes with a continuous storylines, they would be tailored made for this model. However, content streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, as far as I know, has not really caught on in Japan as it has here. If it did, would we see new anime series transition to the web in the vain of "House of Cards"?

Expanding on that question: eventually Hulu and Netflix want to expanding into countries like Japan, so when they start streaming partnerships there, what does that do to sites like Crunchyroll, and to a larger extent Funimation as these companies take over global markets? Will they cut out the middlemen and stream anime for both Japanese and American viewers? Looking at it in a positive light, would such a development allow better simulcasts? Would the ideal be for anime series to stream online in multiply countries and languages at once proceeding consecutive home video releases in the same territories later on?

The problem here, on just a fundamental level is that... Hulu and Netflix's offerings are live-action shows. That simply means that they are, for the most part, cheaper to make, and faster to produce. Animation, however, has such a long, long lead time, is expensive, and all that. I can't exactly say that I foresee such a situation ever catching on; most animated TV productions are cut together and delivered to their intended studios on such a cramped schedule, that it's often only 100 percent completed down to the literal wire. The only way that such a scenario makes sense, simply in terms of the production, is if the show were really, really short - maybe six episodes - or if it was delivered in multi-episode "chunks" of four or so every two weeks, or month even.

And setting aside that, I and damn near everybody else whose finger is on the pulse of content delivery in Japan can tell you that they are, unequivocally, resistant to change. Occasionally it's justified, but it's often to their own detriment. The simple fact is, is that most anime releases make most of their money through (overpriced, one-to-two episode per-disc) DVD and Blu Ray releases. In the same sense that Japanese licensors worry extensively about "reverse importation" and region-blocking, I cannot imagine a scenario where any of them would entertain the notion of uploading every episode, for free, simultaneously. "Why would anyone then bother spending 6400 yen on four Blu Rays when we're giving it to them for free?" they would ask.

Though as screwed as the situation is in Japan, I kind of feel like here, in the West but especially here in America, such a scenario is kind of unavoidable. I don't think this is an "experiment" at all, what Hulu and Netflix are doing. It only makes sense. They've done their research, they've seen all the data about the viewing habits of their users. Their users marathon things at their leisure. Every month or so, they'll plow through several hours' worth of episodes and then come back to it the next time they've got some time on their hands. I do it, my friends do it, everyone does it. This isn't some big gamble that these two titans of streaming content are taking - they're simply following along with their audience.

And though Hulu and Netflix certainly have larger global ambitions in their sights, publishers and licensors of Japanese anime have essentially been treating their biggest fans and most ardent supporters like battered wives for over a decade now. Hardcore Otaku know, deep down, that they're being overcharged, over saturated, and generally treated poorly in regards to pricing, delivery, and other things that we here in the West take for granted. But they still love them, right? I mean those K-ON! shirts and figurines and special editions are so cute. In a way they can't really help themselves - as much as I'm sure they want a paradigm shift to occur, they're constantly being sated by reams of merchandise and pandering content that so directly appeals to their inner soul. Us Westerners, of course, never had that sense of undying loyalty, so now streaming is the thing and everything else is just a bonus.

So no, for what we all consider your "traditional" anime series, i.e. one that is 12 to 26 episodes long and hits at least two or three Otaku bases, I cannot imagine them making such a quick transition to web-only streaming. However! In a way I think this would be a very brave opportunity for something a little... off the beaten path, let's say, to pick up the slack. Much in the same way that OAVs were all the rage in the 80's and 90's, offering either unique and bizarre shows with smaller episode counts (FLCL and such) or spinoffs of extant series (virtually every popular anime series until about 1998 had an OAV episode or two), I can totally see Web streaming services as the proper vehicles for such a thing. The budgets certainly won't be as high as they were during the salad days of the dominance of home video, but it's the perfect delivery system for content that's a little offbeat or a little more daring.

Although I can't say I'm completely optimistic that such a thing will ever actually happen. But it's nice to want things.

Hey Answerman,

I was wondering about US manga cancellations and suspensions. I was a reader of Strawberry 100% and was shocked when Vol. 15 was de-listed from pre-ordering. I finally was able to talk to VIZ at NYCC this year and they said that no future releases are on their horizon. My big problem with this is that there were 14 out of 19 volumes released. That's very far into a series. The same thing happened to Suzuka when Kodansha took over from Del Rey. But when Gintama was ceased, Viz made a big announcement. So the bigger question I have is why don't US companies update on the status of releases, or better yet, tell readers that they have cancelled a license more than half-way through a run?

See, here's the thing with that - Viz is, commendably, setting a bold new trend here. As I've mentioned before, companies love to speak at length about their successes - shows that sell boatloads of copies, manga that make the bestseller lists, things of that nature. Same with anyone else, really. We all love it when things are going well when people ask and we get to tell them about it. When things aren't going according to plan? Ehh. We'd rather, y'know... we'd rather not talk about it.

I mean, for a recent example, it took an honest to God letter writing campaign to force Nintendo to admit last year that they had "no plans" to release a trio of high-profile Japanese RPGs. Before then, though, Nintendo's silence was aggravating, and to many, insulting. Simply from a marketing standpoint, it doesn't necessarily make any sense to keep your most ardent fans and supporters in the dark regarding titles they know they want. I've heard horror stories from other bloggers and reporters about how it's sometimes like pulling teeth too make companies admit that they've cancelled something.

Historically, we've all had to read between the lines about what's not being promoted or talked about to predict what's been given the axe. Hence why everyone was convinced that NBC's Community was cancelled last month, even the show's creators, and it took a powerful executive high up in the network itself to allay everyone's fears. Luckily though, reading the tea leaves a little bit as I am wont to do, it seems like the tide is definitely changing for the better; companies are slowly starting to understand that the more open they are with the fans, the more honest they are... the more supportive and understanding those same fans are. Especially here in the anime realm; as "big" as companies like Viz and Funimation are, they're only really as "big" as the market. And I don't know if any of you know this, but... the market for anime and manga in the West isn't all that big anymore. The tricky part comes in when there's other, bigger companies involved. Like, I dunno, Kodansha. Despite the fact that Viz is essentially owned by two of the biggest Japanese publishers around (Shueisha and Shogagukan), they've been around for decades. They understand the market. They get it. Kodansha hasn't been at the US and Western market for all that long. They haven't put in the hours, so to speak.

Essentially, this issue boils down to companies appealing to their better instincts as opposed to basic human behavior. In the long run, it builds rapport and trust in your audience, at the expense of exposing some unfortunate failures and disappointments. Personally I'm with you and everyone else, as a consumer, that this sort of open dialog in regards to BOTH successes and failures is important. By which I mean that it makes your fans look at you LESS like a monolithic corporate entity, and MORE like an actual business that, in an effort to remain afloat in a troubled market, has to make some complicated decisions. It's one of those things we all know, but modern corporate language tends to do their damnedest to strangle anything that isn't vetted, watered-down, and re-written to be as bland and nonthreatening as possible. Shockingly enough, we, as people, enjoy it when we're treated as people, as adults who are capable of dealing with bad news along with good news.

I was wondering... is it okay to make a fan comic based from an original series that could, in theory, make you popular?

I'm a big fan of Wolf's Rain by Keiko Nobumoto. Then an artist from DeviantArt made a comic loosely based from the original series and has new characters and a new plot titled "Wolf's Rain The Next Generation" by Kristie Zurlo. Unlike the original series, it's a whole different story and adventure, although the original characters made an appearance.

Is it OK to make comics like this and gain popularity for it? DO the original creators think it'll be OK for an American artist to remake Wolf's Rain in their own way?

Personally speaking? Every single creative person on the planet, whether they acknowledge it or not, is absolutely subconsciously or consciously inspired by previous works. It's sort of impossible otherwise. The brain is a sponge for information; it's why a lot of writers and artists will often shelter themselves from the outside world when they're in the midst of working on something, for fear of being "infected" by outside influences.

But anyway. Look, fanfiction and fanart and cosplay and all of these things have been around for decades now, and while certain companies have been less than enthusiastic about it (*coughSunrise*), for the most part, companies and creators think of these things somewhere between "Loving Tribute" and "Harmless Nerdery." And that's because, with few exceptions, no real money ever exchanges hands in any significant amount regarding their copyrighted material. So long as the original artists don't feel cheated out of anything they feel that they're owed, I along with everyone else thinks that it's fine.

See, there's actually a pretty wide gulf separating what's "popular" and what's "profitable." For example! You can write a scummy blog that's far from "popular" but is still "profitable" with only a cursory example of SEO copyrighting. On the other end of the spectrum, you could be somebody like Chris Onstad, who makes Achewood, one of the most popular and beloved webcomics on the planet, which is far from "profitable."

I mean, J.K. Rowling isn't demanding Neil Cicierega's head on a platter because of his Harry Potter Puppet Pals videos. That's because he's cleverly taken Rowling's characters and creatively applied them into something completely different, something that Rowling never really imagined or intended. And that's sort of the key, here - creativity. Only the most ardent of dickheads and terrible people will cry foul and sic their lawyers upon their purported "fans" if they're doing creative, interesting, or funny things with their characters and universe. Most creators, you'll find, are purposefully understanding and supportive of their fans, so long as their intentions are innocuous.

But, in a sense, that's also the Achilles' heel of creative endeavors based upon pre-existing material - you can't really make any money off of them. Morally, at least. Suppose, for example, that "Wolf's Rain: The Next Generation" really takes off. Like, it's huge. Hundreds of thousands of hits and followers and all that. Think of all the money that could be made in the form of merchandising, ad revenue, everything. You can't. Unless, of course, you're a terrible person, and you feel like you can fend off Keiko Nobumoto's and BONES' lawyers somehow.

As far as what Keiko Nobumoto and BONES might specifically think about this... I don't know. And to be honest, I can't imagine a scenario where the two of them are so bereft of activities that they're actively searching for fan-created works in the hopes of squeezing them for a couple of extra bucks. Ms. Nobumoto is a celebrated Japanese screenwriter and BONES is working their collective asses off on several different projects at a time. Neither of them particularly have the time nor the energy to sweep around the dusty corners of the internet in order to VICIOUSLY PUNISH those that have misappropriated their grand artistic vision. And God love 'em for that.

Really, I think the key to making this whole relationship work is a matter of simple respect. The original artists tend to respect the passion and the drive that makes their fans create original works using their world and their characters. So make sure *you* show a little respect in kind. And that means that you don't take any credit that's not yours, and you simply do not accept any money for what you're doing. Unless you're a WGA member and you can make sure that the original author is going to be properly compensated for their work, it's simply downright unethical to make any money, no matter how small and no matter how much work you've put in to outlining your own specific world, off of something that was originally created by somebody else. And by and large, fans are cool with that, and the creators are cool with their fans. Like most things in life, simple human civility can go a long way.

Alright, Answerpeople! Time for me to step off for a second and pass the conversation baton to YOU, the readers! Last week, I thought it was time for a timely question of utter timeliness:

Beginning this week's anti-piracy festivities, B.J. begins with something that he warns is an "incoming wall-o-text" but contains a solution that I wholeheartedly agree with:

While it seems perfectly clear to a lot of people that SOPA and PIPA aren't going to stop piracy (but do a lot of collateral damage in the process), the ideal next question is "What does stop online piracy?" This is a question I've debated with family members and we kind of came to a single answer: CONVENIENCE.

Let's take an average internet Joe Schmoe, capable of managing his facebook account and watching YouTube. Let's say he wants to watch a movie at home, but he hasn't bought a physical copy (VHS, DVD, etc.). Would he rather take up torrenting the movie by trying to dig up a torrent file, making sure it isn't a cam version, making sure it isn't a virus, making sure it's really what he wants, waiting for the files to download, making sure he has the right codecs, just to watch a movie that might not be a decent quality for free. OR would he rather just spend eight bucks a month and just watch the movie on Netflix. The answer is the latter. Convenience is the secret to making money in the first world.

Want another REALLY fierce example? How many of you bike to work because gas is too expensive? Biking is free, but it's hard work, it takes longer, and you're not protected from the elements. Cars are more convenient, and people are still willing to pay ridiculous gas prices so that they can have the comfort of AC and Heaters next to the their music player for their commute. And what if it breaks down? Fixing a bike is much cheaper than fixing anything on a car, and yet we grin and bear the price tag when our transmission goes out. Now I don't want to come across as pointing fingers at anyone for their choice of transportation; I actually ride a local bus system for most of my transit because I can't afford my own car. But I think these are great examples of how powerful the element of convenience can be.

So let's relate this to anime and manga. Anime is easy: CrunchyRoll has been leading a charge towards getting anime legitimately available to fans at a much lower level of effort. They've even created their own conveniences by giving new episode premiers only to premium subscribers for a limited time. Now that everyone seems to be jumping on the simulcast bandwagon, fansubbers are really running out of excuses. In my opinion, there are only two reasons fansubbers should exist at this point: one, to bring new shows that haven't been picked up for simulcast by anyone (COUGH*GUNDAM AGE*COUGH), or to provide older shows that didn't get a chance in the past (COUGH*THE REST OF GUNDAM*COUGH). Of course I'm really referring to just American anime distribution; international distribution is another set of walls that need to be taken down. It's a shame we simply can't just put an official video online and allow everyone to watch it with the option of switching the subtitles to the viewers' preferred language.

Manga is a little more complicated, partially due to my personal preferences. I like my manga in print, and I totally LOVE my local library for having a massive graphic novel section that allows me to read an entire series before deciding to buy my own set. While I'm not foreign to scanlations, reading on a computer screen is not my preference. The other massive issue is transition from print to digital as a whole, thanks to Kindle and the iPad, which has shifted the economy of literature drastically. For now, most manga companies are happy with upfront subscription services or buying digital copies. To be honest, I'd go with a system similar to CrunchyRoll: post the individual chapters online for free (perhaps after a few weeks of Premium Subscribers only), then give me the opportunity to buy the manga as graphic novels in print form, but I highly doubt that will ever happen. I'm sure there's a profitable method through convenience here (and maybe they're already doing it), but I admit that my preferences are probably not the most convenient for companies to pursue.

Looking at it all as a whole, this "BIG FIGHT AGAINST PIRACY" thing seems to stem from a fear of losing control. Media companies have had a lot of control of who sees their products and when they get seen and the internet is breaking their control down. They probably feel that if they don't fight it, their properties are left to the Machinations of Chaos. In essence, they don't trust their consumers, so they come up with methods to try and enforce their trust, only resulting is less trust than before. Now I'm certainly not saying that they should drop it all and let everything be open source forever, but I do think that adapting to change is important and the internet is instigating so much change so quickly that media companies have been left reeling from its effects. That's why SOPA and PIPA exist in the first place: they still want to try and control the internet to mitigate all the change and it's not working, and I doubt it will ever work because the internet is just that powerful. In fact, let me be bold right now and say that the internet is arguably the most important, potent, and powerful invention since the Gutenberg Press. Looking at how it has changed the world so drastically so quickly, it's hard to consider it anything less.

Kyubey, meanwhile, makes this whole conundrum a personal matter:

In one sentence: serve the customer.

Piracy is a complex subject. First of all we have to think on why people pirate. This would get very long if I listed everything, so I'll stick to the main points.

One of the chief factors is whether the content can be obtained legally. Region codes and regional releases ensure that even if I want to, there's a lot of content I can't purchase in a practical manner. And thanks to the industry's wonderful ideas, even if I were to import it, it probably won't play due to a different region code. Practical example: "Puella Magi Madoka Magica" is not available on amazon.co.uk, at all.

Another large factor is which version is more convenient, the pirated one, or the legal one. Currently, the pirated one wins hands down. Pirated content is available with no strings attached, no restrictions, no problems with transcoding or playing in any device I want, no region codes, no unskippable DVD chapters. Commercial content on the other hand seems to want to make things even more annoying. However, pirated content sometimes is inconvenient to obtain. Looking for a file on various networks is less convenient than clicking "Buy".

Yet another factor is whether I like the people involved. Thanks to stunts like Sony vs GeoHot, I completely guarantee that not one my cent of my money will go to anything with Sony's name on it, ever.

So, how to reduce piracy? Solve those problems.

For the first: release content world-wide at the same time, and kill region codes. Make the entire library available, even if it's in Japanese. Create a manga version of Crunchyroll.

For the second: Make it effortless to purchase. Provide content without DRM. Remove unskippable DVD sections, especially those that threaten with jail for piracy (those things make my blood boil, why the hell do I have to sit through a threat after having PAID for the content?). Provide content in a form where I can transocde it and play on any device I want. Stop trying to pass laws like the SOPA. If you annoy me enough I will pass on your content. I can assure you I can live without it.

Additional ideas: Provide alternative ways to give money to the creator. Sell me a Madoka shirt or something, if I can't pay for the DVD. Make it easy for fansubbers to collaborate. I'd have no problems with buying a Japanese Madoka DVD, then loading a subtitles file for it.

What won't work: DRM, laws, and so on. Those do nothing to solve the problems above and ony exacerate them. The more control the industry tries to exercise the more inconvenient their content becomes. The only reason why I buy DVDs at all is because at this point they have no security and I can ignore CSS, region zones and unskippable chapters entirely. I still don't own a BluRay player, and don't plan to until I'm sure it's as cracked as DVD is.

Notice I haven't mentioned money, BTW. Money isn't the problem. Availability of pirated content isn't really problem either. Me being unable to pirate won't result in buying content, because it's simply not available to me.

If the industry manages to lock things down enough, I'm going to find that unacceptable. I guess then I will have to simply will not watch anime at all, and spend the money that would have gone on it on various organizations that work against laws like the SOPA and such insanity.

Robert has a helpful optimism at the end of this:

For piracy, there are three big things that the industry needs to focus on when combating it: putting out a good product, making the product accessible and easily available, and finally, market both the product and the content delivery systems that they use. In order to get people to stop stealing, a company needs to give a reason to not to steal.

In terms of the actual product, this can get a little hazy. Anime is created generally without much input or consideration towards the American viewer. Since there is a difference between the needs and wants of the market they actually make the shows for and the US market, it's understandable that the product will differ to our own desires. Upping the overall quality of the product, however, won't hurt you no matter what the market is.

Content delivery is essentially a part of the product. If it's easier/better to pirate your product than to watch it legally, then there certainly are going to be a lot more people taking that route. This is something that has seen some significant improvement over the last few years. People want timely releases! Good quality video! An intuitive website and a reliable streaming client! We've gotten almost just that with Hulu, Crunchyroll, and to a lesser extent, Youtube. Timeliness is, of course one of, if not the biggest factor here, and unfortunately is not always delivered on. My biggest reason to go to a fansub is that I might get really excited about a show, only to find that I have to wait almost a week before watching because I didn't buy one of those silly gold accounts. Another problem and incidentally a big reason that I might go with an illegal stream is that they're honestly the only place I can go sometimes. I can't express how much this has improved for new shows, but for most older/less popular shows, fansubs or otherwise illegal streams are the only way someone can see them online. It would be awesome to find a high quality stream of Big O so I could show my friend why I loved it so much, but alas the only way I could do that is get a gold account with Hulu. The amount of commercials can be a factor as well, Crunchyroll's four per episode seems rather fair to me, but anything beyond that can detract the experience. (Anyone try to watch Recorder to Randoseru on Crunchyroll? They literally put four commercials in a three minute episode!)

Finally, it's important that you market your product, and by extension, market their content delivery as well. I can guarantee that if someone were to Google "Tiger and Bunny episode 1" the top results would most likely not be a legal stream. Naturally, those of us that watch a lot of anime online will know where to find it legally, but those that are new to the game might be tempted to just click the first link that comes to view.

I always feel that pirating anime is simply a response to a lack of accessibility. With more and more legal anime streams being placed and becoming a lot more accessible, the fansubber's place in the content delivery system will be undermined and their popularity will decrease as a result.

Speaking of optimism, McGhee actually says at one point "Things are a lot better than they used to be," which is sort of weird, considering the tenor of much of the conversation about anime on the internet:

In a discussion of piracy, I am not talking about people that will never buy a DVD for anything in their life.

Better streaming options can be an improvement. Streaming needs to be like watching normal TV. Especially quality. There is nothing worse than watching a show that is constantly buffering. But streaming is not the end all, there are dangers on the horizon, the move to get consumers to watch TV via the internet, and the Internet Providers starting to throttle down bandwidth. A perfect storm there.

I think the biggest boon to piracy, is the uncertainty about what is getting released on DVD/BD here in the states. Things are a lot better than they used to be. The move to box sets was a great one. You now know you are going to get the entire season, instead of three quarters of it or only a select few can get the final three episodes. But Aniplex's actions and the possible future for the industry if the rest go that way, will not help. It is creating more uncertainty when it comes to NA DVD/BD releases.

So improvements to streaming will be a boon for those that want to watch, but not own. But streaming will not help against piracy, if there is not an accompanied NA DVD/BD release. The Japanese side of things need to know that the western side knows what goes on over there. Many felt cheated by Bandai, when they released the TV version of The Girl Who Leapt Through Space, instead of the retail version.

As a collector, I have no problem with the price range of most anime sold in the West. I am even plunking down for the LE of PMMM, but the fear is out there that people want streaming to replace physical copies, that Aniplex is going to price us out of the market, and the games that the Japanese side wants to play occasionally with NA customers. None of this helps against piracy.

I really don't see much hope for change. As long as the anime market remains unstable, and the Japanese side doesn't see the West as a viable market, there are still going to be fansubs. Quality streaming without constant buffering will help, but anime streaming may hit IP speed traps later in the future due to bandwidth issues concerning the entire Internet. Western anime companies should go after the mainstream anime fansubs, as there is no question they are going to be released in North America. As to the other 90% of anime, collectors are already going to buy them, do you really want to alienate them by going after them and those that don't buy in one lump sum? Really don't see any profit in that. If there was, it would be a mainstream anime title, like the big three.

Let it be known that AsteriskCGY likes the internet "the way it is":

I would spend many hours in bed thinking about stuff like this because in one way this is how fans do cool things with things they enjoy and want to share it with the world. In another it's in my vested interest how much I like how the internet is the way it is.

So my final thought pretty much is: the black market fills a role that is being left out by the white market. The white market is better served by working to enter the black market. So the business should work on increasing their presence in these markets and work their way into using the black marketplace to their own benefit.

Another thing I see is the use of physical goods (people want to still buy stuff) and venues (people want to do things with other people). I might not find a need for a collection of disks (I'm mostly on a computer without a blu-ray player and in a house with little shelf space) but I'd always like cool shirts. Or figures. I'll put them in front of my computer. And for business in general there is a benefit in making a company run leaner, especially with the bloat they seemed to have picked up during the "good" years we had just earlier this decade. This may also mean losing US localization companies as the Japanese companies begin to create their own branches and do things in house.

Because everything I read circles back to having to make licensing deals, distribution negotiations, all sort of concessions and demands that has to be hammered out before stuff can start working, which caused the original delays back in the 80's and 90's while fansubbing was essentially the core form of exposure any anime could get back then, till now, with digital editing and broadband grade distribution.

Look at it this way, Coke did not get its worldwide recognition by putting vending machines in South Africa. They spent millions of dollars and years of studying people and the economics of each market, tailored their business model and distribution to cater to the region, down to using local music in their commercials and setting up deals with local vendors to sell their product. And now guess who gets to make millions worldwide. In the end the economy really just plays way too big a reason in spending habits, and we are still in bad times overall, so any solution has to still consider this factor.

Melissa relates a SHOCKING story about ADV ranting about PIRACY of all things!

Personally, I think the anime industry has taken great strides in discouraging piracy. I remember going to cons back in 2006 and 2007 when the ADV director went on tirades against the rampant spread of illegal anime on the Internet (in lieu of the advent and popularization of Youtube, before it was regulated) and how that was destroying the market. ADV may not have survived, but several other companies, notably FUNimation, seemed to realize that something needed to change if they wanted keep fans buying their DVDs and not just watching them for free online.

Some of the major solutions companies like FUNimation have come up with are to increase the number of episodes per DVD set, decrease the price of anime, and to make large quantities of anime available for free legally online for streaming. Since the mid 2000s, anime has radically changed in how it's packaged. You rarely see a single volume DVD with 4 episodes anymore. Series regularly come out in "parts" with anywhere from 7-14 episodes. With this, the overall price has drastically decreased. You can own a series for about half, if not a third, of the cost back in 2005. And that's at brand new prices. Wait around a year and pick up the first round complete series for $50, and then it'll come out AGAIN the next year in a super value edition for $30. Amazon will sell it for $20.

So with more anime per DVD and anime being more affordable to own, in my opinion, it has encouraged more people to buy the final product instead of watching it or downloading it online. However, people will still watch it online and then buy it. So to solve that problem, companies began to offer titles for free online. Not only simulcasts, which is a relatively current trend, to beat the fansubbers (and to gauge interest in a series for possible DVD license), but also free previews of new series that are being released (like the first 4 episodes dubbed of a new title on DVD), and entire series that may be 1-2 years old. There is a constantly revolving and accessible virtual library of entire series on sites like FUNimation, ANN video, and Hulu. You can get the hottest shows subbed from Japan and then some older titles you may have forgotten or not wanted to spend the money on the DVD. So I think everyone wins in this situation, since companies still make money off of the advertising. And yeah, commercials are annoying, but I'd rather watch a quality translation and high-def video from FUNimation than some fansub.

Even more recently, sites like FUNimation are offering an elite subscription service (which, if you don't mind paying to get more anime, go that route, and hopefully they won't constantly raise prices like Netflix). At this point, there are SO many options for otaku to watch anime legally and at high quality, and it's not like we're hurting for titles. There's anything from mainstream dubs to niche title subs that we all have easy access to. Thus, fans can preview or watch a series before buying. And when they do buy the DVD, they're not shelling out an arm and a leg.

This revolutionary shift from anime companies deriding the illegal spread of anime to actually tackling the issue in a way that benefits the fans is what's made contemporary anime fandom and consumption so enjoyable for me. I feel like the problems of the manga market stem from an inability to adapt like the anime industry did in the face of rampant piracy. I don't want to deny a company their right to a profit, but I do believe that I have a right to an affordable, high quality product. The manga industry would be wise to learn from this new anime distribution model.

And FINALLY, we end with K.J., who wrote a response that is... actually I have no idea what it means. I'm assuming something significant, purposeful, and imbued with stunning insight and compassion.

You can't stop the signal

I kid! But he did send me an email saying "SOPA Answerfans" in the subject line and then apparently gave up on writing the rest of the email. Anyway.

Setting aside all of these "serious" and "important" issues for a while, I thought it would be nice for next week's Answerfans to be a little bit... "lighter," let's say. Here is next week's question!

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.

And now I think that I'm all out of stuff to say and post and whatnot! Remember to drop me an email, if'n you've got the time, over at answerman[at]animenewsnetwork.com! I'll take answers and questions and anything of the sort! And, as always, I'll see you all next time!

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