Feel The Heat

by Justin Sevakis,

As I write this, Southern California is in the grips of a crushing heat wave. Even though I'm extremely lucky in that I now have an apartment with central AC and decent insulation, I'm still barely functional. Just running basic errands takes everything out of me.

On the plus side, I've had ice cream twice today. So there's that.

Andrew asks:

Much like video games, there are stores and sites that buy and sell used DVDs/Blu-rays. What is the general opinion of places like this? Do you prefer that people buy 'new' so that the proper people get their money and avoid used because no money is going back to the proper people? I assume there is a huge used market like there is for video games but I've seen little about it.

If your goal in buying a DVD or Blu-ray is to support the people that made it, there is simply no substitute for paying full price, preferably right when the disc comes out. That is by far the best way to make your dollar count towards contributing to what you love. That said, used DVDs are completely legal, 100% ethical (in my opinion), and a potentially money saving way to buy a large number of discs. It's also often the only way to get a disc that's out of print. It's true that none of the money you're spending is making it back to the creators or publishers, but someone already paid for those discs, and with that purchase came the right to enjoy that disc forever. They're giving up that right (conceivably because they don't want it anymore, or bought the show a second time), so you paying money to adopt that right is just fine, in my book.

The used marketplace is still kind of a cesspool, honestly. Many used dealers don't know/care about the piles of bootleg anime DVDs out there, and so your chance of accidentally getting one is significantly higher, especially if you don't know what to look for. (Beware of most "import" DVDs with subtitles!) Some used dealers will also really jack up the price of out of print discs, even if they're commonly available for much less elsewhere.

The research is easier to do than ever, and sites like Amazon Marketplace and eBay make it easy to price-compare between lots of different used disc vendors. They can also be a pain in the butt, returns can be a nightmare, and every once in a while you do get ripped off. I certainly don't buy all my discs used, but back when I was trying to legitimize my collection and buy a lot of legal releases for as cheap as possible, they were an absolute life saver. But do keep your guard up, because you never know what you might be in for.

David (and many others) ask:

Why is it that some legal streaming sites for example Funimation is only available in North America? Is it to much of a bother to have it available elsewhere or is it just too expensive?

It's easy to be a smug jerk about how awesome streaming anime websites are when you live in North America. Too often we forget how good we have it, for outside of the US, the availability of legal online anime drops off fast. Once you get outside of the big English-speaking countries, there's only a small handful of shows available. It sucks, without a doubt.

Nearly all of the legal streaming sites (except Netflix, and YouTube's handful of legal streams) operate on what's known as the "Freemium" business model. The way that works sites like Crunchyroll, Hulu and Funimation are all free for most people, and supported with ads. For users that want to unlock additional abilities (such as commercial-free shows, better video quality, or compatibility with different devices), you can pay a small free every month and become a subscriber. Freemium works very well because while subscriptions are where the real money is, the free part acts as an on-ramp for new users. Whether they stay at that level of service, or upgrade to a subscription, they still make the site money.

So far, this only really works in the USA. For reasons that I haven't fully figured out, the online advertising sector of the economy simply hasn't developed in the rest of the world to anywhere near the extent it has here. In most of the world, online video ads (which pay a lot more than regular graphics ads) don't even exist.

To be perfectly honest, many of us thought the online video ad market would develop even more than it has in the United States. When we tried to stream anime by ourselves here at ANN, we really thought that was going to be a much bigger market. As it turns out, prices of online ads never really went up that high. Hulu can charge more money for ads than everybody else, since they have a big in-house ad sales department and they're showing first-run American TV shows, but the rest of the market doesn't really get THAT much money for them. It's barely enough to make video streaming worthwhile, and without the Freemium model converting people to paid subscribers, nobody would be making enough money off of them to run a business. (YouTube has its own weird economy that's beyond the scope of this answer, as it's not really paying much for the anime that's on there.)

Anyway, all that's just in America. The rest of the world either a) doesn't have much of an internet ad economy at all, or b) has some ads in fits and starts, but not consistently enough to run a business off of. Without those ads, that all-important free "on-ramp" becomes a big money loser for a streaming service. You have to either make your service ENTIRELY subscription-only (which asks new customers to try your service on blind faith, and alienates your more impoverished fans, and in some countries, that's all there are), or just lose money hand over fist. Neither are very good options. Crunchyroll has decided that it's worth it, if they can get those rights cheaply enough, but it often doesn't work out. Hulu has recently pulled back on its plans to expand outside of the USA.

Online rights do cost money, and it might cost Crunchyroll or Funimation more to license shows for the outside world than it does for just North America. Some licensors are still holding out for local TV stations to pay for broadcast rights to their shows, and are reluctant to try streaming to new areas without some cash on the barrelhead. But how would those websites make back their money? Nobody really has a good answer for that yet. (Also, remember Funimation is still mostly a DVD company, and doesn't really do business outside of North America, so it's REALLY not worth the extra effort for them.) So it's not that the powers that be don't want to serve fans outside of North America, it's more a matter of not being able to figure out how to make it work business-wise. I have no doubt somebody will figure it out someday, but until that happens, I'm afraid many fans around the world are not going to have legal access to a lot of shows.

CastMember1991 asks:

So, Doraemon is finally being broadcast in the United States. Not to sound hypothetical, but do you think this has the potential to be the next Pokémon in terms of popularity? If so, do you think Disney might ask the Japanese rights holders to build a new Doraemon attractions at any of the Disney theme parks around the world, especially Japan? (I ask this as a former Disney cast member myself.)

I'm afraid you're getting way too excited about this business with Doraemon being on Disney XD. I don't think people realize that Disney is a HUGE, HUGE company with many different divisions, and all that's happened so far is that Disney Channel has licensed US broadcast rights for 26 episodes of Doraemon, which is being adapted by TV Asahi's animation division Shinei Animation. They're hiring US-based subcontractors to adapt the show for Western audiences. Anime News Network reported on some of the changes being made.

This does not make Doraemon a Disney property any more than Cowboy Bebop is a Turner Broadcasting property because it ran on Adult Swim. Disney as a big corporate power has not adopted the franchise in any meaningful way, it just bought some broadcast rights. That's all.

As for Doraemon's chances at mainstream success in the US, I'm skeptical. The producers of the show have been quietly trying to find a home for Japan's favorite giant blue cat for decades now, and this is the first time anything has really stuck. Compared to a slam-dunk franchise like Pokémon, which had a huge video game tie-in, a much more Western and up-to-date look, and a playground-friendly coolness to it, Doraemon is a bit old fashioned.

Being on Disney XD is still a big deal. The network is in around 80 million homes, and does very well in the ratings overall, with its top shows regularly peaking at over a million viewers. I don't think it'll be a runaway hit on the network, but there's a decent chance it could hook a sizable following, particularly among its younger viewers. Depending on the quality of the adaptation, it's possible we could have a sleeper hit on our hands. Or it could bomb miserably. We just don't know.

But don't start buying tickets to DisneyWorld thinking you'll be able to go on a Doraemon-themed ride anytime soon.

Kristen asks:

I'm adopting a one eyed dog from a shelter and need to give him a good name. Since you're the Answerman I was hoping you could help me out. I was thinking about giving him an anime inspired name. Ginko from Mushishi perhaps. Any other one-eyed anime characters that I could name him? He's a little grey terrier and absolutely adorable.

First, good on you for adopting a dog, and a disabled one at that. We need more people like you to give shelters to the huge numbers of unloved and abandoned pets that still clog animal shelters everywhere. Second, we need pictures. This sounds too adorable to miss.

Assuming you want to restrict your search to male anime characters, we actually have a ton of possibilities here. Just off the top of my head, there's Jubei (the legendary ninja as depicted in Ninja Scroll and dozen other shows), Captain Harlock, Akito from Air Gear, Darcia from Wolf's Rain (hey, that'd be pretty cool on a dog), King Bradley from Fullmetal Alchemist...

You know what? I have a better idea. Let's take this to the forums. It'd be way more fun to get everyone else's ideas on what one-eyed characters would make good namesakes for a little grey terrier. So head to the Talkback link below, and let's all try and brainstorm. (And for the love of god, post some pictures!!)

And that's all for this week! Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!)

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.

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