Not That Kind of Resolution

by Justin Sevakis,

Happy 2015! It's a new year, and a lot of people are thinking about resolutions. I have a few of them, myself. My biggest one is the one that I make to myself every year: I must, must, must stop binge-eating. No more late-night $100+ sushi excursions. No more eating a giant table full of dim sum by myself. No more getting stressed out and visiting the gourmet candy store at the mall. I predict I will probably fail -- multiple times -- but as long as I do it less than I did last year, it's still a win in my book.

What are your resolutions?

George asks:

When a company like FUNimation, Sentai, Nozomi, etc. obtain the license to an anime series, are the video game rights also included? This is seemingly a giant assumption that fans still make to this day, but never has any real proof of actually being the case.

Anime licenses virtually never include the rights to associated video games. The pattern you're seeing -- where Funimation will be involved in a Fullmetal Alchemist video game, for example -- is actually a different kind of license agreement, called a Master License agreement. A Master License agreement is different from a standard licensing agreement, because it also includes limited merchandising rights. Everything still needs to be approved by Japan of course, but a master licensee gets to act as the agent for that property in the US. Their contract includes pre-determined monetary and approval arrangements for merchandise, games, TV broadcasting, and any number of other ways of milking that property.

Funimation is the master licensee for a lot of really big shows, but those deals don't happen very often anymore. Nowadays the Japanese licensor wants to maintain control over everything, and acts as the agent themselves. But it's doubtlessly true that an American company will have an easier time making deals and selling the property to other businesses. Managing such deals is also a great amount of work, and many anime licensors simply don't have the manpower to handle the additional workload. So master licensor agreements still happen once in a while.

That said, the overall pattern is that the licensors now want to control more and more of the business by themselves, so the need for master licensees is becoming less and less.

Tim asks:

With the upcoming release of the last Naruto movie, I was thinking, if an anime movie takes around 1 year or so to make, how come there aren't much leaks about the contents of the film? In the case of the final naruto film, wouldn't leaks about its contents be released even before the final chapter of Naruto? In the case of Evangelion 3.0, there was absolutely nothing in regards to its contents until the film was actually released. It seems baffling because we've gotten considerably more leaks for the Star Wars film, but when it comes to anime films, nothing. Are the japanese just really careful about leaks or do they have more stringent rules in punishing people?

I think there are a few factors as to why we don't get more leaks, and one of them definitely has to do with the lack of media attention surrounding anime. Let's compare what happens if you call Time Magazine with a scoop about the new Star Wars movie, versus what happens when you call a major Japanese magazine with a scoop about the new Evangelion movie. The Evangelion movie leak might get some press attention, but it'll mostly be from small, nerdy websites. Conversely, a Star Wars leak will probably get the press so excited they'll offer you thousands of dollars for a picture.

Some of that is definitely cultural. Western entertainment journalism has a far more antagonistic relationship with the studios and stars than their Japanese counterparts. Where a Western tabloid might go, "screw it! I'll risk a lawsuit, I'm going to fly this drone over a film set and print the photos," a Japanese entertainment magazine won't even print an unauthorized photograph of a major star, for fear their people will cut off their press access. That means that a LOT of stuff goes unreported, for better or for worse.

Secondly, I think the highly collaborative, quiet nature of anime production tends to attract people who are not as excited for the attention that a leak would bring them. Leaks in the American studio system often come from low-paid bottom-level staff, drunk with the novelty of being on a major film set. Their egos get a little out of control, and they blab to whoever will listen, because it makes them feel important. That sort of person is everywhere in the entertainment industry. But that sort of person is pretty rare in animation, which is filled with quieter, more studious people. I'm stereotyping of course, but this is true in the broader strokes.

As a footnote, it's important to mention that most - not all, but most - of the "leaks" for huge movies like Star Wars or The Avengers are now part of the marketing package. Real honest-to-god leaks still happen (remember when a briefcase full of production material for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was stolen on set?) but most of the "leaks" you see from Star Wars right now are hand-picked tidbits from JJ Abrams that Disney's marketing department releases as "leaks" to make it seem more exciting. It plays into Abrams' image as an extremely secretive but playful director, and it whips up fan fervor when it feels like they're "getting away" with seeing an image of approved concept art a few months ahead of schedule. All of it is just part of the marketing plan, and it's pretty clear the anime industry at large hasn't adopted this particular strategy yet.

Jake asks:

In the last year a number of titles have been licensed saved or are being rereleased like Lucky Star, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Cowboy Bebop, and Gurren Lagann among others. I will admit these are great titles, but besides having the online streaming rights I don't really see the point in a physical rerelease. For the most part, most of these titles had a pretty plentiful first print and complete collection releases. I have heard stories that Lucky Star and Haruhi majorly overprinted back in the day. So most of the original boxsets have relatively remained reasonably priced unlike ADV's Evangelion boxsets. Also releasing them on blu ray seems nice for first time purchase and watchers. But for the most part besides having more episodes on each disk they are not really adding new behind the sense content, redubbing or subbing, or noticeably remastering or upscaling. The only thing I have noticed with similar rereleases series like Black Lagoon was Funimation's logo on the box art and in the credits. Why would they bother rereleasing DVD's or combo pack of series already in plentiful stock by the original licensor? Is it a bare minimum requirement in the relicensing contract? Is there enough demand to justify a small physical release?

Anybody who's planning to license-rescue an existing show will obviously go on Amazon and various other websites, to see if the old version is still in stock, and how much it's selling for. That's just common sense. But even if the pipes are still clogged with old DVDs it might still be worth license rescuing the show. If it's a show that had a lot of buzz, or even a small but devoted fan group, it's likely worthwhile to license it just to get it up on streaming sites. That revenue alone can more than pay for the cost of license rescuing a title.

Even if there is a lot of old product sitting at Amazon, just having a new reissue of a disc can result in new excitement and new sales for an old title. Many fans aren't always looking in the right places for shows that are out of print: if it's not in stock at Right Stuf, or an Amazon Prime-eligible retailer, they just stop looking. A new re-release means a new ad campaign, new awareness, and the chance to hook new fans. Suddenly, that old show gets featured as a new release, and everyone is freshly reminded of its existence.

It's that old retail adage, you can't sell what people don't see. Even if there's stock floating around the internet, so many sales come down to being in the right place at the right time for the consumers that just the added availability can make a huge difference.

Brent asks:

I have been considering going back and watching some of the first anime I ever watched. Here's the problem though....i'm afraid too. I have memories of those series being flat out amazing and they all hold a special place in my mind. I've been debating if it's worth the risk to go back and watch them again, considering i'm older now and have experienced a lot more anime, and other media in general. I feel like i'll be crushed if they don't hold up. But if they are just as good as I remember, I might be reinvigorated into really watching anime again. Any advice on going back to older series you once loved, even though they may not be as good as you remember?

Here's an uncomfortable truth: you will probably not still like some of the old shows you remember fondly.

While we all get "nostalgia goggles" for our favorites, some of us have thicker ones than others. That is, some of us can fool ourselves that a mediocre show we loved back when we were first discovering anime and everything seemed awesome and unique and amazing is still the greatest thing since sliced bread. But just the nature of the fact that you're getting older, and you've seen a lot more content, is going to make a lot of those shows really pale in comparison to your memories.

A big part of getting older is just the fact that you will enjoy a far lower percentage of the stuff out there. You will become less patient for shows that waste your time, that repeat the same old hoary clichés over and over. It's why so many of us at ANN get accused of hating anime or being sticks in the mud: it's sort of unavoidable when you've been around the stuff for so long.

I say, embrace it. Moving on from childish things is what it means to be mature. Not everything will stand the test of time, but some of it will, and that's the stuff that really deserves to be called "classic." Those are the ones that become lifelong favorites. Some of them, the point of view of an older person might bring you a new perspective, and a new appreciation for.

This process of winnowing down the things you like over the years is an essential part of graduating from "enthusiast" to "expert." It requires an advancement in your critical thinking and actual thought about what you're consuming. It's not always the most joyous discovery to find out that a show you enjoyed as a kid doesn't hold up to adult scrutiny, but that doesn't negate your happy memories of that show once upon a time. It just means you really shouldn't watch it anymore.

Have you ever gone back and watched the cartoons you used to love when you were a REALLY little kid? Most of that stuff is absolute garbage: mind candy and thinly veiled advertising of the absolute lowest order. But you loved it. I loved it. We all did. Those are good memories, and they're memories we should all cherish. That doesn't mean you still need to watch that garbage.

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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