Is There A Point In Suggesting Titles for Licensing to Publishers?

by Justin Sevakis,

Jill asked:

Whenever I see an anime or manga (but really mostly anime) publisher post something online, especially on Facebook, I see a small army of people just respond by posting an endless list of shows that they license next. Does it really do anything to post these? Are the right people who make decisions looking at these posts?

Anime publishers really don't need any help in thinking of titles to try and license. They really don't. They're in constant communication with Japanese licensors about what series are available. And they know what's out there, because it's their job. New titles are solicited to US distributors and sometimes other countries well before the show debuts -- often before the title is even announced to the general public, and that's not to mention the increasingly large number shows that involve US distributors at the production committee level. Simply put, virtually no fans have access to any information or insight about potential new titles to license that the publishers don't have already.

In most cases, if a show isn't licensed, there's a good reason why not. The vast, vast, vast majority of these suggestions fall into one of four categories:

1: Titles that are already available
Often, fans had a release slip by them. You'd be surprised how many titles get suggested that are already snapped up by someone, and in some cases, even already released.

2: Titles that make poor investments
Sometimes fans suggest license rescues for shows that were giant flops, pulled in terrible streaming numbers and/or have a ton of copies still sitting at retailers. Most companies aren't in the business of investing in something that's already a proven failure.

3: Titles that are in limbo
For older anime, it can sometimes be very very hard to even figure out who owns the rights to a show, and there are some where, simply, nobody knows how to license it, or from who. I've had Japanese licensors tell me, point blank, that they've never heard of a show they, themselves, produced. In other cases, issues with some element of the show, such as its music or its original creator, have some issue preventing any overseas rights sales.

4: The title is controlled by a licensor who doesn't like their options/doesn't care
In order for a deal to get done, the Japanese rights holder has to agree to the deal. If they have outsized expectations of the value of a particular series, nobody will offer enough money to satisfy the licensor, and it languishes. This is the case with a lot of big, super-popular series in Japan that never caught on with Westerners. In other cases, the licensor is too busy with other things (bigger deals with higher profile shows, usually) and just can't be bothered to make the deal happen.

It's unfortunate, but most fans understand that we can't always get what we want. (And seriously, look around: we have an embarrassment of anime, new and old, available to us. We are so spoiled, it's not even funny.) But the problem is, the fans have no idea what's going on, so they just name shows they want to see. It's harmless, but it doesn't accomplish anything.

Sometimes the people in charge look over social media feedback, but usually the person handling social media is in an entirely different department, and only reports back on major PR issues, not stuff like unsolicited advice on what to license. To be honest, anime professionals get so much advice hurled at them by the masses that it all pretty much blurs together.

That said, it's not like these companies never, ever listen to the fans in any situation - smart feedback is always valued, and is often listened to (obviously by some companies more than others). You won't get anywhere shouting names out at convention panels or in the comments section, but if your advice is smart and thoughtful and you manage to get heard by the right person, who knows - maybe you could still make some kind of an impact.

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    Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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