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2002 - Industry Review

by Isaac Alexander,
The anime industry this year was a time of slower growth and consolidation. 2002 started off with a re-organization as Digital Manga was broken up into two separate companies. Studio Broccoli took control of the Anime Gamers! Store and the anime company Synch-Point, Digital Manga ended up Comictones, Akadot, and Digital Manga Distribution. With the breakup of this company, it undoubtedly ended Digital Manga's hopes of becoming a distributor to compete with Pioneer and ADV. This chain of events was followed by the cancellation of Digital Manga being a distributor for Super Techno Arts, as well as losing the rights to an English language version of Newtype.

2002 for the second year in a row had a new company formed. Gutsoon! started out as a Manga publisher in 2002 with its weekly anthology, Raijin Comics (which will be followed by Graphic Novel format releases) and plans to enter the North American Anime market in 2003. The new Fist of the North Star OVA will likely be the first title released here in North America.

One of the biggest industry stories of the year was that 4Kids Entertainment signed a distribution agreement with FUNimation. This deal increases the prominence of FUNimation in a huge way with distributing some of TV's highest rated anime shows (Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh!) under essentially one umbrella.

Here's how the anime distribution is being handled now in North America:

Pioneer Entertainment - Pioneer Animation, Bandai Entertainment, Viz
ADV Films - ADVision, Right Stuf
Funimation - Funimation, 4Kids Entertainment
Palm Pictures - Manga Entertainment (Sony Music Video Distributes for Manga in Canada).

It will be interesting to see for 2003 if some of the smaller anime companies in North America decide to sign up with a larger distributor of anime, or to continue on selling anime on their own.

One of anime's continued success in North America has been anime venturing out of the specialty anime and comic book stores and instead being available at mainstream retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Frye's, Gamespot, & Suncoast. Ten years ago, it was very difficult for consumers trying to purchase anime at mainstream retailers. Now, it's very common to find anime on store shelves. Other mainstream retailers are also starting to stock more anime titles in their stores and websites: Costco, Target, and Walmart.

One of the few confusion spots of the industry this year is the continual increase in the number of different ratings that anime companies use to mark their anime titles. 5 companies have chosen to mark their titles using the Pioneer Ratings System (Bandai, CPM, Media Blasters, Pioneer Animation, & Viz), 2 companies have chosen ADV Films Rating system(ADVision, Right Stuf), while the other companies use their own in house ratings(Tokyo Pop, Urban Vision), or use the MPAA as their guide.

MPAA Ratings
Pioneer Ratings
ADV/Right Stuf Ratings
Tokyo Pop Ratings
Urban Vision

One of the industries that has probably helped most gain more sales for anime in retail stores has been sales of PlayStation 2 and Xbox game consoles. These two machines have been purchased so kids can not only play their games, but also watch DVD's potentially of new anime series.

Release times from when a product is released in Japan until it's released in North America continue to shrink. This follows a similar pattern in Hollywood now that is pushing world release dates for their titles, versus having multiple release dates for each region of the earth.

Shueisha entered the North American market for the first time with their now reported 50% ownership of Viz LLC. No word yet on if any of Shueisha's anime titles will be picked up for North American release. On the flipside, two North America companies that have chosen to invest in Japan verses the other way around have been Cartoon Network and ADV Films. Cartoon Network reportedly is helping fund the second season of Bandai's series "The Big O", while ADV Films has set up their own Japanese branch (http://www.tokyo.advfilms.com) and have been funding many different series such as the new Rurouni Kenshin OVA.

In terms of the size of the market, ANN reported earlier this year the industry has not grown as much between 2001 and 2002 as in previous year, but continues to grow at a respectable rate. The value of the retail sales of Anime has been pegged at just over $500 million US Dollars.

The total home video (DVD + VHS) industry took in $12.1 billion in sales and $8.7 billion in rentals according to Video Store Magazine . We estimate that anime has about 6% of the home video sales, but less than 1% of rentals. Anime did not contribute much this past year in North American Box Office, which generated sales of $8.4 billion. Spirited Away was the largest grossing anime film this past year, taking in just over $5 million to date.

While Anime is still one of the smallest parts of the North American video industry, Anime is also one of the fastest growing and most vibrant.

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