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Industry Group Head Says Anime is a Bubble that Burst (Update 2)

posted on by Egan Loo
Association of Japanese Animations director says industry faces restructuring

Yasuo Yamaguchi, managing director of The Association of Japanese Animations (AJA), described the anime industry as a "bubble several years ago that burst. The marketplace is on a falling curve due to declining birth rates and the recession." He added that he thinks that the industry is heading from times of surplus toward restructuring. AJA reported that the number of anime television programs rose from 124 in 2000 to a historic high of 306 in 2006. However, that number has since fallen to 288 in 2008. In 2006, a record 60 anime programs premiered in April, but only 30 anime programs were expected to premiere this past April.

The Japan Video Software Association (JVA) reported that domestic sales of Japanese anime releases (on DVD and laserdisc) brought in 97.1 billion yen (about US$982 million) in 2005 and dipped to 95 billion yen (US$960 million) in 2006. In 2007, domestic anime DVD sales fell further to 89.4 billion yen (US$904 million). Even when DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and HD DVD sales are added together, sales of domestic anime releases dropped to 77.9 billion yen (US$787 million) in 2008.

The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) estimated that the Japanese anime marketplace in the United States (including character goods) peaked in 2003 at US$4.84 billion. It then fell to US$2.829 billion in 2007. The sales of just anime DVD and videotape releases peaked in the United States in 2002 at US$415 million.

JETRO cites unauthorized net distribution, including fan-subtitled videos on streaming and file-sharing sites, as one reason for the decline in DVD sales. In January, TV Tokyo began streaming popular anime on the Crunchyroll video site to paid subscribers on the same day as their Japanese airings, with free streams available seven days later. Yukio Kawasaki, TV Tokyo's animation business manager, said that the company curbed illegal distribution and responded to the needs of fans who do not want to wait to watch anime. He added that TV Tokyo wants to establish a business model in which the fans worldwide contribute directly.

The last half of the 1990s saw an expansion of late night anime on regular television stations, UHF stations, and satellite television. The Asahi Shimbun paper reports that there were people who considered these television broadcasts as 30-minute commercials for the eventual home video releases. While the newspaper cites Berserk, Maria Watches Over Us, Rozen Maiden, When They Cry - Higurashi and Macross Frontier as hits when late night timeslots became an "anime paradise," anime video sales still fell overall. An unnamed producer told Asahi that videos are not selling "because fans realized that more and more of the releases are the same kinds of titles with bishōjo and mecha elements added just because they are said to sell."

Yamaguchi concludes that Japan is already falling behind China in the number of titles produced every year. He said that Japan should emphasize quality over quantity, such as teaching anime production in national universities and raising better workers, as the way to strengthen Japan's economy.

Source: Asahi Shimbun

Update: Restored paragraph on TV Tokyo that was inadvertently removed from the article's initial posting, and corrected "billion" misspelling. Thanks, tiredgamer and cz.petab.

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