Yesterday the president of BangZoom entertainment posted a blog post on the future of the Anime Licensors in the United States. I encourage you to read it before being tainted with my commentary.
I’m going to break down the post but I need to say that in no way am I supporting Piracy in my attack on this document. Piracy is wrong and it does harm a lot of the people who have created the work that as Anime fans we enjoy. However, I don’t believe piracy is the cause of the death of the American Licensors or BangZoom.
The timing of this piece is completely wrong. Starting from that fact this is not a last effort by a dead company but an effort to try and prop the company up from what could be a death spiral. This is obviously influenced by the Shonen Jump letter which bluntly asked fans to stop scanning the magazine saying that it is “Hurting the Manga Culture.”
The other factor that probably prompted Eric Sherman is the introduction of Aniplex into the American marketplace. As I discussed on Episode 11 of the podcast Aniplex is not going to be dubbing the Gurren Lagann movies. NIS America, who is entering the US Market with Toradora! in a few months, will also not be dubbing their licenses. Where does that leave BangZoom?
Onto the article
You must have noticed by now that many of the publishers that brought anime to the West have been shut down or substantially down-sized. There are only a few places left still able to bring titles to our shores.
Yes, I have noticed that these licensors have been disappearing because this is, apparently, the year 2007.
This is a critical year for anime. There’s no other way to say it. And I realized this morning that it was time for me to sound an urgent alarm.
This morning he saw that two of the biggest releases of the summer, Gurren Lagann, will not be receiving dubs.
If people don’t resist the urge to get their fix illegally, the entire industry is about to fizzle out. It won’t be a big dramatic change at this point.
So the alarm is about Piracy. He thinks that he is the first person to notice that people pirate content? He felt like he needed, personally, to raise the alarm? Come now. The first paragraph was an attempt to put himself in the righteous position before moving on with the fear that BangZoom is about to go under. Again, what is he telling us that we don’t already know?
Last year we saw Bandai fire 90% of their staff on one Monday in January, and two years ago we saw Geneon (neé Pioneer) shut their doors and auction off their wares to the highest bidder. CPM died a slow, painful death. And ADV fell hard and fast, the way mighty giants will.
Again, nothing we don’t already know and have been terrified over for years. My focus in this part is how he describes ADV. They “fell hard and fast, the way mighty giants will.” That statement is full of defeatism. It also is full of truth. Once ADVs funding was cut they couldn’t sustain their business model and simply fell apart. It’s odd that Sherman would use such elaborate language to describe the process. Perhaps he sees a bit of ADVs fate in his own future.
But from here on, it won’t be so exciting. Japan is already suffering and struggling to bring out quality titles. They can’t rely on everything being picked up by US distributors anymore. And little by little, it just won’t be here anymore.
This is the first instance where I have to call bullshit. This statement makes it seem like Japan relies on the American market to release quality shows. Scott VonSchilling, from Anime Almanac, was a hardcore fan of the idea and attempted to prove it in his piece titled, “Are we Just Gravy? The Importance of the American Market to the Japanese.” Scott enters the argument with a bias, “…my answer was going to be that we weren’t just gravy to the Japanese. I believed that America anime market was actually a critical part of their business over there.” But in the end is forced to admit that that idea is simply not true, “So like I said, these answers weren’t exactly those I were looking for, but I do believe that I had found a very interesting insight into the importance of America in the global anime scene. Are we just gravy to the Japanese? Yes. Yes we are.” Nice try Mr. Sherman but that theory is long since dead.
You can’t find much anime at Best Buy now. In fact, where can you find it for sale? Think about that. There are fewer new titles coming out, and less and less stuff will be in English, because it’s just not worth the cost of dubbing it. It’s true that entertainment distribution models are going to be changing dramatically. DVD may be on the way out forever, and online TV is becoming a reality very quickly. But so far, there are no successful ways to monetize online entertainment. Not so that creators can afford to produce and distribute quality content.
Again, all he is stating are facts. Titles are disappearing because the market that demands anime is much smaller now than it was five years ago. DVD is on a slope downward as a platform and online media distribution is the future. Why is he complaining about these things? Why not come up with an idea to fix it. Make the business models work online instead of just panicking. What he is saying is. “DVD is dying and that is our business model! We’re doomed!” Change should become your new business model.
Anime is going to die.
Unless YOU change. Right now. Stop stealing. If you have committed theft, robbery, shop-lifting, or just “downloading some stuff through torrent reactor,” then just stop doing it — now. You probably wouldn’t go into a supermarket and put a package of swiss cheese under your shirt and walk out without paying. Nor would you walk into Best Buy and try to walk out with Guitar Hero, bypassing the cash register. Why? Is it because you might get caught? Or are there other issues, such as standards of morality, that dictate how you live your life.
Oh, I’m sorry. The reason why your business is failing is because of me? That is the same cry the music industry made when they were all but dead. Then they reformed their business model and currently enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Also, Anime is not going to die. Anime is going to change in an attempt to reach a larger market. The anime licensing business in this country is no where near dead. Funimation is licensing news titles almost every month plus Aniplex and NIS America are just coming into the market. How are these signs of a dying business?
Furthermore, I take offence at the term theft because legally that isn’t what pirates are doing. The OED defines theft very clearly, “the felonious taking away of the personal goods of another,” the definition involves property being taken away. The crime pirates are violating is called “Copyright Infringement.” Copyright is, of course, “The exclusive right given by law for a certain term of years to an author, composer, designer, etc, to print, publish, and sell copies of his original work,” and infringement “breaking or breach (of a law, obligation, right, etc.)” so in essence copyright infringement is when someone violates the exclusive right of a publisher to print their own content. It is incorrect to calls pirates “thieves.” Nor is it correct to compare it to the act of physically taking something from a store. I’m not justifying anything. Copyright Infringement is illegal. However, it is no where near as illegal as theft.
The net, for all it’s charms, is also a dark and dangerous place. When you’re navigating it, you need to ask yourself this question: Is this right, just because it is so easy
The Internet is indeed a scary place. Maybe everyone should just stay away from it because it doesn’t fit the business model of the failed Anime licensors.
You need to understand that quality entertainment costs a lot to create. And if there is no one paying for this content, it just won’t be made anymore. If no one bought tickets to a Lady Ga Ga show, she would not do the tour. That’s just how it works. For some reason, people don’t mind stealing their anime. I’m here to tell you flat out: This is wrong. You are doing something bad. And you need to stop it.
I understand. This statement is, in fact, true. If US anime fans don’t want dubs then BangZoom doesn’t have a product to sell. I’m sorry if the market has gone this way but it isn’t just the fault of the pirates. Most anime piracy is fansubs, shows that are (mostly) not licensed in the United States or dubbed. I’m sure there is piracy of dubs floating around the web but nowhere near the number of subbed releases. As a consumer while I still buy Anime DVDs most of them are from older shows when the dubs were of high quality. The one of the newer shows I have on disc, D. Gray Man, has an awful dub. I’m not going to watch it so why did I pay for it? The quality of the product is no longer there and because of that the demand for the product has gone down. If shows were getting good dubs, Toradora!! for example, I’d buy it and listen to it but that just isn’t going to happen now that NIS has the rights and if no dub brings the price of the disc down to a more tempting point that alone might curb the need for casual piracy.
I’m sure that some of you reading this will laugh, close this window, and go download some more torrents. Why not? Who’s going to know? Who’s going to catch you?
No, I’m not laughing. I’m terrified that the licensors in the states can’t come up with a business model that will give me more high quality Blu-ray releases. I’m terrified that the fandom I love is in danger of becoming more niche than it currently is. Fix it!
I think this bears repetition, so I’ll say it again:
Maybe you should have said it three years ago.
Not getting caught does not make what you are doing right. And I am pretty sure it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. What you are doing is not only illegal, it is actually hurting many people. From the artists and creators, to the voice actors in the studios — all working to put food on their tables for their families. You can’t see them, and you can’t see the immediate results of your actions. But believe me, you are hurting people.
I agree. I really do agree with this statement. I want to support the people who make the content I enjoy. I also want ease of access, high quality download to own episodes, good Blu-Ray releases. Most of all I’m willing, and I know many fans who are very willing, to pay for all of those things. But you cry that the death of DVD means the death of Anime? No, it doesn’t. Give us the product that we want and fans will pay for it. Do something! Don’t just put up a blog post condescending your fans while attempting to guilt them into buying more discs. That isn’t a business model.
If what I’m saying resonates with you, then consider this a wake up call. A call to immediate and profound action. It’s very easy to do. You should support anime if you love it, by paying for it. Do the right thing. Plain and simple. Because if you don’t, I can guarantee you that this time next year, Bang Zoom won’t be bringing you anymore English language versions of it.
If the market is not there how do you plan to create it? There are so many variables that Eric Sherman is ignoring that it renders his entire argument nonsensical. He doesn’t factor in the shrinking market and just assumes that everyone who is not buying DVDs now just has switched to piracy. Sure, probably a decent number of them did. But more have simply aren’t fans of the medium anymore. He also doesn’t bring up the fact that Anime is no longer on television, a huge source of not only revenue but of building an audience that will go out and buy more Anime. In the early 2000s when Trigun, Tenchi, Gundam Wing, Outlaw Star, and Cowboy Bebop dominated Toonami on Cartoon Network it was a breeding ground for anime fans. Once they finished with the Toonami line up they were compelled to find more content like those shows. An outlet like that doesn’t exist anymore.
While I’m sorry that a house like BangZoom is dying a moralistic approach to reviving the industry isn’t going to work. The Shonen Jump attempt was far more effective because it was backed with legal threats and the desire to see the content creators get paid. The American licensing companies are, at best, romanticized importers. . Eric Sherman isn’t going to garner sympathy by moralizing especially in a market where he is quickly becoming obsolete.