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Non-transferable competence

Every so often people make the mistake of thinking that just because somebody knows a lot about X, they also know a lot about Y. One sees this most often with celebrities, who assume that because they're good actors, everyone wants to know what they think about the war in Iraq, world hunger, Tibet, or [insert your favorite cause here]. Most times, all they accomplish is having people point and laugh at what a bunch of clueless fucks they are. Unfortunately, every so often you see this kind of behavior in the blogosphere from people you respect, and the measure of your own credibility becomes who willing you are to call bullshit on them. I've reached that point with Steven den Beste.

It's become pretty obvious to me that as much as SDB deserves my respect for his incisive geopolitical analyses, he doesn't know shit about the anime business. He's had a hate on for ADV for quite some time, and posted a rant yesterday afternoon (7/31, 1605; for some reason he gave up on permalinking when he switched from USS Clueless to Chizumatic) about what a bunch of assholes they are in Houston for selling stripped thinpaks. Now, from what I know of the situation, SDB has described the company's problem fairly accurately and their actions likewise, but he's left out a very big factor in ADV's cash flow problems - namely, the bankruptcy of the Musicland Group, which had a fair chunk of ADV merchandise in their holds when they went down. That hurt the industry as a whole quite a bit, and ADV especially because they had tried to get into TV by launching the Anime Network. Strike one. He then goes on to lambaste the company for accelerating their relese of series in thinpak box format so that they can get more cash in faster. Now, as any otaku knows, thinpaks are cheaper than regular series DVDs because they don't have all the cool extras such as art galleries, commentary tracks, clean opening & closing song sequences, and whatever the company thinks is worth throwing in to get your $30 per box. Quite frankly, SDB is acting like a spoiled fanboy if he thinks ADV or anyone else is going to leave all those extras in on the economy model DVDs. The whole point of loading the initial release DVDs with the special content is so you'll pay extra up front, and the analogy between stripping the passenger seat out of a car you're buying with a rebate is just asinine. Strike two. Finally, in the middle of all this thrashing around, he provides not one single stinking link to support his raving about how ADV hates its customers, which is standard operating procedure if you want someone to take you seriously. Strike three!

Now, I haven't been an anime fan for that damn long, but I do know that the practice of releasing thinpak sets without all the extras is hardly new, or unique to ADV. In fact, Geneon was the first company to start that practice, and nobody complained about it at the time - on the contrary, it was seen as a rather fan-friendly practice that also struck a blow at fansubbing and fileswapping because the resulting sets were so damn cheap. I also know that in the three years we've been doing Anime Detour, few companies have been as helpful and quick to respond as ADV when we wanted screening permissions and help getting guests. Their voice actors and actresses, on the whole, have been class acts and wonderful people who I would be happy to recommend to anyone as convention guests. The bottom line here is that SDB is talking out of his ass when it comes to ADV. He obviously has never dealt with them directly, or he wouldn't be spouting this kind of crap.

The whole thing reminds me of the old days in wargaming when people would bitch and moan about the myriad shortcomings of Avalon Hill and SPI, the dominant companies in the hobby at the time. What the grognards overlooked was that AH and SPI put out a hell of a lot of good, enjoyable games that people wound up playing for the next three decades. ADV doesn't have nearly the same dominant position in the anime field - Geneon, Viz, Bandai and Funimation all have a decent slice of the market - but because they've released so much product over the last few years they get a lot of the attention and a lot of criticism as well. I don't think they deserve it, myself, but then again, I have some perspective on the hobby that I think SDB and others lack when they slag the company for doing things they don't like. It's childish, it's stupid, and worst of all, it's beneath the standards he led us to expect from his days at the helm of USS Clueless. Don't get me wrong, he's as entitled to his opinion as the next fanboy, but I also think he's old enough to take his lumps when people call him out for talking shit.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 1st, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
I still believe that it is ADV's well-established connections with the fanbase that have helped the company do so well. Their support program for clubs is extremely well run, and they are always happy to give swag, promo stuff and prizes to conventions and fan clubs. While some people may disapprove of some aspects of their marketing strategy, it's really a drop in the bucket when compared to everything else they have done to support the industry.
Aug. 1st, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC)
You know a lot more about it than I do, but I think you're right. They've done a LOT for anime fandom, which twonks like SDB give them no credit for at all...perhaps because they don't do conventions and don't see that side of the company. Still, I'd love to know where he's getting all this bad opinion from. I understand that he's not applying the same rigor to his anime site that he used to use on his politics and engineering posts, but damn, can't he supply even one link to some kind of lame fan site that would back him up? Talk about disappointment.
Aug. 1st, 2006 03:06 pm (UTC)
The slim-packs are also an attempt to dissuade people from buying HK bootlegs. They are making it affordable with a vanilla release so people don't resort to non-official releases. It's not like this is something new. Other studios do it all the time. I just bought the vanilla releases of the X-Files for approx. $39 per season rather than the $109 per season they originally asked for. I think Jo had bought the Buffy Mega Boxset collecting all 7 seasons awhile back, which was cheaper than the original release (don't know if that set was a vanilla release or not). In the UK they are releasing the vanilla releases of Doctor Who shortly after they are broadcast, with the sets with extras coming out later.
Aug. 1st, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC)
In the UK they are releasing the vanilla releases of Doctor Who shortly after they are broadcast, with the sets with extras coming out later.

That's interesting - quite different from the way anime distributors do it, but then they arguably have a larger, more loyal fandom.
Aug. 1st, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC)
And he's not even criticizing ADV for the few valid things they can be criticized for (which I could link, if I wasn't so busy): the problems they've been having with the manga division. Hopefully Tokyopop will release more volumes of Peacemaker Kurogane and ARIA than ADV managed to get out before they ramped everything back. (I had no problems whatsoever with the quality of ADV's manga releases. It was the quantity...)
Aug. 1st, 2006 07:28 pm (UTC)
On the other hand, it makes sense for them to give the manga division short shrift if they're fighting to save the company. When your back is to the wall, you fall back on the core of the business, the things you know best.
Aug. 1st, 2006 11:06 pm (UTC)
Which does make sense. I can't fault them for that at all, but things just weren't communicated very well.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:18 am (UTC)
I like ADV. They've released some pretty good stuff. And (points to icon for this entry) they have free icons from the series they release.

I thought they good a job with the manga I bought (which was only Pretear). While it wasn't completely bilingual, they did include some of the original Japanese.

CPM also went into major financial problems with the bankruptcy of Musicland Group.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 03:20 am (UTC)
From what I heard, CPM went bankrupt.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )



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