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Get out of my hobby, you goddamn kids

Once in a great while I really enjoy being old. It allows me to rant at iggerant kids who have no sense of history, no apparent comprehension of economics, and think that "I got away with this" is morally equivalent to "I am doing the right thing." Hand me my cane, imma thrash some people and hopefully beat some sense into their heads. Since this is Sunday, let us start with the Reading, courtesy of jariten and revolutionaryjo.

This whole business of digital distribution is a pain in the ass for a lot of hard-working people, and I'm not talking about those worthless leeches at the RIAA. The music business has been one of the most corrupt dens of thieves in the history of these United States, and considering the competition in that field I'm saying quite a bit. So I don't cry much for the lads at WEA, Sony, Columbia, and the other labels whose main job is to fuck the Next Big Thing out of all the money they possibly can, while spending their spare time screwing the lesser bands and artists likewise. I'm totally on the side of musicians who use the Internet to get their music out, go on tour to make their bux and meet their fans, and generally avoid dealing with the big labels.

Authors aren't quite as well off, but they've never trusted/relied on the publishers quite as much as musicians, and are in a better position to deal with pirated e-book editions. This is mainly because people still prefer to read dead tree books and not e-books, though how much longer that's going to last is anyone's guess.

Now we come to the real point of this post, which is the anime business in America. Unlike the first two examples, distributors here in the States have to dub and sub anime before it can be released to the slavering hordes of otaku. This is because most of us don't read or speak Japanese well enough to follow Dragonball Z, much less the more complicated series. So on top of the licensing fee, you have the additional expense of paying people to translate the script and dub it into English. This is done as cheaply as possible, but even so it's not free. Now you have to get the product out there and sell it, which adds more expense for marketing. Finally, you need some profit margin so you can go out and get the license for the next series you have in mind. None of that expense, of course, gets recouped when someone downloads a fansub version off the net.

I was appalled to read the ANN guy's sneer (echoed by revolutionaryjo, who ought to know better) that "Fansubs are filling a consumer need that the industry is not currently meeting." Well, no shit. There will always be people who want their product RIGHT FUCKING NOW and don't want to wait for the distributors to hire professional translators when a bunch of otaku with too much time on their hands will do it for nothing. Nobody can compete with that - they'd go broke trying. Of course, this leaves the vast majority of anime fandom out in the cold, especially if they can't process subtitles while trying to watch the show.

I'm not going to even bother with the IP rights of the shows' creators. In a generation that believes "information wants to be free", that battle was lost long ago. However, unlike the music business, anime creators don't always have the option of freelancing. They may not have the tech skills to make it work, the inclination to make it happen in the first place, and besides, VA don't work for free even if you can make the pretty CGI work for you. So you pretty much have to have studios, and the studios are Japanese, and they don't adapt very well to change because they're Japanese. Anyone that seriously expects the head of Pioneer Electronics to be seriously concerned with the anime division beyond whether it's making money or not is kidding themselves. He's got bigger fish to fry.

It all boils down to money. If people download fansubs and fandubs, they're not going to buy the DVDs, and that's going to cripple or kill the US distribution market. I know bam2 and gohanvox; I know Monica Rial. I don't think they're out there parroting the corporate line on account of having drunk the Kool-Aid. They're people who know the business a lot better than some snot nosed punk at ANN who is basically asserting his right to destroy their jobs on the grounds that he wants his anime for free and they can't stop him from swiping it. Did it occur to this jerk that the domestic distributors have never had the kind of money required to seriously go after digisubbers/digidubbers in the way the RIAA has? Does he want ADV and Funimation and Gonzo to join the RIAA so they can bring that kind of muscle into play? Has he considered that companies operating on narrow margins are perhaps not very well equipped to make the adaptations he demands - and that the Japanese studios may not be willing to make those adaptations?

So you have to wait a year for fresh anime. Boo fucking hoo. I've waited ten years for Yawara!, punk. Show some god damn maturity and develop some patience. Or get out of my hobby kthxbye.


EDIT AND UPDATE: I am reliably informed by jariten that the "snot-nosed punk" has over ten years of experience in the industry, and I therefore apologize to both of them for assuming he was just another annoying teenage otaku.
Secondly, this has nothing to do with people sampling series to see if they like them, and everything to do with people downloading entire series AND NOT BUYING DVDs.

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( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
jariten
Nov. 25th, 2007 10:51 pm (UTC)
The "snot" at ANN has worked for companies in the industry for 10 years. He's been employed by and worked with Central Park Media, imaginasianTV (a role in which he worked with Geneon extensively; I was along with him and other ANN staff when we chatted with said staff about their future plans mere weeks before the shit hit the fan there), and many other companies. He's also been waiting for his Yawara DVDs like you have (he told me so personally); he's also very close to Jonathan Klein and has spoken extensively with Monica, Greg, and pretty much everyone else I've ever met in the industry.

In short, he's not the "snot" you make him out to be - he's got over ten years of experience in the industry itself and he knows exactly just how much damage this issue has caused.

He's not saying that fansubbers should be sued outright - he's arguing that studios in both Japan and America need to change an outdated business model that is easy for the largest demographic of anime fans to utilize. Once the alternative is embraced by the majority of the market, it's easier for studios to go after the small number of jerks that continue to steal content.

Justin Sevakis didn't write this editorial to cause harm to the industry; he did it because he knows the industry and - like all the people you mentioned - has depended on that industry for over a decade to keep him employed.
wombat_socho
Nov. 25th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)
Point taken, and I wish I'd known he had that depth of experience before I teed off on him. However, given that he has that experience, where is the useful suggestion as to how the industry needs to move forward? It's all very well to wave one's hands and say "We need a new business model!" but there are reasons that model was adopted in the first place, and as you say, those reasons are still valid for most of the market. I personally doubt that the Japanese studios have a lot of interest in changing the business model, and I don't think the distributors can without risking/crippling their existing operations. Then again, I don't have a lot of experience with the industry, and I'd love to be proven wrong here.
jariten
Nov. 26th, 2007 06:45 am (UTC)
There have been - and Justin alludes to this - attempts to change the business model on both ends of the ocean. Japanese companies are starting to do "internet broadcasts" of new anime that are encoded to protect against copying. However, these broadcasts are limited to Japan only at the moment - a fact that irks many people on these shores.

The Japanese industry is trying to relegate a new method of doing business - one based on global demand for anime - with a local one based on a hardcore otaku audience. As Justin mentions (and I can concur, having been involved with manga circles in Japan personally), Japanese otaku are vastly different from their American brethren and are interested in a far different type of product than most international audiences.

The issue right now is relegating the two and eliminating piracy on both shores in a way that doesn't cut into anyone's fanbase - not to mention their bottom line. My theory (which I'll ask Justin about if I get the chance) is that the reason an actual model wasn't suggested in the editorial is that no one can really agree on one, and quite frankly, any such model is probably going to have to be born from and advocated for by the Japanese companies. While American companies and consumers hold a fair share of the revenue out there, companies like Bandai still have the keys. Furthermore, the issue of relegating multiple broadcast agreements with the major Japanese TV networks - TBS, Fuji TV, NHK, ABC, NTV and TVK - and their international counterparts can be rather complicated, especially considering that many Japanese networks contribute directly to the operating costs of a series even before it's aired.

A solution isn't impossible - but I think a reasoned discussion of these things is long overdue, and that's the kind of thing that Justin was trying to get started with his editorial. Fortunately, he's succeeded.
wombat_socho
Nov. 26th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
My theory (which I'll ask Justin about if I get the chance) is that the reason an actual model wasn't suggested in the editorial is that no one can really agree on one, and quite frankly, any such model is probably going to have to be born from and advocated for by the Japanese companies. While American companies and consumers hold a fair share of the revenue out there, companies like Bandai still have the keys. Furthermore, the issue of relegating multiple broadcast agreements with the major Japanese TV networks - TBS, Fuji TV, NHK, ABC, NTV and TVK - and their international counterparts can be rather complicated, especially considering that many Japanese networks contribute directly to the operating costs of a series even before it's aired.

Your theory sounds depressingly plausible to me. Perhaps we could encourage the folks at MITI to get involved and perhaps streamline the process? Compared to autos and electronics, anime probably isn't that big a piece of the Japanese export pie, but it also serves a cultural function (making young Americans more interested in Japan) to which MITI probably attaches some value.

Edited at 2007-11-26 11:19 pm (UTC)
redmartel
Nov. 25th, 2007 11:06 pm (UTC)
You are wrong, wrong, wrong. Fansubs are advertisements. If I don't see a fansub, unless it's on Adult Swim or Anime Network (and their collection is piss poor - how many times will Anime Network replay Kare Kano?) I'm not going to buy the series. I'm buying a nice little series called Simoun. Do you think I would have bought it if I hadn't seen some episodes first? Absolutely not.

You cannot compare the anime industry in America to the record companies, because there's no radio in anime. You can't compare the anime industry in America to written media, because there's no libraries in anime. Comics and manga have hobby stores, but you can't review anime at The Source.

I am not a young asshole who doesn't want to pay for my entertainment (I /never/ use PDFs for my RPGs.) I spend hundreds of dollars on anime titles over a year, and will spend more. I have waited for Zipang, I am waiting for Kanon, and I will wait for more. So don't give me attitude that I don't have the right to tell you, that without fansubs, I stop buying 80 percent of my titles.

If they succeed in stopping fansubs, (not bloody likely), anime will go back to what it was in the early 90s, where a title is lucky to sell 1000 copies, and it's going to be heavily hentai.

And if you think I won't tell this to our guests at the convention, all Programming has to do is put me on the panel. I'll bring the figures.
wombat_socho
Nov. 25th, 2007 11:23 pm (UTC)
To the extent that fansubs are only used as ads & promos, fine. You and I both know that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about entire series being fandubbed and spread around p2p, and people not buying the DVD as a consequence. You aren't the typical anime consumer, and neither am I.

I cited the music business and the book business as examples of how downloads and e-books can be used to help pump up other revenue streams. No, they aren't directly applicable to the anime business, but there are some similarities, and those are worth mentioning. The differences are also important, and your points are very well taken. Anime needs a (better) analog to radio, but it already has libraries. People do loan each other DVD, and there are a ton of places to rent it now.

Since I don't watch a lot of TV (Mom has the dish, but it's 500 channels with nothing on most of the time) I'll take your word for the lack of variety on ANN/Adult Swim/G4/etc. Maybe this is something the distributors need to address in order to take the wind out of the fansubbers' sails, but I don't think they'll ever be able to beat them on speed and cost.

I think the anime market is going to implode if nothing changes, and I'm very much afraid nothing will. People are very dug in on this in the same way they're dug into their politics.
dejana
Nov. 26th, 2007 06:56 am (UTC)
Fansubs are advertisements.

They were, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to argue that things just aren't that way anymore. I buy my anime too, but most of the fandom isn't like us. They want it fast and free and forever. Can't count how many times I've heard someone say "Why don't you just download it instead?"

That's not to say I think clamping down on fansubs is the answer. Trying to force people to conform to business practices never works. But the influence of fansubs on the anime world is a lot less positive than it used to be.
jamestrainor
Nov. 25th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
Hey, I've watched a number of things that were first released as fansubs, then later started buying the DVDs. Heck, you were there when I did it a couple of times.

wombat_socho
Nov. 25th, 2007 11:29 pm (UTC)
See the edit and update above. Damned if I'm going to type the same thing in half a dozen answers to comments.
materia_indigo
Nov. 26th, 2007 12:30 am (UTC)
I prefer to buy DVDs. But I get pretty upset when I learn that content has been cut from the American commercial release. I'm not talking about minor changes in dialogue; I'm talking about cut footage. I've been told, by people who have watched both the fansubs and the commercial releases, that footage was cut from both Gundam Wing and Fullmetal Alchemist. (If someone knows this to be incorrect, I would welcome that information.)

Whenever I hear about this going on, it feels like a betrayal of trust. When I purchase a DVD, I want to know that it contains all the anime goodness (or badness) of the original. I would think the American anime industry could've learned its lesson back during Sailor Moon. One of the arguments I often hear in favor of watching fansubs is that it's the only way to see the show in its true entirety. Then, perhaps our anime industry could help themselves by promising to keep shows in their original form.
wombat_socho
Nov. 26th, 2007 12:34 am (UTC)
A commitment of that sort would be very welcome.
materia_indigo
Nov. 26th, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
Thanks. I just had to get that off my chest. I continue to buy DVDs every month. But I'm at an age now when it's no longer important to me to keep up with the cool kids and see shows a week before they're released in Japan.
wombat_socho
Nov. 26th, 2007 12:38 am (UTC)
But I'm at an age now when it's no longer important to me to keep up with the cool kids and see shows a week before they're released in Japan.

I came into the hobby late enough that I had to spend a few years just getting familiar with the classics, never mind the latest and greatest stuff.
materia_indigo
Nov. 26th, 2007 12:41 am (UTC)
I don't have time to watch it all anyway. I still have DVDs here at home that I haven't even viewed yet.
wombat_socho
Nov. 26th, 2007 01:05 am (UTC)
Don't we all? *looks guiltily at Ai Yori Aoshi boxset*
materia_indigo
Nov. 26th, 2007 12:35 am (UTC)
Oh, and I forgot to mention ... @^%$&%$ Cartoon Network cancelled Bleach right before Rukia was to be rescued from the doggone tower! So, of course I had to turn to fansubs, or I would've gone insane!
wombat_socho
Nov. 26th, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
:facepalm:

OTOH, you're pretty much a lock to buy the box sets when they come out. ;)
materia_indigo
Nov. 26th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC)
Box sets? Uh-uh. I can never wait long enough for box sets. I always buy the single disks as soon as they come out. I know it's more expensive that way, but oh well.

But as for Bleach, it's one of those shows I watch over and over, so I know I'll be buying the DVDs even if I see episodes first on fansub.
dejana
Nov. 26th, 2007 05:02 am (UTC)
O_O I heard it was pulled in the middle of an arc, but damn, they STILL hadn't rescued her? I was into Bleach at first but lost interest because that was The Arc That Doesn't End, and it bored me. Now I'm kind of glad I did.
dejana
Nov. 26th, 2007 05:16 am (UTC)
I think he's got some points when it comes to online availability. The facts are that people are going to steal anime as long as it's possible for them to do so. People are lazy cheapskates, that's the way it goes. But the red tape and delays that are the nature of industry are a formidable obstacle.

Personally the only way I can see it working to any sizeable extent is if the episodes became available online, subbed, at pretty much the same time they air in Japan. That means either a) Western companies securing distribution rights during production of a new title, and subbing the episodes as the series is made, or b) the Japanese companies doing the subbing themselves. That way Western fans could get their free (or subscribed-service) preview before any fansubber could manage it, and money could be made whether or not they buy the DVDs. There will always be some market for DVDs, since that's the only way high-quality dub versions are available and a lot of people don't like reading their anime.

As for the change in fan attitude over the years, we could argue that all day, but digital technology has been a double-edged sword in a lot of areas.
wombat_socho
Nov. 26th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
Personally the only way I can see it working to any sizeable extent is if the episodes became available online, subbed, at pretty much the same time they air in Japan. That means either a) Western companies securing distribution rights during production of a new title, and subbing the episodes as the series is made, or b) the Japanese companies doing the subbing themselves. That way Western fans could get their free (or subscribed-service) preview before any fansubber could manage it, and money could be made whether or not they buy the DVDs. There will always be some market for DVDs, since that's the only way high-quality dub versions are available and a lot of people don't like reading their anime.


I think you're right. With margins sucking as badly as they do right now, the Japanese studios might be more willing to sell "preview" agreements that would allow this sort of rapid subbing - it would get them some revenue where they might otherwise not, but then again, where's their incentive to change anything? The existing business model works just fine for them; it's the Stateside distributors who are sucking wind.
dejana
Nov. 27th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC)
At that rate, I wonder if Japan would really even care if American distribution went under. If everything's working fine for them, what difference does it make if everyone in the U.S. is watching via online fansubs? :\
wombat_socho
Nov. 28th, 2007 02:34 am (UTC)
Good question. Somehow the distributors have to convince the studios that there's a bigger payoff in keeping them alive and getting a bigger audience. I don't remember where I made the comment (here or at jariten's LJ, but it seems to me the Japanese government might be a little bit interested in backing something that gets thousands/millions of Americans interested in Japanese culture.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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