Presentation PA #84
A few years ago, I remember walking into my local Best Buy and noticing for the first time, "My goodness, there is a LOT of anime available right now." I had thought back to how hard it was to find new titles several years before, and how lucky an anime fan had been if they could track down an elusive VHS release.
The other day, I was once again in the aisles of Best Buy. Only, this time I remarked to myself, "My goodness, there is WAY too much anime available right now." I ran across the street to Barnes & Noble, and the same observation crossed my mind as I gazed at the manga racks. Over the years, that space has gone from one measly rack to an entire section devoted entirely to new releases.
This time, though... I wasn't elated. I was upset. What started out as one or two DVD releases every week slowly grew into four and then eight. Now, some weeks herald an impressive count of ten to twenty releases.
The danger of market oversaturation is something that's been nagging at me for some time now. Every trend from gadgets to clothing hits a point where there's simply too much on the market. Now the same is finally happening to the American anime and manga market, and it's hurting. Titles no longer make the same impressive sales figures they used to. Fans no longer rush out to buy random anime titles simply because they're there. The fans are much more selective about what they buy now, and who can blame them? There's simply too much available.
In any given year, dozens upon dozens of new anime acquisitions are announced at conventions, some of them pinnacles of artistic achievement, and some of them pitiful attempts at storytelling that would be lucky to sell fifty units. It's simply not possible to buy all of the best series out there anymore. Forget that--it's simply not possible to even reach all of the best series anymore without having to wade through stacks of unwanted, middling titles.
Some might wonder why it even matters. Who cares if there are loads of mediocre titles out there as long as the good ones are still being released? The company accountants care. When the North American anime market started expanding, companies raced to announce the most titles. It didn't matter if fans had ever heard of it before, or if it was even going to be remotely marketable... if it was available, they made an attempt to buy it. The problem now is, there's a cost imbalance that never really gets solved. With today's licensing fees, a single episode of a series can cost $50,000USD. For a 26 episode series, that's over a million dollars. Add to that the costs for translating, dubbing, prepping, subbing, packaging... For extremely popular series like Fullmetal Alchemist or Inuyasha, this is no problem. Copies fly off the shelves once they're released. But what about the smaller, lesser known, or worse, bad shows that are released? At $29.98 a disc, I'm sure you can do the math. Let's just say that internet forum fantasies that anime company executives are bathing in gold are unequivocally false.
Of course, here would be a convenient place to start a tirade against fansubs, citing less than stellar DVD sales to be a result of all the mediocre shows ending up on hard drives rather than in shopping bags. After all, for every person who says "I didn't really like this show, so I won't buy it or keep it on my computer," there are a hundred more who will say the same, yet share their files with friends.
As appropriate as that tirade may be, though, it's unfair to place the blame entirely on fansubs and DVD-rips. Just as much blame can be placed on the companies themselves; whose decision was it to spend X amount of dollars on Show Y, not realizing that nobody would buy it? For starters, companies need to eventually realize that internet forums aren't a prudent place to gather licensing advice. A thousand people can claim that they loved a series, and they'd definitely buy it if it came to DVD... but sales figures would show those numbers seldom equate with the number of people who actually do buy the series. When you have a market composed heavily of teenagers and college students with limited finances, there's going to be a discrepancy between "I want this to be licensed!!!" and "I can afford this right now."
It's a sticky situation no matter what. Will cracking down on fansubbing help the situation? Will simply buying fewer series be a better option? Can companies just flip the licensors the bird until they lower acquisition costs? There's no easy way of telling, but one thing is for sure--market oversaturation is a problem right now, and it can only get worse if companies don't step up deal with it now.
But, in lighter matters, we've got a fun issue this time around! There are plenty of interviews and reviews, and we've got our spotlights turned on Mai-Hime and my personal favorite, Genshiken. Oh, and a fun fact: Mr. Pelletier was so adamant about getting high-res pictures of Akihabara that we had to send one of our guys in with a camera to haunt the streets of Electric Town for days and days until even the locals were spreading hushed rumors of the mysterious Gaijin.
Hope you enjoy this issue as much as we do!
- Bamboo Dong