They made my Koyori cry… How dare they…
On Bandai Visual USA
Last Monday, Bandai Visual USA made headlines on various anime news sites and blogs when their website included information about a region 1 DVD release of the animated television series, sola. Later, they confirmed the rumors making the pickup of the title official and they defined some details on the DVD releases. The first of five volumes will be available June 10th with each volume to be sold for $49.99 and containing 3 episodes each.
So when I first heard this story on Monday, I had to actually refrain from blogging about this initially because I was quite pissed off that they picked up another title I liked. That post would’ve contained alot of expletives deleted which would’ve gone against my mantra of posting relevant thought-provoking articles (allegedly). Now that a few days have passed and I’ve cooled off a bit, I can go back and attempt an objective well-defined blog post… maybe.
For me, money for anime is no longer an issue now that I’ve graduated and started working (with the exception of my student debt). I’ve been building up my anime DVD collection since graduation and while spending this much money on True Tears and now sola will be annoying, the purchases won’t financially disable me. My policy has always been to buy anime that I really like to the point where I want to have in my visual collection (aka readily accessible and visible to guests on my bookshelf). I like some shows such as Erementar Gerad and Maburaho but they aren’t on my radar to pay up to own. I believe it is an obligation for fans to attempt to own the shows they consider personal top-tier shows and not to buy because of this guilt trip to save the flailing anime industry.
Which is part of the reason why I am ok with Bandai Visual’s business model. Those who which to own as collectors still have the opportunity to own. And while the price point will scare away alot of people, but there are the fanboys who have the money to cough up for their series (I am one of them). Sure, they are not going to sell alot, but I don’t think they need to do so if they want to break even. Their business and production structure as a subdivision is so small that it’s not going to take much to get back to the black. If they continue to position themselves towards the hardcore market with such limited production structure, they can be around for awhile.
However, this same business structure is why I hate them. Not because they won’t make money. It is because the anime they license is doomed to be niche. Yes, you can argue that the anime they pick up are already niche to the North American anime market like True Tears (heavy drama) and sola (which isn’t too sure what itself is). But the determination of a niche show should be from the consumers and not the companies themselves. Providing no alternative to the collectors editions (aka $50 for a three episode volume) is an intentional attempt to limit the market. It’s depressing knowing that good shows won’t get the attention they deserve due to a poor business attitude. And streaming the first episodes won’t help this at all.
This kinda reminds me of my days writing graduate papers… Minus wearing the maid outfit of course…
On the destruction of the anime middle class
Something I have always wondered about the anime industry: Why the hell are there still so many anime companies in North America? I don’t like to argue that there should be more consolidation because anime in North America is a niche market. That argument ends up being a cop out when someone fails out (*cough*)Geneon(*cough*). I’m always a believer in the good ol’ free market principles that good companies will find a way to perform in their industry and consolidation is a consequence of their over-performance. And when you think about it that way, North American anime companies may be producing the same product (the R1 anime DVD). but they all have different ways on going about it.
There are two North American anime companies that I just simply hate: Bandai Visual USA and Viz. I hate BVUSA for the reasons stated above. Viz’ business model in recent years has been pandering to the American mainstream and milking the same cash cows until they cough up powdered milk. But when thinking about it a bit further, the two companies seem to be complete opposite sides of the anime business model spectrum. And by themselves, it doesn’t seem much. But in the greater spectrum of the North American anime industry, it’s something to take note along with everyone else.
Below is a line diagram I created (using the magic of powerpoint) which attempts to classify North American anime companies based on the perceived popularity of the they release. On the right (the lower numbers) are the mainstream releases in the North American anime market whereas the left (the higher numbers) are the releases that tend to be niche in this market. I attempted to classify anime companies based on what they tend to release. I resized the boxes to attempt to show the ranges clearly.
It’s interesting how a specialized market can have companies that highly varying business models in terms of the properties they go after and market. But the above doesn’t necessarily represent the current industry since Geneon isn’t there. And if you go as far as to speculate a post-ADV marketplace (while it seems their house is getting back in order), you get something kinda like this:
This has me thinking about how fragile the anime market is in North America. While the Geneon fallout was important on an anime production standpoint, their departure leaves significant hole in the anime licensing spectrum. Imagine if another company goes under or a number of companies tighten their belts with their production and risk licenses, those conditions are ripe to have quite a separation between hardcore fandom and the mainstream. Then maybe we end of the anime middle class? I don’t see it in the immediate future but it’s something to consider.
I’ll end with this random footnote. After classification of companies on the number line above, anime companies and what they release seem to have some correlation to political spectrum analysis. So I decided to take this a further. I found a few of the most common political spectrum diagrams and picked the one that looked the most interesting. I modified that diagram, added another axis for production size and did a bit of approximation. The result I have is below:
This was interesting in many ways. It seems that the modified graph has BVUSA and VIZ on completely different sides once again. What’s more interesting is the two untouched areas. The top are in many ways like active fansub groups (high niche library and high production). The bottom isn’t as explainable. I wouldn’t see why one would pick up mainstream shows and fail to produce. It seems like once you close onto the top using a regular DVD release model, you are bound to get into trouble (aka Geneon).
So what have I learned today? I hate BVUSA and Viz not just because of their business structures. But also because they are anime’s liberal idiotic democrat and conservative money-hungry republican. Ugh… I’m definitely watching way too much CNN for my own good.