In My View: Why I can’t stop worrying and learn to love the anime industry.

Honestly, I think a lot of anime fans don’t have the foggiest understanding (or concern) for the general business of anime, both the creative aspect and the commercial aspect. How often do you hear a fan criticize an animation studio for a business decision it had absolutely nothing to do with, as if the giant media conglomerates bankrolling and controlling the production in the background didn’t even exist? And how often do you hear anime fans whine about getting “ripped off” by greedy anime “companies” without any real knowledge of, 1) how much money it costs to produce anime, 2) how little television broadcast ad revenue amounts to, and 3) how little the people working in the trenches get paid?

Jeff Lawson on the Animanachronism’s post Studiotolatry

To be frank when I first started learning a bit more about anime, I started to get interested in the decisions of the studio. And how the business worked. So I sent one short e-mail into “Hey Answerman!” It read:

“How much creative control do the studios have over the anime they select? Can they choose the series? Because I’ve noticed some similarities between series from certain studios (like Bones and GONZO).”

It’s a really simple question. It certainly didn’t require a page long answer. A simple “A lot” or “A little” would have sufficed. But it didn’t get answered. Maybe it’s because it was poorly phrased. Maybe because it was too vague. Maybe because I have bad grammar.

Or maybe because he wanted to talk about fansubs that week.

I don’t know. And I probably will never know. So when I read that little snippet from Jeff Lawson, frankly it pissed me off. But I couldn’t put it into words why. Somehow the crux of my problem was eluding me. That was until two things happened. The first was a comment from Sejanus over on the blogspot version of this page on my strangely popular rant about ANN’s spring preview:

I think you are over-analysing it… ANN is just trying to do a better job, give us, the fans, what we want: more information.

And what do the fans say about it? Not surprisingly, they’re bitching.

Now you can read my rambling after that. Frankly, I got on my high horse. And I went into my traditional rant. Now maybe omo is right. Perhaps my crime is caring too much about standards. Perhaps my crime is that I think there’s a correct way to practice journalism. And perhaps Impz should have written this rant.

But if I might be indulged to misquote Shakespeare, “Let it not be said that I loved too little, but that I loved too well.” And that’s why being told that I’m bitching and that I should just sit down and shut up, ticks me off. Because I do care about those things, whether I should or I shouldn’t. Like I care about how much money it costs to produce anime. Like I care about how little television broadcast ad revenue amounts to. Like I care about how little the people working in the trenches get paid.

Like I care about anime.

But no one would tell me anything about it. And why should they? I mean they already knew. Why bless the unwashed masses with that information? As Avatar put it:

Hey, if you’ve been in the industry for a decade, you know better than to talk to damned anime fans… there’s nothing but abuse in it, and you can’t tell them anything good anyway, so why bother?

Perhaps the same thing could be said about the anime fans. That they love too well. They care too much about things that they don’t know enough about. And why don’t they? Because frankly the information isn’t there. Avatar makes an interesting point about subtitlers, but I couldn’t tell a good subtitle from a bad one. I couldn’t tell a good timer from a mediocre one. Some people might even accuse me of the fact that I can’t tell a good voice actor from a bad one. Because no one has ever taught me. They’re all inside some secret chamber somewhere, doing stuff and all I have are questions.

But it wasn’t that I read TheBigN’s blog post that I finally got it though. I wasn’t just mad because I care. I was mad because I got lumped in with THOSE people. You know the ones. They talk about how, “fansubs are protected by the First Amendment.” They complain about how the anime companies are ripping them off. They blame the studio for a bad business decisions.

And you know what? I am.

But I don’t want to be. I listen to Anime World Order and Anime Roundtable as often as I can. And even though I might complain, I read ANN. I check out the blogs. I try to gather up as much information as I possibly can. So maybe it’s time to turn those tables around. Maybe it’s time for the people in the know to stop bitching.

And to start teaching.

Now in all fairness some of them do, but they still keep this pretense up. That somehow those of us that are less knowledgeable shouldn’t be speaking. But how are we going to know unless we ask questions? How are we going to know unless we challenge?

How are we going to know unless they answer?


Related Links

Anime Almanac’s take on my poorly worded rant.

Jpmeyer’s take.


7 thoughts on “In My View: Why I can’t stop worrying and learn to love the anime industry.

  1. Frankly, I also don’t know why I wrote that. But I wanted to write something, so I wrote that. The post makes a lot of sense to me. 🙂

  2. I’m not entirely sure if listening to me or Mike is really the way to learn about how the anime industry really works, as I’m about as in the dark as you and everyone else. It’s just as you said: “we don’t know about these things because nobody who does know wants to tell us, and then when we start speculating and building conclusions/actions based on that those very same people get mad at us for not knowing what we’re talking about.”

    To “them” (whoever “they” are), we should all just be content with watching the cartoons, reading the comicbooks that are provided to us, and talking about just those things. Once upon a time, I was more than happy to comply with this line of thinking. But then one day I noticed that the TYPES of stories I like weren’t getting released in the US very much. In fact, they weren’t even getting made very much. It’s only natural that I ask “why?” And even though the best I can offer is quasi-educated guesses, I think this ties into your question:

    “Why are so many series so similar to one another, regardless of studio? Are they being forced to make this stuff?”

    Here’s my take: studios are completely free to make whatever they see fit. However, anime studios are not exactly rich. It’s not like if a show is successful on TV that they get a portion of the ad revenue. Heck, they have to pay the channels to air their stuff, like how infomercials do. Their main source of income comes from stuff like merchandise, DVD sales, and licensing.

    The implication of this is that they have to make shows which allow for merchandise to be generated that people would buy, AND are likely to be licensed. This is a gamble. You could do something different and risk nobody caring–which is what happens 98% of the time–or you could hedge the bet and minimize the risk by doing something that’s kinda similar to things that were proven to be popular in the past. The more established popular elements you include, the lesser the risk.

    The implication of this is that if enough people do this for long enough, all opting to minimize the chances of their titles flopping by not being TOO different from what came before, eventually their output all starts to feel REALLY similar to one another. Anime studios like BONES and Gonzo seem to live and die by the tastes of US anime fans more so than other studios, so they’re more likely to say “hmm, Evangelion/Trigun sure was a mega-hit in America; what can we make that’s a lot like those such that the people who bought those will buy our thing? Aha, RahXephon/Hellsing!” Of course, they’re looking at what each other are doing too.

    So when you see that similarity between BONES and Gonzo, I think it’s because of factors such as this. It’s not like someone is going to them and saying “you MUST make a show like this!” the way that say, US TV network executives would say “that other station has a mega-popular show and we need a show a lot like that! Pitch us something that’s like that, but better!” Internal forces within the studios are probably the ones responsible.

    Or I could just have no clue what I’m talking about. That happens a lot.

  3. Actually, one of the things I like about the UK’s miniscule anime ‘industry’ is that because it’s such a small operation it’s relatively easy to talk to the people inside it. Of course, there’re considerable limits on what they can talk about, and a certain gap in trust (‘Is this viral marketing?’) but I’ve known them pop up on forums and volunteer information.

    Learning anything about the Japanese studios, on the other hand, is a rather forlorn hope.

  4. I’m a fan of the game Civilization 4. Lenard Nimoy repeats a quote of Adam Smith that seems to apply to the situation:

    “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public.”

    I think this also ties into with the whole journalism thing you’ve had going in the last month (man I’m so late to this party)–what journalism/journalists are suppose to do. I think there’s room where someone can stand and dispense useful and helpful information about this industry (which is, I guess, different than any other media industry that people commonly think of) in a way that helps fans understand whatever they want to know.

    Or as I said in my own blog–that’s why people run seminars, go to school, etc.

  5. @omo – I think you raise a good point. I mean I would really like to see some sort of middle ground show up. Not that it will for sure, but I think it’s probably going to need to.

    And, I’m always glad to get a comment from anyone, so I certainly don’t mind. I’ve just been kind of remiss about responding to all of the comments.

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