In My View: Much ado about a loli

Talking about the industry is like having an itch in the middle of my back. I want to scratch it, but I can only reach the edges.

That said, I still want to do it.

Usually I can trust Author to cut through the BS, but even he is jumping on the “What is FUNImation doing?” bandwagon (at least from what I can tell.)

All because they licensed two shows that no one has heard about, and they’re releasing one as a box set for the half dozen people who will buy it. And the half dozen more people who will buy it because it’s a box set.

Okay… so let’s put this into perspective. Yes, licensing Mamotte! Lollipop! doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially with the way the anime industry is going. But there are at least a few things we don’t know. A) How much they paid for it. B) Whether or not they’re going to dub it. C) How much they’re going to sell it for. On top of that, there’s an entirely different way of looking at it. Maybe they licensed it BECAUSE no one’s seen it. So it hasn’t been tainted by fansubs.

But beyond that, comparing ADV and FUNImation is reasonable. They both throw as many titles against the wall and see whether or not they stick.

Except in FUNImation’s case they have (at least twice in the last year.)

One look at the recent, ICv2 list of the “Hottest Titles of early 2008” shows, the company has four of them. And if that’s not enough proof, they’ve reported that the losses to their division weren’t because of FUNI, but because of BCI Films. They also have 27 percent of the market share. Now they could be lying about all of that. But somehow (in this post-Enron world), I doubt it. If there’s one thing FUNImation isn’t doing right now, it’s hurting. Well at least not anymore than the rest of the industry is hurting right now.

Now since BEI seems to be everyone’s darling at the moment, let me remind people of some facts. First, Haruhi flopped. At least that’s what Eric Sherman said back in November and I haven’t seen any change in that. Lucky Star (no matter how good or bad it is) will likely follow suit. (It is number 71 on Amazon.com’s list of top selling Anime and Manga, for what it’s worth.) In fact, I’m curious why they even bothered licensing it. So they have two titles that are likely to do well, Code Geass and Gurren Lagann. I mean has anyone stopped to wonder why a company which has licensed maybe two things a year for the past three years suddenly is releasing so many titles?

But I can’t say they’re really hurting either.

But really, I like playing this game. So my big winner so far:

VIZ.

Yes, VIZ. Right now, they’re releasing Death Note, Naruto, Bleach and Pokemon. Not to mention that they have a pretty firm foothold in the manga market. I mean if I were a betting man, that’s who my money would be on.

But that’s just me.

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7 Comments

  1. Mainstream sells, baby.

    Betting on VIZ is not a gamble. it’s an investment.

    Moving on… … …

    And Rightstuf/Nozomi licensing ARIA and doing the boxset thing was a genius move. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight…

    Maybe ARIA will flop like a wilted plant in summer too, eh?

  2. Don’t dismiss the potential of Lollipop just yet. The most mainstream anime to have ever hit in the US in the last decade or so have been Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon, and look at which one of those series has since falling from that “Hottest Anime Properties” list. The US has been hurting for some honest-to-goodness magical girl for a while. Just because it’s not a huge hit for otaku doesn’t mean they can’t reach out to the real shoujo (and by that, I mean actual little girls) market here in the US. I think 4Kids did that with magical Do Re Mi, which I’m sure got them some profit because it was on network TV. It would be a smart move FUNi’s part to get Lollipop to that currently untapped market.

    … but then again, I am a little partial to any series that has Mosaic.wav doing it’s theme song… (゚ω゚ )

  3. I wouldn’t bash too much on “the fun stops here” Funimation for the simple fact that we don’t know enough details in their licenses. I’m guessing the two pickups had to be inexpensive to even consider. Besides, there’s plenty of other things to bash Funimation on like their single DVD Viridian releases.

    We once again open the questions about niche vs. mainstream in the North American anime industry. The anime industry can still work with niche titles especially the way Rightstuf/Nozomi is approaching it. Keep in mind, Rightstuf does not have the production power like ADV and Funi. This is why all of Rightstuf’s properties can only be acquired online for the most part and this is probably the way Marimite and ARIA are going. Funimation’s recent licenses can go for that limited production online rout. But if I see Mamotte in a Best Buy, then I’m hitting every exec on the board at Navarre with a paper fan.

    On Haruhi, I don’t see Haruhi as a failure. I think most people had ridiculous expectations for this title. Haruhi really shouldn’t be compared to Naruto, Bleach and Deathnote. Haruhi is a much smaller title in terms of episode run length and Haruhi didn’t have the non-anime backing (long running manga) beforehand to help itself. I’m not sure who would really be hurt by Haruhi not meeting expectations since Kadokawa actually owns the license for Haruhi. I find Eric Sherman just ranting about fansubbers and not anything indicative of Haruhi’s performance.

    On BEI, it’s easy to jump on this bandwagon with their recent moves. I’m going to agree with their decisions so far for the most part. It’s not like they picked up anything truly questionable (unlike Funi) and people are going to buy those titles. BEI’s distribution streams aren’t as massive as ADV or Funimation so assuming they got the right price for these pick ups, BEI should be able to make a fair bit of change here. I just find BEI to have better investment growth potential.

    On the other hand for Viz, I think it’s reaching the end of its growth. Outside of the big titles, they essentially own nothing in anime. Their business plan of picking up the guaranteed big hitters should hit a halt now since I can’t see another future title that will be at that scale. The time to invest in Viz was before Naruto hit. Again, I don’t follow manga so I have no idea what they are doing there.

    With all that speculation, there’s one thing that we keep forgetting here and that’s the numbers. Without things like industry P/E, all companies revenue streams and all companies current debt, this is just another long line of anime industry speculation.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but BEI didn’t license Haruhi. Kadokawa (or whoever the Japanese company is) contracted BEI to distribute, promote, and localize. I assume it’s the same deal for Lucky Star. At worst, BEI would lose future localization contracts if Kadokawa wasn’t satisfied with BEI’s ability to get the show in paying hands. Still a loss of revenue, but probably not as harmful as not recouping on a licensing investment.

    One thing about BEI, they sure do know how to get shows on Cartoon Network, which I’m sure helps them a lot. Going by a % of licenses that make it to CN, I think they’re doing better than anyone, but I haven’t actually gathered the data and done the math.

  5. I know it had to be a relatively cheap deal that Funimation was offered on Mamotte Lollipop with likely incentives, but the question beckons why they didn’t pursue Pretty Cure, Shugo Chara, or even Onegai My Melody, all current hot franchises in moonland. In addition, all three have more hooks than Mamotte Lollipop does, and aren’t tired “save me” shoujo.

  6. @DrmChsr0 – Honestly, I agree with omo on this one. I think RightStuf has largely given up trying to sell to a mass audience and is focused on the smaller audience.

    @Scott – That’s a great point honestly. And one I hadn’t thought about. Although I’m not sure how well a straight magical girl show would sell to a younger audience. But it may be time to try it out again.

    @koneko-chan – Wow. You just owned me. But a few responses, first it’s always speculation. That’s why I said, it’s like a itch I can’t reach. I don’t know any better than anyone else. And to be fair, I’m not entirely convinced that the anime companies know what they’re doing either. But I don’t think saying that Funi doesn’t know what they’re doing is any better. And to be honest, I was looking through Namco’s recent numbers and it’s like trying to puzzle through a foriegn language, mostly because it’s a question of who owns the rights to what and to distribute where. I swear I’ve read state budgets that are less confusing. And Navarre’s report wasn’t much better. And then we get into the whole projected vs real thing and it gets even more baffling. So you’re right on that point.

    As far as Haruhi, mostly I’m going on what everyone has said about it. Now granted I don’t have access to Vidscan numbers (I wish I did, because THAT would be awesome.) Now I don’t know if it just underperformed expectations or if it actually lost money or both, but word hadn’t really been positive on it. As far as the whole fansub issue, I do think that is tied up with all of this. But I also think it’s a fruitless argument about whether or not fansubs hurt or help the industry because they can do both. It ends up being a chicken and the egg argument.

    On BEI, I’m still not sold. I mean they have picked up TTGL and Geass. And I’d probably put my money on Geass doing better (since it’s on Adult Swim and hasn’t languished in license purgatory.) And as super_rats pointed out, I was horribly mistaken and Kadokawa did license Haruhi… so I was mistaken.

    But I honestly wouldn’t count Viz out. They’re sitting on quite a few titles (NANA comes to mind, but probably wouldn’t hit it big, which is probably why it hasn’t been released.) But when you look at a Pokemon or even a Naruto (which started coming out years ago), I’d say they have a safe bet. Honestly, they have a tendency to put out surefire hits. And I only really pay attention to manga as an ancillary type of market.

    @super_rats – You’re right. Damn, I thought I’d researched it out. But I missed that one.

    I’ve always wondered about how they manage to get so many shows on CN.

    @Link – To be fair, most likely “more money, same result”. I mean it’s almost becoming a truism that hype on the Internet doesn’t really turn into sales.

  7. Owned? I wouldn’t say that. Although, I am surprised that I put this long thing into a comment box which is something I haven’t done in some time. Maybe this is a sign that I need to make some time and put up a post on my site.

    As for the numbers, this is part of the reason why I’ve kinda stopped analyzing the North American anime industry. There just isn’t enough data to get a greater picture of where the anime industry is going. Things like the ICv2 white papers are just too generic. It doesn’t display detailed enough dollars and cents estimates and the methodology for generating the statistics. I find most press releases are too company specific. As we learned from the Geneon fallout, one company’s failure may not reflect the same problem in other companies since BEI seems to be more aggressive with their license pickups as of late.

    The unfortunate thing for the average anime fan like you and me is that we never truly understand this creature known as the anime industry until something major happens (like Geneon) and we reflect upon it much later. Unless you are an insider who has a 9-5 paid job in the industry, I don’t think it’s possible to make the kinds of detailed calls we would like to. I find this sad because I really feel like if we understood better where the industry is at, we would respond to its needs better. Instead, we open up the latest anime newspaper (i.e. ANN) and listen to the next industry person to call us the antichrist for our fansubs.


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