January 25, 2008

Maybe I'll wait a bit longer

I was thinking maybe it might be about time to put in another order. But I went through my list, and if I was to do it, here's what it would be:

AMG 5
Haruhi 3&4
Tea Society of a Witch
The Third 3&4
Itsudatte my Santa
Magikano 2
Witchblade 1
Mushishi 1

And the only thing there I really want to watch is Magikano. (Haruhi is a guilt buy.) It's not really much of a list, is it? Somehow it just doesn't feel all that compelling.

One of my readers let me know that Brand X is running another of those "10 for $50, 25 for $100" sales. This time it's ADV. (He wrote to tell me that he used the opportunity to pick up Petite Princess Yucie. I'm sure he won't be disappointed.)

It's a bit worrying. The last time Brand X did this, about 16 months ago, it was Geneon. Now Geneon is OOB. Does this foretell more shakeout in the industry? If ADV bags it, that takes a hell of a lot of titles out of the retail stream. I've done my share of bitching about ADV, but I've also bought a lot of stuff from them.

Geneon is no longer shipping, and though there's still inventory in the stores, when that's gone it's gone forever. I was thinking maybe I should go through Geneon's title list to see if there's anything there I should grab before it's too late. (J recently told me that he was going to order Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite for exactly that reason. Another case where I'm sure he won't be disappointed.)

I took a look at Bob's upcoming list. Only thing on it that really hooked me was the next DBZ reissue. It's going to be a short one, only 22 episodes, which means it's going to be Garlic Junior and Trunks. The one after that will pick up with Androids.

Sigh...

UPDATE: The R1 release industry really is in very serious trouble, I'm told. Animesuki has a list of license announcements. There are only 13 since the end of last July.

I'd like to support the industry with my dollars, but they're not really selling anything that I want.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 03:32 PM | Comments (16) | Add Comment
Post contains 377 words, total size 2 kb.

1 It's a disturbing trend.  What's even more disturbing is that the first thing that crossed my mind was "Hey, if they all go under, then I don't have to pay for anything, because I can't!"

If a, ah, relatively ethical consumer like myself can think that, then the scofflaws out there are thinking that. 

On the other hand, if the R1 retailers do go under, the Japanese studios will be forced to sell subbed downloads to have any revenue stream from the U.S.  That means no more dubs though.   Wouldn't make me cry; I prefer the Japanese seiyuu; but it would further marginalize the genre.

Posted by: ubu at January 25, 2008 04:11 PM (LKX4g)

2

I had an e-mail yesterday saying ADV are stopping releases in the UK, officially because they are looking to get a UK company to do  it rather than run it out of Houston. The company that sent the e-mail used to put out Geneon titles, so I'm guessing they will be doing ADV's catalogue.

Not that I'm bothered, I have a multi region DVD player so i get R1 disk- cheaper, quicker and more choice.

This is the list of what is on hold:

Pumpkin Scissors
The Wallflower
Ah! My Goddess Series 2: Flights of Fancy
009-1
Red Garden
Innocent Venus
Kurau Phantom Memory
Utawarerumono
Paniponi Dash
Guyver: The Bio-boosted Armor
Le Chevalier D'Eon
Coyote Ragtime Show
Jinki: Extend

All of these have been available in the states for months- the only title that interests me is Paniponi dash, the last volume of which was out in R1 in october. The UK release is only up to volume 3.

Still, they are supposedly having a warehouse clearance sale but their website doesn't seem to be working properly.

Andy

Posted by: Andy Janes at January 25, 2008 04:15 PM (V4JGB)

3 The kind of inventory fire sale that Brand X is holding right now usually indicates a cash crunch by the supplier, because it means they're willing to take a loss on product just to raise cash. It doesn't automatically mean imminent death, but it can mean that and it's never a good thing.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 25, 2008 04:25 PM (+rSRq)

4 Personally, I fit more of the otaku demograhic anyway. Of those last 13, I'm only interested in two: Kanon 2006 and Lucky Star. Scrolling down a bit more, I notice my items of interest were all Geneon. Great. Anyway, after chasing around series for years now, it's about time to wind down a bit. Even if the signal-to-noise ratio of good series is constant, by sheer number there's a lot of crap out there, certainly many of them do not merit the full dub treatment. There's a market correction coming and frankly, it's needed. None of the chronic problems in R1 will be settled unless those in R2 feel the crunch and are compelled to change. It looks like the R1 market collapsing completely might be the only thing that will catch their attention...

Posted by: gaiaswill at January 25, 2008 04:46 PM (elg14)

5

Lucky Star and Kanon 2006 are going to come out. Avatar is working on the subtitles for Lucky Star right now. He won't tell us who is employing him (which is fine; we'll find out when the time comes) but whoever it is, they wouldn't have paid him if they had already decided to shelve it.

As to Kanon, it's too valuable a property to let drop. Someone else definitely will pick it up. Or Geneon will release it as part of a last gasp.

Geneon didn't cancel everything, just most stuff. Second tier titles like Tokyo Majin went bye-bye, but they're still working on some stuff, and there will be no new licenses. Some of their existing licenses will get sold to other houses. Some will drop on the floor and we'll never see them, or not for years. I'll be surprised if the rest of Karin or Hikaru no Go ever comes out.

And some will rot ferment for years and eventually expire, and then some other house will relicense, at bargain basement prices.

Yeah, it's not just that the list is only thirteen titles since last July. A lot of the ones in that 13 are utter crap. The Wallflower is one of my "shows I'll never watch". (I recently noticed that it was directed by Nabeshin. Um...) Apart from Lucky Star, the only one on the list I'm even slightly interested in is Tweeny Witches. And maybe Buso Renkin, but probably not.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 25, 2008 05:02 PM (+rSRq)

6 Oh. Uh, actually, it's not a secret for Lucky Star - I'm working for Bang Zoom on behalf of Bandai. Same for Aika. It's the OTHER employer who wants to remain anonymous. ;p

For what it's worth, I'm getting an unusual amount of support on the LS project. Comprehensive translation notes and collaborating with others on some of the trickier lines, that sort of thing. I had to -audition-, or equivalent thereof. (Well, more like "tell them to go watch Excel Saga"...) Someone was definitely listening to the complaints about Haruhi, and doesn't want them to recur.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 25, 2008 06:07 PM (LMDdY)

7 Oh, and Kanon's already coming out. First disc hit Jan 1st (really before that). Next one is Feb 12th.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 25, 2008 06:08 PM (LMDdY)

8

It's the OTHER employer who wants to remain anonymous.

You mean the one who has the Nanoha license, I assume.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 25, 2008 07:02 PM (+rSRq)

9 And Zero. Yeah, that one.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 25, 2008 07:16 PM (LMDdY)

10

I've noticed that the the otaku have many theories for the withdrawal of Geneon, Bandai's retrenchment, and the overall wobblyness of the R1 anime market.  Interestingly, none of these theories seem to involve the corrosive effects of fansubs.

I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you.

If the Japanese withdraw from R1 they won't be back.  Subbed downloads won't be worth the effort--how could they be with the competition from fansubs?

Posted by: Toren at January 25, 2008 11:29 PM (wCpTP)

11 How big is the sub market, though?  How corrosive can fansubs be when the sub market was really only ever an afterthought?

Posted by: Pixy Misa at January 26, 2008 12:38 AM (PiXy!)

12 Hm... market history lesson, I guess.

There's always been at least two tiers of fans, essentially. You have a small hard-core fan segment who buys a lot of stuff, and a larger cloud of casual buyers, the kind of guys who'll watch Adult Swim or browse for something at Best Buy or what have you.

The first segment is overwhelmingly subtitle-only. The second segment is pretty heavily biased towards dubs, though not entirely. (And it gets more complicated these days... there's more hardcore fans who are also dub fans, and more casual watchers who don't mind subtitles... you get the idea.)

The way it used to be, most shows would sell at least a minimum, even if they aren't that great. Even if it was pretty obscure, there'd be a few fans out there who'd been waiting for it for years, and they'd buy copies and "spread the gospel". You wouldn't sell a lot, sure. But you'd make at least a minimum off of it, so if you got the show cheap enough, it'd turn at least a dinky profit. The only way to lose money was to spend way too much on licensing the show (and that happened many times.)

What's happened is a shift in the shape of the market. You get more sales for the hit shows, but the shows that aren't hits get significantly fewer sales - it's very hard for them to make money at all these days. Ironically, the marginal shows (the ones which you'd expect could most use the exposure) are the ones that are taking it in the shorts. Because their customer base was already pretty heavily sub-oriented, it's getting hit a lot harder, relatively speaking.

It's not all discouraging. Recent experiments in digital distribution may bear fruit, and the Funi interview a few days ago mentioned that they'd snagged a couple of shows recently for royalty-only deals... with no licensing fee to recoup, a company can take a risk on a show that it wouldn't go for if it had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the show. ;p

But keep in mind that anime is a niche market, and not a really big niche at that; you'd be flabbergasted at just how few people buy some discs.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 26, 2008 12:58 AM (LMDdY)

13 One other reason the hard-core fans don't bring home as many sales as they once did, of course, is because there's just so damned much coming out these days. When I started being a fan, someone with a decent salary could hope to buy every good thing that came out, but that didn't last long. Nowadays, I don't care how much of a crazed otaku you are, nobody buys it all. People have to prioritize, and of course they'll prioritize towards good shows... ;p So it's too much to say that it's all fansubbing's fault, naturally. But also stupid to say that fansubbing has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 26, 2008 01:00 AM (LMDdY)

14 That all makes sense.  Of course, no-one knows just how much effect fansubbing has had, because at the same time that fansubbing has taken off everything else has been rapidly changing as well.  But I would never claim it had no effect.

One of the things I've heard from anime fandom (via podcasts like Anime World Order) is that it's not just fansubs eating the sub market, but that the fanbase has changed, and the people who bought all those DVDs are fast disappearing.

As for the size of the market - some of the shows I like most only get a few hundred downloads as fansubs, and that's when they're free. (As compared to, say, Bleach, which would regularly have 20,000 simultaneous downloads.)

Now, a combination of digital downloads and royalty-only deals could salvage something, and I'd be only too happy to pay $1.99 an episode for something like Potemayo or Moyashimon, even if it's no better than current fansubs.  But that won't sustain the U.S. anime industry as we know it.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at January 26, 2008 01:24 AM (PiXy!)

15 Here's an article on ANN about what anime is available for download commercially.  There are still problems - DRM, the whole "can only be downloaded from an Internet address in the United States" thing (which most of you won't care about), and the fact that whoever encoded Bubblegum Crisis doesn't seem to know about comb filters - but things might be coming together.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at January 26, 2008 03:18 AM (PiXy!)

16

Certainly fansubs aren't the only reason for the R1 troubles...far from it.  From talking to people in Japan, I get the impression that it's the fact that they are not earning enough from R1 to make up for the losses due to the wave of importation of the cheaper R1 product into R2.  The Japanese anime market is messed up, anyway.  Most anime fans over there only buy a few select favorite series, and copy the rest from rental stores or off of friends.  Anime DVDs are generally priced to be sold to crazed otaku and rental shops.  It's a bizarre situation when you think about it, considering how mainsteam anime is in Japan.  And yet, the anime DVD market over there is almost like the old US comics market, caught up in selling collectibles at high prices to a small group of the hard-core.

I don't know how it's going to shake out in the end but I still can't see pay downloads working. It's not like iTunes where you have a massive selection of one-stop-shopping, and it costs the music companies essentially zero to put the stuff up.  Anime still needs to be translated, subbed, mastered, etc.  And I work in front of my computer all day.  I have zero interest in sitting there to watch anime for hours when I have a very nice upscaling HD plasma home theater in my comfortable living room.  If the downloads aren't at least available as DVD ISO images I can burn, I won't bother.

It's really unfortunate things are going downhill like this.  I figured anime would lose the "hot new thing" gleam sooner or later, and the market would tighten, but I really expected it to just plateau, not slump so badly.

I suspect the Golden Age of Anime is over in the West, and people are going to have to be satisfied with less commercial product from now on.  But then again, as Yogi Berra said, "Predictions are hard to make, especially about the future."

Posted by: Toren at January 26, 2008 04:25 PM (wCpTP)

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