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Why You're Killing Anime

            The
economic recession has certainly hit the animation industry hard in the last
few years, and it’s shown. Cartoon Network has moved into what I could only
assume is the more cost-effective live action market. Networks like SyFy which
seemed at one point to be open to airing Japanese and American animation now
seem to be shying away. This is bad for animation on the whole, but it’s even more difficult to come upon Japanese animation on
television. It has been generally sequestered to late night blocks and early morning
programming. Now to the average viewer, even the average anime viewer, it may
seem that this is a bad thing for the fandom. Perhaps it is, but it has yielded
what I have witnessed to be a significant boom in interest and passion. A lot
of what drive the pros and cons to this new anime community are the collectible and hard-to-grasp aspects of the industry, and perhaps
what I call an “entitlement complex” of many anime fans.

            In
order to understand the evolution of the fandom, it is necessary to
step back and see where the industry is today. VIZ Media just laid off a
tremendous amount of their workforce, ADV Media has downsized into Sentai Filmworks and its distributor Section 23,
and Geneon has been a thing of the past for some time now. Bang Zoom! Entertainment’s President Eric P.
Sherman said it himself in his article, the anime industry is suffering. All of
this can be seen as both a cause and effect of the attitude of the anime fan. Unlike any other
industry out there, anime has the particular characteristic in which the attitude of how fans approach their product substantially
affects sales. This isn’t to say that the consumers of anime have a certain
opinion, it’s that they have a certain attitude. The casual viewer of this
community may ponder as to what the difference is. A normal consumer of a
product would go in and say: “I like this show, the DVD got good reviews, I’ll
buy it.” With the anime community a large portion of the problem is that they
are entitled, the show and the release must deliver a certain characteristic to them or else they have been betrayed: “I like this show, the DVD got good reviews, but I’m entitled to
get this with certain vocabulary intact or with certain packaging and extras.”

            This
is what simultaneously causes the failures and successes of the anime industry. When you go
out and tell people: “I like this show, but the DVD doesn’t use the
correct pronunciation for ‘side character A’” it’s going to either turn people
off or turn people on to illegal means to watch it. If your friend says not to buy the official release because it’s lacking in a certain quality, why would you waste your money on it? This isn’t a rant about
fansubbing. Fansubbing was at one point the major threat of the anime
industry, and still remains a potent hinderance to its success, but companies like
FUNimation Entertainment have found ways to go around that obstacle with the induction of simulcasts and
online streaming with mainstream websites like Hulu. What I am deriding here is
the general attitude of the anime fan. This is what is destroying the anime you
love, both here and in Japan. Fandom too often gets embroiled in its own inflexible and unnecessary arguments. People often get wrapped up in
their own community’s culture for a given series that they
forget people on the outside may be incredibly turned off by this kind of
behavior. Because the Internet is cut off from actual reality, those fanatics
forget the impression they may be making on those who come upon their posts or rants. Fiercely dedicated fandom has simultaneously kept anime alive while being an accomplice to its downfall.

            New
media has created the capability to eavesdrop on opinions and conversation in a
way most people probably don’t realize. When you post something on Twitter or
Facebook, it’s available for just about everybody to see. So, when you endorse
something like fansubbing, everyone you know and a lot of people that you don’t, can take
your opinion. However, as I said earlier this is not the major problem. The problems
that come about with this new media are the small, the minute, and the inane
arguments that I see and hear every day. When someone argues about small
translation points or small problems they have with releases or material it
provides a reason for the casual observer to ignore
that series. The problem is that this happens to every single series out
there.
Casual viewers don’t know any
better. They’ll take all the commentary and decide, “hey, [this] anime doesn’t
seem all that great.” I understand passion, but while this kind of excitement may make the existing
fanbase stronger it is a fact that the fanatics alone cannot sustain the industry. It’s great that you may think something was translated wrong, but if people don’t buy the DVDs for that show or don’t watch it regularly on readily free and available Internet media sources, the show is as good as dead.

            So
how can we treat this complex? How do I, the intense and passionate viewer of
anime, go about treating my condition? Hey, you’re looking at one of those guys
right here. I’m insanely passionate about a particular series (One Piece, seriously, you should check it out, it’s a good show). You can be that
without necessarily destroying the series you love; it’s possible. You just
have to be open-minded and address your views privately or at the very least
subtly. So what if your favorite Japanese term is translated? Watch your show on the DVD subtitled. Or better yet, you can use your imagination to pretend
that the term is what it is in Japanese. Anime shows are released in native Japanese and dubbed English almost across the board, by every major distributor. There is literally nothing to complain about in the anime industry today. The era of paying about $30 for 3 to 5 episodes of anime is gone; most of the companies finally have taken the hint and release big boxsets for cheap prices. A lot of them release their stuff for free online; distribution is done in a wide spectrum of formats. Not only are there choices, there are a lot of real and good choices. The days of the edited VHS or DVD release are also long over. We have series that are uncut in their full glory, whether it be for nudity, violence, or just the good old suggestive behavior. The time to complain about what you are entitled to is over, you have what you have always wanted.

So what happens if these companies listen to every one of your complaints? Companies that cater to terminology
and fan requests suffer because they lose the casual viewer, and the potential
for new viewers. Think about some of the biggest anime series of the past two decades: Voltron,
Dragon Ball Z, Robotech,
and Cowboy Bebop. All of them
were successful because they appealed to a wide audience and because people
watching them didn’t think: “wow, this is Japanimation, I’m not
watching this!” They watched them because they weren’t wracked with obscure
terminology and because they were, at the time, introducing themselves to many new viewers that were largely unexposed to a fanbase that was yelling at them to not watch or telling them that what they had wasn’t nearly good enough. Today, we have new media and the lack of
animation on television providing us with some great hindrances to success. You
have a chance to solve this problem. All you have to do is be open-minded. You
have to tell a friend who is not into anime: “hey, buy this DVD because I like this show
and I think you will too.”

Today the anime industry relies on
DVD sales and streaming. This gives you the chance to save your series single-handedly. Though my particular series is One Piece, you can use both of these readily available media
to convince a friend to become an anime fan. You can end inclusiveness and
entitlement by simply reaching a single hand out to a casual fan, you can reach your hand out to a
brand new fan. Now that the economy has restricted anime from airing on
television, you can bring your show to the top with word of mouth. Sales are what matter to the industry, and sales are what will save anime. You will either
save anime, or destroy it. So stop talking about the inane stuff, enjoy the
show you love, and spread that love to the world.

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