5 reasons nobody buys anime (and how to fix it)

We all know nobody buys DVDs. And it's tempting to blame consumers for being cheap, or 'stealing' the content that they should be paying for. I think that is a crock of shit and here's why.

  1. It takes too damn long to get licensed
    • until it get's licensed you can't buy it even if you want to
  2. The Fan subs are often just as good as the 'professional' ones
    • most of us want the subs since the dubbing usually sucks, and the fan subs can be quite good. There is little to no incentive to buy the official release in terms of quality
  3. Said Fan subs are released quickly, often within 24 hours of the original airing
    • who wants to wait when you can have it now?
  4. English overdubs are ALWAYS bad - almost without exception

    conan o'brian doing dubs for ghost in the shell (I think)
    • seriously guys... realism please - I can't take it seriously when the voice actors try to just copy/paste the inflection of a line from japanese to english. SOOO cheesy!

      and finally...
      
      1. There is no easy & convenient way to get the content

That last point is so important that it bears repeating.

There is no easy & convenient way to get the content

edit: I should say legally here. obviously torrents, veoh, and youtube are all easy and convenient but the creators don't get any share of the ad revenue and it's usually posted there illegally.[/edit]

In fact there isn't even and easy OR convenient way to get it. If I could get the anime I wanted from netflix streaming that would be one thing. But I can't.

Even with netflix I have to wait for it to get licensed before I can get a DVD. And maybe some day in the far future I can hope to get it over instant streaming... if I'm lucky. and if the stars align and hell freezes over

alt text

My prescription (what I would pay for):

  • A subscription service (flat monthly fee) - the tv industry figured this out decades ago: People are more willing to pay a constant price every month for unlimited access even though they only watch sporatically

  • Works with the fan subbing groups to leverage their efforts and get shows released quickly instead of sending threatening letters

  • Negotiates proactive licensing agreements that allow popular shows to be released to the fans within a week of their original airing.

I am willing and able to pay for the shows that I like.

but!!!!

I am not willing to wait 6+ months for them to be licensed and brought to the US and then pay $20 per DVD of a show that I already know the ending of (because everyone else has already seen it)

Until such a company emerges, I will continue to torrent the shows I want to see, when I want to see them. I don't want to hear about supporting the industry; as long as it takes this long, the minuscule portion of my netflix subscription is all they're gonna get


edit: As it turns out, this post is quite controversial and somewhat inflammatory. At the time of the original writing - I was extremely annoyed that few or no legitimate ways existed to get 95% of what I wanted to watch.

It also drives me crazy when there is an obvious solution to the problem that is by all accounts an improvement over the current status quo - but the companies with the licenses and the power to affect change are dragging their feed.

So here is an update

I am happy to say that since I wrote the original post, several companies have announced streaming alternatives to physical media. It is not an idea solution - but in my eyes, an important step in the right direction.

8 years, 1 month ago
jim
6516 2 4 11

12 replies (reply)

5

Definitely an example of what we need more of around here.

Though since I don't think you are this angst-driven over this subject, I'm going out on a limb to say you purposefully took a controversial stance on this to get some blood pumping around here. I've been an advocate for both fansubs and the licensed companies. So I have a few things to share (not argue, hopefully) that may or may not clash with Alberio's points (only skimmed his post so as not to have my opinions influenced).

It takes too damn long to get licensed: until it get's licensed you can't buy it even if you want to

The reason why it takes a lengthy amount of time to get licensed is not just because it needs to get licensed. Obtaining the rights/funds to distribute full-length series is a process, especially when you have a bunch of different sources contributing to its completion in Japan. The visuals, audio, and legal aspects all need to be handled so that all the properties and compensation can all be accounted for with all the parties involved.

The Fan subs are often just as good as the 'professional' ones: most of us want the subs since the dubbing usually sucks, and the fan subs can be quite good. There is little to no incentive to buy the official release in terms of quality

Agreed that the quality of fansubs tend to be better than the actual companies. That really is beyond me.

Dubbing is something I'm very passionate about, and would have agreed with you on...if this was half a decade ago. I haven't sampled a great deal of the latest anime dubs, but I am fairly certain that the quality of Western voice actors/actress have improved within the last few years under my nose. I will always be a "purist" for Japanese, but as an aspiring pro voice actor, I can't agree with you as your point alone is the reason why I want to get involved with dubbing anime.

You are mistaken about there being no incentive. The fact that you said "no one buys DVD anymore" in the beginning of your tirade says a lot of the kind of fan you are: the loosely informed. Fandom works based on a love for the series, a particular character, and/or the vocal cast. The top incentive for purchasing DVDs for fandom are those very reasons. After that comes the production value that the company adds to simply supplying the series. That includes:

  • Extras (e.g. production notes, interviews, etc.)
  • High Quality / HD DVD [rips] (The go-to for serious AMV creators who are loyal to the art and compete / fans who want an improved viewing experience)
  • Animation tweaks (Hardcore fans have pointed out changes in DVD quality compared to the TV release because animators had time to improve certain frames that were crappily done to meet deadlines. This uiltimately adds up to a higher quality release that you wouldn't receive otherwise. This is enticing to real fans.)
  • As you can see, there are a number of reasons why investing is a viable choice. It just takes a real fan to see that value in the product/series/character they claim to adore.

    Said Fan subs are released quickly, often within 24 hours of the original airing: who wants to wait when you can have it now?

    This point is moot because of how the process actually is meant to work between fansubbers, the fans themselves, and licensing companies. There is absolutely nothing wrong with downloading and obtaining a series through fansubbers. This is because there is no guarantee that said series/OVA/OAV will be licensed to begin with. So yes, why starve yourself when you have access to the fridge? Not to mention that nowadays, some licensing companies access fansub groups to see what is popular among the fans in order to make decisions on what to bring over. The fandom is the best barometer to know what is going to sell.

    The problems when either 1) fansubbers don't stop distributing when the series is licensed or 2) fans are content with having simply enjoyed the series via download/torrent and are not compelled to/don't have the funds to purchase the DVDs. The overall ebb and flow of fandom is so rapid with such over-saturation going on that many fans may even forget about a series they liked in favor of two others that they started watching (i.e. my points about how quickly Hetalia overtook Ouran among fangirls). What it really comes down to is how much do you care about a certain fandom to support it. If you're not willing to purpose in your heart to make a purchase for anything, or are willing to settle on the popular excuse: I'm too poor (ever heard of birthdays/gift-giving holidays), well please don't call yourself an anime otaku as clearly you are lukewarm and not burning with obsession about the fandom.

    English overdubs are ALWAYS bad - almost without exception - seriously guys... realism please - I can't take it seriously when the voice actors try to just copy/paste the inflection of a line from japanese to english. SOOO cheesy!

    The fact that you used a picture from Conan's trip to BangZoom is frankly disgusting to me. I don't know whether to ignore it completely as a joke, or be furious that you would use his playful excursion to support your points...I'm pretty sure that Alberio had some great examples of great dubbed series, but honestly...are you watching stuff from like the late 1990's-early 2000's or something? I don't think you know this, but because of how popular anime has become in the West, Japanese animation companies are actually taking us into mind and adapting lip-flaps to make it easier for ADR divisions to sync English scripts & voice acting. This says a lot about how they respect how far English dubbing has come.

    Every VA is NOT good. Yes, we know, but please at least respect those who really do have skill/talent for what they do. Those are the ones I pay attention to. As I said before, I can't agree with you on this and will prove you wrong even further with my own performance when I become a professional.

    and finally...There is no easy & convenient way to get the content. That last point is so important that it bears repeating. There is no easy & convenient way to get the content edit: I should say legally here. obviously torrents, veoh, and youtube are all easy and convenient but the creators don't get any share of the ad revenue and it's usually posted there illegally.[/edit] In fact there isn't even and easy OR convenient way to get it. If I could get the anime I wanted from netflix streaming that would be one thing. But I can't. Even with netflix I have to wait for it to get licensed before I can get a DVD. And maybe some day in the far future I can hope to get it over instant streaming... if I'm lucky. and if the stars align and hell freezes over

    Have you forgotten? We live in the age of online marketing and digital transactions. How much "easier" and "convenient" can you get? If you don't want to wait until a con, order it online from a site you trust.

    In regards to those sites (excluding torrents) you edited in, I am VERY against viewing anime through a flash video website and will only do it as a last resort. No, they don't get any share of the revenue, but those who live in Japan will support a series there while we, who may never have it licensed here, have a chance to appreciate and enjoy it.

    To your Netflix argument, it's a shame you've become so reliant on that service as a way of getting your fix. To me, fansubbing is my "netflix", and as an anime otaku I either have the option of purchasing it, finding someone who owns it, or just not watching it again when it is licensed. If I know nothing about a series, I'm usually either overhearing some conversation (online usually) or reading the back of a DVD cover to find out if I want it. I do the same thing for my manga; I'm completely disconnected from Japan releases in that regard. So if you're irked that you have to wait to get your anime through Netflix, then perhaps you should cut yourself off from the fansub flow and just hear about licensed releases through the grapevine. That way, you can enjoy your bliss of ignorance as much of the Western fandom does.

    My prescription (what I would pay for): A subscription service (flat monthly fee) - the tv industry figured this out decades ago: People are more willing to pay a constant price every month for unlimited access even though they only watch sporatically

    A subscription service to what? Netflix? >_>

    So what you are suggesting is that licensing companies spend more money than they already are to license, produce, remaster, Engdub, and then distribute DVDs [for rent?] that aren't even guaranteed to sell? This would turn every licensing company into a Netflix, which really doesn't work when you want to own the DVD. How could you pay every month for unlimited access to DVDs when your business is to supply DVDs for legal ownership to the fandom?

    Both of us may be thinking narrow-mindedly here, but if they were to do that, then they might as well drop production all together and go straight to the internet, which would leave physical distribution of collections useless. I really can't agree with your train of thought here...

    Works with the fan subbing groups to leverage their efforts and get shows released quickly instead of sending threatening letters

    They do work with fansubbers (indirectly most of the time) to find out what's popular. However, the way you are suggesting is that big companies join into the fray of pilfering anime series through those who already have an unwritten agreement with licensing companies to quit distribution once they have licensed it. Yeah, not smart.

    Fansubbers are basically taking from live airing feeds and encoding them to RAWs. By doing this, you are going to loose quality once it is encoded again after all the typesetting and effects are added for the final fansubbed product. And then you want said companies to charge the fandom for exactly the same quality? Eh, not happening. If that were possible, there is no reason for fansubbers to not take on a "company" stance themselves, but that would completely go against the "spirit" of fansubbing. It's just a snowball of bad ideas here...

    As I stated before, fansubbers are not simply "breaking the law", they are catering to the fandom with zero guarantee that some company will pick it up. If fansubbers simply did not do what they do on the pretense that it was "illegal" then they as fans themselves would be sitting on the zero guarantee loophole.

    By the way, they only reason why fansubbers get threatening letters is because they have not adhered to said unwritten agreement in respect to the series now being produced, nullifying the zero guarantee loophole of which they act upon. The "war" has been at a stalemate for nearly half a decade already, my friend.

    Negotiates proactive licensing agreements that allow popular shows to be released to the fans within a week of their original airing. I am willing and able to pay for the shows that I like. but!!!! I am not willing to wait 6+ months for them to be licensed and brought to the US and then pay $20 per DVD of a show that I already know the ending of (because everyone else has already seen it) Until such a company emerges, I will continue to torrent the shows I want to see, when I want to see them. I don't want to hear about supporting the industry; as long as it takes this long, the miniscule portion of my netflix subscription is all they're gonna get

    Again, what you are asking is completely unreasonable and selfish. Japanese distributors aren't even announcing DVD marketing pitches of the series until maybe 2-3 months after airing the 1st episode! How in the world do you expect the West to get a hold of episodes (legally and with HD DVD quality) within a week?

    No one is forcing you to wait. Go ahead and torrent what you want. As I've already said, there is nothing wrong with doing so because of the zero guarantee loophole that most fansubbing groups/suppliers follow as loyal fans and supporters of the industry themselves. However, unless you want to lose your precious Netflix fix of anime, if you like a series, invest something into the anime industry. Renting from Netflix is NOT going to keep licensing companies afloat, and I guarantee you that the ONLY reason why you can even rent anime on Netflix is because of it still being profitable to licensing companies. And by the way, if licensing companies are poor, it WILL:

  • Be reflected in what is offered on the DVD
  • Cause crappy VAing to become more prevalent because they can't afford a quality cast (or take out Engdubbing all together which is, to my great dismay, already happening might I add...)
  • Sink the Western fandom because so very few think someone else will make up for their lackluster attitude towards the fandom they claim to so adore
  • And then when they go under, you'll be wondering why anime is no longer offered on Netflix - and the reason will be because apparently it's no longer a worthwhile investment that popular enough for even licensing companies to stay alive. I'd really love to know how much of your miniscule portion licensing companies are even getting. My bet is under 50%, not that it even matters at that point.

    I really hope this was a worthwhile use of nearly 90mins. of my life.

    8 years, 1 month ago
    Nina
    4755 1 3 10
    3

    Very nice post. Dedicated and well thought out (somewhat). Although there are a few issues that I have with it.

    It takes too damn long to get licensed

    This is true. There is no reason why a license can't be acquired within a short amount of time after the anime is released. I agree with you 100% on this...

    Now for what I have issues with...

    The Fan subs are often just as good as the 'professional' ones

    and

    Said Fan subs are released quickly, often within 24 hours of the original airing

    Fan subs are nice, and they are often quite well done, however they cannot be done nearly as fast as the 'professional'/official ones that you speak of and they have a much higher chance of error. In the fan sub business, each sub group must watch the entire episode and translate onto paper or into a type of word document as the episode goes along. This can lead to mistranslations (due to various reasons such as dialect, clarity of the scene, and etc.)in the series. Due to the popularity of fan subs even a small mistranslation could throw off a rather large portion of the fan base. If they are fed the wrong information, it could lead to bigger problems down the road. Whereas an official sub of an episode is made from the actual script and can be edited properly into the language that it is being translated for - id est, cultural differences could pose as barriers between languages. A joke in one language could translate into something quite different in another. Official subs will typically take this into consideration, whereas a fun-subber usually won't. Not to mention the speed that an official sub can be released is much faster than a fansub if done right. For example we could use CrunchyRoll. The official subs are up an hour after the episode is released in Japan. While it's true that not many companies release their subs quickly, it isn't always their fault. Think of it in their perspective, they are trying to market their anime to Japan, no the U.S. nor any other country at the time the anime is released. The 'threatening letters' as you call them are sent out because the fansubbers and dubbers are breaking copyright laws and technically stealing and illegally distributing the episodes of said anime. Now if they could work together as you stated, things would run much smoother; although this is improbable as their market is typically only Japan when an anime is first released.

    English overdubs are ALWAYS bad - almost without exception

    Great example. Because it's obvious that they were totally serious with those dubs that they did. I would have to disagree with you that English overdubs are "ALWAYS bad". How much anime have you watched in English? Yes there are some horrible dubs, but many are quite good. Want me to name a few for you? There are some companies that almost always do bad at dubs (see: 4kids) that I believe have ruined many people's overall opinions on dubs. Try to open your mind a bit. Remember the cultural differences between the languages. The English VAs don't have to sound like the original Japanese ones. As an Otaku you should be able to watch any anime episode with an open mind.

    There is no easy & convenient way to get the content

    Like hell there isn't. CrunchyRoll, Funimation, Veoh, YouTube, iTunes, XBL Marketplace, PSN Marketplace, and lastly the actual DVDs.

    Your "fix" list for it is quite good. However I have always wondered if it one can be considered an Otaku if they steal from the companies.

    Now, I'd just like to point out that I'm not trying to start a fight or flame war, but I find your lack of respect for the producers and your self-centered opinions to be disgusting. If you don't want to buy the bloody DVD because you've already seen the anime through fan-work, buy it anyways. Since you watched the anime, you may as well contribute to the dying industry.

    8 years, 1 month ago
    Albireo
    813 1 7
    2

    claps

    They need to lower the price and work with fans to get the product out as soon as possible for as least expensive for all. You can easily meet the bottom line when you price your product properly.

    8 years, 1 month ago
    GooieGreen
    6097 3 4 10
    2

    A lot of well said points in these posts, its nice to see a discussion going on, as opposed to a flame-war.

    I was going to start a similar post to this, but seeing as there is one, I will just throw in my two cents.

    I am a firm supporter of the fansub groups out there. They allow us otaku to see a lot of shows that would stay hidden in Japan otherwise. Also, as stated by others, a lot of the major anime companies in north America use the fansub groups to pick a fair amount of the titles they license.

    Dubbing, can be horrible, I will not deny. I've been part of the anime boom and seen it grow, so I've seen my fair share of dubbing train-wrecks in my time. However the quality has improved over time as has been noted. The majority of people who speak out, saying "Ye lords! That was a horrible dub!" I find are those people who first saw the show in its original Japanese instead of english. Having seen it in such fashion will already have set their perception of how a character sounds, how they talk, etc ... and hearing an english voice that does not fit this, becomes unacceptable. This too, however, is slowly improving.

    Though, when it comes to the dubbing of an anime, you have to realize that the way it is done in Japan opposed to North America is as different as night and day. In Japan, the whole cast does their voices all at the same time, like it was a radio-play, with scripts, and a storyboard of the scenes in-front of them ... and then they animate the mouth movements to meet the audio. Over here, however, its quite different. Each voice actor does their voice part alone, while watching the video so they can match the mouth movements as they go. So this does affect the end result, making it somewhat less natural. (All this, not my own words, this was the education given upon us by Vic Mignogna in his Q&A at Gencon 2009)

    My biggest beef, as was also mentioned, is the price. I realize that licensing, purchasing distribution rights, paying voice actors,etc etc would not be cheap ... but I sincerely doubt those production values are nowhere near as high as for a live-action show, like Heroes. I can understand some inflation of price for import ... but when a 26 episode season of an anime is sold in two parts, each for $60 before tax ... that is ridiculous! Especially considering the fiscal crisis we are in these days ... that's just unacceptable. $120 for 26 episodes ... without any special packaging, or bonus content, or limited-edition extras (soundtrack, drama cd, posters, patches, whatever) come on.

    I may have just repeated what others have said, but this is how I feel. I'm just trying to add to the discussion.

    Carry on, fellow Otaku!

    8 years, 1 month ago
    sheldoom
    226 5
    1

    I think people should take the time out of their lives either to go to the store and buy the DVD or to get a subscription from a company like Netflix. Or go to the library and rent it. The way I see it, it's rude to watch online for free after all the work the people making it went through to make the show. Of course I've watched videos online, but I'm trying to limit this. It's basically stealing what's not your to take. (Not trying to start a war here. Just stating my opinion.)

    8 years, 1 month ago
    maria
    6567 1 5 10
    1

    My post will not be over 9000 characters.

    I'm just going to give an example of Dubs that weren't utter trash:

    • Yu Yu Hakusho, in the uncut version on DVDs, was a job well done in my opinion.
    • Haruhi Suzumiya wasn't terrible either.
    • Gurren Lagann was actually pretty good- Kamina's voice was a bit disappointing as well as the slight mistranslations of the most important lines in the series.

    Unfortunately, our problem is that we have actually WATCHED the originals before and have superior work to compare the dubbed versions to. For example, when we were young and watched Pokemon and Digimon and Sailor Moon and whatever, it was the coolest thing for us. Forgetting about Age and your native language as factors....

    8 years, 1 month ago
    KaminaSama
    2797 1 7
    1

    Well, I've read enough of these comments, via the intertubes (note: not a big truck), and I'd like to put in a little word here. I do this knowing I'm about to make enemies, but if you disagree, how about we talk about it instead of you getting upset and down voting everything on the site?

    Us young adults actually work for a living. We are broke from every payment on the face of the planet, burnt out from college, and we've been working since before you kids even knew about anime. Back in my day, I had to walk fifTEEN miles up hill in the snow to pay $15 on a manga.

    Seriously, here is the actual point: we work hard, often just as hard if not harder than most people involved in anime. Jim happens to be one of the most hardworking people I know and doesn't have all that much the show for it, other than an impressive worth ethic. I've always hard a firm grasp on the value of something, and being older and more independent just cements this idea.

    "Why should I buy your anime", I ask "if you cannot deliver your product as I'd prefer it?" I know plenty of people who refuse to buy a broken product, like an Xbox 360, despite its library of attractive games, because it isn't what they want. They want a reliable console, and I want a strong DVD release.

    It isn't a question of whether or not we like anime. If Jim didn't like anime, he wouldn't have started this site. That is a moot point. Freedom of expression helps to promote creativity in the face of the status quo. The film industry, globally, has had to deal with a changing world, and like many other industries, it is failing to do so to the needs and wants of the consumer. The result is that these markets fail. He should continue to watch whatever he wants to, and continue the productive dialogue that will help the industry become better suited for this new world we live in. If we didn't care, we wouldn't be talking about it at all.

    8 years, 1 month ago
    GooieGreen
    6097 3 4 10
    1

    So I'm only going to address one of the points, which I believe to be the biggest deterrent: it just costs too damn much.

    Ideally, we will all be supporting the industry by purchasing the DVDs. And as others have indicated, there is definitely an incentive: higher quality, added features, etc. If you've got the cash, then yes you should purchase instead of download so the market can sustain itself. Unfortunately this can't always be applied to practical life. If you're on your own, you need to be using the money pay your bills, not to purchase the DVDs (unless you want to be broke). I don't know about you guys but this is the biggest problem for me. Unless I go to a con, or subscribe to a reasonable online service with a wide selection, my only choice is to rely on free fansubs.

    Just my humble opinion.

    8 years, 1 month ago
    sasha
    1409 2 10
    1

    I just think if we like the show, we should buy the DVD's when they're released in America. I mean, yeah, it's frustrating to wait a number of months (years even?) for a series to come over to the states, and the prices could be pretty high, but even so, we should support the industry.

    I actually believe fansubs help the industry to an extent, but at the same time, it can hurt it. It all comes down to the consumer's decision to buy the DVD's or not. As I said on another topic; Fansubs are double-edged swords.

    7 years, 12 months ago
    DarkIceXIII
    1071 1 7
    1

    You need to add PRICE up there.

    ONE DVD at Best Buy is like $40! We could be spending that money on some Figma!

    7 years, 12 months ago
    Mana
    296 7
    0

    @sheldoom

    I find are those people who first saw the show in its original Japanese instead of english. Having seen it in such fashion will already have set their perception of how a character sounds, how they talk, etc ... and hearing an english voice that does not fit this, becomes unacceptable.

    Thank you for stating this. I was having a rather hard time explaining it in a comment I made to @jim earlier, and you summed it up perfectly.

    Though, when it comes to the dubbing of an anime, you have to realize that the way it is done in Japan opposed to North America is as different as night and day.

    As such, one must accept the lower quality in English. The fact that the anime is actually animated in Japan, for the Japanese language, makes it that much harder for a proper dubbing within the U.S. (or any other country). Although there have been some efforts towards fixing this (on the animator's end), so hopefully this won't be a problem in the future.

    My biggest beef, as was also mentioned, is the price.

    This is always a controversial issue. While the price is above what the production cost may have been (rightfully so, as it is a business and they need to make money), it's hard to tell what a "proper" price would be considered. You have to consider the amount that the producer is charged in taxes, production, payroll, insurance, purchasing the license, and importing from Japan. Understandably, the cost of an anime DVD in the U.S. would be significantly higher than in Japan (subjective). Although I have to ask something, where do you go to buy your anime? I can buy a full series at my local Best Buy or FYE for $40. I saw the collector's edition of Neon Genesis Evangelion at Best Bye for $55 (entire series).


    @GooieGreen

    "Why should I buy your anime", I ask "if you cannot deliver your product as I'd prefer it?" I know plenty of people who refuse to buy a broken product, like an Xbox 360, despite its library of attractive games, because it isn't what they want. They want a reliable console, and I want a strong DVD release.

    First: Why should they care if you don't like it? The majority of the consumers enjoy owing the DVD for the novelty value and the higher quality of any other variation.

    Second: WTF MAN!? Why are you hating on the 360? It's a reliable system. I've had mine for over 3 years and I've never had a single problem with it. In fact, I just bought a second one a few months ago for another room in my house.

    It isn't a question of whether or not we like anime.

    We never questioned whether anyone liked anime or not. The fact that we are using this website proves that.

    Oh yeah, one last thing at a comment you said earlier: If you ain't buying, you ain't a consumer. You're a mooch. They aren't doing this for the fans, they are doing it to make money. - That may be a little on the extreme end, but it is partially true. Yes they do care about the fans a little, however, if their was no chance for monetary gain they would even bother.


    @jim If you want to watch anime on your television, there's a really nifty cable that allows for you to plug your laptop/desktop into your T.V. and use it as a monitor.

    8 years, 1 month ago
    Albireo
    813 1 7

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