With the fall of Geneon USA‘s DVD sales department, are we looking at the beginning of the doom of all anime as we know it? Some people seem to think so. After all, Geneon is well-liked by fans and its releases receive positive reviews from most, there seems to be no reason why they should be in trouble now, having started operation half a decade before anyone in North America has even heard of Pikachu. It’s tempting to point fingers and, just like the Napsters of the music industry, it didn’t take long before fansubs are getting blamed for everything from the death of anime to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
I’m not very familiar with the North American scene, so I don’t know what Geneon did to get here. But surprisingly, after a quick inspection of my shelf, I don’t seem to own anything from Geneon USA at all. Perhaps I’m unconsciously an ADV fanboy. Well I did almost buy the entire set of Starship Operators once, but Rightstuf was being bitchy and asking for my credit card bill so I cancelled the order. Okay I’m digressing.
Frankly I think that the R1 companies were too eager to cash in on what they perceived to be the biggest thing since Pokemon. Everyone loves anime and Japan, right? Well, the problem with the apparent popularity of anime is that it was not built on solid foundations. The rise of broadband internet, the birth of peer-to-peer file-sharing and the digitalization of the fansubbing chain, they all coincided to suddenly propel anime into uncharted territories from niche to semi-mainstream. It seemed like a whole new market popped out of nowhere and everyone wanted in all the money to be made. But perhaps it wasn’t as easy as people thought.
There is certainly money to be made, but the way to do it is not to license every single half-baked series and flooding the market with releases. For a while, it seemed like the American companies took a leaf out of a certain movie, with a slight adaptation: “If you dub it, they will come.” Just two years back, I saw a list of monthly R1 releases and I wondered to myself, “Are there really that many American anime fans?” Well, maybe that’s why anime is “dying” in North America. Perhaps it was never really as “alive” as it appeared to be, as the companies wished it was. (Like an undead zombie masquerading as your best friend.) I don’t think that it’s actually in any danger of dying, it’s just the victim of an overheated market and false hopes. Anime will survive. It just takes a lot of trial and error to get it right in a relatively young market.
Then again, maybe I’m waaaay off the mark here. Maybe anime really is dying like Odex says. And maybe fansubbing really is killing the industry. But sometimes, you have to rethink what are the real core components of the industry and what are the things that are only there because of inertia. Just because it has always been this way doesn’t mean it will be this way forever. Natural selection will take its course.
On a side note, it’s not like Geneon USA is going out of business after this. They are just going to cease their DVD sales operation. I’m guessing they will follow Kadokawa USA’s example: license the titles and then hire other companies to do the actual work.
Wow, what a random and incoherent rant this has been. One week of cramming an entire year’s worth of topics and four days of examinations must have really fried my brain.
P.S. Team Fortress 2 is like morphine injections to the brain.