Anime! Anime! has an article up about the lack of growth in Japan’s anime DVD industry. (Link is in Japanese.)

Hiro Suzuhira

The article focuses on DVD sales in particular, which traditionally does quite well in Japan. It also makes some comparisons to overseas markets such as North America and briefly mentions Singapore.

Surprisingly, opinions voiced in the discussion thread at 2ch (as reported by Itai News) were actually very critical of the industry, particularly over the high cost of R2 anime DVDs. I find this interesting because 2ch is generally full of right-wing xenophobic nationalists, so I was expecting them to jump at this chance to blame foreign pirates for destroying the livelihoods of Japanese studios.

[ Anime! Anime! via Itai News ]

Some of the points covered by the original article:

  • 2007 was a calm year for the anime industry with a marked absence of new IPOs and mergers and acquisitions compared to previous years.
  • Anime series are making less money and prime-time slots receive lower viewership.
  • The worst performing sector is DVD sales. Although as a whole it is stable, sales of individual titles have gone down.
  • There is still no sense of immediate danger as compared to market collapses overseas.
  • Briefly mentions Geneon USA’s collapse and the Odex Incident in Singapore.
  • Attributes the problems faced overseas to the development of digital fansubbing since the turn of the millennium.
  • Online file-sharing did not catch on among anime fans in Japan initially, allegedly due to their more cautious attitudes towards the net. (Yeah right.)
  • However, it is gaining popularity now and Japanese fans are approaching the state of the English fansubbing community in 2000.
  • Fansubs used to serve as promotion for DVDs but now foreign viewers are contented with just the digital rip.
  • It is very likely that Japan’s anime DVD market will eventually go the same path as younger Japanese people grow used to file-sharing technology.
  • Online distribution is an important growth area and many companies, such as Bandai and Toei, are attempting it.
  • However, online distribution can only produce extra income for companies with huge collections of past works and does not earn enough to substain new on-going titles.

Oh no! Anime is doomed! Anyway the article is pretty slanted towards the traditional industry view of the whole fansub debate, a stance which Anime! Anime! has consistently maintained. Perhaps this is because they have access to insider information, or perhaps this is seen as the politically-correct interpretation. (Which is how the mainstream media do it.) Either way, there’s probably some truth in there but, as a bottom-level consumer, I can’t really say that I sympathize when industries whine about changing paradigms.

I think it’s about time people realized that anime is, and probably forever will be, a highly niche market. The projected growth is just unsustainable and the whole foreign market was one huge bubble waiting to burst in the first place. Everyone wanted a piece of the action because anime was the next coolest thing, but a lot of it turned out to be hot air.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Hiro Suzuhira

Meanwhile, here are some general comments that were expressed by 2ch posters in response to the article:

  • Anime DVDs cost too much, especially when compared to regular DVDs.
  • There are tons of crappy titles not worth paying for.
  • HD broadcasting means that DVDs are actually of worse quality than illegal rips.
  • Just switch to online distribution.
  • DVDs not worth buying because anime has no rewatch value.
  • Buying DVD is troublesome.
  • Won’t buy without watching.

Most of it is similar to what you would find on most English forums, but I think that the most important points raised are that HD broadcasting looks better than DVD and that anime DVDs in Japan are seriously overpriced.

When you take into account of the fact that DVDs actually look worse than current TV broadcasts despite costing an exorbitant amount of yen better spent elsewhere, I think the sluggish sales can easily be seen as the slow death of a format past its prime instead of the manifesting effects of increased file-sharing. In the first place, Japanese fans have always been able to record and watch whatever they want for free, so I really don’t see how the spread of P2P can have as much effect there as compared to foreign markets such as North America, where many titles are released direct to video.

Oh well. Whatever. I don’t give a damn any more. In fact, I hope the industry will get rid of some extra baggage (GONZO in particular) and down-size.

Moka Akashiya
GONZO ruined one of my favourite manga series ever. Death to the anime industry!

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