Justin Sevakis over at Anime News Network a couple days ago posted an open letter to the anime industry. It’s really good and worth a read. For those who haven’t been paying attention to the anime scene, his letter does a really good job of explaining the current state of the industry and why anime distribution of questionable legality happens the way it does.
Personally, I’m one of those people who will buy the DVDs of a show that I’ve watched when it finally becomes available in the US, because I believe in supporting the artists who create this stuff, and that’s the easiest way to do so. But as Justin points out in his letter, 90% of the good stuff never makes it to the US, ever. You can look back a few posts in my blog to see a list of some of the series I’ve watched. There’s a lot. Hardly any of them have DVDs or other merchandise available in the US yet. I haven’t shelled out very much money, just because there’s no one to give it to. Some of them actually did get licensed (Pretty Cure) and then the licensee never did anything with them. Some actually made it to market (Ojamajo Doremi/Magical DoReMi) but didn’t survive halfway through the first season in the US (even though there were 4 seasons of it in Japan) because of poor marketing, or (by some accounts) poor execution on dubbing/editing of the English version. My kids love Magical DoReMi, and we’ve managed to accumulate a fair bit of merchandise (doll sets, accessories, DVDs) recently for them to play with, found on clearance at local stores and on eBay. And it wasn’t because of the US marketing (because they took it off the air years ago), but because we saw the fansubbed Japanese versions.
There are shows that do make it and do well. Digimon, Pokémon, and Mega Man are good examples, from which we own a good few dozen DVDs. And one mustn’t forget Naruto (although nobody in my household is a fan of that one). But from the total size of the market, that’s a very small number of shows.
I really hope the industry takes Justin’s letter to heart. It’d make my day to be able to get this stuff from official sources, even if it cost money, although I’d personally prefer ad-supported websites 😉 . It’s a global economy now, and thanks to the Internet, it’s a world market. It’s time to give up on the region-locked licensing and just distribute globally from the get-go.