I actually was planning on hosting this a few weeks ago... but I just couldn't bear to. Instead, I had a long, hard sit-down, and took stock of my situation, before making some incredibly tough decisions.
So... please... remember that this isn't me anymore. It hasn't been in a very, very long time.
It should be read, though, because, well... it's part of Anime Dream's history. It's a dear part of my life, and something that helped bring us to where we are today. :)
I've been an anime writer for eight years now, and a fan for even longer. I grew up in a world where anime tapes were king. $30 got you two dubbed episodes, or $35 for subtitles. Fansubs were tapes, often eighth or ninth generation copies that cost $8 each, and came with an implicit understanding we were to buy the shows we bought fansubs of. More than anything though, I come from a time when the anime industry was a world of amazement and unique experiences. And, most important, I come from a point where we wanted to share the fun with everybody. Pokémon had hit, and anime fans were beginning to bud across the land.
Back then, if someone had told me back then that all of the major anime companies in America would be shuttered, or saddled with crippling losses by 2010, I would have laughed. However, here we are in 2010. Central Park's gone. Pioneer's gone. ADV is gone. Bandai and Media Blasters both laid off a large number of their workforce. And all the while, the fans scream, whine, and shout when things don't go juuuuuust right.
It makes me freaking sick.
I'm an angry person. I'm angry with the fans. I'm angry with the industry. And, most important, I'm angry with myself. Every single one of us has helped to lead the state of anime to where it is today. More and more, I hear a growing sense of apathy arising. I have to put my foot down and speak my mind now, lest I do so too late.
Through the internet: the forums, the chat rooms, and comment sections, a growing sentiment has come forth. A spoiled, self-entitled sentiment that constantly screams "Me! Me! Me! More! More! More!" This sentiment has manifested into a disgusting, twisted "I've got mine, so go to hell!" mentality that pervades many fans today. These "fans" happily glorify fansubbers as new-age Robin Hoods, while simultaneously demonizing companies like FUNimation. They chant in unison: "Paying for anime, lol" and decry industry figures as "greedy," claiming to be seen as "walking wallets." Ironically, these same people seem to make the most demands when said figures appear at conventions, but I digress. These "fans" will do anything to avoid supporting their hobby.
These "fans" are the worst of the worst. they're insular, elitist, and hateful towards anything that threatens to change their "elite" hobby. Much like the Trekkies, these people are absolutely insulted with the idea that someone who has no clue what loli is, or who Osamu Tezuka was may actually enjoy some of the things they do.These individuals are trapping anime fans in a tiny box, which shrinks more and more with each passing day. This is a mentality that extends from both kids to adults, mind you. Sadly, there are few cures for being a snobby, self-entitled douchebag.
Frankly, I'm glad to be an anime fan. It's the only industry I've worked in where the CEO of a company will actually attend a fan event, and field questions from the crowd. They listen to complaints, criticism, and the like. And most importantly, most in this industry are fans themselves, with a genuine interest in the products they offer. There's an enthusiasm, a warmth and willingness to please that exceeds most other subcultures.
However, this enthusiasm is wasted when dealing with a den of jackals. Every announcement they make, every new title they solicit, seems aimed at a smaller and smaller niche. From Kannagi to Strike Witches to Vampire Bund, the focus grows narrower. The companies are retreating upmarket, trying to appeal to the shrinking niche that continues to buy products. Commonly, this is only seen in a case where a disruptor enters the market. However, this time, the disruptor is nonexistent — they are instead being led up by the very people who seek their downfall. The "fans" that would be loath to even consider stooping as low as to purchase a DVD. All the while, the box keeps getting smaller, and the cheer for failures gets louder and louder.
You done yet?
Halfway there. Now sit down, and shut up.
Industry: What to do
Have a seat, industry. It's clear that it's time to change. Retreating upmarket over and over again is only going to lead to a slow and painful demise. Your box of customers is going to keep shrinking, and your markets are going to dry up.
And what have we now? Target's dumping anime again. Best Buy's dumping anime. Musicland's gone. People are moving on or pirating your work. Surely you have some shows to get a broad audience back... right?
No, Dance in the Vampire Bund isn't it. A little bit of advice: a large percentage of the US population is pretty antsy about sex; even moreso when you're talking about kids in sexual situations. In an age of Fox News and populist media, you're promoting shows like Strike Witches, Vampire Bund as your biggest titles. If that doesn't scream "large market alienation," I don't know what does.
Pokémon handed you a market on a silver platter. But, let's face it. You blew it. You swamped the market, and devalued your own product by slashing prices and flooding stores with low quality, "B-roll" shows. In themselves, these aren't bad things. But when the market was heading down the Hershey Highway, you kept shoving more and more obscure, more niche and even more fetishistic titles, trying to keep the small, whiny base happy, and abandoning the thought of having a huge hit ever again. Remember this: promoting fetish shows and lolicon aren't the best ways to attract new viewers. If anything, equating anime with underage poon is only going to associate our hobby with child porn and other sick fetishes. It's that type of stigma that tends to stick in peoples' minds for a very very long time.
In this rush upmarket, we've seen huge companies, foundations of our industry fade away. Central Park, Geneon, even ADV! A-D-Freaking-V! All we have left is FUNimation and the shambling corpse of Bandai. Learn from their mistakes. You have the tools, and you have the ability to make anime viable again. You just have your ears plugged, and your eyes shut.
I've seen glimpses of companies working to get the right thing done. TV airings? Great! Ani-Monday (Chiller/Syfy) and Adult Swim are great starts! But what happens when those markets don't want more Bleach, or Gundam, or Ghost in the Shell? They'll look elsewhere... and most of them don't want to buy DVDs yet. Online streaming is a good avenue to get in while it's still the ground floor, as well. Crunchyroll, FUNimation Video, Joost, Hulu — they're great starts, and a great way to get shows out early (a common "fan complaint" is waiting for turnaround). Keep it up!
At the same time, it's not enough. I'm not saying to go out and license every damn show on the market. That's what got you into this mess to begin with. No, I'm saying that anime needs its Wii Sports: its title that will generate interest with an audience larger than 50 people. Unfortunately for you, Sailor Moon's off the market, Speed Racer's outdated, and Haruhi sure as hell isn't it. Still, I really think that one of you has it, released it years ago, and left it to rot in the vaults.
Shows like Black Lagoon, One Piece, Slayers, or Eyeshield touch on concepts and ideals that are familiar to average western viewer. Pitch them to the networks. Get onto time slots that aren't out of the question for people with jobs or school, and which are on channels people actually watch. At this point, it's do or die.
I'm not saying "make anime appeal to everybody" but "get out of the damn box!" Expand your horizons, and try for the bigger market. You're on a self-destructive path that will only end in ruin.
Fans: What to do
Note that this doesn't apply to every single fan, but you'll know who I'm talking about.
Now is where the fun begins. You spoiled, arrogant bastards who have little more than to say, "Me me me! Mine mine mine!" You, who cry for simulcasts, but still download fansubs of a show that's being simulcast. I'm aghast! Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is being fansubbed in the US, and it's being simulcast! What the fuck do you want, people?! Anyway, I'm done ranting about the pirates. They'll exist whether I say anything or not. And they'll probably read this and laugh their asses off for a good solid hour.
So I focus my attention toward the rest of you. FUNimation's Adam Sheehan once referred to anime fans as "brutally honest." You'll grovel and lavish companies with praise when they do something great, like rescue a show from 4Kids. But, once some tiny thing goes awry, one little hiccup in your happy little world, you cry for blood and boycotts. And no, I'm not talking about edits, or legitimate concerns. No, I'm talking about the asinine snobbishness that's cropped up lately. I'm sure most people roll their eyes whenever somebody pipes up and says "No dub, no buy" or "I refuse to buy anything that's not on blu-ray!" The show is going to be the exact same damn thing, whether it's in 1080p or not!
On that note, stop looking down on new fans. You were just like them once. The questions aren't stupid, the mispronunciations aren't "intolerable," and the shows they like aren't inferior. GET! OVER! IT! The snide little jokes you make really don't help, either. Everybody's heard that damn Dragonball Z joke a million times. It's not funny anymore. Really, it's time to stop looking down on somebody because he likes Naruto, or she likes Death Note. It's time to stop thumbing your nose at "inferior" fans, and realize that we're all here because we love anime... and if you don't, then what the hell are you doing here?!
And remember, you may be fans. and you have a right to a website, but for chrissakes... remember that it's public! You may enjoy moeblobs and lolicon panties, but you have to remember that this turns off people who may actually have a passing interest in anime, but aren't sure of what it is. Equating your hobby with pedophilia isn't exactly a thing to be proud of, after all.
The time for flame wars and trolling is over... it's time to realize that it's time to band together.
And your point is??
Right now, it's do or die. If we keep doing what we are doing, this industry will self-destruct. That means that there will be no more FUNimation, no more Section23. There will be no more DVDs, no more Blu-Ray, no more legal streams. Conventions? Guess again. We won't be a fanbase anymore... we'll just be "that weird basement dweller" figure again. Really, there's far too much at stake.
Anime can sell. In its opening week, Ponyo debuted at #3 on the best sellers, as did Halo Legends. We need to see more of this, and less of the "Well we tried..." self depreciation that seems to plague figures and fans alike. It's time for change, time to evolve, while we still can.