The imminent bankrupsy of Central Park Media (CPM) forecasts a bleak year ahead for the US anime industry, but given there are more fans now than ever before, one would assume that the opposite should be true. The Anime Almanac has an answer, though I’m not sure whether they are right; it seems fansubs are to blame.
The internet is a great tool for sharing information and this is especially true for the anime community. People are now able to watch new series months (sometimes years) ahead of their local releases and later even share opinions with other like-minded fans (e.g. the anime blogsphere). From the fans’ perspective, this is great, though looking out from say ADV’s base in Houston, it must be frustrating.
ADV US recently licensed “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World” – a 13 episode TV series from none other than Neon Genesis Evangelion and FLCL maestro’s GAINAX. Coming from GAINAX, it should be a license to print money, but “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World” is actually a complete load of rubbish, and there-in lays the problem. Suffice to say had I not watched this show fansubbed a few years back, I would be a lot more interested in it than I am today.
For many of us newer fans, simply being anime is no longer good enough; in this rapidly maturing community, companies can not just go out and license everything under the sun because now the fans won’t have it; we now know what is good from what is bad.
The boom of the early 2000s has led to another problem too. The Japanese companies noticed how successful their anime was becoming in the international markets and decided to bump up the cost of licensing. Now we are in a situation where the US companies are less than willing to throw around their money and the Japanese are asking for too much anyway. Stalemate.
Fansubs are still at the forefront of a newer generation of fandom, while the DVD industry is stuck years behind floundering in the past. The music industry recovered from the MP3 revolution by embracing it; and if it wants to survive, sooner or later the anime industry will have to do the same thing.