If Anime Is Dead Then Death Has Never Looked So Good
With the timing of Al Gore and the intelligence of Joe Biden, the recent rant by Bang Zoom’s President about the impending death of anime is so sad, it’s hilarious. If it was a well-written piece I might feel like I needed to write a rebuttal but it wasn’t, not by a long shot, which leads one to ask – “Why are you bringing up Mr. Sherman’s rambling rant?” Well, I’d answer, there are some things I wanted to mention related to issue at hand and this is as good of a time as any.
Where I Blame Mr. Sherman and Bang Zoom For Being 35% of the Problem Facing Anime In America
I bought an anime DVD the other day.
Not a big surprise; I, like many people can be enticed to buy something even if we have access to it for free. That goes for my copy of the latest Dresden Files book and it goes for this DVD. What is this mysterious anime DVD that I, as a member of the dark underbelly of the internet bought? The complete box set of Baccano.
The big surprise to this purchase is that I bought the complete box set of Baccano for it’s dub. That’s right, I bought an anime DVD for it’s dub. Crazy, I know. Even more crazy when you start listing all the awesome Japanese voice work done for this series but here I am, giddy in anticipation over watching an anime dub.
Someone well acquainted with the past dub quality in anime might ask what makes this dub different from the years and years of mediocre dubs that American fans have had to put up with? Simply put, Funimation used voice actors that sounded right for their role, had genuine talent, and the drive to give a performance on par with their Japanese counterparts. I wouldn’t think it was possible but Funimation did it and if you don’t believe me, you can go to their website to watch the dub episodes for free.
Fine, someone might now say, why does a sublime dub convince me to buy the DVD? Another simple question , Baccano’s dub gives the DVD a much higher value in my eyes then a sub-only DVD or a lousy dub DVD would. For instance, I can now watch Baccano even when it’s not possible to read subs all the time like while I’m cooking or cleaning or eating or, in the case of my sister, when she wants to do a bit of knitting. Also, most Americans don’t like to read subs so having a quality dub of Baccano means I have an anime to show those people when I want to convince them that anime can be awesome (without having to worry about the voice acting souring my chances with these potential converts).
I can hear the question coming at this point – what does Baccano’s dub have to do with Bang Zoom and the problems facing anime in America. At the time of reading Mr. Sherman’s rant I knew Bang Zoom was a dubbing studio but I didn’t know of what shows so I went to the ever informative Anime News Network. And according to ANN, Bang Zoom had nothing to do with the Baccano dub but they did do the Haruhi (my #1 top anime of 2006), Lucky Star (my #2 top anime of 2007), and Gurren Lagann (my #1 top anime of 2007) dubs. A light bulb clicks on at this point. I have the limited edition Haruhi DVDs and found the dub just slightly better then mediocre; Haruhi’s English voice actor totally failed to make Haruhi as awesome as Aya Hirano was able too and the whole show comes off as a much lower quality show because of it. I saw the trailer to Lucky Star and was so turned off by the dub that I refused to even consider paying money for such an inferior product. In the case of Gurren Lagann, I watched it dubbed on the Sci-fi channel and was so infuriated when a poorly picked English voice for Kamina was able to completely change his character for the worse.
In all three shows I sensed a common theme – Bang Zoom pumping out a mediocre dub which might have saved a couple bucks but hurt the show in the long run. Consider what an anime DVD is worth if the dub track will never be listened to and watching it subbed means putting up with that ugly yellow font and poor handling of signs and watching it as a DVD means having to settle for the resolution a DVD offers? Even Mr. Sherman must know, in his heart-of-hearts, that an anime DVD like that isn’t worth very much. If, however, that same DVD offered a great dub then it’s worth would be much higher and as a result, more DVDs would be sold because the consumers would be able to get something they like in return for spending money that could have gone to a dozen different diversions and hobbies.
As I looked at it more the more I became convinced that Bang Zoom and Mr. Sherman have been more detrimental to anime in America then fansubs have ever been. Consider the anime companies Mr. Sherman mentions in his rant as having closed or suffered massive trouble. Two of those four companies (Bandai and Geneon/Pioneer) use/used Bang Zoom extensively to do their dubs – coincidence? Could it be, those market forces of capitalism that work in so many other industries to keep prices down and quality up have shown up here as well? Could it be, American consumers aren’t quiet the dumb sheep that people like Mr. Sherman think they are?
Where I Show Mr. Sherman’s Statement That Japan Is “struggling to bring out quality titles” As Another Symptom of The Problem Facing Anime In America
Assuming, of course, Mr. Sherman wasn’t lying through his teeth and he knows that Japan isn’t struggling to bring out quality titles. Which is a possibility but if one looks at what types of shows that generally get licensed and brought over then his statement fits into an idea I have.
I was looking at the those wonderful charts that chartfag has been putting together and I noticed something when I compared the 2008 chart with the 2001 chart. Here’s the charts, can you see it too?
If you look at the 2001 chart, it looks like the TV stations and animators where targeting young boys with the overwhelming majority shows being action shounen shows and the secondary market seemed to be young girls with the cute shoujo shows. Now look at the 2008 chart and something strange has happened. There’s still those action shounen shows and cute shoujo shows but there’s all these new types of shows: Aria, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Spice and Wolf, Natsume Yuujinchou, Hidemari Sketch, Clannad, Natsu no Sora, and Kaiba to name just a few.
It’s almost like the audience watching anime in Japan is diversifying and getting older; shocking, I know. A look at the American anime market shows that, for the most part, it’s still a 2001 mindset. It’s very slowly getting better (thanks in part to fans refusing to accept business as usual from the DVD companies) but there’s still a wide gulf between how shows like Bleach and Naruto are treated in America as opposed to how Natsume Yuujinchou, Clannad, or Aria are. What must American anime company people like Mr. Sherman think when they see shows like Bakemonogatari as being top DVD/Blu-Ray sellers in Japan? Their years and years of relying and pushing action shounen titles must make it so they can’t comprehend how a show that’s hyper-stylized and spends all it’s time showing characters talking could ever possibly sell in America.
So these American anime companies pass on shows like Bakemonogatari and wait for the next Naruto and complain that fansubs are killing anime because their waiting for the next Naruto obviously means something is wrong with anime. The funny thing is they might be right about the difficulty in their ability to sell shows like Bakemonogatari to America but let’s remember that it’s these same company executive’s limited mindset that has stunted the ability for the mainstream anime fandom in America to grow with their Japanese counterparts, causing a near incompatibility between the two.
To further compound this problem, American anime companies sticking to a 2001 mindset also cause yet more problems. People, including anime fans, get bored of watching the same type of shows over-and-over again; look at the cyclical nature to American prime-time television as a great example of this. So what do these bored anime fans do when they get tired of watching anime that bores them? Either become former anime fans or head to the dark, dangerous underbelly of the internet and find all the titles they’ve been missing out on. And even if you can find anime fans that don’t tire of watching the same type of show over-and-over, by watching only those action shounen titles targeted towards the younger audience it’s very probable that these anime fans will decide one day that they’ve “outgrown” anime because it’s meant for kids and, unless someone steps in and shows them the wider possibilities found in anime, they will stop being anime fans.
Where I Mention Another Market That Alarmists Have Said Will Die “If Something Isn’t Done!”
Print science fiction. Except in the case of print SF, people have prognosticated it’s immanent death since at least the early 1980’s. Hasn’t happened yet and it probably never will, provided great SF books/stories are still being written. So, I put little stock in any statement about the immanent death of anime as long as great anime is still being made and a quick look shows that plenty of quality anime is still getting made.
Where I Remind Mr. Sherman the Easiest Way To Get Rid Fansubs Is To Put Out a Superior Product
I asked earlier how much is a DVD worth if the dub track will never be listened to and watching it subbed means putting up with that ugly yellow font and poor handling of signs and watching it as a DVD means having to settle for the resolution a DVD offers. The answer is not very much and it looks even sadder when compared to the standard fansub I can find in the dark recesses of the internet put out by unpaid amateurs.
If anime companies in America can come up with a better way to give anime fans their anime then fansubs would go the way of the horse & buggy, the record/8-track players, the canals, the walkie-talkies and the elevator operators. Until that happens though, the anime companies in America will be the ones in danger of disappearing and not fansubs.
And will anime die if every single American anime company shuts down? To answer, I’ll first have to assume this scenario is possible because if anime is anything like print SF then as companies close down, new people with new ideas start new companies and pick up where the old companies left off and there’s never a point when somebody isn’t producing anime/manga/ print SF. So, assuming this worst case scenario, would anime die if every single American anime company shuts down? I’d have to say no, I don’t think so.
For all the bluster that Mr. Sherman displays in his rant – America don’t actually make the anime, we’re only a secondary market to Japan. If we were truly important to them then we’d be able to leverage better treatment from them. Remember how in the case of Haruhi the overwhelming amount of fans in America wanted the DVDs released in TV order and the Japanese license holder would only allow the TV order as an “extra” for the limited edition DVDs and only as a subtitled release. Or the continued reluctance of the Japanese rights holders in allowing us Americans to release anime Blu-ray discs. They couldn’t let the remote possibility of reverse importation mess-up their true cash cow even if that makes fansubs all the more enticing to everyone else.
Where I Write a Conclusion and Hope Someone Has Read This Entire 2300+ Word Blog Entry and Derived Something Positive From It
Let’s Recap: Mr. Sherman, President and CEO of the dubbing studio Bang Zoom writes a rant about the impending death of anime and I find it funny for being so out-of-touch with reality. It didn’t rate a response until I realized this was a chance to talk about how unexpectantly awesome the Baccano dub was (thanks Funimation!) and to snub Bang Zoom for screwing up three recent great anime shows by providing poor to slightly better then mediocre dubs and to talk about how the worth of an anime DVD changes drastically depending on the quality of it’s dub. I also realize that I can take this opportunity to voice my displeasure about the history of licensing only certain types of shows for America and to point out how these studio executives are too short-sighted and/or dumb to realize the consequences of their licensing patterns. And I realized I can mention what I think about all these Chicken Littles who want to make us believe the sky is falling and also to remind Mr. Sherman (who probably won’t actually ever read this post) that the surest way to get rid of a product is to produce a superior product and watch capitalism work it’s magic and let the inferior product disappear.
So after realizing all this, I got to writing this blog entry and here we are, a dozen hours of writing from me and 2300+ words written. I hope at least one person out there enjoyed this post and got something from it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some anime to watch.