Monday, May 28, 2012

The Anime Industry Then and Now Section FINAL: The Anime Recession Part 3: Fast Forward to 2012!!! Online Media, and Potential Resurrection!!!


So here we are in 2012. Here's what has changed; Bandai finally threw in the towel and ended distribution of their titles, Sentai continues to gradually re-build their company into their former glory (ADV) while making far more practical business decisions with their anime licenses. Most anime thrives through online streaming exposure as simulcasting has become the norm.

Currently there are several companies involved in online streaming. We have Crunchyroll, Funimation, AnimeNewsNetwork Video, Viz, Crackle, and Hulu. While all these companies had professional connections to legalized media, Crunchyroll is the real underdog story. The company was founded in 2006 by a group of UC Berkeley undergraduate students which intitially hosted illegal streams from various popular fansub groups without their approval. Then in 2009, they removed all their illegal content and began making deals with the Japanese companies to legally stream their material. It was around this time I discovered Crunhyroll and mainly used it to watch legal streams of Digimon 02, and various older series like Galaxy Express 999. Somewhere down the line they became my prefered website for watching Naruto: Shippuden, Bleach, as well as keeping up with newer series from Japan. Two new series that got me becoming a Crunchyroll regular were Ristorante Paradiso (which currently isn't available) and Natsu no Arashi.
Crunchyroll's Personalized Queue Setup


...and Hulu's "dump any episode here" setup
Sometime around late 2010 I began to pay a subscription charge so I could have access to the latest streams for new shows as well as the best video quality. Not to knock Funimation, Hulu, and Viz whose efforts I also applaud BUT Cruchyroll's set-up is far more fan friendly. For one thing, if you're a subscriber they give you an extremly user-friendly interface for choosing what video quality you want. Also, if you make a queue of the shows you watch, Cruchyroll will list the last episode you watched as well as the option to take off wherever you left off on your stream. This is much more welcoming compared to Hulu's method which doesn't have the same linear organization (it pretty much just dumps new episodes into your queue despite what you actually watched) and Funimation's set-up which suffers from long loading times and constant streaming hiccups. The other issue is Funimation doesn't offer the highest quality video for a lot of their simulcast options. It's just kind of embarrasing when the likes of Toei hits like Saint Seiya Omega and One Piece have different streaming rules. The reason why I use these two series as an example is because both franchises have made a lot of money for Toei yet why is it I have the option of streaming Saint Seiya Omega (Crunchyroll) at 1080p quality yet One Piece (Funimation) I have to "tolerate" at 480 p quality? This is also the reason that led me to watch Naruto: Shippuden's streams on Crunchyroll vs. Viz's site but there at least I have an option.
Speaking of Naruto:Shippuden unfortunately Crunchyroll, Hulu, iTunes, and Viz Anime's streams are now the only way to watch the show as DisneyXD silently removed it from their schedule before the end of 2011. I was hoping the revived Toonami would pick it up but after seeing the content of their new line-up (which I'll discuss in another article) it doesn't seem likely. CN producers even went as far to say the new Toonami doesn't have the expansive budget to get shows like Naruto and One Piece for the time being. This is just a small example of how there are limited venues for anime on television BUT what is able to be aired does get strong exposure. 

In the end anime has been through a strange cycle over the last two decades, and while it may seem like we're returning to the days of old, we're not. If anything, the anime industry has normalized itself and instead of the type of overexposure we had during the Anime Boom there is a lot more thought put into how shows are promoted and which ones should be considered for broadcast television. On the other end of the spectrum fansubs have been rendered mostly obsolete. For example this anime season I was planning to keep up with Kids on the Slope, Lupin III: Fujiko's Tits (^_^), and Eureka Seven AO and surprisingly ALL these shows got legally picked up either before or shortly after their airings in Japan. I still use fansubs to keep up my newly acquired love of Sentai (I think I may blog Akibaranger just for kicks) but otherwise Cruchyroll is my primary anime fix (even though I do also regularly go to onepieceofficial.com to legally watch One Piece on a weekly basis). Also attendance at anime conventions continues to grow, but based off a few discussions with some anime fan co-workers it seems these have turned more into cosplay conventions as I find that many of the people I work with focus more on that than the latest anime streams and CN airings. Which ever way you look on it anime still has an active presence in American media and it's just wonderful I can go to my local theater and see Ghibli's The Secret of Arriety (now on Blu-ray/DVD) with my mother and she can leave the film not feeling she saw an "anime" movie but a nicely animated story.

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