Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Anime Industry Then and Now Section 4: The Anime Recession Part 2: The Closing Doors and Changing Times

As I sit here comfortably catching up on a week’s worth of anime programming taped on my DVR (Kekkashi, Naruto: Shippuden, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, and Monster for those who must know) I decided to wrap up my commentary on how the anime bubble broke. This section required a little more research on my part since I had to make sure I got my facts straight on a few things.

Now I’m not sure how many people remember Media Play? Well, the anime bubble beginning to break did not cause their chain of stores to close down (even during the Anime Boom they suffered staffing problems and their prices were often stifling) but it did limit options for the non-online buyer to get their anime. A few years after Media Play closed down Best Buy started the cut back on their own anime supply but this was more of a result of the industry becoming less profitable.

As stated in previous articles the main reason the bubble was beginning to break was THE ANIME MARKET WAS OVERSATURATED WITH CRAP AND EVERYONE WAS GETTING OVER THEIR ANIME HIGH! Cartoon Network began shifting their priorities to more original programming and live-action serials. Toonami was officially retired in 2008 leaving the only anime properties on their channel Pokemon and any other show that had a direct toy tie in. On their sister channel, Adult Swim, anime has continued to thrive in present day (with Kekkashi and FMA:Brotherhood being the newest shows) but is limited to only the Saturday night “action” block. With these changes, surprisingly, three channels have picked up CN’s slack. Sci Fi Channel (now called SyFy) reinstated their anime block on Monday nights premiering fan favorites such as Gurren Laggan and Monster. Both Disney XD and Nicktoons (both spin-off networks from the Disney Channel and Nicklelodeon) acquired the rights to air Naruto: Shippuden (Naruto’s sequel series) and Dragonball Kai (a remastered shortened version of the original DBZ) respectively.

The DVD companies themselves ran into their own serious issues. First there was Geneon, who in 2007-08, had to close its doors with most of their newer acquisitions remaining in limbo. Each year since then Funimation has gradually been licensing some of their more profitable properties, most recently resuscitating the remainder of the Tenchi franchise and quite a few of Yoshitoshi ABe’s works including Lain. ADV also finally hit their limit after trying to promote every generic show out there and once again it was Funimation who came in a took the better half of their company and had several licenses transferred. ADV reincarnated into Sentai Filmworks where they have become sub-only and selectively dubbing specific titles but I’m happy with this change as I finally got to get Season Two of You’re Under Arrest. Bandai, while still active, has been forced to finally catch up with the rest of the industry and start releasing series in more profitable collections even though they announced they may become a sub-only company in 2011. Viz has taken a very unique turn as they seem to have a more primary focus on their major Shonen Jump properties and their still growing and diverse manga line. They still dabble in releasing other anime properties as their releases of Honey and Clover, Nana, and Monster show but these days I’m more hesitant to buy anime DVDs from them until a series is released in it’s entirety since they have been known to have slow release schedules (how long has Boxset 1 of Monster been out now?) or they cancel titles completely (I’m thinking of Hikaru no Go and MaR specifically). Amazingly they have a very good line of live-action Japanese movies that seems to be thriving and I am very pleased that this has been continuing.
Most of the remaining companies have gone the sub only route while occasionally license rescuing an old favorite or two (Nozomi/Right Stuf recently did this with both The Wanderes TV Series and Utena).

Going back to Best Buy, all of the above, is what led them to make their own cutbacks with their anime selection. These days only a few backlog titles and some of the more popular properties remain on their shelves and usually it depends on location. For example, where I live my nearest Best Buy still has a decent selection but in the next town over the Best Buy has only a sliver of anime stocked on their shelves. Still, my Best Buy doesn’t stock every title when it’s supposed to be released. I’ve had to rely on online retailers just to get all of Sgt. Frog and One Piece, and while they are currently having a great anime sale where I’m picking up a lot of titles I’ve been hesitating to buy they still haven’t gotten in any of the Gurren Laggan Complete Collection sets.

So in the end this is where we are at today anime fans. Next up I’ll discuss to phenomenon on how the internet both hurt and helped the anime industry.

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