Some people, like Takayuki Nagatani (who’s been on the staff for shows like Hataraku Maou-sama! and Flip Flappers), have been focussing on overseas markets…but is that really the best move for the industry?
The interview I linked to up top begged a bunch of questions about original anime – what are some of the arguments surrounding this idea of catering to “overseas markets”, anyway? I took a look at the forums for that interview and then got to work on my own hypotheses. If you’d like, think of this post as a response to some of the forumgoers’ questions and musings:
First of all, focussing on “overseas markets” means trying to predict a market that isn’t guaranteed to work as much as Japan, which is always risky since it’s so huge. There are some groups that like watching anime because it’s inherently Japanese and some groups that like it because it’s got concepts that transcend borders, but trying to please everyone won’t help you please yourself.
Secondly, official subs are always going to be slow compared to fansub groups, since even though Crunchyroll prides itself on its speed of subbing as a previous fansub hub (and it still prides itself on its speed even as an official subbing service), the fansub groups get their raw videos faster. Plus the Netflix-led “binge model” and the occasional show that falls through the licensing cracks (see Han Gyaku Sei Million Arthur as an example of that from fall 2018) ain’t helping the case for catering for “overseas markets”, since that encourages people to go straight to the fansubs. Therefore, if people in Japan think “overseas markets” like the Netflix model, that slows down how fast the official content is put out and it’s just making a bad situation worse when it comes to piracy.
Furthermore, deals for collaborations between countries/territories can be done almost instantly due to email and other communication technologies, particularly social media. In addition to this, advances in digital animation have vastly improved the way art looks and can be sent to others. What does this mean for the matter at hand? It means business partners from these “overseas markets” become direct players faster, if not being part of the process from the beginning (such as how Crunchyroll does things). Thus, if you’re worried about the “purity” of anime, it can only get worse from here. Moreover, being able to send work with a few clicks and button presses means outsourcing is easier to incorporate, making the quality of any given show drop…although this has already been noticed with trainwrecks like Dynamic Chord and My Sister, My Writer.
There’s one big question, related to the bit that preceded this, before I wrap this post up: is “overseas markets” just the US?
Well, that could be its own post and that’s probably one I’m not entitled to answer, because as with everything on this blog, most of the uncited stuff is my own conjecture. However, I can say this, based on some of the other things I’ve mentioned – the US is undoubtedly a big market, but it’s not the be all and end all for non-Japanese entertainment and media.
So in short, “catering to overseas audiences” is so nebulous, it’s hard to describe, but if it’s done right then people in Japan pat themselves on the back and keep doing just that. If it’s done wrong, people in Japan lose faith in that system and go right back to what did work.
Just to end on a bit of a positive note, here’s a comment from Callum May in the forums linked at the start of this post (editing mine):
Catering to a global audience doesn’t mean diluting content, it just means being aware that the audience you are serving is global. This affects more than story development as well. For example, the animation of My Hero Academia was produced by Bones because Toho Animation found that Studio Bones was popular overseas.
This is one of those things that could be argued back and forth with no end in sight, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of this. So do you think there is some validity in having anime catering to “overseas audiences”?