Should Anime Cater to “Overseas Markets”? (10th Day of Anime 2018)

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”?

4 thoughts on “Should Anime Cater to “Overseas Markets”? (10th Day of Anime 2018)

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  1. If they want to cater to overseas markets they should be more willing to keep DVD prices reasonable. With respect to making stories so they appeal to the west, that would be a bad move. Overseas viewers like anime for what it is. If they just change anime into a bog standard western cartoon what’s the point?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well I wouldn’t consider what market you cater to to be exclusive. Since it’s Japanese anime I find it really hard to imagine Japanese people being unable to enjoy it because obviously the creators need to understand it as well.

    This means catering for western still seems like catering for both markets to me. I’d find it weird in a way if the shows added western things to their shows because it would be much harder to portray accurately. Rather removing stuff that only they do and understand would be the way too go.

    Anyway should probably be done case by case because each show is different, and it’s all about the quality of the show and not the money right?…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I welcome anime spreading to a greater and wider audience. I want to share this medium with many people so they can see the greatness that I and others do. If oversea markets lead to popular anime getting the chance to continue on when they might otherwise falter, I say bring it on. We all want that second season of Devil works Part Time.

    But I don’t want the west trying to muscle in and dictate what is and isn’t kosher to watch. I love my harem/ecchi shows, and I know that will the FIRST thing in the cross-hairs once the moral grandstanders start getting their feet into the industry. Aside from that, (and I brought this up in my blog post on the matter) I am terrified of a culture war splitting the anime fandom apart, with old-school fans battling against newcomers who have not years to reconcile and make peace with the strange parts of anime.

    That said, new eyes can bring new perspectives and the potential for new stories, and I welcome conversation and debate on all aspects of the industry. But if you’re coming in here to try and force your ideology on fans, and take away the things they love, no matter the side, then I say thanks, but no thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

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