Author: Gabriel Persechino-Forest Published: March 19th, 2018
And so we move on from Phase 3 to Phase 4, which is perhaps one of the most significant of them all. Even though the process of mainstreaming a medium usually sees this as phase 4, the fact remains that this phase has already partially begun. Perhaps this is due to anime having already been partially under attack for well over a decade now. In any event, lets move on with the article.
Phase 4: Corporate Manipulation
Image Source: Amazon Anime Strike Logo
While this phase has already begun, it is in an heavily subdued manner for now. But we can use what has already happened to know what to expect when they finally get serious. We can also look at the existing warning signs as well as precedents in other mediums to predict where we are heading. To clarify, this phase consists of the establishment using their corporations to monopolize the target market so they can eliminate competition and ultimately remodel the industry to their design.
For a long time now, American corporations, as well as those of other countries, have been doing business with Japan, including co-productions. This of course has never been an issue; it is normal for foreign investors to use the talents in Japan to help their own franchises and business and this sort of thing is pretty common in every industry. What is not common is what has been happening recently. Namely, our first real indicator that something is wrong, Amazon’s entry into the market which marked a drastic shift in how the West deals with Japan. They started by doing what every super corporation does: They tried to use their immense wealth to outbid any potential competitor, bought two whole animation blocks, offered a lesser service for a higher price, were tone deaf to the community they were supposed to serve… They essentially tried to create a monopoly so they can dictate the rules within the industry. We were fortunate that the anime community saw the threat posed by such a monopoly and acted quickly and collectively. Because of our efforts Amazon was forced to shelve their streaming platform within a single year. But Amazon still has many anime in its catalog and several investments in the Japanese industry and therefore we should not assume that they have abandoned their plans for the medium. Furthermore, there are other threats besides Amazon that we need to worry about.
Image Source: FUNimation Logo
Next came Sony. As a company of Japanese origin, many would not suspect that the move from Sony would hide a western agenda; but since it is the American wing of Sony that acted and did so within the western industry, it can perhaps now be made clearer that this is not a Japanese matter. Yes, Sony has bought FUNimation, a north American licensing and distribution company. This of course is one more step in the process of super corporations buying smaller companies to monopolize the market. To be fair, Sony stayed true to its pledge to allow FUNimation to run its business as it sees fit. For now, FUNimation continues to operate and serve the anime community in the same fashion that it has to this point. However, the purchase is still fresh and many things can change in the long run. Sony could have long-term plans that will only become apparent at a later date or leadership could change and right along with it so could the rules FUNimation plays by.
Image Source: Netflix Canada Website
Next is Netflix, which is using a far more effective way to worm itself into the market. Since its arrival, Netflix has purchased the rights to many series within each season and has now begun to finance their own productions. They have also established partnerships with anime studios (Bones and Production I.G.) and have already planned to flood the market with a great deal of series for which they act as producers. What is most disconcerting about this is the fact that Netflix does appear to be interfering in the production process of creating the series and seem to be intentionally making their productions more western friendly. Which should raise many red flags for people who actually care about Japanese animation actually being aimed at a Japanese audience and imprinted with Japanese culture.
Another article talking about Netflix’s entry into the industry acknowledges the giant’s ambitions and even goes as far as to openly support other corporate giants joining in to divide and purchase Japan’s multiple animation studios; which is not only a frightening proposition, but one that would rob Japan of its domestic self-reliance and as a result, its independence. Up until now, anime has been a product made for a Japanese audience that happens to have become an international success. The problem with anime becoming a product made by the Japanese but aimed at an international audience is that it will lose its unique cultural markers and become nothing more than another brand of bland, mass produced, international, pop entertainment.
Image Source: Resident Evil Umbrella Logo
Now as a sign of things to come, Anime Japan is holding a seminar focused on how to expand the anime industry in North America. While this may sound good, any strategy for further expansion is likely to involve super corporations and a mainstream push. Meanwhile, Yoshitada Fukuhara is introducing the idea of doing away with the production committee system and to transition to a partnership system, one that would heavily favor large international American corporations and essentially remove Japanese animation from the hands of Japanese corporations and investors. This is being heralded as good for the industry in spite of the fact that Netflix’s arrival in the industry has yet to increase the wages of animators. Such a move would also make anime more expensive to produce and therefore reduce the amount that is made. With anime both being made in lesser quantity and having western overlords, it is undeniable that it will become more mainstream and specifically, more western oriented. This is not to mention the article’s claim that it would give studios more artistic leeway and citing Disney as an example, in spite of the fact that Disney is not known as a company that either takes risks or produces anything that goes outside of mainstream. Leaving us with a very grim prospect for the future of the industry.
Image Source: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 Series Screenshot
It is quite clear by now that a storm is coming, an animegate if you will. But we as a community have survived many a trial and just as it seems we accomplished the impossible up until now by remaining independent, we can do so again even against insurmountable odds. If video games have survived the assault on their medium, and comic books survived as well, then we too can survive. If we are willing to stand together as a community and resist then we will preserve what is ours. To do so, we will need to resist censorship through feedback, campaigns and boycotts if necessary. We will need to resist the mainstream media who will demonize us and attempt to divide us and break us down. We will need to resist social and political pressure groups and campaigns… But in the end it can be done. It can be done if we stand together as a community, if we are proud of our identity and of who we are and if we take actions when necessary. This may seem dramatic, but our community, our hobby, our identity and art are all things that are important and are worth fighting for with all we have.
The next and final article will deal with Phase 5: The issue of censorship.
Source: Article Image: Gundam Info