Death By Committee

sword-art-online-oculus-rift-virtual-realityJust for a day I would like to live my life like an anime production committee member. I shall tell the postman that I don’t approve of the way he opened the gate. I shall refuse to pay for a CD in a shop until the owner guarantees that he will end piracy on the internet. And I shall change my mind about the food I want to order in a restaurant, but only after I have already eaten it.

Such ideas are brought on by the revelation in a Manga UK podcast that the Sword Art Online DVD cover design has to change mid-series, because the Japanese licensors at Aniplex didn’t like the version that had gone out with the first disc – a version that they themselves had already approved. So Manga Entertainment is now left in the bizarre situation of having to change subsequent printings, leaving fans of the show with mismatched covers.

Collectors, if such creatures still exist, will be ecstatic to know that the art on the first pressing of SAO is never to be repeated. Fans who just want matching spines now face the prospect of having to contact Manga Entertainment at some future date to get replacements sent to them, which someone will have to pay for. Unless, that is, the SAO committee has another brainfart and changes its mind again.

Committees are supposed to make life easier. They are supposed to manage the franchises for everybody’s benefit. Since the 1970s, they have functioned as the executive bodies of intellectual property managing its hopefully long afterlife once it’s finished on Japanese telly.

One wonders about the make-up of the average committee. I like to think of a few disinterested lawyers, someone’s well-meaning widow, and the producer’s ex-girlfriend. One almost wishes for the devil-may-care days of the 1980s, when the Japanese didn’t really give a toss what happened to their material abroad. Now, can it be that they care too much? How many cooks are fussing over this particular broth for them to actually reverse their previous decision? At one point, one wonders, can someone stand up on the committee and recommend that their fellow members get a clue? If they can’t get their own product right, what are they for?

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO #122, 2014.

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