Hugos and Gareths

More than one way to skin a catbus, in our 24th podcast

manga_uk_podcast_logo.jpgJeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements, for a series of rants and ill-informed commentary about anime, manga, the storm over the Hugo Awards, and your most awkward convention moment. Download it HERE.

01:00 Delays, to Fairy Tail The Movie and Jormungand. Jonathan Clements is accused of being a complete Cnut. Stuff that will be happening at the Birmingham Comic Con and Kitacon.

04:00 Breaking out the world’s smallest violins for Torrent sites. and BBC3. The exciting world of “back catalogue”.

10:00 What counts as “good sales” in Japan? 500 Nutters? How can a film make a loss in cinemas but still profit its production committee? The mysterious case of Heartbeat and Emmerdale Farm (not anime, but just imagine…).

16:00 The Ghost in the Shell live-action movie, and the chances of everyone being crushingly disappointed again. Who would you pick to direct a notional GITS movie? As promised, a link to our interview with the director of The Raid.

19:00 Speaking of people called Gareth, we’re back to Godzilla. The chances of Martin Scorsese directing GITS (unlikely). The prospects for Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow, “based on the book that looks like a manga.” The chances of Kurt Sutter beating up Jerome, and a bizarre tangent about the script-writers for The Shield.

25:00 The politics of handing out a Lifetime Achievement Award to Katsuhiro Otomo, and other issues to do with enticing Japanese guests to foreign events.

29:40 The ridiculous scandal over the Hugo Awards, in which Jonathan Ross is appointed to host, SF fandom kicks off, Jonathan Ross withdraws, SF fandom kicks off again, and Jerome Mazandarani goes through the fall-out arising, beginning with the press coverage and working backwards.

41bkTuP9TdL._SY445_36:00 The ridiculous scandal over the Hugo Awards, this time from the perspective of Jonathan Clements, who has brought up the Worldcon twice before on this podcast and got nowhere. A very different version of events, beginning with the fight on the committee and working outwards (and ending with a plug for Anime: A History for Best Related Book).

44:00 The quest for panel parity, the gender division within fandom and whether or not that is reflected in film festival juries and, er… podcasts like this one. The hidden influence of Jonathan Ross on Ghost in the Shell: Innocence and its UK sales.

48:30 Will you be releasing season two of xxxHolic? And an answer that transforms into a plug for Blood C.

50:25 Pros and cons of releasing something on Blu-ray before DVD. Why do we have to keep releasing stuff on PAL when modern TVs can handle NTSC conversion…? Why not make everything a Combi-pack?

59:00 Netflix makes it to the Consumer Price Index, thereby suggesting that our secret masters believe “the next format is no format.” The problems of marketing collectibles to people who cannot afford to collect very much.

63:00 Releasing classic films on Blu-ray. The origins of the Blu in Blu-ray: can the Japanese just not spell?

64:00 Prospects for Star Blazers 2199, a.k.a. Space Cruiser Yamato 2199. Tweet us if you want it. #2199uk

kumadori.jpg65:20 How would Scottish independence affect an anime company, if at all?

69:00 Top of the Pod! This month: what’s your most awkward convention moment? Here’s a picture of Jeremy’s. Tell us yours by tweeting #mangatotp

The Podcast is available to download now HERE, or find it and an archive of previous shows at our iTunes page. For a detailed contents listing of previous podcasts, check out our Podcasts page.

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Things to Come

Tenamonya Voyagers was pretty awful. It was a cynical, half-hearted space opera that nobody found particularly amusing, and which plainly bored its own animators so much that they simply ended it in the middle. However, it remains a landmark in anime history because when Bandai decided to release this obscure 1999 title in America, they did so solely on the new-fangled DVD format.

The US release of Tenamonya Voyagers was the first real sign that VHS was dead. It was a message to those people who hadn’t yet bought a DVD player that someday soon, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, they would need one if they wanted to see all the new anime, because their VHS was going out of date, and would no longer be supported by new ‘software’.

I mention this in order to point out that Bandai is a company that often thinks way ahead of the curve. And in case you haven’t already heard, Bandai is a company that will now be dropping DVD from its activities in America.

Old orders will be met. In the event that a million people suddenly want a copy of The Girl Who Leapt Through Space, they’ll run off some more. But Bandai America is giving up on DVD and leaving it to others to take the risk on licences, spend the money and get pirated.

You can forget Blu-ray, too. Bandai can’t be bothered with that either. Why should they, when a bright digital future awaits of direct downloads and streaming, hopefully legal?

If you were wondering what this means for you… right now, not a lot. You’ll still see Bandai shows released on DVD by other companies, like Manga Entertainment’s Ghost in the Shell sublicence. But be aware, Bandai America just essentially announced what many in the anime business have been thinking for five years: that the next format is no format, and the smart money is getting out of what the Japanese call ‘packaged goods’ – which is to say the actual, physical discs that anime currently comes on. Ten years from now, I suspect, there will still be DVDs in existence, but they will be much more bespoke, much rarer, and hence much more collectible.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #95, 2012.

Perceived Value

This article first appeared in Neo #50, 2008.

Back in April 2003, I attended the Tokyo demonstration of Blu-ray. I rushed home trilling about the benefits of an entire TV series on a single disc! Except this was precisely what the Japanese TV industry didn’t want. At meetings with expensive biscuits all over Tokyo, people fretted about Perceived Value. It’s all very well, they said, to cram the entirety of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis onto a single disc, but how much can we charge for it? Will our target 16-year-old buyer really drop £100 all at once on that single disc, particularly if he’s never seen an episode beforehand?
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The Blu-Ray Blues

I tried to say it politely. The Japanese author had spelt two names wrong, misdated a crucial release, and assigned a famous quote to the wrong director. For no extra charge, I had footnoted those problems on the translation and sent it off.

A curt missive arrived from Big Anime Company telling me to put the mistakes back in. It turned out that the author was someone’s uncle and very high up in the company. He’d thought that “TENTACLY YUM YUM BYATCH” was the perfect tagline to use on the box for a U-rated fairy tale about a girl and a pony. And nobody was going to tell him that he was wrong.

It’s a symptom of a disease that many people don’t even know they’ve caught. I call it the Blu-ray Blues and it’s taken five years to take hold. Because, you see, now we can fit 30 languages on a single disc, it makes sense for it to be a single release, mastered in Japan. In theory, this is great news for anime. In practise, however, right now there are a dozen people in Tokyo offices saying that foreigners are stupid and don’t know how to sell anime. If anime has not lived up to the unrealistic sales predictions of its marketers, then someone must surely be to blame, and the blame traditionally falls on anyone who isn’t Japanese. If the Japanese only get to micromanage every part of the business themselves, surely international sales will suddenly go through the roof?

There are people who think they can do a whole lot better if they just run everything out of Japan. But that brings an irresistible temptation to treat the rest of the world in the same way that Japan is treated. That means much less material on each disc, and sold at a higher price. It means attempts by PR personnel to censor magazine articles. And while it might mean better control of translation, in my experience so far it has merely meant that an entire echelon of useless stuffed shirts have been able to fiddle with localisation.

These people are known as the Window Tribe. The guys passed over in promotion who are just marking time in the office. Fiddling with foreign deals is their sole pleasure, because they can do it without attracting attention on their home turf. Once, they were only able to dicker with contracts or haggle over royalties. With localisation now based in Japan, those self-same ditherers will have a new opportunity to justify their jobs, by offering their worthless opinions on translation.

There have been a lot of lay-offs in the anime business this year, and they have largely come from the gaijin middlemen – the human buffer zone between you and the Japanese corporations. They were the ones who shook your hand at conventions, and they were the ones who tried to make sure that scripts, taglines and extras were not… well, laughably inappropriate. And they were the first up against the wall when the Blu-ray revolution came.

I hope this all works out, really I do. Because there is a very real risk that the centralisation of the anime business back in Japan will actually hurt it far more than it helps.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO magazine #51, 2008.