The Western Anime Market: Third-Class Citizens

The Western anime and manga fanbases are third-class citizens (second-class being the rest of East Asia). Anyone could tell you that in a heartbeat. We get placed on the back-burner through cut down content, long delays for physical copies of anything, and get outright ignored in terms of what’s popular.

But a few recent moves in the industry seem to point towards them caring a bit more about the Western market. Honestly, I was just plain surprised to see them.

The first sign was when word leaked that more episodes of Dragon Ball Z Kai were being produced, but solely for the Western market with no plans of a Japanese airing. Dragon Ball Z Kai is, understandably, one of the few shows not rated Kodomo that aired on Western TV stations unless you count on-demand channels or Toonami (and I don’t, for different reasons). Given that they stopped it in Japan because it didn’t bring in enough money, this would normally already have pretty major implications, but two more things hammered this in (albeit more subtly).

The World God Only Knows Blu-Ray English CoverThe second thing we ran into was a confirmation of a third season of The World God Only Knows, which flopped in Japan. That said, it was Crunchyroll’s top show in terms of streaming numbers when it aired, and both of the previous seasons were therefore dubbed. Yes, normally something that did as poorly as The World God Only Knows did would not even get a second look, but now it has 3, soon to be 4, OVAs and a third season. Here’s hoping the OVAs and the new season get dubbed and released as well. Especially the Tenri OVAs, since that’s a pretty damn important arc they adapted (and making it into a set of OVAs makes continuing right where season 2 left off impossible).

The announcement of the new season was at the end of the second Tenri OVA, right after an ending that had all of the heroines from the manga in it. Said ending and the announcement are embedded above.

Watamote Volume Cover 1And last but not least, if someone hadn’t noticed the pattern by now, they were met with an confirmed anime adaptation for Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui! (No Matter How You Look At It, It’s Not My Fault I’m Not Popular!, Watamote for short), a black comedy manga that became popular through 4chan.

Seriously. 4chan scanlated its web serialization, and it becaume universally praised among 4chan, followed by them buying up all of the copies of the print release from Amazon when it came out, making the Japanese take notice when some unknown manga was sold out due to stupid foreigners. So they go walk down to a physical store to see what the fuss is about and notice it’s a pretty good series. Said volume had a note on the cover that basically said “popular on the English version of 2chan”, acknowledging that the Western fanbase is the driving force behind its success before it even became one in Japan.

Yeah. Honestly, I stopped reading it solely because it hurt so much to read about the life of someone so socially awkward, but I feel happy for its fans.

More importantly, these announcements are a small victory for the Western fanbase. Now all we need is faster physical releases, even if it’s just DVDs with the Blu-Rays being heavily delayed. If we’re becoming an important market, there’s no excuse to make us wait so long for what are primarily sub-only disc releases. Especially not when it’s been shown that they can impose licensing restrictions preventing online sites from selling directly to people outside of North America – why not flip that around and place a universal restriction blocking the Japanese from reverse-importing (since an anime costs ~6 times less in North America, though we get few extras, and our Blu-Rays have the same region code as Japan, this is a legitimate problem that they’ve tried to solve by forcing time delays).

The director of the American branch of Aniplex is on record in an interview saying we’re an important market. We may have practically every notable anime every season released through legal streaming (in recent seasons, only ~1 anime each season that aired on TV wasn’t legally streamed), and some Shueisha manga have seen simultaneous legal digital English releases through Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, so I don’t see why they’re holding back on letting us get physical stuff quickly. A year’s delay (at minimum) is too long.

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2 thoughts on “The Western Anime Market: Third-Class Citizens

  1. Very well said. Maybe it is just how Anime is one of those industries where I don’t pay much attention to the actual business angle. Perhaps owing to how I’ve only been recently been interested it it beyond a few series. Oh, and just to clarify, it would not be uncommon for an anime DVD set to cost the equivalent of $150 for the cheaper stuff? If so, wow.

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