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Can Anime Ever Be As Popular in America? - - THE VICE PIT

We relocate to the anime haven, the Fortress of Pie, to talk with the #1 SUMMER WARS fan about the "reverse importation" of Blu-Rays and whether anime will ever be as popular here as it in Japan. How firm is your opinion on the topic?

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  • Big thanks to myeonblueapocalypse and takashichea for the most excellent Q's!

    Be sure to submit questions and topics for a future Vice Pit session here. We will answer them!

    Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk

    Sam Weller is a writer and actor who's scribed for shows like FIRST EDITION, GEEK THERAPY, and most recently BATGIRL: SPOILED. He also really likes anime. To know what is going to happen next, follow@cravesam

    Jonny_Anonymouson Sept. 10, 2012 at 4:23 p.m.
    I'm not sure but I think manga and anime are more popular in the UK than they are in the US and I'm positive manga is more popular in the UK than comics 
    FoxxFireArt moderator on Sept. 10, 2012 at 5:34 p.m.

    The Blu-ray issue is a bit more complicated than this. I covered a lot of the details and I explained the wide price variance between US and Japan Blu-ray in my article HERE on Sentai being blocked from adding the Japanese track to the Blu-ray of PERSONA 4 THE ANIMATION. Originally, Sentai was going to be releasing the Blu-rays of P4 with both English and Japanese. They were only told in August, one month before the release, that they couldn't have the Japanese track on the Blu-ray. In many of Sentai's BD releases, you can't turn the English subtitles off when you activate the Japanese track. Even if Japanese were to reverse import this, they couldn't remove the large English subtitles from the screen.

    Here my problem with the whole issue. Blu-ray is quickly becoming the preferred format for series that are being produced with much higher visual fidelity in mind than with past series. I bought the first two EVANGELION Rebuild movies on Blu-ray. This is the format that these high definition movies were intended to be seen at. They look amazing in Hi-Def. But now when the next two are being released in US, is FUNimation even going to be allowed to release the movies on Blu-ray? Am I going to have to wait a year or more till FUNi is finally allowed to release the Blu-ray and complete my collection? I''m not going to be buying the standard DVD when I want to collect it on BD. I also don't want to watch some pirated version. I want to support FUNi's work on those movies. I also don't have Netflix. Now, as a fan who wants to support their legal distribution, I may have to wait a year or more to see EVANGELION 3.33 while pirated fans watch it right away. I'm being punished for going legal for the actions a few may be doing in Japan.

    Not every online service offers Hi-Def. Sometimes you have to be a paid subscriber, and I want to actually own the movie and watch it on something other than my computer.

    The biggest problem is that we have no idea if these companies are ever going to be allowed to produce Blu-rays or if we just have to wait a year or so.

    That in itself could be very bad for the anime industry in the US. Anime series are often going to sell at their best when they are first released, but if they can't offer both DVD and BD at the same time. There are going to be people who will not just buy at all. They'll wait to see if they will eventually release the BD. This could happen even more as DVD is fazed out.

    I think they could mitigate a lot of this issue if they would just give us a ball park when they could eventually release the BD in the US. I believe the reason FUnimation canceled their BD this summer was becasue they couldn't have the Japanese tracks, and they opted to wait till they could finally release a BD with both. Then we have Sentai, who will be putting P4 out on Blu-ray but with no Japanese audio. Now that they have this out in the market, will they ever release a BD that has both audio options?

    samweller999 staff on Sept. 10, 2012 at 11:34 p.m.

    @FoxxFireArt: I didn't realize the nuances of this conversation were so deep, sorry if we didn't address all the issues, but thanks for your work on this. Trying to cover all the details can be difficult to fit in when you only have around 10 minutes to do so :)

    samweller999 staff on Sept. 10, 2012 at 11:37 p.m.

    @Jonny_Anonymous said:

    I'm not sure but I think manga and anime are more popular in the UK than they are in the US and I'm positive manga is more popular in the UK than comics

    What's your opinion on why that is? Are UK audiences more accepting of nuance in their entertainment? Dislike of American comics?

    FoxxFireArt moderator on Sept. 11, 2012 at 3:04 a.m.

    @samweller999:

    No worries. This is just a pretty troublesome trend that's been growing this summer, and I'm concerned how it could effect the US anime industry. I haven't been able to confirm this yet, but I've been reading that the UK BD release of P4 will have Japanese and English tracks for some reason.

    Trying to cover all the details can be difficult to fit in when you only have around 10 minutes to do so :)

    I'd certainly enjoy watching a part two if you ever had the time to get around to it.

    @samweller999 said:

    @Jonny_Anonymous said:

    I'm not sure but I think manga and anime are more popular in the UK than they are in the US and I'm positive manga is more popular in the UK than comics

    What's your opinion on why that is? Are UK audiences more accepting of nuance in their entertainment? Dislike of American comics?

    I don't know if it was just a Whiskey Media thing, but the topic of anime and manga on any of the other sites was often met with rather open hostility. Much of the on camera staff inadvertently (or advertently) encouraged that behavior by repeating the meme "anime is for jerks.". Over on Comic Vine, a user made a Manga forum post, and the Mods over there told him to put it in the "Off Topic" section. How does that make sense when manga are just comics from Japan? Would they do the same thing for a comic made in France or Mexico?

    sotyfan16on Sept. 11, 2012 at 5:01 a.m.

    I can see the concern of reverse importation due to the much lower price of the BDs produced here (even with the high cost of shipping). But I also don't understand why Japanese companies have their BD prices jacked up so high since they release series in volumes and not in sets (as far as I've seen).

    But since Sony paved the way with BD and it is a Japanese company, I can understand why the format is the primary one produced.

    Popularity in the US is tough to gauge. I agree with your guys' points with how it will take mainstream visibility for the popularity to grow. A good anime/manga live-action adaptation would also be a good boost. Until "geek" becomes more of a norm anime and manga will stay a niche market.

    You guys were trying to think of places for HD downloads and you missed two big ones: PSN and iTunes. You can get many series in SD or HD from those places. But the trouble with the digital market is the pricing is still kind of high compared to buying discs and not all series are offered.

    I'd like to point out as well that anime does not sell well in stores. Most Best Buys I go to have maybe a couple rows of anime now while 2 or 3 years ago you could see an entire shelf unit or two. It doesn't help that their prices are straight retail and they never have deals or sales. Wal-Mart is even more limited as they maybe carry a couple Naruto boxsets (that are most likely the 'Edited' versions). Thus, besides conventions, RightStuf and Amazon have a large grasp on selling anime thanks to internet pricing, membership discounts, free shipping, great variety, and other details. Online purchasing has basically become the haven for buying the medium.

    Manga, on the other hand, sells quite well in bookstores. If I go into a Barnes & Noble I will most likely not be the only one browsing. The selection in bookstores is pretty good, too, as you can even find some lesser-known series (for example, Sundome, which I know no one has read besides my buddies whom I told to read it (it's really good if you don't mind ecchi and some odd fetishes)). The prices for manga aren't bad, either, and many times a year deals and discounts are offered. But you can't beat online pricing of manga as it's usually about $2 less than retail. Plus, manga is offered digitally for ereaders and tablets.

    FoxxFireArt moderator on Sept. 11, 2012 at 5:38 a.m.

    @sotyfan16:

    Persona 4 The Animation Box Set
    Persona 4 The Animation Box Set

    They do release sets in Japan, and the prices are what the market will bare. You're neglecting the cost of everything in Japan.

    Jonny_Anonymouson Sept. 11, 2012 at 6:40 a.m.
    @samweller999

    @Jonny_Anonymous said:

    I'm not sure but I think manga and anime are more popular in the UK than they are in the US and I'm positive manga is more popular in the UK than comics

    What's your opinion on why that is? Are UK audiences more accepting of nuance in their entertainment? Dislike of American comics?

    Well from the outside it looks like the US is more intrested in homegrown entertainment, American made shows staring Anericans in America where as the UK has become accustomed to stuff from europe, america and all over also in the UK comics still have a bad stigma for being kiddy while manga is seen as more mature
    sickVisionz moderator on Sept. 11, 2012 at 10 a.m.

    Just saw the video and haven't read the comments yet, but the reason Blu-ray is the sticking point rather than DVD is because Japan and America are in the same Blu-ray region but not the same DVD region. This means that any standard US or Japanese BD player can playback US or JP BDs while a US DVD player would be locked from playing JP DVDs and vice versa. On top of that, Blu-ray anime way way way way way outsells DVD anime in Japan so some companies (really just 1) are very protective about JP buyers being able to get their hands on US releases.

    As far as anime being as popular in Japan as it is in the US, it should be noted that anime is looked down on in Japan. Only ultra kiddy and young teen stuff like Pokemon, One Piece, Doremon, Naruto, etc get actual real deal time slots and are actually licensed to television stations. The bulk of the stuff you see on sites like Hulu, Netflix, and Crunchyroll is stuff that only airs at midnight or later and the ratings are so terrible that the production companies actually flat out purchases the time slots rather than license the series out. So it's not like everyone and their mom loves all anime and has this love affair with it. It's very much seen as a medium for kids and nerds, just like over here.

    So get as popular in the US as it is in Japan... it depends on what you mean. If you mean social acceptance, well it's viewed by the general public as stuff for kids and weirdos just like it is in Japan so I guess we're even there. If you mean it's TV presence, well only kids stuff gets decent time slots and rest of it is late at night. The US has an advantage in that the ratings aren't so bad that companies have to pay TV networks to air it but a disadvantage that basically only 1 channel is willing to do that. If you mean when convention attendance... well the biggest anime con in the US gets like 40,000 attendees while the biggest one in Japan gets over half a million so I think it's a long ways to go. On the flipside, I tried Googling a list of anime conventions in Japan and it seemed significantly smaller than one for US cons. If you mean as having all the little cool stuff like some company making a Panty and Stocking restaurant for two weeks... that will probably never happen. I genuinely think there might be more anime fans in the US than Japan but the Japanese fan is dropping some serious money on the shows they love. A show might put up middling sales of 3,000 copies per volume, but that's 3,000 people paying like $80 per volume and buying 6 or 7 volumes. You could make way more goods and cool events for that fanbase than a US one that's filled with folk who would say $80 for an entire series is rape and corporate greed. The JP fan drops major coin per show and they get cool stuff that makes financial sense for folk who drop major coin on a series.

    sotyfan16on Sept. 12, 2012 at 4:48 a.m.

    @sickVisionz said:

    Just saw the video and haven't read the comments yet, but the reason Blu-ray is the sticking point rather than DVD is because Japan and America are in the same Blu-ray region but not the same DVD region. This means that any standard US or Japanese BD player can playback US or JP BDs while a US DVD player would be locked from playing JP DVDs and vice versa. On top of that, Blu-ray anime way way way way way outsells DVD anime in Japan so some companies (really just 1) are very protective about JP buyers being able to get their hands on US releases.

    On that note I forgot to talk about BD quality in the US compared to DVD. Some series you don't get a choice since they are only on DVD or BD. The good thing is most series are now being produced in HD so there is no need for upscale. I have some anime from 2006 on BD and they look better than DVD to me. FUNi has done great work in their upscales. Even Fairy Tail on BD looks better. Anime on BD has a crisper look and of course the higher sound quality (which reminds me I need to set up my Bose so I can really get into the action). I only buy BD anime now unless there is only a DVD release. And even with the DVD/BD Combo Packs I get from FUNi, I only watch the BD.

    takashichea moderator on Sept. 12, 2012 at 11:45 p.m.

    A bit tough to comment on this stuff. I'll skip the reverse importation topic. Thanks for answering those questions. Yeah, anime won't be popular in the U.S. anytime soon. A lot of new people tried anime, and they have mixed reactions. Either they love it, get confused, or hate it due to how different anime is from its American counterpart. I agree with Sam's cultural insight on anime and how it's accepted.

    • Exaggerated Emotions
    • Certain Fan Service going out of epic proportions: panty shots and boob bounce. (Though, I haven't watch a lot of adult American cartoons like Stripperella to see types of fan service. )
    • Product Placement and Anime - Sure, we get American cartoon characters selling stuff, but we don't get much. I only remember Road Runner (Looney Tunes) for car insurance. In Japan, you got Moe girls and famous anime characters selling products. IE: C.C. for Pizza, Steins;Gates for Dr. Pepper, etc.

    Nerds not being accepted - I say video games and comic books are more accepted and assimilated in American culture than anime. This causes anime to have less exposure which means less people will know about it or have a chance to spread it to everyone. A lot of anime adult fans in my hometown are actually pretty reserved about anime. No one wears a Moe girl shirt or anime shirt. Pretty much the children wear Pokemon, Digimon, and anime shows for younger audience. It's more accepted for them to display it in public.

    The only thing I probably forgot is the use of the internet to promote anime in the U.S. Yet, it's not a powerful social media like the TV because not everyone has a computer.

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