Overseas Distribution And Piracy

Overseas Distribution And Piracy is a anime/manga concept
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A history on ways people obtain animes.

Although there was some international contact among filmmakers in the days of Early Anime, Japanese animation made its first major steps abroad after the Second World War. Toei Animation became involved at an early stage when its first feature film, Panda and the Magic Serpent was a prizewinner at the 1959 Venice Film festival. It was followed by Osamu Tezuka's first feature Alakazam the Great, in a dubbed version that had great longevity.

Television anime began its export drive early, with Astro Boy, screened in America mere months after its Japanese premiere. Few American viewers realized they were watching a Japanese show, and were indeed encouraged not to, through Censorship and Localization. Seven more anime series were sold to U.S. TV in the 1960s-8th Man, Gigantor, Prince Planet, Marine Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Speed Racer, and The Amazing Three. Many were also screened in other English-speaking territories such as Australia and South Africa, although of all these early TV translations, only Marine Boy made it to Britain. The same period saw Japanese animators from the Topcraft studio working on "American" cartoons for Rankin/Bass. The 1970s saw only two major U.S. TV screenings, but Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets achieved something new-winning fans in high schools and colleges all over the country.

Anime enjoyed similar paths to success in Europe. French TV screened children's series from the early 1970s, some of which later reappeared in North America on French-speaking channels in Canada. Kimba the White Lion aired in 1972 as Le Roi Leo, with Princess Knight (Prince Saphir) shown two years later alongside Italian-Japanese coproduction Calimero. Movies were also screened on television and theatrically, starting with the 1969 Toei Puss in Boots (Le Chat Botté) in 1978; but the major event in French anime history was the screening of Grandizer (Goldorak) in 1978. Summer vacation was considered a wasteland for children's programming in France, but by the time the schools reopened in September Go Nagai's robot show was a word-of-mouth hit. The series is still selling strongly today; Toei found it necessary to issue writs against pirate Goldorak DVD releases across French-speaking Europe in 2004.

Goldorak was part of an anime viewing schedule which consisted for the most part of retold fairy tales and innocuous series: Candy Candy (as Candy) made her French debut just two months after Nagai's epic, but was followed in 1979 by Captain Harlock (Albator, le Corsaire de l'Espace) on Antenne 2, and Battle of the Planets (La Bataille des Planetes) on TF1. Meanwhile, Goldorak was dubbed into Spanish as Goldrake and into Arabic as Grandizer. Go Nagai's giant robot shows became a staple of Spanish TV and created a strong demand for preteen and teenage animated shows, while in Italy they were so successful that Nagai set up an Italian company, Dynamic Italia, to manage his work there.

In 1979, Spectreman  became the first Japanese live-action show to hit French television, with Haim Saban and Shuki Levy on the crew list-15 years later, they would launch the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Following on from Calimero, French studio DIC collaborated on Ulysses 31 and Mysterious Cities of Gold (Les Mysterieuses Cités d'Or). Nippon Animation's coproduction with Spain's BRB International, Around the World in 80 Days (Le Tour de Monde en 80 Jours) was shown in both France and Spain. The same studio's co-production with Apollo Films, Alice in Wonderland, was screened in Europe in 1985, as was the French release of the Topcraft/Rankin/Bass fantasy The Last Unicorn (La Derniere Licorne). 1985 also saw the Western debut of Rainbow Brite, DIC's collaboration with U.S. and Japanese studios.

Classics of world literature have always attracted Japanese audiences, and created an interesting market in which children watch their culture's stories, interpreted by foreign artists, then redubbed into their native tongues. Little El Cid was shown in Spain and France in 1981, with Les Misérables in France the same year. Monkey Punch's Lupin III has enjoyed huge success in France and Italy since 1985, and Rose of Versailles (Lady Oscar) sold the French Revolution back to France. Scandinavian stories have charmed European children in Japanese versions, including Nils' Mysterious Journey (European debut 1983) and Aunty Spoon (European debut 1984). Less success awaited in Finland, where Moomins met with criticism from its original author, and Katri the Milkmaid, based on a Finnish children's book, was never screened at all. Meanwhile, Hayao Miyazaki's fascination with all things exotically European, including Italian airplanes, Scandinavian cities, Welsh miners, and Welsh writers, has helped to make his work popular across the continent.

Anime also enjoyed success across East Asia, even in countries such as South Korea where Japanese associations and imports were discouraged. Doraemon in particular became a local icon in Korea and Taiwan. Indonesian broadcasters feigned a complete lack of interest in Japanese television programming, only to find themselves screening it by proxy when they bought the supposedly "American" serials of Robotech and G-Force. Anime's popularity in East Asia also led to a rise in the piracy of animated titles; this was particularly prevalent in Taiwan, which was not a member of the United Nations, and hence not a signatory to several important copyright conventions. Pirate editions of both anime and manga built entire publishing industries in many East Asian countries, in a boom that ironically worked to the advantage of the Japanese. In Korea, where Japanese imports were banned until the 1990s, since anime and manga did not officially exist, they were not subjected to strict government censorship. For transgressive Korean youths, the best way to annoy their parents was to become an anime or manga fan. In other parts of Asia, most notably Taiwan and Hong Kong, the tsunami of cheap, unlicensed Japanese material, springing into the market as fully-formed serials and tie-in comic stories, often with merchandise and gaming spin-offs already present, undercut and outperformed many local artists, stifling native talent and leaving local comics and animation industries far behind the Japanese. Although there are numerous local talents and creators today, many East Asian creators find themselves pressured or steered into drawing "pseudomanga" in imitation of the now-legal Japanese titles which so dominate the medium.

In the 1980s, as the exponential expansion of TV channels created still more demand for cheap programming, American television saw Go Nagai's 1972 hit Mazinger Z (screened in 1985 as TranZor Z) and Queen of a Thousand Years. Two hybrid series were created by splicing several entirely unrelated Japanese originals into a new American entity. Force Five (1980) and Robotech (1985) not only filled syndication schedules but also sold robot toys to American boys with great success.

Television before the general availability of the home video recorder had a captive audience. Viewers were unable to time-shift in order to follow their favorite programs, a limitation networks could exploit with repeat showings. Just as the video recorder put an end to cinema theater re-screenings of "favorite" anime episodes in Japan, it also made it possible for Japanese television to travel to America without the need to pass through a broadcaster. Legend has it that anime first entered America through science fiction fandom on the east and west coasts, where a large Japanese immigrant community, anime broadcasts on Japanese-language local television, and a strong science fiction audience combined to make convention screenings, with and without translations, a possibility. Behind the scenes, certain anime companies were active collaborators in this supposed "grassroots" movement. Some of the first convention screenings used VCR or even 16mm prints donated by Japanese agents.

The rise of the household VCR brought a new market into being, although some might argue that the combination of videocassette and personal computer was a deadly genie that the anime industry has been unable to stuff back into its bottle. Thanks to the Amiga (and much later to PCs and Macintoshes), it was now possible to add amateur subtitles, or "fansubs," to anime videos, rendered easier in America than in Europe through the fact that Japan and the U.S. shared the NTSC video format. Fansubs were soon circulating unofficially and helping to build demand for Japanese animation in cult TV circles.

The 1990s saw the return in syndication of serials first screened in the previous three decades, most notably the early morning screening of Speed Racer on MTV, which would in turn lead to a prominent Speed Racer poster seen on the wall of the apartment in the sitcom Friends. Also screened in 1995 were Battle of the Planets (in new variants) and Ronin Warriors, a test for later screenings of Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon with the newer Teknoman. This did not result in spectacular ratings, but American licensing company Funimation persevered with a further series, Dragon Ball Z. A new Cartoon Network slot, Toonami, aired in March 1997 bringing back old U.S. and Japanese shows like Thundercats and Voltron, and the following year the Warner Brothers network hit back with Nintendo's latest Japanese merchandising gambit, Pokémon. Pokémon was followed by Digimon and Monster Rancher, setting the scene for a new millennium of exploitation, not merely through television, but through merchandising and tie-ins, in imitation of the model already in place in Japan.

At first traded via the convention circuit and the existing network of anime fan clubs, copies of anime found even wider circulation as Americans accessed the Internet and created an unregulated, fast-moving market in information and goods. At a time in the 1990s when there might have been only 100 anime fans per state, Internet access helped establish virtual communities in order to encourage interest in the medium. As a predominantly young, technologically knowledgeable interest group, many with access to computers at home or college, anime fans were also able to use the Internet for the preparation and distribution of fansubs in unprecedented quantities. The prevalence of unlicensed translations has been a subject of unending debate within the American anime industry-many industry employees admit to an early interest fostered by fansubs and argue that fansubs often function as free samples that encourage a later purchase or rental. However, fansubbing is also undeniably open to extreme abuse, and regardless of the motives of many fansubbers to popularize a medium they love, the phenomenon creates ready-made materials for video pirates prepared to sell fansubs for personal profit. Consequently, what was once deemed a harmless activity not unlike borrowing a book from a friend, has escalated into a multi-million dollar copyright infringement industry, and one which has periodically led companies to litigate against persistent offenders. The arrival of Bit Torrent and other peer-to-peer file-sharing systems has made it even easier to obtain anime without paying for it.

Fandom itself, legal, illegal, or in the gray area of fansubbing (which is illegal but often overlooked), remains an influential distribution channel for anime. With weekend attendances often climbing into five figures, the convention circuit has formed its own micro-ulture, effectively unionizing consumers. Some anime companies, particularly those whose sales rely on titles popular only in fandom rather than with the general public, often present a friendly brand identity at conventions by sending representatives to announce new releases and deflect criticism. Such trips can make or break smaller releases-they would have a negligible effect on a major distributor, like Buena Vista, but a thousand fans reaching for their wallets in a single weekend can make the difference between profit and a loss. The precise power of fandom is a paradox-some argue that fandom is small and insignificant, and that, for example, fansubbing consequently represents a negligible loss in business when set against its promotional value. Others claim that fandom's power is so great that companies should obey its every (contradictory) whim, which would suggest that fansubbing and Internet downloading represent a significant danger to anime's increased profitability abroad, and hence the future of the foreign language anime business itself. Since piracy is by its very nature shadowy, it is difficult to determine what difference it makes to the anime business. As anime moves into its sixth decade in the U.S., science fiction and fantasy remain the dominant genres, with animated pornography gaining a higher profile than in its home market. A Japanese origin is no longer hidden from viewers, but boldly (sometimes falsely) proclaimed, particularly in cases where American networks are involved directly with a Japanese studio. There is also a relatively small but significant theatrical market, which was bolstered when Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Feature Animation in 2003. As we write early in 2006, anime is screened regularly on TV and sold for home viewing not just in America but also in every part of Europe, including its Eastern borders: Poland and Russia have embraced Japanese cartoons with as much enthusiasm as their Western neighbors. With foreign companies now eagerly buying the rights to new anime, often before they are even made, the new frontier for the Japanese industry is now China, a vast territory of one billion potential fans, many already acquainted with the medium through viewings of Sino-friendly anime like Ranma 1/2 and China Number One. Many anime are now at least partially made in China, sometimes for financial reasons, but increasingly also because a significant contribution by Chinese staff helps qualify a title as an international coproduction, and hence not subject to local broadcasting restrictions. In years to come, however, it is likely that national and geographical concerns will cease to be an issue for the animation business. Broadcasting's increasing reliance on direct downloads and the Internet has presented many anime companies with the opportunity to cut out all middlemen. The future of anime may well rest on hard drives and mobile phones, with foreign language versions released simultaneously in order to minimize the potential losses through fansubbing and piracy.
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