I had a friend recently post this article up to my Facebook timeline. While it is questions submitted by readers, it is only the first question I was directed to by said friend. The article comes from io9.
If you want the cliff notes version of the article, the viewer is curious if there is a business model or alternative business model for America to make anime. First, let’s clarify a few terms, at least for this entry, since many people tend to like classifications and labels to group things. I mean, look at the debates over what people classify as manga vs comics and some people believe the country of origin plays a role in these classifications, such as the great Original English Language (OEL) manga vs manga from Japan or Korea, etc.
Anime, in it’s traditional sense, is used to describe animation from Japan whether it is a full length film or a televisions series. However, I would argue that the term “anime” will be going through the same thing as manga does in the near future. I envision this due to the growing amount of artists that were inspired by anime and are taking on the world of animation. For instance, the web show called RWBY with heavy anime influences and the rise of “fanime” series and projects on Youtube, which are combined of the words “fan” and “anime”.
Let’s tackle the first model, which is the traditional route of a manga series being turned into an animated series. In a sense, this already exists in the US. We have animated shows like Batman, Superman and the Ninja Turtles, all based on comics. While they don’t follow the story lines note for note, these shows are probably the closest thing to that model in the US. With the slow death of comics, we have seen an influx of spin-offs from Pixar and Dreamworks films for animated shows, such as Kung Fu Panda. Now one could argue, that these are more children’s cartoons than anime, which kinda carries the more mature label of animated content. Could we classify shows such as Archer or the Simpsons as anime? I personally tend not to. Some people classify shows based on art styles and some on content. For instance, some would classify Archer or the Simpsons as cartoons since they are animated and others would classify cartoons as content geared towards a younger demographic. So with the terms being used, we will be flexible and look at the greater picture.
The article is called “Why America Will Never Truly Be Able to Make Its Own Anime” and that may be true to a sense. Anime in Japan gets made to promote manga, video games or a toy line. So if an American company were going to make an anime title but based it’s premise off of a Japanese manga, it would miss out on some potential marketing goodies. As the response to question states, if a series is doing well, a Japanese studio will license it, American studios wouldn’t get a chance.
America also doesn’t have the proper infrastructure to have a successful anime series take root. The show would essentially have one outlet, the late night block on Cartoon Network to reach the masses of cable viewers. SyFy no longer has a late night block in any form of anime to my knowledge and hasn’t had one for several years to my knowledge.
This all sounds kind of pessimistic, so what exactly am I saying?
In the US, people are increasingly cutting the cord to cable, thus making an American anime series primed for another platform, such as; Netflix, Amazon or some other player not in the market yet. As a culture, we are in a period of transition. One from the old ways of watching cable, to a new way people consume media that has not yet been directly defined. Once a show gains a level of success, it can then expand outside of the US. For instance, Roosterteeth recently announced that RWBY was going to be aired in Japan. You can read the article on adweek.
While I am not a businessman by any means, going this route may be a more profitable route. You wouldn’t have to pay to license a manga, and you could make money off of the licensing of the new Intellectual Property (IP), I believe.
So while anime is not the hot ticket item it was a decade or so ago, there is still room for an American series to make money in the space. I believe that we will see a successful title like that in the future and maybe develop it’s own niche as well. In my opinion American anime can exist, otherwise I wouldn’t be working on Cosmic Rage. I’d love to hear your thoughts!