2015 – What Next?
Hopes and fears as some of the writers at Anime UK News take stock and look to the future of anime (and manga) in the UK…
2014 was certainly an interesting year in anime from a consumer’s perspective. Looking ahead, there’s a lot I’d like to see happen during 2015 or beyond. We got plenty of great shows re-issued or re-released this year, and that’s a trend I’d love to see continue. I’ve been thinking for a while that there’s room in the market for releases of ‘retro’ shows and older material that enjoyed success over here way back in the early ’90s boom. There’s certainly been movement in that direction Stateside over the last couple of years, and that’s a strategy I wonder if we’ll see migrate to these shores more noticeably.
Anime Limited certainly made a big splash in this regard, with quality re-releases of Perfect Blue, Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. The dedication Andrew and Co. have shown to making product available in TOP NOTCH quality is really appreciable, and I’ll be watching their output during 2015 with interest. Wings Of Honneamise is already a definite purchase for me. I can’t wait for it!
As far as other distributors go, I have to mention MVM, and their commitment to fighting the good fight in the marketplace. Ever reliable, they licensed some great stuff, and I actually realised just a few days ago that most of the anime I bought this year has their stamp on it. I just saw the news that they’ve licensed the Muv-Luv mecha anime for next year, and that’s another Blu-ray set with my name on it. We seem to have had comparatively little mecha anime released here during 2014, so it’s heartening to have this to look forward to.
Manga Entertainment seem to have taken a kicking from the fans this year, and with some shoddy quality control, not to mention poor communication with the fan base, I can’t say I’m surprised. I also just today took delivery of their Attack on Titan Vol 1 limited edition collector’s edition Blu-ray, and I’m seeing firsthand why so many people were dissatisfied with it. But I do think they put out some good stuff this year. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, for one, is a little gem, which seems to have been loitering quietly behind some of their more high profile releases.
There’s a lot of consternation over what lies ahead for Manga Entertainment, and I share the worry that some fans are expressing. I personally think sentiments like ‘they won’t be in business by 2016!’ are overblown, but I do worry for the brand. Is it about to become a conduit for the disgorging of commercially ‘safe’ shows such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragonball and Pokemon? That wouldn’t worry me. But if it were to happen to the exclusion of releases like the great stuff we’ve seen released under that banner in recent years, it would be tragic. Remember, Manga Entertainment gave us UK releases of Eureka Seven: AO, Last Exile – Fam, the Silver Wing (AND a reissue of the original series, a classic in its own right) as well as Black Lagoon, Fractale, and Stein’s;Gate. They’ve been a gateway to the UK for some brilliant material, and I’d hate to see that change.
If anything, it appears that the guts of Manga Entertainment are being transplanted elsewhere, and the news of former staff setting up a new venture in the form of Animatsu is intriguing. I’m as curious as anyone else as to how all that will pan out, and naturally hope for the best.
One aspect of the marketplace I think REALLY needs attention in the coming year is the availability of affordably priced anime. Notice I say ‘affordable’ and NOT ‘cheap’. The market has to remain fair to both distributors, who need to turn a profit or at least break even, as well as fans, whose spending money is stretched thinly in the current economic climate.
I personally think this has been a sticky point throughout 2014. The vast majority of this year’s new releases (or at least, the ones I was personally waiting on) proved to be outside my budget, given the current model for expensive LE releases on initial release. Also, as a fan, I DEEPLY resent the way Japanese licensors are dictating release plans in overseas markets. We seem to be coming back to a model of multi-volume releases, which the industry has already seen doesn’t work in terms of sustaining sales. I’ve noted among fans I’m friendly with (who aren’t necessarily vocal on message boards or within the convention scene) a simmering resentment, and a refusal to pay the kind of money being asked for some of this year’s releases. So, looking ahead to next year, I’m hoping that those folks will be catered to a little more, or at least have a broader selection of stuff outside the LE price bracket to choose from if they want to support UK distributors.
Signs are encouraging, I think – one of my few purchases this year was Anime Limited’s Cowboy Bebop collection – as far as I can tell, their first stab at a ‘standard issue’ release, and it was just PERFECT. A great product for a very reasonable SRP.
I’ll close out with some outright fantasy speculation for 2015: there was exciting news this year for Gundam fans, in that RightStuf! and Sunrise have entered into a deal to bring a number of shows to the western market. As a long-time fan, I’m particularly excited because it looks like I’ll finally get my hands on ZZ Gundam and Turn A, which was dangled in front of us all so cruelly immediately before Bandai Visual shut up shop a couple of years ago.
The only trouble? All these developments are Stateside, with no bearing on the UK scene. But it’d be great if some of this stuff eventually found its way here. I have some slender hopes because of Anime Limited’s involvement in the streaming of Gundam: Reconguista in G late in 2014. I truly hope they can do something by way of a home video release for that.
Ian Wolf says:
When it comes to 2015 the main things I think of first is the stuff we are going to miss. For one thing Assassination Classroom, one of the big anime of the forthcoming season, is to be streamed by Funimation, which means that we in Britain will not be able to see it. Region blocking like this has to be one of the most frustrating things relating to anime. If you deny people access to something they really want, then they may be tempted to access it by more questionable methods.
Region blocking gives people an excuse to pirate. It is a bad excuse, but an excuse that people will use. Now I personally think that the copyright laws in Britain are rather restricting and in need of reform. In terms of anime, distributors and streaming websites should make their shows to available to as many people and in as many languages as possible, at a price people can afford. The same should be true of manga. Mangaka in Japan often protest about illegal downloads of their work. If you want to help prevent it, then again make the manga easy to access digitally and legally, in a wide variety of languages, at a price people can afford.
There are some anime coming up this season that will hopefully be accessible to us in Britain. There are new series of the highly popular Durarara!!, yaoi classic Junjo Romantica and moe anthropomorphic Dog Days – the last of these, being one of the few anime I would be interested in hearing dubbed, mainly because I am interested in hearing an American anime voice actor accurately trying to get Cinque Izumi’s half-Japanese half-Cornish accent right. One of the stranger new series is Handsome High School Earth Defence Club Love, a magical boy series. You can already hear the homoerotic fan fiction being written.
Concerning manga, there are a few big titles being re-released in omnibus editions. The original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga (which came before the card game) is among them, but the one that will attract the most attention is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. This manga has never been published in its entirety, right from the beginning, so many people will be excited by this release. According to Amazon, Dark Horse is due to bring out an omnibus edition of Astro Boy in October, but nowhere else seems to list this.
Yen Press is also continuing with its drive for more light novels. Series making their debut include Log Horizon (who are also publishing the manga), No Game No Life and The Isolator, a novel from Reki Kawahara (Sword Art Online, Accel World). It might be good to see Yen release some more light novels, for example the original Durarara!! (they’ve already released the manga). Maybe it might be an idea to bring out audio book versions of these light novels – if it weren’t for the knowledge that you would probably get annoyed by the American anime voiceover artists reading them.