The Anime Market: In the Midst of Adjustment

Nami Thinking The Anime Market: In the Midst of AdjustmentOver the past year, we’ve been discussing the concept of just how the anime industry works. We’ve looked into the logic behind business decisions, dissected licensing agreements, and taken a look at the industry through the lens of the Blue Ocean strategy. We’ve watched as the struggling industry rose and fell, as fledgling newcomers to the market took seats as establishment icons and entrenched interests exited completely.

As Sentai and FUNimation compete for the newest on the market, we’re seeing an interesting phenomenon as a second tier of the market bubbles up from the cracks. NIS America and Aniplex gained recognition for their attractive-yet-pricey boxed sets, as entities like Nozomi and Discotek have become the go-to destinations for the obscure and old. The market today is almost unrecognizable from that which existed just five years ago.

However, I still don’t feel that this is anywhere near over.

The market is currently undergoing a correction, as the balance of power shifts and customer habits change. We’re seeing more consumption of digital media and streaming formats, as well as a greater fight for precious streaming rights that once would have been an afterthought. The window between a title’s Japanese airing and an American stream is now nearly non-existent: a concept that would have been laughed out of the room in 2007. As we continue our journey through the year, I don’t doubt that we’ll see our share of surprises and shocks, as well as plenty of gaffes and goofs.

For example, just today, we saw Aniplex announce that they would be re-releasing Baccano! on Blu-Ray, a move that few expected to see, due to the company’s focus on limited edition works. The re-release indicates that demand for the product was far greater than estimated, to the point that a reprint would be profitable enough to warrant the cost. Recall, dear reader, that Baccano! was released to market at a price of $69.98 in May 2011. The title sold out in a matter of days, and the price has since doubled on the open market. It will be interesting to see if the title has the same impact on the open market. There is clear demand, but one has to wonder if lightning will strike twice for the show or if it’s a case of “too little, too late.”

And, of course, FUNimation’s surreal Fan Appreciation panels to give an example of the more curious and potentially humorous experiences that are sure to crop up. What seemed like a surgical strike at gaining mindshare quickly came to be seen a surreal display of pandering. Tales that seemed to jump from the darkest recesses of LiveJournal were told by customer and employee alike, and many in the audience weren’t exactly sure if they saw a panel, or if they were simply enduring ten-minute peyote highs.

There are still seven months left in the year. There may not be another experience like Fan Appreciation or a surprise like demand outstripping supply by such a gross margin that a company that thrives on limited releases issues a reprint. However, there are certainly going to be changes and events that rumble through the industry. And, as they make their way into the public consciousness, a discussion will always follow.

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