Tonight, we will continue our dissection of the recent “Blue Ocean Survey”, which asked readers their thoughts on various aspects of the anime industry. Our first at the results focused mainly on quantifiable data. The multiple-choice and demographic information. Through this, we found that the primary sample was the male, over 17 who has been watching anime for at least seven years.

The remaining questions were presented as short-form essays. Basically, a question was asked, and a request of two or three sentences was granted in return. These particular questions are valuable because they allow for more freedom from the user. While there is often overlap between answers, and common trends that arise in the answers, the short-form question often allows for suggestions that may be overlooked. With this in mind, we will look at each question, and break down the most common trends, as well as stand-out responses that may have come from the surveying process.

What feature or aspect of anime releases do you feel is most neglected in the anime market today?

The most common responses from the sampled group focused on extra features. With 50% of all responses, readers felt that extra features, in some form, are increasingly neglected in the modern anime market. Several cited that features like behind the scenes looks at shows, commentaries, and adaptations of Japanese DVD extras would be welcome sights. One surveyed user cited that they would prefer educational pieces for certain shows:

If a show has a historical background like Sengoku Basara, or Le Chavelier D’Eon it would be nice to have a section that talks about what really happened.

Of those who cited extras, one user in particular cited physical extra items in particular.

The next most common type of response, with 25% of all responses focused on show selection. These responders requested shows that are believed to have no real customer-base in today’s market. Thrillers, mecha shows were genres cited by class, though calls for “older shows” and “arty” titles were also mentioned.

Show marketing was placed in third place, with 17% of the total vote. In particular, responders felt that the trailers that companies use to attract viewers did not receive enough attention. The responders all mentioned that current trailers typically do not inspire a want for new titles, as they don’t give enough of a sense of their premises. One responder was more specific, and cited dissatisfaction with the trend of using a show’s opening credits as the trailer.

The remaining 8% was comprised of one response:

Price discrimination. It certainly exists in the form of expensive singles that get replaced by cheap box sets, but I don’t think it goes far enough. I think companies could take much greater advantage of the high payers by offering great packaging and higher quality video at a higher price (instead of just DVD extras) while keeping the low payers with relatively crappy releases. I think companies focus too much on one or the other.

This is a particularly interesting response, as the responder believes that there isn’t enough to inspire early adoption of a title. Since shows are more profitable when they’re sold at full price, companies should be trying to ensure this audience receives some incentive to keep buying early. Rather than focus on racing to the top or the bottom, it may be best to see the western publishers do more to capture the higher payers before reducing prices immediately for the base market.

What feature or aspect of anime releases do you feel is focused on TOO much in the anime market today?

The top response set was captured by two categories, with each capturing 22% of the vote.

The first of these is the industry’s focus on dub casts. In particular, the responders felt that there is too much attention given to these casts, especially in comparison to the original Japanese crew members. Users made comparisons to video games, as well as the convention presence of individuals:

It seems like at conventions the dub casts and US voices get more credit than the Japanese, so it’s almost easier to leave the Japanese out of the equation

The second of two leaders focused on the number of releases that hit the greater market. These users mentioned that there are numerous shows that perform poorly in the market, yet see still re-releases. One user mentioned that there are titles that hit DVD, though the appeal to a broader market, or even to a market that would normally buy the show in the absence of streaming networks, is limited.

Each of the following categories received roughly 11% of all responses:

  • DVD Extras
  • Too much of a particular genre
  • Hobby Stereotypes
  • Price
  • Genre vs. Content

Of these categories, the “stereotypes” and “Genre vs. Content” arguments presented particularly strong arguments.

“Stereotypes” put forth the argument that the market places too much importance on a show’s dub… or lack of one. In particular, this group cited that the market pays too much to the idea that that a show is either obscure or not worth watching is tied to whether the product was dubbed.

“Genre vs. Content” presented the following argument:

I feel like there’s too much focus on a show’s genre versus the contents of the show. The show could be not good, but since it has moe or high school drama it’s going to sell. I’m aware there’s an audience for shows like this. I would rather see a company take a risk on a new property that may not sell well versus re-releasing older titles that have a fanbase or sticking to a safe genre that will sell X amount of copies.

The general argument is that the industry generally hedges its bets on what the show is, rather than the title’s quality. This leads to an overall contraction in content variety, and generally limits the overall selection in the market.

What’s your favorite anime release in your collection, and why?

In a surprising turn of events, 40% of the sampled population rallied around Nozomi Entertainment’s release of Revolutionary Girl Utena. The users cited the show’s content in addition to its presentation as factors that led to the decision. In the presentation, the following were mentioned in two or more responses:

  • Attractive packaging
  • Extra Features
  • Supplementary Materials

The extra features cited include the various Japanese extras, which range from trailers to interviews with the show’s cast and crew. Supplementary materials cited include the forty-plus page booklets that ship with each volume. These contain production notes, artwork, and supplementary interviews that discuss the show’s content and the re-mastering process that the show underwent.

Other selected titles include the following:

  • Emma: A Victorian Romance
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Edition
  • Mobile Suit Gundam
  • Now and Then Here and There (CPM release)
  • You’re Under Arrest, season 1, volume 1
  • Vision of Escaflowne

Aside from Evangelion and Gundam, surveyed responders praised the shows’ content. You’re Under Arrest! and Now & Then Here & There both had responders cite the show’s dub as reasons for their selections, while Emma and Now & Then Here & There had extras cited.

Gundam and Evangelion were chosen for more personal reasons. For Evangelion:

BECAUSE IT’S SHINY. Also Rei portrait on front.

And for Gundam:

They are my favorite because they were the first anime DVD’s I ever purchased.

If you were in charge of an anime distributor like FUNimation or Sentai, what would YOU do to make anime releases more appealing, going forward?

Of the sampled population, a total of 30% that responded cited customer focus as their primiary goals in the hypothetical corporate ownership case. This group cited the need to communicate more with customers, and reach out to the core community, as well as the expanded market.

In terms of the core community, one user mentioned that these groups may be missing out on word of mouth, while another stated that he would take chances on licenses that break conventions and appeal to the older demographics. One responder stated that he would focus on openness given the chance:

I would try to communicate the customer’s for their input on packaging, titles they may like to see, promotional items they may like to see in a limited edition set, how the company could improve improve future releases.

The second most common set of responses from the sampled population focused on granting value to the customer. With 20% of the vote, this group cited that they would introduce stronger forms of price discrimination in their products. In particular, both cited that they would have multiple tiers of product, and focus more on positive reinforcement of consumer habits over punishment of copyright infringing entities. All parties cited that they would find ways to get titles to the waiting market faster, be it through streaming or through a tighter release schedule.

The most interesting of these responses, though, came from the following member:

Introduce two very distinct versions of the same series (stronger price discrimination). Push streaming more, of course, and promote a culture of collecting– give some public space for people to show off their collections, glorify consumerism at panels, etc, rather than focusing on discouraging bad behavior (e.g. piracy).

The observations of this user are actually quite interesting, as they tap into the mindset of a market that is very much unlike the anime industry, as a whole. The idea of a “culture of collecting” tends to skew more towards that of toy aficionados, art buyers, and even gamers. These groups tend to be exceedingly proud of the collections they amass, and are more than willing to display and add to them, given the chance.

The idea of a public display space is actually a powerful motivator to continue the culture, as humans are competitive by nature. They revel in the idea of having the “rarest” of an item, the biggest collection, or even the most unusual of items. So, by offering that central location to show things off, one would feed the psychological drive and continue to encourage people, both old and new, to begin collecting and talking about the company’s product.

Other responses to this question saw a range of answers, which range from practical to whimsical. On the practical end, one respondent cited that they would offer download-to-own offerings with dual audio tracks, rather than the industry standard “dub only” format. Two respondents stated that they would try selling niche titles, or “thought provoking anime,” to try to appeal to those outside the normal scope of buyers.

The most whimsical answer came about in one user’s need for more shine:

Make Shinier Box Sets, platinum, silver, holograms, etc.

While shiny product does catch the eye, the danger comes from the over-use of such techniques. Eventually, the appeal of such a style diminishes, to the point that holo-foil and silver become “run of the mill” and are as easily ignored as most other product.

Conclusion

Though the sample was small, the information gathered was valuable, indeed. The information gathered offered a look into a key demographic within the market, which is often overlooked by many. To the group that took the survey, I’d like to offer my deepest thanks. Without your input, this would’ve been a fairly sad affair, indeed.