Earlier today, Sentai Filmworks announced that they licensed Captain Earth. This is their sixth reveal of shows running this season, and the latest of nearly two weeks of continuous announcements. Since April 15th, the company announced that they acquired the following:
- Love Lab (Summer 2013)
- Kamigami no Asobi (Spring 2014)
- The Comic Artist And His Assistants (Spring 2014)
- Is This Order A Rabbit? (Spring 2014)
- No Game, No Life (Spring 2014)
This doesn’t include the company’s March announcements, which included One Week Friends and The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior.
At Anime Boston, Aniplex announced that they nabbed the rights to The Irregular at Magic High School, Mushi-shi Season 2, Nanana’s Buried Treasure, and Mekakucity Actors. FUNimation, on the other hand, announced that they would stream numerous titles this season, including Ping Pong, Dragonar Academy, and [email protected] 2.
And we certainly can’t forget Netflix’s plans to stream Knights of Sidonia!
More than ever, we’re starting to see the rate of new license reveals increase. More shows are being announced early, as companies lock up streaming and video rights for the obvious blockbusters and lower-grade darlings. Networks like Crunchyroll, Hulu, and FUNimation buzz with the latest shows and the newest content, as more and more fans open the floor to the discussions on the latest episodes of their favorite programs.
On a surface level, this is a good thing. More shows are getting licensed, and anime as a whole reaches further than it has in many years. The players in the market, whether it’s Sentai, FUNimation, Aniplex, or other players, are doing their best to get product to the masses at reasonable prices, regardless of their prices on the physical offerings. Anime is accessible on countless services, from Crunchyroll to Neon Alley and even Adult Swim’s Toonami block.
Physical releases are hitting more markets than ever, as companies like FUNimation and NIS America expand their options to include both normal options and more pricey premium editions.
In short, it’s a great time to be an anime fan.
Personally, though, I can’t help but draw a few parallels to the industry of the early 2000s. During this time, the market was seeing a giant rise in popularity, thanks to a combination of factors, from Pokemon‘s 1998 TV debut, to Cowboy Bebop’s Adult Swim run in 2001, to the consistent popularity of the Toonami block. At the time, anime was more accessible than ever. Fans chatted and discussed the shows that were airing on TV, and stores like Suncoast and Record Town were beefing up their anime offerings to cash in on the craze.
Sound familiar? Good.
It’s undeniable that parallels can be drawn between the two periods. They were both period of growth, though the situations were vastly different.
The growth in the ’90s/early 2000s were the result of a bubble. Pokemon, which was moving one million units per volume in its heyday, became the high water mark. Companies sought high and low for the next title to bring in those numbers, and would spare pay any price to get it. Supposed “sure things” like Heat Guy J and Lucky Star became expensive boondoggles, as bidding wars drove license costs up and sales were spread thin among a saturated market.
In retrospect, the bubble was something that should have been seen as obvious, and strategies should have been rectified before the market went kerplodey.
As someone on the ground during that point, though, everyone was caught with their pants down until the bad news finally started rolling in. We were all cheering as ADV unveiled a dozen shows at Otakon, or FUNimation nabbed old fansub darlings like Kodocha. We welcomed the big chipboard boxes and goofy chotchkes, and we seemed to sweep the growing moe boom under the rug, as sales declined and the shows coming from Japan grew further and further from western tastes.
In the current market, we’re definitely seeing a few parallels to the days of the bubble, from the rapid growth to the growing avenues of accessibility, both online and on TV. More players are entering the market, and the limited editions are coming back in a truly grand fashion.
At the same time, though, we’re not seeing that same, frenzied search for the mega-hit that sells a billion units. Attitudes have cooled through the industry, where players are focusing on sustainability and profitability, instead of repeating the same Hail Mary plays. Industry-leading titles are actually profitable, and company reps are more than willing to discuss when a license wouldn’t be worth chasing, given the cost. Projections are realistic, and attempts are made to get shows into as many legal outlets as possible.
Those in the industry today clearly learned from the missteps made by those that were around during the bubble. Hopefully, this continues to be the case, as a sustainable industry can only be good for both insiders and consumers alike. Otherwise, as George Santayana famously said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”