Why the Anime Industry Is In Trouble

Revised on 2017/11/07 to reflect on new learning and to be less glib. Thank you to the people who commented on this post for giving me a better understanding of the situation.

So if you’re an aficionado of Japanese media, you probably know that the anime industry is in danger of dying. The manga industry is not faring so well either. You can look up ‘anime industry dying’ or ‘why good anime is hard to make’ or ‘manga industry dying’ to get more info, but basically, while anime and manga for niche markets (mainly the otaku fandom) is doing fine, anime and manga for a broader audience is not.

To be honest, I think there are a lot of reasons for this.

The major reason I feel that it’s not doing very well overseas is because anime, manga, and related merchandise is ungodly expensive. A lot of anime fans are college students and teenagers; in other words, people who aren’t exactly rolling around in money. Because of shipping costs a lot of products cost a lot more than a similarly boxed DVD set for a western cartoon. I also feel that anime is not properly released in DVD and Blu Ray format. I once saw a Blu Ray box set for the first half of Attack on Titan season one that cost almost $100, and a DVD set for the first few episodes of Kill La Kill that cost almost $90. Yes, really. You can see why not a lot of people are flocking to buy physical copies of anime like that.

A lot of anime (and manga) can be extremely long, which would deter a lot of more casual fans from watching or buying the whole thing. Sometimes people can’t get the entire series if the English language distributor loses the rights or goes bankrupt. (And, again, it’s expensive if a series go on for so long.)

The biggest reason why anime has trouble is the lack of audience appeal. Clash of culture and values, outlandish stories and visuals, and growing amount of anime fetishistic images and stories is contributing to a lack of worldwide interest. Anime is growing a negative reputation for its sexualized and bordering on pedophilic depictions of women and girls, a very serious problem that is affecting the industry. Aside from that, anime is seen more as a novelty, not as widely commercialized like Marvel or DC, so you usually end up with either the fetish anime or something that was based on a hit manga series.

There’s also the factor of creators and animators working in awful conditions. I know the Japanese manga industry is extremely cutthroat; creators are under strict deadlines and have to rush out a manga chapter once a week, and their stories can live or die depending on sales and editors. I can only imagine what it would be like for anime.

My main point of the original version of this post was that anime and manga needs to be more AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE, and widely AVAILABLE. I would not be surprised if the future of anime ends up being solely online. But, as some of my commentators have pointed out to me (and I thank them for that), there also needs to be some serious reforms on how anime is commercialized, marketed, and made.

And with that, I think I sufficiently corrected this post. I originally wrote it out of frustration and confusion (I want to support good anime but can’t financially do so all the time), but after learning more about the problem and from some important comments, I had to rewrite this post because it was getting too many views.

As for how anime (and manga) can be saved? Well, I would say go out and find good quality anime (and completely boycott crappy fanservice anime) and support it however you can. Show the creators that we want to see (and support) anime that values quality and artistic freedom over anime that shows panty shots of girls or has a plot on a boy having the hots for his sister.

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Author: Laura Alexander

My name is Laura, I use they/them pronouns, and I'm an autistic college student currently enrolled at the Social Service Worker Program at Sheridan College. I have a passion for film and animation, social issues, and helping others, all of which will be featured on The Flying Red Robot blog. Please read the about page before commenting or following. "Big Hero 6" is my favourite movie.

12 thoughts on “Why the Anime Industry Is In Trouble”

  1. I agree that they need to really deal with the affordability and accessability issues around anime and the merchandise. It’s extremely hard to access anime in Australia in the first place and the price of it is excessive at best. Then people want to whine about knock-offs and fake merchandise. It’s the lack of accessability that allows those knock-offs to find a market.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. It is actually much more simple than that. America and international governments need to crack down on illegal pirating sites like KissAnime. So long as we can watch anything and everything for free, in high quality, in a more convenient form even than legal alternatives (such as Funimation and Crunchyroll), AND WITH DUBS!… The industry has no hope of making any substantial revenue from an international audience.

    The other sad fact remains… In Japan, there is a weird, sick OBSESSION with moe, echhi, yuri and the like. If it is not a slice of life/ comedy, it often has a very high budget and sadly probably sells less than a very poor quality moe/echhi…

    The quality anime industry depends on its international market, and the international market is screwed by Kissanime. Hence, good anime is dead.

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    1. Well I’m not big on cracking down on pirating sites because sometimes it can turn into censorship (and not everyone can afford or find what they’re looking for) but I think the fact that it’s easier to get free anime than actually paying for anime says a lot. The fact that quality anime is in trouble and fetish anime is doing fine adds insult to injury.

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  3. The problem isn’t piracy, and anime and manga are typically cheaper than western animation techniques. It’s that the market overseas isn’t very strong for it. Look how long it took to get an English Dub of DragonBall Super. The problem is that while the accessories are cheaper in Japan it costs a lot to insure the products, acquire licensing, transport, pay the workers, and then the stores have to pay the workers.

    The best and cheapest solution is to buy it directly from Japan or to just suck it up and help the industry. Save your money for those collectibles or box sets. If you really want them it’s a non-issue and you won’t feel bad about spending $90.

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    1. Yeah I think it might actually be better to buy directly from Japan at this rate.
      Keep in mind, while some people can save up on it, others can’t. That feeds into why this is such a huge issue.

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  4. You make pretty good points, however,

    It would be much easier on the consumers to make anime and manga cheaper and to have free streaming sites, but we also have to look at the people who stay up all night making those products. I personally find online manga scans and free anime wonderful, but I also feel guilty ripping off the people who have to live off of that revenue.

    The industry is brutal toward creators. So to make stuff cheaper for our sake is only hurting those manga artists and their assistants. Editors have it much easier where they can control or manipulate what gets presented to the audience. Manga isn’t as commercialized as Western Superhero comics that are literally $3-$5 an issue (depending on the series). Superman has animated shows and movies as well as live-action box office hits that a variety of audiences enjoy. Manga doesn’t have that luxury. Even though I utilize the free streaming and scans, I make sure to make up for it to buy maybe a manga or a DVD every few months. Fairy Tail is one of my favorite anime/manga, so I read and watch online. But now that the series is ending soon, I’m attempting to stack up on volumes. I want to keep the series for myself but this helps Hiro Mashima have a steady income while he is in between works. His most famous manga is over, so he is probably coming up with something new to make ends meet. I know not everyone can do that, but there are used manga websites buyers can check out. They can also encourage libraries to buy more manga. Many of my friends check out manga from the library.

    Also, international shipping is expensive just about anywhere. If you wanted imported, you’re going to have to pay the price for it. Inflation and currency plays a huge role in international products. I speak for other countries, but I know that the Japanese Yen currently makes up less than a 10th of an American dollar. 1,000 yen s like 9 bucks in the US. I understand your stance, and I wish it was that easy. But if companies lowered the prices of products just because a percentage of consumers can’t afford it, then there wouldn’t be much of a profit. Business and profits are pretty complex, so it’s not as easy lowering the price unfortunately.

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    1. This was originally more of a vent post but after a few comments I decided to edit the post a bit. I think no matter what, the anime industry will need some serious reforms on how it’s commercialized, marketed, and made in order to survive.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay I can’t blame the anime industry as to why they can be so expensive. I mean do you know how much it costs to make one episode of an anime? Just 13 episodes can cost like 3-4 million dollars. And that’s not just it, they pay animators frame by frame which is like 3-5 dollars per frame and the standard set of frames for one second is 24. Making major hit animes take a large toll on the studios to the point some of them reach bankruptcy. What’s worse is online websites are letting people watch all of that for free so the studios are not getting their money back so prices on merchandise will be up so they can have a fair amount of profit. There’s a large demand for anime so studios are forced to keep producing which affects their budget real bad cause a lot of animators are free lance and there aren’t enough animators to produce a large scale of anime and there are like 30-50 anime series released every season. Animators in Japan are overworked as hell and without a fair amount of profit they’re not getting a fair salary either. Good animators and voice actors are nowhere near to being cheap. A voice actor can get paid up to 600,000 dollars and there are like different voice actors for an anime. So if you want to help the anime industry get back their money and continue to create high quality anime you have to stick with paying for it.

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    1. Again, I was a little glib when I first wrote this. My main point is that Blu Rays and DVDs are not going to help the anime industry and that digital copies might be the endgame. That doesn’t excuse people from demanding anime and not wanting to pay AT ALL. I try to pay for anime by watching on Netflix at the very least.
      Thanks for informing me about some of the problems with the anime industry, I didn’t realize it was that bad. I think in addition to paying for anime we need to start making change within the industry as well.

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