The Major Reason the Anime and Manga Industries Are In Trouble

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. A lot of manga and anime series are extremely long (thus people can lose interest after awhile or be deterred entirely), can be very weird, and tend to be oversexualized (this is a serious problem that is affecting anime and manga badly, but that’s for another day). A clash of cultural values and customs don’t help at all.

But I think there’s another very huge issue as to why the anime and manga industries aren’t doing very well, at least overseas. The issue is that anime and manga and their merchandise are FUCKING EXPENSIVE.

Seriously, manga is pretty pricey, and given how LONG manga can go on for, people could end up forking hundreds of dollars to get the complete series (and sometimes people might not even get access to the complete series if the whole thing isn’t translated or if the English distributors go bankrupt). And anime? Oh, it’s worse. It can cost upwards of $30 to get a single disc DVD, and it can cost almost $100 to get a Blu Ray, not for the whole series, but for less than HALF of a series. I’m not joking. I wanted to get Attack on Titan on Blu Ray because I love the show so much and I want to show my support, but they broke up the first season into two separate Blu Ray boxsets and each one is ridiculously overpriced. I saw a Kill La Kill Blu Ray set of like the first five episodes with a few bonus features that cost like $90. $90! And don’t get me started on Sailor Moon!

It’s even worse if you want merch for it. A lot of merch is imported right from Japan, and as a result, can cost zillions of dollars. There’s some merch that’s actually really cool (like these articulated Sailor Moon figurines that have different faces and hand shapes and accessories) but if you want to get the complete collection, get ready to fork up to a thousand dollars! I feel like it would be better to just go to Japan and get stuff there!

And the thing is, a lot of fans of anime, manga, and the merch attached to it are high schoolers and college students. In other words, people who aren’t exactly rolling in money or have parents who are willing to buy their kids all the stuff they want all the time.

Since Western comics (save for standalone graphic novels or complete collections) are ridiculously hard for me to get into with all the constant retcons, changing writers and artists, and unfriendliness to newer readers who don’t know the context of what’s going on, I want to turn to manga as an alternative (especially since a lot of manga is really creative, and they can be a little easier to follow than their anime adaptations), but it’s hard when buying volumes cost me so much money. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I don’t understand. Merch right from Japan that’s expensive, I understand, with the shipping costs and all that. (Though this means they should let American companies make licensed merch for them so that people can support the industry without spending too much money. They shouldn’t have to sell all their products right from Japan to be shipped overseas.) But, I’m sorry,  I am not spending nearly $100 for a box set of like five episodes and wait forever for the rest of the series to be released.

The point is, if the anime and manga industries want to survive, they need to make their products AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE, and widely AVAILABLE. At this rate, I’m not remotely surprised that the future of anime and manga might be solely online, whether Japan likes it or not. But if they want physical copies to survive, they need to make sure more people can actually buy it. I’m sure they can gain a lot more revenue to make more and better anime if lots of people go through stores, see an anime that looks interesting, and see that they can actually buy it without spending too much.

EDIT/UPDATE:

Wow, this post has been getting a lot of views! I may have been a little glib when I first wrote it. I’ve gotten a few comments and as it turns out, the issue is a bit more complex than that. The main problem is that creators are often treated horribly, having to work long and hard hours, and anime/manga are not as commercialized around the world like Marvel or DC. Lowering prices would make it harder to make a profit. You can check the comments for more details, but basically, anime and manga is seen as a novelty. I still think anime and manga need to be more affordable, accessible, and widely available, but there will also need to be some serious reforms in how anime and manga are commercialized, marketed, and made.

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Author: Laura Alexander

Hello! Laura here. I am autistic and I love animation. My fave movies are "Big Hero 6" and "Wreck-It Ralph". This is where I'll talk about my thoughts and feelings on animated shows and movies, among other things.

11 thoughts on “The Major Reason the Anime and Manga Industries Are 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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  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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