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.
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.