Otaku's Influence on Anime Companies :: Otaku the World Part I

reprint of earlier posted column

A lot of teen otakus don’t know how vital they are in determining the current fate of the otaku world. Or at the very least, they don’t know how to go about making a change. So, I’m going to talk about what you can do, no matter what age you are, to try to influence conventions and companies.

Otakus *can* change the world

(or at least the anime world)

Anime in America has always been fan driven. It was the original geeks in their basements, watching bad video quality fansubs, who originally started a national interest. Corporations have stepped in, releasing new shows and manga series, but it’s still in response to what fans are in favor of. Without fan support, anime would have never become the mainstream phenomenon that it is today, and it would still be regulated to flipped manga and a limited shelf at Best Buy.

Likewise, conventions are run by the fans and for the fans. Even as anime conventions thrive throughout the country, they pride themselves on being run for the fans.

That’s why I want to talk today about what you can do to help shape the coming anime world and make your opinion known. Who knows how far your campaign for change will get; it all depends on how much energy you throw into it and what strategies you take. Age doesn’t matter when making a change–it’s just something to take into account and factor in. Maybe it means you can’t drive as far (unless you’ve got a parent on your side), but sometimes you can get more media attention because you’re young and society finds it novel that you’re taking a stand. There is no sure-fire way to bring about change, but there are a lot of ways to try.

Art by Cinnie
Only you can prevent low attendance numbers!

Your Dollars Matter
It’s very easy today to simply download what you want to watch when it comes to anime. There is a certain seduction to getting something for no cost, to be able to watch it before it’s even released in America, and without taking a trip to the store. Keep in mind, though, that for every show or manga that you download instead of buy, that’s an opinion that’s not being heard.

Somebody has probably told you to vote with your dollar before, but these days there’s also the conflicting idea of freedom of information, of freeware software versus Microsoft and Apple. Well, as much as you like not having to pay, keep in mind that anime costs money to make. Every show you download is a show that doesn’t see your money as profit.

“But I don’t like the dub!” you might say, as a justification for just getting the fansub. Well, the Japanese companies that made the original project are still counting on the money they get from licensing the title. The money you spend on a US licensed title does get back to the creators in a roundabout way. By making money on this project, the US companies are encouraged to buy more licenses. So while maybe downloading Death Note instead of buying it won’t hurt the makers of Death Note, because a US company already bought it, it might hurt the next creator trying to sell to the US company that lost money on Death Note due to downloaders.

Yes, fansubs and scanlations serve a role in the anime life cycle. It allows Americans to see shows and mangas that haven’t made it over here yet. But if you want to see more of those titles, American fans also have to buy what comes out over here. In fact, in some cases, a title can be more popular in America, leading to more episodes in Japan (Big O is the classic example).

So, what I’m getting at is if you want to see more of something, you need to buy what’s already out. That’s not to say that you should buy anything just to support anime, but you should buy what you like. Try it out and get introduced to the show/manga however you like, but if you want more, support it with your dollars.

This goes for local stores as well. If you want to see a larger selection close to home, then make whatever purchases you can at a local place. Complaining that your home town store doesn’t carry anime doesn’t do anything, even if you complain directly to the store. On the other hand, going to the store and special ordering it will show the store owners that there is an economic benefit to carrying the product.

Again, don’t overspend just to get things locally, but when you can, support the places. Personally, I have a five dollar rule. I will pay five dollars over what I would pay to buy a title online (including S&H) in order to buy a title locally and have it immediately in hand.

Well, next column I’ll talk about giving feedback in a way that will be listened to, and in the coming weeks I’ll deal with corporations and conventions.

Okay, plenty of fun debating going on in the comments on this post, a response essay by Fasteriskhead title "Anime Companies and Otaku - Another Look", which was followed by another post by me, about the