We’d been hearing about it all week: this amazingly super-huge announcement that Bandai Entertainment was going to make yesterday – an announcement so earth shattering that they took up an entire week (at least) to hype it up.
And indeed, it was a monumental announcement: an anime series would air on US television, dubbed, within 24 hours of it’s broadcast in Japan. This isn’t necessarily the first time that either of those things has happened, but it may be the first time they occured at the same time. This news essentially made what title they announced to do it with irrelevant. This was part of the new business model which would help save the anime industry and make anime more widely available sooner at the same time.
Except there was one glitch: the TV network they decided to air it on it only available to a small percentage of the US population (the network isn’t even in 10 media markets), and, as of my writing this article, there are no announced plans to distribute the episodes online, subbed or dubbed. Which means that unless you live in one of those 8 media markets, this announcement means exactly jack…other than the fact that we may at least get the DVDs sooner (though we still don’t know at what cost).
So the question must ultimately be asked: what was the point of this? If Bandai had somehow scored getting the show on Sci-fi or Adult Swim, then this would indeed be news, as at least a good majority of anime fans probably at least get those networks. But iATV? With no streaming alternative? Are they trying to encourage fansubbing (or worse – just people posting torrents of the iATV broadcasts on torrent)? Because that is what will likely happen. I can hear it now: “Other people get to watch it! For free (which isn’t really true, but that doesn’t stop people from saying it)! I think this just further legitimizes my ‘right’ to download it!”
This is now the second straight half-assed attempt to have a simultaneous release without actually releasing the show in any meaningful manner. The other example is the release of Xam’d on the Playstation Network by Bones because, as everyone knows, all anime fans have Playstation 3s.
Look, I appreciate that these companies are trying to come up with new and innovative ways to keep anime fans happy by releasing shows for consumption in the US earlier, but preventing majorities of the anime viewing population from legally being able to watch the show is most definitely not the way to go about doing it. It’s hard to believe that any company would actually consider a plan to license a show, only to put it on a TV station that no one watches with no online distribution as a good idea. It probably would have been better marketing to drop the TV and just announce a simultaneous DVD release or something. Yet, that is apparently what happened. And then the anime distribution companies all wonder why they’re being driven into the ground.
Yes, I realize that there are issues such as some of the Japanese companies being leery of putting shows online and blah-de-blah. However, eventually they’re going to have to realize this: people are already downloading this stuff, both in the US and Japan. Putting a show online for people to watch legally isn’t going to cause any more people to download the show in lieu of buing DVDs any more than what is already going on. And they might actually make money from people watching it legally who otherwise wouldn’t. I’m not sure why this is such a difficult concept to comprehend.
I mean for god’s sake, use hulu, or have all the anime producers come together and make their own site where they can more centrally control the content. But at this rate, it just seems like anime companies are trying everything but the obvious solution because they’re afraid of people downloading the shows instead of buying DVDs – something which is already occurring on a wide scale anyway.
Bandai can still be redeemed if they come up with some sort of online distribution, subbed or dubbed (or both), by or very shortly after the show starts airing. But the fact that it wasn’t announced yesterday clearly indicates that it wasn’t part of the original plan.
(And just to pile on…I don’t know if it’s some sort of internet strategy to look “cool” or something, but perhaps Bandai Entertainment’s webpage should have been an early sign that they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing in regards to the internet).