krpalmer: (kill la d'oh)
[personal profile] krpalmer
The "Monster Musume" girls looking out from the magazine racks at the nearby bookstore meant another issue of Otaku USA magazine had arrived. I buy it regularly, "I can start at the beginning, so I will" having led straight into "it's the last English-language North American anime magazine--might as well do my bit for it." It could also be, though, that just what it covers and how seems a "known quantity." As I pulled a copy out, however, one of the cover blurbs caught my attention.

"Do We Matter?
Geek media is huge, but what about anime?"

This was something different. Getting to the article "Do We Count?" by Daryl Surat about how "As 'geek' culture assimilates, 'otaku' remain outcasts," I spent some time mulling it over, and as I did I just happened to see an online piece (on a site that does at least try to mix in some coverage of manga, and even an occasional piece on anime, in with its "comics" news) making a similar point about manga, one pointed out in a few other places afterwards.

I was interested in what Surat would say, but perhaps because it was something I hadn't thought much about myself. A complex, long-seeded, and just perhaps explosive mixture of things seem to have added up to my not taking much interest in a great number of "more widely popular" "genre entertainments" and the notable organs that promote and discuss them, much less liking the word "geek." This, I suppose, makes me part of the problem, even if I've lasted that way for much longer than the "two years" the article claimed the "average fan" stays focused on anime and manga for.

More than that, though, my first response to Surat's attention-grabbing question might have just been "Do we?" Having survived the "busts" of last decade, when the money that wound up being dumped into licensing the merely typical titles would only have been made back by the exceptional ones with that elusive "breakout appeal," I might have been left ready to suppose all this "drawn stuff" from Japan appeals to a specific group of people wired in a particular way. This didn't have to be a tragedy even so: I'm just as ready to suppose there are plenty of "small" groups around with valid interest in particular things.

If trying to "know your place" can wind up something from a sigh of resignation to an outright cringe, however, then it would be something else to be convinced otherwise. The article did make the point of the crowds going to anime conventions, even if I might have become convinced "there's no money in it any more," somehow. Surat, though, also made the point that anime is the single category of "physical media" that saw an increase in sales last year. I've seen Justin Sevakis make that same point on Anime News Network, and I admit it surprised me when I saw it. One justification for pricy "quasi-imports" and "neo-singles" does seem to be the shrugging claim the "buying audience" over here wound up so devastated it was just as well to concentrate on its "cost is no object" core and abandon any remaining "middle ground" to the sop of streaming site subscriptions. It might be easier to increase from a low starting point, of course.

With that point made, though, Surat then pointed out how most anime still isn't sold by the big media conglomerates, which helps account for it getting missed in favour of cross-promoted productions. That, however, provoked a few thoughts it might be a more politic way of saying it comes from a different country and starts in a different language, with things having shifted over the years to where occasional comments about "a steep learning curve" jostle with complaints about "too much localization." It could also be, of course, that "you just have to be a particular kind of person to like it" is also a more politic way of wondering if it's for the best some things don't attract widespread attention, given the way some of us already look at them askew... If, indeed, it's harder than it once was for some to make the old claim of "small groups" that "our obscurity just proves our superior taste," then they might "need your approval" after all. This way of seeking it is at least different from insisting the studios in Japan need to make things with "broad audience appeal" on pain of dire predictions.

Still, different perspectives are always interesting. I've come to wonder myself if, in anime sales figures in Japan having become readily available, we've wound up convinced the whole edifice rests on the reed of a few thousand Japanese purchasers, and somehow nobody else that country even looks at the stuff. I even tried making up a question for the ANN "Answerman" question about that, although I guess it didn't turn out well enough to be answered after I'd submitted it. Being able to say something about what things are like over here might be easier.
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