krpalmer: (smeat)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Among all the news I've noticed lately about online video downloads, numerous companies of various sorts shoving and backstabbing each other in what seems an attempt to keep more money to themselves until the format war between Blu-Ray discs and HD-DVDs, each with their own group of supporters playing up small differences as strengths, might seem almost reasonable to me, I've noticed a tidbit or two claiming everyone is really trying to race online piracy taking firmer root (if also tossing in complicated and restrictive "DRM" schemes). That makes me wonder if there's something to the hyperbolic statements made once upon a time that "Japan is our high-tech future now!", because I keep noticing fan angst about the state of the anime industry in North America in the face of other, tech-savvy fans. Companies seem to need time to work through complicated licensing deals and produce bilingual, packaged releases... and in the meantime, small groups of fans have turned out quick-and-dirty subtitle translations. Once upon a time, you either needed to mail away for VHS copies of these "fansubs" or just ingratiate yourself to the people in your local anime club who knew that much more than you and could get their hands on those fabled things, but nowadays it's all been digitized and can be downloaded in splendid isolation, and those who don't mind trying to read subtitles in the low quality of Youtube videos can find gratification that much quicker. Some have complained how anime is usually released a DVD at a time at a MSRP of $25 to $30, and compared it to "season sets" of regular network television. Perhaps this doesn't matter as much to me as to others; I do reflect on how a season set doesn't quite stand alone in the way an anime series can... but there's always that troubling question of how cheap and convenient something has to be to challenge someone grown accustomed to "free."

I bring this up because I've just seen a fresh and sudden burst of development in an unfolding story of struggling anime companies, perhaps a reflection on how the good graces of organised fandom may indeed not mean quite as much as fans might like to believe. Starting off as "Pioneer LDC," in some fashion or another a division of the very same company that makes home theatre equipment, and later renamed to something more enigmatic, Geneon seemed, from my somewhat limited point of view, to be the most favourably viewed of the various companies translating and releasing anime DVDs in North America. Most of the other large companies have managed in one way or another at some point to make some kind of faux pas on a large and anticipated release, pitching them into the doghouse of fan opinion from where they could struggle out only with great difficulty, but Geneon just kept rolling along. There was the merest whisper of controversy of late with a few titles getting English dubs proclaimed as inadequate and made on a shoestring in Singapore, but it didn't seem to bother too many people too badly... and then, all of a sudden, Geneon announced that its marketing and distribution would be handled by ADV Films. ADV is a large company as well as far as anime companies go, but it's had its share of frequent criticism over pecularities in what amounts to its "house style," and for a while it seemed to have overextended itself licensing too many series, forcing it to cut back on new releases and scrape along re-releasing no-frills collections. It seems to have been bouncing back lately, though. There was a considerable amount of message-board speculation about just what this meant and would mean, and a news report that Geneon had laid off its marketing and distribution staff in advance of the deal's beginning... and then, all of a sudden, I saw another report that the deal had fallen through. The initial message board reaction to this actually seemed to remain pretty thoughtful to me, but it did move straight back from what this latest development might mean to a lot of uncertain wondering of how Geneon in particular had got into what many suspect as dire straits. Many of their titles are well-regarded among fans, but they don't seem to have had any grand, get-on-TV hits lately... and for all I know, that was the simple fact at the core of all of this. I'm not sure if there's a solution to all of it, but it did give me something to write a journal entry about.

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