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Either You Are With Us Or Against Us

filed under , 25 July 2010, 19:41 by

So, if you happened to join the discussion on RocketBomber just a couple of weeks ago and were under the impression that the blog is just about business analysis with the occasional odd word on retail: thank you. Skip this post, and I won’t have to excuse or explain anything further.

If you’re still with me: I’m about to eat some red meat and swill some beer and get my umbrage out of the storage case – and really rant a bit.

##

[links below represent, and largely repeat verbatim, posts I made to my twitter account]

I wish there were 3 separate, concise terms for fans-who-like-stuff, fans-who-BUY-stuff, and “fans”-who-STEAL-stuff .

See, a fan or “fanatic” really, really likes something. That is not only their defining characteristic, it’s the only requirement for membership in the fan base.

Some fans watch the show on ‘free’ [ad-supported] network TV or ‘free’ [subscription-and-ad-supported] cable TV, and wonder why, since they saw it for free once, why the DVDs cost so much, or why CN cancelled it, or why Nick only shows it on the Nickelodeon-in-the-high-hundreds distaff sub-network, or why they have to stay up until 1AM (or the ultimate hardship of having to set one’s TiVo) to watch this ‘free’ program.

See, there? “Free” things have costs. All things have costs. Some are dollar costs, some are opportunity costs, some are travel and transportation costs, some are insubstantial: the costs/time required to find it online, the costs/time to educate yourself about the industry, and creators, and the history of manga, anime, cartooning, animated film, animated film brought to television, comics as both an art form and a mass produced consumer product, or the costs/time spent learning the names and relative merits of all 493 Pokémon.

And while “time equals money”, your time spent acquiring knowledge means nothing, it’s only your money that communicates things outside of the internet and across oceans to the creators who are starving in Japan (and, well, subcontractors in S. Korea and China and who knows where next) (and I’ve yet to hear the impassioned call from any fan that they stop exploiting cheap labour from third countries, pay animators a living wage in Japan and elsewhere, and support both artistic integrity and basic production standards because our love of anime will support the higher costs.) (…just sayin’)

If you like it, buy it. It’s that simple.

If you can’t buy it: then you can’t have it.

You know where people get things only because they really, really want them? That’s communism, son. We don’t do communism.

And a whole internet is waiting in the wings with their very own, “Yes, I know, but…

Save it.

Say, you know where people provide goods to those willing to pay money – enough money to cover costs (& with a profit to the seller?) That’s America!

Or more broadly, capitalism. Or even more broadly — for hybrid systems that provide education, health care, and basic needs under a European-style-socialist-safety-net with free trade and capitalist markets for luxuries and other goods, or even nominal-communist countries that still have active smuggling, pirating, and foreign-currency transactions — that’s The Market.

Even in places without “free” markets, there are black and grey markets — where the demand for goods overcomes ideology, philosophy, best intentions — and Marx, Lenin, Mao, Keynes, Friedman, Hayek and all the rest; Economics as a discipline, and as an academic study — are all subject to the universal truth that if I have something you want & I’m willing to part with it, you’re going to have to ‘pay’ for it one way or another.

Ad-supported models spring immediately to mind for the so-called-‘free’ internet: your attention is being sold; even if you don’t value it, there is money to made there.

Mutual exchange models used to proliferate, back in the earliest days: I have video tape X, you have video tape Y & we trade — and when fandoms were still courteous, polite affairs, I might extend something ‘free’ in the name of friendship (a history of past fair dealings) knowing that when you get something new, I’ll be the first person you think of.

A lot of “fans” complain that not enough is being done to specifically cater to their “fandom”, without defining terms or putting a price tag on it.

Oh sure, the only manga that you’d ever consider spending money on is so far out of the mainstream that there’s no way it’d ever be available for sale in a bookstore. Um. Well.

Inubaka? Freakin’ Dog Manga? Viz.

Cooking manga? Viz, Viz Signature, Del Rey — Iron Wok Jan was ComicsOne and when they went out of business it was rescued by DrMaster.

Maids? CMX, Seven Seas, Tokyopop.

Robots? Maid Robots? Butlers? Supernatural possibly-demonic Butlers?

Idols, Pop Stars, Rock Stars, Actors, washed-up idols mentoring ingenues, highschoolers working as managers for other highschoolers who have to cross-dress while not performing to hide the fact that they are entertainment superstars?

Ninja, Wizards & Witches, Guns, School Girls, School Girls with Guns — Eastern-myth influenced, Western-myth influenced, at least five takes on Journey to the West (with both monkey-boy shonen action heroes and bishonen angsty drama included) — Ukes and Semes — Fanboys, Otaku, Fujoshi — budding artists and cute art school students — female shogun and male debutantes — sci-fi of all stripes and a whole load of epic fantasy, reverse vampires, paper masters, time travel, time-travel-romance where our heroine is dislocated to a fantasy/medieval realm where only she can tame the wild warrior(s) and bring peace to either the past, the present, or both?

Blue Space Vampires from Beyond the Moon, replaying 18th century French drama with the barest gloss of futuristic overlay? Sci-fi adaptations of Shakespeare with flying horses, the heroine as an underground freedom fighter and the ruling duke re-imagined as a sentient tree with Ophelia borrowed from Hamlet to serve as high priestess? Space Garbagemen? A Photographer who blows things up when he takes their picture?

I’m not even digging all that deep here. Just some stuff I happen to have on the shelf (plus RomeoxJuliet, which I don’t own but soon will). And I haven’t even mentioned [yet] Afterschool Nightmare, Aqua/Aria, Crest/Banner of the Stars, Kashimashi, Shugo Chara, Someday’s Dreamers, Sundome, VB Rose, Yotsuba&!, Yubisaki Milk Tea or other personal favourites yet.

Dude. Dude. Dude. To claim that, well, “the titles I like just aren’t getting licensed” is to ignore A Freakin’ Bookstore full of licensed, translated manga, and a lot of it is really good, and really-weird-but-really-good, and creepy, and disturbing, and fun (and some of it is bland, and routine, and predictable but still worth reading in some ways) and it’s a lot like any other genre and/or format of books: there’s stuff you really should buy, and stuff publishers would like you to buy, and stuff you almost bought but didn’t [the marketing was off, or it just wasn’t popular, but then when more volumes come out you really wish you’d started buying it earlier]

And then there’s the MMF, where a round dozen reviewers [plus new participants] are telling you each month about a great title (with multiple volumes) that you previously missed, or ignored,

and then there’s the crap:

95% of everything is crap. Of Everything. 95% of the crap you download is crap, except you ignore it because it was free crap, and yet you insist that the market is failing because first, it served up crap for you to pirate (for free, even though others are paying for that crap and you insist that it’s still crap even as you download it) and second, because your highly-trained crap filter is about to overload from all the crap, even though the crap is free and you can’t be bothered to think about your free manga & anime past the reflex response to call it all crap (even though you download it all anyway) and what you call “crap” may in fact be my much beloved Full Moon O Sagashite and who the eff are you to call it crap?

I make fun because I care.

There is an awful lot of passive/aggressive resentment directed at manga/anime [especially the corporate producers] about how it all sucks — and yet they [said fans] compulsively consume everything and also point to how their compulsive consumption somehow makes them *experts*.

If it sucks so bad, why are you arguing with me on news sites, blogs, forums, and occasionally even in the comments on this very [poorly-trafficked] blog?

Why the passion? Whence the passion?

##

I know the answer already: Manga and Anime are Just That Good.

but you can’t always pay for it. Not what it deserves anyway. and your frustration leads you to blame not your own poverty, or the disconnect between what you can afford and what you want

but to instead blame the whole ‘problem’ [which isn’t a problem, unless you can’t afford licensed content] on the greed of licensees, or the ignorance of the ‘buying’ public [who pay for things, but for the wrong things, in your book] or on “censorous” American publishers who “butcher” your books and censor things outside of the ‘artist’s original intent’

[and actually that’s a fine argument but doesn’t excuse, explain, or exempt piracy]

And really, even before you began reading this post or I began writing it, you already have a position and my attempts at logic or persuasion are for naught:

Either You Are With Us, and you believe buying licensed manga is the best way to not only support the industry but also communicate what we like [through dollars spent] to licensees, licensors, and major publishing companies…

Or you imagine the real world doesn’t run on dollars, but rather some odd construct where desire, good will, unspoken intent, and hit counts on online sites amount to “sales” [no, they don’t] or that enthusiasm and a sheer number of posts about a property contribute to that property’s success [no, it doesn’t] or that your love, a Love so great it compels you to actively campaign against the financial interests of the people who produce your anime & manga, and who do so on the very barest of profit margins, because they happen to crassly ask for money (or who made minor compromises in their pursuit of major market acceptance) (or even just to make a few bucks off of TV) (and which is then a ‘major betrayal’ of the fanbase)

Pray tell: exactly what odd fandom you personally are so ever-loving loyal to that you can’t find anything else to financially support in the wide, wild market?

Really? Yeah, I get that you like things, even things that aren’t translated, but that automatically precludes you liking everything else? Wholly Effin Shiznats, I mean, everything?

One can only defend piracy if the government is specifically censoring the manga you want to read [and not the market, which determines what will sell, but the government, which censors things you want to buy but can’t because otherwise you’ll go to jail]

The fact that some manga are economically unfeasible is a fact of life, and regrettable, but not actionable. The unavailability of some manga is a fact of life, and while you’re welcome to pirate them [if one must read them] that doesn’t translate into an inalienable right and certainly isn’t an excuse. If you chose to obtain these from the Black and Grey markets, recognise you’re breaking the law and do so quietly; don’t make a fuss and be happy you were able to skate underneath the law.

Dear Manga & Anime “Fans”: What, are you communists? Front some $$ or sit down and STFU. — and you’re not fans, you’re whiny, entitled children

I buy a lot. I work at a job where I sell books, and at least in theory, sell manga [though at least a third of all manga sold through my store is just me ‘selling’ books to myself]

Honestly, I don’t want to read a single argument about manga piracy unless the author reveals just how much money they spend annually on manga, and if they don’t, just how they expect the industry to continue while they not only don’t support it but are actively killing it.

##

Last year I spent $4895 on manga. [just manga]

You don’t have to beat me to have an opinion. but if you’re about to bring up a “I download scalations because the type of manga I like just doesn’t get published” I’m going to require a listing of all the unlicensed manga to which you refer, at least a cursory argument on why currently available licensed [LEGAL] manga doesn’t suit your particular kink, and [at best] a listing of untranslated manga you’ve bought via alternate channels [amazon.jp, for a start] because your love of the art is sufficient to prompt purchases of the manga even if you can’t read it. [yet. one also hopes you’re learning Japanese if you ‘love’ the manga this much]

What? I’m demanding too much?

Honestly, I’m only asking you to pay your way. I’m pointing out that there are legal alternatives. I’m stressing that in the lack of legal alternatives there is still no excuse for stealing. If you want to be an uncaring bastard and pirate content anyway, that’s certainly an option that is available but don’t excuse it, and most certain don’t try to pitch it as either noble or justified, ‘just because you’re a fan’

Don’t give me general arguments about why you pirate manga because it’s ‘not available’. Tokyopop just announced Hetalia Axis Powers — All I need is a Saint Young Men announcement, and I can claim there’s nothing to stop licensees, past money, and market demand.



Comment

  1. $4,000 freaking dollars? Jeeze Louise, the only budget category I can afford to like that much is student loans.

    I’ve already decided between red meat and beer (I picked beer).

    That’s why I am so excited to see what will come up in Bitway’s manga channel on Crunchyroll, since $7 to Crunchy and $9 to Netflix are my big entertainment buys.

    I find it especially ironic when college age kids with multi-hundred dollar smartphones “need” free manga viewer sites because money is so tight.

    Comment by BruceMcF — 25 July 2010, 23:33 #

  2. @BruceMcF

    Of course, I also work at a bookstore, so not only can I avail myself of the employee discount, I’m tempted (sorely tempted) by the sexy new books that come in each and every week.

    Not the announcement of new books, but the actual books, in hand. hard to say no to.

    & I picked beer, too. [though I found a few twenties in the budget for manga, and some singles for red meat]

    and I’m store management, without a wife & kids, so maybe I have a lot more disposable income that others starting from first premises.

    Comment by Matt Blind — 26 July 2010, 00:00 #

  3. At $4895 a year, that translates to roughly 500 Manga volumes. More, if some of those were on sale.

    I especially liked your descriptions of some of the slightly more outrageous Mangas out there. One can only imagine how American comic fans would try to compete. I suppose that’s what’s led to the creation of Super Pro KO!, which tries to out-Kinnikuman Kinnikuman.
    http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/07/14/massive-32-page-super-pro-ko-preview-exclusive/

    Of course, this doesn’t ignore the problem that some old Manga titles simply just refuse to be licensed due to their age. And sometimes, there’s some unPC elements that could be risky to an otherwise childish Manga. Cyborg Grandpa G, a gag Manga by Takeshi Obata (the artist of Death Note & Hikaru no Go, and an influence for one of the Mangas in the current Bakuman) is loads of silly fun, but faces problems with the exposure of Grandma G’s sagging breasts. They’re not tittilating or anything (quite the opposite in fact) and can’t be airbrushed out, since they’re used to save her family in a later episode (I kid you not)

    Not to mention that there are some one-shots that because they were released in anthology titles, and aren’t considered part of a larger story, simply will never get shown on this side of the shore. Kotonoha used to deal with the Indie side of the business, but there are several one-shots, such as the DragonBall/One Piece crossover, a Death Note epilogue, and several popular artists that could could be worth reading. Until the official companies fill in the gap that scanlators do, they’ll always be playing catch-up.

    One thing that comes to mind that could be potentially helpful for Viz’s online Manga would be a reboot of the Shojo Beat line. If Ai Yazawa ever recovered from her disabling health and created more Nana chapters, they could benefit from that by posting the translations of that online. Of course, she’d have to get back from the brink of death first…

    Comment by DeBT — 26 July 2010, 13:45 #

  4. A quick rummage through my bank statements reveals that in the last 12 months I spent $5,116.87 on manga (actually, about $150 of that is anime, and another $50 or so is books about manga, but it’s mostly manga – lumping in a few volumes of manhwa for the purposes of simplicity) (and including shipping, etc., which is mostly the overseas purchases and especially the used books, since I try to get free shipping whenever possible).

    That includes $509.15 of manga in Japanese and $179.28 of manga in French (plus one book in German), as well as $112.04 of manga in Kindle format (mostly from Japanese publishers, some in Japanese) and $599.26 for used manga (of which about a third is shipping costs). Counting only new manga in English from US publishers, I spent about $3,500. (Incidentally, Amazon.jp charges way too much for shipping; since the sad death of Sasuga, I mostly go to Yesasia.com – free shipping over $40. But watch out for manga in Chinese if you care about the difference.) Currently I own about 75 volumes of manga in Japanese and about 30 in French and German (I’m not going to list it all unless you absolutely insist).

    “at least a cursory argument on why currently available licensed [LEGAL] manga doesn’t suit your particular kink”:

    Because I want these specific books, or books by these specific authors. Yes, there is some great stuff licensed, and I buy it if I hear about it. But I also want these books. Partly this is because I’m a completionist and want to read everything from the authors I like, partly it is because I am more likely to enjoy a book by an author I know I like, so I’d rather put my reading time that way.

    Most of the things I buy in French or German are cases where I read an English-licensed series and liked it, and went looking for more books by the same author; I read scanlations for the same reason. In a few cases I read a scanlation first (based on recommendations or summaries) and became a fan of the author; aside from Hinako Takanaga (author of my first manga, which I read in scanlation and immediately tried to buy – it was licensed but not yet printed at the time and for various reasons it’s still not quite out, more than two years later), none of the authors for which this applies have any books out in English, because I don’t usually look for scans from authors I don’t know.

    If it isn’t an author on my “I want it all” list, I’m more likely to buy a Japanese book if there’s a scanlation available (or at least a detailed summary), or if it’s an author that I know lends themselves to “picture-reading” (although frankly a big factor is “can get it from a source that offers free shipping”). Pretty much everything I have ever read in scanlation is something I would happily pay for in English if it was available. Much of it is stuff I would sacrifice fingers to have available in English.

    If I was independently wealthy, I would totally start up a manga publisher that would license all of the stuff I like, cost be damned, and I would laugh gaily at my accountants when they complained I was losing money like water. But I’m not.

    As to learning Japanese: I’ve considered this a little, but realistically it’s not gonna happen. It took me almost a decade, as a child (when my language-learning ability was presumably better) living in Mexico, to reach the point where I could tackle a book in Spanish without reaching for the dictionary more than once a page. Even the thought of a language with three different writing systems and no linguistic similarity to English causes me to faint in coils.

    Comment by JRB — 26 July 2010, 21:06 #

  5. Matt, if I want a cheeseburger, and I get brought a hamburger – I’m going to tell them to take it back and bring me my fucking cheeseburger. I don’t care that they’re basically the same thing – they’re NOT actually the same thing, so no I will not substitute one for the other. And if they cannot get me something I am willing to pay for, then I’ll get it somewhere else. Pretty damned simple.

    Your whole argument that you should buy something you don’t want, just because something you don’t want to get is easier to find than something you want is monumentally stupid.

    Comment by SmarterThanMatt — 27 July 2010, 14:12 #

  6. @SmarterThanMatt

    Actually, my argument might be more accurately stated, using your hamburger analogy:

    if you want a cheeseburger and can find someone to sell you a cheeseburger, great.

    if you want a cheeseburger but the only local option is hamburgers, so now you have to go over to the next town. That’s also fine: you incur the additional costs to get what you want.

    But if no one is selling cheeseburgers, and you don’t like hamburgers, you don’t get to steal your lunches from that point on —

    you learn to eat and like something else, or you go hungry

    No one has to sell you a frickin’ cheeseburger, and ranting at the taco truck or deli counter or BBQ pork joint that all you want is a cheeseburger is not only insulting to the owners and staff who work hard to provide other kinds of sandwiches (some of which are quite tasty — they just don’t do cheeseburgers and in a free market, they don’t have to) I think it also reveals you as a spoiled child who stomps their feet and throws a tantrum when they can't get exactlywhat they want.

    I’m not saying you have to buy something you don’t like, I’m honestly asking that with 10,000 books available you can’t find one in 20, or one in a hundred that you like?

    Have you tried any of them yet?

    Comment by Matt Blind — 27 July 2010, 17:56 #

  7. @SmarterThanMatt

    and petulant. I should have used the word petulant: “Spoiled petulant child”.

    and also from the original post:

    “The unavailability of some manga is a fact of life, and while you’re welcome to pirate them [if one must read them] that doesn’t translate into an inalienable right and certainly isn’t an excuse. If you chose to obtain these from the Black and Grey markets, recognise you’re breaking the law and do so quietly; don’t make a fuss and be happy you were able to skate underneath the law.”

    If you can get what you want, without paying for it, shut up and be grateful and try not to draw attention to yourself or your sources. The Man just might shut your favorite site down.

    Comment by Matt Blind — 28 July 2010, 10:31 #

  8. I used to buy a lot of manga, and I still would but the amount I can afford has lessened since college started and I have to pay my way through without being able to find a really stable job. So I read manga online. I guess that makes me “against you”, but meh. So long as its available to read online, I’ll enjoy it. If it disappears, I won’t.

    That being said, the series I truly enjoy that are licensed and put on store shelves I usually scrape up the money to buy them (and you can find a lot of them at garage sales, online auction and journal sites, and used bookstores, BTW, to all those that think you either have to read stuff online or go to big name bookstores) just because I enjoy them so much.

    But most of these series I came across through browsing Onemanga or similar sites, and I think this goes the same for a lot of people. This may be a little surprising, but I don’t think I actually know of one person who doesn’t read a volume, at least, of a manga before they buy it. Some read the entire series and then still don’t buy it. BTW, I’m talking about reading offline (IE, the legal, morally uplifting way…) via bookstores etc. Barnes & Noble sure doesn’t seem to mind when you walk in a read. Anyway, considering this, I don’t feel so bad about reading manga online and then buying it later.

    I don’t buy everything I read later, because, let’s face it, some stuff is just not worth it, and buying it to support the industry is like buying laxatives to support the plumbing industry- sure, you’ll make more plumbers happy by clogging toilets around the neighborhood, but it’s such a messy and awful way to do things you may as well just not do it. But even so the stuff I do buy supports the industry and the stuff I don’t (because it’s not licensed or out of print, etc.) doesn’t detract from that.

    I do think it’s retarded to get upset because publishers want to gasp actually _make a profit _, like some of the fans of Onemanga are, or to think that being a fan means they should be able to read licensed manga for as long as they want through manga aggregation sites. But it’s equally ridiculous when people attest you don’t support the industry simply because you read manga unavailable to your physical location. Or even manga that’s available to you but that you don’t buy for one reason or another (probably because it’s bad, and you stopped reading it anyway).

    Yeah, in an RPG I’d have a low morality rating, but it’s not like I actively flip off the manga artists and writers by not buying anything.

    Comment by James — 28 July 2010, 17:11 #

  9. Thanks, Matt. I owe you one for a good read that hopefully a few morons out there will get through as well.

    It’s amazing to me how the people I should find the most obnoxious— those who know that pirating is illegal and do it anyway —are in fact way LESS annoying than the ones who delude themselves into thinking that piracy is somehow justified.

    (See also: guy at a website I used to work for who insists that he wouldn’t “have” to pirate One Piece if only VIZ hadn’t screwed up his Detective Conan release! Presenting him the fact that the Conan changes were to match Funimation doesn’t diminish his love of FUNi nor shift his ire from VIZ. It’s sheer insanity.)

    Comment by gia — 29 July 2010, 10:56 #

  10. Liked your article. It would be nice if more there were more people like you who spoke from the heart. I’m not really interested in the “Scan Wars” anymore. Why, because no matter what you say, the people that buy manga are going to continue doing that. The people that read scans are going to continue that as well. It’s cool to say what you feel you have to say, but in the end it’s really only the publishers that have the power to do anything about it in the end.

    The thing about capitalism is that in the end the market usually sorts itself out. Whether for good or bad. Hopefully, the manga market will not turn into the sham that the US anime market currently is. If there are not enough buyers of manga, then the pubs will continue to either go out of business or shrink. And so will their titles.

    Have you ever heard the anecdote of Emperor Tiberius when he told the young Caligula that “Rome deserves you”. Meaning that Rome had become so decadent and depraved that they deserved a ruler of Caligula’s savagery and insanity. I think the same goes for US manga fans. They pretty much are going to get out of their fandom what they put into it. If they don’t want to pay for it, they deserve the total implosion and end of the manga market. If, in the end, EVERY pub goes out of business, will that be the end of the world? No. And that brings me to the other side.

    The pubs, in terms of marketing skill, completelly suck. They had all these readers back in the manga/anime boom and failed completely to capitalize on their audiences. When have I EVER opened a mainstream magazine and saw a manga or anime ad. When have I EVER saw a TV ad for manga or anime? My god, Yen just put out their Twilight graphic novel with nothing. That’s why the pubs suck in some ways. They just print books and expect people to just go “oh, look, a manga!” So, in the end, I think that the declining manga market is a result of failure on both the fan and pub side of things. The pubs are chasing their own tail when they go after the scanners. Because those people are not bringing any money to them. And the real and potential fans are left to rot. It’s like a breadseller spending all this time running after a theif that steals his bread, while his PAYING customers are left standing in line. And he’s not getting any new customers either because he’s not manning his stall, shouting out his wares.

    It took the pubs almost a decade to even BEGIN to seriously even THINK about online manga. What a complete joke.

    In the end, if there are not enough people buying manga, then there will be less and less of it getting published. It’s just a fact. Why cry about it? In the long run of things, does it even matter?

    Comment by sesho — 29 July 2010, 12:09 #

  11. Your article does a very good job in making me think more about why exactly I should put more effort in supporting a series rather than reading manga online. A lot of big name series like Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece have caught up so they’re not really far behind the Japanese releases. Of course, previewing a chapter online (through an official site) is still enough to persuade someone to go out and buy manga. And you proved many popular and unique series gets licensed so quickly _

    Another option I think you should have mentioned (if someone wants to read manga legally) is to go to a library! You just reserve a recently released volume (although there’s probably a wait). They have a wide selection and some old series you can’t find in bookstores anymore.

    Also, I was wondering if the price of manga volumes cost more in the US compared to other countries? I buy the stuff I like when I have money…

    Comment by Kim — 29 July 2010, 16:10 #

Commenting is closed for this article.



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