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